2 Chronicles 5-8, Psalm 73
The Christian walk is a long one. We all like to think that we start at point A and we continue to grow, understand more, feel His presence stronger all the way to point B which is heaven, when we get to go home. But any of us who have walked this walk know that it is not as straightforward as this. Our walk tends to take many unexpected turns and twists often with dry periods when we don't understand why it seems like either God is not listening or we are not hearing. During these periods when we feel alone and apart from God we must remember that God is immutable, He never changes. So when we feel isolated it is time to reflect on how we have changed. Mistakenly, too often we like to make God an additive to the day that we have already decided on. When we pray we simply ask Him to help us along the path that we have chosen for ourselves. Rather than coming before the throne of God when we read and when we pray, we arrogantly invite God to visit us on our own thrones. The straight path requires a fundamental change. He is God, we are His children. He leads, we submit. When things seem to be confusing it's time to step back and reflect on how we have twisted this relationship. This does not mean we will not go through trials, but in a proper relationship we will grow both in good times and bad.
Solomon in this beautiful dialogue written in 2 Chronicles 6-7 understands this. Many mistakenly believe certain words and concepts are Christian concepts, but we see the heart of repentance so clearly in this passage given to the Jewish people. Notice Solomon's words in 6:26-27, "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants,...". Notice this is not a message of cheap grace, where those who sinned simply say, "I'm sorry" and confess. The second part was they needed to repent or turn from their previous ways. In 6:30, after a similar request by Solomon, he goes on to say, "then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men),". God doesn't want lip service, He desires our hearts. Giving the scenario which occurred 400 years later when the people of Judah were taken into captivity into Babylon, he says in 6:36-37, "When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin),...yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness';". We see in all these statements Solomon's recognition for a heart of repentance in order to restore our relationship with Him. We then hear from God in this dialogue, when our Father confirms for us how to be heard from Him and how to have our relationship restored in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "if My people who are called 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."
John the Baptist, whose purpose was to "Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight", came on the scene with a simple message in Matthew 3:2, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" After the temptation in the desert with Satan, Jesus began His earthly ministry, which is summed up in Matthew 4:17, "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." To repent means more than saying we're sorry, even more than turning from our sinful ways. In reality it means to change our minds. When we see ourselves in light of our fellow man our natural reaction is a half-hearted confession since comparing ourselves to others we feel we are actually pretty good and certainly better than most. When we see ourselves in comparison to an infinitely Holy God our natural reaction is repentance. We know longer see ourselves as pretty good but the sinners that we truly are. As Solomon said in 1 Chronicles 6:36, and Paul clearly stated in Romans 3:10, 12, "...There is none righteous, no, not one;...There is none who does good, no not one." John states it so clearly in 1 John 1:8-9, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Every morning we have the opportunity to start new again with a fresh start. Every morning we decide whether we are asking God to come before our throne or whether we are willing to come clean in the spirit of repentance and come before His throne in prayer and in His Word in submission. Our path for the rest of the day will be decided depending on which throne we initiate our walk. If we realize midday that we are off course, we should pull ourselves aside, repent, and restart our walk on the right path.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: