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A Call To Repentance

UM Voice - Issue 32 Call to Repentance

“Judgment.” That was my first thought yesterday when I heard the news and saw the pictures. “This is God’s discipline of a people – His people – who have ignored and marginalized Him.”

If you’ve never read Deuteronomy 28 before, do it. It spells out the terms of the covenant with the nation of Israel. For obedience, Israel would receive God’s blessings: peace, prosperity, security, protection. For willful disobedience, though, God promised an escalating series of judgments that culminated in defeat at the hands of another nation. The rest of the Old Testament goes on to chronicle how well they held up their end of the bargain. There were moments of blessing, but far more moments of judgment: at the hands of the Philistines, the Midianites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians.

So now here we are, “One Nation Under God”, that has turned its back on Him. Can there be any doubt that we have prospered, indeed survived as a nation, by anything other than the providential hand of God? Yet in our legislatures, we enact laws that uphold the “right” to murder babies. In our courts, we desecrate the institution of marriage. And our leaders brazenly flaunt their disobedience and their sin before God and country. And we, the people of God in the Nation under God, tolerate it. As a nation, we have arrived at the point where we call evil good, and good evil. The ACLU and others strive to eradicate every reference to God from our schools, our courts, our culture, and even our families. God, however, will not stay silent forever, and yesterday He shouted, “People of God, WAKE UP!”

A few issues ago we wrote that the last election, the razor thin margin of victory, was a sign from God as to how close we were as a nation to exhausting God’s patience! How else can you interpret yesterday’s events? God is still sovereign! It’s not as if yesterday somehow “slipped by” Him. He allowed it to happen, and the reason should be obvious to all Christians. We have become a nation that has almost utter disregard for the sanctity of life, so now we have been handed over to a group of individuals that have no regard for our lives. It matters little whether or not this is an Islamic faction, or a disgruntled group of extreme “Americans.” We are being chastised.

So what can we do about it? PRAY! But what should we pray for? Deliverance? Certainly. Protection? Definitely. But don’t you think that these were the same things that Israel prayed for on the eve of its deliverance into the hands of the Assyrians?!? God DID NOT HEAR their prayers! Consider carefully the Word of the Lord spoken through Isaiah:

Isaiah 59:1-14

Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, Nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity. They hatch vipers' eggs and weave the spider's web; He who eats of their eggs dies, And from that which is crushed a viper breaks out. Their webs will not become garments, Nor will they cover themselves with their works; Their works are works of iniquity, And the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed innocent blood; Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; Wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they have not known, And there is no justice in their ways; They have made themselves crooked paths; Whoever takes that way shall not know peace. Therefore justice is far from us, Nor does righteousness overtake us; We look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness! We grope for the wall like the blind, And we grope as if we had no eyes; We stumble at noonday as at twilight; We are as dead men in desolate places. We all growl like bears, And moan sadly like doves; We look for justice, but there is none; For salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before You, And our sins testify against us; For our transgressions are with us, And as for our iniquities, we know them: In transgressing and lying against the Lord, And departing from our God, Speaking oppression and revolt, Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter.

Does this remind you of any country you know? It was written to ancient Israel, but could easily have been addressed to the citizens of the United States! Bottom line, it was written to God’s people, and so we as Christians – those called by His Name - should take these words to heart in any age. Our first prayer needs to be one of personal repentance. Before a plea for deliverance, before a petition for protection, we MUST repent! Repent of our apathy, our petty desires, our misplaced confidence in science and our own abilities, and our selfish, haughty, unloving hearts. Modern America – a land of rights and entitlements – has forgotten that we have no right to salvation. It is a “gift of grace, accepted through faith”, and one that needs to be humbly accepted.

And this brings me to the point of this issue. All of our personal prayers, all of our corporate petitions, may very well go unheard by the God we profess to worship. Jesus quoted Isaiah when He said, “These people draw near to me with their mouths, and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13) Our prayers will only be heard – and answered – if our hearts are truly in submission to our Creator and Lord. We are yearning for a Deliverer, a Savior in this time of trouble, but we had better TRULY be able to call Him “Lord” in our hearts first. Otherwise, our plea will fall on deaf ears. Our answer will bear an eerie resemblance to the damnation that unbelievers will hear on the last day: “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21-23) God’s ear is attentive to the prayers of the righteous, so unless we want our prayers for deliverance to go unheard, we had better make sure that we have truly “humbled ourselves, sought God’s face, and TURNED FROM OUR WICKED WAYS.” Then, and only then, will God hear our prayer from Heaven, and heal our land. (2 Chronicles 7:14) We must love what God loves, and hate what He hates. We cannot compromise.

In summary, God is trying to get our attention. The judgments poured out upon the earth in Revelation intensify and are progressive. Why? Because God wants to see us suffer? No! He is giving the unrepentant time to see the truth and turn to Him. He is removing all doubt, all excuse. And yesterday’s tragedy may very well be just the first in a series of events that God uses to grab us and wake us up.

Revival will come. We can either prepare our hearts for it and usher it in, or we can stand by and watch God move in spite of us. Jesus was right under the noses of the Pharisees – the religious establishment (the church!) – and they rejected Him. He performed signs and miracles to testify to His claims, yet they rejected the truth. They chose to wait for and worship the “messiah” that they had made in their own image. We do the same when we come to Jesus begging Him to save us, yet selfishly retain control of our lives. We choose to give our worship to a Jesus that we have made in our own image – all mercy, no strings attached. But go back and look at Deuteronomy 28. Our faithful obedience has to be part of the equation. The Pharisees were harshly judged for their unyielding spirits, and we can expect the same as long as we continue to tolerate sin in our own lives, and in the laws and morays of this country.

Our Lord and our God, uphold Your people in this time of distress. Break our hearts to the reality and depth of our sin, and renew us once again. Save our country from this time of trouble, and restore your favor. And through this all, may Your Name be lifted up and glorified! For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. God, Bless America. Amen.


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