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1st John 5:4-13 1st John 5:14-15
  1 John 5:16-17   1 John 5:18-21  
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1st John 5:16-17

Intercessory Prayer

 

“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.  There is a sin unto death:  I do not say that he shall pray for it.  All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.”

 

“1st John chapter 5.  Let’s say a word of prayer again, as we get to this point in the service.  ‘Lord, thank you, that we once more are able to partake in the truth of your Word.  Of course in a time like today, we need to hear the truth.  You have wonderful things to say to us.  In Christ there are so many blessings, so much power.  I think of what Paul says to the church in Ephesus, that we would know that exceedingly great power towards us that believe, the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  So Lord, so much that we have as born-again believers.  When we study your Word again this morning, I ask as we do Holy Spirit that you’d illuminate the truths and give us light, and speak to our hearts.  And as we study these things, may we leave with a greater conviction in our own hearts about what the truth is that is here.  But also a greater desire to go and do the very things that you tell us to do.  And I ask Holy Spirit that you’d be upon all of us, and yet upon myself as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, Amen.’ 

          I’d like to begin with a story, there’s a story that D.L. Moody shares.  “I remember when preaching on one occasion to an immense audience in the Agricultural Hall in London.  A father and mother were in great distress about their absent son, who had given up God’s ways and had wandered from his father’s home to the wild bush of Australia.  These poor parents asked the united prayers of that vast congregation for their son.  And I suppose fully twenty-thousand prayers rose to the Mercy Seat.  That very hour those prayers ascended from the audience in London.  That young man was riding through the Australian bush to town, a days ride from his camp.  Something caused him to think of his home and his parents, and as he sat in his saddle the Spirit of the Lord descended upon him, and he was convicted of sin.  Dismounting, he knelt down by his horse’s side and prayed to God for forgiveness, and in a little while he was assured of conversion.  When he reached the town he wrote the good news to his delighted mother, and asked if they would receive him at home.  The answer flashed along the cable beneath the ocean, ‘Come home at once.’’  I like to start with that story because it gives a good picture of the truth that I see today that we’re going to look at here in 1st John, this truth about prayer.  It’s a powerful truth.  In fact, I think as we look at what John says here, potentially it could even change our view of prayer, especially intercessory prayer, that is even more importantly as he says prayer for a brother and sister in Christ.  As we saw last week, we looked at the verses 14 and 15 in this Epistle, John had a lot to say about prayer.  In fact, he told us about effective prayer.  That is, that we can actually pray, and as we pray, of course he’s encouraging us, that we would pray and receive the things that we asked for.  So he talks about effective prayer, getting what you ask for in prayer.  Of course that’s a cure to those thoughts of, you know, ‘I don’t think that God hears prayer’, or the thoughts that ‘Does prayer even work?’  John gives us an exhortation here that we would understand that prayer is actually very powerful.  And he wants us to know as born-again believers that we can actually be praying in a way that’s it so effective, that we receive the things that we ask for.  Now what was the insight last week that he gave to us?  As you remember, he said that effective prayer, first of all includes boldness, that is a confidence in coming before the Lord.  Secondly it includes direct access, meaning that there’s one Mediator between God and man [and that is the God-man, Jesus Christ, God the Son], we can go directly to God through Jesus Christ.  And most importantly, the real bulk of what he said in verses 14 and 15, is effective prayer will include praying with God’s heart and will.  So, great truth, and incredible truth to take hold of.  John says that there’s this awesome weapon, this incredible power that we have at our disposal, that we can pray, we can pray with boldness and confidence towards God, we can pray in the Spirit, being led in the Spirit, asking God just to direct, lead us in this prayer, and praying according to his will, and as we do that, we can have 100-percent assurance that we will receive the things that we ask for.  So, intercessory prayer, he makes a great statement with that last week, and then this week he brings us especially to the subject of intercessory prayer.  And I think verse 16 and 17, especially verse 16 could be one of the best verses, greatest verses--I mean all the Bible verses are great, but this verse just seems to stand out to me on the subject of intercessory prayer. 

          So, verses 16-17, “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and he will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death.  There is sin leading to death.  I do not say that he should pray about that.  All unrighteousness is sin.  And there is sin not leading to death.”  So, remember we had noted last week, these are probably the last written words of the apostle John.  He was a great man, so great men often have great things to say, and of course, the final things they say really want to make some tremendous points.  And we’re at the end of his letter, and in fact this is probably a post-script, just a little PS at the end.  And he’s got some great things to say to us here.  Now with his writing style, here again is one of those statements that can be a bit challenging to interpret.  You’re probably looking at it going ‘What in the world does he mean here?  What is he saying?’  There are some peculiar statements that catch your eye in these verses here, and leave you wondering, maybe with such questions as, ‘What does he mean by a sin leading to death?’ What does he mean by that?  ‘Why are we not to pray for somebody whose committed such a sin?’  What is he saying?

