Unforgiveable sin

One of the most widely taught doctrines in the church today is the doctrine of ‘once saved, always saved’. In summery, it says that once someone has prayed a prayer asking Jesus into their, then God will forgive any subsequent sin. One can cheat, rob, curse God, worship the Antichrist, murder, and plunder the world with impunity, As far as personal salvation is concerned, because  we are ‘one saved. always saved’, our Christian behaviour ultimate doesn’t matter to our salvation.

On the other hand, others argue that Jesus brought us the New Covenant. All covenants have conditions which must be met if the benefits are to be received. Throughout the New Testament, the word ‘if’ is used many times in association with salvation. When the conditions God sets by these ‘ifs’ are not met then an individual can’t expect to receive the rewards, as God never makes idle claims.

This is an issue over which Bible believing Christian have different views.  There are passages in the Bible that support both viewpoint.

Some believe, with John Calvin, that as soon as one is saved, that person is secure in the knowledge that they will receive eternal life,  no matter what they do during the rest of their life. He taught in the 16th century that people were "predestined" to either be among the elect (those who will spend eternity in Heaven) or the damned (those who will be punished for eternity in Hell). This is known among theologians as "inadmissible grace", unconditional perseverance", or the  "perseverance of the saints.

Others believe, with John Wesley, that one can be saved and subsequently lose one’s salvation later in life, either through an improper thought or deed.  Thus, a person’s salvation status is not determined until they actually die.

The teachings of early Christians are important to us today. Until around 200AD, the church’s teaching was not very far removed from the direct teachings of Jesus and the apostles. These early Church Fathers unanimously believed that a saved person could lose their salvation. Early Christians believed that continued obedience was required of the believer in order to for them to maintain their salvation intact. Some examples in the writings from that era are:

Irenaeus (120 to 205 AD) was the overseer of the church at Lyons, France. He believed that a person could only be saved once. If they performed some evil deed, then God would permanently reject them. Irenaeus explained this very clearly in his book "Against Heresies," Book 4, Chapter 27, Section 2:

Christ will not die again on behalf of those who now commit sin because death shall no more have dominion over Him…we should  beware, lest somehow, after [we have attained] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we [will] obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but rather be shut out from His kingdom.

Tertullian (140 to 230 AD) was the elder in the church at Carthage, North Africa. He wrote in his book "On Repentance," Chapter 6:

Some people act as though God were under an obligation to bestow even on the unworthy His intended gift…For do not many afterwards fall out of grace? Is not this gift taken away from many?

Cyprian (200 to 258 AD) was an overseer of the church in Carthage, North Africa. Referring to Matthew 10:22, he wrote in his book "Unity of the Church," Sec. 21:

It is written ‘He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved.’ So whatever precedes the end is only a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation. It is not the final point wherein we have already gained the full result of the ascent."

The Bible contains some passages which appear to say clearly and unambiguously that once a person gains salvation, they can lose it. Examples are from the King James Version of the Bible unless the language is so archaic that it is difficult to understand; more modern translations are then used.

Matthew 10:22: "Those who stand firm to the end will be saved." The implication is that someone who does not stands firm to the end will not be saved. Some theologians dismiss this interpretation; they believe that a person who does not stand firm never was saved in the first place; thus all that are truly saved will continue in that state.

John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The NIV translation of this verse implies that everyone who believes "shall" have eternal life. The Amplified Bible agrees. But other translations use alternative words: "should," "may," or "might." This is good example of how Bible translators can select words which match their own theological belief systems. For example, the NAB translation is used those who believe that an individual can lose their salvation may times during their lifetime, and frequently regain it by sincerely participating in church sacraments. Those conservative Christians who believe that one cannot lose ones salvation frequently use the NIV translation.

John 15:6: "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.." A person who "does not remain" in Jesus is apparently a saved person whose behaviour or thoughts have become unacceptable. Throwing the formerly saved person into the fire and burning them is an obvious reference to Hell.

1 Corinthians 15-2: "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." Paul apparently believes that a person is only saved if they continue to believe in the gospel. If they lose faith in the gospel, presumably they lose their salvation. Some conservative theologians believe that this verse also refers to those who were not really initially saved.

Galatians 6:8-9: "Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.." This passage appears to make salvation dependent on an individual continually working towards their goal of attaining eternal life. If a person gives up prematurely, then they would lose their salvation.

