Saturday, February 02, 2013

Pray in Jesus' Name and Believe in Him (Jn. 16:23-28)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 13 January 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 16:23-28

Jesus said, “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (Jn. 16:23-24)

Jesus said, “until now you have not asked anything in My name.” What is the significance of praying in Jesus’ name?  The name of Jesus is above all other names, given by God through the resurrection of Jesus.   The way Christ came in the flesh is by descending.  Because He is God, He could not be elevated higher or further.  He had to humble Himself to come as God in the flesh. 

On the other hand, we could not bring lower a human being.  Thus after Christ resurrected in His human form, He ascended.  God the Father saw His obedience, and lifted Him above all other names.  The name of Jesus is above all other names, all principalities and power, all the kings of the world.  He had victory over His sufferings.    It is through this name alone that humanity can be saved.  Salvation is found in no other name than the name of Jesus.  Thus the disciples and Christians can pray in Jesus’ name. 

When the Bible say, “whatever you ask”, what does it mean?  This verse is often misinterpreted.  This “whatever you ask” already implies asking according to the will of God and does not mean God will grant us anything we ask according to our own will.  In Psalms 90, Moses made illustrations about the contrast between the eternal God and our finite life on earth.  We should learn  such that in our temporal life our prayer should have eternal effect.

The content of a person’s prayer reflects his spirituality.  If you pray for material desire, it shows your carnality.  Your prayer shows the deepest thought of your heart and the ultimate direction of your will.   The things that bring you joy  reveal your spirituality.  It is frightening to get what you want because you ask for shallow things and cannot partake in greater things. 

We are commanded to ask according to God’s will.  If you pray for God’s kingdom and righteousness to be established, for the expansion of the gospel, God will surely listen.  If we ask so, we will receive and our joy will be complete.  What is the greatest joy in life? What is the greatest aim in life?  What joy is Jesus talking about? 

When you are synchronised with God, you are in line with His will.  We need to sanctify our emotions, our joy and anger, so that we are aligned with God.

“I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (Jn. 16:28)

Only Jesus know where he came from and where He is going.  No other religious leaders know this.  How can they tell us about afterlife when they have not even been there, do not know where they come from and where they are going?

Confucius acknowledged that he did not know where he came from.  Socrates believed in reincarnation.  Sakyamuni also spoke about reincarnation and your responsibility is to reach Nirvana.  Yet they could not tell how many have succeeded reaching Nirvana.  They are not unclear where they came from.  Even Mohamed would only say he came from his parents.  Before he died he said, “Do not think that I am saved.  You have to do good deeds.  Perhaps God will accept you.  Do not think that I can save you.  I cannot.  Pray for me that God will accept me. My hope is when I die I can find a place beside God.” It means he was not sure where he was going. 

The only person who has given us the answer is Jesus Christ.  He said, “I came from the Father and I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”   The Lord who understands the two-way traffic coming from and back to the Father is the one to put our faith in.  Jesus did not say, “I do not know.” He did not say, “Pray for me”.  

He has full confidence where He is going and can bring you there.  He said, “I came from the Father and I am going to the Father,” and “those who believe in Me will have eternal life, those who follow Me will be with Me where I am.”  AMEN.