 

When we pray for a struggling brother or sister, God will respond

 

Now before we really delve into it all, I’d like to say that he makes such a wonderful point here.  Sometimes it’s overlooked, sometimes you miss the point because your eyes catch these other phrases, and you get wondering about that.  In fact, I would admit to you that in years past, I’ve read, and I’ve even taught 1st John, I’ve always focused on the part that just kind of catches your eye, and you’re like ‘What is he saying?’  And then I’ve missed, here’s an incredible truth here in these verses.  There’s an incredible truth, and I’ve kind of missed the whole point.  I think we have a tendency to do that, and can just kind of meditate on another part and miss a beautiful truth.  But I’ve had two weeks to think about this verse, and as I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve been like ‘Wow!  That is really cool what he’s saying there.  That is a tremendous exhortation.  The thrust of what he’s saying is very significant, and he is saying as you see there, when you and I pray, we pray boldly, we pray led in the Spirit, we pray according to the will of God, when we pray and lift up a struggling brother or sister, God will respond to that prayer.  God will indeed respond.  It’s not even a question, the way he writes it there.  When I pray for somebody who’s struggling, a Christian, when I pray and ask God to lead me in the Spirit, when I pray, I can be absolutely sure that God is going to respond.  He says it in that way.  In fact he uses the words, he says “God will give him life”, God will give that person life.  Just like in the story with D.L. Moody, and that’s why I started with that story.  There’s a guy who’s struggling, maybe he was a believer, he left the Lord, seemed to leave the ways of the Lord.  The way it’s phrased in that story, maybe he’s a believer, maybe he’s not, but either way I think the picture is what’s said here.  This church, 20,000, mom and dad concerned for a son, they lift up prayers.  As they are praying, at that very moment, this man is on the other side of the globe, they were in England, he’s in Australia, as they pray at that very moment, he doesn’t know why, but starts thinking about his parents.  And as he starts to think about his parents, suddenly there’s a conviction of sin upon his heart so great that he actually gets off his horse and he gets down on his knees, and he turns his life over to God and gets right with God.  They prayed, that happened at the very instant.  I think that’s a picture exactly of what John is saying here in these verses.  Now what stands out again, in this verse to me, especially now as he’s so matter of fact about it, it’s as if it’s guaranteed, if I pray in this way, he will give life, he says.  It’s like it’s guaranteed.  He doesn’t say he  may get life, he doesn’t say he might give life, he doesn’t say that could give life, he says if I pray, God will give him life, God will give him life.  Just guaranteed, matter of fact, this is the way it works.  So that then says to me that this is a tremendous promise of the Lord.  God will do these things if I pray.  Man, that’s a powerful exhortation to me as a Christian, that’s a powerful exhortation to the Church.  I think these verses as you meditate upon them, you can even change the attitude of the congregation from one of maybe judging or criticism to one of love, compassion, hope and power.  Well, let’s start to dissect these verses here so we get the whole sense of it. 

          He says, “if anyone”, so anybody, you or I, that’s pretty clear.  “If anybody”.  Now the word “if” is the objective suppositional conjunction, the Greek word ean, and that word, the word the way it’s stated there, “if”, it means that it’s not like a figment of somebody’s imagination, that this is just like maybe a possibility, it’s a sense that this is a reality.  “If” meaning these things do happen.  Meaning, you’re going to live the Christian life, and at times you’re going to see a brother or sister that’s in the Lord, that’s in the Church, that is struggling in one way or another in their walk with God, and struggling with sin.  So he says “If”.  Now if that’s the case, he says this is the case for you, this is the reality as a Christian, this at times is going to happen.  So then what he follows with is very important for me to understand.  I’m not to pass judgment on a brother, I’m not to stand idly by either, I’m not just to be indifferent.  But rather, there’s something that I need to do in those cases---it just says, I need to pray.  I need to pray and God will give him life.  Paul told the church in Galatia, he said, “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  And that’s the sense of this verse.  When I see a brother or sister that’s struggling, I have a responsibility, and that responsibility especially includes prayer.  If anyone, you and I, anybody, one of us sees, the Greek verb here, sees is the Greek word ide [look up spelling in Strongs], and is related to the Greek verb oeda, which we have noted a lot when he says know, and through this Epistle he either says ginosko or oeda, ginosko meaning an experiential knowledge, oeda is to perceive intuitively.  The word for sees here is rooted, is from that word, related to that word.  So John is referring to having an intuitive knowledge of sin in the life of a believer.  It isn’t so much that there’s an outward visible life of sin, they’re could be, but especially just you have a sense, I perceive this brother’s struggling.  I perceive that this sister is struggling.  That’s what he’s stated.  It would include more than just a visible sin, you just know that something’s not right with that believer in the church.  So, “If anyone sees his brother”, the word brother there I believe and most commentators would say means a believer, or at least somebody that would appear to be a believer.  It means a believer.  So what follows then is focused on another Christian [or Messianic Jewish brother].  “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin”, you can tell just by the way that’s written, that is in the continuous sense, his committed a sin, so he’s still in the state of sin, his continuing in that sin, maybe it was a onetime act, but he’s still kind of in the heart of it, in the direction of it, he’s continuing in the sin.  And now for the challenging part.  That was easy.  “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death.”  Now what does he mean by that?  Goes on a little bit later and says “there is sin leading to death.”  I don’t know about you, I’d like to know what that sin is.  You know what I’m saying?  What is he saying?  Sin not leading to death, there is sin leading to death, what does he mean?

