Prayer functions in a relationship of faith, love, and obedience the Almighty Father's children share with Him. Prayer is a part of this spiritual training God uses to prepare us to spend eternity with Him. To pray effectively, we need to know God well.
Her prayers had become like spinning a fortune wheel hoping for good luck. She forgot she was talking to the God, the supreme authority. Who is this great God? How well do you know Him?
"Why doesn't God help me?" she sobbed.
I had no idea. She was a stranger. In our brief phone conversation I learned that she was in her early twenties. Her boyfriend had broken up with her. Now she desperately wanted him back.
"Did you violate your conscience in your relationship with him?" I probed.
"Well, yes. We were living together. He says he's getting a divorce from his first wife, but he hasn't gotten it yet."
"No wonder the Lord will not bring him back to you. He belongs to another woman!"
"But why did the Lord bring us together?" she insisted.
"He didn't bring you together. You broke His law in coming together. Now why should God help you get by with breaking His law?"
"Well, what do I have to do then?"
"You have to repent and give that man up."
"But I need him," she argued. "I can't stand to live by myself."
"You'll have to choose. You can't have a friendship with God and a relationship with this man at the same time.
"She professed to know Christ. She had attended a good church.
What had gone wrong?
She had never faced the basic question of her professed faith. Is there a God whom everyone must obey?
Few Christians have looked this question squarely in the eye; few churches discipline unrepentant or immoral members. As a result, many Christians do not understand why they must follow up their faith with obedience.
From there, it is only a short step to where this girl was. She actually expected God to help her get by with sinning.
This is what indulgences meant to the average Roman Catholic in Luther's day.
Even Old Testament Jews, seeing a slain lamb, did not quake in fear of disobedience. Instead, they then felt free to sin without fear of the consequences.
When faith loses its biblical meaning, it takes a form as worthless as a hot check. James cries out against this (2:14-26).
To escape such empty religion today, we need a fresh vision of God as the Almighty King.
Isaiah lived in a day of moral and spiritual decay such as our own, and God gave him a vision of Himself as the holy King over all (Isaiah 6). This vision preserved the godly remnant from sliding into moral ruin with the rest of the nation.
Who is this King of glory?
--God is the eternal Person whose power made and sustains the universe. His power and divine nature should be obvious to any man -even to the heathen who never saw a Bible (Romans 1:18-21). Since He has absolute power over all creation, all creatures owe Him absolute obedience.
--God is the supreme authority. He stands high above all other duties or considerations.
To put your obligation to God on a par with your interest in anything or anyone else means you have fallen into a deadly sin. You have either lowered God to the level of a man or thing, or you have raised people and things to the level of God.
--God is a Person apart. He is high and holy. He is in a class all by Himself. He is the supreme and only boss. None can compare with Him.
Therefore, we must love, honor, worship, and obey Him as God. This supreme honor is precisely what all men have failed to give Him. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
Glory is the key word here. The glory of God relates to His unique sovereignty - His right to expect total devotion. It relates to the beauty of His perfection. God is pure, righteous, and morally perfect; He deserves all honor.
It relates to the radiant light that shines from His pure being. He dwells in light no man can approach (I Timothy 6:15-16). All truth is centered around Him. Life itself springs from Him and belongs to Him.
Tell me how much a person is out of harmony with the Almighty King of Glory and I'll tell you how lost and ruined he is. This explains why nice, religious people are so guilty. God knows their secret motives and thoughts. They think their own natural goodness and decency are enough to merit the right to enter heaven.
"I should go to heaven because I've always done the right thing," one man declared.
"If you ever got there you would ruin heaven in no time," another retorted. "Everyone else will be singing `Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.' And you would be singing `all to myself I owe.'
"The God who sent Jesus is the God to whom we owe everything. He even gives us the grace to obey. Therefore, our obedience earns us no merit with Him.
Obedience is just common sense - like getting in out of a storm. And it is our only way of saying thanks to a God we love and trust. With such obedience, we flourish. Without it, we die (Romans 8:13).
Why? Because God is the power of life. You can't resist the power and energy of life without getting hurt. We can see this illustrated in the laws of nature. When you touch a hot electric wire, you will be hurt. Physical laws are inflexible.
But what if there were no dependable physical laws? Life would be impossible. You could not harness electricity, for example, and use it.
In fact, without dependable natural laws, the world would be so chaotic no one could survive. No one would know when to plant or when to harvest. Planes could not fly. Water could not be counted on to run in any direction.
But how about moral and spiritual laws? They must be absolutely dependable too. How chaotic would life be if people could depend God and get by with it?
The foundation for all dependable relationships would be gone. Who decides what a husband owes his wife? Who has the ultimate power to deal with those who defile the marriage bed? Who decides what children owe their parents? And what parents owe their children? People already abuse one another in this life and seem to get by with it.
