A Plea for Repentance: Breaking the American Church

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About 5 years ago, the Lord put on my heart an overwhelming spirit of hunger and burden for the church. Before this hunger and love for the church came to fruition, I had the hunger for only Him.  At one point in my life, I was so broken and repentant that the Lord in His grace decided to heal me.  I so thirsted for Him that I was willing to do anything to know Him and find my reality and meaning in Him.  I lay on the floor of my office and just wept for hours at a time imploring Him to make Himself real to me and to extend mercy to me.  I searched through the Word seeking answers.  I did not want answers for a broken marriage, I did not want answers to my financial condition, I did not want answers to the problems of the world, I only wanted the answer of whether He really loved and cared for me.  I cried out to the Almighty God with all of my heart for one thing:  to know Him.  God in His wisdom did not answer me immediately.  Almost like He was testing me for sincerity, He listened to me day after day, week after week, month after month pouring all that I was onto His feet in tears and in repentant wailing.  Not very sexy today is it?  Looking back on that time of complete darkness and loneliness, I’m sure my family and friends just wondered where I was, why I wasn’t around, and if I would ever regain my sanity.  I didn’t care.  I thought to myself if I can’t get to the bottom of this issue, then the remainder of my life would be vanity and loss.  I literally begged, pleaded, and demanded that the Lord accept my offering of brokeness.

At some point, the window of heaven opened up like the welcome breeze on a hot summer day.  The grace of Christ rained down on the desert of my soul in a way that still brings me to humility and awe.  Like the first precious kiss of one you are so in love with, it leaves an eternal memory  and an infinite mark of what love really means and feels like.  God became so very real to me and so personal to me that words still escape me…although I try!  We all hear the phrase, “Anything worth having takes a great deal of work”, and I am testifying that is indeed the case.  You see, I trust God, but He needs to trust me.  I know that sounds a little strange.  But I am a witness to the fact that a person who has walked away from God at any time in their life must re-establish trust with Him.  Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”, but it is the dismantling of the old yoke that we have been enslaved to that requires the work.  It is true that Jesus will set you free, but many of us lack the knowledge to live freely or know what to do with that freedom…we are creatures of habit, we are accustomed to adultery with the world, and we easily let go of the rescue rope and think we can swim in the ocean again.  His yoke is easy, BUT we have to choose to slip that yoke over our shoulders and leave the heavy one in the dust!  Here is the difference between deliverance and salvation.  Just as the Israelites were delivered from Egypt but were not ready to enter into the Promised Land of their salvation, we can be set free and the chains loosed, but we still have to learn to walk in order to claim what has been given to us.  God has given us the land of promise, but we still have to claim it and that takes work!  You can’t rest in only grace; grace gives you the land.  But you still have to occupy the land by driving out all that would now and in the future put that land at risk!  The Bible says, “you speak to the mountain” and to “put on the full armor of God”; it doesn’t say He will dress you for battle or to “speak about the mountain”…He has empowered us to be more than conquerors, but we keep waiting around for Him to move the mountains for us.  It is in God’s hands…and He just put it in yours!  This isn’t a divine version of “hot potato”…

God tells us that if we will allow Him to teach us to walk spiritually, that He will make good on His promises.  But sometimes we ask Him to pick us up and carry us and when He doesn’t, we think of Him as cruel.  He says to us, “You are free, now let me teach you to walk”, and we say to Him in our ignorance, “I don’t want to learn to walk, why don’t You just carry me?”  In our arrogance, we then turn from Him and slip the shackles back on our feet because it is all we know.  The next time we become weary of the shackles, we look back to Him and say, “Please deliver me from these shackles”, and God in His wisdom needs to see if we are serious not only about being freed from the bonds but also if we are now willing to learn to walk!  So here is the confusion of what it means to be broken.  We cry out to Him for revival, we beg of Him to fix our problems, we implore Him to set us free, but are we willing to fulfil His mandate to learn to walk?

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I had been alienated from the church and looked at religion as a broken model.  And who would blame me?  The church IS broken.  But I realized pretty early on in my walk with Christ that to point at the church is in essence pointing at myself!  God spoke to me in this way: He showed me that what I needed at first, as an infant in the spiritual man, was His nurturing and His teaching through the Holy Spirit…like a baby nursing on the breast of his mother.  But as I began to learn to walk and mature, He made it abundantly clear that in order to stay in His presence and continue to grow that I would need to meet Him where He works.  If I wanted to stay in His presence, I would need to understand that Christianity was indeed a “group sport”!  At first I refused and bucked because I felt the church was awful.  But over time, I could not change His mind and realized that I had to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.  For what is love if it isn’t shared?  His love is not something that we cling to; the beauty of love is that it is like water in that it has to be outflowing in order to be life-giving.  If He fills us with His love and we do not allow that love to flow outward, it becomes stagnant.  So I began to see the church in a different light; my paradigm changed.  The truth that God showed me was that I should not be worried or concerned about what the church could do for me but rather what I could do for the church!  He showed me that by bringing my strength (my spiritual empowerment by the Holy Spirit) to the assembly, that I would in effect be strengthening myself.  I was to be put in the “flow” if you will, part of the circuit, a conduit for His love and power, and a servant to those who needed Him and not necessarily “me”.  So it becomes in a very real sense, a win-win situation.  So now walking with Him meant walking with the church.

