Matt 25:16-17          Grace and Works in the Kingdom                     4/22/2019      ßà   





#1.      The Talents (Acts 1:9, 1Cor 15:10, Matt 28:18-20)









#2.      The Sin (Matt 25:18,24,25, Jer 17:5,9, Gen 3:17)









#3.      The Reward (Matt 25:21,23)








Please open your Bibles to the Gospel According to Matthew, Matt 25:14 (2X). We have here a parable that is commonly known as “The Parable of the Talents”. That is an unfortunate title, because the focus of this parable is not on the talents, but on the servants. When it was called “the parable of the talents” people began to associate talents with various spiritual gifts we have received. And now this false concept of “talents” has even entered our language. As a result, it will be very difficult to erase this false notion out of our memories. In our minds talents are associated with gifts from God we received from birth, and no preacher is going to undo that in our minds. But it is based on a false interpretation of this parable. What is the focus of this parable? At first blush the focus of this parable seems to be that we, as servants of Christ, will receive rewards that are proportional to the work we are doing here for Christ. There are two problems with this kind of interpretation. First of all, we should not be drawn into a works gospel, for that gives part of the glory to man. Instead we must give all the glory to God. Secondly several times in the past I have addressed this issue of receiving extra rewards in heaven for work done here on earth, and I have sufficiently proved that this is an antibiblical idea that leads to a gospel of selfishness. Instead we should see that the focus of this parable of the talents concerns work that Christ has left for the church to do, and in this work Christ distinguishes between faithful and unfaithful servants in His kingdom. Therefore the title of this sermon is Grace and Works in the Kingdom (2X).

Mt 25:14-30  For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is a parable, and therefore we need to interpret what the things and the people represent here, and we must use the Scriptures to faithfully interpret this parable. And so, when we read verse 14 we can easily see that this refers to the time when the Lord Jesus Christ went back to heaven, 40 days after His resurrection. This means that the time of His return is the end of the world, and that is the time when He requires a reckoning of all works done by mankind. The two things that catch our eye in verse 14 are first of all, “He called His own servants”. Christ could have said, “He called His servants”, and that would settle the issue who the called ones are. But Christ emphasized, “He called His own servants”, which means that He did not call to service just every church on the block, but He called only those who are in a faithful church, where the true Gospel is preached. They are the only ones to whom this call is given. To all other churches God says in Psalm 50:16-17, “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee”. It means that we must take His Word very seriously. Secondly, we read in Matt 25:14, “He delivered unto them His goods”. His goods were the talents.

#1.      The Talents (Acts 1:9, 1Cor 15:10, Matt 28:18-20)

