In the aftermath of the Ferguson, Missouri riots that spawned further riots in other cities, one of the men in my Wednesday morning accountability group asked, “What’s going to become of our nation?”
I looked around the circle of men and no one seemed to have a ready answer. Well, the prophet in me couldn’t stand it, and “His word within me became like burning embers, and I was weary of holding it in.” (Jeremiah 20:9) I said very politely and respectfully to the entire group, “If we don’t repent, both individually and collectively as the Church, then our so-called Christian nation will continue to spiral down into spiritual and moral decay.”
The initial questioner responded with a bit of indignation, “Why us? We’re not rioting in the streets and destroying property.”
I responded, “Because judgment always begins with the household of God. Why is this?” I then asked quickly again, “Why is this?” Then they were stymied. I informed them, “God doesn’t hold the pimps, the pushers, and the prostitutes responsible for the moral fabric of our nation. Who is supposed to be the salt and light of our culture?”
They dropped their heads a bit and answered, “We are.”
“Yes, exactly, we are! If the culture is decaying, God reaches first for the ones responsible, the Church. If the salt has lost its savor… “
They finished the sentence for me, “It is good for nothing but to be thrown into the street and to be trodden under foot by men.”
I explained, “That is why the Church has lost its influence and its prophetic voice in our society. It is no longer salty enough to preserve and purify the moral milieu of our society, so the Church is ridiculed and disrespected. “
My friends looked at me like owls in a tree and said, “What should we do?”
I smiled inwardly and said, “I was hoping you would ask that. What was Jesus’ first sermon?” They stared blankly. “It was repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Likewise, Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost was repent and be baptized. Later on, Paul encouraged all men everywhere to repent.” It is not just a New Testament concept. Isaiah said in chapter 30, verse 15, “In repentance and rest is your salvation.”
“So what does it mean to repent if this is so important in Scriptures? “ I asked the group.
They responded immediately, “To turn away from sin.”
I added, “…and to turn toward God in submission to His will. Jesus said, ‘There is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents.’” (Luke 3:8) I could tell one brother was not getting it.
He said, “Of what do we need to repent?”
I smiled inwardly and said, “I’m glad you asked. First, like Nehemiah we need to confess our national sins. We need to confess such sins as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, violence, illicit sexuality, etc. You say we don’t participate in these things. Oh, yes, we do! The abortion clinics tell us triumphantly that 30-50% of the cars that come into their parking lots have bumper stickers identifying them with some kind of church. They boast that if it weren’t for the churches they couldn’t stay open. Surveys of evangelical churches reveal that 50% of Christian men admit to an addiction to pornography. Thirty percent of Christian marriages end in divorce. The majority of them involve adultery or domestic violence. Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes, we need to repent of our failure to be salt and light in our culture. If the culture is rotten, we are at fault, and we must confess our culpability. Until we realize our responsibility, we won’t confess, repent, or keep forth fruit in keeping with repentance, such as working with those organizations that seek to minister to unwed mothers, the homeless, women caught in sex trafficking, drug addicts, etc. Second, we must confess our failure to change the culture as salt and light should. How do we change the culture? The same way we eat an elephant – one bite at a time. We change a culture one heart at a time. The church statisticians tell us it takes over 1,000 Christians one year’s time to produce one convert to Christianity. That tells me that some of us aren’t praying for their lost friends and aren’t sharing the gospel as we should. When was the last time you shared your testimony and explained the gospel start to finish with a lost friend or family member? So of what do we need to repent? I suggest that we should repent of a lack of evangelistic zeal, no real burden for lost people, and no seed planting. I say, repent! We will never change America except for one heart at a time by you and me opening our mouths and telling the Good News. Third, repent of personal and private sin in our hearts that are just between us and God. Everybody has sin, but I’m talking about ‘besetting sin’. This is the sin that we coddle, nurture, protect, and refuse to give up. This sin stands between us and God and short circuits Holy Spirit’s power in our lives. This is the sin that hinders our walk with God and our prayer life. What is it in your life – anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, lust, an unbridled tongue, covetousness, jealousy, pride? You pick your poison. Whatever it is, ‘repent and turn again that your sin may be wiped out, and times of refreshing will come from the hand of the Lord.’ (Acts 3:19) It is truly refreshing and liberating when an individual Christian repents of private, imprisoning sin, and soars away like a bird on a wing, leaving his prison behind.”
Can an entire nation repent? Can spiritual revival come to an entire nation? The Scripture tells us that Israel repented multiple times, and God honored their repentance with spiritual awakening. Even a pagan city like Nineveh repented when Jonah preached to them. They repented in sackcloth and ashes, and God relented of the planned destruction.
God promised in 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 will heal their land.” Our responsibility is genuine humility of heart, earnest prayer on behalf of our nation, sincerely seeking God’s face, and repentance from our sins. God will do the rest in forgiving us and healing our land. Is there any hope for America – certainly not in the politicians or the government. Our only hope is in individual believers who take Jesus’ admonition seriously and repent, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Spread the word.
written by Robert Jackson