In the film Hotel Rwanda, the main character Paul (played by Don Cheadle) has a disheartening conversation with the news reporter Jack (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Having seen that Jack has shot some footage of the Rwandan conflict, Paul is grateful because he believes it will cause the world to send aid to help their plight. Jack, however, knows that even when the rest of the world sees this footage, aid still will not be sent. In response to Paul’s disbelief, Jack says this:
I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.
How could Jack confidently say this? Why wouldn’t the rest of the world be shocked and convicted into sending aid? Jack knows that the world has become so familiar with atrocities and violence that we’ve become numb to it. It doesn’t shock or startle us anymore, so we aren’t moved to do anything about it.
In the Gospel of Luke, the good doctor records for us the severity of Christ’s anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. Contemplating his coming death and the weight of the sins of the world, Luke says this about Jesus:
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. – Luke 22:44
Here is Jesus, preparing to go to the cross to bear the punishment for our sin and tresspasses against God, and he begins to sweat blood (a real medical condition known as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis). Sin is not just some academic idea or trivial thing to the God-man, but it is a very real and incredibly burdensome reality that he himself would bear the penalty for. Christ truly understands – as James would later say – that sin brings death (James 1:15).
On a good day – which is rare – I might shed a single tear in prayer over the weight of my sin. But most days I walk around with some general idea that my sin is grievous, but it doesn’t shock or startle me in the way that it should. Why? Because I’ve become too familiar with it. I sleep and roll around like a pig in my sin every day. My familiarity with my sin leads me to apathy; Christ’s familiarity with righteousness and holiness led him to agony and despair when he contemplated the weight and burden of my sin.
So how should I respond? True power to change can only come in a close proximity to and deep familiarity with the cross of Christ. When I draw near to the cross and remain there, my familiarity with sin decreases and my familiarity with the righteousness of Christ increases. This produces a Godly sorrow that leads to deep conviction, repentance of sins and a love for the Savior.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for my apathy and familiarity with my sin. How much of a wretch am I that I can walk around daily with the weight of my sin and barely pay it any mind, while your holiness causes you to collapse in agony at the very thought of bearing my sin? As the Puritans once prayed, so too do I now pray, “Take me to the cross, and leave me there.”
Oh God and Father,
You have promised your people that you are building a church that the gates of hell shall not overcome.
You have promised that your Word will go out and shall not return to You void;
that Your gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth, and then the end will come.
You have promised your called-out-people, this ek-klesia, the Spirit of Truth that will lead us into all truth, all knowledge and wisdom.
You have given to us your Holy Word, the Scriptures, in which you still speak through and to us today. This Word reveals all about you that is right, true and good.
But Father, in the midst of these promises a contra-gospel arises.
Despite your goodness and gifts to us to guide and sustain us,
there are those who would seek to twist and distort Your Word;
those who wish to tickle their own ears with lies and fabrications that only fit the greed and lusts of their hearts.
We know that the desires of our flesh, the desires of our eyes and the pride of our lives does not come from You,
yet some would teach otherwise.
Father, there is a generation who is hungry and desperate for truth and light.
We seek the bread, not crumbs.
Yet, we stand in between two generations. Those who have come before us who have bought this lie of prosperity,
this lie that the American Dream can be compatible with our faith in You; this lie that your Son was surely an American Jesus who only seeks our comforts, health and wealth.
Now there arises a new generation as well, a young generation of those who will seek your truth in the midst of competing “gospels.”
O Lord, my prayer now is for my generation, this generation who stands in between those who have come before and those who are coming after.
My prayer is that you would give us the love, the courage and the heart to
speak out against this so-called prosperity gospel.
That you would give us the faith and wisdom to live out the Christian faith as you would have us do, for this is a task that we cannot do on our own but only as an extension of your mercy and grace.
Oh I AM, would you stop the spread of this message and disease, this perversion of your truth,
not only from spreading in this country alone,
but in all countries, especially those who have nothing yet are so desperate for anything to cling to.
Father, empower true, gospel-preaching missionaries to boldly preach for your kingdom in these foreign places,
by your Spirit would you see your gospel spread to all nations.
O Lord, my prayer now is that you would tear down the strongholds of this health and wealth “church,”
that you would cease the lies and false utterances of these false teachers;
the Joel Osteens, the Benny Hinns and the Creflo Dollars.
And yes, Lord, we shall not be afraid to name them when necessary;
just as Paul was not afraid to name Hymenaeus and Alexander – the prosperity teachers plaguing your church in Ephesus.
But Lord, my prayer is not to see the character, reputation or honor of these men and women tainted or destroyed; only that they themselves would diminish and You would increase.
