Covenantal Repentance

repentance3This blog does not officially begin until January 1, 2015. However, I thought I would periodically recycle some old devotions here until that time. Enjoy.

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.

The Lord was pleased with the Temple that Solomon had completed. God said he would take up residence there to receive sacrifices. He then mysteriously (seemingly) changed the tone of his words to Solomon by telling him that he may shut up the heavens to prevent rain from falling. Or, he may command locusts to devour the land. Or, he may even send a plague on “his own” people (v. 13).

It’s hard to understand where God was coming from here. All Israel had just celebrated the dedication of the Temple, the assembling of which, was a community project to say the least. And then we get the words of verse 13.

Perhaps it was the nature of that (the Temple) which they were celebrating – the place from which God would receive sacrifices. The sin of a covenant people against the Holy One with whom such a covenant was made was no trifle to be winked at. It was a great offense. But God offered hope in verse 14. He declared that when these calamities befall his covenant people, there was (is) something they could do.

First, his people must humble themselves. There is no room for pride and self-dependence here. Instead, God’s people must, as it were, fall on their faces before God as an act of spiritual poverty and brokenness. They have neither strength nor wisdom in and of themselves. God is the Source for all of that and more.

They must also pray. Prayers of adoration, confession of sin, expressions of their helplessness, and complete dependence upon the sovereign God come to mind.

Next, they must seek the face of God. Imagine that great Day when we will behold the face of God. It is that face which we are to pursue in this life. This idea expresses our need to cultivate the character of God in our lives, trust him alone, follow his commands, seek his presence, and enter into intimate communion with him.

God also said that his people must turn from their wicked ways. The rest of the chapter gives us a glimpse of what those wicked ways look like: Turning away from and forsaking God and his decrees and commands, serving other gods, and worshipping them. This is wickedness in the sight of God and is why God might bring disaster on his own people (v. 22). God’s people must abandon such spiritual adultery at once.

But when they humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways, God promises to hear them, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

Ours is a land in desperate need of healing. Whether it’s our culture, our denomination, our local church, or our family, there is much need for the healing power of God. But it will not come merely because we recognize the need. That’s a good first step, but much more is required – genuine change – change that results in humbling oneself before God and clinging to him alone. Saturating ourselves in prayer regarding our transgressions before God and the need for forgiveness and restoration is essential. Seeking the face of God – his will, his commands and decrees, his presence, his pleasure – should be our life’s pursuit. And biblical repentance is necessary – turning from our wicked ways and leaving them behind and turning in a Godward direction. Our prayer should certainly include pleading with God to enable us to do such.

We want to see our land and our lives forgiven and healed. But change (renovation) will have to first take place. Until then, we should expect the discipline of a loving and holy Father – one who loves us too much to let us continue on a destructive path, and who, therefore, will do much to bring us back to the right one. Because he is holy, he will never overlook our transgressions. He loves his own character and glory too much for that.

God calls us away from the gods of this age. He calls us back to obedience and submission to his Lordship and Word. And with that comes his promise to forgive us and heal our land. Thanks be to God – the great Promise-Maker and Promise-Keeper.

Grace and Truth,
Dale

My Hero, Ezra

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This blog does not officially begin until January 1, 2015. However, I thought I would periodically recycle some old devotions here until that time. Enjoy.

Ezra 7:6 – this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.

Ezra 7:9-10 – He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. [10] For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

You may not know much about Ezra, though you’ve probably heard of him. He has a book of the Old Testament named after him. For me, he exemplifies much of what I believe my own purpose is as a pastor. More than that, however, I believe he’s a model for all Christians.

Ezra was a descendent of Moses’ brother, Aaron, the chief priest. Ezra was a teacher, we’re told, who was well versed in the Law of Moses (Ezra 7:6). The end of verse 9 tells us that the hand of God was on Ezra. Why? Because, according to verse 10, Ezra “devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord as well as to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

In other words, Ezra passionately STUDIED God’s Word, LIVED God’s Word, and TAUGHT God’s Word to  others.

A pastor, or any Christian for that matter, must first STUDY God’s Word. This is obvious. This is where the pump is primed and fresh water is poured into the soul. This is where the renewing of the mind takes place so that it will become fertile ground for transformation later.

This leads to the next point – LIVING God’s Word. If you don’t believe the teachings of God’s Word and are not practicing it’s laws and principles each day, then one might ask why you are studying it in the first place. The Word of God makes us wise for salvation, teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us, trains us in righteousness so that we may become thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). We don’t study it to win Bible trivia contests or to impress our congregations. We study it so that we might become more and more like Christ.

But Ezra did more than study it and live it – He TAUGHT it. He passed along his knowledge to others. He added value to their lives from what he learned. And it’s the fact that he did faithfully study it and live it (or practice it) that brought credibility and integrity to his teaching. You see, the goal of any disciple of Jesus Christ is to reproduce himself in the lives of others. This is accomplished through learning what it means to be a disciple of Christ, faithfully living that calling out each day, and then passing it along to others. It’s what I call “pouring your life into another person.” Jesus put it this way in the gospel of John,

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

In a sense, we die to ourselves as we diligently study God’s Word, conform ourselves to it’s standards, and pass it along to others – even at personal cost. But any sacrifice offered is more than worth it because, as Jesus put it, it produces many seeds.

How do we pass along God’s Word to others? This can be done in a variety of ways. You can teach others God’s Word from the pulpit, in a classroom, in a hospital room, in a counseling session, over lunch with a friend, around the family table at breakfast or dinner, or written correspondence. The list could go on and on.

Finally, I love how Ezra did all of this. The text says he devoted himself to it. He gave his life to it. He was committed to God’s Word in all of its life-transforming fullness. And because he was so devoted, we learn that God’s hand was on him. God has appointed his Word as a primary means of grace (as it works with his Spirit) whereby we are enabled to intimately know God and his Son Jesus Christ, know about the character, attributes, and works of God, learn how to love and serve God, discover how to become more Christlike in our daily lives, as well as how to spend eternity with him.

God’s Word: Know It – Live It – Teach It To Others.

Not a bad purpose statement for all of us. I want to be like Ezra. How about you?

Grace and Truth,
Dale