By Grant Phillips
Billy Graham and his son, Franklin, have been calling upon America to repent. I applaud their stance on the deterioration of our society’s morals, and agree wholeheartedly that we need to repent.
One thing that comes to mind with repentance is that I find it easy to shine the light on your need for repentance. Ye ole index finger pointing at you, but not noticing three fingers and a thumb pointing back at me.
Could it be that the biggest failure in our repenting is that we are usually waiting for the other guy to repent. We don’t need to. No wonder the world is in such bad shape. You need to repent!
Now I am certainly not insinuating that Billy and Franklin Graham are of this attitude. No, I am saying this on my own behalf. Each of us needs to start, not in our neighbor’s back yard, but in our own. Maybe I’m the one who needs to repent.
I have stated in the past that I don’t believe we have it in us to repent, but I hope I’m wrong. I still do, hope I’m wrong that is.
Let’s consider two things concerning our repenting as a country. Before we do that however, just what is repentance? In both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, repent means “to turn back from the direction we are headed or reverse course” and “to change one’s mind for the better.”
Now for what it does not mean … It does not mean “to feel sorry.” Feeling sorry may get us to the point of repenting, and it may not. Judas felt sorry for betraying Jesus, but he did not repent. On the other hand Peter felt sorry for denying Jesus, three times no less, and he repented. So what did Peter do to repent? He recognized what he had done. He asked forgiveness, and he made a decision to walk a new course. He put it behind him, then trusted and followed Jesus.
Now I’m not saying that we just cold and calculatingly ask God to forgive us without there being any regret for our actions … feeling sorry. I am saying, that feeling sorry, or let’s say, feeling remorse needs to be followed up with repentance. Otherwise, it does no good to feel sorry about our actions. It’s meaningless, unless we follow-up with repentance.
To go on, this is what we in this country so desperately need to do. We need to recognize that what we are thinking, doing and not doing is in direct conflict with the will of God. We need to ask forgiveness, and whether or not we mean it, will be proven by the direction we take in our life after repenting.
The First Consideration:
The first thing we need to consider is this. Should we expect those who do not know Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord to repent? I strongly believe the answer to that is “No.” Those who do not belong to Jesus are spiritually dead. They are lost in Satan’s demonic maze. Their father is Satan, not God the Father of Heaven.
So who is left? Well, those who do know Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord; i.e. true Christians. We Christians, the Church, need to repent for the condition our country is in. We are the ones, who need to go to the Father in Jesus name and confess our sins, asking His forgiveness, and asking for mercy on behalf of our country. It is His children that God is waiting to hear speak. He wants to hear from us.
It is my opinion, and I believe I am correct, that far too many of us who call ourselves Christians, look at the fallen world around us, and inwardly voice, “They need to repent.” No my friends, it is we who need to repent, for the reason I have already stated.
Maybe there are a few of us without “blood” on our hands, but most of us, and I’ll stand at the front of the line, need to re-examine our lives.
When the churches of America endorse and ordain homosexuals as pastors, we have a sin problem. When the churches of America turn a blind eye to church members living together who are not married, we have a sin problem. When the churches of America sit silent while millions of babies are murdered, we have a sin problem. When get rich quick schemes, feel-good sermons, name it and claim it pep rallies, and make me feel good soliloquies keep flowing from the pulpits of America, we have a sin problem. When the churches of America turn a blind eye and foment hate toward the apple of God’s eye, Israel, we have a sin problem. We need to repent!
Many of the churches of America have become bastions for all that is cowardly and evil. We toss syrupy sweet false love in one direction and spew hatred in another.
I’m not saying that every church in America fits the bill, but I am saying it’s hard to find one that isn’t. Is it possible for any church to be perfect while in this world? No, it is not. The local churches are composed of sinful people, but hopefully saved people. Yes, Christians are just sinful people who have been saved. We are perfect in Christ, but not within ourselves.
The fact is many of our churches have strayed so far from the path of righteousness, they have sold their souls to the pleasures of the world. No wonder the world can see no difference between themselves and us, who call ourselves Christians. The Christian should never put on an air of “I’m better than you,” but if we are living for Jesus Christ as we should, we will be different.
So we the Church need to repent of our own sins, but in addition, we need to recognize the sins of the world around us and confess them to God too. We need to ask for His mercy, and hope that it is His will. If the church, which consists of many individual Christians would fall on its face before God and repent of our evil deeds, maybe He will stay His hand of judgment upon us. Otherwise, judgment is right around the corner, in my opinion.
When Jesus sent out the twelve, they “preached that men should repent.” (Mark 6:10)
Peter said to Simon in Acts 8:22, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.”
Jesus said to the church of Ephesus, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:5)
He said to the church of Thyatira, “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 2:22)
He said to the church of Sardis, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Revelation 3:3)
The Second Consideration:
The second consideration is returning to what I said in the beginning, we need to take this personally. Rightly so, churches need to repent as a group, but repentance must come from individuals, or there will be no group repentance.
One of the most dangerous times in a Christian’s life is when he or she thinks they’re okay and everyone else is rotten. Let us spend much time in front of the mirror instead of the window. Until we can remove our gaze from our neighbor and fix it upon ourselves, we will not repent.
We need to cry out to God as David when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24)
As the Apostle Paul gave instruction, let us, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Is it possible for this once great country to be turned back to God?
“And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)
The Scriptures say:
“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.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Is this a guarantee that God will stay His hand of judgment upon America? Not necessarily. The previous verse was one of many specific promises to Israel, but we are not Israel. However, the principle can be applied to us and remember, our God is a merciful God.
“Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.” (Nehemiah 9:31)
The question now is, “Have we crossed the line in our sinfulness against a Holy God?” Whether we have or have not, we need to call upon the name of the Lord before we “get taken out behind the wood shed” by our Heavenly Father. We are long overdue.