Walking Worthy of the Gospel: Keeping alert in Prayer for Bold Proclamation of the Mystery of the Gospel

Ephesians 6:18b-20

Walking Worthy of the Gospel: Keeping alert in prayer for Bold Proclamation of the Mystery of the Gospel

“To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for al the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

The whole of verses 18-20 modifies the “…stand against the schemes of the Devil.” v. 11, “…to stand firm.” v. 13, and “Stand, therefore…” v. 14.

Standing firm through armoring up by prayer in the life of the church as one of the ways we walk worthy has a purpose simply beyond us surviving spiritual warfare.

The grand purpose of spiritual war is not my survival, but the bold proclamation of the Mystery of the Gospel through the sustaining and persevering prayer of God’s people.

When the allies launched the invasion of France on June 6, 1944 no one believed there would be no casualties. They knew this was hard and they expected to give up lives, if necessary, to rid the world of the evil of the Nazi regime. The mission was not preserve every life. The end was Berlin through smaller missions that led to the ultimate mission.

When we come to spiritual war we must recognize that many of us are going to fall victim to the schemes of the evil one along the way (we are going to believe lies, we are going to propagate lies, we are going to be rash and foolish with our mouth, etc.), but the mission is not avoiding spiritual war. It’s not possible. The mission is God’s fame through reconciling all things (people and domains of society) in all nations through the proclamation of the mystery of the gospel and this is achieved through the sustaining and persevering prayer of God’s people.

Let’s take a look at the bold proclamation of the gospel, but first review the means of such bold proclamation, prayer for such boldness.

  1. Prayer is tangible ministry

Pray always – “praying at all times”

This obviously does not mean “always saying prayers.” We are not heard for our “much speaking” (Matt. 6:7). “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) says to us, “Always be in communion with the Lord. Keep the receiver off the hook!” Never have to say when you pray, “Lord, we come into Thy presence,” because you never left His presence! A Christian must “pray always” because he is always subject to temptations and attacks of the devil. A surprise attack has defeated more than one believer who forgot to “pray without ceasing.”[1]

  1. Living in the awareness of and practicing the Spirit’s presence and his pleasure or grief over our actions
  2. Private worship
  3. Repentance
  1. Communicating like we truly have a good and loving Father who never leaves us

Pray with all prayer – “praying at all times…with all prayer and supplication”

There is more than one kind of praying: prayer, supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1). The believer who prays only to ask for things is missing out on blessings that come with intercessions and giving of thanks. In fact, thanksgiving is a great prayer weapon for defeating Satan. “Praise changes things” as much as “prayer changes things.” Intercession for others can bring victory to our own lives. “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).[2]

  1. Supplication – appeal made to someone in authority
  2. Intercession – appeal made on someone else’s behalf
  3. Thanksgiving – giving of thanks

Pray in the Spirit – “in the Spirit”

The Bible formula is that we pray to the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. Romans 8:26–27 tells us that only in the Spirit’s power can we pray in the will of God. Otherwise, our praying could be selfish and out of the will of God. In the Old Testament tabernacle, there was a small golden altar standing before the veil, and here the priest burned the incense (Ex. 30:1–10; Luke 1:1–11). The incense is a picture of prayer. It had to be mixed according to God’s plan and could not be counterfeited by man. The fire on the altar is a picture of the Holy Spirit, for it is He who takes our prayers and “ignites” them in the will of God. It is possible to pray fervently in the flesh and never get through to God. It is also possible to pray quietly in the Spirit and see God’s hand do great things.[3]

  1. Pray in step with the Spirit’s will
  2. Pray in the power of the Spirit’s gifting, discernment and joy
  3. Pray in the assurance that the Spirit may give to ask for certain things

The best way I can illustrate this is for you to get George Muller’s journals for $2.99 and invite you to pray like that.

Pray alertly – “keep alert”

Some translations translate the phrasing as “pray watching” or “keep watch in prayer”.

