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Praying For Our Lost Friends

23 Jan

The following sermons was preached at FBC Benbrook on Sunday morning, January 23, 2011

I would like for us to begin this morning, before we turn to the Scriptures, by listening to a few words from of this century’s great theologians, Kenny Chesney. In August of 2008, Kenny released this song which would become his 15th number one song. I want us to hear it today, not as the lyrics to a song that has a rhythm that we might like, but as a popular and well received philosophy of life.

Preacher told me last Sunday mornin’

Son, you better start livin’ right

You need to quit the women and whiskey

And carrying on all night

 

Don’t you wanna hear him call your name

When you’re standin’ at the pearly gates

I told the preacher, “Yes I do”

But I hope they don’t call today

I ain’t ready

 

chorus

Everybody wants to go to heaven

Have a mansion high above the clouds

Everybody want to go to heaven

But nobody want to go now

 

Said preacher maybe you didn’t see me

Throw an extra twenty in the plate

There’s one for everything I did last night

And one to get me through today

 

Here’s a ten to help you remember

Next time you got the good Lord’s ear

Say I’m comin’ but there ain’t no hurry

I’m havin’ fun down here

 

Don’t you know that

Everybody wants to go to heaven

Get their wings and fly around

Everybody want to go to heaven

But nobody want to go now

I think I speak for the crowd

 

With all due respect to the outstanding amount of theological research done by the two song writers of that song, everybody does not want to go to heaven, at least not the heaven described in the Bible. The heaven described in the Bible is the place in which righteousness dwells (see 2 Peter 3.13). And if you listened closely to Kenny’s song, he has no interest in being in the home of righteousness. In fact, he put an extra twenty in the offering plate, which is quite a generous offering from a man who made, according to the Chicago Tribune, $96 million the same year he recorded this song, for everything he did last night. And he is so interested in righteousness that he pre-paid another $20 for the fun he planned on having later that day. He acknowledges that he owes God at least something for his behavior last night, and that he will owe God something for his behavior today. But, he feels no regret for his behavior last night and has no intention in changing his plans for today. In fact, he bribed the preacher with another $10 (aren’t preachers cheap?) to ask the Lord to let him linger longer in the sins of the flesh before calling him home to heaven.

Perhaps I am reading too much into the words of a country song, but my point is that the man who claims “to speak for the crowd” probably really does. Most people are more interested in “having fun down here” than being in a right relationship with the King of Kings.

Which is why when we set our hearts on being used by God to seek and to save the lost, we must realize the importance of praying for the lost. How in the world can we share the gospel with someone who is content to toss a $20 in the offering plate for his sin of last night and another $20 for the fun I am going to have today? How can we share the gospel with a person, who, in their thinking, really wants to go to “heaven” but really wants nothing to do with what heaven is all about?

For those of us who take the Scriptures seriously, we must understand that the salvation of a lost person is nothing short of bringing the dead back to life. Listen to how the Bible describes a person who is lost,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

The very real condition of a person who is not right with God is that they are spiritually dead, they are followers of Satan, they are living in the passions of their flesh, and they are objects of God’s wrath. And I have to ask, “How can I help a spiritually dead person become spiritually alive?” “How can I convince a person who is happy carrying out the desires of his sin nature to repent of their sin, to forsake following Satan, and to submit to the Lordship of Christ?” “How can I open the eyes of someone who sees no problem with going to heaven after living a life enjoying the sins of the down here?”

It doesn’t take much to see that salvation is a God thing. When you begin to pray and ask God to call you to evangelism, when you want to hear God say to you, “I want to seek and save that person who is lost and I want to do it through you,” when you pray that prayer you will realize that there is so much here that only God can do. Listen to the words of Derek Gentle,

Salvation is a work of God within us; it is not simply a deal God makes with us and we of our own accord readily accept. It involves the imparting of that which we do not naturally seek. Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die — or to submit to the Lordship of Christ. We can remember how, before Christ, we ran from God. Hence, as God appointed to save the lost by the telling of the gospel, He has also chosen to save through the instrumentality of the prayers of his people. Salvation is an inside job and we are dependent upon God to do an internal heart-changing work in those for whom we are burdened.

Salvation is an inside job, and we are dependent upon God to do an internal heart changing work in those for whom we are burdened. And that is why we must pray for the “one” who God puts on our hearts. We must pray because they are dead in their sin. We must pray because they are followers of Satan and living under the power of the kingdom of Satan. We must pray because they are enjoying the desires of the flesh but are blinded to the temporal and eternal consequences of their sin. We must pray passionately for these people else they will never be saved.

The Bible gives us some very clear things to pray for our friends who are lost. And I say friends, because I think if we really believe what the Bible says about our friends who are lost, it is our friendship with them that will create within us a compassion and a longing for them to find new life in Christ and an understanding of their predicament. So, let me share with you this morning just a few of the Scriptures that teach us not only what to pray for our lost friends but also why to pray for them.

