For the last several weeks, I have been preaching on the future of every human being that has ever existed. Below, you will find the first of several installments taken from these messages. To listen to the audio of this sermon, click here.
Philosophers, scientists, and poets all say that the future is not written in stone and that you can make it what you want it to be. They say that your destiny is in your own hands and to a point, that may be true. There are decisions that you can make that will shape your future: education, career, marriage, children, etc. Those are but some of the decisions we can make that will determine what life is like for us in the future – but that’s only part of the future.
I am going to tell you right now that there are some aspects of the future that are written in stone. It is the future of all mankind, and you can find it in the Bible. You know, the sad thing is that it seems these days that everyone wants to know what the future holds for them, but they keep looking in the wrong places. People read their horoscopes every morning. They pay to have biorhythm charts made up to see what kind of day they will have. They go to these palm readers, all because they want to know what their future is. Well, I’m going to tell your future for you today as the Bible teaches it. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.”
Try to understand this. Your life is going to end one of two ways. One, just as every human being that has ever lived except for Enoch and Elijah has died, you will die. Or two, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will be raptured – taken from the Earth much like Enoch and Elijah were taken, but this time, it will happen when the trumpet of the Lord sounds and Jesus comes to claim His bride – and only those of us who have held to His teachings, who are truly His disciples, will be taken.
But just as your life is going to end one of two ways, your life will also continue one of two ways. You will either go to heaven, or you will go to hell. Heaven is a place of eternal peace and joy in the presence of God. There is no more pain, no more sorrow, and no more suffering. But Hell is a different story. Hell is a place of eternal torment where the flames burn hot but never consume and where the conscience constantly torments but the soul never dies. Jesus taught us in Luke 16 that at the moment of death, the soul of man went to a place that the Greeks called Hades. This was the resting place of the dead. On one side of Hades was Abraham’s bosom where the righteous dead, those who believed in God, were sent. The other side was the hell that we know of as the place of eternal damnation, the lake that burns with never ending fire, where the pain never ceases. Fixed between the two was a great span that could not be crossed. When Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, I believe that he went to Hades. 1 Peter 3:19 tells us that Jesus descended into Hell itself where for three days He presented Himself as the Messiah, the Savior of the world to the unbelievers and evil-doers of Noah’s day to show them that not only had Noah been victorious but also that the complete victory over sin had been won. Then He also preached to the Old Testament saints so that all of the righteous people who died before would have the opportunity to believe on the name of Jesus because, my friends, salvation is found only in the name and person of Jesus Christ. And the good news is that Paul says in Ep. 4:8 that when he ascended he led the captives free, the righteous in Abraham’s bosom, to their new home in glory.
It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment. I tell you today that unless Jesus returns before that day comes, all of us will experience death. We are going to die, and at the moment of death we will face our judgment. At the moment you die, your destiny is sealed. If during your lifetime you have confessed your sin before our Holy God, trusted in the fact that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, but rose again three days later, and professed with your mouth that He is Lord of your life, then your destiny is heaven. Your judgment is for eternity in glory. If you have never confessed your sin to God and made Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life, your destiny is Hell. It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.
More next week.
Serendipity! I think that is the word that I am thinking of: a blessed and unexpected moment that God gave me this morning. As I was leaving the house, I was adjusting my Bluetooth headset around my neck and “accidentally” hit the button that started the music on my iPhone. What a thrill touched my heart as I heard the voice of Wes Hampton along with the rest of the Gaither Vocal Band singing “I’ll Pray for You” (https://youtu.be/UhrxwsA9gQM). If you have never heard that song, you need to find it immediately and listen. Better yet, find the lyrics, too, and read them as you listen. Immediately following this song came Laura Story’s “Blessings” ( https://youtu.be/XQan9L3yXjc). You need to listen to this one as well.
These are two powerful songs about the power of God’s presence through the trials of this life. Just to whet your appetite, Wes Hampton sings, “… heart so broken, God is so far… sleep won’t come, tears won’t quit… can you remember, I won’t forget… when you can’t think, you can’t even pray….” Have you ever been there? I have. I am. We are. Then all of a sudden, Wes sings, “…please hold on to one thing that’s true, all this time He’s holding you.” And I can tell you from one fellow pilgrim to another in this life’s spiritual journey, he is exactly right. During these last 7 months, on more occasions than I can count, I have heard God’s voice and felt His tender embrace. During this very difficult time, I have been asked over and over how I have been able to keep going. This is why. God’s presence was more than adequate to carry me through the most difficult of the days.