2 Timothy 2:12: "

"If we endure,
       we will also reign with him.
       If we disown him,
       he will also disown us;

The "we" in this hymn apparently means saved individuals. But if we "deny and disown and reject" (Amplified Bible) Jesus, then he will do the same to us, and presumably terminate our salvation.

Hebrews 10:26: "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." The early Christians universally believed that this passage referred to persons who had been saved, had continued to sin, and had thereby lost their salvation. Some present-day theologians teach that this verse refers only to the unsaved.

2 Peter 2:20-21: "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.." The first verse appears to refer to persons who have turned away from the corruption of the world, have been saved, and later returned entangled in the world. The implication is that these people will be more viciously treated after death by God’s wrath than those people who were never saved.

Add the key passage

Hebrews 6:4-6: "It is impossible for those
have once been enlightened,
  who have tasted the heavenly gift,
  who have shared in the Holy Spirit,
  who have tasted the goodness of the word of God
                  and the powers of the coming age and
  who have fallen away,
to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.."

The first two verses define precisely an individual who had being saved and was receiving the benefits of salvation. The last verse states clearly that a person is quite capable of falling away from the faith…and if they do so, that it is impossible for their salvation to be renewed.

Christians who believe that a person can never lose their salvation may interpret this passage as meaning that they were never true believers in the first place (Calvin’s position).  But I think that the writer of Hebrews is going out of his way to describe the converted state. 

John Piper puts the issue this way:

It is impossible to renew [such a person] again to repentance" (verse 6). We saw an illustration of this from Hebrews 12:16-17. There it speaks a similar kind of warning as here:

[Let] there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

Will Genuine Repentance be Rejected by God?  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Esau genuinely repented and was rejected by God. God does not reject genuine repentance. The text says plainly that he found no place for repentance. In other words, he couldn’t repent. He was so hardened (see Hebrews 3:8,15; 4:7) that he cried out for things to go better in his life, but inside he would not submit to God’s terms. He was, as verse 16 says, "immoral and godless."

This is an illustration of what the writer has in mind in Hebrews 6:6 when he says it is impossible to renew this person again to repentance. This is the terrifying prospect behind all the warnings of this book not to drift but to take heed and consider Jesus and to exhort each other every day and to fear unbelief and carelessness.

Why? Is anything really at stake? The prospect exists that you and I who believe we are chosen and called and justified might slide into a slow process of indifference and hardening and eventually fall away and reject Christ and put him to an open shame. We may actually come to a point where there is no return, because we have been forsaken utterly by God. That’s what the word "impossible" means in verse 6. and Oh, how it should put you on an urgent pursuit of mercy!

I identity four potentially unforgiveable sins to which these passages apply:

1. claiming Jesus has come from Satan (Luke 11:14-20)

2. constantly rejecting the message of the gospel made known by Spirit (e.g. Paul spoke against Jesus, but did not reject the Spirit’s call to believe in Jesus;  Luke 12:5; Acts 3:22-26

3. rejecting apostolic teaching (1 John 2:18-19; 4:1-3) and 

4. renouncing faith in Jesus (Like 12:9; Heb 6:4-6). With this final issue, I’m inclined to the very helpful view of James Akin:

This is where understanding the Jewish context (and content) of the letter [of Hebrews] is so important. By returning to Judaism, the apostates are declaring that Jesus was a false Messiah. They are declaring that he deserved what he got when he was crucified—because it is axiomatic that every false Messiah deserves death and public humiliation. They were running around saying: "Well, he wasn’t the real Messiah. He deserved what he got. He deserved to be crucified and put to public humiliation." As it says in the Torah, ‘Cursed is every man who is hung upon a tree!’"

Thus the re-crucifixion and humiliation of Christ was something the apostates were doing while they were maintaining their rebellion against the Messiah they had once accepted. This indicates an enormous hardness of heart, which is why the author tells us, "It is impossible for those . . . to be brought back to repentance." The hardness of their hearts prevents it.

This is, of course, a practical rule rather than a dogmatic (absolute) rule. Because of the hardness of heart the Jewish apostates are displaying by publicly denouncing Jesus, declaring that he deserved crucifixion and humiliation, it is as a practical matter impossible to renew them to repentance and faith in Christ. This does not in any way mean it is an absolute impossibility to renew them to repentance, for "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God" (Mark. 10:27).

