John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Intercessory prayer can be one of the most important acts in the life of a Christ follower. Praying for others is a selfless act of service and one of the greatest things one can do for another person. Even Jesus Himself prayed for others while living here on this earth. Destined to die for the sins of mankind, the Son of God paused in His last few hours on earth and prayed for us.
In John chapter 17, Jesus first prays for His disciples. He asks His Father that the disciples would be sanctified and protected. After this, He prays for all believers who are yet to come. He prayed for our unity, that we would be one. And then, just a short time later, He willingly gave His life on the cross so that we could live. Jesus did not pray that prayer in vain any more than He died in vain. It’s His heart’s desire that we would be united.
Part of that unity includes praying for each other and strengthening each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). When we take on each others’ burdens, we act in a Christ-like manner, loving our neighbors even as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). When we put aside praying for our own desires and needs and pray for those of our family, friends, and even enemies (Matthew 5:44), we truly live out our faith in practice. Take time each day to pray for others.
Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
The fact is that prayer is so powerful that it has been exploited and misused by those who have no intentions of serving God. Those who seek after their own selfish desires on this earth have used the very gift God gave us to connect with Him and perverted it, made it into some genie-in-a-bottle formula for getting things. God did not intend prayer to be a vending machine.
Yes, Jesus clearly said that whatever we ask for in His name shall be ours, but we must remember that He said this to His disciples. Jesus made this statement with the understanding that those who heard it had left everything behind to follow Him. They had given up more comfortable lives to serve the Son of God. That doesn’t mean the promise isn’t ours to claim as well, it simply means that there are stipulations attached.
Those who follow Christ and call themselves disciples seek to bring Him honor and glory and in doing so pray for His will. If we are seeking Christ, the desires of our heart will not be selfish and our prayers will reflect the character of God. If we’re walking with the Lord, our desires will be in line with His desires.
I Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Many and varied are the ways that man tries to get closer to God. New religions spring up all the time, each seeking to find the right way to become whole. Hundreds of self-help books are shelved at each book store, none quite adequately fulfilling our quest. None quite bringing us into that place where we stand in right relationship with our Creator.
It’s sad that we spend so much time searching when the answer our souls seek has already been given. We don’t attain enlightenment by searching within ourselves. We don’t achieve entrance into heaven through doing enough good deeds. There is one way to God and He is Christ Jesus. He is our Savior, our King, our friend. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36) and not one thing was created that was not created by Him (John 1:3). He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and only He qualifies to mediate between God and man (John 14:6).We can try to fix ourselves, try to gain knowledge, or try to work our way to righteousness, but in the end it’s all in vain. Only Christ can save us. Only He can set us free (John 8:32).
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Someone once asked Jesus what God’s greatest command was (Mark 12:28). He answered that it was to love God with everything we have, more than we love anything else. That’s a difficult thing for most of us. We love a lot of things.
Think about some things that you love. You love your family. You may have a pet that you love. Maybe there is a hobby you can’t get enough of. Or there could even be things like your career or the success you’ve achieved that have become objects of your love. God is saying to love Him more than you love anything else. Anything at all.
There was another person in the Bible that asked Jesus what He had to do to get into heaven (Matthew 19:16). Jesus answered Him that he had to give up all of the things that he loved more than he loved Jesus. The very rich man had a ton of stuff he had acquired. The man couldn’t part with his possessions because he had begun to identify himself by them, so he didn’t give up anything and he went away from Jesus very sad. What that man needed to realize was that Jesus is better than anything that he loved in his life. What you and I need to realize is that anything we could give up for Jesus is worth it.
We should love Jesus so much that we want what He wants. We should want to be like Him and want to do what He did. When we make Him most important in our lives, we’re starting to really live for God. When He’s our treasure, and we love Him above all, we can be transformed.
53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. – Jonathan Edwards
Are you like me? Do you ever realize that you’re going to God when things are tough but not spending much time with Him when things are going well? I’m not proud of those times, but I also know I’m not alone in doing that.
If I’m completely honest, a lot of times in my life have been that way. Hard times have a way of bringing us to our knees like nothing else. When there’s nothing else and no one else to turn to, we always know we have Jesus as a backup. But He’s so much more than that.
Ephesians 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The love God has shown me and you through Jesus should make us bow down on our knees often, praising Him and giving Him thanks for everything He’s done. If He dwells in our hearts, we should all the more approach Him in love, not just when we need something. Will you resolve with me to spend more time in worship and stop waiting until things are bad to reach out to the Lord?