Then as I listened to Laura Story, God spoke to my heart. “What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? And what if the trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?” Wow! As I looked back over these last 7 months, I realized that there had been many sleepless nights and unending tears as I cried out to God. In that moment, God showed me that He has been using these trials to strengthen and heal me. I have learned lessons about myself that I had refused to hear. I have seen changes in the way I think about things. And He has shown me what true forgiveness is all about as He has forgiven me for my sin and as He has empowered me to forgive those who I felt had wronged me. Pay attention to what I am about to say: nothing is more freeing – nothing is more healing – than to forgive and release those people who have hurt you without the expectation of an apology or a confession. Truly, the trials of this life have been His mercies in disguise.
So, my friends, as you read this, if you are going through the fires of this life or the flood of problems seems like it is about to overwhelm you, remember the words of Isaiah 43: 1-3.
1 But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.
3 For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
And think about this: as a child of God, He didn’t give Egypt, Ethiopia or Seba as your ransom. He gave His only begotten Son. That should be enough to get you through the darkest valleys of this life. I know it has been for me.
It has been a very busy couple of weeks, and that is why I haven’t posted since May 1. From preparations for revival to the week of revival capped off with our Mother’s Day celebration – pastors will understand what that is like. The physical, emotional, and spiritual exertion can leave you drained, but the powerful services we have experienced since last Sunday have been amazing. Bro. Ed Lacy, our evangelist, and Bro. Tommy Gray, our music leader, did a fantastic job, but it was the Holy Spirit that moved in our midst that took us to the mountaintop. While we had no professions of faith, I know that some of us truly had an encounter with God that has renewed our strength and our hope that He is about to do something amazing at Southside.
But have you ever noticed in the Scripture – or maybe you have seen it with your own eyes – how our tendency is to come crashing back down into the valley. It happened with Elijah after Mt. Carmel. It happened with the disciples after the Mount of Transfiguration. It happened to Ananias and Sapphira after Pentecost. And it happened to Israel at Mt. Sinai. After having heard the audible voice of God and seeing the display of His glory as He came down on the mountain, they rebelled against Him and broke the first two commandments by worshiping the golden calf. In forty days, they went from the mountaintop to the depths of depravity that is hard to even imagine. How? Why? And can we learn anything from their experience?
In my message yesterday (May 14, 2017), I shared what I see to be four fatal flaws that caused Aaron and the people of God to turn away from God. I will briefly share them with you and then encourage you to listen to the sermon for which I will leave a link below.
Turning from God results from a:
And we all know the outcome. The people found themselves living in perversion – the phrase in v. 7 that says they corrupted themselves literally means that they were running to destruction. And Aaron did nothing to restrain them. As a result, they lost their position as God’s people. Look at chapter 32. All of a sudden, God stopped calling them “My people.” Now they were Moses’ people. But God did what He always does – He provided for them a second chance. You can’t tell me that the God of the Old Testament isn’t a God of grace. He most certainly is. The good news is that His grace is still poured out on all those who choose to repent and come to Him. And it doesn’t matter what your sin is. As long as you come to God on His terms, He will forgive and welcome every prodigal back. But we must make the choice.
If you would like to listen to the audio of this message, go to http://media.drbenhayes.net/?name=2017-05-15_051417am.mp3.
This week, as you can imagine, my mind has been focused on the subject of revival. For some reason, all of a sudden I began thinking about the number of people that I had seen revived physically. I have watched as CPR has been performed – some survived and some didn’t. I have seen people put on ventilators with heroic measures taken to revive them – some survived and some didn’t. I’ve heard countless stories of people who have been brought back to life after they have died. They were revived. And I began to think, what exactly happened to them? Most of them probably had a greater appreciation for life after such a dramatic episode, but their lives, most likely, kept right on with the same routine as before. And my thought was, “I don’t want that kind of revival.” Then it hit me: spiritual revival – at least the kind found in the Bible — isn’t about restoring life back to the old routines; it’s about bringing new life where there is no life. It’s about God breathing His breath into our spiritual lungs so that we can be the church He created us to be. We look at revival as something scary – or at least so supernatural that we cannot begin to comprehend it – when its purpose is to simply restore us back to normal. But let me make one thing perfectly clear: it is God’s normal and not ours.
So, what exactly should we expect if God chooses, in His Divine Sovereignty, to grant to us the desires of our hearts and send revival? Yes, hearts will be changed, families will be healed, and relationships will be restored, but what does that equate to in the church? What is the “new/old normal” that we will experience? As I compare what took place with the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai when God came down to meet with them and what will take place should God come down to meet with us, I came away with two conclusions: He will reveal the truth to our hearts, and He will transform our character to accomplish His purpose.
