In the last several years and 2020 in particular, we have heard the same mantra leading the charge in hopes of a nationwide revival.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) — 14 if my people who are called by my name 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.
Though some believe this verse refers only to the Jews in the specific situation they were in, many including myself, see a principle here, a way God deals with people, that is applicable to any nation and generation. And so we gather together quoting this verse and praying that the Lord would indeed pour out His blessing and bring healing revival to our land.
As I read this verse, it strikes me how relatively easy it is to accomplish the first three directives even as we are gathered in prayer. We come humbly. We pray. We seek the Lord’s face, crying out for Him to do as only He can. But that last one, like the last of the 10 commandments, is the clincher. It goes deeper than the rest. Deep into our hearts.
The question is, “What is God really asking of us here?” What does it really mean to “turn from our wicked ways?” Is it that kind of general prayer of “God, forgive me for all my wicked ways right now in Jesus’ name, Amen.?” And if not, can we truly expect the Lord to heal our land if we give Him only 3 out of 4 of His directives? I don’t believe so. This isn’t horseshoes...and unfortunately close doesn’t count.
God isn’t just looking for us to pray for our nation. He’s looking for us to be His witness in it. And like it or not, the biggest help or hindrance to the message of the gospel is the life of the messenger. No…not perfection, but progression. Being changed from glory to glory. Testifying to the reality of what a relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. As James makes clear….faith without works is dead.
Like our lives, turning from our wicked ways is not an event, it’s a process. Actually, a VERY positive one that reaps untold benefits in our lives. One that we need to understand fully, if we are to follow God’s direction and gain His ear concerning the healing of our land.
So just how do we turn from our wicked ways?
First, we must prepare our hearts and minds. Romans 5:8–9 (ESV) — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. When we come before the Lord, we must realize that we do not come to His wrath, but to His love. Acknowledging our guilt is one thing, but condemnation does not come from the Lord. (Romans 8:1) We need to understand that this is not a trip to the woodshed, but a time for the God who loves us to help us be our best. To begin to remove out of our lives things that ultimately harm us, and replace them with things that bless us and bear fruit for the kingdom.
Remember…nothing can separate us from His love. (Romans 8:38-39)
Next…we must be totally honest. God know it all anyway. Hebrews 4:13 (ESV) — 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. And remember, He still loves you!
Next…we must be willing to hear from God about ourselves and our hearts (which deceive us Jer. 17:9). This includes making up our mind not to justify our attitudes or actions, but to let the Lord call them as He sees them. Remember, He still loves you!
Next….open your heart to the Lord like David did. Psalm 139:23–24 (ESV) — 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! He may knock…but the Holy Spirit doesn’t go where He’s not invited.
When He speaks….confess it. Again…don’t justify it, but agree with the Lord that this misses the mark. We cannot turn from something we do not acknowledge as sin in our lives. And it doesn’t matter who else is doing it. If God is speaking to you, then you follow Him. (see John 21:21-22).
Next….Receive His promise! 1 John 1:9 (ESV) — 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God’s mercy was paid for at the cross. Take it with gratitude!
So are we done? No….a thousand times no!! Receiving mercy is only half of the process. Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. This is where many Christians make a grave mistake. We get up from prayer “clean”, but without the grace to overcome our sin, we are doomed to repeat it.
Ask this question…”Lord, what need am I trying to fill with this attitude or action?” It may be protecting yourself from hurt, or an attempt to “medicate” some inner pain, or a search for value, love or acceptance. Whether it’s pornography, substance abuse, an illicit relationship, a food addiction, or a long held grudge, behind it is a real need, a need we are trying to meet on our own; and in our own way. A need that God, not only has already made provision to meet, but that He will do so more abundantly - and without any added guilt or shame! Ask the Lord to reveal what that need is, and how He wants to meet it.
Then…remember. 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It’s not your willpower. It’s Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27)!! It’s God’s grace (divine enabling power) to help in time of need (Heb 4:16). It’s confidently expecting the Holy Spirit to meet us at the point of temptation with the power to choose to turn from the old path to the new one. Not willpower…FAITH!
Again… we must realize that turning from our wicked ways is not an event. It’s a war that is won battle by battle. Yes, sometimes there is a miraculous deliverance – praise God!! But more often than not it is a process by which God changes our inner desires. (*see Jer. 31:33)
Finally….write it all down. Write what God shows you and refer to it regularly. Not in condemnation, but in faith - trusting Him to reveal His power in your life and glorify Himself. Get with a trusted friend or pastor and share it with them so they can encourage you (and perhaps you can return the favor).
Beloved...we who are "called by His name" cannot afford to fool ourselves. There’s too much at stake for our nation, our kids, our kid’s kids, and so on. We have to get serious. Three out of four is not going to cut it. But the transformation of lives by the power of the Spirit will! It will make a huge natural and supernatural difference in bringing revival and healing our land. Our gracious God’s loving arms are wide open. Let’s do this!!