 

What is “a sin leading to death”?, 1st view

 

  What is a sin that leads to death?  Well there are two main views.  If you’ve studied this, maybe you have a sense of where you stand, but there are two main views about that, this sin that leads to death.  The first view involves a Christian who’s living in habitual sin.  And the death then involves, in this first view, physical death as the eventual outcome.  So somebody, a Christian is living in a sin that leads to death.  There is one view that that sin means that they’ve committed a sin that they’re going to die, meaning God is going to take their life.  We see examples of that in the New Testament.  So people who have that view would refer to these examples.  One is Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5.  Right?  In the early Church.  Appear to be believers, we kind of have that sense when we read it.  They do something, they lie, they sin against the Holy Spirit, they disgrace God and right there at the door, boom, and a little bit later, boom, they both fall dead.  Right?  And fear kind of goes throughout the early Church.  Also in Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth, chapter 11, Paul writes that because of the horrific attitude of this church, some of them have towards the communion table [which the early Church was observing once a year on Passover eve, the 13th/14th Nisan], they were approaching it in such a defiling way, he said ‘Some of you who are sick, and some of you have even fallen asleep, and he uses the word, meaning they’ve died.  That there’s some in the church in Corinth that have actually died because of the way, in a sense they’ve blasphemed the communion table.  They’ve not really prepared their hearts right and approached it in the right way.  There’s also those verses in Hebrews chapter 12, verses 8 and 9, which maybe alludes to this type of, you know, God taking a believer’s life because of sin.  “But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.  Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect.  Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits  and live” he says.  And some would say that meaning if he’s correcting us, we want to respond so that we will live….Meaning, if we continue in that direction he would really have to correct us which would include taking our life.  Well, in these cases where God appears to at times end the life of a believer, call him home, call him home early, it seems to be often because in one way or another they’re disgracing God, they’re being such a horrific witness that God doesn’t want that to continue.  God has to make a statement and he has to judge because of what has happened.  Now some have suggested when these cases happen, that it’s really an act of benevolence of God, meaning that God doesn’t want that sin to continue in the Church, so he has to make a strong statement like he did with Ananias and Sapphira, or maybe it’s a sense of grace that this person has got themselves into such a mess, and they’re on such a road of destruction that God doesn’t want them to continue to reap all that’s going to come from that.  So in his grace he kind of takes him out of the picture.  Now I know in my life, I’ve made a deal with the Lord.  If I ever get on one of these slippery slopes, and I’m going to end up being put on a shelf, you just take me man, I’m not even going to try to argue, just take me out early, you know, I can understand, that could be gracious act on the part of the Lord.  So, there’s this first view.

 

“sin leading to death”, 2nd view

 