From the time that the Jewish people left Egypt up to this point in their history, they perceived God to be some kind of divine vending machine. They were hungry and cried out to God, so He sent them manna. They were thirsty and cried out again, and He gave them water from a rock. They were bored with what God had provided and cried out again, so He gave them quail. Have a need? Pull the lever and God took care of it. Sadly, I fear that the modern-day church has done the same. Commit a sin and need forgiveness? Go to God and ask (which is the right thing to do) but then go back to life as “normal” and do the same thing over again and ask for forgiveness again (which is the wrong thing to do). Have a need regardless of your relationship with Him? Ask Him to take care of it. Pull the lever and watch God provide. No true gratitude. No change of heart. Just keep pulling the lever.
But when God came down to Mt. Sinai, He revealed to the people the truth of Who He is, and He is much more than a divine vending machine. Add to that the fact that when He came down, in spite of their preparations, they realized who they were, and they were terrified to be in His presence. In fact, they told Moses that they wanted to go back to the “old normal” and let Him do all the talking with God. “Just report back to us what He says,” they demanded. Why? Because it’s too hard for many to allow God to change their hearts and lives in the midst of the encounter. Many Christians and other church-going people feel the same way. “Pastor, you meet with God and tell us what He says.” The only problem is that encounters with the pastor are not enough to change our lives – only a face to face meeting with Holy God can accomplish His purposes for us.
And just what is that purpose? Exactly what He told the children of Israel in Exodus 19:5, 6. He wants us to be transformed in such a way that we understand what it means to be His prized possession, a priestly presence, and a purified people. He wants us to understand that in this encounter, He will change our hearts and our lives in such a way that we will truly demonstrate to the world how much God loves us, and we will serve to bring men to God and God to men. Isn’t that what the church needs today?
For a more detailed presentation of this truth, listen to the message from which this blog was taken. You can find it at http://media.drbenhayes.net/?name=2017-05-01_043017am.mp3.
As I was preparing my message for this past Sunday, staying on track with our them of “Telling the Story” as well as preparing for our revival services, I realized something. As I was studying the passage in Exodus 19 where God is telling the people to prepare themselves for their encounter with Him, I thought to myself: “These people have been encountering God all along their journey through the wilderness. He had been leading them with the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. He had been giving them miracle after miracle to meet their needs and speaking to them through Moses. What is so different about this encounter?” That’s when it hit me. God wanted to meet with His people and speak to them like He met with Moses. Doesn’t it make sense? God has always wanted a close, intimate, personal relationship with His people. Think about the Garden of Eden and how God came down to walk with Adam and Eve. Think about his relationship with Noah and Abraham and now Moses. This is what I believe: God longs to meet with all of His people face-to-face on a regular basis, but very seldom are we prepared spiritually to do that. The people of Israel weren’t, so He gave them instructions on how to prepare themselves.
When you read the story, the instructions almost seem like God just plucked a few things out of the air to force them to jump through hoops to get ready. Wash your clothes. Put up a boundary. Abstain from sexual relationships. I mean, come on. “Can you get any more random than this,” some might say. But think about it. This is a big deal. Coming into the physical presence of a Holy God for the first time. Hearing His voice for themselves and not through a mediator. If nothing else, the threat of death for touching the mountain should have told them something. But here is what is going on. God wants the people to go through these outward actions as a symbol of their inward motivations – to understand that it is the heart that must be right as we come into the presence of God. How do we know our hearts are right with God? Absolute obedience to His commands. Anything less reveals that we have a heart issue.
So how do we prepare for an encounter with God in the 21st century? I believe using the principles that I see in the practices God gave to His people. The three actions lend themselves in some way to all three of these principles, so I will not try to delineate which goes with each one, but this is what we need to do:
Only when we are willing to come to God on His terms can we ever expect to experience His presence and His power – and we definitely need both in this 21st Century world. To listen to the message that this blog post comes from, click on this link.