The only moral basis for dependable relationships is man's ultimate responsibility to God. Of course, it's true that some people are loyal and faithful in marriage even though they do not know God. But there is no moral necessity for such dependability without reference to God. And the less people think of God as Almighty King, the less responsible they feel. Even Christian families are increasingly in trouble.
Now isn't this exactly what the girl was crying about? She wanted a dependable relationship of love and trust. Yet she helped a man break his vow to God to be true to another woman.
Obviously her effort to build a new household with this man was not built on the solid rock of moral absolutes. So her relationship with him fell apart when she needed it worst. (He left her when she was recovering from surgery.)
This brings us to face a neglected aspect of salvation. God is not only forgiving sins. He is also purifying a people unto Himself.
The saved have been delivered from the power of darkness and put into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Colossians 1:13). We are being trained in the joy and fulfillment that comes through obedience. We are being prepared to rejoice with the saints around the throne of God and the Lamb.
In Revelation, God is seen exercising His power to subdue a rebellious world. He is also seen enjoying the worship of the saints. The world will be brought to its knees by his appreciation of God's character and wise rule. His attitude towards God's authority is one of adoring wonder and admiration.
The saints in Revelation 4 and 5 are perfected, and perfection is the final stage of salvation. Justification gives us a right standing with God; sanctification works in us a desire to please God (Hebrews 13:20-21); glorification is our final perfection before the throne of God. Salvation is our past justification, our present on going sanctification, and our future glorification.
Eternal life is knowing "the only true God, and Jesus Christ" whom He sent (John 17:3). Why is it not sufficient to simply know Jesus? To really know the Sent One you have to know the Sender also.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal. They have exactly the same character and divine attributes. However, in providing salvation, they have taken special roles. We must know both the true God and His Son.
The Father represents the Absolute God, the Almighty King. Now I realize He is also the believer's loving heavenly Father, but in the short space of this article I am emphasizing His role as Absolute God.
He represents the absolute authority and power of the holy trinity. No one can ever disobey this authority and get by with it. Every offense against His rule must be punished.
For this reason God the Son became a man. He lived a sinless life. He became obedient unto death. This obedience on the cross is credited to the account of those who believe and are saved. But notice that at the cross all sins were paid for and full obedience was presented to God on our behalf.
The Father and the Son sent the Spirit. The Spirit works from within the regenerate the believer and to transform him into the likeness of Christ.
All three persons of the Godhead are equally compassionate, equally committed to the absolute authority of the Godhead, and equally committed to rescuing sinners and preparing them to live in happy harmony with the Godhead for all eternity.
You can see from this that the absolute authority of God is very basic. If Christ is the mediator between God and me, then the Absolute God is central.
Even the reign of Christ during the coming kingdom on earth is subordinate to the absolute rule of God. Christ will reign until all is subdued. Then the kingdom will be presented to God, the Father. And God (the trinity) will be all in all (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
The course of Bible history begins and closes with the absolute power and authority of God. Redemption is not an evasion of man's responsibility, but the means of bringing man into harmony with the absolute (which, of course, cannot change).
Without the absolute God, the gospel itself is a cheap religious fraud. It is, in fact, worse than that. It actually undermines man's moral responsibility. These are not light charges. But they cannot be denied.
Note how the gospel is changed into a fraud - a hot check. Suppose there is no Almighty King who must be obeyed? What if there is no kingdom where all do obey Him? Then there is no heaven to gain, no hell to shun.
Why did Jesus die? Why pay the penalty of God's broken law if that Law does not have to be kept?
Back of the cross is a God who is absolute. One act of disobedience against this God caused the whole world to fall apart. Even nature shudders in disorder because of one sin by the first man. That is absolute responsibility and accountability.
Only the gospel can enable man to accept such awesome responsibility. This responsibility is the exact point where Paul begins his gospel message in Romans 1.
The eternal (and ever present) power of God is life's basic reality. Failure to submit to Him brings two immediate consequences.
First, "their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21b-22).
Even Christians who fail to honor God become blind and confused (2 Peter 1:9-10). Life becomes a jumbled jigsaw puzzle. They lose the big picture.
Then the second result swiftly follows. They drift morally and spiritually. Consider the immoral man and the indifferent congregation at Corinth (I Corinthians 5).
Since God is absolute, man is his helpless dependent. The moral consequences of ignoring this dependence are as certain as the law of gravity. This law knows no favorites. There are no exceptions.
I have seen Christians fall into bondage to various destructive habits. They cut themselves off from God through sin and an unrepentant heart. Without His strength they are quickly enslaved.
The only way out is to repent and return to the Almighty Father. This was Paul's appeal to the Corinthian believers (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).
It was my appeal to that dear, confused girl.
Bible Prayer Fellowship
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Dallas, Texas 75381
This article was originally published in Moody Magazine with the title The Sin of Lowering God. It was copyrighted in 1998 by the author, all rights reserved. You may copy this article for personal use or for free distribution without making any changes provided you give credit to Bible Prayer Fellowship and send us two copies of your reprint. Click on Contact BPF to request a free monthly subscription to Revival Insights.