There’s a second view.  And that is, this involves somebody who was a brother or should I say appears to be to have been a brother [in Christ], but now very clearly appears to not be a brother.  Meaning, they appear to be a Christian [or Messianic Jewish believer], and now it’s clearly discernable that they’re not a Christian.  So in this case, this sin that has been committed is a sin that leads to spiritual death.  And the sin is that of apostasy, apostasy.  The act of denying Jesus Christ as God the Son, God manifested in the flesh.  So in this case, the word for brother there, would be somebody who’s a false brother [as Ananias and Sapphira may have been, they may have been false brethren], somebody that John noted earlier.  Remember, John has talked about people like that.  Earlier he said in chapter 2, “They went out from us, but they were not of us.  For if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.  But they went out that they might be made manifest that none of them were of us.”  So he says there were these guys that were with us, and then they left.  They were clearly part of the Church, they professed certain things, but they’ve left the Church and now they profess a completely different gospel.  They don’t even believe in the same Jesus we do anymore.  And that would be this sin of apostasy.  Now that’s the second view that this sin leading to death means that somebody’s committed the sin of apostasy.  The Bible says that apostasy is an unforgivable sin.  Hebrews chapter 6, verses 4 to 6, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put him to an open shame.”  You know, that little passage in Hebrews, people take it differently, and say it is impossible for somebody to walk away from the Lord, because of the way it’s worded, or they say that if you ever did, man, there would be no other way to get back, because that’s what he’s saying.  Or they would say it’s somebody that tasted, meaning they were in the Church, they learned all that there is to learn, they understood it, they saw it for what it was, but yet they still decided to walk away from it, never really were completely born-again, never really asked Christ into their heart, but they got really close, and then they decided to walk away from it.  That I think more than anything is the heart of Hebrews 6.  Well, that would be a sin that the Bible would say is unforgivable, it’s blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said in Matthew chapter 3, verse 29, “But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.”  So, with that, I would understand then why John would then say ‘you don’t need to pray about that, you don’t need to pray about that, there’s apostasy, they’ve turned away from the Lord, they’re not interested, they’ve so hardened their heart.’  Now, which direction do I go in?  I take the second one.  I personally believe that is what John is saying.  I do believe that at times God also will take a believer physically and take him out of the earth because of sin.  I do believe that.  I believe that you see it in the New Testament.  I certainly think that’s a possibility, that somebody could do such a sin that God would say, ‘Man, I need to take that guy out of the picture.’  So I believe that.  But I think here that he’s especially referring to that of apostasy, those that have gotten close, appeared they were Christians, and then walked away from the Lord.  You know, if you consider all that John has said thus far, he said that born-again believers will not continue in sin, they will not continue in sin.  So to say that this brother here is a born-again believer, then they’re not going to continue in sin, so it’s tough for them to get to the point of them committing a sin that’s going to lead to death as far as spiritual death.  So I think that with that, also John said earlier there are many anti-christs, 1st John chapter 4, people who confess a different Jesus.  And they confess to know the Lord, but as they describe and say who that Jesus is, he’s not God the Son, he’s not God that came in the flesh, it’s a different Jesus.  So it’s apostasy.  And that’s what I believe he’s referring to.  So kind of put it all together.  John is saying ‘I have a responsibility to pray for a Christian, a brother, sister, who is sinning, who’s without a doubt born-again, believes in the real Jesus, I have a responsibility if they are struggling in sin to pray for them.’   But when they are people that were once part of the Church, knowing, learning and understanding all that the Bible says about Jesus, but who now deny Jesus Christ, as Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, those that refuse to believe that he came as God in the flesh, then they have committed the sin that leads to death.  And John says that you don’t need to pray for somebody like that.  Their hearts are so hard, they’ve denied the Gospel, they’ve hardened their hearts.  They saw the light, they shut off their hearts towards it, they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit.  In fact, this is like what God says to the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah chapter 7, verse 16, “Therefore do not pray for this people nor lift up a cry or a prayer for them, nor make intercession to me, for I will not hear you.”  God says, ‘Don’t even pray for them’ he says to Jeremiah, because of the hardness of the hearts of the people in Israel at that time.  So if that takes place. Now I should note that if somebody is denying the Lord, and it’s because of ignorance, that’s a little bit different.  That’s somebody I should share the Gospel with, and I should pray for them, and they need to just understand the Gospel.  But he’s saying somebody that would know the Gospel, knows the whole deal, and yet denies it.  Somebody’s who’s in the Church and walked away from it.

 

The main focus of what John is saying—intercessory prayer

 