Several months ago, we had a city-wide prayer gathering here in Decatur prior to the national elections. Actually, it was one of two city-wide prayer gatherings sponsored by our Morgan Baptist Association. My responsibility was to try to explain why we were gathered together to pray. It was not supposed to be a Baptist thing. Nor was it supposed to be a Republican thing. It was supposed to be a Christian thing. Believers pouring their hearts out to God asking Him to provide direction to our nation – to bring healing to a nation that has suffered for so long under the influence of the demonic that many cannot even tell the difference between right and wrong any longer. The Bible is clear: God pronounces judgment on those who call evil good and good evil. We must find our way back. We must right the ship. We must, once again, discover the moral compass that can only be provided by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will only indwell the children of God. As good Baptists, we believe that we receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, but we also believe that unconfessed sin in our lives quenches the power of the Spirit working through us and it interrupts the flow of our relationship with the Father. That is how we find ourselves in need of finding our way back to the moral compass, and sometimes the problem becomes so bad that we need something even greater. It’s what I spoke of on that morning at our prayer gathering. This is an enhanced version of my text:
My job this morning is to explain in just a few minutes why we are here. There is no better way to do that than to share God’s Word. We are here today because God has shut up the heavens and there is no rain. God has given the command and locusts are devouring our land. He has spoken and pestilence is raging. While we are experiencing drought in our part of the country, today I am referring to a drought of His Holy Spirit, and the locusts are the demons and dark forces that are stealing His Word from the hearts of even His people so that many have been deceived, and we are suffering from a pestilence of apathy that has turned to animosity towards all that is holy and righteous. And the result in 2016 (and now in 2017) is the same result as it was for Israel in 721 B.C. when Assyria swept in and swept them away into exile. The result is the same as it was for Judah in 587 B.C. when the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem and carried them away and again for Israel in 70 A.D. when the Romans came.
In the United States of America, because the church has turned its back on God, I truly believe that we are facing the hand of God’s judgment, and our only hope is the very prescription that God gave to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If my people – not the president or the congress or the Supreme Court, but His people – who are called by His name – those of us called Christians – will humble themselves – not wait for Him to humiliate us through discipline though I believe that is coming but will voluntarily humble ourselves – and pray – that’s what we are here for today, to pray – and seek My face – not the face of a pastor or a politician but the face of Holy God – and turn from our wicked ways – and this is the hard part because it requires that we admit that we are living lives of wickedness, that even those things that we call little sins must be confessed as sin against a holy God, repented of with all of our hearts, and turned from with all of our might and God’s help because only then, God says – only then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
This, my friends, is what we desperately need. This is what I am praying for in my life. This is what I am praying for in my church. This is what I am praying for in my nation. Would you join me in this prayer? And pray for us at Southside Baptist Church as we journey toward revival May 7-10 with Bro. Ed Lacy, Evangelist and Bro. Tommy Gray, Musician leading us.
Last week, we started on the road to revival. I shared with you four steps on that road that I believe that every Christian must take if they hope to experience the kind of awakening that we need as a church and as a nation. This week, I want to continue along the same path, so to speak, but with a little different emphasis. As we continue to look at the story of King Hezekiah, what do we see as the result of revival and can we glean from this story some of the signs that revival is necessary? But we must understand one very foundational truth. Revival does not come easily. 2 Chronicles 31:21 says that Hezekiah “sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” Revival is hard work.
In 2 Chronicles 30 we see that as a result of the revival, there was a renewed desire to follow God’s commands. That’s why in verses 1 and 2 Hezekiah decided it was time to renew the Passover Celebration. From their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites had been commanded to celebrate Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the first month of their year. For centuries they had done this, but the country had rejected God and His commands so greatly that for years they had not done this. In fact, many had forgotten the requirements for participation. One of the sure‑fire signs that revival is needed is when people start neglecting biblical principles. In a church, the people stop attending Sunday School and Discipleship Training. They stop reading their Bibles. Pretty soon they start missing prayer meeting. Not long after that, attendance on Sunday night is sporadic. Eventually, they begin to miss on Sunday morning until one day they wake up and realize they have fallen away from God.
In a country, people stop caring about their fellow man. They stop thinking about the Bible and its principles. They outlaw its reading in the public schools. Pretty soon they start legalizing the murder of babies. Before you know it, our children begin to be indoctrinated with godless principles, Satanic powers, and the forces of evil through the media and through the schools. Ultimately, without revival, the end is the complete outlawing of the church, of worship, and evangelism. My friend, unless we wake up, our nation will be destroyed for lack of revival. Revival calls us back to obedience of God’s commands. Then it causes us to seek out others and convince them to follow God’s commands. We call this evangelism or perhaps reclaiming our backslidden brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hezekiah was not satisfied with celebrating the feasts of God with only his family or his city. He sent out messengers from Dan to Beersheba, throughout all of Judah and into Israel. He didn’t care that the people of Israel hated the people of Judah. It didn’t matter that they were openly hostile to their Jewish kin and had been ever since the kingdoms had divided after the death of Solomon. He believed God wanted all of His chosen people to experience revival, so he went out to get them. He extended the invitation to everyone regardless of their nationality.
