God does not Hear the Prayers of Unbelievers
Prayers that are not offered in and through Christ are like undelivered letters. They remain unread, unopened, and most significantly, unheeded. Anyone who has not put their faith in Jesus and approached God through him does not have access to him. Your prayers are undelivered, landing in God’s infinite dead-letter office. The Bible is very clear on this point. ‘There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim 2:5).
We have been going through Hebrews recently in church. The key headline from Sunday’s sermon was that, in Christ, we can have real confidence before the judgement seat of God. We can access God confidently through the Lord Jesus.
One of the side points I made in that sermon – in passing and it was not in my notes – was that unbelievers have no right of access. Specifically, I noted that God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers. That is to say, if you do not trust in Jesus, God does not hear your prayers.
Of course, by that, I don’t mean God cannot hear the words coming out of people’s mouths or the thoughts in their heads. Of course he knows and hears those things. He knows and hears everything. So, in the sense that he knows when unbelievers are praying and knows exactly why they are praying and what they want, God hears their prayers in that sense.
But what I mean is that God does not grant them a hearing.
You Might also like
How to Help Relieve Exhaustion and Isolation for Families Living with DisabilityBy Joni and Friends — 5 months ago
No particular background or skillset is needed for respite volunteers. This realization can offset stress and place the emphasis where it belongs: the chance to love people well in the name of Jesus.
Did you know families living with disability consistently name respite care as their top unmet need?
A recent Joni and Friends survey identified respite care as the top unmet need among families living with disability. Many parents and caregivers who lack respite care options have to just keep going despite exhaustion, isolation, and discouragement. Disability advocate Jennifer Evans joins the podcast to talk about the gift of respite—how providing this type of rest can enable families to experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
What is respite care?
An estimated forty-four million American adults serve as unpaid, informal family caregivers. Among caregivers, isolation, chronic stress, and depression run high, as responsibilities continue relentlessly.
Some families have expressed that the demands of raising a child with a disability can be overwhelming and all-consuming. And many marriages struggle under the strain of caregiving.
Respite care is essential for families navigating disability to thrive. From simple home visits to overnight programs, all forms of respite care share a common goal—to give parents and other caregivers a break. Depending on a family’s specific needs, respite care can take many forms. For example:
How can respite care build relationships?
Beyond offering parents and other caregivers a break, Jennifer shared that respite care gives children and adults with disabilities the chance to build new friendships. Parents in need of respite can connect with one another; and often volunteer respite caregivers form relationships with the families they serve.
So often people with disabilities are isolated at home, only with their parent or caregiver.—Jennifer
At respite events, people with disabilities can build friendships with peers and volunteers. Community and connection can naturally arise from respite care events and ministries. For families who feel isolated, this experience of belonging can make all the difference.
A Positive Vision for ObedienceBy Josh Squires — 3 months ago
Obedience is hard. Make no mistake about it. Yet it need not be drudgery. We are no longer slaves but are free to live as we were created to live and when we do, we find ourselves more spiritually fit, more in love with our God, more able to witness, and more prepared for heaven than we could ever possibly imagine.
There’s an old joke about people who do CrossFit, and it goes something like this: “How do you know when someone does CrossFit? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!” If you’ve ever encountered an enthusiastic CrossFitter, you know why this joke is so humorous. It seems that all they can talk about is CrossFit and how it has changed their lives. And to a certain extent it has. It has allowed them to train their bodies to maximum effectiveness. The interesting part is that CrossFit’s success is less about some revolutionary training regimen and more about the positive vision it casts and the enthusiasm it generates. The enthusiasm is not simply for the payoff but also the process—as difficult and painful as that process is. As Christians, our attitude toward obedience can become like that of someone dragged to the gym by a well-meaning friend or family member—weary disdain. Instead, we need the same sort of positive vision and enthusiasm for Christlikeness as our CrossFitting friends have for a pullup. Let me therefore give you some positive principles for the pursuit of Christian obedience.