Now that I am an active member in the Christian community, I see even more just how broken the church really is.  But my attitude is one of ownership.  I personally own the imperfections and adulteries of the church, for Paul says, “If part of the body suffers, then the whole body suffers”.  I have to fight being critical and must not lose faith in God’s plan for His bride.  He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us.  There are a growing number of people just like me today: people who have a burden for the church and “get it” and want to be part of a nationwide revival or refreshing of the body of Christ.  In order for this to happen, we must listen to what God really wants and expects of us so that He can bless us.  This process always has and always will (as proven over and over again in Scripture) require brokeness and the prayer of repentance.  This prayer is always corporate.  Notice in every instance in the Bible, it is “in one accord” or they prayed as “one man” or some type of unified offering of the prayer of repentance.  Even in modern historical accounts, the song remains the same…unity.  The problem we face today is one of division, and this is in direct opposition to what God requires of us!  We can’t complain any longer and point fingers at “them”, for it is too late for that.  “Their” problem is “your” problem!  This is a “we” thing, not a “me” thing.  We can never grow weary of the pursuit of being bonded in love, even if it looks impossibly difficult!  Honestly, we have been fighting this battle since the inception of the church!  What will change now?  Now IS the time for the latter rain; it is the time to finally get it right.  The ramifications of failure are terrifying…not just for us, but mostly for our children and their children.  Some would say, “Well Jesus will come back and save the day!” and I would reply, “Do you really think we are a bride ready for her Groom?”  So whether we are leaving a legacy of the kingdom of God to our children or whether we are preparing for the wedding feast makes no difference…the change has to happen one way or the other!

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Our prayer today needs to be one of repentance and brokeness.  We have to say to God, “We are willing to walk and willing that You should teach us how to walk”.  The main ingredient to walking in the spirit is the element of love.  For so long our church has forgotten how to love!  We beg for revival and a great move of God, but He wants to see our brokeness and be convinced we are ready to love others as He has loved us. Heck, we can’t even “love ourselves” as a body; we can’t even love differing denominations!  How can we love others if we can’t even show love to those who profess Christ as their Lord and Savior?  People need to be honest with themselves today and realize just what an abomination it is to be divided by hate or even worse, divided by apathy (lukewarm).  He yearns to see us in our brokeness and finally leave ALL at His altar so that He may not only heal us, but also teach us to be healers.  If He were to set us free again only to see us devolve back into selfishness, apathy, and gluttony…what good did it do?  It is that willingness to wallow on the floor for hours counting the cost, it is in the tears shed for mercy that opens our Father’s heart, and it is the true intentions of our hearts in repentance that moves His heart to action.  If it were not that way, then it would not be loving on His part, for He knows us better than we know ourselves!  He examines our hearts to see if they are true, and He knows we are unable to walk.  God doesn’t mind that we cannot walk; He only wants to know that we are willing to learn and be taught by His love to walk in love.

If we are to have another revival in America, then we must be broken!  Broken of apathy, broken of greed, broken of selfishness, and broken of pride.  Over the last decade or so, we have listened to messages of how to be blessed or how to be successful or how to be healed.  The books we bought were something like, “Ten Ways to Build Wealth in the Kingdom” or “Seven Ways of Success in the Bible” or “How to be Blessed and Thrive in God” or “God Can Heal You Today”.  We are always asking God for something:  Lord bless us, Lord save us, Lord help us, Lord save my marriage, Lord bless us financially…but isn’t part of the intrinsic definition of a relationship that it goes both ways?  When was the last time we asked God what He wants?  When was the last time we blessed God?  When was the last time we desired to reciprocate for all He has done for us?  Oh, but that is too hard!  When He asks us to love others and to clothe the naked and to feed the hungry and to give of our substance to the poor, we flippantly come up with an excuse as to why we can’t or won’t.  And in the next breath, we ask Him for more of His blessings for ourselves!  If you read Isaiah 58, you will see that the only way to truly heal is to heal others first….then our healing “will spring forth like the morning sun”.  The number one sin in American Christianity today is apathy and that is the direct result of pride.  Pride leads to all other forms of sin:  idolatry, lust, and perversion.  Proverbs tells us that “pride cometh before the fall”, so why are we so shocked that America is falling?

