Knowing Jesus through Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 18:1-8)

Knowing Jesus through Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 18:1-8)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, January 26, 2020

Today, we are going to talk about knowing Jesus through prayer. Shortly after Dallas Theological Seminary opened its doors, their doors almost closed because of bankruptcy. Before their 1929 commencement day, the faculty gathered in the president’s office to pray that God would provide. They formed a prayer circle, and when it was Harry Ironside’s turn, he circled Psalm 50:10 with a simple Honi-like prayer: “Lord, we know you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Please sell some of them, and send us the money.”

The time lapse between our requests and God’s answers is often longer than we would like, but occasionally God answers immediately.

While the faculty was praying, a $10,000 answer was delivered.

One version of the story attributes the gift to a Texas cattle rancher who had sold two carloads of cattle. Another version attributes it to a banker from Illinois. But one way or another, it was God who prompted the gift and answered the prayer.

In a moment that is reminiscent of the day Peter knocked on the door of the house where his friends were praying for a miraculous jailbreak, the president’s secretary interrupted the prayer meeting by knocking on the president’s door. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder and president of DTS, answered the door, and she handed him the answer to prayer. Turning to his friend and colleague, Dr. Harry Ironside, President Chafer said, “Harry, God sold the cattle!”[1]

How is your prayer life? If you do not pray, you do not know Jesus. That is just logical. We cannot have a relationship with someone we do not talk with. Jesus describes the ways He wants us to come to Him. He wants us to come to Him with persistence.

We have been in a sermon series which I have titled “Knowing Jesus in 2020.” Today I wish to talk to you about knowing Jesus through prayer.

My theme is:

Jesus teaches us a meaningful order of prayer.

My application:

Pray persistently

  1. How do we pray, what do we pray for?
    1. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.” That may be the prayer that you learned when you were a child. When I was in preschool I learned: “God is great, God is good, God we thank you for this food, Amen.” We might have learned these prayers because we grew up in homes, or had extended family to teach us to pray. Others may not have had that privilege.
    2. Turn with me to Matthew 6:9-13:

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

  1. In this passage Jesus teaches us a meaningful order of prayer.
  2. This passage is also found in Luke 11.
  3. In Luke 11:1 it says that Jesus was praying in a certain place and then the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.
  4. Actions speak louder than words. The disciples saw Jesus’ actions. They saw Jesus praying often and they saw the miracles that He did. In Luke 9:28ff they saw the transformation. In Luke 9:12ff they saw Jesus feed 5000. In Luke 8:40ff and 49-56 they saw Jesus heal Jairus’ daughter. In Luke 8:43ff they saw Jesus heal a woman with an issue of blood simply because she touched His garment. In Luke 8:22ff they saw Jesus still the sea. In Luke 4:31ff they saw, or heard about, Jesus casting out demons in Capernaum. They had also seen Jesus praying a lot: in Mark 1:35 after Jesus had healed many people, He retreated to a secluded place to pray. The disciples likely connected prayer with the miracles. So, they ask Jesus to teach them to pray.
  5. The question is: in the context of Jesus’ life, is the passage in Luke the same as the passage in Matthew? That is possible. It is also possible that Jesus taught this more than one time. This was important to Jesus.
  6. Notice in verse 9 that Jesus says, “Pray then in this way.” This is important. Jesus didn’t say pray these words. No, Jesus was giving a pattern, an order for our prayers.
  7. In order for us to grasp the significance of this we must look at the verses preceding this passage.
  8. Jesus started teaching about prayer in verse 5. Notice in verse 7 Jesus said do not use “’meaningless’ repetition as the gentiles do.” The key word is “meaningless.”
  9. There is nothing wrong with reciting this prayer occasionally in corporate worship, but we must be very careful of meaningless repetition. That is exactly what Jesus was going against as He taught them this order for prayer.
  10. Greek prayers piled up as many titles of the deity addressed as possible, hoping to secure his or her attention. Pagan prayers typically reminded the deity of favors done or sacrifices offered, attempting to get a response from the god on contractual grounds.[2]
  11. Jesus doesn’t condemn long prayers but wants meaningful verbiage.[3]
  12. We begin prayer with worship: Our Father who is in Heaven, holy is Your Name.
  13. When we are praying as Jesus taught us to pray we are not simply saying “Lord, Your name is Holy.” We are saying, “Let Your name be holy.” There is a simple difference. The difference is that we are asking God’s name to be revered as holy. The name of the Lord is who He is. This is a polite request, or a wish. We are asking God’s name to be set apart, sanctified, sacred. This is worship as we are ascribing to God what He is. He is holy.
  14. In verse 10 we continue in worship. We are praying for God’s Kingdom to come. In verse 10 I see the focus on God. I notice a repeated personal pronoun “you,” or “your” in the English. Do we realize what we are saying when we use this prayer. This is a powerful line. God’s Kingdom= submission.
  15. “Your Kingdom come.”
  16. “Your will be done.” (second person)
  17. àthis means that our prayers must not be about us but about God. The only part about us is:
  18. Forgiveness
  19. Daily bread
  20. Deliverance from evil
  21. Lead us not into temptation
  22. But the prayer starts with worship by giving God credit for who He is and the prayer starts with asking that His will be done.
    1. In this prayer we are praying for God’s Kingdom to come about. This is a strong prayer. We are praying for His Reign.
    2. This means that we must submit to His rule!
  • So, meaningful prayer starts with worship. Meaningful prayer ascribes to God the attributes that He has and we request that He maintains His holiness. Meaningful prayer asks for the Lord’s will not our own. Meaningful prayer asks for His kingdom to come about. Meaningful prayer implies submission to His will and kingdom.
  1. Verse 11 shows us the second category of meaningful prayer. Meaningful prayer includes requests for our daily needs. Give us this day our daily bread.
  2. Richard Foster who wrote Celebration of Disciplines, says that this shows that we are allowed to make personal request in our prayers. If we need a babysitter today, pray for that. If we need help shoveling snow, pray for that. But we pray for what we need, not what we want.
  3. Verse 12 shows us that a meaningful order of prayer includes a request for forgiveness. Notice that this request implies that we have forgiven others. Richard Foster says that we always must give in order to be able to receive. He says, “It is simply that by the very nature of the created order we must give in order to receive. I cannot, for instance, receive love if I do not give love. People may try to offer me love, but if resentment and vindictiveness fill my heart, their offers will roll off me like water off a duck’s back. If my fists are clenched and my arms folded tightly around myself, I cannot hold anything.”[4]
  • In verse 13 Jesus shows that a meaningful order for prayer includes a request not to be led into temptation and deliverance from evil.
  1. God does not tempt (James 1:13).
  • But god will test us. Richard Foster says this: In praying this we are saying: “Lord, may there be nothing in me that will force you to put me to the test in order to reveal what is in my heart.”[5] The Lord can also intervene so that satan doesn’t tempt us.
  1. Deliver us from evil is deliverance from the devil.
  1. Pray persistently:

Let’s read Luke 18:1-8:

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

  1. In Luke 18 we see a group of 3 parables together like we see in Luke 15.
  2. This is one of the few parables in which Luke explains the purpose before giving the parable.
  3. If you look at verse 1 it says “He was telling “them.” The “He” is “Jesus” and the “them” is the “disciples.” Jesus is talking to the disciples. We can discover this from Luke 17:22. We actually need to put this in context. The context is that Jesus has been talking to the disciples about the end times. That is what He was talking about at the end of Luke 17 and the audience or location has not changed.
  4. MacArthur says the key to interpreting this parable is hanging on the door. I love that way of looking at it. What MacArthur means is that right in verse 1 Luke gives us the purpose.
  5. The purpose is that at “all” times they ought to pray and not lose heart.
  6. The parable consists of a “lesser to greater” argument—i.e., if A (the lesser) is true, then how much more B (the greater) must be true. The comparison here is between the reluctant action of an unjust judge (the lesser) and “how much more” just will be the action of a just God (the greater).[6]
  7. There are 2 purposes here.
  8. Remember that Luke also shared purposes at the beginning of the Gospel he wrote. In Luke 1:4 he shared that he wrote that Theophilus might know for certain the things he has been taught.
    1. We see that we should always pray.
    2. We see that as we always pray we should not lose heart.
  9. Let’s pause for some applications:
    1. Are we always praying?
    2. Do we lose heart?
    3. Do we get discouraged in our prayers?
      1. Jesus is sharing this parable in order to encourage us to keep praying. Don’t give up. God honors our persistence.
      2. However, we are to pray about spiritual things. We must pray God’s will. We must pray for His Kingdom.
    4. Do we pray about all things?
    5. Do we persistently pray?
    6. In context Jesus had been teaching on the end times, are we praying for Jesus’ second coming? We must be praying for His second coming. We must be praying “Come, Lord, Jesus” (1 Cor. 16:22; Rev. 22:20).
    7. We must be praying for God’s Kingdom (Matthew 6:10).
  10. I want to summarize the rest of the parable. This widow persistently comes to the judge. This judge does not fear God and does not respect people. Yet, because of the woman’s persistence he will grant her request. Jesus uses this as a parable about how we are to pray and how God responds. Basically, Jesus is saying if this mean judge still answers her request that means that our loving God wants to answer our requests.
  11. However, remember that it seems the widow in the parable is praying for her needs, but this is an illustration about seeking God’s Kingdom and seeking His second coming. This is because the parable is in context right after Jesus was talking about the end times.
  • Other applications:
    1. We must worship God who lovingly meets our needs and answers our prayers (Luke 18:7).
    2. We must pray to know Jesus.
    3. We must prayer journal. Sometimes prayer seems intangible. I encourage you to write out prayers.
    4. We must pray continually. Pray whenever a need arises or whenever you want to thank God or worship Him (1 Thess. 5:17; Col. 3; Phil. 4:6-7).
    5. We must have deeper, extended prayer.
    6. We must pray Scripture.


