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II 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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Silent Prayer

We’re to remember WE ARE HIS.  We are His people, called by His name.  We love to remember that being His means we have some amazing benefits.  “Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits.”  (Psalm 103:2)  If you’re thankful for salvation, say “amen.”  Who among us doesn’t like to celebrate that God is our Provider?  “My God shall supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:13)  Woohoo!  We love that benefit.  It’s awesome to think of God being our Protector.  “The Lord our God is with us.  He is mighty to save.”  We’re His sheep.  We are taken care of by Him.

It’s a beautiful thing to be taken care of, isn’t it?  Oh to be a child again!  Carefree, oblivious to the burden of responsibility it takes to “make it all happen.”  Just along for the ride.  Spiritually speaking, we enjoy that kind of treatment, don’t we?  We could get all warm and fuzzy and have an awesome group hug this morning if I just spent our time talking about all of the benefits of belonging to Christ.

But remembering we are His involves more than remembering we have lots of benefits.  It also means we should remember we have an amazing responsibility.

Being His is a privilege, but with it comes tremendous responsibility.  What does it mean to be one of His people?  I Peter 1:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Let me work backwards through these verses.  God’s people are the people who are supposed to act like they have received mercy.  Remember, our sin makes us completely unpresentable to God.  We couldn’t get to God or any of His benefits because of our sin, but God.  Everyone say, “But God,” “But God who is rich in mercy demonstrated His love for us in this that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

People who know they are facing the death penalty and know that they deserve to be sitting where they are have a different way of acting when they are all of the sudden given mercy.  People who are in a tight spot and know it’s because they wiggled themselves into it all on their own and should have to suffer the consequences of being squeezed or detained or whatever-when they receive mercy, they act a certain way.

Listen. If you are a God-person then you know you were in a heap of trouble when you came to Christ.  You know you have been rescued.  You know that instead of getting what you deserved, you got mercy.  You don’t then go on living like you did before you received mercy.  You don’t walk around with a swagger acting as if you got away with something.  You don’t shake it off and laugh at the fix you had been in.

No!  Not when you’ve received the kind of mercy God offers.  When you recognize the depth of your sin and the merciful love of God who came and levered you out of that tight spot, who came and took the death penalty on Himself so that you didn’t have to go through with it, you begin to act differently.  You walk with humility.  You are forever grateful.  There may even be some tears.  There will be a new-found tenderness.  There will be a forever respect, an allegiance to your Savior that will compel you to live the rest of your life trying to repay Him for the mercy He has shown you though you never could.

People who have received mercy don’t talk a big game anymore.  They know they owe it all to Christ from that minute forward.  How long has it been since you thought about the mercy Christ has shown you?  Is the way you’re living a response to that amazing mercy and grace?

You remember II Chronicles 7:14 starts out with a conditional word.  “If.”  “If my people . . .”  You see, God-people don’t always act like God-people.  They don’t always keep the mercy of God in the front of their minds.  Over time it is easy for anyone to drift into self- reliance and auto pilot and minimize what God has done or wants to do in their lives.  That’s not the way it is supposed to be.  We are supposed to live lives that point people to the fact that we have received mercy.

Look at the second half of I Peter 1:9 again.  We are supposed to act like people who have been called out of darkness into His wonderful light.  My life should not look very much like Jack Sprat’s if Jack Sprat doesn’t know Jesus.  I know that grace abounds, and I never want to communicate a message of legalism, but if your life looks the same as the people who don’t know Jesus, you aren’t living as a God person who has been called into His wonderful light.

There is a great distinction between light and darkness.  They aren’t supposed to look like one another, but they are to stand in stark contrast to one another.  They have nothing in common.  It is a totally different experience to go through life in the dark than it is to go through life in the light.  It is supposed to be that way for people who say they are God’s people.

I’m all about grace and the recognition that we will make mistakes.  But I am also about the standard that God has called us to.  It’s called “holiness,” and if we think we can call ourselves a God-person and live in darkness doing whatever we want whenever we want, we may have taken God’s name, but we aren’t His.  We’re just identity thieves who think we’re going to get away with something and we’re completely delusional.

