“Jesus has prayed our prayers”

I live in Napoli in the South of Italy because the Lord has put a burden and a passion in my heart; to reach the Muslim migrants with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With the two missionaries I work with we have been going to the migrant center in our neighbourhood on a regular basis. It has been a year that we have shared the gospel with many Muslim migrants and through various means; Bible studies, movie nights or informal conversations.

Sometime this year we met Mohammed, a young man from Senegal. He is Muslim, brought up in a Muslim country, in a Muslim community and in a Muslim family.
Today we sat down with Mohammed to have a chat, and asked him if he’s been thinking about what we shared with him at various times. He said to us that he’s been thinking about what we said to him, and often he’s not slept at night thinking about it. He says he often has conversations with himself in the middle of the night thinking about his religion and about the Jesus we tell him about.
We’ve asked him what he thinks he’s the biggest difference between Islam and Christianity according to what he’s understood so far.
He said to us that for him the biggest difference is prayer. At first we didn’t understand why he would mention prayer as THE difference between Islam and Christianity but he then explained.
For him prayer is what he has to do to be forgiven of his sins. As a Muslim he has to pray five times a day and he sees that as how he compensates for the sins he does, has done and will do. So for him prayer is a mean to be saved. He says if he doesn’t pray he believes the wrath of God remains on him. He sees prayer as the atonement.
But he said that what he’s understood about Christianity is that Jesus has already done it all. That our sins are already forgiven because of what Jesus has done. The way he explains it he says is that Jesus has already prayed our prayers. Jesus has lived the prefect life that we couldn’t live and for him that means Jesus has prayed all the prayers he could never have faithfully prayed each day.
His reflection struck me to be the best way for him where he’s at in his religion to understand what Christ has done for him.
1) Prayer for him means the sacrifice God demands
2) Prayer for him means living faithfully before God
So 1) Jesus has paid the sacrifice already, by his death once and for all, there are no more sacrifice needed and 2) he lived the perfect life for us and transferred that perfect life to us. So he prayed our prayers.

The same day today another Muslim young man at the migrant center here in Napoli in our neighbourhood has spoken to us about prayer. And that is a question that often comes back. “But do you Christians pray?”
I don’t think we can understand as Christians how prayer is such an important part of the life of a practicing Muslim. To pray five times a day stops and interrupts their activities and their rest. What’s more now in Europe the rest of society does not stop with them to pray.
It’s only today that I’ve considered how prayer must be such a burden for Muslims because of Mohammed’s reflection. Jesus offers us rest, not more burdens. Jesus’ yoke is easy and light, his commandments are not burdensome.
And so prayer shouldn’t be a burden for us as Christians, because they don’t save us. We pray because we’ve already been forgiven and saved and we have now this loving relationship with God flowing out of Grace.

The biggest difference in the end between Islam and Christianity, as Mohammed has rightly understood, is the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.

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Defence Mechanisms

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How do you know when you are mature in Christ? What are your defence mechanisms in times of trials?

I can tell I am not a mature Christian. Why? Because of what I do when I am faced with trials.

What do trials look like in your life I do not know. Maybe that’s a bill that came through the post that you can’t afford at the moment, or maybe that’s a health check-up you didn’t expect or maybe that’s the criticisms of your co-workers or maybe that’s persecution.

But what do you do when it happens, when your mind is occupied with it and you cannot rest because this news that just broke out into your life? What do you do?

Hopefully first you pray and give it all to God, perhaps you read edifying words in the Bible and perhaps for a moment it puts you at ease. But what do you do when it does not go away, that you still need to deal with it and it poisons your mind.

I know what are my defence mechanisms and I am grateful to God that He revealed some of them to me. One of them is that I call people. I just call trustworthy friends, people who I know will encourage me, because I just want to be told that I’m a good girl and that I’m doing well. Just like when you’re a child and you run to your mum when someone’s been mean to you. I do something somewhat similar at 26 years old.

Yet I know and I am fully convinced of the truth. I know that through Christ, God the Father tells me “Well done you good and faithful servant.” I know that through Christ I am forgiven and loved, that nothing will separate me from His love and I know that it is sufficient for me. I know it to be theologically true and yet it has not taken roots in my life to the point that when faced with trials I don’t need reaffirmation from people. The conclusion is that I am not mature in Christ.

But I have only been four years a Christian and so I do not beat myself up about it, because God is doing a work in me and He will strengthen me in my identity in Christ and He will refine me more and more through every trial that He allows in my life.

