Text: 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."
"Does America need healing?" If this question were posed, there would be little difference in the answer regardless of the respondent. You know what the answer is. There are 280 million of us now living in the USA and our profile speaks loudly.
America needs healing! Regardless of the index used, there is abundant evidence that the assessment is correct.
There are shocking demographics which, when cited, grab our attention. Let me name a few of them:
1. One of five Americans need professional help because of emotional problems.
2. One of three babies are born to an unwed mother.
3. Three abortions a minute.
4. One of four homes with children are headed by a single parent.
5. Eight of 100 young people attempt suicide each year--one every ninety minutes.
6. Divorce rate is 60% although 2.6 million live together unmarried.
7. 22.6 million problem drinkers, as many as the population of the New York City area--not counting drug problems.
8. One violent crime every twenty-four seconds.
9. One property crime every three seconds.
10. One rape every five minutes.
11. One murder every twenty-eight minutes.
12. Three children die daily from abuse and neglect.
13. Over one million in federal and state prisons.
14. One million runaways on streets.
15. As many as three million homeless.
16. 158,000 babies born in 1991 addicted to crack cocaine.
17. Three vehicles stolen a minute.
We need healing. There are fractured people and fractured families all around. Adults, young people, children. We are in trouble in America. You know it and I know it.
My subject today is "The Healing of a Nation." In the text, there is indication that healing is possible for a nation. God has a special message for a special people. We want to master the text.
"My people called by My name"
To whom is God speaking? You will notice that the text is directed toward a particular group of people--those whom God calls "My people." Anyone who knows Biblical history could easily settle for Israel as the ones to whom He directed the message exclusively. God choose Israel, not because of any inherent qualities on their part which would merit His favor, but to be able to use them to bring the world to Himself. There is a qualifier on the designee of His message which is important. He speaks to His people, then adds "called by My name." God's people have not always been called by His name.
You will remember in the early days of Christianity that believers were told to carry the Gospel--which is defined as the good news of the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)--to every person. In order to do this, He instructed them to go into all the world. Early Jewish believers in Jerusalem did not readily obey His command. Rather, they stayed in Jerusalem UNTIL PERSECUTION came. It was then that many, other than the apostles, began to spread across the Roman empire.
Some of the people of the Way, as they were often called, settled in Antioch, Syria, a large city of 300,000 to 500,000 people. The Church at Antioch was constituted. This church began to take seriously the injunction to carry this Gospel all over the world to every person. This was the church that sent out the first missionaries, Paul and Barnabas. But something else happened in Antioch that is memorable.
The believers received a new name--Christians (Acts 11:26).Since those early days in Antioch, those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior have been called by His name--Christians.
God directs His remarks long ago to His people called by His name. The only ones, today, who fit this designation are Christians. He is not talking to unsaved people; He is talking to Christians. A Christian is one who has placed trust and faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross to pay for his sins. He is one who made a decision to respond to this grace--the unmerited favor which God has given and the opposite of works.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boost," A Christian is one who has exercised faith in Jesus. Faith does not save a person; rather, faith gets the person to Jesus and He saves. So, have you been to Jesus? Have you put your trust and faith in Him? That is how you come. It is as simple as your taking your feet off the floor and holding them out in front of you. Rest your whole weight on the chair. You have exercised faith by resting your weight on the chair. You trusted the chair.
In the same sense, this is what you have done when you came to Jesus--you trust Him totally for your salvation.
That is how you come.
Several things happen when you come to Jesus. When a person comes to Christ in child-like faith, he is born into the family of God (John 1:12-13). At that time, the Holy Spirit places him into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and indwells him to provide the power needed to live for Christ and to witness. His name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. He passes from death to life. When he dies, he is going to Heaven, not Hell. All these things happened because you have trusted Jesus as Savior.
Isn't it amazing that centuries before believers were called Christians that God would look down and say, "My people called by My name" in the statement which is our text today? So, God is talking to believers, not lost persons. The reason He is not talking to unsaved persons is because they are "dead" (Ephesians 2:5). It is not reasonable to expect a dead person to show interest! The healing of a nation is in the hands of believers.
A simple text to master.
I want you to place this text on the screen of your mind and do a little work on it. I want you to circle two words in the text. Circle "if" and circle "then." These two words are connected. Draw a line between these two words to prepare yourself to understand what God is saying. This is a simple construction. There could not be anything plainer. God says, "If you do this"--and then clearly lists what He wants His children to do--"then I will do this"--and states what He will do with the climax being "I will heal their land." "If , , , then" is easy to understand, isn't it? Surely, those concerned about their land will pay close and strict attention to this text and determine to obey fully and completely what He said to do.
Under "if," there are four things His children called by His name are to do. It is important that we understand fully each of them separately and then as a whole. Be assured that God is ready to do what He said He would do when we come in complete obedience with Him.