Father my prayer is not that you would have it come to pass that these teachers or their followers would come to harm, but that they would be loved and shown the truth of your grace in Christ.
Remove their spiritual blindness and hardheartedness, allowing them to see who Christ is and what he’s done on our behalf.
Teach your church, your body, what it means to be gentle and loving, yet firm and bold.
Show us how to stand up for truth not in the manner that seems appropriate to the world,
but only by the manner that suits inheritors of Your kingdom.
Lord, it is easy for me to adamantly speak out against the so-called prosperity gospel,
yet be comfortable with living my own prosperous lifestyle.
Father, rid me of these distractions, these wrongful desires that take me away from you.
Renew my heart and mind to only seek the things that are above,
for how can I speak against prosperity gospels when I myself love said prosperity?
Rid me of my comforts and needless pleasures, that you might be glorified in and through me.
Not because of me, but in spite of me.
Thou Great I AM,
Today I give pause to give thanks for your mighty work in the history of your Church. Today I marvel at the things I often take for granted, the things that by your Spirit and truth have been fought for by the saints of centuries past. I thank you for the blood that has been shed on my behalf, that I might know the truth of who you are.
Father, today I thank you for the gift of your Word. For centuries your truth was locked up from the people, only to be lorded over by those who would seek to rule them. In your mercy you illuminated the hearts of men and women who could stand up for your truth as defined in your Word. In your mercy, you moved men to die so that the common people could have your Word in their hands. In your mercy, you gave us all that we need for sound doctrine and godly living.
Today I thank you, merciful Father, for your gift of faith. For we know that faith is not something that originates from ourselves but is a divine gift from above. It is freely given to some, but not others. I thank you for the promise that you gave to our spiritual father Abraham. Through the gift and promise of faith you have truly made yourself known among all the nations and people. I thank you that faith is not something I need to produce within myself – if that were so I would be eternally lost. In your mercy to us, you give us faith.
Today I thank you, God of all grace, for your grace to the worst of sinners. I know that men like me stand no chance of being before your royal thrown on our own, yet it is through grace that I have been saved and not from works. I thank you for the men and women who died for this truth. What sweet news it is to lowly men like myself that your grace is extended to me not on account of anything I do, but on what you’ve done.
Today I thank you, our Triune God, for the gift of your Son Jesus. I thank you that you have shown us the truth, the fullness of your revelation, in the bodily form of Christ. I thank you for descending to live among us to die for us. Lord Jesus, you are the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE. We can have the Father because we now have the Son. Oh Lord, what undeserved mercy and grace is this that the Good Shepherd would seek the rebellious sheep that were lost?
Today I thank you, oh GLORIOUS LORD, that you would choose to display your goodness and glory to us so that we might display your glory to the world. We can be conduits of your glory because to you alone belongs the glory. Yet you choose to make it known in us.
Today I give pause to remember the saints of the Reformation. While they are yet mere men, you used them to build and grow your church. They were fallible men who sinned as we all do, yet you chose them for your divine plan.
You are good and gracious to us in ways that we do not deserve.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done…”
Father in Heaven,
On this day we praise you for your goodness and mercy to us. In an act of undeserved love and grace, you gave us your Son that we might be forgiven our sin and brought back into relationship with you.
On this day we pray for the wisdom and strength to live by your will alone. For as your Son modeled for us in prayer, we desire for your will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). But what does it mean, Father, for us to pursue your will in our lives?
How can I know your will? In my heart I desire to do great things for you, Oh Lord, so surely you would fulfill those desires and make much of my life? No, because it is not the deeds of a man you desire but his heart. Father, you do not call us to extraordinary things, but you call us to be obedient to the simple things you’ve laid out in your Word to us.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3) and “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). When in my heart I doubt the will of God for my life and seek grander and bigger things, I neglect and disobey the simple commands you have given me in the Scriptures. Namely, to above all else love you and love my neighbor.
For what is it to you if I preach the gospel to thousands but love my wife poorly? What is it to you if I lead multiple ministries yet fail to show compassion to “the least of these”? How can I preach the gospel if I am apathetic and negligent towards my own sin? I would but count these things as rubbish if I am consciously disobeying the simplest of commands.
Teach me what it means to be content with my daily bread. In a world that tells me “more is better”, my vision for the Bread of Life is clouded and often misguided. What I think are “Godly pursuits” are in reality an extension of my own selfish desires.
For what clearer message is there than your Son identifying himself with the “Bread of Life”, having been born in a feeding trough in Bethlehem, the “house of bread”? Surely it is this: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Father, teach me obedience. Not because I must be obedient to earn your love, but because your love and grace compels me toward obedience.