While we are concerned with terrorism, and rightly so, there is a greater threat from within. We are witnessing the rapid deterioration of a nation before our eyes. We have become one nation “above” God, rather than under God. “While truth and law were founded on the God of all creation, man now, through law, denies the truth and calls it ‘separation’. No longer does man see a need for God when he’s in full control, for the only truth self-evident is in the latest poll. But with man as his own master we fail to count the cost, our precious freedoms vanish and our liberty is lost. Children are told they can’t pray in school and they teach them evolution, when will they see the fear of God is the only true solution?” (Roy Moore, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama).
Don’t lose hope. An exciting resurgence is happening in our nation. I recently had the privilege of speaking to some Congressional staffers in Washington D.C. The message was from 2 Chronicles 7:14, “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.”
God’s call is not to Hollywood, Washington, or the media, but to us. If “My people” turn back to Me I will heal and restore. Four things are required:
1. IF MY PEOPLE HUMBLE THEMSELVES: The process of restoration must begin with humility. “Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you” (Andrew Murray). The amount of pride in the church is astonishing. An American Idol mentality exists within our walls as millions crave center stage attention. The church often reflects the character of Hollywood rather than the character of Christ.
If we are to see a genuine move of God (which is our only hope) then we must humble ourselves and confess our pride…confess our sins. Pride is the soil in which all other sins grow. Please don’t misunderstand, I have not mastered this area. I’m a prideful person working on humility on a daily basis. All of us must repent of pride and return to God with a broken, teachable heart if we are to experience healing in our land.
2. IF MY PEOPLE PRAY: Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13). When was the last time a church dedicated as much time to prayer as to preaching? When was the last time we spent more time in prayer then with social media?
Prayer is the life source for faith; the building block of the soul. “When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live” (E.M. Bounds). When God brings healing and revival, prayer has been the catalyst. Martin Luther prayed and the church was reformed. When John Knox prayed Scotland was revived. When John Wesley prayed America was restored. When George Whitefield prayed nations were changed. When D.L. Moody prayed America fell to her knees. When Amy Carmichael prayed India received the gospel. And so it goes…beginning with the disciples who prayed in an upper room 2000 years ago. When you pray, you move the hand of God. The dry, dead lethargic condition of the church simply reflects an impotent prayer life.
God is not too busy; He’s not on vacation; He’s not sleeping…He is an ever present help in time of need. You can call out to Him in the deep of the night, or in the midst of the storm. He hears the prayers of His children, but we must once again cultivate a life of prayer.
While 5-minute devotionals and prayers are good, they aren’t going to cut it in these dire times. We need powerful times of prayer, devotion, and worship. “Without the heartbeat of prayer, the body of Christ will resemble a corpse. The church is dying on her feet because she is not living on her knees” (Al Whittinghill).
Prayerlessness in the pulpit leads to apostasy and dead sermons. Prayerlessness in the pew leads to shattered lives and depression. Prayerlessness in men leads to the breakdown of the family. Prayerlessness in Washington leads to the breakdown of society.
3. IF MY PEOPLE SEEK: We have a form of microwave Christianity. Service times are cut to just over an hour, prayer is glanced over, and worship is designed to entertain the masses. “People are bored,” they say, “so our services need to be more appealing.”
Church is boring because the power of God has vanished from many congregations…there is a lack of desire to pursue Him in the pulpit as well as in the pew. Like Samson, they “know not that the Spirit of the Lord has departed” (cf. Judge 16:20). But there is hope. We can once again position ourselves to seek God – “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
To seek in this context means to “find what is missing.” The Hebrew word for seek, baqash, has a very strong meaning. Imagine losing your child in a crowded mall. Your entire heart would be engaged. How would you spend your time? Where would your energy be concentrated? Now parallel this with seeking God.
In hindsight, remember when…
- …the church sought God in an upper room for days until fire fell.
- …we were not in a hurry and extended worship services drove us to our knees, now they’re “too radical…too emotional.” We’ve got church services down to a few songs, announcements, and a tantalizing message designed not to convict.
- …seeking God through prayer drove the church. Now methods, marketing programs, and potlucks lead the way.
- …prayer and seeking God were assets and excessive media was a liability. That’s been reversed.
- …when people were excited about seeking God rather than making excuses as to why they can’t attend church.
4. IF MY PEOPLE TURN FROM WICKEDNESS: We can humble ourselves, pray, and seek His face, but all this will fall on deaf ears unless we turn from our wicked ways. “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).
We must turn from our rebellion, including idols that have diverted our passion for Christ. He came that we might be free from the bondage of sin, not continue in it. Surely we understand that we cannot flaunt sin in the face of God without consequence.
Facebook is filled with jealousy and envy; a competitive spirit permeates our lives. Self indulgence is rampant in the church. Sexual sin has reached an epidemic. Some churches allow unrepentant porn stars to speak from the platform in attempt to reach the culture. The pulpit is to be sacred not secular. And we wonder why the American church has drifted off course…why we’re not experiencing powerful moves of God? Most churches resemble a social gathering rather than a powerful worship service.
The truth is that we have “perverted the words of the living God” (Jeremiah 23:36) by not warning and challenging people to turn from their sin. Pastors, as the church falls deeper into self-reliance and further from reliance on God, our need for bold leadership has never been greater.
Life changing sermons must come from a man whose life has been changed by God. Change will only occur in America when there is a strong conviction of sin and sincere repentance—may God grant us the wisdom and strength to proclaim these truths.
We must stop confusing God’s patience with His approval and preach with conviction from the pulpits again. God help us, and our children, if we do not take seriously His call to return. Repentance is our only hope.
Watch the short clip, If My People…, here: http://vimeo.com/104158091
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. He just released his 7th book, Desperate for More of God. Shane’s sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at www.WCFAV.org. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/confusedchurch.