Turn From Your Wicked Ways
Heal Our LandPastor Jerry Gillis - October 9, 2016
Believing the Gospel allows us to understand what to turn from and Who to turn to.
Community Group Study Notes
- Talk about the four things mentioned as they were defined in Sunday’s message: idolatry, dehumanization, nationalism, and racism. Why are these destructive to us as individuals and to our society?
- What does the Gospel teach us in response to these wicked ways? Take note of what was said on Sunday, and go back to thechapel.com to watch this portion of the message to jog your memory.
- Is there anything that you need to repent of in response to what God is showing you in His Word? Share that with your group and take time to pray together.
So as we continue our study in 2 Chronicles chapter 7, we're reminded that in chapter 6, Solomon prayed very specifically when he was dedicating the temple. This is stuff that we've picked up on. If you haven't been here for any of these messages, I encourage you to go back to thechapel.com and maybe catch up a little bit so you understand some of the context of what we're talking about. In 2 Chronicles chapter 6, Solomon is praying as he's dedicating the temple and he's talking to God. And Solomon is actually - in his prayer he is foreseeing a time where Israel may walk away from God, where they may actually begin to do some things that they should not do.
Now probably Solomon is banking on the fact that he knows a little bit about history. He knows his own people's history. He remembers the time of the wilderness wanderings where they were 40 years in the wilderness because of choosing to reject God and build other idols and those kinds of things. He also may remember the time of the judges which was just before the time of the kings. The time of the judges - when you read in the book of Judges, for instance, and you get to the very end of it, here's how it ends: everyone was doing what was right in their own sight. It was just chaos is what it was, because people were following after their own desires and their own whims and not following after God.
So, Solomon in praying may have realized that there was going to be a time when Israel would not walk with God. And so, he appeals to God and basically says, God, if this is the case with your people Israel, if at some point they come to their senses and they turn back, will you forgive them and will you accept them and will you restore them. I'm praying that you will. And God certainly says that He will. And in His response in 2 Chronicles 7, verse number 14 which we've been studying now for a number of weeks, 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, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land."
So Solomon foresaw a time in his praying that this may be the case - that the people of Israel may walk into wicked ways. What he may not have foreseen, however, was that he and his family would be the ones who would lead people into that place where they were having some wicked ways and wicked stuff that they were doing and embracing. He probably did not foresee that actually occurring. So Israel fell into wicked ways from the time of Solomon all the way through the kings of Israel. If you remember there was a division of the kingdom, and in that division you had kings of Israel and kings of Judah, and most of the kings of Israel were not very good. There were one or two, but most of them were leading the people the wrong way. In the kings of Judah, there was actually a little better hit rate for having some people who followed after Yahweh, but still some of them were actually not walking with God as well.
And you know what we can find when we study from Solomon all the way through all of the kings in Solomon's praying about them falling into wicked ways? We can find some things that they sinned nationally - that were descriptive of the people of Israel - we can find some of those things, and it's not all of them, but there's a few of them. I want to mention some of them to you.
The first one that you can notice real quickly is idolatry. Israel fell into idolatry and Solomon was the one that was leading them into that. I don't know if you remember but Solomon had a wife of two. Or hundreds. And that led him down a wrong road because of what God had said. It doesn't tell us that in 2 Chronicles chapter 7 or in chapter 8. But in the compilation, kind of a supplement to Chronicles, you can read in the book of the Kings - 1 Kings, 2 Kings - you can see some of the conversation about some of these Kings and what transpired.
Listen to what 1 Kings chapter number 11 says about Solomon. It says King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharoah's daughter - Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, "You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods." Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.
So Solomon himself, even though he was praying, hey if Israel ever gets away from you God, may not have foreseen the fact that he was going to be the one that was going to lead Israel in that direction by marrying all of these women, who by the way were worshipping false gods and leading Solomon into the same practice, to the point where he was building shrines for them. And actually the people of Israel - listen to this - some of the people of Israel were sacrificing their own children in worship to pagan gods, which God said was detestable. So this is what happened. They fell into idolatry - putting other gods before God.