John 6.44

The first reason that we need to pray for our lost friends is found in the gospel of John. Jesus Himself told His disciples,

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44 ESV)

What Jesus is telling us here is very important. No one can come to faith in Christ unless the Father is at work in their soul, drawing that person to Christ. So, not only does that tell us what to pray for, but it also tells us why to pray.

We pray for our lost friends because it is not possible for them to come to faith in Christ unless God is at work in their soul drawing them towards Christ. And so we intercede on their behalf, “Lord, draw my friend to Jesus.”

John 16.8

The second reason we need to pray for our lost friends is also found on the lips of Jesus in the gospel of John. Speaking of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said,

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment… (John 17.7-8 ESV)

Remember what the Bible says about those who are lost, that they are living in the passions of the flesh and are carrying out the desires of their sin nature (see Ephesians 2.1-3). Our lost friends are truly not able to see that they are sinners separated from God and that their sin will one day keep them out of the presence of a holy God for all of eternity. In their mind, sin is the “fun stuff down here.” They do not see that sin is rebellion against the King of Kings. They do not see that sin is transgressing the boundary lines of the Lord of Lords. They do not see that sin is perverting the designs of the Creator. And they will not be able to see that until the Spirit of God convicts them of their sin.

Why do you pray for your lost friends? Because your lost friends will never be able to confess and repent of their sins unless the Spirit convicts them. Without the conviction of the Spirit, sin is nothing more than something we toss a $20 in the offering plate for “all the fun I am gonna have today.”

We should also look at Acts 11.18 and 2 Timothy 2.25. In Acts 11, Peter is retelling the story of how Cornelius came to faith in Christ. The Jews listening to Peter were quite astonished that the Gentiles were turning to Christ. But after hearing Peter’s story, they said,

When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11.18 ESV)

As we let those words linger in our mind, listen to what Paul wrote to young Timothy,

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)

Both verses speak to “God granting repentance.” And while that may be a mouthful for us to chew on, it does speak to the ministry of the Spirit, convicting sinners of their sin so that they might be able to confess and repent.

This is why we pray for our lost friends. Without God work in their life, they are not able to see their sinfulness and repent of their sins and so be saved.

Acts 26.18 and 2 Corinthians 4

The third reason we need to pray for our lost friends is found in both Acts 26 and 2 Corinthians 4. In Acts 26, Paul was retelling the story of his experience on the Road to Damascus where Jesus appeared to him and called him to believe in Christ, as well as to become a missionary for the gospel. As he retold that story to King Agrippa, he said,

And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:15-18 ESV)

Paul’s missionary mandate was to “open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.” Paul remembered that calling very well, and it became the foundation of his understanding of evangelism. To the church in Corinth, he wrote,

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:3-6 ESV)

The unbelievers were those who were blinded by the god of this world in such a way that they could not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Their eyes were closed. The power of Satan was at work keeping them in darkness. And that darkness only relented when the Creator made His light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ shine into their dark hearts. The only way that the blinded were able to see was that the Creator made His light shine in their dark hearts and opened their blinded eyes.

The reason we pray for our lost friends is because they cannot see the glory of the gospel. The god of this world has blinded them. Their eyes are closed. As natural persons, they cannot accept the things of the Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2.14). We can speak of the glory of the gospel until we are blue in the face, but unless the Lord takes away the blinders, they will not be able to really see it.

When we realize that our lost friends are held captive to the blinding power of Satan, we will cry out in prayer for the Lord to make His light shine in their dark hearts so they can see the light of the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 10.4-5

The fourth reason why we need to pray for our lost friends is found also in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. He wrote,

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV)

Before try to break down that verse, let us remember what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy,

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)

The picture that we get is that evangelism is really spiritual warfare. Satan has ensnared our lost friends (2 Timothy 2.25). Satan has captured our lost friends to do his will (2 Timothy 2.25). Satan is blinding the eyes of our lost friends so that they cannot see the beauty of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4.4). Remember what Paul’s call was, to “open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.” There is a very real spiritual struggle going on for the soul of your lost friend.

But, the Lord has not left our lost friends without hope. The Lord has given to His followers divinely powerful weapons that can “destroy strongholds” and “destroy arguments” and “destroy opinions” raised against the knowledge of God. And one of the most supremely important divinely powerful weapons is the weapon of prayer.

Conclusion

And so you see why it is so important for us to pray for our lost friends. They need Jesus in so many ways. They need God to draw them to Jesus. They need the Spirit to convict them of their sins so they can confess and repent. They need the Father to speak light into their darkness so they can see and comprehend the gospel. They need the Lord to liberate them from the snares of the Devil.

And this is why we pray for our lost friends!

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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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