The beginning point is "humble," a word which you and I need to comprehend. The word simply means dependence on God, not self. This is a difficult position for any of us because we tend to depend on other factors than God only. We depend on our intellectual or physical strength. We depend on our education or our employment. We depend on family members or our friends. But God wants us, above all, to depend on Him.
If I could teach you what this word means to the point you would begin to incorporate the definition in your praying as you come boldly (Hebrews 4:16), it would revolutionize your prayer life. The word "pray" is the word "ask" when you want God's hand to move, or you want Him to do something. This is a word with narrow parameters in which we must function if we are to obey His directive.
When we think of prayer, we think of five elements which constitute our communication with God. There is adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession. The word used here is not adoration, which is seeking His face and the third thing God wants us to do. Do you see any difference in seeking His hand and His face? There is a vast difference.
When you want God's hand to move and God to do something, there are two directions for your praying--for self and for others. When you ask God to do something for you, the word is petition, which comes from the Greek word deomai. This word is used when one person asks someone else to do something for him. Either God or man could be the recipient of the request. You and I need to ask God to do things in our lives.
The other direction for praying is toward others. The word is intercession, from two Latin words, which, when joined together, means "a go between." An intercessor is one who stands between God and someone else or some circumstance. The sovereign God has ordained prayer as the tool to get His work done. God works only in concert with the praying of His people. Prayer not only prepares us to do His work, it is the work which must be done before any other work for the Lord is done if there is to be success.
Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit join us when we begin to pray because they know the Father moves only in concert with the praying of His people.
Seek My face.
There is a difference in seeking His hand and His face. When you and I seek His face, we go before Him just to be with Him and not ask Him to do anything. There is a reason why it is important for us to come before Him with praise and worship. It is important, first, to understand that adoration does not change God. Matthew Henry noted that we cannot add to "God's perfections." That is true. God will never be any greater than He is and our worship does not add to Him at all. Adoration changes us. When we begin to praise and worship, we are changed and want to love Him more dearly and walk with Him more closely.
Turn from sin.
Remember, God is speaking to His children, not unsaved people. Do you find it strange that sin enters the equation?
Do Christians have problems with sin? There is not one of us who does not understand the necessity of Christians dealing with sin in their lives.
It will be helpful to understand sin in a Christian's life. There are two aspects. First, God says: "There are some things I do not want in the lives of My children." What am I doing that God does not want me to do? Then, God says, "There are some things I want in the lives of all My children." What am I not doing that God wants me to do? Doing forbidden things and failing to do expected things--this is sin for a Christian.
Until the Christian confesses and forsakes known sin in his life, he cannot pray for the healing of his nation. The Word is plain: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18). "God's hand is not short that He cannot save. Neither is His ear heavy that He cannot hear, But your iniquities have separated between you and your God and your sins have hid His face from you so that He cannot hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2). A person who wants to pray for America must confess and forsake sin if God is to hear his requests.
In order to know what sins are in your life, my suggestion is to get off to yourself with a piece of paper and a pencil in hand. Ask God to show you what sins are in your life and write them down. David gave us a model to follow when he pled: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24). You will soon become aware of specific sins of commission and omission which you need to write on your paper.
Becoming conscious of sin is known as conviction--and is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 18:6-11) who applies the Word of God as a mirror to let us see ourselves as God sees us. This is the beginning point in getting on praying ground.
Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit, but what comes next is our job and that is repentance. Once you know there is a sin, you must repent which is to change your mind about the sin. Unless repentance occurs, there is no possibility to experience cleansing.
Once you know there is a sin in your life and have changed your mind about it, you are ready to confess before God your sin. Confession is to say the same thing about your sin that God has said in agreement. Confession must be specific, not general. The sin you became conscious of through the Holy Spirit and which was the focus of your repentance must now be confessed. If you do not deal with specific sins and try to do it by wrapping all your sins in a bundle to present to God, you have simply run the lawn mower over the weed. The root is still there and the weed will come out again. The only way to get the root out is through biblical confession.
Forgiveness and cleansing.
Following confession is forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). The very moment you confess your sins, your record sheet in the ledger which contained them is now clean.
Change of direction.
Following conviction, repentance, confession, cleansing and forgiveness is a change of direction.
In the Scripture, Spirit-filled does not mean "more of" or quantity. Rather, it means "control." The analogy of a drunk man is used for Spirit-filled ( Ephesians 5:18). As a drunk man is controlled and influence by the drink that is in him--as is manifested in changed talk and changed walk--we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit who is in us. We have a problem today. Most Christians are carnal Christians--which means self is in control, not the Holy Spirit. If you show me 100 Christians (and I mean those who have received Jesus as personal Savior by an act of faith and commitment, not simply nominal Christians), I will show you at least ninety-five carnal Christians. There are two reasons Christians are carnal. First, most Christians have no idea how to get clean; second, most Christians today have no idea what Spirit-filled means or how to be filled with the Spirit.