But they also fell into dehumanization. Let me explain what I mean there. If you were to go past 1 Kings 11 and read in 1 Kings 12, what you would find is a conversation about Solomon leaving the throne and Rehoboam, his son, taking over the throne and Jeroboam comes to Rehoboam and says, hey - are you going to be as rough on us as Solomon was? And you start finding some things out about Solomon - that he was forcing labor upon people, that he was excessively burdening people and actually was treating people more like animals to be herded rather than people to be led. And Rehoboam decided he was going to listen to Jeroboam and Jeroboam was saying, please don't treat us the same way that Solomon treated us.
And Rehoboam, instead of listening to the wise counselors around him, decided to wrangle up some of his high school friends - you know how that goes, right? Hey, man, what should I do? I don't know. This is going to be awesome. You're the king now - like, just do whatever you want. Like, you show them who's boss, dude! And then Rehoboam's like, I am going to show them who's boss. And then he basically says if you think my dad was tough on you, my little finger is thicker than his waist in terms of the weight that I'm going to throw down on you.
This is what the people of Israel were experiencing. They were being dehumanized. They were being treated like property or commodity or animals. And it was a sin. It was a wicked way.
But there were also other things like nationalism. Here's what I mean by that. By the time that you go through this list of kings that have ruled over Israel, what you find is this last king that ruled, Hoshaiah, had led them - just like some of the kings before him - had led them to want to be like all of the other pagan nations. Israel didn't necessarily want to be distinctive - as God wanted them to be, by the way - God wanted Israel to be distinctive, to show the world the glory of God. But instead they wanted to be just like everybody else. And it led into this really vicious cycle of following after foreign gods instead of following after Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. And eventually, it led to Israel being captured by Assyria and brought into exile.
In fact, if you want to know what it was like in the end of the time of the kings, here's what it was like. You can see it in 2 Kings chapter 17. It says they (meaning the people of God, Israel) wouldn't listen and they were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who didn't trust in the Lord their God. They rejected His decrees and the covenant He had made with their ancestors and the statutes He had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, "Do not do as they do." They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing His anger. This was the people of God doing this. This was Israel, God's people doing this.
That wasn't the only thing, though. Racism was a part of their world. Because as I told you a couple of weeks ago by the time this got through all of the kings and actually made it to the time after the exile, and when Herod built the second temple, what you found is such a divide between Jew and Gentile that was based on how they were defined ethnically. In fact, it was such a disparate kind of thing that they had a sign at Herod's temple that said hey, Gentiles can't come past this point or you're going to die.
In fact, in 1871 some archeologists found one of those signs. It may not have been the only one, but one of those, and it was written in all caps in Greek so that the non-Jews would be able to read it and it said: "Foreigners must not enter inside the balustrade or into the forecourt of the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his ensuing death." This was the divide between Jew and non-Jew, between Jew and Gentile.
This is what Israel was experiencing: idolatry, dehumanization, nationalism, and racism that was going on through the course of their lineage. Israel had wicked ways from Solomon forward, but he had prayed, in some foresight knowing that Israel may come to a place where they lived that way. And he said, God, if we turn, will you forgive us? Will you restore us? Will you heal us? And God so graciously said that he would.
Now here's the thing: when God responds in 2 Chronicles chapter 7 verse 14, when God responds to Solomon's prayer, He couples some things together. He 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. Do you see how well the two things - seek my face and turn from wicked ways - fit together? Here's the bottom line. You can't run toward God and run from God at the same time. You can't do it. You can't seek God's face when your back is turned to him. You see God put all of this together for us to remind us that only in humility, only through prayer, in seeking his face, can we even have the power to be able to turn from our wicked ways.
You know, I find it interesting that he uses that actual term - turn. You see, as we see in the life of God speaking to Israel through Solomon, we also can see the same thing carried over into the New Testament when God in the flesh - Jesus - begins to speak in His ministry. You see, this isn't just a passage that's only set back in time that we can't grab anything from. We still can make application in our own context, even though this is being written and spoken to Israel - a covenant people - the church has something to learn from it.
And in fact, the same way God told Israel they needed to turn from their wicked ways and seek His face, when Jesus came and lived among us, He said the same thing. In fact, when you begin reading Mark's gospel, the very first words that Mark records that Jesus said are around this idea. Listen in fact to what he said in Mark chapter 1 verse 15. Jesus said, "The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news (or repent and believe the gospel)!" That's what good news is - the gospel.