His goods are His possessions, which means He delivered unto them all things that are necessary to fulfill the task He has given them. And in the Gospel of Luke the Lord adds, “Occupy till I come”. But when the Lord Jesus left His disciples on the Mount of Olives in Acts 1:9, He did not hand over to them anything. He only left them with promises that they would be successful in bringing the Gospel to the uttermost part of the world. And thus, the talents that the Lord gave them are things that He gave them in the course of history. Literally a talent is a measure of weight, a heavy weight. Therefore if the talent represents an amount of money, it is a considerable sum of money, at least the amount of a year’s wages. Whatever the amount of money is, it is unimportant, because the literal amount of money is not in view. What do the talents represent here in this parable? Usually people believe that talents refer to natural gifts and spiritual gifts. Such gifts would refer to abilities which every human being possesses, and which every human being is called to put to use. It is true that such gifts are implied in this parable, because Jesus speaks of “every man according to his several ability”, but these are not the talents. Let me first show you that the talents cannot mean natural gifts or spiritual gifts. #1. These talents cannot refer to spiritual gifts, because the wicked servant receives one talent as well as the faithful servants. But we know that the wicked are never endowed with spiritual gifts. God does not love the wicked, and thus He never gives them any spiritual gifts. #2. According to verse 14 these talents are a share of household goods, meaning His possessions. But if these talents are household goods, then they cannot be inherent in the servants themselves. #3. Each servant received talents “according to his several abilities”. Thus there is a distinction between the talents and the abilities. Then obviously the talents cannot be the abilities themselves. #4. The faithful servants double their talents. This cannot possibly be said of abilities a man possesses. His natural abilities are determined at the moment of birth. His spiritual gifts are given to him by God the Holy Spirit. And so, it is impossible for a man to double his own gifts. #5. According to verse 28, one talent is taken away from the wicked servant and given to him that has 10 talents. Now this cannot be said of gifts and abilities with which men are endowed. These gifts or abilities cannot be taken away from one and given to another. And so, these talents cannot represent natural gifts or spiritual gifts. These talents presuppose the presence of naturally endowed gifts or spiritual gifts, but these gifts are not the talents. What would Christ give to someone who has been really endowed with many gifts? This would be a person who can do almost anything that comes in his reach. What would Christ give him? He would give him lots to do. Think of the Apostle Paul who labored more than all the other Apostles combined. The Lord Jesus Christ gave him many things to do, because Paul was a very capable person. But let me read to you from 1Cor 15:10 where we are given this insight from God through the pen of the Apostle Paul. He says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me”. Paul was not stuck up in pride when He wrote this. He wrote, “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me”. God gave him these tasks to do, and he faithfully carried out the tasks. And so, what do the talents represent? The talents represent specific responsibilities and obligations within the kingdom of heaven, including all the tools they would need, such as the Bible and the Gospel and the money that are necessary for the furtherance of the kingdom of heaven. But the Lord Jesus did not only give the 11 disciples these responsibilities and obligations, for the time span that is involved in this parable spans the entire NT time period. And thus we can see that the Lord has also given US these tasks, and has given US the tools we need to do this job better than our predecessors have done. Some of the tools the Lord has given us are computers, and Bible software, so that we can reach back into the original Hebrew and Greek texts to broaden our understanding of what God has said. Please turn 9 pages to your right (ß) to Matt 28:18 (2X), where Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission before He went back to heaven. This was an event earlier than that which was recorded in Acts 1:9, for this was an event in a mountain in Galilee. But here we can also see the Lord’s commissioning of His disciples, where He implied that He was going to give them all the talents that they need. We read in Matt 28:18-20,

Mt 28:18-20  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.       Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:    Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.      Amen.

In other words, Jesus gave them a long list of things to do. All kinds of things are there to do in the church for the furtherance of the kingdom. The disciples did not know immediately what to do with this assignment from the Lord Jesus. They knew they had to do something, but hey had to wait until God the Holy Spirit gave them wisdom to speak for Christ, and to preach Christ, and to guide the church in the way that Christ had carved out for them. It was beginning at Pentecost that it all became clear to them. And so, the talents represent specific responsibilities and obligations within the kingdom of heaven, and for the furtherance of the kingdom of heaven. Christ assigns to each man a place in His kingdom where this man has certain responsibilities in a certain calling that is unique to him. In this calling he has obligations and opportunities to be busy in the service of Christ. Some have the gift of teaching, some have the gift of preaching, some have the gift of evangelism, some have the gift of counseling those in need, some have the gift of administration, some have the gift of teaching little children, some have the gift of hospitality, and so on. There are many more things to do in a church, because a church is a living organism where always new and exciting aspects develop. I am not only addressing the men. There are things to do for women just as well. If we are willing we will always be able to see where we can fit into the church organization. And now we can also understand the rebellion of the wicked servant. He was unwilling to serve the Lord. This implies that he was not saved, even though he has heard the Gospel.