Listen, when revival comes, there is a renewed desire to reach out and bring others in. God’s people who have repented of their sin and recommitted themselves to God’s service, are endowed with a desire for and a power to reach out and bring others into their new life. Really, this is simply a part of following God’s commands. In a church, we are always supposed to be evangelizing, reaching out, ministering. But sometimes we stop. And to stop witnessing is to die. Revival brings renewal and life.
A sure sign that revival is needed is that artificial barriers are erected. For a church and a nation, revival means breaking down those barriers like race and economic status. It means forgetting the hostilities and tensions that keep us from reaching out to people who are not “like” us. It means people can love one another and work together, and when we are willing to do that, we make our church and our country a better place. Historically, revival brings a reduction in crime. It means an abundance of volunteer labor. It means a complete change in our society as education of our children and medical care for the elderly receives proper attention by our legislators because priorities get straightened out.
Don’t misunderstand. Hezekiah did not have a 100% success rate. In fact, only a small remnant from the Northern Kingdom responded positively. The majority laughed at the messengers. They ridiculed the invitation. Some people reject the proposition that serving God can make a difference. They have no hope. The sin in their lives has caused such moral depravity that they wouldn’t want to change things even if they thought it was possible. But when people become so entrenched in sin because of years of sinful activity, they can’t see a need for change. But even a handful of changed people can make a difference. Even a small group of dedicated men and women committed to the cause of Christ could change the direction of a church or a community or even a nation.
In the closing verses of 2 Chronicles 29, we see that renewed commitment to God and a restored connection with God evidences itself in renewed worship. It is the fourth step on the pathway to revival: the Rejoicing of Our Congregation. Look at what happened to God’s people:
But we have to understand that revival doesn’t begin in a place. It doesn’t begin with a ritual. It doesn’t begin because we follow a set of directions. It begins in your heart. It begins in your prayer closet all alone, but it culminates in exciting worship together as the community of Christ celebrating the victory that is ours.
Let me close this week’s blog, The Road to Revival, with the lyrics to Kari Jobe’s new song, Let Your Glory Fall. Make it your prayer today. Here is a link to listen to her sing the song: https://youtu.be/U7GXIODoeGc.
A longing stirs in my soul
Draws me near
Calls me close
Deeper into this love
That won’t run out
Won’t dry up
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let it rain
Only now will I come
Before your throne, holy one
By your thunderous grace
Spirit flood, come flood this place
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let it rain
Let your glory fall
Overwhelm my soul
Let your presence flood my life, oh lord
Deep is calling to deep
Revivals tide, breaking free
Jesus reign in this place
Thirsty we cry, heaven in vain
Let your glory fall
Overwhelm my soul
Let your presence flood my life, oh Lord
Break upon me now
Let your love crash down
Let your glory fall
Let your glory fall
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let rain
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let it rain
Our third step on the road to revival is the Restoration of Our Connection with God through a right relationship. Bahkt Singh, an evangelist in India, once told of a man who had come to his room for Bible Study. During the entire time, he sat staring at the electric light bulb that hung from an cord in the ceiling. He had never seen anything like it. After the meeting, the man requested to borrow the bulb. Bahkt Singh granted the request, but days later, the man returned, downcast, because the new bulb was worthless. Bahkt Singh went to investigate why the bulb would not light. The answer was obvious. The innocent man had taken the bulb and tied it with a piece of string to his ceiling. He had no electric power in his house. The bulb had no power supply. My friend, the light bulb for Christians is faith. God is the power supply. The problem is that our connection to the power supply is hindered because of our sin. As Christians, our salvation is secure; however, our fellowship is broken when there is unconfessed sin in our lives. Trying to serve God and do His will when we are living in the flesh is like trying to power a light bulb with a piece of string.
