Monday, May 23, 2016

Repentance is the Seed for Change

Repentance is the Seed for Change

All the Old Testament prophets were used of God to call the children of Israel to repentance.  However, few of the Jews repented and fewer still were those that actually separated themselves from the licentious practices of worldly paganism and idolatry.  In our present time, we are seeing an almost exact repetition of this in modern Christianity and the worldly practices of the Emergent Church and most of Evangelical Christianity.  There is really little that is held sacred in the Post-Modern Christianity. 

There is very little that resembles the holy separation demanded in the epistles of the New Testament.  We are seeing the rapid replacement of the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation replaced with New Paganism.  The world is rapidly turning Secular Humanism and new cultural absolutes that are completely contrary to the Word of God.  In most cases, these new cultural absolutes are anti-Christ in every way. 

Repentance is a forgotten word and a forgotten doctrine in Post-Modern Christianity.  Anyone preaching against sin these days is labeled as a judgmental legalist!  What nonsense!  There will be few who take the attitude of Habakkuk in Habakkuk 3:2.  Most will follow the way of Cain until they taste the wrath of God’s judgment.  Very few will do what is necessary to bring about the much needed revival within the Church.  Revival is for local churches, not nations.  Nations and communities will never become serious about holiness until local churches become serious about holiness. 

“O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). 

As Christians, we watch almost helplessly as our nation moves farther and farther away from the foundations upon which it was built.  We think, if only we could somehow stop abortion, or make homosexuality illegal, God would return His blessing on our nation.
Revival always begins in the heart of one individual wanting to be a blessing to God more than he wants God’s blessings.  Such a person understands that the primary attribute of God is holiness.  The revived person will want holiness in his life more than any other passion.  Revival is returning believers to love the Lord with a zealousness for serving Him and living to His glory. 

Jesus sent an epistle to the church at Ephesus through the Apostle John.  This epistle is recorded in Revelation 2:1-7.  In that epistle, Jesus said, “4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” 
It is critically important to see the difference between leaving our “first love” and losing our “first love.”  The Church at Ephesus had a very serious problem.  They were wrongly motivated.  They had “left” their “first love.”  Serving in love had been reduced to a service of duty.  As a result, Christ viewed this Church as “fallen.”  They were not fallen in doctrine or in works, but in their love for Him.  This scenario creates a subtle form of hypocrisy.  Jesus spoke of this as recorded by Matthew:

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

It is obvious that the first criterion for acceptable Christian service is a heart right with God and one that is filled with love for Him.  To remedy this failure at Ephesus, Christ gave them two steps.  They are told to (1) “remember, therefore from whence thou art fallen” and (2) “repent and do the first works.”  They were to stop and remember where they should be, change the way they were presently doing things, and go back to the original.  This was all done internally (in the heart) in order to get the external (walk or actions) doing things the way they should be done.
When we speak of revival, we are speaking of a rekindling of a fire inside of us that has waned and no longer burns the way it once burned.  Psalm fifty-one is the Psalm of David’s repentance after his adultery, lies, and manslaughter.  The historical context of the Psalm is given to us by David, the author of the Psalm.  In other words, David is not hiding his sin.  He publicly proclaims the historical context in his Psalm of repentance.  “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba” (Psalms 51:1).

“7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Psalms 51:7-13).

The first step to the restoration of a nation is when God’s faithful remnant humble themselves before the Lord and begin to fulfill their responsibilities to Him. Even though a nation may never turn to God, the faithful remnant’s responsibility is to be right with God under any and all circumstances of life, even under the administration of immoral and amoral governments.  Revival always begins with the passion of the faithful for the will of God to be done no matter what.  This is the substance of Habakkuk’s prayer, “O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known” (Habakkuk 3:2).
As was often the case with prophecies of pending judgment spoken by the prophet to the people in rebellion, the prophets were ridiculed by the unbelieving of the children of Israel.  If these people had believed in God and His commandments, they would not have been involved in the worldly practices that brought God’s chastisement upon the nation.  The phrase “in the midst of years” refers to the days of the fulfillment of the prophecies given to Habakkuk to communicate to the nation of Israel coming near and the evidence of the captivity becoming an apparent reality.  Habakkuk’s prayer is that these people that once professed to believe in God would repent and return to a living, obedient faith once they felt the fire of God’s chastisement. 
People of real faith hear God’s warnings and they immediately act upon those warnings by faith.  In other words, believers expect that what God says will happen will happen and they begin to pray.  Believers begin to prepare for what God says will happen. 