Let us now return to chapter 25, Matt 25:16 (2X), and please put a sticker here in Matt 25, for we will be returning there many times. I have titled this sermon, Grace and Works in the Kingdom, because I can see the grace of God on display here. Most people can see the work that Christ delivered unto His servants, but very few people can see the grace of God in this parable. Can you see God’s grace here? The Lord says in Matt 25:16, “Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents”. And that word “traded” does not mean that he gambled, but the Greek word actually means that he “worked”, or he “wrought”. The type of work he did is not important, but the fact is that he worked with it and doubled his Master’s possession. What caused him to be so lucky? Well, it was not luck at all. Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel According to John, John 15:5 (2X). The Lord Jesus tells us here of the unique relationship we have with Him. When Christ paid for our sins on the cross He then set us free. But we love Him, and are grateful to Him, and therefore we chose to serve Him forever rather than be cut loose. And thus, we are His willing slaves. This is the relationship between Christ and His people. It is a unique relationship where we belong to Christ with our whole being, body and soul. And so unique is this relationship that God gave us a variety of names to describe this relationship. Let me give you 13 examples: Assembly of the Upright, and Bride of Christ, and Church of the Firstborn, and a City Not Forsaken, and the Fold of Christ, and the House of Christ, and Israel, and the Kingdom of God, and the Lot of God’s Inheritance, and Mount Zion, and New Jerusalem, and the Saints, and the Temple of the Living God, and a whole lot more for which we have no time in this sermon. But in the present parable we are the slaves of Christ. He purchased us, and so we belong to Him, and we are called to serve Him. If we do not serve Him then He is not our Lord and Master in all that we do. We see here in this parable that there are servants who do not serve Him. Are they then also in the kingdom of God? Absolutely yes! The kingdom of God on this earth is the externally visible church which contains both vessels unto honor and vessels unto dishonor. God says in 2Tim 2:20, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour”. Yes, the unsaved are an integral part of the church congregation. God included them because they also fulfill a function in the church. We understand this when we look at Judas Iscariot, who also had a task to fulfill in the church that was gathered around the Lord Jesus, when He walked on this earth. And so we see that both the faithful servants and the unfaithful servants are given talents to work with, or to trade with. But here in the Gospel of John chapter 15 He gave us a new name (#14), which indicates our new relationship with Him. He said, in John 15:5,

Joh 15:5  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

In other words, just like a branch that is on the vine, so are we one organism with Christ and in Christ and without Him we can do nothing. Just like the same saps are flowing through the stem of the vine and through the branches, and are producing fruit on the branches, so the same Holy Spirit does dwell in Christ and in us who are the legitimate branches on the vine. And if we indeed belong to Him then it is guaranteed that we shall bear much fruit. And we do not strike up the credit for this fruit, but the stem of the vine does; for it is He who gives us the strength and the wisdom to work the works that He directed us to do. Just like the apostle Paul said in 1Cor 15:10, “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me”, He is responsible for my accomplishments. And thus, if we do anything that is pleasing in His sight, we must always say, “It is God that worketh in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13) Please turn again to the Gospel of Matthew, Matt 25:16 (2X). And so, when we read in verses 16 and 17 that these servants doubled their master’s possessions, it means that they did so by God’s irresistible grace. Why does the Lord use the metaphor of money, when He in fact speaks of responsibilities and obligations in His kingdom? Well, it costs money to do the Lord’s work in this world. But whether we will be successful in expanding the kingdom of heaven is entirely up to God. We just aim to please Him, so that He will say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”. And toward this goal we will not withhold our funds, for it is His money in our pocket all along. Let us now look at verse 18, Matt 25:18,

#2.      The Sin (Matt 25:18,24,25, Jer 17:5,9, Gen 3:17)

Mt 25:18  But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

It is not proper to ask, “Which of the 11 disciples was it that did this?” Many of the action items in this parable have been written in the Greek tense that is called “the Aorist tense”. The Aorist tense means that the action of the verb in question began in the past, continues to be acted upon in the present, and continues to be acted upon in the future. Let me show you where the Aorist tense occurs in this parable. In verse 14 “and delivered unto them” is in the Aorist tense. It means that the Lord delivered unto His 11 disciples His goods in AD 33, and continues this delivery of His goods through the NT centuries to all His followers, the saints, and continues this delivery of His goods until He comes again. And so we see that this assignment was not only given to the 11 disciples, but to all who followed Christ through their preaching of the Gospel, just from studying the tenses that are used in the Greek text. Moreover in verse 16, they that received 5 talents “traded with the same” is also in the Aorist tense. In the same verse “And made other five talents” is also in the Aorist tense. In verse 17, “he also gained other two” is also in the Aorist tense. In verse 18, “and digged in the earth” is also in the Aorist tense. It means that this sin of refusing to work for the Lord Jesus is still being practiced today by people in the church, and continues to be practiced until the Lord comes again. We need to realize that this parable deals with people in the church. What exactly is their sin? Their sin is refusing to work for Christ, even when they find themselves in a faithful church who sounds the call to work for the kingdom of Christ. They will work for any man-made god, or they will work for themselves, or for carnal gain, or for pleasures here and now, but they refuse to do the work that the Lord has assigned to His church. They do not believe that the Lord is coming in their lifetime, and thus they do not plan for a day of reckoning. In fact, they will put their carnal desires at a much higher priority than the spiritual food that the Lord provides in His Word. It means that they rely on the government, or on their employer, or on their own intelligence for their future, rather than on God and His Word. Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Jeremiah, Jer 17:5 (2X). This is the “Middle Verse” in the Bible. Someone counted all the verses in the Bible and figured out that Jer 17:5 is the “Middle Verse”. Is it not amazing that the Lord knows the inmost thoughts and intends of the heart of every person? Therefore the Lord knows that all men are basically wicked, and none will seek after the true God of the Bible. The “Middle Verse” in the Bible tells us what the whole Bible speaks about. We f.i.

