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Revival Follows Repentance

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Repentance, Then Revival

2 Chronicles 7:14

April 29, 2007

Early in January, I preached on today’s key verse, 2 Chronicles 7:14. It was the second message in our prayer series. Perhaps you remember it. It related repentance to prayer. Today I will relate repentance to revival.

Let’s look at our key verse right now: 2 Chronicles 7:14 : “if My people who are called by My name will 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.”

Hal Hopkins, an itinerant house painter, offered his services a low prices, Unfortunately, Hal had the nasty habit of thinning the paint with water to insure some margin of profit.

One day he was painting the steeple high atop a church. He thinned down the paint even more than usual fro this job. “After all,” he said to himself, “nobody can really see the steeple from way down there on the ground.” So he started painting with a solution that barely covered the wood. Just as he was finishing, the sky clouded over and a gale storm began to blow. The rain and wind beat against the painter and washed the paint off the steeple. Hopkins looked at the now-unpainted steeple, and cried out, “What will I do now?”

From the clouds, a deep voice replied, “Repaint and thin no more!”

John Piper says, “The cost of food in the kingdom is hunger for the bread of heaven, instead of the white bread of the world. Do you want it? Are you hungry? Or are you satisfied with yourself and your television and your computer and your job and your family?”

A mother I heard of has a different way of asking the question [“How was your day?”. As she tucks her children into bed each night … she asks them the question: “Where did you meet God today?” And they tell her, one by one: a teacher helped me, there was a homeless person in the park, I saw a tree with lots of flowers in it. She tells them where she met God, too. Before the children drop off to sleep, the stuff of this day has become the substance of their prayer.

Brothers and sisters I submit to you that this is the way we need to feel about God. Do you seek God with all your heart? Do you want to be near him all the time? Are you hungry for the bread of heaven? Have you met God today?

If you want to be close to God, if you want God to draw near to you, and I trust you do, there is something you have to remember. Please turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 57:15 and follow along as I read. “For this is what the high and lofty One says--he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
"I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who is contrite
and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the
contrite.”

God tells us that he dwells high and exalted, but he will also dwell in the hearts of those who are humbled and contrite over their sin. If you and I have a flippant attitude about sin, God will remain distant. If you and I do not grieve over and confess our sin, God will remain distant. If you and I make excuses for our sin and willfully engage in sinful acts, God will remain distant. You will be like the painter who thinned his paint.

Why is repentance essential to a spiritual life, a revived life? 

Luke 3:7-8 says this: “So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
"Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.

 

What is Jesus saying about repentance?

Firstly, repentance opens the way for relationship with God. Repentance has two sides—turning away from sins and turning toward God. To be truly repentant, we must do both. We can’t just say that we believe and then live any way we choose; neither can we simply live a morally correct life without a personal relationship with God, because that cannot bring forgiveness from sin. Determine to rid your life of any sins God points out, and put your trust in him alone to guide you. Then, and only then, can you have a relationship with God.

Secondly, repentance demonstrates real faith. Confession of sins and a changed life are inseparable. Faith without deeds is dead says James 2. Jesus’ harshest words were to the respectable religious leaders who lacked the desire for real change. They wanted to be known as religious authorities, but they didn’t want to change their hearts and minds. Thus their lives were unproductive. Repentance must be tied to action, or it isn’t real. Following Jesus means more than saying the right words; it means acting on what he says.

What did John the Baptist say in Matthew 3?
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Thirdly, repentance makes inward change a visible reality. When you wash dirty hands, the results are immediately visible. But repentance happens inside with a cleansing that isn’t seen right away. So John used a symbolic action that people could see: baptism. The Jews used baptism to initiate converts, so John’s audience was familiar with the rite. Here, baptism was used as a sign of repentance and forgiveness. Repent means “to turn,” implying a change in behavior. It is turning from sin and toward God – an inner washing. My first question is this. Have you repented of sin in your life? But my second question is far more important. Can others see the difference it makes in you? A changed life with new and different behavior makes your repentance real and visible.

John 12:10-11 says: “.But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus”. They could see the outward cleansing of Lazarus which followed the inner washing of repentance.

Fourthly, repentance breaks our bondage to sin. The chief priests’ blindness and hardness of heart caused them to sink ever deeper into sin. They rejected the Messiah and planned to kill him, and then plotted to murder Lazarus as well. One sin leads to another. From the Jewish leaders’ point of view, they could accuse Jesus of blasphemy because he claimed equality with God. But Lazarus had done nothing of the kind. They wanted Lazarus dead simply because he was a living witness to Jesus’ inner cleansing. This is a warning to us to avoid sin. Sin leads to more sin, and this downward spiral can be stopped only by repentance and the power of the Holy Spirit to change behavior


You know God is not going to be near you as long as you harbor sin in your heart. In the Psalms we read this prayer, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Ps. 66:18, NIV).

The truth that God revealed through Isaiah the Prophet is still true:  Isa. 59:1 “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.”

Spiritual revival, personal spiritual renewal cannot take place in the absence of repentance. Revival follows repentance. God, says, “I am holy. I dwell in a high and exalted place, and I want to look down and see you lowly in spirit and contrite in your heart because of the sin you have committed against me.”