I began this sermon about Dallas Theological Seminary and Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer and prayer:

Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer and prayer goes back before that. He was overseas meeting with someone regarding the seminary. The seminary hadn’t even started yet. He woke up in the night and couldn’t stop thinking about all of the needs of the seminary. He got on his knees in prayer and He said to God that he would stop plans for the seminary if God wanted him to. The next morning he was at breakfast. The wealthy man he was staying with asked him how the library would be provided for and Dr. Schafer said that that wasn’t worked out yet. The man asked Dr. Schafer how his pay was coming. Dr. Schafer said that he was not taking pay. The man agreed to give money to start the library and pay for Dr. Schafer’s salary (I heard this from Swindoll on Insight for Living).


Do you know Him?

Luke 9:23

Confess, believe, trust, commit


Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.





[2]Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (Mt 6:7). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[3] ver•biage \ˈvər-bē-ij also -bij\ noun

[French, from Middle French verbier to chatter, from verbe speech, from Latin verbum word]

(circa 1721)

1 : a profusion of words usually of little or obscure content 〈such a tangled maze of evasive verbiage as a typical party platform —Marcia Davenport〉

2 : manner of expressing oneself in words : diction 〈sportswriters guarded their verbiage so jealously —Raymond Sokolov〉
Merriam-Webster, I. (1996, c1993). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (10th ed.). Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster.

[4] Richard Foster’s book on Prayer page 186-187

[5] Richard Foster on prayer page 189


Knowing Jesus Through Scripture Meditation

Knowing Jesus through Scripture Meditation (Psalm 119:9-15)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, January 19, 2020

I once came across a powerful quote by Daniel Webster that illustrates this topic. In the presence of Professor Sanborn of Dartmouth College, Mr. Webster laid his hand on a copy of the Scriptures as he said, “This is the Book. I have read through the entire Bible many times. I now make it a practice to go through it once a year. It is the Book of all others for lawyers as well as divines; and I pity the man who cannot find in it a rich supply of thought, and of rules for his conduct. It fits man for life—it prepares him for death.”[1],[2]

With that in mind, turn to Psalm 119. I read the following:

The anonymous psalmist who wrote this longest psalm sought refuge from his persecutors and found strength by meditating on the Word of God. This psalm, the longest chapter in the Bible, is largely a collection or anthology of prayers and thoughts about God’s Word. C. S. Lewis compared it to a piece of embroidery, done stitch by stitch in the quiet hours for the love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship.

This psalm contains a reference to God’s Word in almost every verse (except verses 84, 90, 121, 122, and 132). (The Jews claimed that only one verse did not refer directly to God’s Word: verse 122.756) The psalmist used at least eight synonyms for the Word of God, each of which conveys a slightly different emphasis. However, sometimes it appears that the writer chose a synonym simply to avoid repetition. “Way” and “ways” (Heb. derek) describes the pattern of life God’s revelation marks out. It occurs 13 times in the psalm (vv. 1, 3, 5, 14, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 37, 59, 168).[3]

We are in a sermon series in which I am talking about knowing God. How do you know God? One way to know God is to know His Word. One way to know His Word is to read His Word. A way to go deeper in His Word is to memorize His Word. While we memorize His Word, we are meditating on His Word.

Let’s read verses 9-16 because the Hebrew Bible would consider that a section, the Beth section.

My theme and application is:

Challenge yourself by meditating on Scripture.

Psalm 119:9-16:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

12 Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.

16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

Think about what this passage says, Hide the Word in our heart:

“The act of ‘hiding’ God’s word is not to be limited to the memorization of individual texts or even whole passages but extends to a holistic living in devotion to the Lord (cf. Deut 6:4-9; 30:14; Jer 31:33).”[4]

Other responses to God’s Word that the writer mentioned and that occur first in this section are “rejoicing” (vv. 14, 74, 162), “meditating” (vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148), and “delighting” (vv. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174).[5]