We also see in I Peter 1:9 that God-people are supposed to act like royalty.  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”  Did anyone watch the Royal Wedding?  Can you believe all of the pomp and circumstance that went into that event?  More eyes were on William and Kate than could be counted.  Her dress was the subject of every talk and news show.  I’ve never seen such a fixation on what someone was wearing.

Watching the whole thing, I was reminded there are great privileges and rules for royalty to observe.  Some of them are no doubt very silly and self-serving.  The Royals in England live their lives with certain expectations.  They exude a certain confidence.  It comes from understanding they are people of power.  They have authority.  They can have what they ask for.  They are people of importance.  They are people of significance.  They are people with a great inheritance.

Listen, child of God, you have every right to walk with a spiritual swagger.  You are a priest and priestess in the court of the King of Kings and Lord or Lords.  You have been given power over kings.  God has made you to have authority over sin and Satan.  You have been given amazing riches.  Scripture calls them the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”

You wear a garment that outdoes Kate’s bridal gown by a billion miles.  It is called the “Robe of Christ.”  And by the way, yes, everyone CAN wear red!  Hallelujah!  It’s a beautiful color!

You have been brought to the King’s banquet table where you feast on spiritual food that far exceeds the choicest of food this life has to offer.  Angels are your servants and bodyguards.  And did I mention that you have direct access the God of the Universe any time you want an audience with Him?  Someone ought to shout this morning!  Someone ought to celebrate!

Why do you think this verse says that as God-people we declare His praises?  I’ll tell you why, because anyone who has come to Christ knows what they once were and realizes they have been elevated to the position of royalty.  It is the consummate “rags to riches” story.

In fact, this verse in I Peter 2:10 we read “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.”  In other words, you were a nobody and God has made you a somebody.  You were a loser and God made you a winner.  If we understand that, we ought to act like and live like people who have been given a special status.  But we didn’t earn our royalty.  Like Prince William, we were born into it when we were born again through the blood of Christ! Christian, don’t live like a pauper.  You are royalty.  Don’t live beneath your potential.  You were bought with a price.  You are to walk in a manner “worthy” of the calling or worthy of a Child of God. Your status as a priest or priestess, your status as royalty should impact the way you move about in this life.

We’re to remember WE NEED HIM.

God 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. “ Turning from our wicked ways involves turning completely towards God.  Why do we need to humble ourselves?  Why do we need to admit we need God?  Why do we need to pray and seek God’s face?  The answer is simple.  Without Him, we can do nothing.

John 15:5 tells us that He is the Vine and we are the branches, and apart from Him we can do nothing.  God can do without us, but we can do nothing without Him.  If a branch is separated from a vine, not only will it not bear fruit, but it will wither and die.  You see, branches don’t produce life.  They have to gain life from the vine.

Well, pastor, I know many people who don’t know Christ and aren’t connected to Him and they going to work, raising a family and pursuing their talents and interests.  How can you say “Apart from Him, you can do nothing?”

If He is the Vine then any branch connected to that vine will bear the kind of fruit that vine is supposed to produce.  If I am a branch connected to an apple tree, I will bear apples.  Apart from being connected to the Vine of an apple tree, I can’t produce that kind of fruit.  Apart from the apple vine, I can’t produce apple fruit.

What Christ is saying is that we can’t bear the kind of fruit that comes from being connected to Christ, without Him.  You can’t have true love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control without Him.  You can’t become like Jesus and possess His character without being connected to Him.  You’ll never be holy without Jesus.  You’ll never have supernatural power without Jesus.

Oh, you can make money.  You can purchase material possessions.  You can get married and have children.  You can even take a swanky vacation and have a certain level of authority or responsibility delegated to you by some CEO.  But if you don’t have the inner character that makes having those things a joy, if you don’t have the inner character that makes those relationships meaningful what have you really gained?  Why do you think movie stars and sports heroes who have everything that money can buy, if they don’t have Christ, report they are empty and that life is meaningless?  We need Christ and His abiding presence in our lives to make our lives have depth, meaning, and purpose.

