Summary: SPIRITUAL EXHAUSTION---Prayer is a very vital part of recovery
FOUR STEPS TO THE SAFETY ZONE
2 Chr 7:14
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall 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.
While principle-centered preaching seems to resonate with so many people, it actually can lead to two equally dangerous paths.
One path is spiritual pride.
Those who are working hard to implement this feel really good about themselves.
They feel close to God because of how well they are doing--sort of like the Pharisee in Luke 18 who rejoiced in his own moral goodness and despised the sinner praying next to him.
How convenient that pride and self-centeredness weren't on his list!
If we as pastors are not careful, we can end up creating a culture filled with Pharisees--good, moral people who are striving to do the right thing and yet remain blind to their own real need.
The other dangerous path is the path of disillusionment and despair.
Each week, those in our churches hear more things they are supposed to be doing--good, spiritual, Christian things--and they know deep down that they can't do it.
They've tried to change. They've knelt at the altar, making promises and commitments and resolutions, but each time the end result is the same: no change except for the added guilt and shame. Some resolve to try harder, but others give up all together.
So what's the answer? How can we as pastors and teachers help people avoid the trappings of the principle-focused path?
How are we to preach to the spiritually exhausted?
The answer may surprise you: Preach the gospel. Preach the gospel not just to the lost but to the found.
Often we as pastors see the gospel as the entry point into Christianity.
We preach the gospel to lost people, but we fail to realize that the saved need the gospel just as desperately.
So how does one go about preaching the gospel to those who have already embraced it?
The answer is very simple: Preach repentance and faith as continual activities rather than as one-time, initial responses to the gospel.
The mistake we often make is not realizing that repentance and faith are critical aspects of a person's ongoing experience with Christ.
Often we as pastors shy away from using the "repentance" word too frequently.
We realize that many Christians view it as an oppressive, negative word or as something we do when we really mess up.
Part of our role as pastors and teachers is to help people understand that repentance is anything but oppressive.
It is life-giving! When Jesus began his ministry of preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he laid a crucial foundation with these words from Matthew 5:3:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Guess what He's talking about? Repentance.
To be poor in spirit is to see the depth of our brokenness, to see the depth of our need.
This, like the other beatitudes, is not a one-time event but rather a continual response.
When we as believers truly understand the gospel, it forces us to face the truth that we are a lot more sinful than we realize.
When God began to open my eyes to see the gospel in this "new" way, He started by showing me how much I needed it--even in the most spiritual of activities.
This is us. We need the gospel every moment of every day, because our flesh is instinctively drawn toward self-absorption and idolatry.
In light of this, one of our key tasks as teachers is helping all of our people see the depth of their need for Christ.
We all need our eyes opened to see how self-absorbed and self-centered we truly are, how often we look for life in all sorts of things rather than God.
Part of our problem with repentance is how we define sin.
If we talk about sin as "doing bad things," our people will freely acknowledge that they are not perfect, but at the same time they will feel they are doing pretty well.
However, when we define sin as a breakdown of the first commandment--loving God with all of our being--suddenly we realize that we have a BIG problem with sin.
It permeates all we do. How often are we as Christians trying to find life and meaning and significance and security in things other than God?
How often do we look to shopping, our 401(k), our attractiveness, our reputation or our success to find our ultimate joy?