Sermons

Summary: We the people must turn our hearts to God

“Independence and Repentance”

Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church

II Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

My most memorable 4th of July was in 92, a year after the euphoria of Desert Storm, when I was stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco. We were living on post, and went to a block party, a community cookout that evening. As we were grilling burgers, the Commanding General’s aide came by to tell us that the CG had invited us to watch the fireworks from his quarters, which had the finest view of the Bay imaginable. We arrived and sat on his lawn, the highest point of the Presidio, and witnessed a spectacular display of fireworks, including some I’d never seen before--framed by the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin headlands, and the San Francisco Bay, which was filled with boats of every kind. The General’s Staff served us coffee and brownies. We could clearly hear live music coming from nearby Crissy Field, just below us: John Phillip Sousa marches, and then Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” It was a night to remember.

Occasions like our nation’s birthday invite us to consider our progress as a nation. As we reflect on where we’ve been, as we appraise the good and the bad, we hopefully take some time to consider where we’re headed. What are our goals and priorities? Are we where God wants us? How can we be instruments of change?

Lloyd John Ogilvie serves as the Chaplain of the Senate. Some people think his job is to pray for our leaders. What he really does is to listen to our leaders in the Senate and then pray for the nation! His predecessor, Chaplain Richard Halverson, once made a proposal to Congress; he said, “If you could choose a scenario for the future, which of the following situations would you pick for America?” >

1) Economic prosperity, free from recession and inflation, but with growing injustice and tolerance of immorality; OR:

2) Economic uncertainty, but with moral reformation and ethical renewal, centered in a revival of authentic faith in God.

So Senator, how you answer reveals your priorities. Would you choose economic prosperity over spiritual prosperity? Alexsander Solzhenitsen, a modern-day prophet wrote, “The purpose of life is not prosperity, as we are led to believe, but the maturing of the human soul.” Our nation is increasingly voting with their wallets and worshipping at the altar of materialism—-which is not possessing things, but being possessed by things. Any nation that puts economic prosperity ahead of character is in desperate need of repentance. Who we are is infinitely more important than what we have.

Secular culture declares: “Blessed are those who have achieved economic stability, influence, political clout, comfort, prestige and respect.” -Yet if you had a serious personal problem, or were on your deathbed, who would you call if you had a choice: Alan Greenspan or Billy Graham?

God set forth specific conditions for King Solomon to meet if he wanted his administration to prosper. The context of II Chronicles 7 is the completion of the Jewish Temple and the royal palace. I read for you verse 14, the promise; let’s move down to verse 19, God’s warning: “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from My land, which I have given them, and will reject this Temple which I have consecrated for My Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.”

Repentance, according to verse 14, means admitting our sinfulness, asking God for forgiveness, and turning from our sinful behavior. It is walking toward a new destination. It is a change of heart, mind and direction.

C.S. Lewis describes this change in his book Mere Christianity: “A Christian is not one who never goes wrong, but one who is enabled to repent and begin over again after each stumble—because of the inner working of Christ.”

Some people profess faith in Christ, only to fall away. What has happened to them? They haven’t “lost” their salvation. It’s likely they never had genuine, authentic faith to begin with. John puts it clearly in his first Epistle: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (I John 2:19).

When I was assigned as Chaplain to the 28th Combat Support Hospital (44th Med Bde), seated atop a 5-ton truck headed across the desert of Iraq, I wondered if the US might lose the Gulf War. I had no doubt of our military superiority, yet I wondered if a military defeat might be God’s way of punishing a nation that has forgotten Him. God punished Israel by having Babylon-- which is modern Iraq—and a more sinful nation than Israel, conquer the Jewish people and lead them into captivity. As I deployed into Iraq I felt that if I were to die as a casualty of war, it might well be the chastening Hand of God upon America. God was merciful to us.

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