Travelers, who have ascended very high mountains, tell us that they were able to determine their altitude by the productions of nature around them. Fruits and flowers at the base; higher up, those of the temperate variety; and still higher, those of the frigid zones. The fruit you bear will reveal your relation to Christ.(—Bible Illustrations)

A drunk man entered his row boat one night to cross the river. He picked up the oars and pulled away—so he thought. He rowed all night but did not reach the destination. When daylight came, he was surprised to find that he was just where he started the night before. He had forgotten to untie his boat.  So it is with many of the Lord’s followers. They are tied to their habits, desires, wills, or some cherished idol or idols of the heart. Consequently, their lives are fruitless.(—Bible Illustrations)

Are you feeling weak, defeated, useless and dead?  Untie your boat and connect to the Vine.  How close are you to the Vine?  Don’t live a fruitless, exhausting existence.  People who are connected to Christ are healthy, growing, gaining in strength and bearing fruit.  What fruit is hanging off of the branches of your life right now?  Where can people see that you are a God-person who is feeding off of His power?

Finally, we’re to remember WE HAVE HIS PROMISES

“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 I will heal their land.”

He promises to hear us.

Don’t take for granted that God is listening to you.  What an awesome resource, what a privilege to take our burdens and concerns and hopes and dreams to the Lord in prayer!  I talk to God about everything.  He hears and answers my prayers.  I pray for our children to live godly lives.  I pray that God will keep a young man and young lady on the same track, someone they can marry in the future.  I pray that they will excel in the things that are important in life.  I pray they’ll surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit.  I pray that God will keep Thom and me burning hot for one another.  I pray He’ll protect our marriage.  I pray for my unsaved friends and family.  I pray for opportunities to witness.  I pray God will help our money take care of our needs.  I pray to be led to the store where things are on sale that I need.  You see, nothing is too big to ask for and nothing is too small of a detail to talk to God about.  He will hear you.  Psalm 34:15 “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.”

The word “attentive” is not in the original, but the meaning is that the ear of God is in a leaning kind of posture.  You’ve heard the expression, “He was hanging on every word you said.”  God is literally hanging on your words, listening to your petitions.

“I love the Lord.  He heard my cry.”  (Psalm 116:1)  Doesn’t it just help your soul be unburdened when you know you’ve gotten to talk and someone has genuinely listened to what we’re going through?  In a room with this many people, I have to believe that there are people here who haven’t thought lately about the fact that God wants to hear from them.  God wants to know what your heart’s desire is for your life.  God wants to hear about your frustration and disappointment.  God wants you to talk to Him about where you think you might be headed.  Most of all, God wants to hear your humble confession of sin.  He wants you to talk things over and to be open and honest about the things you’ve done that have been against the heart of God.

He wants you to confess your sin because He wants to be able to make good on this second promise which is to forgive you.

He promises to forgive us.

Where would we be without forgiveness?  My life would be absolute drudgery.  If I had to carry my sin around with me every day and it watch it accumulate every day, I’d be buried in a week.  God’s promise to forgive us when we confess our sins bring tremendous freedom into our lives.

A man named Lee Eclov had this to say about confession.

The banner headline across the top of one Chicago Tribune read, “Guilty Plea Sets Inmate Free.” The picture showed the freed man embracing his sister, and the article told how a man imprisoned for eight years cut a deal with the state’s attorney’s office in which the time served satisfied his sentence.

What struck me was that headline. My first reaction was, “Another criminal gets off with a plea bargain.” Then I realized that was what happened to me: “Guilty Plea Sets Inmate Free.” Freedom is not in a plea of innocence but in the admission of guilt. My story is different, but the headline fits perfectly.  (Citation: Lee Eclov; Lake Forest, Illinois; source: Chicago Tribune (8-2-00)—Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion)

I have a suspicion that there are Christians, even people here this morning that are walking around with stuff that is keeping them from having the abundant life Christ wants to give us.  The trouble with unconfessed sin is that it opens the door for our enemy to gain a foothold in our life and drives a wedge between us and God, the very One who wants to free us and empower us to live to sin no more.  We need to learn to confess our sins immediately rather than walk around with the guilt, shame and condemnation that accompany sin.  Immediate confession will keep us from getting comfortable with sin.  And I can’t warn you enough about how important it is not to get comfortable with sin.