  • This is the longest chapter in the Bible and it is all about God’s Word, the Bible.
  • The Psalms have been called the Jewish Hymnbook. Interesting that the longest is all about God’s Word. We have Psalms in the book of Psalms that they would sing on their way to Jerusalem for certain feasts, called Psalms of ascent. These are Psalms 120-134. I find it interesting that these Psalms follow the masterpiece on the Bible. Therefore, I believe meditating on the Scriptures is pivotal in worship.
  • There are verses in Psalm 119 that specify praise: See verse 164: Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
  • Consider this, the Psalmist is praising God for His righteous law. The Law is the Word, the Bible. In fact, terms used for the Word or what we would call the Bible are:
    • Law,
    • Testimonies,
  • Precepts,
  • Statutes,
  • Commandments,
  • Rules,
  • Word
  • The Scriptures are our base in our spiritual life. They are our guide. We must have God’s Word in our head.
  • Think of paint, the base is critical. I worked at Lowe’s and I went to a paint certification class. In painting they taught us something like 90% of painting is surface preparation. Not only that, there are base paints which we used to mix paints.
    • Our surface prep for spirituality is being in the Bible. Reading the Bible having the Bible handy.
    • The Bible is our base. Just like I could not mix paint without the proper base paint, we cannot grow spiritually without the Word of God.
  • Think of a building’s foundation. I am not a master-builder, but I have dug holes and we are supposed to go a certain depth. Foundation is important and the Bible is the foundation for us spiritually.
  • There was a wonderful family in my youth ministry in Cincinnati. So, I was disappointed to see that the mother posted an article on Facebook, or, rather linked an article, that references things the author wished Christians admitted about the Scriptures. This article had a negative view of the Scriptures. However, the more I study, the more I learn, the longer I am a Christian I am realizing that every Word of the Bible has great value and great meaning. Jesus responded to the devil’s attacks with the Scriptures (Matthew 4; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13; John 4:6-7). The Word is the only, offensive weapon against the enemy in Ephesians 6:17, the Sword of the Spirit. People have sought out to prove the Bible wrong and they become believers.
  • I believe the Bible leads us into worship.
  • How can we study the Bible, study the promises of God, and not worship the One those promises are about? I believe the Bible is written about a Big God. Tony Campolo was once confronted by an atheist who was one of his students. The young man told Campolo, “For me to believe in God, I have to have a God that I can understand.” And Campolo replied, “God refuses to be that small!”[6]
  • I believe the Bible leads us into prayer.
  • In Eugene Peterson’s book called Answering God, He makes a strong case that we only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary—that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back. And he said the prayer book of the Bible is the Psalms, and our prayer life would be immeasurably enriched if we were immersed in the Psalms. [7]
  1. So, we need to have the Word, the Bible, in our head, we do that by meditation.
    1. Let’s walk through the passage:
    2. Verse 9 the way for a young man to stay pure by living according to God’s Word.
    3. Notice that verse 9 is a question and an answer.
    4. I don’t believe the author is a young man and so I don’t think the author is talking about himself right here. I think the author is advising young people on how to stay pure.
    5. What does it mean to be pure? The verb translated as “pure” always means a moral sense. It can mean to be justified, to be righteous before God, to be clean in the sight of God.
    6. Don’t we all want to be right in God’s sight? Don’t we all want to be clean? Psalm 51 was written right after David, the King of Israel, had sinned by committing adultery and murder. In verse 2 of that Psalm he says, “Wash away all my iniquity, and purify me from my sin.” David had this sin before him and he wanted to be clean.
    7. David had already committed the sin. But in the passage before us this morning the point is preventive. How can a young person keep his/her way pure?
    8. The answer: by living according to God’s Word.
    9. There is something unsaid in this verse. It is implied and will be stressed more in verse 11 and the rest of the Psalm. Listen: a young person or anyone else cannot live according to God’s Word if they don’t know it.
    10. Think of the Bible as a filter for your life. I have had aquariums for half of my life. An aquarium needs a filter. The filter takes out the impurities and cleans the water. The Word of God is your filter for your life. It is the parent’s responsibility, under God, to teach their children God’s Word. At a certain point, as the child grows up, it is their responsibility to start teaching themselves. God has given us a filter for our life, but it requires that we spend time studying this filter and how to use it. Many times we let the filter sit on a shelf.
    11. It is not enough to take our filter off the shelf and read it, we must memorize it. We must know the Word of God when it is not in front of us. We must know the Word of God as second nature.
    12. In the original language the text says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By ‘keeping or ‘guarding’ his way according to your word.” Notice the difference? The NIV says by living according to God’s Word.
    13. The importance is that in the original language the idea of guarding our life and the guard is God’s Word. We have a guard watching out for evil and sin. Back in Bible times they had watchmen who stood on the city’s wall and watched for invaders. That is what this word means.
    14. How can a young man keep his way pure? By using the Word of God as a guard against evil.
    15. Although this is directly to young man or woman, this is not limited to a young person. The very next verse will make that clear.
  • Notice in verse 10 the Psalmist changes from a young man to himself.
    1. He says, “’I’ seek you.” How much does the Psalmist seek the Lord? With every bit of his being, with his whole heart.
    2. This verse has two parts. The first part is a statement of what he is doing and the second part is a plea.
    3. Can you say that? Do you want to be able to say that? We all can, but we have so many distractions. Start by making the Word of God a guard for your life. Start by reading it, meditating on it, memorizing it. And start by having a fear of sin.
    4. Look at the second half of this verse. It is a crying plea. “Please, please do not let me stray from Your commands!”
    5. There seems to be a fear of falling away, of backsliding.
    6. I must ask myself, “am I scared of falling into sin? Am I scared like that of going into situation where I may gossip, lie, or sin in another way?”
    7. If so, meditating on Scripture is the way to purity.
  1. Verse 11 comes back to the preventive idea.
    1. It is simply a short sentence: Your Word I have hidden in my heart… this means meditating on it. Thinking about it when you drive, or do other monotonous tasks. Memorize it.
    2. Why did he hide the Word in his heart? So, he doesn’t sin against the Lord.
    3. First, we read the Scriptures, then we memorize them, then we meditate on them. That is the way to sin free living. As we meditate on them, they are always before us in thought. As they are before us in thought they are a filter to keep our life pure.
    4. There is a Campus Crusade for Christ missionary, he memorizes whole books of the Bible. He memorizes the shorter, New Testament books. You know how he does it? When he jogs he takes his Bible and reads them over and over again.
    5. Ponder this: why are the Scripture worth reading, meditating on and even memorizing?
    6. These are the words for eternal life. These Scriptures are illegal in many countries. They may be illegal in the US some day. People have died to get you these Scriptures. Truly, people have been burned at the stake for translating the Bible. These are the Words to a full life.
    7. These are the words by which we can live a pure life. Use the Scriptures as a filter.
    8. Meditate is used 18 times in the N.I.V. translation of the Old Testament and 16 times in the Psalms. Meditate is used a total of 8 times in Psalm 119. Of course, what does the verb mediate have to do with the Bible.
    9. I once heard that the Hebrew verb “to meditate” has to do with chewing on something over and over again. From the Hebrew word ‘meditate’ we get our English word “ruminate”. It literally means ‘to chew the cud’. It’s like a cow that chews and re-chews the cud to extract all the nutrients from it. We need to approach God’s word at times and chew the cud.
    10. The idea of meditation is not necessarily memorization, but making the Scriptures a part of us. This means that we will reason differently, think differently, live differently. The promises of God, the actions of God are a part of us. Then we have the language of God a part of us.
    11. Look at verse 15: 15 I meditate on your precepts
      and consider your ways.
    12. I have been talking about knowing God and making the case that we know God by meditating on His Word. How do we meditate on the Word?
      1. Make it your goal to memorize the Word.
      2. Choose a Modern translation as it will be easier if you can understand the language.
  • Select a verse relative to your needs/life.
  1. Read a passage several times to understand the full meaning.
  2. Begin one verse at a time per passage
  3. List the verbs in the passage/verse in order- ask what is next, add the rest of the verse to the verbs.
  • Visualize the sequence of events.
  • Carry memory cards.
  1. Strive for word perfect memorization.
  2. Practice reciting to a friend.
  3. Remember you will learn it if you just keep ruminating on the passage.

