April 27, 2017

If my people . . . (2 Chronicles 7:14)

These days, the Word of God is scorned, public prayer diminished, Christianity pushed out of schools, and faith considered old-fashioned and foolish. However, those behind this thinking are often also dismayed at the increase in violence and crime, a growing lack of respect for human life, and the inability of politicians, law enforcement, or anyone else to do anything about it.

Those of us who believe in Jesus Christ sometimes shake our heads also, wondering why the world seems to be falling apart. However, the Scriptures have the answer. It is found in the history of ancient Israel. Nearly 600 years before Christ, the prophet Ezekiel was given these words:
“And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:10–11)
Their world was in similar trouble as ours. They had been told not to abandon their faith in God, but they persisted in going their own way. They faked a form of worship by performing the rituals, but their hearts were far from it and their ‘religion’ mocked God.

Even earlier in their history, the Lord gave them a similar message but with more specific detail about their hypocrisy:
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?” says the Lord; “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:11–20)
The devotional writer says this is the answer to why our world is coming unglued. We cannot persist in avoiding God, resisting truth, putting aside His Word, ignoring His principles, and doing our own thing without experiencing consequences.

He adds that those who eternally perish will be without excuse. It isn’t because their sins are too awful that they cannot be forgiven. It isn’t God’s idea or desire that they perish. It will not be because of any failure on the part of Jesus Christ or a lack of His willingness. He gladly gives eternal life to all who come to Him in faith. He says to all: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

But He also says, ‘I have called, and you have refused’ and ‘You will not come to me that you might have life.’

Sin always brings disaster into my life; a hard lesson learned. But I have also learned that relying on Christ is never a mistake. He does not let me down, but gives me surprising peace, blessing, and even wisdom during perplexities. It is entirely obvious that if my situation begins to deteriorate, I cannot shift the blame on anything or anyone else when I’ve caused that deterioration by trying to do my own thing.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” (Proverbs 3:5–10)
Oh, my Lord Jesus Christ. I know You take care of Your people, but I cannot ignore You, nor can I play at ‘religion’ and be a hypocrite. Instead, Your people must not let the world press us into its mold and assume there will be no consequences. I’m so sad at the junk that fills the daily news. Truly, I need Your grace and wisdom — as do all Your people. Help us be lights in this world. Forgive our backslidings and bring revival to our land.

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