In Matthew 11:25-30, the Lord Jesus was compelled by the Holy Spirit to pray to the heavenly Father, revealing how we ought to pray to be heard by God.
“I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matt 11:25-27)
When God administered the Ten Commandments, He began by stating, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20:2). In Egypt, the Israelites had no freedom, dignity, or hope. Through His deliverance, God revealed Himself as the true God who cares for them. His commandments reminded them of His salvation and kept them from falling back into any form of bondage to sin. God gave them the commandments so they would have true freedom. God gave them the commandments because He loved them.
“For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.” (Deut 23:14)
In Deuteronomy, God specifically commanded the Israelites that they should keep their camp holy by covering up their physical waste, which is unclean to God. It may be difficult for us to imagine what unholiness feels like to God, but perhaps the revulsion we feel when we see something putrid is how God feels about sin. If God is so repulsed when He looks at sin, what might He feel when He looks at the depths of our hearts? Though we have not murdered or committed adultery, it is the lust, pride, bitterness, and other abominable things harbored in our hearts that cause us to rot within. Our sins create a barrier in our relationship with God. Proverbs 15:8-9 tells us that the prayer of a wicked person is disgusting before the LORD, because their hearts are not clean.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10) Sometimes, we may not realize how filthy we are until God shows us the things within us that are offensive to Him. His standard of holiness is much higher than we imagined, and can only be attained through the power of the Holy Spirit. If we wish to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, we must start with imitating His holiness, which begins with our hearts.
“If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’– you shall not be terrified of them; for the LORD your God, the great and awesome God, is among you.” (Deut 7:17, 21)
At this point, the Israelites were on the cusp of entering the land of Canaan, just as they had been 40 years ago. The words of their forefathers probably weighed on their hearts: “The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there” (Deut 1:28). However, God gave them a principle: “You shall not be terrified of them; for the LORD your God, the great and awesome God, is among you.” This is what the people of God must be able to experience. When we can see that God is among us, naturally, we will not be afraid.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
That was the word that I chose to summarize this year’s Africa Ministry Training Course (AMTC) when each participant was asked to do so at the end of the seminar. This was a record-breaking year for AMTC, bringing over 70 participants from across the globe to London for a weeklong study of biblical doctrines, spiritual cultivation, and RE training.