Isn't it interesting that Jesus uses the same terminology - that word repent is what God was talking about when He was telling Israel to turn. Repentance is a word that's actually formally a military term. It's to do an about-face. You're headed in one direction, and you turn and you're headed in another direction, and that's what it means to repent. It is a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. That's what repentance actually means. And so Jesus, at the very beginning of Mark's gospel says the kingdom is at hand. It is near. Repent and believe the gospel.
Do you know, when you begin to read all of the gospels and you get to the end of Luke's gospel because Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptics. John is its own gospel - its unique. But you read Matthew, Mark an and Luke. Do you know what Luke records as some of the last words of Jesus? In Luke chapter 24? Same theme. Jesus was speaking to His disciples and the Scripture says that He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." In other words, this same message, this message of a change of mind that leads to a change of direction is exactly what Jesus was embracing in His ministry when He was preaching, and what the apostles after Him would ultimately preach. So both of these things talk about the idea that we are to repent and believe the gospel so that we know how and where to turn from our wicked ways.
Here's the thing: the Church (the people of God), just like Israel (the Old Testament people of God), can sometimes choose not to believe the gospel and as a result embrace wicked ways. It's just as true of us. And in fact, I would suggest to you that the problems that Israel had may not be that different than the problems that we experience and the wicked ways we embrace.
Let me start with idolatry. Remember, I'm talking to the Church - I'm talking to the people of God. Let me start with idolatry. Do you realize that idolatry - even in the New Testament, even though it was a different context of building idols and worshipping calves and those kinds of things - that the New Testament people of God, the Church - people like us and people even in the first centuries of the Church - still had problems of putting other things in God's place, which is what idolatry is. It's taking anything else or anyone else and putting them in the place of God. That somehow, some way we think that some thing or some one can satisfy us more than God can. That's what idolatry actually is.
And do you know ultimately what Paul had to do is he had to warn the people of God. In the Church at Corinth, he had to warn them about idolatry because they were experiencing it. Listen to what he said in 1 Corinthians 10. I don't want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did - and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did - and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did - and were killed by the destroying angel. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
Do you realize Paul thought this was serious enough that he was saying, look at the example of Israel. Look at what they were engaged in. Look at what happened to them when they placed other things ahead of God, whether that was other relationships, or whether that was sexual pleasure, or whether that was just fulfilling their lusts in some other way, and they put those above priority in terms of worshipping God. And when that takes place, we're in trouble. And the same is true for us, ladies and gentlemen whether we put selfish lusts above God, or whether we put other relationships above God, or whether we put stuff above God, money above God. Hey, in the culture that we live in, ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you that there is a distinct issue with idolatry in the Evangelical church when it comes to money, because we bought the same lies that the world tries to feed us about consumerism and materialism and all that kind of stuff.
And in fact, Paul actually warned the Church at Colossae about this because he told them that actual greed and desiring of everything all the time - it's idolatrous. Listen to what he said in Colossians 3. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Paul said it point blank. You've made an idol of this stuff. And he's probably talking about all of it, but he specifying greed.
Here's why I know that we have an issue in the Church. Because I've looked at some of the research around the Evangelical church. Empty Tomb, Incorporated has done a lot of research on this. Do you know the average person who attends Evangelical church in the United States gives 2.43% of their income to Kingdom work through the church? 2.43% - almost a throw away number. Do you know that 37% of people that actually attend Evangelical churches give zero to Kingdom work through the church. Nada. Do you know what that says? It says we have an idolatry problem. What we need to do is we need to repent - to change our mind, to change our direction.
But idolatry is not the only issue with the Church of Jesus Christ. Dehumanization is also an issue. It happens in a million different ways. Let me give you a couple of examples. One is the example of pornography. Do you realize how dehumanizing pornography is? And by the way if you think this is just a them problem and not an us problem, you've got your head in the sand. ChristiaNet.org and Second Glance Ministries did research along this line. Here's what they found: 50% of men in the Evangelical church and 20% of women are in some degree involved in pornography.
This is dehumanizing. It actually erodes your own humanity when you view it, and you are eroding the humanity of the people you are viewing. Here's why: because you objectify them and you commodify them. They are a commodity - something to be purchased to view. They're being treated as a commodity, not as a human. People can be able at that point, when we objectify other human beings, we dehumanize them and we can separate out this idea of them being image bearers of God and having souls - instead, putting all of that aside and just objectifying them as a physical presence. It's dehumanizing. And it erodes the humanity of the viewer who then has a problem understanding in real life how to have actual relationships. It's dehumanizing.