Luke 2:47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Even at a very young age, Jesus had a way about Him that amazed those with whom He had interactions. There was just something about Him. One can only guess what it would have been like to live around Him when He was only a child, but the Word tells us that even back then He was something else.
As Jesus visited the temple as a child, He asked questions of the experts and discussed heavy theological matters with them. The people in that temple probably would have been impressed with an adult that had the knowledge and wisdom that Jesus displayed, but for it to be coming from a child… They’d never seen such a thing! There they were discussing God with God face-to-face, and they didn’t even know it.
To experience Jesus is to be amazed by Him. It’s impossible to encounter Him and keep going along without any change, without even blinking. It’s impossible. To be with Jesus elicits awe and amazement. It makes one want to worship Him, not just carry on as usual. He’s the manifestation of God, the Lord’s revelation of Himself to man. How can we not be amazed when we see Him?
Luke 2:30-31 for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples
What must it have been like to wait for years and years with the promise of a Messiah to come, never knowing quite when He would arrive? Oh the faith of Simeon, to keep believing even into old age that God would keep His promise. Simeon is a good example of faith rewarded. He waited and he waited for the Promised One and then a day came when God allowed him to see Him with his own eyes. What a day that must have been for Simeon.
We know that he rejoiced and gave praise to God over the joyous occasion, but he also revealed that at this moment his life was complete. He had been promised that he would not see death until the Lord’s Christ had been born and there He was in front of Simeon, being presented at the temple. Simeon could die in peace. Are you so content with encountering Christ that you’d say you can die in peace right now because you’ve seen Him?
It’s a great occasion any time we get a taste of the Lord’s goodness. His salvation is a free gift that we can never earn and it comes only from Jesus Christ, and to experience this is something to sing about, to make a fuss over. But do we look at this as enough? Is your life complete now that you’ve seen the Lord’s salvation? For Simeon it was enough. There was nothing more that the world had to offer him that could even come close to meeting Jesus face to face. Somehow for us there is still a lot competing for our affections in this world, but the reality is that Jesus is enough and we should be content with Him. He’s all that we need.
Matthew 2:11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Long before Jesus was born, there was a group of people who studied the prophesies of the coming Messiah, hoping that one day they would be among those who would crown Him as king. The Magi were men of the east who had been watching for the Promised One for many years, each generation passing along the information to the next. Imagine being among those who finally got to see the Christ face to face. Imagine how that would make you feel. It would make you want to worship.
And so the wise men, as we call them, set out to find the child, for that very purpose. They longed to see Him and worship Him, bringing gifts with great significance. Because He was a King, they brought Him gold, because He was the great Healer, they brought Him frankincense, and because He would die for the sins of mankind, they brought Him myrrh. These were thoughtful gifts, they showed what the Magi thought of Jesus. They were not arbitrary.
So what will you bring before the King to lay down at His feet? What will you offer Him in worship?
Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The angels, the shepherds, the wise men, all thought to do the same thing at the birth of the Savior. They worshipped Him. This is the proper response to being in the presence of God.
Too often we let Christmas blow right by us without a second thought to the significance of the event we are celebrating. This is more than just the birth of a baby, this is God come down to earth for the sake of mankind. He showed up among us as a little baby and yet that baby was so worthy of praise and honor and glory and worship. What must it have been like to be there when God himself entered into time and space? It had to be overwhelming.
Throughout the Bible, it seems that whenever someone encounters God and they’re greatly overwhelmed by that, their natural response is to bow down in worship. It seems that this is the expectation. Glory of God equals worship of man. So this Christmas, slow down and worship. Slow down and embrace the overwhelming notion that God came to us that night in Bethlehem. Put yourself in that scenario and imagine what it must have felt like. And worship Him.
Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
What more needs to be said of Jesus’ birth? What more can be said? God came down to us. He humbled Himself to be born in a manger. He left His kingdom in heaven to be among the animals in a stable. Then He grew up to die on a cross for the sins of the entire world.
It’s hard to even comprehend. How could this be? That God would condescend to our level and take on flesh so as to provide a way for salvation… that’s beyond anything our insufficient human minds can fathom. He didn’t have to do it. He didn’t have to save us. But He did, and He chose to do it.
He was not only the High Priest who would provide the perfect, ultimate sacrifice, He was also the sacrifice. He paid the ultimate price for humanity. But first, He came down as an infant. First, He was Mary’s baby boy, wrapped up in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. First, it was Christmas.