In 2 Chronicles 29:16, the priests went in as Hezekiah had ordered to cleanse the Temple. For 16 days, the Levites carried out the filth, the impurities that had polluted the sacred place. For sixteen days, they worked to cleanse the Temple and make it right before God. He knew that there was no hope to restore the connection with God as long as as the Temple was unused and unusable. If you hope to experience revival in your life, you are going to need to clean out the filth. Get honest with God. Ask Him to reveal to you the unconfessed sin in your life – but be prepared for Him to do what you ask. Then, as the Holy Spirit shows you the sin in your life and all that is opposed to God’s holiness, you must confess and repent each and every sin. Specifically. That means you agree with God that these actions and inactions are sin and must be forsaken. Only then is Cleansing initiated. All that is contrary to Christ, must be gotten rid of — no matter how long it takes. Take out the uncleanness found through self‑examination and prayer. Clean out the accumulation from years of neglect. Confess and renounce your sin. That means that you are making a commitment, with God’s help, never to commit that sin again. What a thrill it must be to the Father to hear His children say that they want to be holy as He is holy.
But beware. Sometimes God requires us to do more than just confess and repent of our sins. Sometimes we must go to those individuals that have been affected by our sins and ask for forgiveness. There may be times that God requires that we make restitution for our sin. Whatever the Holy Spirit asks of us, we must do or we risk quenching the Spirit, and quenching the Spirit will always stop the process of revival in its tracks. We must remember that disobedience always breaks the heart of God.
Sadly, too often Christians try hard to ignore sin in their lives. They hide it, push it down, and try to pretend it isn’t there. But it is. And it festers and boils until it explodes causing harm to them and very often the body of Christ. That is why it is imperative that while we are on this road to revival that we open our lives to God and allow His Holy Spirit to make us clean. Anger, bitterness, hostility, hatred – all of these sinful behaviors must be done away with. Impure thoughts must be confessed and cleansed. Broken relationships must be healed. Old wounds must be forgiven before personal revival can begin. My friend, when we do these things, revival is on the way. Revival for you, for me, for our church, for our world.
The second step on the road to revival is the Renewal of Our Commitment. In 2 Chronicles 29:10, Hezekiah said, “I intend to make a covenant with the Lord.” Understand, making a covenant, or a commitment, is not a bargaining process. Hezekiah wasn’t saying, “now God if you will remove our problems, we will clean up the Temple and start serving you again.” Listen, we cannot expect God to forgive us and deliver us until we learn that our commitment is imperative in this process. We must make a commitment. Hezekiah said, “I will make a covenant with God and then He will turn His wrath from us.” Lest you misunderstand, we don’t make a commitment to God to avoid punishment. Many people think they can walk the aisle and be baptized so they won’t go to hell. My friend, that isn’t commitment. That is wishful thinking. Neither is promising God something in order that He will do something for you. That is trying to strike a bargain. The only commitment that God honors is that which begins with a desire to be rightly related to Him, and to be rightly related to Him means coming on His conditions.
What we desperately need is what the prophet Jeremiah called for in Lamentations 5:21. “Turn us back to you, O Lord, and we will be restored; renew our days as of old.” Jeremiah was talking about personal renewal – turning back to God. That kind of renewal begins with the mind. The apostle Paul said, “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal (by the renovation) of your mind” (Romans 12:1, 2). The word “renewal” comes from the root word for “restore.” It speaks of “renovation.” It’s all about tearing out the old and replacing it with the new. The new mind that replaces the old mind is the mind of Christ that takes us from being at total enmity with God – completely separated from Him – to being at total peace with Him. And my friend, you cannot know true peace until you know God’s peace. But that takes a total commitment to be rightly related to Him.
When you pray, what do you pray for? Do you pray as a child before bedtime that God will care for you through the night? What about your waking hours? Do you talk to him about what you have done with the day He has given you? Do you go over your life with Him? Do you let His full light shine over your life, illuminating not only your faithfulness but also your failures? This is where our failure to experience revival begins ‑‑ lack of prayer. Lack of laying out our lives before God, lack of giving praise to God for what He has done, lack of asking guidance in our lives and submission to His will. Without prayer, we cannot experience revival because without prayer, we cannot be rightly related to God.
King David said in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” The King James Version says, “renew a right spirit.” That was King David’s desire. He had always been a man after God’s own heart. He wanted to always be faithful to God and to His ways. But one day, as he took a little break from his kingly duties, he saw a beautiful young woman named Bathsheba, and he lusted after her. Not only was lusting after her a major sin, but also, Bathsheba was a married woman. However, that’s no problem when you are the king. At least, that is what David thought. He took her anyway, and soon she became pregnant. You see, the old saying is true. Be sure your sins will find you out. Again, David thought, no problem. He tried to cover his sin with trickery, but it did not work. Then came deception, but it did not work. Finally, he resorted to murder only to find out that God knew what he had done, and nothing else mattered. That’s when the powerful hand of God’s conviction came upon King David, and in repentance he cried out, “Have mercy on me, O God.” You see, as a child of God, you cannot be happy living in sin. He confessed his sin to God. He asked for cleansing, and just as the Bible promises in 1 John 1:8, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But what we need is a commitment to turn back to God. The problem is that this is something that we cannot do on our own. For King David, it took a confrontation by Nathan the prophet. Even then he had to pray for God to create in him a clean heart and to renew in him a right spirit because there are some things that only God can do. Creating life, both physical and spiritual, fall into that category. Sin has so destroyed us that only God can fix us, and the way that He does that is to create in us a clean heart. So, today would you begin this second step on the road to revival by asking God to create in you a clean heart and to renew within you a right spirit today?