Sammy was a young boy who lived in the Deep South. His summer days were filled with times of fishing in the pond down the road. Just about every day during his summer vacation, he would dig up some worms and head off, pole in hand, for a day of fishing..

One steamy hot day Sammy quietly walked out the front door, grabbed his pitchfork and worm pail and walked into the woods to search for bait. He turned over old stumps and dug under leaves hoping to find worms. Under one old stump he hit the jackpot. The ground was writhing. In 2 minutes he had all the bait he needed, and in 15 minutes he was at the pond.

Reaching into his bait bucket, Sammy pulled out a big worm. He double hooked it and tossed in into the water. He noticed a stinging in his hand, but filled with the excitement of the moment, he paid no attention to it. Within 30 seconds, Sammy had a strike and pulled in a nice catfish. Wow, he thought, a fish in the first minute.

He put the catch on his stringer, hurried to rebait his hook. Once again he felt a stinging sensation in his hand as he threw his hook into the pond. He didn’t have time to worry about it. Within just a few seconds, he had another huge fish. He fumbled the next time he baited his hook.  His hand felt numb and stiff. But Sammy was too excited about catching another fish to give it much thought.

At the end of only an hour, Sammy had caught 8 large fish. This was definitely his best fishing day ever. He was so proud of his accomplishment that, even though there was plenty of day left to fish, he threw the heavy stringer of fish over his shoulder and dashed down the road toward home to show off his catch to his parents.

The local sheriff happened to drive up alongside Sammy and started to congratulate him on his catch of fish. With a smile and a victory whoop, Sammy held up the stringer. The sheriff gasped, parked his car and ran over to Sammy. His eyes hadn’t deceived him–Sammy’s arms really were red and swollen to about twice their normal size. “Exactly where have you been and what bait did you use to catch all those fish?” the sheriff asked Sammy.

“I found some special bait under an old stump,” Sammy boasted. “These worms really wiggle good,” he said as he handed up the bucket for inspection. After a close look at the worms, the sheriff went into fast-forward. Putting the bucket in the car, he swooped up Sammy made a U-turn on the dirt road and sped off to the hospital, but Sammy was already dead.

What the sheriff had discovered was that Sammy had been fishing with baby rattlesnakes. Sammy’s deadly bait brought him a good morning of fishing but cost him his life. Had Sammy stopped fishing after that first sting, he could have been saved. But Sammy was having too much fun and didn’t bother himself with the small voice of pain in his hand. Then, as the hand grew numb, even that voice was silenced.

Playing around and not dealing with sin is like using baby rattlesnakes for bait. It may seem harmless but it’s putting its venom in you and over time will rob you of your life and quite possibly lead to spiritual death.  It’s unnecessary when we can confess our sins immediately and ask God for the power to live a life free from sin.

He promises to heal our land.

If there ever was a time that America needed God’s healing touch, it is now.  People who are disenfranchised from God have become spiritually destitute.  There are people living as if God doesn’t exist, truth isn’t absolute and there are no eternal consequences for their actions.  Isn’t that cause for alarm?

People are more selfish and self-serving than ever.  There is more corruption on the political scene, I believe than at any time in my lifetime.  Families are hurting and fractured.  We’re in debt beyond what seems possible to recover from.

The unemployment rate is scary.  Gas prices are forcing people to make choices they’d rather not have to make.  Health care costs are ridiculous.

Drug and alcohol addiction, despite all of the educational efforts to warn people about the dangers of addiction are at an all-time high.  Jails are full of people mainly due to crimes committed to try to keep up with their habit.  There is a pervading sense of hopelessness on the horizon.  Young people in increasing rates don’t know how to dream about their future and are dropping out of school and worse, taking their own lives.

However, there is an answer for the pain and brokenness in our land.  His name is Jesus!  And Father God makes these promises for all of our land in response to the actions of who?  “If MY PEOPLE!”  If as God’s people, we will take initiative to act and live and serve and love like God-people, if we use our God-given authority as His royal family, if we will humble ourselves and seek Him and confess our sin God will bring healing to our land.  Revival will come to our land if we will get right and live right for Him.

Have you ever considered that your choices, your prayers, the confession of your sin could actually impact the destiny of a nation?  God wants you to remember that this Memorial Day.

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