You know what else is dehumanizing? The way in which we speak of other human beings. Let me give you a pertinent, relevant illustration: the way we speak about presidential candidates. We dehumanize them. I find it interesting that we can mock and belittle and do all of those things - lampoon - and we can sit on large moral soap boxes and decry and belittle them for their lack of morality, but we're showing our own lack in belittling their humanity. It's part of why the world doesn't pay attention to the Church very often - because we look and act just like them - not like people who understand what other human beings are. They're made in the image of God.
This is what James says. Listen to how James says it - James, the half-brother of Jesus, right? Same mother, different dad. You understand that, right? He says, with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Ladies and gentlemen, we do not get to pick who we dignify as a human being. Everyone has the image of God stamped upon their life. Doesn't mean that they're a child of God. They are a creation of God that has the fingerprints of God on their life as image bearers. Children of God are those who by faith have come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. They are the ones regarded in the Scripture as the Children of God, but we are all creations of God who are image bearers of God, and as a result the people of God ought to know this better than anyone, and know what it means to dignify other human beings as human beings, and not dehumanize them.
St. Augustine really said something I thought was incredibly insightful, because he was getting at the idea in one of his writings called On True Religion, he was getting at the idea that oftentimes we actually only regard people's humanity because of what it does for us, not simply because they are image bearers. Listen to what he said. He said, it's more inhuman to love a man not for being a man but for being your son. For this means not loving in him what belongs to God but loving what belongs to you. In other words, I love my son because he's my son and he belongs to me - not because he's an image bearer because that belongs to God. See, ladies and gentlemen, the most human thing that we can do is honor the dignity of every human being as a human being and not dehumanize them in any form.
There's also a reminder for us that nationalism can be an issue for us, just like it was for Israel. In other words, let me say it this way: if loyalty to our country takes a higher precedence than loyalty to God's Kingdom, we have made a mistake. Don't misunderstand. We're all grateful to live in the place that we live - whether it's here in the United States, or for all of our Canadian friends, whether it's in Canada. Whatever that means - we're grateful for that and we should work toward the peace of our nation and we should work toward people being treated justly in our nation. We should work towards all of those things. But loyalty to country doesn't not eclipse loyalty to the Kingdom. That's where we start to make mistakes. And ultimately, no promise of power, no promise of wealth, no promise of world domination or exceptionalism should ever eclipse our loyalty to the Kingdom of God.
And then racism. Something that we have to deal with in the Church of Jesus Christ. Just as Israel was dealing with issues between Jew and Gentile, sometimes in the Church of Jesus there is too much looking at people not like us as other. Not only can that be dehumanizing as well, but it also deals with people just based on their pigmentation or their background or their ethnicity. We start embracing hate and fear instead of peace and love when we start buying into that kind of thinking.
And there's a responsibility among those of us - there's a responsibility among those of us in the body of Christ who are Caucasian who may be a majority population to have an understanding of those in the body of Christ - our brothers and sisters of color in the body of Christ and what they feel and what they walk through and what they at times can experience. It's not their job to train us. It's our job to understand. It's our job as brothers and sisters to get that. For our immigrant families that come into this county and are trying to find their way in the space that they are living in, we have a responsibility to reach out and to embrace and to understand what this looks like because these are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ - they are a part of the family. This is family that we're talking about.
So we in the body of Christ have to figure some of these things out, and we have to start building relationships with people that we have before viewed as other - we have to build relationships so that we get to a place of understanding, so that we get to a place of helping one another because here's what we're trying to do. We're trying to show - together, we're trying to show Jesus off to the world and we can't do that when we embrace wicked ways.
So, Israel had wicked ways that they had to deal with and the Church has to deal with some wicked ways, but here's what I want to remind you of. Jesus said repent and believe the gospel. Do you know that when we start really believing and understanding the gospel that we then can be in a place where we can actually turn from these wicked ways? That they're not present anymore - because you know what the gospel does? It crushes them. It stamps them out.
In fact, let me give you something that the gospel teaches us for every one of those issues that we just talked about. The gospel first of all teaches us that Jesus - he's the only one that can save and he's the only one that can satisfy. You see, ladies and gentlemen, this gets at the heart of idolatry because when we think that there is anything else in all of the world that we can put in His place that can save us, that can satisfy us, we listen to the gospel, we repent and we believe that Jesus alone can save and Jesus alone can satisfy.