Unbelievers are empirical.  Unbelievers must see some evidence before they act.  Unbelievers must feel the fire of God’s wrath before they are moved.  However, by the time they feel the fire, it is too late to do much about it but be burned.  By the time unbelievers feel the fire they have no defense against it.  A prayer for revival can be difficult when we know that the touch of the hand of God upon the unrepentant will often leave those people physically crippled and with scars that they will bear for their lifetimes.  When the fire of God’s chastisement is released upon the unrepentant, that chastisement can be brutal. 
Ezekiel chapter eight reveals the heart of the hypocrisy of contradiction between belief in God and the occupation with the forbidden wickedness offered by the satanic forces of worldliness.  The vision God gives to Ezekiel is what God sees in the secrets that men harbor in their hearts.  Externally we worship God and speak of righteousness, but internally, in our hearts, we lust for the things and practices of this pagan idolatrous world.  Though we may not have actual idols erected in our homes, we have a secret room in our hearts and minds where we fantasize about the pornographic and licentious practices of the pagans.  The contradiction of duplicity is that the vision given to Ezekiel reveals that Israel’s priesthood was hypocritical because they did have some form of belief in God or they would have been doing publicly what God revealed was going on in their hearts. 

“7 And he {God} brought me to the door of the court {the inner court of the priests and Levites, which were the private chambers of the ministering priests}; and when I looked, behold a hole {the crevice of a serpent} in the wall. 8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall {secret places}: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door {the discovery that men create a secret access providing admission and permission to what God has forbidden}. 9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here” (Ezekiel 8:7-9).

If men would only recognize the wickedness of our own hearts and all the images we have looked upon that are stored away there.  At the weakest moments of our flesh, Satan projects those stored images of the idols of the lusts of our hearts and minds that become so vivid it is as if we are reliving the moment.  Just because, for a brief moment, we caught the glimpse of some wicked thing that we allowed before our eyes, Satan will haunt us with that image a thousand times a thousand.  We think it but a small thing before God.  It is not!  This is what the whole text of Ezekiel chapter eight is about.  Ezekiel chapter eight gives us a glimpse into what God sees when He looks upon our hearts.  As Ezekiel 8:10 says, those corrupting images are carved into our minds and hearts like the Egyptians carved their pagan hieroglyphic images into stone.  A life of faith and repentance refuses to allow any more corrupting images to be carved into our psyche.  A life of faith and repentance hates those images already carved there.  The unrepentant person spends a great deal of time engraving forbidden images upon his psyche. 

“10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about {similar to the Egyptian hieroglyphics engraved in the temples and tombs of Egypt}” (Ezekiel 8:10).

The “idols of the heart” will be spoken of again in Ezekiel chapter fourteen.  In this text, the “idols of the heart” are willfully “set up.”  The issue of idolatry has very little to do with the idol itself.  The issue of idolatry is about the vile practices involved in the worship of an idol.  Some of these practices are too vile and morally filthy to even discuss among civilized and cultured people.  Some involved human sacrifices and the sacrifice of little children and babies.  We would think ourselves too cultured to sacrifice babies to some idol these days.  However, this is exactly what modern Feminism does in the abortion industry so that women can have sexual freedom to live sexually promiscuous lifestyles, pursue their careers in the worship of Mammonism, and be free from the shackles of social bondage to men.  This is an idol of the heart that is as real and corrupting as any Old Testament idol (Ezekiel 14:1-8).

“1 Then came certain of the elders {patriarchal leaders} of Israel unto me, and sat before me {the prophet Ezekiel}. 2 And the word of the LORD came unto me {right at that very moment}, saying, 3 Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? 4 Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; 5 That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. 6 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. 7 For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself: 8 And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 14:1-8).