Jer 17:5 ¶  Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

It means that if we put our trust in the intelligence of another man, or put our trust in the strength of a human army, we are cursed in God’s sight, for then we have already departed from the Lord. Our God requires that we put our trust in Him, and that we show our trust in Him by doing the work that we have been assigned to do. But will mankind do this? Not by our own volition! Drop down to verse 9, where w.r.

Jer 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Please turn again to Matt 25:24 (2X). And look now how this unsaved man defends himself when he has to give an account of his work. He says in Matt 25:24-25,

Mt 25:24  Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

Mt 25:25  And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

What a stupid man to insult Christ, the Judge, and what a horrible place to put the Lord’s money. God cursed the earth in Gen 3:17. This man locked up the Lord’s possessions in the cursed earth, and now it is of no good to him either. He wilfully and deliberately refused to do any work in his place in the kingdom. But on the last day the real motives of his heart will be laid bare. Then it will be evident that he despised his talent, his assignment. He was not satisfied with the work that was given him. He coveted a greater place of honor, a more honorable task, because pride was in his heart. But he had the Devil in his heart. What was this unsaved man’s theology? He heard in the church that we are not saved by our works. And so, he concluded that his works did not seem to matter. But let us now examine the doctrine of works as it is laid out in the Bible. What is the truth about our works?

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 2:2 (2X). According to the Bible, there are only two groups of people in the world: Those who were chosen by God from before the foundation of the world out of all the nations of the world, the elect chosen by grace, and the rest of mankind, the non-elect who were not chosen to be saved, who will remain in unbelief. And thus we need to separate the works of the elect from the works of the non-elect. God says in Rom 8:8, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God”, from which we conclude that all the works of the non-elect in their entire lifetime are abominations in the sight of God. Even when the wicked are only plowing their field, in God’s sight it is sin (Prov 21:4). And thus, from this point on we will only focus on the works of the elect. We must distinguish between the works of the elect before the moment of their salvation, i.e. before they are born from above, and their works after the moment of them being born from above. Before the moment of our salvation all our works are in the same category as those of the non-elect, for God says so in Eph

Eph 2:2  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Eph 2:3  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

We ALL were by nature conducting ourselves according to the prince of the power of the air, which is Satan, and we ALL were the children of wrath, even as others who will never become saved. God’s righteousness demands that all who commit sins must be under His wrath, which means that the wages of sin is death, and the death that God has in view is an eternity in Hell. And so, before our salvation all our works were abominations in the sight of God. Now let us look at our lives After we have been born from above, in other words After we have been transformed from sinners to saints. Many verses in the Bible on works or sins by the saints seem to contradict one another. On the one hand we read in 1John 3:6 that we do not sin any more, and in Matt 7:17 that a good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and in Luke 1:6 that Zechariah was righteous and blameless, and in Psalm 119:3 that we do no iniquity, and in Gen 6:9 that Noah was a just man and perfect, and in Job 1:1 that Job was perfect and upright, and in 2King 20:3 that Hezekiah walked before God with a perfect heart. On the other hand we read in the Bible of saved people committing horrible sins. For example: Noah got himself drunk in a stupor, and David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah the Hittite, and Jehoshaphat gave to his son the woman Athaliah to wife, the wicked daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and Peter denied his Lord three times, and so on. How do we view the actions of the elect After they became saved? Please turn to the Prophecy of Isaiah, Isa 64:6 (2X). The two groups of apparent contradictions are harmonized by the conclusions we draw from Isa 64:6. The context declares that these words refer to the words of saved men, like Isaiah, who are repenting of their sins, for in verse 4 these saved men are aware that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, what God has prepared for them that wait for Him. And in verse 5 these saved men say, “We have sinned, and in those is continuance”. Now the eye opener in verse 6,