It is the prayers of the righteous remnant that has kept this country in His favor, and now the remnant is so blind that we don’t even know how to pray!  We want to see the values of our country restored, we want to be proud to be an American again, we want to see our country restored and stay true to “one nation under God”, but are we willing to be broken?  We have to be broken because the status quo is failing us!  The model and structures we have foolishly built are faulty!  How much more proof do we need?  If God answers a prayer for revival, what will we do with it?  Will we sink back into our easy-chairs and kick our feet up in pride?  Will we drive our nice cars to church on Sunday while passing scores of homeless people on the way?  Will we be quick to speak our opinions and slow to hear the cries of the lost?  Will we bask in His blessing and refuse to be the ones willing to bless?  The first chapter of Romans speaks to this in my opinion.  This part of Scripture speaks to worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.  Can we not make the “jump” here and define the creation as the church, the blessing, the anointing, and the favor?  Do we worship the church and the blessing or do we worship the Creator of these things?  I know it may sound strange, but isn’t it true?  So do we desire God or what God can do for us?  You see, brokeness requires repentance.  We must repent for placing the blessings of God before God Himself!  The Bible tells us to seek first the kingdom of God.  So what is the kingdom of God?  Is it not what Christ refers to as “within you”?  Is it not a relationship with Him?  Is it not a spiritual awakening of being “born again” into a new creation so that we may WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH?  Is it for His glory or for our glory?

prayer of patience

So we must ask ourselves honestly:  are we praying for the blessing of a restored nation or are we praying for a renewed relationship with God?  If we seek Him first, He promises to add the rest as gravy so to speak.  We want the icing on the cake, but lack the wisdom to know the cake.  We must turn from our evil ways!  The ultimate evil is to ignore the Giver of all blessings, the ultimate evil is to want restoration and revival without repentance, the ultimate evil is to demand grace and mercy without first counting the cost of stewardship!  Fellow Christians, our nation needs us.  Our God sees our need, but expects us, as His body and bride, to recognize our need of Him and Him alone!  He is happy to heal the land if we are happy to seek Him with hunger and thirst, for even this is evidence of His love.  He knows that only He can satisfy the hungering soul, He knows that the only water that quenches thirst is the living water that flows directly from Him, He knows that the cure for what ails us is not all the “stuff” we ask for but only an intimate relationship with Him, and only He knows how to truly love that which is unloveable!  We must be broken my friends.  Without the fear of the Lord and the fear of His abandoning our nation, repentance is simply a selfish cry for meaningless help…a form of help that in the end, is no help at all!  You don’t hand your 8-year old the keys to the family car no matter how badly they want to drive…

Peter tells us that we are “being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood” and “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5 and 9), that we are all saints, and that we have an inheritance.  Notice in the Old Testament that all of the tribes of Israel received a portion of land except the Levites.  The Levites are the priests.  Do you make the connection?  YOU are a Levite!  The only allotment to us is God Himself!  As a priest in the heavenly realms and for all eternity, are you blessed with your inheritance of Him or do you want land?  Do you see the amazing truth in this?  Our prayer of brokeness and repentance should be, “Dear God, all we want is You and we are willing to lay everything on Your altar…even our very selves!”  That is a prayer that is answered…a prayer by a high priest.  The prayer of a priest and the prayer of a saint that is joyful for their inheritance is one that is answered.  And that prayer is what restores the land.  The priest makes atonement for the people…we are the priests and our land needs us!  Don’t be or desire to be anything other than a Levite, for a Levite has the ultimate portion…the portion of God Himself…there is no higher honor, no better allotment, no more fulfilling blessing.  We must be broken and reminded of who we really are.  We are broken for Him, broken for our families, broken for healing, and broken for America.  Can you hear the call?  Can you feel the wind of true revival?  Do you sense the historic precipice that we are perched upon?  Are we willing to be broken and desire nothing more than the intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe?  Or is that not good enough for us…

As I stated earlier, it required my begging and weeping and desperate cries for the Lord to hear and believe my repentance; should we all not be willing to beg, weep, cry out, and become humble in His presence?  This is the key, my friends.  God hears the prayer of the one that yearns for Him and Him alone, above all else.  We have to ask this question:  Are we yearning for Him and Him alone or are we simply yearning for His blessing of our nation?  God is a jealous God.  Which is more important to you:  America or God?  If your answer is God, then He will add America to it!  If it is America, then you have made your country your idol…

So as we enter this very important time in our history and if we claim to be a disciple of the Lord of lords, then we are required by His Word to offer up ourselves as “living sacrifices” on the altar.  We have to lift up our hearts to Him so that He may break us.  We must allow our God to mold us and make us into the likeness of His Son.  Jesus said that there is no greater love than a man laying his life down for his friends.  Let us commit to laying our lives down for our brothers and sisters, laying our pride down for the next generation, laying our differences at the door to true freedom, and laying at His majestic feet the prayer of true repentance.  This is not easy; it is only necessary.

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