In the same way, the statement "It is impossible for those . . . to be renewed to repentance" is simply a practical rule. It is only because of their hardness of their hearts that it is a waste of time to argue with them. It is more prudent, as a matter of evangelism, to talk to people who aren’t that hostile toward Christ and who are more likely to give you a hearing.

This special animus against the person of Christ would not be present in those who were not Jews and who thus would not resent him as much as a false Messiah upon returning to their former religions. Thus a person today who went back to secularism, for example, would not hate Jesus as a Messianic pretender and would not say, "He deserved what he got!" the way a first century Jew would. In fact, an apostate to secularism might still even admire Jesus in a kind of nebulous way as a good and wise teacher.

Thus modern apostates are much easier to reclaim from there repudiation of the faith than first century Jewish apostates were. In fact, this has been the case throughout history. For example, those who had denied the faith during the persecutions of the early centuries often came back to the Church and were received back into membership (after a period of penance) once the persecution stopped. The practical rule that it is impossible to renew an apostate to repentance is thus a general rule only for the early Jewish apostates the book of Hebrews was discussing, not later ones (though of course an individual later apostate may be so hard of heart he will never come back, but this does not apply to later apostates as a group).

Apostasy, contrary to some interpretations, is not the unforgivable sin. Like the parallel sins against faith—infidelity, schism, and heresy—it only becomes an unforgivable sin if one dies in it. Until death it is always possible, God willing, for an infidel to convert, for a schismatic to return from his schism, for a heretic to renounce his heresy, and for an apostate to re-embrace the faith of Christ.

After all this is said, why take the risk!

the BIGB story: Amos 5

The people of Amos’s day really went to town celebrating their religious feasts, they brought the best offerings to the place of worship, they sang their praises of God enthusiastically. And that sounds so familiar!  I recently came across an Amos 5 sermon from Eden Baptist at Cambridge called, "When religion has become a shame, the lion roars". Indeed, he does!

In Amos 5:21, God speaks to Israel in some pretty uncompromising terms:

I hate, I despise your religious feasts. I cannot stand your assemblies.

God’s people had a  duplicitous attitude to worship. They are bringing their offerings not only to the Lord but to other gods as well. They thought that once they had been through the ritual of worship, they could do what they liked the rest of the time. And God delivers a series of stinging rebukes of their attitudes to justice and righteousness. They might well be bringing to God what the Law of Moses required of them – the tithes, ritual offerings and sacrifices – but their real thoughts are often elsewhere.

The renowned American economist J K Galbraith puts it this way in The Affluent Society

Few things have been more productive of controversy over the ages than the suggestion that the rich should, by one device or another, share their wealth with those who are not. With comparatively rare and usually eccentric exceptions, the rich have been opposed. The grounds have been many and varied and have been principally noted for the exclusion of the most important reason, which is the simple unwillingness to give up the enjoyment of what they have.

To put it another way, people like us – the rich of this world – are generally too selfish to share with the vast majority of this planet – the poor – that which we enjoy as what we take to be our right. For Amos, the two major casualties of such a selfish and grasping attitude are truth and justice.


The prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil Amos 5:13

This “prudent man” is not the “wise” man of Proverbs and Psalms, but the man who thinks he’s going to get on a bit better if he doesn’t rock the boat. Yet in Amos 5:10 we read:

You despise him who tells the truth.

The people of Amos’s day weren’t too keen on listening to the prophets and those who spoke God’s word uncompromisingly ended up in all kinds of trouble. Those who today try to speak out for the poor, who advocate a more thoughtful and equitable use of the world’s resources, are abused in all kinds of ways. Dom Helder Camara, a Brazilian bishop who has faced all kinds of obstacles as he has tried to help the poor of that vast country, once said,

If I give money to the poor, they call me a saint: if I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist

Steve Turner puts it this way:

No, you didn’t stone the prophet.
You said there were crazies like him
Around in Ancient Rome
But Italy survives.
The official view was
Don’t panic.
You didn’t stone the prophet.
You didn’t even censor him.
You didn’t put him in prison.
You just put him in perspective.

Amos 5 challenges us to make sure that the voice of truth is expressed in every situation. Some years ago, Tony Campolo realised that the practices of a multi-national food conglomerate were highly offensive to those who took what the Bible has to say about justice seriously. So he and a few of his students bought one share in the company, one share that permitted them to go to the annual meeting of shareholders and there they made their point so tenaciously that the company eventually changed its policies.

