Monday, January 27, 2014

Stopping the Power Outage

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Monday, January 27, 2014:  Matthew 18:1-20

18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”  Matthew 18:18-20 (NKJV)

The Amazing Possibilities of Prayer

Three verses in Matthew 18 are favorites when we think of prayer power.  There we learn about AGREEING.  We read about BINDING AND LOOSING.  Jesus promises special PRESENCE "in the midst" of those who harmonize in prayer.

It is frankly amazing and challenging how unflinching Jesus is in His comprehensive promise of answers to prayer.   He says "whatever you bind" and "whatever you loose" ...  "WHATEVER!"  He declares that when two agree in prayer, "anything they ask ... will be done!"   This is both exhilarating and depressing -- at the same time.  It is exhilarating in that Jesus would grant such unbridled possibilities.  It is depressing in how far we fall short.  Our experience simply does not match our potential. 

The Change God Wants

God wants to change that!  We are too often like the prayer gathering in Acts 12 that prayed for Peter's release from prison and then were shocked that God actually did it!  We practice prayer but don't always expect much to come from prayer.

Matthew 18:18-20 describes prayer power.  But, these verses have a context.  The 3 verses prior at tied to them.  Our power outages flow out of our broken relationships.  Matthew 18:15-17 are some of the most important verses in the Bible concerning church life.  They are also some of the rarest in terms of obedience by God's people. 

15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’  17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.  Matthew 18:15-17 (NKJV)

Here is what Jesus commands:

1.  "Go to Him"

If a brother offends you (sins against you), GO TO HIM!  GO TO HIM!  Go and "tell him his fault between you and him alone."  It is my experience that people rarely obey this Scripture.  They talk to everyone else.  They don't usually go to the brother who offended them.  As a result the offense grows.  It festers. 

Why do we rarely go to those who sins against us?  Usually we don't because we are just plain mad at them.  We don't care to be reconciled.  We run from conflict.  We cringe at confrontation.  We fear that our words will only make thing worse.  As a result, the small offense remains in place for years. 

2.  Don't Stop

Don't stop with the first try.  Jesus says that if you don't succeed in your first attempt to win back your brother, take one or two others. 

Most of our efforts at reconciliation are half-hearted.  We give up so easily.  If the lost brother doesn't respond correctly, we conclude that we have done our part and can now move on.  But, the Holy Spirit calls us to keep seeking forgiveness and unity.  This is the heart of Jesus.

3.  The Last Resort

When relationships fall apart, the whole church suffers.  We may not know why or where.  We just see the power failure.  When Jesus says "tell it to the church", He is not saying publish your problems.  He is saying bring the love and heart of the entire fellowship to bear on solving this primary concern.

If we knew how much power can be released through prayer, we would pay any price to walk in it.  If we knew how much the unity of the church affects our prayer power, we would stop at nothing to heal the hurt.      

A Climate of Harmony

The wonderful results of answered prayer is realized when we walk in unity.  That's the message of the three great prayer verses.  When we agree, it's like a sonic boom that rattles the world.  It is the power of the Kingdom of God. 

The hidden obstacle to effectiveness is unreconciled offenses.  They are like the out-of-tune string in a grand concert.  One small member fouls a beautiful performance.

May we be tuned together to make a world-changing sound.  It is both upward to God and inward to our brothers and sisters.  It is then outward to speak to a lost world of the harmony, peace, and love of our great God.  To Him be the glory.


  1. The context of Mt. 18:15-17 is important for understanding 18:18-20. In this context, the binding and loosing of 18:18 has to do with binding or loosing a sinning brother. If the brother listens to the one he sinned against, or listens to that one plus one or two others (thus 2 or 3), or listens to the whole church, harmony and unity can be restored. But if he doesn't listen even to the church, he is to be considered as a Gentile and a tax collector in Israel (namely, as an outcast, as not one of them).

    Either forgiving and reuniting, or disengaging, are the binding and loosing. Heaven will agree with whatever the 2 or 3 who go to the brother decide, as well as with what the whole church decides. Since disengaging would be the more difficult, the 2 or 3 can pray, knowing that if they ask whether disengaging is the Father's will, they can be assured of Jesus' presence with them if they end up disengaging.

  2. Thanks for the comment. You and I are on the same page. I believe the prayer power described in 18-20 is tied to the relational unity at the center of 15-17. You have described the "binding and loosing" of 18 as purely in relation to the estranged brother. I don't disagree, but at the same time don't limit the "binding and loosing" to ecclesial handling of the relational conflict.