I drink coffee most days. I love coffee. You know what? I absolutely hate it when I get grounds in my coffee. The grounds look like dirt and so I want my coffee filter to do its’ job and keep the grounds out of my coffee. Likewise, the Bible will help you keep dirt out of your life. Read it, memorize it, and meditate on it! Because meditating on Scripture is the way to Holy Living, the way to purity sin-free living! Try it. This week, memorize Romans 12:1-2 and then come to me and I will recommend another passage to memorize. Maybe there is a group of you that will want to memorize Scripture together?

Do you know Him?

Luke 9:23

Confess, believe, trust, commit

Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.




[1]Charles R. Swindoll, Insight for Living devotion on Psalm 119:97 (I think)

[2] 1. Daniel Webster, quoted in Stephen Abbott Northrop, A Cloud of Witnesses: The Greatest Men in the World for Christ and the Book (Fort Wayne, IN: The Mason Long Publishing Co., 1894), 491.





[6] (From a sermon by Jeff Strite, Trusting in Ravens, 8/8/2011)

[7] Tim Keller

Knowing Jesus through Spiritual Disciplines

Knowing Jesus through Spiritual Disciplines (Philippians 2:13; 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 3:18)

Spiritual growth takes time and discipline, but we can only know Jesus through spiritual growth just like we can only know a person through investing in the relationship.

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, January 12, 2020

I wonder who you have a relationship with, do you know anyone?

Remember last week I talked about whether you know famous people. Recently, I heard a message in which someone shared that they were at a restaurant and Johnny Depp walked in. Johnny Depp walked in and went to a table at the back of the store and a bodyguard walked in with him. The bodyguard sat facing everyone else basically to say that there is no access to Johnny Depp.[1] There is no relationship with Johnny Depp. But you know what, we can have a relationship with Jesus. I would recommend choosing Jesus over Johnny Depp. Think about it, would you prefer a relationship with the creator and sustainer of the world or with an actor. Most reject the Creator and go after the actor. I exhort you to seek Jesus.

Okay, so do you have a relationship with anyone? I am sure that you do, so do you know them? How do you really know someone? Does it take effort? Does it take time spent together?

I wish to talk to you about knowing Jesus. I wish to begin a new sermon series related to knowing Jesus.

I read the following:

“Much of the history of Christianity has been devoted to domesticating Jesus—to reducing that elusive, enigmatic, paradoxical person to dimensions we can comprehend, understand, and convert to our own purposes. So far it hasn’t worked.”[2] I love that.

