June 6, 2010

To Live is Christ — humbly seeking God

Throughout the Bible God affirms that the wicked will be punished. Psalm 9:17 says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” Jeremiah 16:4 describes this condemnation far too vividly for some who disobey God. 
They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.
Lest anyone thinks this is Old Testament only, Jesus also warned, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:49-50).

These are terrifying thoughts, yet my commentaries say that the word translated “wicked” is never used for Christians. In the past, my wicked works alienated me from God (Colossians  1:21), but I now have faith and am progressing in my faith. The Scripture says I  have “overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:13) because God gave me faith as a shield and a sure defense against Satan’s attack and promises that my destiny is not that of the wicked.

This does not mean that I never sin, but it does mean that my sin will not result in eternal damnation. Instead, my penalty for sin has been overcome by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The power of sin to mess up my life is also being overcome as God gives me the wherewithal to battle it. Today’s devotional verse prompted all these thoughts.

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 heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
This was written to the Jews in the Old Testament. Christians often use this promise for us today, but does this verse apply to us? I checked out some study sources and found this in Nelson’s Bible Commentary. It is slightly edited for length . . . 
Is this a verse on which Christians should base efforts at national renewal? In answering that question, it is important to notice that God was speaking to Israel, as indicated by the phrase, “My people who are called by My name.” Israel enjoyed a special covenant relationship with the Lord that no other nation has ever had. The words of the Lord, of which the promise of healing the land was a part, were essentially a restatement of the covenant from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 29.
This covenant was continually tested. In one instance, a king turned away from the Lord and the nation was attacked. He and the other leaders humbled themselves, turned back to God and He delivered them.

As for Christians today, does this promise of God apply only to Israel or does it relate indirectly to believers too? Nelson’s commentary says it does, but only to a certain degree. We are not like Israel in that Christians have not been called as a nation. Therefore, we cannot apply God’s promise of healing the land to all national and international issues. However, the principle still applies to us when we humble ourselves by praying and confessing our individual and corporate sins. God hears our prayers, forgives our sins, and brings a measure of healing. This healing can be personal or perhaps have broader coverage.

God always blesses honesty, obedience and humility. He resists the proud and has a terrible destiny in store for those who disobey and are wicked. In the big picture, no matter its context, 2 Chronicles 7:14 describes a good attitude for me. I need humility. I need to seek God’s face, turn from sin, and be forgiven. This may affect the world I live in, but even if it does not, it does honor the God who has and keeps on rescuing me from sin.

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