Friday, May 2, 2014

And Turn From Their Wicked Ways...

Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer, and as such, one of the most frequently cited scriptures is from second Chronicles. Sometimes I think we miss the message entirely though. God wasn’t addressing unsaved nations in that portion of scripture. He was addressing HIS people. Just because it is found in the Old Testament doesn’t mean that God isn’t still talking to us through it today. So what does it mean for God to 'heal our land?' It could be everything from agriculture to the economy; from individual hearts and lives, marriages and families to a sweeping revival across the nation. Healing affects the individual life, but on a larger scale, it affects society and geographic regions as well. 

It can be easy to slip into self-righteousness and feel as if God is talking about everyone but us. Sanctification is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, which means that God is always speaking to us because He wants to do a powerful work through us! The Bible is clear in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that God gives a promise of healing our land IF the people who call themselves His people will HUMBLE themselves and TURN from their wicked ways. Well, that got me thinking about exactly how scripture defines wickedness. How do we recognize it? Here are some references.

The wicked persecute the poor in spirit. Ps. 10:2

The wicked have unbelieving hearts and reject God’s truth. 2 Thess. 2:12

The wicked act in arrogance and test God. Malachi 3:15

The wicked rebel against God’s laws. Ezekiel 5:16

The wicked sow trouble and plow evil. Job 4:8 (To plow means to unearth and overturn; in this case, in regards to the pillars of truth and stability, the foundations of God’s word.)

The wicked have a violent nature that uses fear to make the righteous insecure. Ps. 7:9

The wicked appear righteous to others yet live as hypocrites. Matthew 23:28

The wicked are defiled with idolatry. Jeremiah 16:18

The wicked elevate man’s leadership above God’s authority. 1 Sam. 12:17

The wicked look for scapegoats for their sin rather than accept responsibility for their sin.  Lev. 16:21

The wicked are self-deceived, dependent on their own strength and the strength of their relationships. They plant seeds of wickedness in others and reap evil as a result of wrongdoing. Hosea 10:13

The wicked align themselves with rebellious leaders. Hosea 9:15

The wicked rejoice in plotting evil schemes. Jeremiah 11:15

The wicked has a mouth that is filled with malice, or ill will, towards others. They speak lies and out of their mouth comes words of death. These are disloyal people who are unable to be trusted. Ps. 5:9

The wicked are backslidden, bitter and evil. They will be punished by their own wickedness. Jeremiah 2:19.

The wicked rob others of justice and fair judgment. Ecclesiastes 3:16.

The wicked have no delight in godly wisdom. God calls them fools because they find pleasure in wicked schemes. Prov. 10:23

The wicked are sold out to do evil.  Anything is acceptable in order to gain what they want. 1 Kings 21:25

The wicked offer unacceptable sacrifices to God. Hosea 8:13

The wicked draw sin and evil along with them in life because they are self-deceived.  Is. 5:18

The wicked store up judgment for themselves because they do not repent. Joel 3:13

That is quite a list, don’t you think? But if we don’t know exactly what He is referring to, it can be so easy to think He’s not talking about anything in us. God does make a distinction to call His people the righteous. After all, Jesus bought and paid for our sin. Our Father sees us through the blood of His Son, and our debt has been paid. Yet, scripture also tells us our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Now, that’s not really good news, is it? Because if we have wickedness in our hearts and we don’t do something on purpose to deal with it, that wickedness is going to be at war with our new nature in Christ. God wants to give us a new heart that is pliable in His hands and teachable.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God directs His rebuke to His own people. They are the ones who He says must turn away from practicing wickedness if they want the healing and restoration of their land. Church, He’s talking to US!

I do not believe in being overly sin conscious and walking under a cloud of condemnation, but I do believe that we each have a responsibility to rightly divide the word of truth and examine ourselves so that we can present ourselves as workers who do not need to be ashamed. Guilt , shame and condemnation become our garments when we try to cover our sins and continue practicing them instead of confessing them and forsaking them. If we allow Holy Spirit to be the authority over our life, then we should allow Him access to our hearts at all times. It’s only when we confess our sin and are truly repentant for it that we can be cleansed from our unrighteousness. Healing takes place through revelation, not just repetition of prayer. Honesty and transparency are the keys to healing a fractured soul.  

Friend, we can pray a lot of prayers for everyone else in the world. We can send out declarations and decrees, but the enemy that truly needs to be torn down from his high place is the enemy within us. Self needs to be dethroned. Israel in the Old Testament is reflective of God's people today. They were not just advised, but warned to destroy every enemy that posed a threat to their promise land. They were to take aggressive action to make sure those enemies were completely defeated. Israel was not allowed to let any enemy live because it could cause them to become corrupt like other nations. God wanted a people who were distinct and separate in every way so that they became an example to others. We must embrace the pursuit of purity! We need to let Jesus into every place where we have been resistant to truth. We must surrender every offense and judgment, whether it is against others or against ourselves. These judgments will cause us to reap condemnation and judgment into our own lives. When we hold judgments against others, we stand as their accusers. This brings guilt into our own lives. We persecute others through blame shifting, finger pointing, accusation, gossip, slander, or other negative responses. When we are offended, hurt or angry, we withdraw love as punishment. We do these things because we have a hard time managing emotions. We're human. Many people go to church, attend Bible studies or put on a very different face around others, hoping no one sees the mess they are in private; or, the ways they may deny the lordship of Christ in certain areas of their heart and life. Yikes! How many times have we ALL tried to appear one way, yet we would cringe if people were able to see into our private life? Haven’t we all been there at some point in our life? But, all these things are hypocrisy if we do nothing to change it. We become mere actors on a stage in life, trying to please others with our performance - and friends, this does not please God.