“11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery {in their fantasy thought life}? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth. 13 He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. 14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. 16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. 17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (Ezekiel 8:11-18).

Much of the corrupted priesthood of Israel had taught the children that as long as they offered the appropriate sacrifices, they could practice the pornographic and licentious wickedness of idolatry as well.  In other words, they taught that God understood that we are all just sinners and that the various sacrifices were just the means for us to communicate our recognition of our failures to Him.  This is the corrupted message of the corruption of the doctrine of grace that abounds in Evangelicalism and New Evangelicalism.  This falsity of grace enabling is nothing more than ancient Antinomianism reborn. 

The first essential element for revival is humility before the Lord.  C.S Lewis wisely said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”  Pride is the opposite of humility and demands preeminence in every situation of life.  Preeminence wants the first consideration in every decision of life.  Only God deserves such consideration.  Humility understands this and therefore does not expect, nor does it want, first consideration in the decisions of life. 

Humility is an attitude.  The first evidence of humility is the desire to obey from the heart everything that God commands.  Humility is always manifested by a submissive spirit.  Humility knows and lives in a reality where we understand we can always do better than what we are doing or we can do what we are doing better.  The humble person knows that he can always learn something from everyone and any one.  The humble person understands that regardless of how menial our position in life, we have more than what we deserve.  Humility is not about being self-deprecating.  Humility is an honest and healthy perspective of ourselves. 

In II Chronicles 7:14, God states a prerequisite to His forgiveness and removal of chastisement upon the disobedient children of Israel.  The statement is made during a highlight in the history of the nation of Israel right after the completion and dedication of Solomon’s Temple built for the dwelling place of God.  There is a sobering reality revealed in the statement in that God knows the future and God knows that the children of Israel will be led into the pornographic practices of idolatry and paganism by the very king Solomon who had just provided the grandiose ceremony of dedication of the Temple in II Chronicles chapter six. 

Humility is always preceded by the honest evaluation of ourselves and our character compared to God and His expectations of us as His children.  The reason humility is preceded by such a comparison is because only such a comparison will create the right opinion of ourselves from God’s perspective. 

“12 And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 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. 15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place” (II Chronicles 7:12-15).

Solomon spent seven years building the Temple of God.  Then, Solomon spent the next thirteen years building an even more extravagant palace for himself and the many wives he began to acquire.  This extravagance led Solomon into a life of decadence and perversion of everything that is holy.  In fact, we should see the book of Ecclesiastes as a thorough confessional of Solomon’s decadent lifestyle that led the nation of Israel to forget God. 

“3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. 5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet” (Habakkuk 3:3-5).

Fear of the future and the pending judgment of God can be a crippling thing to live with.  Yet they are effective tools of God to prompt believers to pray and turn to Him in faith.  For many people, prayer means bargaining with God. They are in some dilemma of life out of which they cannot escape (if they could, they wouldn’t need God).  They come into God’s presence saying, “God, I am not perfect, but I try harder than so and so.  You should listen to me.  I work hard for you.  I have attended church faithfully for most of my life.  I have given much.”  This type of person is bargaining with God.  Even worse than that, he is praying in his own name.
Habakkuk had learned what every effective prayer warrior needs to learn.  He learned what it means to pray in Jesus’ Name.  To pray in Jesus’ Name is an attitude.

“Lord. I am a sinner.  I do not deserve anything from you.  I don’t even know how to pray or for what to pray.  I wouldn’t even pray if your Spirit had not prompted me to do so.  I come because you have invited me to come.  I come solely on the merit of what I am in Christ and with no merit of my own.  Father, on the basis of what Christ has done for me and the position that is mine before you because of salvation, I bring my petition to you requesting that you answer according to your will and not mine.”

This type of prayer exemplifies praying in Jesus’ Name.  Excellent prayer comes from excelling faith.  Excelling faith looks to an omnipotent and victorious God.  That is what we see Habakkuk doing in Habakkuk 3:3-19.  In these few verses, we see excelling faith confronting crippling fear (Habakkuk 3:16 and 3:18-19).

“When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops” (Habakkuk 3:16)

“18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.  To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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