by Mike Ratliff
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV)
Much of the spiritual bankruptcy of the Church in our day can be attributed to the dire lack of Biblical discipleship within the Body of Christ. It seems that little is heard of the necessity of being separate from the world and not be conformed to it. That, combined with most professing believers having a very shallow Bible knowledge, creates an environment with very little spiritual discernment and wisdom.
I used to have a prayer requests page on Possessing the Treasure. I had to take it off line. Why? It was receiving hundreds of “requests” a week from people wanting prayer so they could be rich, that they would not be convicted of some crime, that someone on which they had a crush would love them, et cetera. It was as if the prayer requests page had been hijacked by disciples of Benny Hinn.
Through this I did become cognizant of the dearth of spiritual maturity running rampant in the visible Church. Prayer seems to be understood to be like a vending machine. It appears to be more superstition than genuine Christianity. Of course, there were some legitimate requests from those seeking intercessory prayer for the salvation of a loved one or courage to share the Gospel or for God to convict the Church of how far it has drifted from where it should be and for all believers to repent and seek personal holiness as we are commanded. I had some requests to pray that the one asking for prayer could repent of some sin and put it to death. I had no problem praying for these things my brethren.
What has personal holiness to do with intercessory prayer? First let’s define what personal holiness is. When a believer is saved, they are regenerated. They are quickened. What was spiritually dead and separate from God is now spiritually alive and knit with Him. The new believer is washed clean through regeneration. He or she now has faith which accords with God’s grace. Obedience to God is now possible, whereas, before this, the best the lost person can do is as filthy rags in God’s sight. Even though the new believer is now alive in Christ, their remains the flesh and a years of bad habits which seek fulfillment through it.
We must never forget that God created us to be fulfilled in Him alone. However, the lost person has no ability to know God so there is no possibility for this fulfillment. Therefore, we all grow up seeking fulfillment from what we do have. What is that? It is the flesh my brethren. Why do we seek entertainment so assiduously? We feed our craving for fulfillment through our emotions and by possessing things that we believe will give us a sense of gratification. However, at salvation we all are wonderfully changed. We now have the ability to know God and be fulfilled in Him. We can receive our Lord’s Joy and so we can be strong and fruitful. However, there is a problem. Those who are fruitful and content as they are being pruned (John 15) are the maturing Christians. The newborn Christians do not have the spiritual wisdom, discernment, patience, and stability to endure the fires of sanctification at the level the mature believer does. Therefore, since they have not developed the spiritual wisdom through exercising their faith, they are still more-or-less self-focused and self-absorbed.
If these believers are not discipled and prayed for and helped by maturing believers then they will view their sanctification as if God has it in for them or he hates them or they must be doing something wrong. So, they turn from God and pursue things of the flesh for fulfillment just as they did before they were saved. I know this is how it can go down because I am describing my own journey here.
Sanctification is the process through which God removes His children from sin. They are made more and more holy as they learn to walk in repentance and be content to bear fruit as the Father prunes them. Part of this spiritual growth, this maturing and developing personal holiness, is learning that we can only walk forward with God as we worship Him with our entire being. As we learn to walk in repentance with Joy we worship Him. I don’t know about you, but the only way I can walk in repentance is by worshiping God and repenting of what He brings to my mind. This worship is not contemplative, which requires the emptying of the mind and disassociation with reality. No, this is simply being thankful and worshipful as we walk through the day. This is the process of attaining the mind of Christ so we can intercede. Worship and intercession must go together.
Intercession means that we rouse ourselves up to get the mind of Christ about the one for whom we pray. As we place our love and devotion on God, delight in Him as we seek His wisdom, what does He do? Doesn’t the Word of God promise us that if we draw near unto God that He will draw near unto us? If we do this we are worshiping Him, not being self-focused or self-absorbed or self-reliant. If we approach God in prayer and stumble all over the place in doubt then we are revealing the hardness of our hearts. This is the indicator that we are not worshiping God so we can intercede, but instead, are praying dogmatically and coldly. This is when we take the throne of grace for granted. The outcome is not pleasant. We become hard towards others because we are hard towards God. Tender hearts are the ones that know how to intercede for others. They know how because they have the mind of Christ and, therefore, His perspective.
We must examine ourselves here. Are we so worshiping God that we rouse ourselves up to lay hold of Him so that we may be brought into contact with His mind and are then able to pray for others as He desires? If we are then we will find that we are living in a holy relationship with God. If we are not then we will be hard and dogmatic.
Some recoil at any mention of the commands in Scripture for us to be Holy as God is Holy. They claim that this is burdensome and makes us legalistic. Well, if we try to keep rules and such by will power alone then it sure will seem like that. However, if we pursue God in this relationship for His glory, worshiping Him with our lives, then we will seek His will in all things and we learn it by having the mind of Christ. Then we will be Holy as God is Holy, not perfect, but aware of what is sin and what isn’t. We joyfully attack our flesh and deprive it of what feeds it. We mortify our sins and learn to walk in repentance, full of joy, interceding for the Church, its leaders, and for the salvation of the lost ones all around us.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16 KJV)
Soli Deo Gloria