I remember those days when I was trying to clean up my act and not getting very far. I so wanted to have the respect of others because I was trying hard to make myself into a different person. I concentrated on the outward appearance more than the inward sanctification, and eventually, you know what happened? The neglected person on the inside sabotaged all my good efforts. There was still a lot of unhealed wounds that needed to be addressed, hurts and offenses and a deep root of bitterness that continuously generated toxic thoughts. I was a bubbling inferno on the inside but I had no idea how to get that healed. I put all the emphasis on my own self effort of what I perceived to be righteousness, rather than really trying to understand my identity in Christ. I simply did not know who I was, and the enemy wanted to keep it that way!

Many years ago, I had a lot of strongholds in my heart and mind that resisted truth. The enemy had been constructing cement walls to keep truth out since I was a child. With Satan’s help, I learned how to speak lies to myself in an attempt to make myself feel better. He gladly helped me rewrite the truth so that I blamed everyone else for my sin. He put a filter over my ears so that everything I heard, I heard through rejection, anger, and hatred towards authority. I carried a lot of insecurity and fears. He made sure that people came into my life that would perpetuate more rejection, abuse or undermine my self-worth. He reinforced the lie that no one in a position of authority was trustworthy.  Satan was very seducing, and so believable in the way he suggested thoughts that felt like my own. He encouraged me to change my reality so that everyone else was at fault for the pain that I felt and I was accountable to no one. I was a victim, and victims had a right to feel justified in their anger. Psychologists told me so. They sympathized with my addictions and called them diseases, not sin. They showed me where in their psychology manuals where my issues were recorded as disease. Certainly I could not be responsible for having a disease, right? I wallowed in self-pity. They wrote me prescriptions for pills that helped me continue the blame game, avoid the truth, take the edge off my emotions and deny my sin. It was ever-so-much easier than being honest about my own feelings or take responsibility for the issues of my heart. That would involve unraveling many years of self-deception, anger and other things too painful to admit. I could not tell anyone the things I had done. Yet, all the advice, prescriptions and even prayer did nothing to alleviate the feelings of guilt, shame and condemnation. They were with me wherever I went, and I was miserable.

I drank to avoid the pain, the shame and the heaviness of all the guilt, but alcohol and drugs only made it worse. Much worse. The condemnation and guilt were suffocating. I could not live under the heavy load, yet, my pride was so strong and the rebellion so deep, that inwardly I continued to rage with unresolved anger. I did not know how to get delivered from the lies, the demons and heal the character issues that continued to drive me to wrong behaviors. Some of that was before I got saved, and some of it I still struggled with after salvation. But oh, I wanted so much to feel like a different person, and even though I was saved I often didn't feel any different. I wanted the struggles to be over! Maybe you’ve wrestled with some things too, and can identify with some of these things. If that's you, please know there is hope. When people struggle and struggle and cannot seem to get free from certain behaviors, attitudes or feelings, often there is a demonic attachment that needs to be severed. God has people that know about deliverance and they can help you get free. You don't have to live in defeat, shame or struggle with feelings of inferiority!

I mention all these things because they are some of the ways people bring unacceptable sacrifices to God. Everyone has been guilty of it at one time or another. But, if more people were transparent about their struggles, the body of Christ could really get healed. We need to humbly share our journeys, our struggles and what helped us gain the victory because it is the key to others getting free also. Pride resists sharing our vulnerabilities, but allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to a hurting world will help heal the world around us. Transformation happens one life at a time. None of us are perfect. None of us have total victory all the time. We will struggle with our humanity until the day we go home to be with the Lord, but it does get easier IF we are willing to be honest with ourselves and honest with God. James 5:16 reminds us to confess our sins one to another so that we might receive our healing. Do you know why? Because it practices humility. It’s good for us. It also helps us be accountable so that we don’t start believing we can do life all on our own. If we isolate ourselves we do it to our own hurt. We need one another. We need the love, the support, and the prayers from others who won’t judge us or break our trust by sharing our worst fears and moments of shame with the rest of the world. I don’t know what I would have done without people in my life that accepted me, mess and all. I didn’t expect them to agree with my sin, but I did learn what makes for a true friend. A real friend is someone that loves your soul enough to tell you the truth and encourage you to rise up into a new identity. A friend helps us find the answers we need so that we can be whole. Healing comes from acknowledgement of our own need for change.

If you find your prayers bouncing off a brass ceiling and it feels like God isn’t listening…

If your finances are suffering or the devourer has been unleashed against you…

If it feels as if hell is enjoying battering you and your family and the enemy just mocks your prayers…

MY people, who are called by MY name…
Will HUMBLE themselves and pray…
And REPENT from their wicked ways…
THEN I will hear from heaven…
THEN I will forgive their sin and heal their land.

You see, healing is conditional. IF we will do as God asks, restoration can come quickly – for anyone. Forgiveness has already been granted. It’s there, waiting. All you have to do is acknowledge where you’ve been in agreement with the enemy rather than God, and make a SHIFT. Turn away from the wrong behaviors. Renounce those lies and break agreement with unbelief, accusation, inferiority and other things. Pray, seek God’s face, and surrender the sin that separates you from Him. He is so gracious. He is so kind. But His spiritual laws govern the universe. He is the Lord; He does not change. Restoration is conditional upon REPENTANCE. When we bring the Lord an acceptable sacrifice, He consumes it and the healing we so desperately long for is released. He is able to make all grace abound towards us so that He redeems the time that was lost due to our own sin. Just offer it to Him. He is waiting for you now!

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