“All that is needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.”

So Edmund Burke is reported to have said. Once we have decided that we are going to ignore what’s going on around us, that we are not going to face up to the truth, then justice goes out of the window too.

In this prophecy, Amos says clearly there is no justice. Wrongs that could be righted with the political will are continuing, because the rich like things that way.

“They sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed” (2:6,7).

Jesus died on the cross not just for people like me, but for all people and especially the poor:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news for the poor.”

Amos could see truth and justice disappearing, along with compassion and unselfishness. What could be done? In 5:5-6 he says that the first thing to do is to “Seek the LORD”. Then he provides a stark contrast with his condemnation of the pious and empty religiosity of the Israelites’ worship: “Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.” Here is what you could call the principle and practice of justice

Through the ages it has been the Church’s concern for justice, its care of the poor and dispossessed that has marked it out from other organisations. Senator Barry Goldwater when he was seeking the presidential nomination in the USA back in 1964, said:

“Let me remind you that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

He didn’t win!!  There is still a huge gap between rich people like me and the poor majority of the world’s population. What can we do? The advice of Amos is, “Seek good not evil, that you may live.” Then we might be able to worship God with real integrity.

the BIG story: Psalm 23

Bernhard Anderson has best expressed the value of the Twenty-third Psalm when he wrote,

No single psalm has expressed more powerfully man’s prayer of confidence ‘out of the depths’ to the God whose purpose alone gives meaning to the span of life, from womb to tomb.

The Shepherd

Phillip Keller has written a book on Psalm 23 entitled A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, which has many helpful insights. He writes from the background of growing up in East Africa and later making his living as a sheep rancher for about eight years. However as Keller points out,the vantage point of the psalm is from the perspective of the sheep, not that of the shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

When David spoke of the Lord as his shepherd, he thought of Him not only as his provider and protector but also as his king. Because God was David’s shepherd, he lacked (wanted) nothing. Through the ages Satan has attempted to portray God as a begrudging giver who only provides when He must. For example, Adam and Eve (Gen 3:1), Jesus’ temptations (Matt 4:1-11), and in the warning of Paul concerning the doctrine of demons (1 Tim 4:1-4).

Our whole advertising culture is “want" based. But David tells us that to have God as our shepherd is itself to have everything we want. Him we need nothing else (Ps 73:25-26). But with God as his shepherd David did not have everything he could possibly desire or possess. As David’s shepherd, God provides him with rest and restoration. He does this by supplying him with the necessary provisions of food and water. Rest is certainly related to the required physical provisions of food and water, but rest is also related to restoration.

For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down in good grazing ground, and they will feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God (Ez 34:11-15).

While a shepherd provides his sheep with food, rest, and restoration, God provides His sheep with his Word and Spirit, which are the principle means of giving spiritual nourishment, rest, and restoration.

Guidance is recognised as another task of the shepherd. He leads his sheep to places of nourishment and rest (v2), but he also leads them in the proper paths. God’s guidance is more than leading us in the “right path”; it involves his leading us in “paths of righteousness.” And he does so “for His name’s sake”, for the sake of his reputation. God’s reputation as seen by his care of his people. Yet the “paths of righteousness” are not always peaceful paths. We are never promised there will be no evil. Only that we may “fear no evil” (v4).

The host

No greater security or comfort could be obtained by a traveller in the ancient Near East than to be offered the hospitality of a home. It was understood that this was a provision of shelter and food, but even more it was a guarantee of protection from harm. The table prepared in the presence of David’s enemies was the host’s public announcement to them not to attempt to molest David in any way. The amount of security which any host could provide depended upon his prestige and power. The abundance of his provisions indicated that he was a prosperous, powerful, and generous man. To have the hospitality of such a host was to be secure indeed!

Most significantly, David is not a guest for a few days at the home of his gracious host; he is a permanent part of this household. There is an old Greek saying that goes something like this: “A guest is like a fish … After three days, he stinks.” To be a guest in God’s house is not limited to three days. David is assured that he will “dwell in the house of the Lord” forever.

The Saviour

In order to become the Good Shepherd, Jesus first had to become a sheep—the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). Every person who is one of God’s flock (by personal faith in Christ) is individually cared for as one of God’s sheep.

