by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 December 29, 2013 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(005)Thesis:When grace is in place, the next most crucial item is the One toward whom we "wish".
Introduction:We are looking into Paul's Message of Motivating Hope. In our previous study we locked our attention on the root assumptions of "giving thanks" and discovered that the concept of "grace" is the underlying foundation stone. The "giving of thanks" is a fundamental recognition that we have received of the good grace of God.
This evening we are going to move a step further into Paul's words in order to better understand why the giving of thanks was founded upon "our prayers". There are a couple of things that bear some further thought. First, there is a particular fact about "grace" that we really did not emphasize in our last study that makes a good bit of difference when we think about "prayers". And, second, the concept of "prayers" is presented to us as a way to identify just how we think about where the joy of life is found and how we get to participate in it.
I. The Additional Characteristic of "Grace".
A. By specific definition, "grace" is a concept that rejects, absolutely, all ties to any sense of legal obligation.
1. The grace of God is presented in the Bible as the characteristic of God that makes Him totally free of any obligation that would arise out of anything another can do "to" or "for" God so that He "must" reciprocate in "Justice".
a. Romans 3:26 is the most specific text toward this end.
b. Romans 4:8 in its context is one of the most specific declarations of the implications of this "freedom" of God.
2. Thus, what "grace" boils down to is the absolute freedom of God to treat people "as He pleases".
B. Because of this absolute freedom of God, men cannot "leverage" God in any sense of "control" over Him.
C. The most direct implication of this inability of man is one: we are totally without any "control" over the directions that our lives take and over any of the experiences to which we will be subjected.
D. This direct implication is only qualified by that body of doctrine that rules over what I have called "God's relational universe".
1. Relationships between persons is just about all that God cares about.
2. Under this thesis, "grace" does have a "point of weakness" in terms of God's absolute freedom: James 4:6.
a. God absolutely rejects pride and the myriad details of its agendas.
b. But God is also deeply attracted to humility and the myriad details of its lack of agendas.
3. Additionally, relationships that are rooted in humility have two driving factors supporting them: love and faith.
a. In its simplest terms, love is what God deems valuable, and relational harmony is at the top of the heap.
b. In its simplest terms, faith is yielding to what God has declared to be true so that faith "works" at establishing relational harmony so that "peacemakers are blessed of God".
E. So, in summary, "grace" puts us completely in "limbo" in terms of setting agendas or deciding how our lives will develop in experience.
II. Thus Enters "Prayers".
A. A couple of basic observations.
1. In "The Lord's Prayer", there are no expressions of "gratitude".
2. The word translated "prayers" is a composite word that was coined to express a critical element of our position in "limbo".
B. The crucial aspect of "limbo".
1. When a person is stripped of all control issues (with the exception of humility and faith), there is a strong inclination toward two extremely destructive reactions: rage and depression.
2. Thus, in a relational universe where peace and joy are the ultimate goals, rage and depression are the warriors of darkness that arise out of pride and make relational harmony impossible.
3. With such adversaries, human beings have a desperate need: to have a significant sense that "limbo" is a "good" and not an "evil" (a kind of "when I am weakest, I am strongest" concept).
C. God's answer to man's desperate need: prayers.
1. The combinations of words makes concepts easier to see at a glance.
2. When the preposition "toward" is joined to the verb "to strongly wish", we have a concept of someone looking to another who is outside of him/her self for the fulfillment of the strong wishes that make, or break, the experience of joy.
3. It is this word that makes "hope" a genuinely powerful force of Life.
III. Paul's Wording.
A. Under the thesis of "grace", Paul's expressions of gratitude have to mean that he "liked" what had happened (things he refers to as "memories")...i.e., his strong wishes were being fulfilled.
B. The words themselves indicate that Paul was being guided by things that had already happened that "made his day", but they imply that Paul was pressing, in "prayer to the gracious God" for them to continue to happen.