Now, with that, the main focus of what John is saying, and that’s what we need to walk away with this morning, when a brother is in sin, a sin that doesn’t lead to death, and I would think by far, the sins that we would commit, then John exhorts us to pray.  He says “He will ask”, that word in the Greek for “ask”, it means literally “to beg”, “to crave”, “to desire”.  There’s a passion in that word.  It could also be rendered “beseech”.  That word “beseech” means “passionately crying out to God.”  There’s a sense of fervency in that prayer.  When a brother or sister is sinning, somebody in the church, a Christian [or Messianic Jewish believer in Jesus, Yeshua], I shouldn’t point my nose up at him, I shouldn’t judge him, I shouldn’t be critical, I shouldn’t condemn him.  I shouldn’t look the other way either.  I shouldn’t be indifferent.  But my heart should have the heart of God, and that is Agape love.  I should be burdened for them, so burdened that I with great desire come before God, passionately, before his throne, and I intercede for them.  That’s what he’s saying here.  I should come confidently, I should come boldly, asking the Holy Spirit to lead me, asking according to the will of God.  And wonderfully, as John says, “God will give that person life.”  God will indeed respond.  Now what does John mean by “life”---“God will give him life”?  That’s another question we should try to answer.  John uses in his Epistle three different words for the word “life”.  We have the word “life” in English, but there are multiple Greek words.  He uses the three main ones.  That is the Greek word “Zoe”, “Bios” and “Suke”.  This word here is the word “Zoe” [Strongs # 2222, dzoay; from 2198 (to live, life); life. (lit. or fig.): life(time)….]  What does Zoe mean?  Generally in the New Testament Zoe is referring to spiritual life.  It’s the spiritual sense of the word, generally.  [Strong’s doesn’t go that deep into how the Greek was used by the New Testament writers, but only gives the exact Greek meaning, and not what the writers were using specific Greek words to convey.]  That principle of life, life in the absolute sense, life as God has life, the life which the Father has in himself.  It’s a life that I have been alienated from if I’m in sin and I don’t have Christ, it’s that life I’ve been separated from because of the consequence of ‘the fall”, Ephesians chapter 4, verse 18.  It’s the life that I become a partaker in when I put my faith in Jesus Christ, that is the word zoe.  There are times, though, where zoe can in the New Testament, Acts chapter 17, verse 25, be used to refer to just the life that’s common to animals and common to men by nature.  It also can refer to the duration of life.  But generally it is used in the spiritual sense, and it’s interesting to me, John uses the word zoe many times.  In fact, verse 1, verse 2, verse 25 of chapter 2, verse 14 of chapter 3, verse 15 of chapter 3, verse 11 of chapter 5, verse 12, verse 13, verse 16, and verse 20.  He uses the word zoe many times, and every time it’s clear, and if you’re wondering here, it’s spiritual life, like eternal life, every time it’s zoe.  Or the life that we have in Christ, it’s zoe.  Every time he uses that word.  Now bios he also uses, and that has basically three types of meaning.  It either means the period or duration of life, or the time pasts of our life, it also can mean the manner of life in regards to moral conduct or the means of life, livelihood, maintenance, living, that type of thing.  John uses that word only once in verse 16 of chapter 2, very clearly he’s meaning ‘the manner of life’, not spiritual life.  Suke is the word we often use for the word soul, you know, heart, mind, and soul.  It denotes life in two main ways, that is the breath of life, the natural life, which like the natural word for life, or the word soul, the seat of the personality.  John uses that word twice in verse 16.  Clearly there he referring to the natural life.  I say all of that because people will debate, I was even with a pastor this week, and we were looking into it in a Greek Bible, he could read Greek, so we were going through this, and it seems to me very clearly he’s referring to spiritual life.  And all the more I take the second view, he’s referring to spiritual life.  That when you pray for a believer who’s struggling, it’s not physical life, God will give him spiritual life, like in the story there I started with, D.L. Moody.  By the grace of God he will give him life, that is, the life we receive in Christ, that is abundant life, that is eternal life, that is all that goes with spiritual life.  So, with all that, then I think we can agree it is vital for you and I, vital for a congregation that claims Christ, it is vital for us to be in prayer for one another.  You know I’ve made it a habit to try to pray for everybody in the church.  Sometimes I don’t know names, and sometimes I have to ask the Lord to lead me.  I’ve got names and I try to keep track of names, but if I don’t know names I just kind of think a little bit, ‘Yeah, there’s a face I see now and then out in the audience’, and I try to go through ad pray at least each week.  I’m not perfectly faithful, but I pray for the people.  And then as I pray for the people, I try to be led by the Lord.  ‘What is the need?’  ‘What is the need?’  And I just pray.  And I’ll be honest with you, it’s been amazing.  And I continue to do it because I see the fruit of it.  I see God work.  [And I might add here that this tiny online ministry and I personally need prayer to continue.  I know from the various statistical websites that monitor websites, that this site gets right now 744 serious users per month, or 186 serious users per week.  Boy would it be uplifting to have a good portion of them lifting me and this website up to the Lord in prayer each day and each week.  Click on http://www.unityinchrist.com/memphisbelle.htm , http://www.unityinchrist.com/author.htm and http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/historycog1.htm

