"If my people, which are called by my name, shall 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."
(II Chronicles 7:14)
As more and more Christians become alarmed at the rapid decay of our society and the loss of basic freedoms in our country, this verse is being claimed by thousands across the land. However, unless there is a return to old fashioned holiness on the part of God's people, their hope is in vain. There will be no "hearing," "forgiving," and "healing" without first "humbling," "praying," "seeking," and "turning."
Though we do not doubt there is much praying and seeking, there is little humbling and turning. We live contrary to the Word of God and proudly proclaim our "liberty" in doing so. There will not be a turning until we humble ourselves to admit our dirty lifestyles.
While God says to "turn from their wicked ways" we convince ourselves that "wicked ways" aren't really wicked. We sound very pious while we explain away our responsibility to obey the Word of God.
While our country sinks into the slimepit of depravity, we are quoting verses like "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people," while we call our sin righteousness. The hope of our nation is not found in the pornography crowd quitting their sin. It is not found in the booze crowd quitting their sin. It is not found in the homosexual crowd quitting their sin. It is not found in a reversal of the Tri-lateral Commision. God declares that the answer is found in 'MY PEOPLE, WHICH ARE CALLED BY MY NAME."
Getting conservatives elected to office will not turn our national around (although I am for conservatives.) Getting professing Christians elected to office will not turn our nation around (and I am for Christians serving in office.) Getting all the Christians in the country registered to vote will not turn our nation around (and I am for Christians voting.) Getting Christians to write letters to their elected officials will not turn our nation around (and I am for writing our officials.) Only getting God's people to humble themselves enough to admit their dirty sin, and turn from it, will bring God's healing hand upon our nation.
A. W. Tozer wrote in Of God and Men:
"To pray for revival while ignoring or actually flouting the plain precept laid down in Scriptures is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble. Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience." In "Keys to the Deeper Life," Tozer went on to say that unless we "...intend to reform we may as well not pray. To beg for a flood of blessing to come upon a backslidden and disobedient Church is to waste time and effort. We must return to New Testament Christianity, not in creed only but in complete manner of life as well. Separation, obedience, humility, simplicity, gravity, self-control, modesty, crossbearing: these all must again be made a living part of the total Christian concept and be carried out in everyday conduct."
But one wonders if such a turn to holiness is possible today. How will the people ever turn to righteousness when the preachers have stopped proclaiming righteousness. Many have gotten tired of fighting the battle. Now, to justify their change in standards and preaching, they side with the liberals and new evangelicals, by proclaiming that standards are simply "non-essentials" or "personal convictions" that really don't matter that much. After all, are standards so important that it is worth losing some good members to the other "fundamental" church in town which no longer has such standards?
Like the days of Malachi, when God's preacher proclaimed the sin of the people, their response was, "Wherein have we sinned?"But the people were simply a copy of the preachers. "...saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, wherein have we despised thy name." (1:6)
"For the priest's lips should keep knowledge and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
"But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts." (2:7,8)
While preachers lament the carnality of our churches, they fail to realize that the cause is the lack of standards being preached from the pulpit. We pride ourselves in preaching principles and "letting the Lord take care of the specifics." But principles that do not translate into specifics are worthless. If the people are not taught how Scripture relates to everyday living (specifics), little worthwhile change is accomplished in their lives.
To be honest, we have quit preaching specifics because principles don't offend, specifics offend. And people can cause a lot of problems when they are offended. We get closer to Jeremiah's day where, "The prophets prophesy falsely...and my people love to have it so: and what shall ye do in the end thereof (5:31)?"
In I Call It Heresy, Tozer commented on the philosophy that God's commands can be obeyed or ignored depending on one's own judgment:
"There is something basically wrong with our Christianity and our spirituality if we can carelessly presume that if we do not like a Biblical doctrine and choose not to "buy" it there is no harm done...God has never instructed us that we should weigh His desires for us and His commandments to us in the balances of our own judgment and then decide what we want to do about them."
Without a real turning from sin, all of our commitment is useless talk. In Joshua 24:15, Joshua stated that "...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." We quote this verse often without realizing the context of the passage. Joshua had just told the people (verse 14), "Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served..."
The people replied in verse 16. "God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other Gods...therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God (18)." Their commitment has the ring of spirituality, but they forgot something. They did not say they would put away their false gods. Maybe they did not forget at all. Perhaps like many Christians today, they felt they could still serve God while they kept those things which He hated.
Joshua picked up on their omission in verse 19, "Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God...If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt (20)... " Joshua knew that people cannot keep false gods without eventually serving them, just as people cannot keep their pet "little" sins without eventually having their heart turned from God in other areas.
The people responded quickly, "Nay, but we will serve the Lord (21)." Again, the statement sounds spiritual, but they still did not decide to put away their false gods. Evidently, they were sure they could serve God without being so old-fashioned as having to throw out their idols. After all, "an idol is nothing in this world and there is none other God but one."
In verses 22 and 23 Joshua continued his plea, "Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord to serve him...Now therefore put away, saith he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel." Joshua did not let the matter go. For the third time he pleaded with them to get rid of their false gods. The people's spiritual response was, "The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey (24). " They were still promising to serve the Lord, but they had no intention of getting rid of the false gods.
What happened? Exactly what Joshua knew would happen. The next book is Judges where every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Notice God's commentary on these people who promised to serve God but refused to put away their idols: "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of their Lord, and served Baalim: and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger." (Judges 2:11,12)
"And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered then into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about..." (2:14)
"Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto gods, and bowed themselves unto them…" their judges, but they went a whoring after other (2:16,17)
"And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge...And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way." (2:18,19)
Commitment to God without a repentance from sin is a waste of time when pleading for revival. This day in our fundamental churches resembles the time of judges, every man does that which is right in his own eyes.
It also resembles Jeremiah's day:
"Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
"Also I set watchmen over you saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken."
The message to five of the seven churches in Revelation was "repent." May God use these pages to touch the hearts of His people in order that they see the Bible basis for standards. Upon seeing the Bible basis, may they repent, put away the false idols, and ask for the old paths. May it happen before it is too late for our nation, that God might intervene and forgive our sin, and heal our land.