When the Bible scholar N.T. (Tom) Wright was asked what he would tell his children on his deathbed he said, “Look at Jesus.” Tom Wright explained why:

The [Person] who walks out of [the pages of the Gospels] to meet us is just central and irreplaceable. He is always a surprise. We never have Jesus in our pockets. He is always coming at us from different angles … If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. If you want to know what love is, look at Jesus. And go on looking until you’re not just a spectator, but part of the drama that has him as the central character.[3]

We have the opportunity to know Jesus, but most do not. Even many of you, I dare say, do not know Jesus. Sure you made a commitment to Him, but do you know Him? Do you really have a relationship with Him? How is your prayer life? How are your devotions? How are your corporate and individual spiritual disciplines? If they are weak, I am here to help you and more than that, God wants to help you.

My theme and application is:

Knowing Jesus through Spiritual Disciplines (Philippians 2:13; 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 3:18)

Spiritual growth takes time and discipline, but we can only know Jesus through spiritual growth just like we can only know a person through investing in the relationship.

Read with me Philippians 2:12-13:

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

  1. Work out your salvation, what does that mean?
    1. Relationships take time. Do you know your children if you do not spend time with them? Do you know your spouse if you do not spend time with them?
    2. Anyone seen Fiddler on the Roof? There is a clip where they sing “Do you love me”? Watch this.
    3. Play clip
    4. Now, they had arranged marriages, they may not have known each other when they got married, but they did by this point. They grew together and served together. They had a relationship. But it was work, or at least at times it was work.
    5. Love is a choice. Sometimes we may not feel the love for someone else, but we choose to love them because they are our spouse or child or parent or another human being, then we work on the relationship.
    6. Do you work on your relationship with your Savior?
    7. So, you just read that passage, now let’s think about it.
    8. If we read the whole chapter of Philippians 2 it is a marvelous chapter. Paul talks about looking unto others needs before our own. Paul talks about considering others more important than ourselves. Paul talks about having the mindset of Christ. Paul talks about how Jesus came to earth and died for our sins and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Now, Paul says to work out our salvation.
    9. “Work out” that is a mining term, imagine miners digging out precious metals.
    10. But does this mean we are saved by works?
    11. It says to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, does this mean we have to earn our salvation? What do you think?
    12. Well, when it comes to that we must examine Scripture with Scripture and we will do that in a minute.
    13. In this case, just look at the context. Look at the next verse. It says, “God is working in you…” So, God is working in you so you must let it flow out of you. There is more we can say about that passage, mainly notice the reverence. “Work out your salvation with ‘fear and trembling…’” That is powerful!
    14. We are freely saved, we know this by Ephesians 2:8-9 which says that we are saved by grace.
    15. We have salvation freely given to us by Jesus, but we must grow spiritually, not to earn our salvation, but to foster a relationship with God.
  2. Look at 1 Timothy 4:7-8:

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

  1. This is another passage about building a relationship with Jesus.
  2. Instead of being caught up in worldly things discipline yourself.
  3. What are we disciplining ourselves for?
  4. The purpose of godliness.
  5. Look at verse 8: godliness has much profit for this life and the life to come.
  6. But do you see what it takes? Discipline.
  7. There is no instant Discipline is the key to spiritual maturity.
  8. The word “discipline” actually means “train or exercise.” Paul uses a Greek word from the athletic arena; we also derive from it the word ‘
  9. We have the Revealed Truth (Bible) + Disciplined Obedience+ The Power of God’s Spirit Within = Change & Growth& Maturity& Godliness.
  • Let’s apply
    1. Most of us want a relationship with God that we do not have to invest in; therefore, it is one-sided. It sucks the life out of me as a pastor. Let me be personal, it is draining trying to shepherd people that do not care.
    2. I want to challenge you to have godly habits. This week begin devotional habits.
    3. Aim to read one chapter of the Bible a day and make an application. Aim to spend 5-15 minutes in devotions. Read the Bible, apply the Bible and then pray about what you read. Pray the Scriptures. If you need help contact me. Also, you can read along as I share on my podcasts and Facebook devotions, actually you can just listen to the Bible if you want. There are many ways to have access to the Scriptures if you want to.
    4. It takes 3 weeks to form a habit, so dedicate the time and make it a point to have a relationship with Jesus.
    5. Remember you do not have a relationship with someone who you do not spend time with. If you do not spend time with God are you saved? Good question.
  1. Let’s go deeper in applications.
    1. We must view our relationship with God as a relationship and therefore, we must put time and effort into our relationship with God.
    2. We must discipline ourselves unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).
    3. We must understand spiritual growth takes discipline.
      1. We must discipline ourselves to spend time with the Lord.
      2. We must discipline ourselves to pray (1 Thess. 5:17).
      3. We must discipline ourselves to deep prayer (Ezra 9:5ff; 1 Kings 8:22ff).
      4. We must discipline ourselves to corporate prayer (Acts 4:24-30).
      5. We must discipline ourselves to pray instead of worry (Phil. 4:6-7).
      6. We must discipline ourselves to spend time reading the Scriptures (Psalm 119:9-11 and 105).
      7. We must discipline ourselves to spend time with the corporate church (1 Cor. 12).
      8. We must discipline ourselves to make Jesus our Lord (Luke 9:23; Romans 10:9-10; Gal. 2:20).
      9. We must discipline ourselves to pursue godliness so that out of that relationship with God flows fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
    4. We must spend time working out our relationship with God for the joy of knowing Him (Phil. 2:12-13).
    5. We must work out what God is working in us, we must let our relationship with Jesus flow out of us (Phil. 2:12-13).
    6. We must obey Peter’s command to grow (2 Peter 3:18).
    7. We must grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18).
    8. We must grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18).
    9. In our spiritual growth and our relationship with Jesus we must aim to glorify Him now and forever (2 Peter 3:18).


