Pray While You Still Can
By Carter Conlon
If I walked by your house in the middle of the night and saw it on fire, yet I did nothing to warn you or try to save you, I would not really be a good neighbor. In the same way, if I did not care about you, I would not write this message. But because I do care, and I want to see the face of every one of you at the throne of God one day, I will, as the Apostle Paul said, "not refrain from preaching to you the whole counsel of God"(see Acts 20:27).
Sometimes it is hard to hear truth because, apart from the Spirit of God, we are in some measure or another at war with God. We want God to accept our behaviors, our lifestyles, our ways of viewing eternity. I believe we will soon see this on an incredible scale in society. Mind-boggling lawlessness is breaking out in the world today and it is only going to get worse. Therefore, it is imperative, as followers of Christ, that we walk in truth, agreeing with the Word of God.
King David said in Psalm 32: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1–2). Some of you might be wondering why you have been feeling so heavy lately. It could be because the hand of God is on you, and He is trying to speak something to your heart that you have been resistant to receive.
We see in these verses that we are blessed when we do not try to hide our failed condition from God, when we are willing to say as King David did, "Search my heart and know me. Try me, and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the path of life everlasting" (see Psalm 139:23–24). If we search ourselves, we will always come out smelling like a rose. We will always justify that which God does not justify; we will call something that is deficient "whole" and eventually, something that is evil "good."
Who Will Not Inherit the Kingdom Of God
Paul warned, "Do not be deceived. Do you not understand that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?"(see 1 Corinthians 6:9–10). He was addressing believers in Christ who were having a hard time letting go of former practices and truly entering into this new life that had been offered them through Christ. When Paul said, "Do not be deceived," he meant, "Do not let anybody teach you otherwise; do not let your own heart convince you that there is no longer any penalty for sin."
Let's look at some examples Paul gave of "the unrighteous" who will not inherit the kingdom of God. When he said, "neither fornicators,"he meant people who engage in sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman. You can try to push it away and say, "Well, God knows that I'm not married and He understands I have physical needs."But Paul says, "Don't be deceived. Fornicators do not inherit the kingdom of God."
He continued, "nor idolaters"—people who have other gods, or worship something other than Jesus Christ; "nor adulterers"—people who have affairs outside of marriage. It starts with a little flirtation in the office, and the next thing they know, they are in a motel somewhere. "Nor homosexuals, nor sodomites"—both lesbians and gays. Of course, we are talking about people who willfully continue in these practices, not those who may be predisposed to having a certain attraction to somebody of the same sex. However, even if that is the case, God will give them the power over that sin.
It does not have the right to dominate their life anymore. The list continues: "nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers"—people who live throughout the day just cursing everybody unlike themselves; "nor extortioners"—people who use others for their own advantage. According to the Word of God, none of these people will inherit the kingdom of God.
In the Book of Galatians, Paul said, "Do not be deceived. Whatever you sow, you are going to reap. If you sow to the flesh, you will reap destruction. If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap life"(see Galatians 6:7–8). If you try to bring that which God says is not acceptable into His kingdom, you will reap corruption. Call it what you will, it makes no difference. If God says it is wrong, you cannot make it right.
Washed By The Word
However, there is hope! Paul continued, "And such were some of you. But you were washed"(1 Corinthians 6:11). In other words, "It is not the water of this world that has formed your thinking; it is the water of God—His holy Word."Yes, you may be struggling, but at least your thinking is right, and you know what direction you are supposed to be going. You have come to this pure water, saying, "God, this is right, and everything inside of me that is unlike it is wrong." And so you are washed and sanctified—set apart by God—and justified by the Spirit of God. In other words, you are given the power to go on a new pathway.
As Paul once said, "I am not there yet. I am not perfected yet, but I am leaving behind what needs to be left behind and moving toward my high calling of God in Christ Jesus"(see Philippians 3:12). In other words, "I am not going to make excuses for this any longer. I am not going to just call it another 'oops' and say, 'Well, Lord, thank You for forgiving me.'"
Remember, you cannot play games with a holy God. Every time you do, another layer of hardness comes into your heart, and eventually you no longer can be brought under conviction. The Bible says there comes a point when you are given over to a darkened mind. You can go to church and sing praises to God, believing somehow that this is acceptable, until you get to His throne one day and realize that is not the case. You allowed your own heart to deceive you.
I am not suggesting that you have to be perfect, but you must be moving in the direction of truth. It does not mean you will never struggle with sin, but it is losing its hold and its right to dictate your direction and dominate your thinking.
The Goodness Of God Leads To Repentance
Returning to Psalm 32: "When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long, for day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer" (32:3–4). The scripture tells us that the goodness of God leads us to repentance. God is saying, "Lest you become content in a wrong way of thinking, I am going to put My hand on you and take away your strength. Day and night, I will not let you go." Perhaps that is why some of you cannot sleep. You see, in His mercy, God petitions a heart that is not set apart for Him. He woos it; He draws it. As you are going down the street, He whispers about certain attitudes and thoughts and behaviors. God will not let you go until you are finally in agreement with Him. That is the goodness of God!
And if you think you cannot be forgiven, the Word of God proves you wrong. David, the great psalmist of Israel, had committed adultery with a man's wife and subsequently arranged for the man's murder. On top of that, he was a liar, and then he tried to bring this whole thing into the kingdom of God. Yet God put His heavy hand upon David until he repented. Because of his repentance and return to the Lord, David was able to write in Psalm 32: "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (verse 5).
He continued, "For this cause, everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found" (Psalm 32:6). There may come a time when you will no longer be able to pray. It is really hard to pray in the time of panic. We saw that on 9/11 here in New York City. There is a season when God can be found. There is a season where victory can be won—a season where newness of life can become your portion.
Songs Of Deliverance
Those who repent while they still can will be able to declare as David did: "You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance" (Psalm 32:7). In other words, "You will give me light in the midst of darkness, clarity in the midst of this baptism of confusion. You will keep me from trouble."
The psalm then continues with God speaking in first person. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!" (Psalm 32:8–11). The end result of walking with a clean heart is an inner joy that this world knows nothing about. God will put within you a song that cannot be written by a human hand. You will have a shout in your heart that cannot be taken away by affliction or by threat or by any darkness in society!
However, that means you and I must make the choice to walk in truth now; we must be quick to put away anything that offends God. We cannot simply say, "Tomorrow I will deal with this."We do not know if we have a tomorrow. We do not know what the future holds. All I can tell you is that if you can hear His voice today, do not harden your heart. Get right with God. You know what that means; you know what you need to do. Start at the beginning.
As you deal with whatever God has His finger on and begin to move in the direction He wants you to go, He promises to surround you, protect you, and guide you. By His grace, you will always be changing from image to image, glory to glory, day by day. Your life will be a witness for God, and you will bring Him glory everywhere you go!
This newsletter is an edited version of "PRAY WHILE YOU STILL CAN," a sermon given on June 2, 2019 in the sanctuary of Times Square Church in New York City. Other sermons are available by visiting ou website at tsc.nyc. You are welcome to make additional copies of this sermon for free distribution to friends. However, for all other forms of reproduction or electronic transmission existing copyright law apply. This sermon cannot be posted on any website or webpage without permission from Times Square Church. Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are from the New King James Version.