And we’ve all done it. We have all sinned against the Lord. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” the Bible says in Romans 3:23). And that sin brings separation. It brings judgment. And this is not what God wants for any of his children. He doesn’t want to be separated from you. He does not want to condemn you. That’s why he promised Solomon, “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, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:14).

This is something that Solomon’s father David experienced in his life. David was called by God. David loved the Lord and sought his will. But after God blessed him with peace and established his rule in Jerusalem. David let his heart wander from the Lord. He committed adultery with Bathsheba. This was a grievous sin in God’s sight. David sunk so low as to sinfully scheme and deceive to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba. Ultimately David arranged  Bathsheba’s husband’s murder and then took her to be his wife in hopes that they would not be exposed.

As a result of this willful sin, God removed his blessing from David. David learned the misery of life when God is distant. David felt the burden of God’s judgment. David found himself in need of spiritual revival. He repented and God blessed him with renewal. This is what Psalm 32 bears witness to:

”Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer. Selah
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD"--
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin. Selah”


II. PERSONAL APPLICATION
How about you? Do you need a spirit of revival and renewal in your relationship with the Lord? Maybe like David, you started out loving him with all your heart. There was a time when you were devoted, but you’ve drifted. You feel God is distant. The only thing that stands between you and renewal is repentance. Listen to both the warning and promise of Proverbs 28:13, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy”

If we are going to experience a year of renewal, if we would have spiritual revival, if we want to have times of refreshing come to us, if we would experience a restoration of joy in our salvation, then we must get serious about turning from our wicked ways and praying and seeking God’s face through repentance.

I’m not talking about reaching perfection. It is unrealistic to think we can keep from sinning. But what I am talking about is the sin you know you have committed. The sin you have swept under the rug and concealed. I’m talking about that defilement you have in your conscience. I’m speaking about that sin you have committed or may be ongoing in your life that you are aware of but are not turning from.

I’m here to tell you that it is not enough to claim you are a Christian. It is not enough to point back to a conversion experience or a childhood baptism. God says, “If MY PEOPLE who are CALLED BY MY NAME will pray and seek my face and turn from THEIR WICKED WAYS...”

A poor German girl announced that she was going to give a piano concert. In order to attract people to come, she mentioned in the advertisements that she was the student of the famous Hungarian professor, Franz Liszt. But it was a falsehood. To her dismay, she learned the professor was going to visit her town on the day before the concert. What should she do now? She went to meet him, confessed her guilt, and asked him to forgive her. The professor answered, “You made a mistake. All of us make mistakes. The only thing that you can do now is to repent; and I believe that you have already repented. Sit down and play.” At the beginning, she played with much fear. The professor corrected a few of her mistakes and said, “Now truly you can say that I taught you. Go ahead and play at your concert tomorrow evening, and the last piece will not be played by you, but by your teacher.” You are like this girl. You have sinned. There is nothing else you can do but repent. Then you will play the role of your life under the supervision of Christ Himself. The last and the best piece will be played by Him.


So the question this morning is what is the wicked way you have been traveling? What sin do you need to turn from right now. What sin do you have concealed right now. Is their sin cherished in your heart? I know our church has many godly people who love the Lord and strive to do his will. I know we have a lot of sincere folks doing their best, but I suspect there is sin concealed among some of you this very day that would make many of us blush.

Is the sin of greed present in you? Greed that has cause you to work and strive for more and more and to neglect your family. Greed that has driven you to gambling as a past time. Greed that has caused you to engage in unethical business practices and/or tax evasion.

Is there the sin of infidelity in any of our married members? How long has it been going on. Maybe it was just one time. Maybe it has been going on for years.

Is there the sin of dishonesty in relationships? How many children who have confessed Christ have been lying to their parents? How many husbands and wives have been dealing dishonestly with each other?

Is there the sin of promiscuity in relationships? How many have fallen into this trap? Do you try to bargain with God? Make a deal with God? Tell God you’re going to change.

Is there the sin of worldliness? Have you become so entangled in what the world values? Have you become desensitized by all the materialism, profanity, sex and violence in our society?

Have you indulged in the sin of gossip and slander? You need to repent of the way you have slandered members of your church family. For others it’s the gossip and hateful slander you’ve spread about someone at school or work.

Is there the sin of neglect? Are there any who have turned a deaf ear to calls of service. Have you calloused your heart to the Spirit’s prompting to serve and share the gospel with those about you? Have you rationalized your neglect with excuses like, “No one has personally asked me to do anything?” Or “I’m just too busy this time; I’ll do it next time”? Or “I’m too old”? Or “I’m too young”? Or “I’m single”? Or “I’m divorced’?

What I’m going to ask you to do right now is admit and turn from any sin that you have been cherishing in your heart. I want you to make a commitment right now to pray and seek God’s face and turn from your wicked ways. Remember Proverbs 28:13  “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

God longs to be near you. God wants to bring renewal to you. God wants you to have peace and joy. God is full of mercy and compassion and if you will turn from your sin; He will hear. He will forgive. He will heal. This is a holy moment in which the Spirit of God is working and convicting. Will you open your heart right now and allow God’s Spirit to reveal your sin to you?

Confess that sin. Write it down. Wad it up and when you get home throw it away trusting in Jesus Christ to forgive you. Turn from that sin and God will come near to you once again. He’ll clothe you in garments of His righteousness and you’ll be able to eat the bread of heaven; you will meet God today.

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