to learn some of my spiritual background and upbringing and what I go through in a spiritual sense.]  I pray for people, you know, I just lift them up.  ‘Lord, you know, Joe is coming [to church], I haven’t seen him in awhile, I know he’s struggling, I heard through the grapevine a little bit, and Lord I just lift him to you, just move him Lord, get him back into church, get his attention, whether it’s just a dullness or lack of love for you, something, Lord.’  And don’t you know, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen him, and the very next Sunday I’ll be sitting in the back, and here goes Joe walking by.  I mean, it’s amazing.  It’s amazing.  I could give you so many stories.  I’ve seen the fruits of it so many times.  John is saying when we see a brother or sister in sins, struggling, we should pray for them because God will respond.  That’s exactly how it’s written.  He will give them life.  It’s not ever put as a question.  God will respond, if I pray according to his will, boldly, confidently, God will respond, he will give them life.  That says to me that a praying church then is a holy church, a church that’s praying for each other.  It’s a church that’s being purified, it’s a holy church, God is working.  When you stop seeing the people that used to be here that aren’t here anymore, what should you do?  What should you do?  You should pray for them.  Not turn the other way, not just kind of forget.  Phone-call doesn’t hurt either.  But you should pray for them.  Because, sometimes, often it’s because they’re struggling.  When you see kids downstairs in the children’s ministry, you’re working in the children’s ministry and you see a child, you know, as a little child they had a heart for God, and now they’re struggling with behavior and this or that, what should you do?  You should pray for them.  You should pray for them.  God will without a doubt respond to give that little person life, spiritual life.  When you’re in the kids ministries downstairs and the kids are more excited for the Harry Potter’s movies than they are for Jesus, man, what should you do?  You should pray for them, you should pray for them.  There’s a story, Zinzidorf, quite a name, August 17th, 1727, Count Zinzidorf was giving spiritual instructions. Was this to a church of 1,000 wealthy and influential adherents?  Far from it.  The Count’s occupation would be disdained by men of today in the clergy.  His instruction was to a class of only nine girls between the ages of 10 and 13, so it wasn’t what some would have considered in some hearts as some great awesome ministry.  Of course, it was in the eyes of God.  He had told his wife that although the girls gave outward attention, he could not perceive any trace of spiritual life among them.  It is recorded that on July 16th he poured out his heart in effective prayer and was in great anguish of soul for those girls.  Then for ten days August 17th to 27th this influential Count’s prayers were answered in a great outpouring of the Spirit of God upon these girls.  As the hours passed, more girls, and then boys, then even adults of the refugee community of Hernhutt come under the Spirit’s influence.  And eye witness said ‘I cannot describe the cause of this great awakening of the children of Hernhutt to anything but the wonderful outpouring of the Spirit of God.’  But they evidently didn’t know that this godly man spent a day where he was just on his face, ‘God, these girls, Lord, these girls Lord, there’s this deadness, there’s not an excitement.  God give them life.’  And then, the next day, for ten days, man, something started to happen.  Even moms and dads started showing up from the community.  That is what John is saying.  That is exactly what he is saying.  When the church body seems dull, when the church body seems dead, what should we do?  We should pray.  We should pray, ‘God work, God work in the hearts of these people.’  When your spouse, you’ve got a Christian spouse, there’s struggling, your marriage is struggling, what should you do?  You should pray.  You should pray.  You know, if you haven’t read them, I often quoted them in the past, but Jim Cymbala, man, his books on prayer are just awesome.  And he has stories, and he talks about incredible answers to prayer.  But I’ll just read to you a page or two here from his book Fresh Faith [available from http://www.amazon.com or http://www.christianbook.com ].    A story about a man named Calvin Hunt.  This particular man was kind of a knight in shining armor.  He married a lady named Miriam….[he then turned into a crack addict.  She had married this knight in shining armor and now was married to this total crack addict.]  And now she had an abusive husband, now she’s married to this guy who actually was living in a doghouse in somebody’s back yard.  During that time she became a Christian, and as a Christian she started to just have a real heart of prayer for her husband Calvin, even brought him before the church just in prayer, and the church at times would pray for him in the prayer-meetings [this would have been the Brooklyn Tabernacle].  And for three years he continued down this road and she decided she wasn’t going to divorce him, but she believed that God would hear her prayers, and that God would get this man’s attention.  Well, he was living in a doghouse, drugged out.  But when she was at church or she would go away, he would know it when she wasn’t there, so he would sneak back into the apartment and change clothes and take a shower.  He’d kind of time it so she didn’t see him for long periods of time.  One particular night, Friday night, prayer-meeting was going on at the church, it was one of those times he knew she’d be away, so he came back, she wasn’t there, he snuck into the apartment to get the change of clothes, and it just so happened at that time, this is a beautiful story, Brooklyn Tabernacle Church, they were having their prayer-meeting, and she had lifted him up in prayer before the congregation, and the congregation began to pray for him.  Well, here, I’ll start reading in this book Fresh Faith, page 142, “Calvin headed once again for the family apartment after his wife and children had left.  In the quietness he found some food in the refrigerator, then took a shower and put on clean clothes.  There was time for a short nap, so he decided to lie down.  But for some reason he couldn’t sleep.  Soon he heard a noise.  From the closet came the soft sound of somebody weeping.  He sat up.  Maybe Miriam and the children were home after all.  He looked in the children’s rooms, under the bed, inside the various closets, nobody.  No one.  But the sobbing continued.  He stood in the living room and said out loud ‘I know you guys are in here, come out.  Nobody appeared.  Calvin was spooked.  He thought of lying down once again, but something inside him seemed to say, ‘if you go to sleep tonight, you’ll never wake up again.’  He panicked, running out the door he dashed three blocks to the train station to go to see if his wife and children were really at the prayer-meeting or not.  He burst into the church and stood at the back of the center aisle scanning the crowd.  Suddenly the same sounds of crying struck his ears, only much louder than back in the apartment.  The whole congregation was in earnest prayer, calling out his name to God in faith.  Calvin was thunder-struck.  As he slowly moved down the aisle gazing at the people’s upraised hands and their eyes tightly shut in prayer, tears running down their faces, “Oh God, wherever Calvin Hunt is, bring him to this building” they pleaded.  “Don’t let this family go through this horror another day.  Lord if you’re able, set him free from his bondage once and for all.”  Soon Calvin found himself in the front directly before the pulpit.  The pastor in charge opened his eyes, took one glance, and gazed upward towards heaven and he said in the microphone, “Thank you, Lord, thank you Jesus, here he is.”  With that the congregation went absolutely crazy.  They’d been calling upon the Lord to bring Calvin to himself and it was happening right before their very eyes.  Falling to his knees Calvin burst into uncontrollable sobs.  Miriam and the children came from their pew to huddle around him as he prayed “Oh God, I’ve become everything I said I’d never be, I don’t want to die this way.  Please come into my life and set me free.  Oh Jesus I need you so much.””  Well, he became a Christian, and Calvin Hunt in fact is a noteworthy Gospel singer today.  But he’s in the apartment, and he hears crying.  And at that very instant people are praying for him.  I believe that’s exactly what he’s saying here.  [Now that is an example of a real prayer-meeting.  For more incredible examples and stories like this one, be sure to order your own copies Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and Fresh Faith  from either http://www.amazon.com or http://www.christianbook.com .  For prayer resources on this site log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/prayer/prayer-teamessentials.htm and click on any one of the upper nav buttons.]    Somebody, a brother or sister is struggling, maybe it’s your wife, maybe it’s your husband.  Now that’s a story of somebody that’s not a Christian [wasn’t a Christian, is now though!].  And certainly if it’s true in that case, as it often is, it is always true when you pray for a Christian.