I mean this is what Peter, after he was filled with the Spirit after Pentecost, when he began preaching and he was facing those leaders that were there in Israel some of which had warned people about idolatry, some of which had struggled with idolatry. Listen to what he says about the Lord Jesus in Acts chapter 4. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Messiah - Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is "'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.' Listen to this: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Jesus - Jesus alone.
There is - listen - when we believe the gospel, it crushes idolatry. But we let it creep in, don't we. We have to keep coming back to the reality of the truth of the gospel and turn and rejecting the things that fill our mind and distract us from that thinking oh, this relationship can save you. Oh, this person can give you all the satisfaction that you need in all of the world. Oh, this stuff or this money will be everything you need to complete you. We have to reject that and say, Jesus alone can save us and satisfy us. That's what the gospel teaches us.
The gospel also teaches us a second thing and it's this: that the marred image of God is being renewed in Jesus. Do you know why this is important for us? Because when the gospel shows us this, it stomps out dehumanization. We no longer are going to be a people who dehumanize other people. We won't because we understand that the gospel teaches us that the marred image of God, kind of the smudged fingerprint of God that's on every person, can actually be renewed in Jesus.
Listen to how Paul writes it in the book of Colossians. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
You see, part of the reason, ladies and gentlemen, that we have to be on mission in sharing the love and the life of Jesus Christ with the world that we live in is because while everybody should be dignified in the fact that they are created by God and bear the image of God, what we have to remember is that we have a marred image of God in our lives, and it is only through relationship in Jesus Christ that we can actually be renewed in the image of God as God desires for us to be renewed. That's why we want every human being - every man, woman and child - to hear and see and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because it renews! We become - listen to this - we become fully human in the way God designed us to be, instead of allowing our humanity to be eaten away and dehumanizing others at the same time. The gospel wipes this out when we believe it.
There's a third thing though. We have to understand the gospel teaches us that the kingdom of God is without borders. Very important for us to understand. We are no longer just a kingdom that is one geographical nation. The United States is not the new Israel. We are a kingdom without borders.
Listen to how this is described in the book of Revelation. The redeemed people sang a new song, saying: "You (Jesus) are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons - listen to this - from every tribe and language and people and nation." From everywhere!
Listen to how Peter when he uses terminology that used to be just for Israel and he now ascribes it to the Church of Jesus Christ. Listen to 1 Peter chapter number 2. Peter says, you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 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.
Do you know what this does? When we believe the gospel, it stamps out nationalism. In other words, we understand that the new nation is the people of God everywhere in every place in every tribe and every language that have come to faith in Jesus Christ - everywhere they are we are. We're a family and it's all over the world. This is a different perspective, and we have to have it because this is what the gospel teaches us.
Finally, I would tell you this. The gospel teaches us that there is a new kind of humanity in Jesus. You know what this does - when we understand it? It stomps out racism, because in Jesus there's a brand new way of being human.
In fact, when Paul was talking about this divide between Jew and Gentile, listen to what he said in Ephesians chapter 2. He said therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (which is done in the body by human hands) remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.
Do you know what this does, ladies and gentlemen? It's a reminder that when we come to faith in Jesus, no matter - listen - no matter what our pigmentation is, no matter what our ethnicity is, no matter what our socioeconomic status is, no matter what our political affiliation is - when we come to faith in Jesus, one new humanity is being made of those people that are now the body of Christ, the Church. We just don't distinguish.
Now here's the beauty. Even though we don't distinguish or separate along the lines of our pigmentation or those kinds of things, we still embrace it because as God is, God Himself in His trinitarian nature as Father, Son, and Spirit is diversity within the context of essential unity. That's who God is. And do you know what that means for the Church? That's who we are. We are a reflection of what God is. We are a unity in the context of diversity. We're not blind to this. We love that we see this.