Over the next few weeks, I am going to take a break from what I have been doing with my blog to examine the Scripture in preparation for our revival services at Southside Baptist Church. My hope is that we will have more than just a few services from which we will walk away saying we had revival services. My prayer is that God will do a mighty work in our hearts and lives, but for that to happen, we must prepare ourselves. So, I want to begin by looking at several chapters in the book of 2 Chronicles that deal with one of the greatest national revivals in the history of God’s people. We talk a great deal about wanting revival and about needing revival. But I knew a lady who once said that she feared to pray for a great awakening because in the Bible, national revival seems to be a prelude for coming judgment. There is evidence to support her belief, but isn’t it better to have revival followed by judgment than to have judgment without revival preparation? That is why we are going to look at what we must do as a church, as individuals, and as a nation to experience revival. I want us to be ready.
People often pray for a willingness to do whatever it takes for revival to begin in themselves. What does that really mean when you pray those words? Are you saying, “Lord, strike me down in some sort of way; Lord, give me a vivid emotional experience so that I may feel wonderfully exalted and worked up; and by this know I am being revived?” If so, what you are praying for is emotionalism, not revival. Listen, if revival is going to begin in me, if it is going to begin in you, it is going to begin with a Recognition of Our Condition. That is the first step on the pathway to revival. (Note that I am making an assumption here. There can be no revival unless you are first of all born again. Unless there has been a true conversion experience at some point in your life, you cannot be revived, so please take care to be sure that you are first saved as you look to recognize your condition.) Recognition requires a self‑examination in the presence of God; only that is going to lead us to look back over our lives, to examine ourselves and honestly answer some questions in the presence of God: “Have I really been living a yielded life? Have I been living so that my life has been a testimony for Christ?” And then, if revival is going to begin, if the Holy Spirit shows you that you are not living as you should, there must be a brokenness, contrition, repentance, and confession. In other words, for revival to begin, we must get down before the Lord to confess our failures and put right things that have been wrong.
These are the lessons we learn from 2 Chronicles 29:1-36. Ahaz, one of the more wicked kings in Judah, had defiled the sacred furnishings and closed the Temple in Jerusalem. The people no longer met for worship. Grass grew up in the courtyard. The Temple literally was falling apart. Listen, my friends, when God’s people stop worshiping properly, they stop praying properly. When people stop praying properly, their hearts and lives become as polluted and defiled as the temple was. Sin takes over when no confession is made. Our relationship with God and with one another is damaged. It doesn’t take long before we revert back to our natural selves: without Christ’s presence, carnal, lonely and miserable. When that happens, the only solution is a re-commitment and renewal of worship. Only then can prayers rise again. Only then can we feel the lines of communication open and experience the presence and power of God in our lives.
Look at what Hezekiah did when he became King. He went to the temple and saw its condition. He saw the disrepair. He saw the filth and the trash that had accumulated over the years. And when He did, he knew how it happened. He looked back over the years and saw what evil his fathers had done. He examined the history and saw that those before him had forsaken God. They had closed the doors and put out the lamps. They stopped bringing their offerings to the altar of sacrifice. And God’s anger had come upon them. Many had faced God’s wrath and been destroyed. Hezekiah realized that the first step in the pathway to revival is recognition of our condition. My friends, in this process, contemplation is vital. I love the word contemplation. It means “concentration on spiritual things as a form of private devotion.”
The New Testament says that our body is the Temple of God. We need to do today as Hezekiah did. We need this concentration on spiritual things; we need to examine our Temple, our lives. We need to think back over our actions in the past. Too many Christians have closed the doors of prayer in their hearts. The lamps of testimony are unlit. Our offerings of self‑sacrifice have been neglected. The result is that the temple of our hearts has grown cold and hard. The result is that we have no joy. We cannot sing praise to God. There is no delight in Him or in His service. If that is your situation, then your temple needs renovation. Your heart requires a thorough cleansing. But you will never know this until you examine your life. Contemplation is vital.