Sometimes we eel that God only cares about us when everything is going well. That God is with us only when we are lying in grassy meadows alongside restful waters. Once we find ourselves in a dark valley, we can question the presence and the care of the Shepherd. In fact, in times of distress, God’s care and keeping is more certain than ever.

God cares for us individually, but normally that he cares for us through others. When human shepherds fail us, we may begin to question the concern of the Good Shepherd. Let us learn that God Himself never fails us, never leaves us, and never will forsake us!

the BIG story: 2 Kings 18

We were thinking about "the gods" just a few days ago.  How we see just how much power they have. We don’t know why the Israelites were at Mount Carmel. Perhaps the people were desperate and would do almost anything if they thought it would end the drought. Whatever was going to happen up there, it was going to be interesting, and many were there to see it for themselves. Initially, the people did not say a word; they did not commit themselves, one way or the other (v21). It is only after Elijah spells out the challenge that the people openly agree that it is a fair contest (v24).

This is not a conflict so much between Elijah and King Ahab. Despite Ahab is being an exceedingly wicked man, the most wicked king Israel had seen, Elijah’s face-to-face conversation with him is limited.. The real conversation is between Elijah and the Israelites. The Israelites are wavering between Yahweh and Baal, and also between Ahab (and Jezebel) and Elijah. They have been straddling the fence, and it is time for them to commit themselves one way or the other. Pagan theology often welcomes a plurality of gods, but the God of Israel does not. So let the people choose, here and now, whom they will serve.

We are told that Baal was sometimes pictured with a bolt of lightning in his hand: "The people believed Baal to represent the sun-god also and in their epics thought he rode the thunderclouds and sent lightning (as did the Hebrews the LORD, Ps 18:14; 104:3-4).” So, too, we find that God is said to send fire from heaven: "Moses and Aaron then entered into the Tent of Meeting and went out and blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire went out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat parts on the altar, and all the people saw it so they shouted loudly and fell on their faces (Leviticus 9:23-24)".

I wonder how many people really expected to see fire? If anyone did, they were disappointed. Around noon, Elijah began to call attention to the failure of these prophets and their god.

Donald Wiseman notes: 

Elijah’s taunt is that Baal was acting in a merely human manner. He uses terms known to the people from the Ugaritic Baal myths. Was the god musing on the action to take (deep in thought)? Had he gone aside to answer the call of nature? Or had he left on a journey with Phoenician merchants? Was Baal asleep as Yahweh was not (Ps. 121:3-4)? The practice of self-inflicted wounds to arouse a deity’s pity or response is attested in Ugarit when men ‘bathed in their own blood like an ecstatic prophet.

What a pathetic “god” this Baal is! Elijah was brutal in his attack, but this was no time for subtlety. Either their “god” was God, or he was not. If he was not available at a critical time like this, then he could never be counted on; he should never be trusted, and especially if the God of Israel did respond.

These false prophets think that there is some merit in shedding blood. They have not been able to get their god’s attention in any other way, and so they begin to mutilate their bodies with swords and spears, as though the sight of blood will finally arouse Baal. It is not the blood that men shed that counts; it is only the blood which the Son of God shed on man’s behalf. It is Jesus’ shed blood which should get our attention.

I think the people are looking on all the time that Elijah is rebuilding his altar. Twice Elijah instructs them to pour more water on the sacrifice. It is his way of proving that what happens next is of God and God alone. Elijah prays that God will hear his prayer so that the people will know that Lord alone is God, and so that his people will worship Him alone. He prays that the people will see that he has done all these things at the Lord’s command. He does not pray specifically for Ahab to turn, but rather generally, that this people will hear and turn. He prays that they will know that it is God who has turned their hearts toward Him. Almost immediately, it would seem, God did respond. He sent fire from heaven that consumed the bull and the wood, and the stones, the dust, and the water. The fire consumed everything.

God had won. The people not only reached the right conclusion, they acted on it as they should have. They fell on their faces, acknowledging, “The LORD, is the true God! The LORD is the true God!” (v39). In all the excitement of the contest on Mount Carmel, we almost forget about the rain!

These events follow on the exact same point we saw yesterday: If my people…

Israel’s sin resulted in divine discipline—God ceased to give rain. The confrontation on Mount Carmel, then, was designed to turn Israel away from her idolatry and back to God, in order that God might once again send the rains. It was God who brought them to repentance. It was not Israel that was seeking God; it was God who was seeking Israel, as always.