Watching means “keeping on the alert.” (as the ESV translates it)[4] The phrase “watch and pray” occurs often in the Bible. When Nehemiah was repairing the walls of Jerusalem, and the enemy was trying to stop the work, Nehemiah defeated the enemy by watching and praying. “Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch” (Neh. 4:9). “Watch and pray” is the secret of victory over the world (Mark 13:33), the flesh (Mark 14:38), and the devil (Eph. 6:18). Peter went to sleep when he should have been praying, and the result was victory for Satan (Mark 14:29–31, 67–72). God expects us to use our God-given senses, led by the Spirit, so that we detect Satan when he is beginning to work.[5]

Keeping alert is also what will happen as we pray in step with the Spirit.

Holy Spirit will inform us of what we need to know and pray for and how we need to go about it.

Praying alertly is also being at the ready. It’s being ready to go to prayer. Prayer does not have to be a formal activity requiring gear up.

  1. Pray in real time (know what is happening and engage)
  2. Be ready to get to prayer in the second
  3. Don’t get too comfortable with things and become a target
  4. Expect spiritual struggle

Keep on praying – “with all perseverance”

The word perseverance simply means, “to stick to it and not quit.” The early believers prayed this way (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4); and we also should pray this way (Rom. 12:12). Perseverance in prayer does not mean we are trying to twist God’s arm, but rather that we are deeply concerned and burdened and cannot rest until we get God’s answer. As Robert Law puts it, “Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven; it is getting God’s will done on earth” (Tests of Life, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968]). Most of us quit praying just before God is about to give the victory. Not everybody is so constituted that he can sincerely spend a whole night in prayer, but all of us can persevere in prayer far more than we do. The early church prayed without ceasing when Peter was in prison and, at the last moment, God gave them their answer (Acts 12:1–19). Keep on praying until the Spirit stops you or the Father answers you. Just about the time you feel like quitting, God will give the answer.[6]

  1. Luke 18:1-8 Faith prays without giving up

Pray for all the saints – “making supplication for all the saints”

The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father”—not “My Father.” We pray as part of a great family that is also talking to God, and we ought to pray for the other members of the family. Even Paul asked for the prayer support of the Ephesians—and he had been to the third heaven and back. If Paul needed the prayers of the saints, how much more do you and I need them! If my prayers help another believer defeat Satan, then that victory will help me too.[7]

  1. Pray for our workers in our UPG
  2. Pray for the future parents of our foster home
  3. Pray for each other

Now, what are we to be asking for in all this praying?

  1. Bold proclamation of the mystery of the gospel

Note that Paul did not ask them to pray for his comfort or safety, but for the effectiveness of his witness and ministry.[8]

Let me share with you three quick observations:

  1. Paul wanted them to pray that bold words would be given to him from God

Paul wanted boldness.

  1. Paul wanted them to pray that he would proclaim the mystery of the gospel

Paul wanted clarity and comprehensiveness.

This mystery is that in Jesus Christ all things are being reconciled under his headship by the powerful working of his kingdom.

This is a spiritual message that can only be heard with spiritual ears and empowered by the Holy Spirit in the mouths of its beautiful footed messengers.

  1. Bold proclamation got Paul a jail sentence to preach to prisoners

The reality is that bold proclamation, not dumb and careless actions, are going to have implications in our context.

The freedom to speak about what the bible hails as valuable will probably not diminish legally as much as socially. The pressure to cave to social norms is increasing and we must recognize prison may be a cake walk compared to the beating one may take in the court of public opinion and that could spill out into violence done to Christians.

In the first couple of centuries of Christianity, what was not state sponsored was socially sponsored for fear that the monotheistic, non-state sponsored religion thought to be atheistic due to its monotheism, was brutally persecuted by the public. We could find ourselves here again.

We must be bold with the message of the Scriptures, and we must pray for this kind of super-natural boldness.

  1. Bold proclamation as an ought not as one unsavory option

Boldness is the content of the gospel presented not the methodology of actually getting in front of people.

Paul is not referencing how one gets in front of people (Not talking about methods of evangelism: relationships, tracts, service ministry, domain engagement, etc.). Paul is referencing the way we speak of the gospel when we are in front of people. Paul, the bible, assumes we are going to be talking to people about the kingdom.

Note that boldness does not mean dominating a conversation, meanness, and loudness or invading people’s personal space.

Boldness does mean that we speak about the content of the gospel without reservation or shame.

In other words, we don’t mince words hoping that we can win people with a diluted message that really has no explanation of how the gospel, the metanarrative of the truth, answers the ultimate questions.