Think back over your actions of the past week, the past month, the past year. Imagine that if at any time during this period the Lord Jesus had physically come to you, saw anything that you were doing, would you have been satisfied? The first step in the pathway to personal revival is self‑examination. So, spend some time today examining yourself through the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, but we must allow the Holy Spirit to shine the light of conviction into our lives so that we might confess and repent of our sins.
We live in a culture filled with people living in bondage. They are enslaved by their addictions. Enslaved by their fears. Enslaved by depression. Enslaved by their disease. Many are in prisons of their own making. But let me tell you something that is even scarier – a statistic that is so dramatic that it should take your breath away. According to the most accurate researcher known to man, 100% of humanity is born as a slave to his sin nature that dooms him to an eternity in hell. We are all without hope until we recognize this problem and turn to the only One who can break the chains that bind us. The good news is that He has the power to set us free from all the prisons that we find ourselves in.
There is a story in the Old Testament that illustrates this fact. It is the story of the Exodus found in Exodus 14. God’s people were slaves in Egypt, beaten and humbled into submission. They had cried out to God for deliverance, and God had sent Moses to lead them into the Promised Land. Pharaoh, knowing that his kingdom could not survive without his 2 million slaves and because he was a wicked king, refused to let them go until God had punished the Egyptian people severely. Every firstborn male, human and animal, that was unprotected by the blood of a perfect lamb died at the hand of God as He passed over the land of Egypt. With that judgment, Pharaoh sent God’s people away; and then He changed his mind – again. But we see in the story that it was all a part of God’s plan to ultimately deliver His people and judge a wicked kingdom.
Pharaoh sent them on their way, and the people gave them gold, silver, jewelry, precious garments, and all sorts of valuables as they were leaving just as God said that they would – sort of like payment for all of the work they had done as slaves for all of those years. But once they had gotten away, Pharaoh came to his senses and realized what he was letting go. Losing 2 million slaves was going to cripple the economy of the nation. They wouldn’t survive. His greed kicked in, and it overrode his grief and his common-sense. So one last time, the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he gathered his chariots and he began to pursue God’s people. And the people were afraid.
We can all understand this, can’t we? These were slaves that had been beaten down for many years. They weren’t military people. They had no weapons, and yet here was the world’s foremost military power coming after them. Sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter what you know, no matter what you have experienced in the past, your circumstances elicit fear. They were afraid. “Moses,” they said. “Weren’t there enough places in Egypt to bury us? Did you have to bring us out here in the wilderness to die?” Yes, just like last week’s story, they were doubting and pouting, but let’s be fair – there aren’t many of us who wouldn’t have been doing the exact same thing. But let me ramp up the pressure just a little bit. When you go back to the beginning of chapter 14, do you know what you find? God put all of this into motion. They could have been home free. They could have escaped another way. God could have delivered them without any problems, but He turned them around and set it all up. Do you know what this means? Sometimes the circumstances that we fear are created by the father.
We don’t like to think about things like this, but God does it all the time in order to accomplish His purposes. And in this case, He’s accomplishing two things: He is judging the wicked King of Egypt, and He is proving that He is the Sovereign Lord. You see, sometimes the lost world needs to see that God is in control. And sometimes God’s people need to be reminded as well that in the midst of the storm that He is in control.
But here’s the thing. While sometimes God causes these things to happen, and He did in this particular circumstance, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that sometimes the circumstances that elicit fear are caused by our failures. In fact, the majority of the time that we find ourselves in these circumstances, we have to admit that they are of our own making, so let’s be careful not to blame God. We can’t blame God for our addictions. We can’t blame God for our sins. God doesn’t tempt us. So the first thing you must do when you find yourself in a bad situation — when the storms of life are raging and you are scared to death and aren’t sure where to turn – the first thing to do is to find out if it is one of those times or not. Because if it’s your doing, you may need to make some changes in your life. You may need to do some repenting. But either way, your first step is to start praying and let God show you what He wants you to do.
Remember that through all of the circumstances of your life, God has a plan, and that plan, Child of God, is to prosper you and not to harm you. Paul tells us that all things “work together” for our good. John says that “we are more than conquerors.” Think about all of the promises in God’s Word. None of them say that life is going to be easy, but they do promise us that if we BELIEVE, God will break our chains and He will deliver us.
To hear this message, go to https://tinyurl.com/lwoxz97.