 

Pray for our marriages, pray for our children

 

And I would ask you to pray for the marriages in this church, pray for the marriages in this church, man.  There is such a battle, such a war.  I’ve had years in the church, I’ve said ‘You know, man, cool, we never see divorce around here [in his church congregation], it’s so uncommon’, and I would say in the last months it’s been almost like a plague in this church.  And I’d ask you to pray for the people that are struggling, because God will give them life.  That’s what he says.  [It also doesn’t hurt to use good marriage resources when you’re struggling with this one.  See http://www.howmarriageworks.com .  And by all means, pray.  Even pray the Lord gives you the ability to apply good resources, for with us believers, it’s the Lord’s empowerment that gives us the ability to do what is right.  Knowing isn’t enough.  An ancient Chinese proverb says “To know the truth is easy.  But, ah, how difficult to follow it!”]  What do you do when your own kids are struggling?  What should you do?  Well there’s a lot of different things you can do, but one thing is for sure, we should pray, we should pray.  There’s a little piece of poetry, about a father’s gift.  “To you oh son of mine, I cannot give a vast estate of wide and fertile lands, but I can keep for you that whilst I live unstained hands, I have no blazoned skution that ensures you your path to eminence and worldly fame, but longer than empty heraldry endures a blameless name.  I have no treasure chest of gold refined, or horded wealth of clinking glittering pelth.  I give to you my hand and heart and mind, all of myself.  I can exert no mighty influence to make a place for you in men’s affairs, but lift to God in secret audience unceasing prayers.  I cannot, though I would, be always near to guard your steps with the parental rod.  I trust your soul to him who holds you dear, your father’s God.”  So dad, what do we do when our kids are struggling in life and things like that?  One thing you can especially do, I say especially if they are a born-again believer, especially, you can pray for them.  I think of another story from Jim Cymbala’s book, that story of his daughter Chrissie [that one is in Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire].  You know, we have a video if you haven’t seen it, I’d encourage you to check it out.  But his daughter, he’s a pastor of a large church, and his daughter was a Christian and walking with God, and decided, got to that time in life, I guess as sometimes they do, went on a road of just complete terror and awfulness, and did about everything under the sun, and here he was grieving, and he even got to the point where he thought he couldn’t pastor anymore, this pastor of a massive church.  Well, as you’ve heard the story, God began to minister to Jim Cymbala, he was just complaining to God, and complaining to God over the months, and God said to him ‘Stop complaining and just pray for your daughter, just pray for her.’  One night he was at a prayer-meeting, and as he was at the prayer-meeting he just decided ‘I’m not going to talk to anybody anymore, I’m going to just pray and started to pray.  And God really began to move his heart in prayer.  And there was a prayer-meeting this Tuesday night, packed out, hundreds and hundreds of people [the Brooklyn Tabernacle], and somebody passed him a note and said ‘I think we should pray for your daughter, I really have it on my heart, we should pray for your daughter right now.’  So they started to pray.  And he said the type of prayer that went on in that room was so amazing, it was like people were giving birth.  Well, he knew something happened that night.  Got home, went to his wife and said to her, he says ‘It’s over.’  His wife Carol says ‘What’s over?’  He says ‘It’s over with Chrissie.  You would have had to have been in the prayer meeting tonight, I tell you if there’s a God in heaven this whole nightmare is finally over.’  And then he described to her what had taken place.  I’ll read to you from his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, just a page here.  “Thirty-two hours later on Thursday morning as I was shaving, Carol suddenly burst through the door, her eyes wide.  ‘Go downstairs’ she blurted, ‘Chrissie’s here!’  ‘Chrissie’s here?’  ‘Yes, go down.’  ‘But Carol, I….’  ‘Just go down’ she urged, ‘It’s you she wants to see.’  I wiped off the shaving cream foam and headed down the stairs, my heart pounding, came around the corner, I saw my daughter on the kitchen floor walking on her hands and knees sobbing.  Cautiously I spoke her name, ‘Chrissie?’  She grabbed my pant-leg and began pouring out her anguish, ‘Daddy, Daddy, I’ve sinned against God.  I’ve sinned against myself, I’ve sinned against you and Mommy, please forgive me.’  My vision was as clouded by tears as hers, I pulled her up from the floor and held her close as we cried together.  Suddenly, she drew back, ‘Daddy,’ she said with a start, ‘Who was praying for me, who was praying for me?’  How voice was like that of a cross-examining attorney.  ‘What do you mean, Chrissie?’  ‘On Tuesday night, who was praying for me?’  I didn’t say anything, so she continued.  ‘In the middle of the night God woke me and showed me I was heading toward this abyss, there was no bottom to it, it scared me to death, I was so frightened, I realized how hard I’ve been, how wrong, how rebellious, but at the same time it was like God wrapped his arms around me and held me tight, he kept me from sliding any farther, as he said ‘I still love you.’  Daddy, tell me the truth, who was praying for me on Tuesday night?’  I looked into her bloodshot eyes, and once again recognized the daughter we had raised.’”  So that’s what he’s saying [the apostle John].  That’s why the Brooklyn Tabernacle church is the church that it is.  He says, if you see a brother or sister that is sinning, that is struggling, don’t turn up your nose, don’t judge them, don’t give up on them, don’t be indifferent, he says “Pray with a passion of God that seeks the throne-room of God, cry out and God will give them life.”  He’ll give them life.  Wow.  That is a great Scripture.  That is beautiful, that is beautiful.  That’s why we encourage you, I encourage you, if you’re able to, I know life is full, but one Sunday night a month, we have prayer-meetings here every Sunday night, and I figure if one Sunday a month we all can commit to being at one Sunday night prayer-meeting, we’ll  have a quarter of our body, 25 percent of the church here on Sunday nights praying, praying for one another, crying out.  And God at times will do exactly that, it’s amazing, you can be in a prayer-room with a few people, and there can be somebody on the other side of the planet, and you can go ‘Oh God, oh God, oh Lord, what happened to so and so, you know she’s, why’s she doing that Lord, I can’t believe she’s doing that, she knows that isn’t right, it’s going to hurt her, destroy her.  God we lift her to you, we lift her to you, work in her life.’  And God says “I’ll give her life, I’ll give her life.”  You know, we got a full life, man, but if it’s too full to pray, my goodness.  John has given us a great encouragement here.  I don’t know if we could think of a verse more profoundly that’s effected me on intercessory prayer than this one.  And he’s made it clear, we should pray, we should pray for one another.

