A NATIONAL IMPERATIVE

 

Repentance and Prayer

Dr. Lewis W. Gregory

 

JESUS said, “Repent and believe” (Mark 1:15).

The world is falling apart, nations are crumbling, people everywhere are confused and fearful. Such things reveal our human limitations. Our problems are clearly beyond the scope of our human abilities. But thankfully, nothing is too hard for the Lord God Almighty. It is time to pray to God for a spiritual awakening. Such an awakening must begin with you. You must be spiritually awakened before you can effectively pray for others to be awakened.

“I cried out to Him [GOD] with my mouth; His praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer” (Psalm 66:17-19 NIV).

Prayer is not religious chants or vain repetitions. Prayer is talking to Holy God. If you want to pray effectively, first make sure that you are spiritually attuned to the Lord. “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully” (Psalm 24:3-4 NASB). The Apostle James reiterates this, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8NKJV) This is not about geography, it is about spiritual intimacy. When you are born of the Spirit, you become one with God through your union with Christ. Therefore, you can’t get any closer to God than you are in Christ. However, the outer man of the flesh may at times need to be cleansed of sin, while the inner man of the spirit needs to be purified of double-mindedness. You must have an open line of communication with a clear channel between Heaven and Earth for prayer to be effective.

The old hymn says it well, “It’s me, it’s me O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.” Therefore, you should address your needs first. “It is time for judgment to begin with God’s household” (1 Peter 4:17 NIV). This means God must first work in you before He can work through you. He will show you what is hindering you, not to put you down, but to pick you up. That’s what God’s grace is all about!

Before you talk to God about your personal needs or the concerns of others, be sure that you have talked to Him about your personal relationship and fellowship with Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to awaken you to any area of your life where you have been deceived. This is not necessarily about exposing some vile wicked sin. It is simply about your having a clean vessel, fit for the Master’s use. However, any sins He may show you are only symptoms of your real problem: fleshly dependency.

Your fleshly dependency will always quench the Holy Spirit, thus hindering the Lord from working in and through your life. Therefore, Paul exhorts us to “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19 KJV). It is because of our fleshly dependency, which is quenching the Holy Spirit, that we need a spiritual awakening.

Spiritual awakening is a work of God’s grace from start to finish. “If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25 KJV). Spiritual awakening begins with repentance. Jesus stressed the importance of repentance when He said, “But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:5 NIV). Jesus made it clear that repentance is essential for everyone.

What is repentance? Repentance is a change of thinking that results in a change of actions. You were wrong, you were going the wrong way. God alone is right! Therefore, you must turn from your faulty thinking and turn to the Lord so that you can go God’s way with your life. God grants repentance by revealing your erroneous ways, wrong ideas, and faulty beliefs. Then, He causes you to acknowledge the truth so that He might enable you to go the right way—His way with your life. Repentance enables us to recognize that we are going in the wrong direction so that we can turn from it, and then acknowledge what is right so that we can turn to it. For example, if you make a wrong turn while driving an automobile, as soon as you realize it you immediately turn around and begin going the right direction again. Likewise, God gives us repentance by showing us we are headed in the wrong direction and enabling us to turn around.

God giving repentance is in itself a work of God’s grace. Grace means God gives something to us or does something for us. Furthermore, what God gives is undeserved, unearned and unattainable by us. In this case, God gives us the ability to repent. Thus, even repentance is a gift from God—the grace of repentance.

The grace of repentance is described in Jeremiah Chapter 31. The people realized that God was their only hope, so they cried out to the Lord. You must do the same. This requires an act of faith on your part. The same grace of repentance that resulted in God’s people returning to Him back then is available to you today. God will turn you toward Himself, and then you will be turned. You will realize the Lord is truly your God too. When you turn to Him, He will enable you to repent with godly sorrow, expressed by genuine brokenness and shame.

Once you turn to the Lord, He will have mercy on you, and embrace you as His dear child. You will awaken to discover that He has created a new thing in the Earth. You will behold your new self that He has created as a result of the new covenant—the covenant of grace. And who is this new self? God has changed you from the inside out into a new creation in Christ. He changed your old self “in Adam” into a new self “in Christ.” He removed your old dead heart (spirit) and gave you a new living heart. He put His Spirit within you. Now, His Spirit will cause you to walk in His ways (Ezekiel 37:25-28). You will realize that you are His child and He is your Father God (1 Corinthians 6:16-18). You will also know God in an intimate personal way as your loving Heavenly Father. This grace of repentance brings total transformation. Thank God for His amazing grace!

Repentance is also a recognition of need. It is an admission that you have a problem and you cannot fix it. Therefore, repentance begins with an awareness of your own personal need. But this is not always obvious or easy to admit. For example, when we corrected our children, we said, “Admit you’re wrong, say you’re sorry and do what’s right.” But like most people do, they would blame, excuse, justify or rationalize their actions. Our reply, “Just say you’re sorry and get on with it.”

