Jesus taught many things about prayer and its central role in a believer’s life. He also promised that our petitions will be answered when we meet certain requirements.
One condition is mentioned in John 14:14: After receiving Christ as our personal Savior, we have the right to present requests in Jesus’ name, which means praying something that the Lord Himself might pray. To exercise this privilege, we must come to the Father, depending not on our own good works or character but on the merits of Christ alone. Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is the only basis for approaching God and being assured of receiving an answer to our petitions.
A second requirement is separation from all known sin. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” This refers to ungodly behaviors and thought patterns that we know are wrong but refuse to give up. Remember, God looks at our heart attitude. If we struggle against our sinful ways, grieve over them, and ask for forgiveness, He will hear our cries and respond. But when He sees a hard heart, He is not obligated to listen.
Next time you pray, start with words of praise to God for His sacrificial love and gratitude to Jesus for dying in your place (1 John 4:10). Express that you understand why your prayers are heard—because you have a relationship with the Father through Christ, and not because of anything you have done. Confess all known sin and ask for forgiveness. Then present your requests to God with anticipation, and trust His answers.
There’s one word that describes the night Jesus came—ordinary. It was an ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And were it not for a God who loves to hook an “extra” on the front of the ordinary, the night would have gone unnoticed. But God dances amidst the common and that night He did a waltz. And the night was ordinary no more!
The announcement went first to the shepherds. They didn’t ask God if He was sure He knew what He was doing. Theologians would have consulted their commentaries. The elite would have looked to see if anyone was watching. The successful would have first looked to their calendars. But the angels went to the shepherds. Men who didn’t know enough to tell God that messiahs aren’t found sleeping in a feed trough. God comes to the common—because His most powerful tools are the simplest!
This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. Even though we have about a foot of snow, which is unusual for Atlanta, I will rejoice. What am I, nuts? Not really. You see, we don’t get this kind of weather very often and so to look at what the Lord has made really makes me joyful.
No matter what the day brings, rejoice in it! No matter how tired, upset, or frustrated you get, remember this. God put the breath in your lungs and eyes to see His beauty. Thank God He has given you and me life to enjoy all that He is and ever will be. Again, I say, rejoice!
Israel can be a dusty place, and sandaled feet get filthy walking to and fro. In ancient times, a person entering a home removed his sandals and cleaned his feet. Or if the homeowners were wealthy, servants would do the washing. This distasteful but necessary task fell to the worker of lowest position in the household. Imagine the disciples’ surprise when the Son of God put Himself in the role of a lowly servant and knelt to wash their feet. The need for such a service was great, but not one of them offered to do it. Jesus was the last person they expected to take on such a demeaning task.
Jesus did more than fill a need—He offered an object lesson. As He explained, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you” (John 13:15 NLT). Some churches have incorrectly interpreted this as a command to make foot washing an ordinance. But it’s possible to clean someone else’s skin without contemplating the significance of Christ’s actions.
In fact, the act itself is not the main point; attitude is what counts. Jesus desires that we be willing to humble ourselves to serve others. He is looking for men and women who will ignore pride, position, and power in order to do whatever must be done, wherever it needs doing, and for whoever requires assistance.
Jesus performed His greatest and most humble acts of service within 24 hours of each other. He washed dirty feet, using two hands that would be pierced by nails the following day. The message here is that every task God gives us is important to His kingdom.
If you’ve ever lost power at night, you know how disorienting it can be to try and find your way to a flashlight or candle. You think you’re heading for a doorway but unexpectedly bump into a wall. This is what our life was like before we met the Light of the World. In fact, we didn’t even know what real light was and had become comfortable in the darkness because it kept us from seeing how sinful we truly were.
An amazing transaction occurred when we finally believed the gospel, repented of our sins, and confessed Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We were rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Light. And now Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has come to dwell within us (Col. 1:13; Eph. 3:17). So how are Christ’s followers supposed to live? Today’s passage outlines three basic responsibilities:
1. Walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-2). As the Savior sacrificially loved us, so we are to love others. If we are at odds with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we can’t claim to be walking in Light (1 John 1:7).
2. Abstain from sin (Eph. 5:3-7). Believers aren’t sinless, but they don’t habitually practice deeds of darkness.
3. Learn what pleases God (Eph. 5:8-17). The fruit of Light is goodness, righteousness, and truth. These are displayed in our character, conversation, and conduct when we are living out our faith.
Let’s make it our aim to move ever closer to the Light, letting Jesus expose and remove any areas of darkness so we can reflect His glory and goodness.
It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment. God became a man! Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb. Jesus came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were un-manicured, calloused, and dirty. For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt…weak; weary; and afraid of failure. His feelings got hurt.
To think of Jesus in such a light seems almost irreverent. There’s something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant and predictable. But don’t do it! For heaven’s sake, don’t! Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the muck and mire of your world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out!