I first want to say sorry for such a long break between blogs. I will finish the other blog shortly but before that I would like to discuss this Sunday's sermon text with you. I've had many conversations with friends concerning this passage. We do not always agree on our conclusions...but that's OK. I want to know what you think. I will give you some background on the text, commentary I've found concerning the text, and my personal thoughts. Then, we will come together this Sunday to discover what God has laid on Bro. Joe's heart concerning the text.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV
Obviously this passage wasn't written to modern day America. It was actually a response from God to Solomon's request in chapter 6 concerning provisions for the people when they sinned. We often use this passage as if it were a promise for us, today. I don't think we are entirely wrong to do that. Let me explain.
While this is not a promise specifically to our country, I do believe it is a promise to "God's people". I don't believe we should ever exclude ourselves from promises we find in God's Word. When we do this, we must exclude ourselves from all promises from God's Word. How depressing would that be? I do believe we have to carefully look at God's Word and discover how it applies to us today in its context of scripture. So, let's get at it!
If my people who are called by my name
Two concepts are basic here...(1) Israel belonged to God; His ame had been called upon them; (2) they must acknowledge this and submit to His authority.
And pray and seek my face
Not only are they to pray to God, bu they are not to settle fo less than being admitted into His presence. They must see Him.
Turn from their wicked ways
God will not hear prayers unaccompanied by true repentance.
When once the ear of God is reached, He will not only remove the guilt but will restore to health and usefulness.
above taken from the Broadman Bible Commentary
God answered Solomon with four conditions for forgiveness...
1. humble yourself by admitting your sins.
2. pray to God, asking for forgiveness.
3. seek God continually.
4. turn from sinful behavior.
True repentance is more than talk - it is changed behavior. Whether we sin individually, as a group,or as a nation, following these steps will lead to forgiveness. God will answer our earnest prayer.
So, does this apply to us today? I strongly believe it does. I believe it applies to us as individuals, as a church, and as a nation. Now first let me say I love my country. I'm proud to be an American...but I don't believe we have special privileges with God because we are Americans. Yes, we have unbelievable freedoms compared to other parts of the world. Yes, we have been blessed as a nation since the beginning of our existence. But hear me carefully, God doesn't love us anymore as a nation than He does Iraq, Iran, China, Russia, etc. On a side note, I detest taking precius worship time with my Father away to exalt a nation.
Now back to the passage. What is this saying to us today? Well, I think it is pretty clear. As individuals, we need to get our lives in line with our heavenly Father. That is going to take true repentance. We are all living lives that fall short of the Glory of God. We struggle with sin. We hold on to wrongs that were done to us by others. We turn our backs on God all too often. We allow the things of the world to take us away from that precious time of worship with the family of God. All things of which we need to repent.
When we as individuals live lives that bring the Father glory, His church will be stronger than ever. We will see revival. We will experience His presence. There will be an outpouring of His Holy Spirit in our midst.
When the church becomes the church, we will see things change in our nation. I believe we have no one to blame except ourselves when it comes to our current state as a nation. We have failed to live out God's Word in our world. We have become a nation of wimpy "Sunday" Christians who look no different than those who are lost in their sin.
That brings me to my next thought. What should we look like? Simple answer, Jesus! As I recall, the only times Jesus was angered was when He was dealing with "church" people. To the outcast of society, Jesus was kind, compassionate, a friend. Did He overlook their sin? No, but he sure didn't belittle them or treat them as outcasts. He loved them. He cared for them. And His kindness exposed their sin. They became aware of the sin in their lives. It's only through that same love, compassion and kindness that we as individuals can make a difference through the church and in our nation. Why do so many think we are angry, mean, vindictive people? Because that is too often their experience with Christians. We must show love. We must show compassion. We must show kindness. We must accept them as they are and let God do the changing. As the song says, "Come just as you are. Hear the Spirits call. Come just as you are. Come and see, come recieve, Come and live forever. Life everlasting, strength for today. Taste the living water and never thirst again."
So how does this passage come to life in our lives today? We must humbly come before the Lord, seeking His forgivenss. We need to seek Him continually and turn from our sinful behavior. It's then and only then that He will heal our land. And remember, His healing my not look like we think it should. But His healing will be so much better than what we could have ever imagined. Let's truly experience revival in our lives, in our churches and in our nation. Let's live out our calling as "little Christ's. Then we will experience a great harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God.
WHAT SAY YOU?