GRACE NOTES- PASTORAL LETTER 5.16.24

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,
As I write this, I hope that each of you and your families are doing very well this week.  I have been praying for you to that end since we worshipped together this past Lord’s Day.  I consider both a great privilege and awesome responsibility to do just that throughout the week, every week – to pray, asking the Lord bless His people in every way, even as I plead with Him to keep me from evil and lead me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Indeed, it can hardly be overstated how essential prayer is to the Christian life – what blessings belong to those who regularly engage in it, and to what risk those who fail to do so expose themselves in this life of spiritual warfare.  Prayer is not only the means by which we obtain lawful things that we desire, but also one of the means by which we are strengthened in the inner man and made strong to stand against the devil and resist temptation.  Without humble, prayerful dependence upon the Lord, the pride we display in failing to seek His help may, and often does, quickly lead to a fall into sin.
We see this, for example, in the exhortation of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians.  As he gives instruction on Christian living and encourages them with the knowledge that God is ready to help them to endure and overcome temptation.  Amidst all this, he warns, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).  It is a humbling reminder that we’re not as strong as we may think we are, and that we therefore need to constantly resort to the Lord for the wisdom and strength to void falling even into those sins to which we, in our overconfidence, may think we’re immune – the sort of sin at which we look and say, “I would never do that!”  While the Lord has done a great work in every person whom He has united to Christ by faith, and while His Spirit dwells in us, we still have remaining corruption in our hearts.  And, if we think we’re beyond the reach of this or that temptation, we only show how little we understand the nature and potential power of that corruption.  By God’s grace, we’re able to oppose and conquer it, but we must indeed to this by God’s grace – that is, through continual reliance upon Him by, among using other means, constantly coming before Him in prayer.
One sad illustration of this very fact is the found in the disciples great confidence before Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and in the terrible fall that followed.  In Mathew 26:31, we’re told of how, “Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of Me this night. For it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”’”  Yet, just as he earlier opposed Jesus when He spoke of His impending death, here again Peter contradicts his Lord, saying, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away… Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matt 26:32, 35).  “And,” it is added, “all the disciples said the same” (Matt 26:35).  They were confident, in fact certain, that nothing could make them abandon or deny Christ.  Yet, He knew better, insisting that they watch and pray.  But, each of the three times that He went a short distance away to pray, He found them not praying, but sleeping.  And, a few verses later, as Jesus was arrested, we’re told how well the disciples lack of prayer worked out for them when we read, “Then all the disciples left him and fled” (Matt 26:56).  They weren’t as strong as they supposed.  Prayer wasn’t optional, but essential if they were going to avoid falling into sin.
And, the same is true all who profess our allegiance to Christ, who therefore abhor the thought of sinning against or ever denying Him.  So, as Apostle Paul, inspired by the Spirit, tells the Ephesians to, “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm,” he concludes with an exhortation to be, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication,” adding, “To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph 6:13, 18-19).  How were the disciples supposed to stand against the self-preserving instinct to flee as their Savior was bound and taken away?  How are we supposed to resist the same temptation to hide our faith or turn away from Christ when the cost of following Him faithfully in our culture is increasing?  How are we to find the strength necessary to resist every form of temptation in a society that assaults us with it when we turn on our phones and surrounds us with it wherever we turn?  The answer is the same now as it was two-thousand years ago: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matt 26:41).
Let it then be said of us at Covenant of Grace that we are a praying people!  In prayer meetings, in our worship services, in our homes, throughout our days, that we might stand in this evil day, let us pray, asking the Lord just what He Himself taught us to say, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6:13).  Better to have knees calloused from falling on them so often than hearts aching from failing to stand when we were so confident we would.  May the Lord Himself persuade us that it is so, moving us to frequent prayer.  And, may He thereby strengthen us to resist the devil, to withstand temptation, and, having done all, to stand firm with a clear conscience, having fought the good fight.
In Christ,
Pastor Eric
P.S.
Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall.  Dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30.  Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.