However, we need a quick caveat before we begin. Christian history is littered with those who would try to generate energy for Christian obedience only to find themselves exhausted and enslaved to a relentless master. We do not endeavor after obedience to the Lord that we may be justified before Him. Paul makes this incredibly clear in Ephesians 2:8–9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Well-meaning Christians, afraid that the radically free offer of the gospel will demotivate Christian obedience, have instead placed themselves on a hopeless treadmill of works-righteousness. This path robs them not merely of their joy in obedience but ultimately of their assurance in Christ. Rejoice, Christian, your obedience does not factor into your acceptance into the kingdom. What a freeing truth that is; yet it does not free us from obedience but rather puts us in a right relationship with obedience. For Paul finishes his thought in his letter to the Ephesians with this: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10, emphasis added).
OBEDIENCE INCREASES OUR SPIRITUAL FITNESS
Many Christians have come to believe in their heart of hearts that to obey God’s commands, to kill sin and live unto righteousness, will cause them to resent the Lord and love Him less. This is one of the oldest tricks of Satan to whisper in our ears that we cannot be happy without our pet sin, that we would be miserable if we did not allow ourselves room for this or that transgression of His law. The truth of the matter is quite different. Does killing sin sting? Yes! In the moment, it quite literally feels like death because we are killing something in us. But much like those that tear down their muscles in the gym only for them to come back stronger, more able, more fit for this physical life, tearing down sin in our lives makes us happier, more peaceful, stronger, and more fit for life this side of glory. More importantly, choosing to endeavor after spiritual health now helps to build up our ability to endure under more intense trial and temptation later. Like a soldier in the midst of combat relying on his training and fitness to help him survive, when we are in the habit of obeying God’s Word, we can rely on it when we find ourselves under spiritual attack. When we obediently meditate on God’s Word day and night (Ps. 1:2) we will, like Christ in the wilderness, run to it in the moments of our spiritual affliction (Matt. 4:1–11). When we pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), we will cry out to the Lord in our darkest hours (Ps. 88). When we don’t neglect the coming together (Heb. 10:24–25), we will have our burdens borne along by one another when we are struggling (Gal. 6:2).
The Downfall of the Fruitless CityBy Kendall Lankford — 9 months ago
In Jesus’ final week, He enters the fruitless city and they offer Him only leaves. He also goes to the fruitless temple, that lies rotting in rebellion. On the second day, He curses a fruitless tree as a demonstration of what will soon happen to Jerusalem. Then, as Jesus ends His day in the city, He tells the story of a fruitless vineyard that will be torn down, replanted, and given to a people who will care for it.
How to Walk Up to a Six-Fingered Doctrine
When the revenge-seeking Spaniard from Princess Bride uttered his most famous lines: “I will go up to the six-fingered man and say, Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” there was more than an hour and twenty minutes of storyline underpinning that scene. From his motive for revenge atop the cliffs of insanity to his rants and flailing about with his father’s sword in the thieves’ forest, much happens in Inigo’s life that makes his signature scene all the more important. Without that critical context, killing Rugen may appear like nothing more than a frivolous crime of passion.
The same is true when we consider the topic of eschatology. Before we can understand those prickly end-times concepts coming out of Matthew 24 (like the great tribulation, the rapture, and the end of the age) we must first go back and understand the context that is underpinning those statements. We must understand that Matthew is telling the story of the long-awaited Jewish King, who as Malachi foretold would come to set up His never-ending empire here on earth. Those who accept His rule would live forever in His Kingdom. Those who oppose Him, beginning with Jerusalem, would be put under His feet and crushed. If we do not understand that story, we will miss every eschatological point the book is making.
So with that, let us continue along in Matthew, as we seek to understand the end times.