I began the sermon talking about Johnny Depp. Let’s think of another famous person, what about Elvis Presley. I have heard that in the 1950’s the women would scream out these deafening screams to get to him. So, obviously Elvis had body guards, there was no access to Elvis, but you can have access to Jesus.

Oswald Chambers writes on the February 13th date of My Utmost for His Highest:

 The destiny of my spiritual life is such identification with Jesus Christ that I always hear God, and I know that God always hears me (John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God by the devotion of hearing all the time. A lily, or a tree, or a servant of God, may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is that I am taken up with other things. It is not that I will not hear God, but that I am not devoted in the right place. I am devoted to things, to service, to convictions, and God may say what He likes but I do not hear Him. The child attitude is always “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” If I have not cultivated this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God’s voice at certain times; at other times I am taken up with things—things which I say I must do, and I become deaf to Him, I am not living the life of a child. Have I heard God’s voice to-day?[4]

Do you know Him?

Luke 9:23

Confess, believe, trust, commit

Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.




[1] Randy Hechert shared this at Alliance Friends on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019

[2] Andrew Greeley, “There’s No Solving the Mystery of Christ,” Chicago Sun-Times, (1-16-04)

[3] Marlin Whatling, The Marriage of Heaven and Earth (CreateSpace, 2016), page 129

[4] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).

Are You Lost? Are You Saved? (Matthew 7:21-23)


Sunday, January 5, 2020: Are You Lost? Are You Saved? (Matthew 7:21-23)

Communion this Sunday, January 5

Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, January 5, 2020

Sometimes people send me these emails. They are forwards that people pass on and this is one that I thought might be an appropriate opening for this topic:

I was testing the children in my Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting to heaven. I asked them, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven? “NO!” the children answered. “If I cleaned the churchevery day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?” Again, the answer was, “NO! “By now I was starting to smile. Hey, this was fun! “Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?” I asked them again. Again, they all answered, “NO!” I was just bursting with pride for them. Well, I continued, “then how can I get into Heaven?” A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD.”

I want to talk this morning about knowing Jesus. Most of you think, “I know Jesus.” Well if you are thinking that please keep listening. I hope you still say that at the end of this message.

How many of you know of an actor? An actress? Do you know an athlete? Do you really know them? No, you just know of them. If you tried to call them you could be labeled a stalker and thrown in jail.

  • Do you know Christ or just know of Christ? We can know all His teachings and everything He did and not really know Christ.

 Today, I am launching a series titled: Be Contagious Christians in 2020. But the first step is making sure that you know Christ.

My theme today is:

Examine yourself and make sure you are saved.

This sermon may be a downer since I am talking about a passage where Jesus says some are not really saved. How can you be encouraged today? How does this help hurting people?

  1. I hope this helps you to have confidence in your salvation. The true believer can have confidence.
  2. I hope this helps you to repent. This is important. Repent and turn to Christ.
  3. I hope you will apply this sermon with the examination test at the end of the message.

Read with me Matthew 7:21-23:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

  1. What saves us?
    1. First, we see that doctrine alone does not save us.
      1. Now, where are we at in the Bible? This is a section at the end of the sermon on the mount. Jesus has been talking about knowing false teachers. In the previous verse Jesus says that we will know them [false teachers] by their fruits.
      2. We see in that passage that they had the right doctrine. Jesus says they come to Him with Lord, Lord… this implies they see Him as Lord.
  • There are many people who may have correct doctrine but do not know Jesus.
  1. I read about an atheist that had correct doctrine. Listen to this debate between an atheist and a liberal, supposed Christian:

Marilyn Sewell

Unitarian Universalist  Minister

 and Christopher Hitchens Author, God is NOT Good: How Religion Poisons Everything 

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of      various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of the atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?


Only in this respect: I would say that if  you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth

was the Christ, in other words, the Messiah, and that he rose again from  the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.


I disagree with that. I consider myself a Christian. I believe in the Jesus story as story, as narrative, and Jesus as a person whose life is exemplary that I want to follow. But I do not believe in all that stuff that I just outlined.