Jesus encountered the same response among the people when He walked this Earth. Jesus began His earthly ministry by “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15 KJV). His gospel message was simple: repent and believe. But many would not admit that they were wrong. They did not think they had any need to repent. So Jesus responded by saying, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32 KJV). If you do not realize there is something wrong with you, then you will never seek assistance. Until you admit that you have a problem and acknowledge your sins, Jesus cannot fix you.

However, there is more to repentance than confessing sins. Confession of sins is often nothing more than mere lip service to God. “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” (Isaiah 29:13 NIV). Many people confess their sins, but there is no real change in their lives—either in their attitudes or their actions. So, where is the repentance in that?

If there is no change in your life, there has been no true repentance! John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus by preaching repentance, but he also called for tangible evidence of repentance. “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8 NASB). If you have truly repented, it should be evident in your life by a change of character and conduct. Biblical repentance produces godly sorrow and results in a changed life. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NKJV).

Biblical repentance is about turning to God from all of your worldly dependencies (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Everything that you have been relying upon for your strength and identity should be rejected. You must humble yourself by admitting your fleshly weakness—you are totally powerless to live life. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17 NASB). Acknowledge your sinfulness. Admit that you have failed and that you cannot change your life. Give up all your fleshly efforts to change and refuse to try anymore.

Change is God’s responsibility. He took care of that at the cross. So, go to the cross and accept your death with Christ. You have been crucified and raised with Christ (Galatians 2:20). This is the great exchange! When you exchanged your old life for your new life in Christ, you were changed at the very core of your being into a new creation in Christ. Christ is now your life! He is the change-maker. He will produce the needed changes in your life.

Therefore, you need to stop trying to change your life; look away from all your fleshly resources and look only to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is the sole Source of life and godliness. Cease depending upon your fleshly works of righteousness (which the Bible calls filthy rags) and look to the Righteous One—Christ Himself.

You must repent of your own fleshly human efforts, carnal mindedness, and good moral religious deeds. Even the Apostle Paul confessed, “I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13 KJV). Furthermore, Paul stated that he counted all his fleshly achievements and human accomplishments as loss. He exchanged his human righteousness, which was totally inadequate, for the righteousness of Christ, which is pure perfection (Philippians 3:4-11). Paul gave up on all his human abilities and turned to the One who is well able. And thus Paul confidently declared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”(Philippians 4:13 NKJV). Not only will Christ turn you from your sins and produce the needed changes in your life, He will cause you to walk in the path of righteousness. This is true repentance: turning to the Lord and then, by the grace of God, turning from fleshly dependency so that you might live godly in Christ.

So, after you have repented by turning from all your fleshly dependencies, it is time to turn to the Lord in total dependency upon Him. Keep in mind that Jesus said you must first repent and then believe. Jesus indicated that it is not enough just to repent, you must also believe. But believe what? Jesus elaborated by saying believe “the gospel.” What is the gospel? The gospel has been defined as the good news. But what is the good news and why is it so good? The news is good because of who the news is about. The good news is about Jesus the Christ. Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18 NASB). And who is Jesus? He is God the Son. The gospel is a person—Jesus Christ the Lord! The gospel is about Christ: who He is, what He did and what He has come to do. It is all about the living Lord Jesus Christ.

There is more to believing than merely accepting the facts about Jesus to be true. Jesus explained that if you truly believe, then you will receive Him. So, believing according to Jesus involves receiving . . . receiving Him—the very person of Jesus Christ Himself. You must personally receive Jesus Christ the Lord into your life, as your life. However, most people have only received Christ into their life. They have not received Christ as their life. You must also believe on Christ as your life. Why? Because you need the very Spirit of Christ Himself to fill you, equip you and empower you for living.

Therefore, after you have repented, ask God to fill you with His Spirit. Yield yourself completely to the control of the Holy Spirit. Give Him your spirit, soul and body so that He can completely fill you with His presence and power. Trust Christ to live His life through you and you will be able to “walk in newness of life”—His Life! As you depend upon His righteous life in you, Jesus will accomplish His righteous works through you! Then the Spirit, who is the intercessor resident in you, will intercede through you.

Now you are ready to pray for spiritual awakening. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 KJV). Effectual prayer stems from a righteous person who is praying fervently. Christ is now your righteousness (1 Corinthians1:30). Since Christ indwells you, you can pray out of His life—as your life. That is how Jesus functioned when He was on this Earth. He explained the Source of His words when He said, “I don’t speak on my own. I say only what the Father who sent me has told me to say” (John 12:49 CEV). “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, He does the works” (John 14:10 AKJV).

Praying fervently means that you are praying wholeheartedly unto the Lord, in total dependency upon the Lord. It’s not about how loud you pray, or how long you pray. It’s all about The One who prays—the Holy Spirit interceding through you. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26 NKJV). And His words accomplish His purposes. They do not return void!

So, pray confidently for spiritual awakening in accordance with the Apostle Paul’s exhortation. “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14 NASB). Likewise, arise and shine so that you might pray fervently that the Lord God Almighty would grant mercy and grace to the United States of America. God bless the USA!

Source Ministries © 2020

Pray For The Nation – https://www.sourceministries.net/go/2014/11/prayers-for-our-nation/

 

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