...If My People
In 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV) it says...
"...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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
I'm sure that most of us have heard this scripture at one time or another. It's often quoted when people speak of the need for revival, or when commenting on the state of the world we live in.
By its nature, we tend to see it in more of a spiritual context, rather than a natural one. For example, if we pray, and if we turn from sin, then God will do something supernatural to fix the world we're living in. Well, yes, but then again... no.
You see, there is no doubt that God's favor is on His people when they live as He has directed. However, this passage is actually more practical than we tend to give it credit for. Not only that, but it has more depth than we tend to give it credit for. Let me explain.
It should come as no surprise that our life is greatly affected by our choices and actions. All of us, both individually and corporately, bear the results of our choices be they good or bad. It's for this reason that God laid out His principles for living so that we might be guided towards good choices and away from bad ones, resulting in long and prosperous lives. (Deuteronomy 4:40, Joshua 1:8)
So while we tend to spiritualize this passage, a significant portion of its fulfillment is actually in our own hands. This shouldn't come as a surprise, because anything God promises us is always contingent on our cooperation with Him -- always. (John 15:5) However, for the principle in this passage to work, there is a deeper level we must see.
If you're Christian, it's a foregone conclusion that prayer and abstaining from sin are both good things. However, did you notice that this passage uses the word "wicked" rather than the word "sinful?" We tend to gloss over this believing it means the same thing, but it doesn't.
If we go to the original Hebrew, the word used here doesn't translate to the word "sinful," which is important to note. Aside from "wicked," it's proper translation can be "bad," "evil," "disagreeable" (meaning, ill-tempered or unpleasant), "displeasing" (meaning, displeasing to God), "malignant" (meaning, harmful or ill-willed), and "unkind." This paints quite a different picture than just saying "sin," doesn't it?
While these things can be carelessly placed under the umbrella term "sin," they actually go more to the heart of the matter -- pun intended. And it's heart issues that this passage is really addressing.
You see, as Christians, we tend to be very good at calling out and policing sin. However, few of us have the same fervor when it comes to heart issues. There are many of us who will rally around those who condemn sin, but who among us extol the virtues of being generous, or extending grace to others, or refraining from condemnation? How many of us refrain from assuming the worst of people, or making harsh judgments according to our own assumptions? We hear a lot about love, but what about just being pleasant? What about not having a grating personality where everyone is relieved when you leave? And when was the last time someone reminded us to check our envy, and everyone erupted with "hallelujahs" and "amens?" (Luke 6:32-49, James 3:13-16)
If I might be pointed for a moment: to put it simply, many of us are missing the boat. Many of us have hearts just like the world has, and focus only on the end result -- meaning, acts of sin. Dealing with our heart issues often doesn't even draw our attention. Many of us don't want to be better people, or wrongly believe that refraining from sin makes us better people. (Luke 18:9-14) We just want God to give us things, and do things for us, which in and of itself is a heart issue.
It's this lack of embracing a right heart that has done much to turn us toward a bad end. And, unlike what many within the Church focus on, it's the heart that is of the utmost importance to God. (1 Samuel 16:7) Not how many times we go to church. Not how well we keep all of the rules. Not even if we sin occasionally. (Luke 18:9-14) Rather, it's the condition of our heart that matters most of all.
Prayer and refraining from sin are certainly good things, but for 2 Chronicles 7:14 to work, we also need to embrace a right heart. And, unfortunately, there are those among us who have no issue with being wicked.
If you're feeling angry at this message, then this message is probably for you. If you have someone in mind that you're pointing fingers at, then this message is probably for you. And if you're feeling condemned, then this message is probably for you as well -- but don't feel condemned. My purpose isn't to condemn anyone, but rather to sound the alarm. I've seen what is coming to the Church, and a lot of people are not going to like it. So I implore you -- all of you -- to choose a better path.
Be good. Don't be someone just portraying a righteous facade -- be good, inside and out. Actively turn away from things you know don't line up with God's nature. Pursue God, and be like your Father in heaven. Let the fruit of the Spirit be made manifest in you.
Walking with God isn't about Him doing things for us, or simply refraining from sin, it's about being like God in heart and in nature. Do the right thing, always.
And if that isn't enough to convince you, then you may want to read the previous passage -- the passage you've probably never heard quoted before -- before it comes to bare. 2 Chronicles 7:13 -- I'll let you look that one up on your own.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
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