Isa 64:6, But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

In other words, even all our righteousnesses, even our best and holiest works, are as filthy rags in the sight of God. Why are they like filthy rags? First we must get a good understanding of what sin is. Anything that is not done as perfectly and righteously as God Himself would do it is contaminated with sin, for imperfection is sin. Most people “believe that a Christian still sins, and when he does he needs to acknowledge, confess and repent of his sin, and the Lord will forgive him”. That is an Arminian idea, for the forgiveness of our sins does not depend on our works, but on what Christ has done 2000 years ago. And our confessing and repenting is simply an outworking of God working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure, because after we have become born from above we are totally under His control. Our confessing and repenting is done perhaps on only 1% of our sins. We are simply not aware of the other 99%, because we still live in this sinful flesh, and therefore we cannot do anything perfectly. And so, there are two questions we must face in this regard: #1. Are our works in fact perfect, or are they imperfect? #2. How does God see our works: perfect or imperfect? The answer to the first question is obvious in the face of Isa 64:6. Since we still live on this earth in our sinful flesh, we are not able to do anything perfectly. Look at any holy work you might have done in the past. It was not perfect, for if you would do that work today you would improve on it. It means that all our works done yesterday had sins cleaving to it, for imperfections are in fact sins. Now the second question How does God see our works? God knew that we would do those sins, and therefore the Lord Jesus Christ already suffered and died for those sins about 2000 years ago. By God’s mercy He included those sins into His marvelous plan, and God accomplishes His decree through the sins of men. And so, whether we commit small sins or big sins, all our works are accompanied by sins, even if we have become saints. How does God see our works? God saved us; He made us born from above. He gave us a perfect and righteous soul in which there is no blemish. I say “soul”, not body. He has come to live in our soul. No sin will ever enter our soul from that moment in time, because God is there. And so, whatever sin is cleaving to our work, it is immediately erased, for Christ already paid for it. That is why God can say that His saints are blameless in His sight. We are not blameless because our works are so good and so sinless, but because our works have been MADE sinless in the sight of God, through the atonement of Christ. It is in this way that God calls our works “good works” which are pleasing in His sight. And what is our reward?

#3.      The Reward (Eph 2:10, Matt 25:21,23)

Our reward is to hear the voice of our Bridegroom say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. Our reward is to hear our Lord and Savior praise us and be delighted with us, for we love our Master. Our reward is not for our labor, because that would be wages. O No! Our best works are tainted with sin and “the wages of sin is death”. We do not want wages for our works. We want mercy and grace, and these are not earned or deserved, but these are given freely. Why then does God write in the Bible as if we receive great rewards for our works? God shows us hereby that He is double gracious. Please drop down to verse 10, Eph 2:10 and there we read, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”. In other words, God has before ordained, or before prepared, the good works that we as His servants are supposed to do. God’s providence prepared the works, then He gave us the works, and then He gave us the credits for these works as if we had done these in total righteousness. By this God shows Himself to be double generous, as if He gave us a double portion of His reward, because He loves us in Christ, who is His firstborn from the dead. And thus God calls us the Church of the Firstborn. In the OT God arranged that the firstborn should receive a double inheritance; and in the NT God revealed to us that our double inheritance is mercy and grace. Of course you know the difference between mercy and grace. Mercy is God withholding what we do deserve, and grace is God freely giving us what we do not deserve. What we do deserve is Hell, and by God’s mercy He is withholding that, so that we do not have to go to Hell, for Christ paid this penalty in our place. This takes us from negative infinity to ground zero, which is already a great blessing that He forgave us our sins. But then on top of that, the Lord lifted us up in His grace and made us sons of God, or the Bride of Christ. And for this He has lifted us up from ground zero to positive infinity. This is a great honor and glory to be with Christ in His throne, but that is actually what He has promised to give us in the NH&NE. This is a gift so great that we cannot even describe it. And so, we are astounded at the unbelief of the servant who has received only one talent, and who refused to work for the Lord, who is his Maker. How could he have turned his back on the one who has made him? This reflects the attitude of his father the Devil, who also rebelled against his Maker. But it also revealed to us the heart of the natural man, the unregenerate man, who is not just ignoring God, but who is adamantly opposing God in all His works. He too shall reap the reward for his rebellion, for God says, “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

AMEN.                 Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.