Final Week: The Saga Comes to Jerusalem
Nearly a thousand years before the events in Matthew, the city awoke to the sounds of laughter, worship, and joy. The nations (as God intended) had been coming, streaming into Jerusalem, to see if what they had heard was true. They were coming to see the radiance and power of Israel’s God. They wanted to see the temple where He visibly reigned from, the city that was His footstool, and the wise vice-regent He appointed to sit upon her throne, King Solomon.
Now, a thousand years later, the line of Davidic kings had been completely snuffed out. The temple, which had already been destroyed once before, had become a whitewashed tomb of dead pharisaical religion. The prophet who was called to announce the inauguration of God’s Kingdom had been beheaded by the puppet king, Herod. And, as Malachi warned, the love of God was at an all-time low among the increasingly pagan Jews.
By the time we arrive at Matthew’s Gospel, the rot had sunk so deep into the soul of Judah, that the wound was incurable. Josephus, the Jewish historian, describes this era and its people, highlighting the inevitability of God’s judgment soon to come. He tells us:
And here I cannot refrain from expressing what my feelings suggest. I am of the opinion, that had the Romans deferred the punishment of these wretches, either the earth would have opened and swallowed up the city, or it would have been swept away by a deluge, or have shared the thunderbolts of the land of Sodom. For it produced a race far more ungodly than those who were thus visited. For through the desperate madness of these men the whole nation was involved in their ruin.
By the time of the New Testament, the city of Jerusalem was so odious to God, that she couldn’t even detect her own moral stench. With lying lips, and hearts far from God (Matthew 15:8-9), she not only persisted in her murderous rage (Matthew 14:1-12; 23:29-33), but she was increasingly opposed to God’s own Son. As a result, Jesus tells His disciples that the keys of God’s Kingdom would be removed from her (Matthew 16:13-20) and that some of them would be alive to see her downfall (Matthew 16:28).
When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, during His triumphal entry in AD 30, it was surely for the salvation of His people. But, as Malachi predicted, He also came for the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem.
In the weeks ahead, we will narrow our focus to the final week of Jesus’ life and look at the events happening in Matthew chapters 21-24. In these chapters, we will see how Jerusalem will be punished for her crimes against God and we will gain a clearer understanding of eschatology than we have ever had before. Today, we will focus on Matthew 21 and the cursed city of Jerusalem.
Day 1: A Procession of Joy and Judgment
Matthew 21 opens with Jesus, the true Davidic King, preparing to ride into the royal city on the back of a donkey. At that time, kings would only ride upon horses if they were going out to war. But, if they approached a city in peace, they would ride on a far less threatening mode of transportation, which was the mule or a donkey.
This is especially true during the Israelite changing of the guard ceremonies that became a tradition at the time of David. Per David’s command, Solomon (his son) would be anointed for the office with oil by the High Priest of Israel. He would then ride into the capital city on the back of a donkey, and as he rode a procession of important people would follow him singing and chanting “Long live the King”. By the time he and the procession arrived at the city of Jerusalem, where Solomon would sit upon his father’s throne, the entire city was in a joyful uproar (1 Kings 1:38-40).
Since John tells us that Jesus was anointed with oil just before His triumphal entry (John 12:1-8) and since Luke tells us that He rode into the city with a crowd of people singing “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;” (Luke 19:37-38), and since Matthew tells us that the city was stirred up upon His arrival (Matthew 21:10) there can be no doubt Jesus was coming as King to set up His Kingdom. Whether the people understood the ramifications of His coming or not, matters very little. Jesus saw Himself as the true Solomon, the true son of David, who was coming to establish His Kingdom.
If there was any doubt about this interpretation, Matthew Himself clears it up for us, by quoting from Zechariah 9:9, which says:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
From this quotation alone we can see how Jesus is the long-awaited messianic King. He is the one who came to Jerusalem that day, in order to provide salvation for His people and to bring them into His Kingdom of peace. But, what we must not miss, is how the context of Zechariah 9 also says much about this King coming in judgment.