But I find sad that in long-committed Christian are like that too. I find it sad to see Christians who when faced with trials will constantly go to the same defence mechanisms; that when criticised retaliate, when faced with uncertainty take control, when discouraged give up and when in danger run away. I find it sad that long-committed Christians do that instead of reacting in love and faithfulness because they know they are forgiven and loved and that it is their eternal status.

But who is the mature Christian? Who is the Christian who will not get hurt when slandered? Who is the Christian who will not get confused when faced with uncertainty? Who is the Christian who will not think of giving up when under persecution? Who is the mature Christian?

We all fail at following the only truly mature Christian there ever was and always will, only through faith are we declared good and faithful. Our weaknesses continually draw us back to Him because we need to be reminded that God is strong and that we are not. I thank God for my weaknesses because they take me straight back to Him. As Paul wrote: “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 : “But God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Live up to your calling

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
Ephesians 4:1
How many times have you heard this verse and felt compelled to live up to your calling?
Do you know what is the verse coming right after it?
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:2‬
Living up to your calling might mean to live down to the calling you received from the world. What if your calling was to become less so that He can become greater? (John 3:30)

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

“May the scars of love make us stars shining in the world,
hard-pressed but molded into perfection,
hard-pressed but by the loving hands of the Potter,
perplexed but growing in trust,
persecuted but made richer of heavenly treasures,
struck down but heads lifted up to the Master.

Beaten up and on the floor I will adore You,
Swallowed up by the world, spat out on the shore I will adore You.
And when again you strip me down, give me power I implore You,
My weaknesses yes but for your power made perfect.
I must become less this is what I ask You,
but You must become more I beg You.”

 

Do not go beyond what is written

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“Do not go beyond what is written” Paul wrote to the church in Corinth (1 Cor4:6).
Indeed Paul before his conversion was a Pharisee, he knew that was the stumbling block of his people; adding to scriptures to elevate themselves.
Not only did the Pharisees followed the Law to the letter but they also added more laws so that they could put heavier yokes on others and boast in their obedience to the Law.
What did Jesus say to them?
“Woe to you” (Matt23) seven times.
By glorifying themselves in the Law they had neglected the Law, for Law always pointed to justice mercy and faithfulness (Matt24:23).
Today do not harden your heart by adding to the scriptures, by teaching rules that are not in the Bible but surrender to the gospel of Grace, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal 5:1) and it was not because of who we are or of who we would become but because of who He is (Titus 3:4).

An aroma pleasing to the Lord

Romans 12:1

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

1 Chronicles 21:24

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

The Christian life is full of sacrifices. Our whole life is a sacrifice to God, this is our worship to Him. Yet it seems that some of us make greater sacrifices than others. Not all of us will give away all our possessions and give it to the poor, not all of us will take a boat to Africa and never return, but we all make sacrifices for God. He knows our hearts and He knows that this small sacrifice you’ve made, that maybe from an outsider’s point of view was very little, for you it cost you a lot. He knows and He is pleased with that seemingly small sacrifice. He knows your pain, your suffering, all your situations, He knows the opportunities you did not take to stay in His will, He knows the times you endured when you could have avoided pain, the times you did not take the advantage of a situation when you could have, the times you did what He wanted rather than what you wanted. Maybe you did not renounce the riches of Egypt for Him like Moses did (Heb11:24), but yet He is pleased with your sacrifices, even those that look insignificant are an aroma pleasing to the Lord, because He knows you and knows what it costs you.

Sin is an attitude of the heart

Sin is NOT what we say or do, it is an attitude of the heart (Mtt15:18-19). That is what the Holy Spirit through the Word of God convicts us of (Heb4:12). Is your heart always in an attitude of love, joy, peace forbearance, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control (Gal5:22) all the time? If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves (Ddeed (2Cor5:17), seated in the heavenly realm (Eph2:6), we are saints (1Cor1:2) wearing white robes (Rev7:9), waiting to be liberated from this fallen world (Rom8:23) into the new one where there will be no more sin (Rev21:27).

Yet what I love most about this new world is not the absence of this sin that I abhor in myself, but the Presence of my Saviour (Rev21:22-23) who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal2:20).

Therefore since we are sinners made saints living in a sinful world waiting for the sinless one where our Saviour will live with us, let us put off the old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires in order to be made new in the attitude of our minds and hearts and to put on the new self, created to be like God in righteousness and holiness (Eph4:22-24), for this new creation, it is really who we are.