There is a final lesson here concerning prayer. Prayers to the wrong god are futile. Success praying does not necessarily depend on numbers, fervency, frequency or fame.  It is much more about the righteousness of one who prays (James 5:13-18).

the BIGB story: 2 Chronicles 7:14

There are few better known verses in the Old Testament than:

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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

These are words of revival and we can observe a spiritual progression.  Alan Redpath said:

“I would always distinguish revival from evangelism. Although often confused, the two are entirely different. Evangelism is winning the unsaved; revival has to do with the Christian. Evangelism is the permanent duty of the church; revival is a gracious out pouring of the Spirit of God.”

“It is possible to have a measure of success in evangelism without ever having revival, but I do believe that genuine revival in the church would lead to a mighty blessing in evangelism, inevitably. The fact that the fruit of evangelistic witness today may be relatively small in comparison with the effort and money that are put into it is not necessarily the fruit of the evangelist. To introduce young converts into dead churches even though many of them are orthodox in doctrine, is to quench the Spirit and freeze out the fruit of a soul-saving ministry.”

1. “If my people who are called by My name. . .”

This is written specifically to God’s people those who owned, or professed God’s name.

2. “. . .humble themselves. . .”

Revival does not come to the proud.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. 
And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

"God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6

And, of course, our model is Jesus who, ". . . humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."

3. “. . .pray. . .” 
To pray selflessly, earnestly and constantly is the key to revived relationship with God. Charles Finney say that he prayed all night, not because God was reluctant to hear him but because he had to get his heart ready for what God had to say. As the old timers spoke about “praying through”. So to George Mueller who said:

I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk about, when I lie down and when I rise up. And the answers are always coming.

4. “. . .seek My face. . .”

According to Avery Willis, the situation of 2 Chronicles 6 and 7 involves a “Solemn Assembly” that is a where the whole nation seeks the Lord’s face and favour.  To support his view, Willis cites several passages; for example, Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:2; Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20; Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 29-31; Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34 and Joel in Joel 1:14; 2:1,12-17.

5. “. . .turn from their wicked ways. . .”

Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7).

We so need revival. it’s so easy to lose a passion for God and a passion to walk according to his ways. Therefore there must be a turning from everything that is not of God. The great hymn by B. B. McKinney picks this out:

Send a revival among Thine own,
Help us to turn from our sins away,
Let us get nearer the Father’s throne,
Revive us again, we pray.”

6. “. . .Then I will hear from heaven. . .”

To hear means to listen to a point of action. This is no different to Jesus who was moved into action at the sight of those who were ”sheep without a shepherd". God was promising to respond to their cries. Evangelist Dwight L. Moody said of the God’s response to our confession: “It brings heaven within speaking distance.”

7. “. . .I.will forgive their sin. . .” 

God’s mercy to sinful people is coupled with his patience towards his forgiven people, with you and me.  For 1 John 1:9 reminds us, Christians, that “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

8  “. . .I.will heal their land.”

Avery Willis writes, “Make the connection. If we will not heed God’s warning through His Word, He’ll speak to us through His world. He will allow disasters to come upon us. . .to get our attention.”  But once our attention is grasped and confession made, then God can pour out his revival. For God will heal the land and sending down the showers of Holy Spirit rain.  He promises not only to cleanse their land but to cause the seeds to burst forth bring wider blessing. 

In many of the Great Revivals, these was a positive impact on the surrounding area. So during the Welsh Revival, early in the 20th century, the local courts closed as there was no crime, drunkards were reformed and pubs reported losses in trade. Bad language disappeared and never returned to the lips of many. It was reported that the pit ponies failed to understand their born again colliers who seemed to speak the new language of Zion – without curse and blasphemy! Even football and rugby became uninteresting in the light of new joy and direction received by the converts.  The Revival storm that hit the hills and valleys of Wales in the dying months of 1904 soon became a hurricane that affected the world. International visitors came and as they caught the flame, they passed it on to new countries. Welsh communities throughout the world felt the effects and news of God’s powerful work soon had many other churches praying that God would visit then as well – the Khasia Hills in Indi being a good example of prayer answered.

The same happened in Lowestoft in the early 1920’s when many people in the town became Christians. It was said that the presence of God was so real that criminality was suppressed. People lived at peace because they had peace with God.

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