Boldness: Answer the question: “who are you?” You are a broken image bearer that was broken from conception and cut off from the life of God and in need of transformation and rescue from darkness.

Why am I different? I am different, because God being rich in mercy, when I was dead toward him, made me alive through the good news of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and his transforming and rescuing power.

What is your purpose? You were made to delight in and make much of Jesus Christ in fulfilling your created purpose, for his glory and your joy, in the completion of taking this message to all nations. Your created purpose has a deeper end than you making a living.

How does one get into the kingdom of God? Repentance from the rebellion you were sold into from conception and faith in Jesus to make that happen. But that can only happen through the new birth work of the Holy Spirit regenerating you to life and causing you to see that you are in need of: repentance and faith. Then you start following Jesus by getting involved in a bible believing and bible preaching church to begin growing in discipleship and start reading a bible as part of the that growth (give them one).

Boldness: Tell the whole story of the metanarrative in four parts from Genesis to Revelation.

Creation / Fall / Redemption / Restoration

Boldness: Invite people to know Jesus if you see the regenerating work of the Spirit going on.

Boldness: Invite people to church. Talking with some of you I know that this comes with some caveats you have to give people because you know what is going to be spoken from the front. You let them know we believe and teach the bible.

Boldness, according to the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/16/here-are-three-reasons-why-southern-baptists-are-on-the-decline/?utm_source=Evangelism+Georgia+Baptist+Convention+List&utm_campaign=0edaf23ab9-washpost_evangelism&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a9e20895f7-0edaf23ab9-230273381

  1. Get serious again about the evangelical distinctive of sharing one’s faith.
  1. Doctrinal rigor must remain at the center of our churches.
  1. Make sure politics, particularly Republican Party Politics, remain a secondary concern (may I add, a non-factor)

Alan Hirsh chronicles the situation for the church between AD 100 and AD 310 in which the estimated population of the church went from 25,000 to 20,000,000 and asked how they did this without any systems?

They were an illegal religion during this period.

They didn’t have any church buildings as we know a church building. (discovered chapels are converted homes and were the exception not the rule)

They didn’t have the Scriptures as we know them. (the canon was being formed)

They didn’t have an institution or the professional form of leadership normally associated with it.

They didn’t have seeker sensitive services, youth groups, bands, seminaries, commentaries, etc.

It was actually hard to join the church.[9] (by late 2nd century, aspiring converts had to undergo a significant initiation period to prove they had believed and were coming out of their pagan background)

How did they do this?

(Hirsh’s answer is a more nuanced and dangerous one for those who like control and linear patterns, so go read the book.)

A nutshell answer is: it’s the supernatural power of God’s kingdom at work in his church as they are boldly proclaiming and living in the gospel of the kingdom.

Application of simple boldness: Try this for the upcoming week:

  1. Get quiet for an extended period of time daily
  2. Read your bible (use a bible reading plan)

http://about.esvbible.org/resources/reading/

  1. Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit

You will only know the voice of the Spirit through learning to get quiet an reflecting on the Scriptures and on a desire to be led by the Spirit and the discipline to discern out your thinking from the voice of the Spirit. The bible assumes we will know. There is no systematic teaching on this. It’s learning to pay attention to holy moments and distinguish them from events of your own creation. Will you mess that up frequently? Yes. Will you learn to listen better? Yes. Will the Lord speak more clearly some times than others? Yes. Will he be silent? Yes. It is messy, but this is why the Scriptures teach us to test things by the word in fellowship.

  1. Obey what the word and Spirit say

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” – 1 Samuel 15:22-23a

  1. Let’s be bold in the content and execution of our worship

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

It is a great and frankly, unspoken, end that I’d love TRCC’s worship to be driven not by a style or a show. Although these guys do a great job and Adam does a great job of leading them, their job is not to generate a buzz to get you hyped into singing to the Lord. Worship is what happens when God’s people are enamored with the Lord and that worship transcends any style or location.

Worship is good and pleasant and fitting. And worship of the Lord that transcends the natural is bold.

Let’s go there.

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[4] Parenthesis mine

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[6] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[7] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[8] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 60.

[9] Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006), p. 19-20.

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