Prayin’ in the Rubble

“we must make prayer our

first course of action rather

than our action of last resort”

 

I remember reading a bumper sticker once. It sounded so spiritual and good. It said “When all else fails, PRAY!” That sounds good doesn’t it? So, when we’re at the end of our rope, we pray. I mean, what else do we have to lose? But is this the right attitude? IF we wait until there is no other way out, is prayer in its proper place? I don’t think so. When confronted with life—meaning each day, every day, no matter the situation  —we must make prayer our first course of action rather than our action of last resort. In other words, am I concerned enough about being holy to pray first?

 

In Nehemiah we see a wonderful example of a person who had this correct. We’ll continue on for the next few posts looking at prayer in Nehemiah 1. By the end of this look at Nehemiah, we should have a handle on having an effective prayer life. Now, on to Nehemiah!

So who is this Nehemiah guy?

We know from verse 11 that Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. As cupbearer Nehemiah had a great job: he had intimate access to royalty, political standing, and a place to live in the palace. It was a cushy job that provided everything he needed. And yet, when one of his brothers returned from a road trip to Jerusalem, verse 2 says that Nehemiah “questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.” The word, “question” means “to inquire or demand” an answer. Nehemiah was greatly concerned about what  was happening in Jerusalem. He could have insulated himself if he chose to, but he didn’t. He sought them out and wanted to hear the first-hand report. You see Nehemiah was concerned about the problems  in Jerusalem.

This is an important starting point. It’s so easy for us to stay uninvolved and unaware. Some of us don’t want to even think about stuff that’s going on in our own lives. Even though Nehemiah had never been to Jerusalem, he had heard stories about it, and knew that his ancestors had been led away in chains when Babylon destroyed it. He was doing what Jeremiah 51:50 instructed the exiles to do: “…Remember the Lord in a distant land, and think on Jerusalem.”

As he thought on Jerusalem, he listened to the report in verse 3 that the survivors were in great trouble and disgrace, that the wall of Jerusalem was in shambles and that its gates had been burned with fire. As he tried to imagine the shame in the city of David, he could barely stand it. The phrase, “great trouble” meant that the people had “broken down and were falling to pieces.” Three words summarize the bad news: remnant, ruin, and reproach.

Nehemiah was broken over the complacency of the people of Jerusalem. They were living in ruins and they accepted it. They were willing to walk around the devastation instead of being concerned enough to do something about their situation.

Friends, nothing is ever going to change in your life, in the life of the church, or for that matter, our nation, until we become concerned about the problem. Some of us have become complacent about the way our lives are going. We’re living with rubble and it doesn’t even bother us any more. How sad. When we become so unconcerned with the state of our sanctification that we don’t engage it anymore, we are truly getting a little too comfortable in the rubble of life.

Think about this for a moment: have we lost the walls that once surrounded our lives? I’m not speaking about the protective wall God places around us. No I’m talking about the walls that hem in our actions  – the walls that keep us away from the things that we should avoid, and in the things we should be in. How are you doing here? Are you reading things you shouldn’t read? Are you looking at things that that are impure? We do not need to experience immorality to say immorality is wrong.

When Nehemiah heard this report, he hit the ground and began to weep in verse 4,  much like Jesus did when he cried out in painful tears when he observed the hard hearts of those in Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He also fasted.  These are all signs of humility and show his deep concern for the problem of the desolation of Jerusalem.

Are you deeply concerned with your closeness to Christ? Or are you too comfortable in the rubble of your life? Have you taken steps to be more intimate with your Savior? Before you DO anything, pray. You know, its really hard to be intimate with someone when you rarely talk to that person.

Take time to be holy…take time to pray.

 

What does it mean to be “holy”?

We usually associate the word “holy” with a pious individual. We  think they walk on water, never sin or mess up. In other words, we look at “holy” as sinless perfection. But is this accurate? Lets take a look at the words used in the Bible commonly translated as “holy” so we understand what the Bible has to say about this issue. 

 

Old Testament 

The Old Testament word commonly translated “holy” is the word qedos . There are many forms of qedos. These different forms demonstrate the various nuances of it. These nuances vary from describing a person to describing a place. All these nuances mean the same thing: separateness, special, set aside for a specific purpose. 

 

New Testament 

In the New Testament the term hagios is most commonly translated as “holy”.  Like the Old Testament term, this word can describe a place or a person. It can also describe an action. It too means that something or someone has been set aside for a specific purpose. 

 

So the idea of “holy” has less to do with conduct and more to do with purpose. Someone or something has been set aside for a specific purpose. But who does the setting aside? God is the One who sets us aside for a specific purpose. Christians, therefore,  are “holy” people. Notice I did not say we are perfect people. Holiness must never be confused with sinless perfection. But this does not mean that as holy people we do not make progress in the expression of our holiness. 

 

One of the uses of the term hagios  is  for the idea of  sanctification. The idea of sanctification is again one of separateness or specialness. Theologians typically classify sanctification in three ways: positional sanctification, progressive sanctification, and perfective (or final) sanctification. Lets take a look at each one of these so we understand how I am applying them in this series on holiness. 

 

Positional Sanctification 

The idea of positional sanctification has to do with our salvation experience. When we are redeemed by the sacrifice Christ made for us, we are immediately sanctified. We are set apart for a specific purpose. We can never lose this position since this is an act of God that is totally dependent Him and not on anything we have done. 

 

Perfective (Final or future) Sanctification 

This is still future to this writing. At some point in the future, every person who has Christ as Savior -each person who is a born again believer in Christ – will be fully sanctified. That is, there will no longer be sin in our lives, we will no longer even be tempted to sin since sin will have been consigned to the flames of hell. We will be perfect human beings. O what a day that will be! 

 

Progressive Sanctification 

This is the life we live on this earth in this age. We make progress in becoming Christ-like. We have setbacks. But our trend line should always be on an upward trajectory. Through the trials of life, God is drawing us closer to Him. We will continue to have sin burned out of us as long as we remain in this age. However, we will also continue to become more sensitive to sin. This is sure to happen because God will make it happen. But we have a responsibility in this part of sanctification. This is what “Habits of the Holy” is about. 

 

As we are progressively sanctified – as we become more like Christ – we should develop some habits that aid in our development as a Christian. Let me be clear: our habits do not make us a Christian or cause us to be holy. No, please understand that these habits are the result of being a Christian and of being set apart by God. 

 

But what are these habits? How do we develop them in our lives? In my next post, I’ll begin to unwrap what I mean by “Habits of the Holy” and how we can develop these habits.