I simply have to tell you that every major

Christian, including theologians, has said

that without the resurrection and without the forgiveness of sins, what I call the vicarious redemption, it’s meaningless. In fact, without that, it isn’t even a nice story – even if it’s true  


It doesn’t really matter to me if it’s true literally. It matters to me whether the story has efficacy for my life. 


Well, that’s what I meant to say. When

C.S. Lewis, for example, says, . .  ‘if this

man was not the son of God, then his

teachings were evil’ because if you don’t

believe that the kingdom of heaven is at

hand and you can get to it by the way, the truth, and the life, offered by the gospel, then there’s no excuse for telling people to take no thought for the morrow, for example, as he did. . . It would be an evil nonsense.

  1. So, correct doctrine does not save. Don’t get me wrong doctrine is very important. Sometimes wrong doctrine shows that one is NOT saved, but that is another sermon. Let’s get back to the text. If you keep reading, they do not submit to Him as Lord. They do not do His Father’s will.
  1. Emotions do not save us.
    1. In the passage it seems that the people who approach Jesus are quite serious. They seem very emotional. They seem very persistent. They seem like they really care. They are saying, “Lord,” twice.
    2. Still that does not save them.
  • We can have correct doctrine and be passionate about it and not be saved.
  1. At the end of verse 21 Jesus says the one is saved who does the will of His Father. We will come back to that.
  1. Then we see that actions do not save us, but right actions are important.
    1. They say to Jesus, “Did we not prophesy in Your Name?” Stop right there. We could easily think, “They did a miracle, they prophesied.” But even the demons can do counterfeit miracles. We see this in Rev. 13:13-14, which is a key passage about this. Prophesy could mean preaching the Word, or it could mean rebuking sin, or it could mean calling out the future. These false believers could do that naturally without God or they could do it by demonic forces. Jesus says they are not saved.
    2. They say to Jesus, “Did we not cast out demons in Your name?” Again, they are not saved. In Acts 19:13-16 we see false teachers, non-Christians try to cast out demons. They may cast out demons, but maybe the demons do not stay out. Of course they could be lying, maybe they never did any of these things.
  • Lastly, we see that miracles do not save us. These people tell Jesus that they did miracles in Jesus’ Name. They could be lying, or maybe they did the miracles by demonic power. Again, I refer you to Rev. 13:13-14.
  1. So, how do you know if you are saved?
    1. We will come back to that in a minute, but firstly, right here, Jesus says, do the will of His Father. This would be follow His Word.
    2. Now, we interpret Scripture with Scripture, this means that we know based on Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace. We know based on the theology of salvation that we cannot earn our way to God. But our works validate our faith.
  • In John 15:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands…”
  1. Then we see in James 2:18-19: But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
  2. Our works validate our faith. How else can we know we are saved?
  1. Examine yourself
    1. In 2 Cor. 13:5 Paul writes that we should examine ourselves. How can we examine ourselves?
      1. Are we repentant of sin?
        1. Does sin in our life grieve us (Acts 2:38; Romans 7 Paul did not like the sin in his life)?
        2. Do certain sins grieve us, and others do not?
        3. Does sin grieve us because it grieves God or because of selfish reasons?
        4. Do we desire to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31)?
        5. Is Jesus our Lord? Do we follow Him (Luke 9:23)?
      2. Here is a breakdown of 5 things to look for:
        1. Penitence towards sin (Psalm 32; 51).
        2. Pursue righteousness (1 Tim. 6:11).
        3. Willing and joyful submission to Christ (James 4:7; Eph. 5:21) and others.
        4. Longing to obey the Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Psalm 119:9-11).
        5. Love for God and others (Matthew 22:37-39).

So, do you know Him?

Are you lost?

Do you care?

I think too many believers just really do not even care. I think oftentimes we really do not care. Consider this very serious story from Henry Blackaby:

The first funeral I ever conducted was for a beautiful three-year-old. She was the first child born to a couple in our church, and the first grandchild in their extended family. Unfortunately, she was spoiled. While visiting the little girl’s home one day, I observed that she loved to ignore her parents’ instructions. When they told her to come, she went. When they said, “sit down,” she stood up. Her parents laughed, finding her behavior cute.

One day their front gate was inadvertently left open. The parents saw their child escaping out of the yard and heading toward the road. To their horror, a car was racing down the street. As she ran out between two parked cars, they both screamed at her to stop and turn back. She paused for a second, looked back at her parents, then gleefully laughed as she turned and ran directly into the path of the oncoming car. The parents rushed their little girl to the hospital, but she died from her injuries. 

As a young pastor, this was a profound lesson for me. I realized I must teach God’s people not only to recognize His voice but also immediately to obey His voice when they hear it. It is life.[1]

Responding to Jesus and making Him Lord is serious, it is life. Jesus gives us life now and life eternal.

Do you know Jesus?                                                               

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.

[1] Henry Blackaby, Hearing God’s Voice (Broadman & Holman, 2002); reprinted in Men of Integrity (May/June 2003)