I had a sweet lady in our church who is African American who said to me.... There was about four of us talking the other day, and they did most of the talking, didn't they? Yeah, I did most of the listening. It was great. Here's what she said. She said, you know what? I'm inviting people to church all the time. And I was like, great, that's fantastic! She said, you know what I tell them when I talk to them at work? I said, tell me. What do you tell them when you talk to them at work? She said, I go to The Chapel. And I always know they're going to say, what kind of church is The Chapel? And she says non-denominational, multi-cultural. And I went, I think I like that! I said, and I plan to steal it and give you no credit for it. Although I just did give her credit for it right now, didn't I? I'm thankful to God for that. But even though - listen - even though at large that's the case in our local context - it may not be the case in the at-large local Church, and it may not be the case at large in your local heart. This is where we have to do the work of asking those questions.
But when we believe the gospel, it stomps out idolatry. It stomps out dehumanization. It stomps out nationalism. It stomps out racism. So here's what I'm submitting to you. For you and for me, we need to repent and believe the gospel. Repent and believe the gospel, because this is what will change us and we can change by His grace. By our faith, we can change.
I'm going to ask you to bow your heads with me all along this place. I want to take a few moments to do something. We're not leaving quite yet. I'm going to ask you to stay put unless you're serving somewhere obviously that you have to get up for. Here in this room, in the East Worship Center, in the Atrium, in any of our other locations, I'll ask our pastors there to pick up from here and call us to a time of prayer. Here's what I want to ask you to do. I want to give you a few moments to just do some business with God. God may have highlighted by His Spirit something in your heart where He wants to help you - where he's calling you to a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. And I don't know what that is for you. But I want to give you a few moments. We still have a few moments left in our worship time. I want to give you a few moments to do that work with the Lord.
Here's what I'm going to say to you. In this room, if you want to come forward and you want to take an opportunity to just kneel down, down here with some space, it's wide open for you to be able to do that. In the aisles if you need to, kneeling at your seat if you want to. Just remaining seated if you want to. It's o.k. You can do that in the East Worship Center. You can do that in the Atrium. Wherever you are, I want to open this up to you to take a few moments and get with the Lord and ask Him what He needs to reorder in your heart and in your mind for His glory. So, it's open for you right now. Take opportunity to do that. I'll close us in a word of prayer in just a moment. So you guys take time to pray.
Father, we humble ourselves before You, and we pray and we seek Your face and we turn from our wicked ways. For whatever it is that you pointed out in any of our lives, we want to reject the ways that are inconsistent with the truth of the gospel. If we've allowed something to take preeminence in our lives as an idol, that we care more about than we do following You - and if we've let Your Spirit point that out to us, we want to turn our back on that and turn our face back to You. Lord, if in any ways we have dehumanized other people and at times we find ourselves guilty of becoming what we say we despise, I pray that we would turn away from dehumanizing people made in Your image and that we would believe the gospel. If we've embraced an unbridled loyalty to a geographical nation above our loyalty to the kingdom of God and the family of God, I pray that we would turn from that, and we would believe the gospel. And if we have made people in our hearts different than us in a category of other, particularly our friends, brothers, and sisters in the body of Christ, if in any way we've done any of those things I pray You'd point it out to us.
And that, Father, we would turn away from that and we would believe the gospel because we know when we do that we can see clearly and that You will allow us to give evidence of our repentance by doing work that comes from a changed heart. We know the work itself is not necessarily the issue. It is the work that comes from a changed heart because, Lord, you want Your people to be distinct, to be people who love You with all of their hearts and who love people, and yes, who speak truthfully sometimes to power - who call out injustice when it occurs, who deals with brokenness and sin as You have. But that we do it, God, in the same spirit that You've called us - that while we were yet sinners, Jesus, you sacrificed Yourself for us.
I pray that we would allow the truth of the richness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to rush over us and to flood our hearts and minds every day, so that we can change our minds and change our direction to be consistent with seeking Your face and to living a life that honors You in the world that we live in. Help us to do that as we exist as Your people in this season of our nation that feels so divisive, so ugly, so dehumanizing. Help us to embrace the truth of the gospel that teaches us what it looks like to truly be human, to really live empowered by Your Spirit and to trust You in all things. So, Lord, we ask for Your Spirit's activity in the lives of every person for Your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.
Before you're dismissed, if you're here and you want to know what it means to actually embrace Jesus by faith and enter into a relationship with Him, I hope - wherever you are, this room, East Worship Center, Atrium - that you'll come by the Fireside Room and talk to somebody about what it means to have your life transformed by Jesus.
God bless you guys. Have a wonderful week.