 

Summary

 

He says in verse 17, we’ve dealt with the sin leading to death, “I don’t tell you we should pray about that.”  You know, I say it’s apostasy [he’s talking about], you can say and exhort people that have gone down that road, but if they’ve really committed that sin, they’ve blasphemed the Holy Spirit and have hardened their heart and are never going to turn to God.  He says “All unrighteousness is sin, and there’s sin not leading to death.”  What is he saying, “all unrighteousness is sin”, what does it mean?  Unrighteousness means doing something to self or others, doing something that is not right, so it’s sin against God and it’s sin against your fellow man.  All unrighteousness of course is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.  Well, verses 16 through 17.  We’ll pick up next time with verse 18.  John has said we can be effective in prayer, there is effective prayer, there is praying where God actually hears and answers your prayers and gives you the things that you ask for.  He says effective prayer is with boldness and faith, coming to God, coming to God confidently, it is coming directly to God through Jesus Christ, it is praying with God’s heart and God’s will.  And he says the result of that is you will have the ear of God, and if you have the ear of God, you will have the things that you ask for.  And then the next thing he says, “Pray, pray for one another.  Pray for a brother or sister in Christ who’s struggling.” He goes right from that, pray for others in the church, pray for others in your family, pray for them.  Pray for non-believers, pray for believers, but pray for those who are struggling, it is very powerful, God will give them life as you pray.  Man, you can pray for me all you want.  I plead with you to pray for me.  [and me too, and this website ministry.]  He says don’t pray for those who have committed the sin leading to death, and how do you know that?  God just shows you, and I’ve had I believe, him show that to me in my life.  There’s some that have gone that road, blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  Here’s a little piece of poetry as we conclude.  “Make me an intercessor, one who can really pray, one of the Lord’s rememberancers by night as well as day.  Make me an intercessor, in spirit touch with thee, and give the heavenly vision praying through to victory.  Make me an intercessor, teach me how to prevail, to stand my ground and still pray on, though powers of hell assail.  Make me an intercessor, sharing thy death and life, in prayer claiming others, claiming  others victory in the strife.  Make me an intercessor, willing for deeper depth, empty, broken, but made anew and filled with living breath.”  ‘Lord, we thank you for your Word.  We thank you Lord Jesus.  I just pray simply we’ve looked at these words and we’ve tried to reason, and of course John stated things so matter of factly and so straightly, and sometimes as he does that he doesn’t really explain himself and we get these phrases where, Lord, we try to discern ‘What does he mean by this sin leading to death?’, and we’ve worked through that, and got that out of the way, but the main thing, certainly the focus of, Lord, what you said through John there is to pray, pray.  There is effective prayer, and especially as we pray as Christians, we pray for one another.  I ask you Lord that you put that kind of love in our hearts here at this church, that we wouldn’t be just concerned about ourselves, just always worrying about that and laying burdens on other people because we have all these things, but that we would have a heart that prays for others.  That we’d be concerned for our fellow brother and sister in Christ, and that we would have a burden for others when they are struggling.  That it would be a burden on our hearts, heavy on our hearts, so we would come before you with that burden and we’d just open our hearts to you and passionately beseeching you, God, God, so and so, this is the deal, God, this person, God, their marriage, God their child, Lord, we say as we come, asking you to lead us, praying in the Spirit, led by you, praying according to your will, you will give them life….”  [a transcript of a sermon given somewhere in New England.]  

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