As I look back over 2013, I can easily see the obvious victories and defeats the year brought. Oftentimes we do so to align our New Yearâ€™s resolution to increase those victories and lessen the defeats. My materialism and pragmatism can develop on the surface seemingly good ideas for a prosperous new year, but those are the wrong measurements to use.
It has almost become clichÃ© to say we need a revival to rescue America. Itâ€™s true that is what we need, but too many Christians say that without understanding what is required of them. The Prophet Jeremiah tells us:
â€œLet us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord.â€ (Lamentations 3:40)
Letâ€™s look at this in two parts. The first part calls for self-examination. Liberals and secular humanists love to quote Matthew 7:1, but they always take it out of context. They say it is unchristian like to judge a personâ€™s lifestyle. While thatâ€™s another lesson for another time, let me just say that if God has judged it, we are not being judgmental by proclaiming Godâ€™s Word. But there is value at looking at the whole passage when it comes to self-examination:
â€œJudge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brotherâ€™s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, â€˜Let me remove the speck from your eyeâ€™; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brotherâ€™s eye.â€ (Matthew 7:1-5)
What Jesus is teaching is that we are not to be comparing ourselves to others in order to present ourselves as righteous. Thatâ€™s being self-righteous, and that is never a good thing. What Jesus is teaching is we need to be careful of the standards we set for others because we might just one day have to live up to them. Instead of being judgmental and self-righteous, we need to flip that on its head. We need to be self-judgmental and righteous. Perhaps Iâ€™ll actually try that in 2014.
The Apostle Paul taught us the important habit of self-examination. He applied it to receiving the Lordâ€™s Supper, but it works well for any purpose requiring self-examination:
â€œTherefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lordâ€™s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.â€ (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)
It may look as those Paul is contradicting my earlier statement of being self-judgmental. It would be if I were to use my own standards to judge and self-examine myself. However, I know that to do so would be to diagnose my own illness instead of going to a doctor who is trained for such a skill. I need Godâ€™s Word and His Holy Spirit to examine me. That brings us to the second part of Jeremiahâ€™s admonition.
Revival comes from Godâ€™s people turning back to Him. During the dedication of the Temple, King Solomon called out to God:
â€œWhen they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of those who took them captive, saying, â€˜We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickednessâ€™; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You, and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You; and grant them compassion before those who took them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out of Egypt, out of the iron furnace), that Your eyes may be open to the supplication of Your servant and the supplication of Your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to You.â€ (1 Kings 8:46-52)
Iâ€™m assigning you 1 Kings 8 to read today; it is a good reminder for how church should be held. To sum up the above passage, Solomon is showing the way to revival, a four-step process. First, there is recognition of sin. How do we recognize sin? Solomon wrote that it happens when we come to ourselves. In other words, we stop using our standards for measuring sin and use Godâ€™s standards. It doesnâ€™t matter if Iâ€™m okay with my sin; God is the standard-maker.
Second, after recognition of sin comes repentance of sin. Repentance rarely comes from our own initiative; God almost always has to take us to the woodshed to get our attention. Or worse yet He actually letâ€™s us have our way. Nevertheless, repentance is the next step that is needed:
â€œWhen He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned and sought earnestly for God. Then they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer.â€ (Psalm 78:34-35)
I donâ€™t know about you, but Iâ€™m tired of Godâ€™s slewing of me personally and my nation corporately. Iâ€™m ready for a refreshing and to be revived. But I must first request forgiveness, and many Americans claim 2 Chronicles 7:14 as the â€œrevival verseâ€ for America. It is a good verse, but like any other verse in the Bible it is better when taken in its context. Again we return to the time where Solomon is dedicating the Temple and God appears to Him for the second time:
â€œThen the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: â€˜I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, and do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, â€œYou shall not fail to have a man as ruler in Israel.â€ But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.â€™â€ (2 Chronicles 7:12-20)
Revival as outlined above is a conditional covenant God has made with us. It is always important to understand our roles in the covenant and the consequences of our disobedience. I donâ€™t suppose that I can read the mind of God, but I wonder how close America is to being â€œcast out ofâ€ Godâ€™s sight and becoming a â€œproverb and a byword among all peoplesâ€? Will history look at this present time and chronicle that as the defeat of America, or will it point to 2014 as the year of the Third Great Awakening?
I am praying for the latter. For God to answer that prayer, I need to begin performing some self-examination through the lens of Godâ€™s Word. That sounds like a great New Yearâ€™s Resolution.
Care to join me?
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Copyright Â© 2013 David Jeffers