Sunday Sermon: ‘If We Will Humble Ourselves and Pray’

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Today marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks upon America. Like so many of you, I will never forget that day or the days following.

I.  September 11, 2001

We were living in Ohio where I was serving as an associate pastor. I remember one of our secretaries saying that someone had called and told her that planes were crashing into buildings and that it was on TV. I had a small TV in my office and so I went and turned it on. Soon others started gathering in my office and we began to watch what happening. I remember how I had a feeling of fear, shock and disbelief.

As we were watching I distinctly remember a news commentator saying – ‘Is that building gone?’ There was so much smoke that it was hard to tell exactly what was happening. But then it became apparent that one of the towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed. Less than thirty minutes later the other tower collapsed as well. Mixed in with all of this was the report that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and another plane had crashed in PA. It was the most horrific moment that I had ever experienced in my life. Now ten years later, so much has happened that recently my mom said – ‘Nothing surprises me anymore.’

I remember the surge of patriotism that quickly swept across our nation. What we saw caused some of us to become angry and we were ready to do whatever it took to defend ourselves and our country. I also remember the feeling of deep appreciation we began to have for those who sacrificially serve our nation. Over 400 firefighters, paramedics and policemen died on that day. If September 11, 2001 has served any good purpose, it has caused us as a nation to recognize the value and importance of those who daily put their lives in danger for our well-being.

I remember something else that occurred during this difficult time period. It seemed that many had been awakened to our need of God. Almost overnight many business signs read – ‘God Bless America.’ The cry for God to help us was so strong that not even the liberals or the ACLU could stop it.

But then the cry for God’s blessings began to fade away. Eventually life went back to normal. Why did our need for God fade away? In a message entitled ‘Can God Bless America?’ , John MacArthur said – “America wants God’s blessing but not God.” MacArthur also suggested that perhaps our desire for God to bless America meant-

1. God protect us from our enemies
2. God make us prosperous
3. God let us continue to enjoy all of our pleasures as normal

Rather than –

1. God forgive us of our sins
2. And make us the kind of people that will please You

Perhaps there is no clearer indication of how our attitude towards God has changed than the omission of any type of religious participation at today’s observance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

II. God is Not Mocked

Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

A. ‘Be not deceived, God is not mocked’ 

Last Wednesday night as I was traveling home from church, I turned on my radio and heard a portion of a message by David Jeremiah. Dr. Jeremiah pointed out something from this passage that I didn’t know. The word ‘mocked’ means to {turn up your nose and sneer at something}. When scripture says that God cannot be mocked, it means is that we cannot turn up our noise and sneer at God and then at the same time expect Him to bless us. The cry for God to bless America means nothing if we as a nation are unwilling to change in order to become the kind of people that God can bless. David Jeremiah pointed out that we (both individually and collectively as a nation) cannot invest our lives in the things that cater to our sinful flesh and at the same time expect to receive God’s spiritual blessings. ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked.’

During the week of 9/11, I remember an interview Katie Couric, who was then a co-host of the Today Show, had with Anne Graham Lotz, who is the daughter of Billy Graham. My quotes are from memory and although I may not be exact, I am very close.

Couric: “If there is a God and He is so loving and kind, why did He allow something like this to happen?”

Lotz: “God is a gentleman and He will not force Himself upon us. For decades we have been telling Him that we do not want Him to be a part of our government, our schools or our lives. Perhaps He is responding to what we have asked.”

B. ‘Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap

Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

We read from Hosea 8:7 that if we sow the wind, we can expect to reap the whirlwind. Paul warns us that if we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption.

Many years ago I heard a Bible teacher share three important truths about sowing and reaping:

1. We reap what we sow
2. We reap more than we sow
3. We reap in a later season than when we sow

 III. God Bless America   

I firmly believe that God has blessed America. I believe that God has been good to us. God has not walked away from America; America has walked away from God.

Like so many of you, I am extremely thankful to be an American. I have been able to enjoy blessings and benefits that most in this world can only dream about. Yet we must be careful that we do not develop a sense of arrogance and self-sufficiency. The Bible says that while God will give grace to the humble, He will resist the proud.

A. God and Israel  

One has to look no farther than the Bible to understand how God deals with nations and the greatest example of this is His dealings with the nation of Israel.

1. God’s Chosen People

Scripture teaches us that the Jews are God’s chosen people. Abraham is their father and to Abraham God said –

Genesis 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

2. God’s Chastened People

We learn from the book of Hebrews another very important biblical principle – ‘Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.’ (Heb 12:6)

If you have read the Old Testament you know that the Lord often had to chasten the nation Israel because they became rebellious and self-willed. During one such time of chastening there was a young Jewish man by the name of Daniel who was living in a foreign land called Babylon. Daniel was there because the LORD had allowed the Israelites to be defeated by enemy nations. Note what scripture says about Daniel –

Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

Daniel was a man of prayer. Morning, noon and night he paused to get down on his knees and prayed to God.

Note also something very important about his prayer life – ‘… and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem…’ Though Daniel was hundreds of miles away in foreign land, when he prayed he faced Jerusalem. Why did he do this? Daniel prayed towards Jerusalem because he was claiming a promise that God had made to Solomon.

Solomon was the son of David and it was his duty to build the Temple. After the completion of the Temple, Solomon prayed this prayer-

2 Chronicles 6:24 And if thy people Israel be put to the worse before the enemy because they have sinned against thee; and shall return and confess thy name, and pray and make supplication before thee in this house; 25 Then hear thou from the heavens, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest to them and to their fathers.

In essence Solomon was saying – ‘If we sin against You and You are force to chasten us; if we repent and return to You, please forgive us of our sins and restore us.’  How did God respond to Solomon’s request?

2 Chronicles 7:12 And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 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.

God said, “If I rebuke you and you repent, I will restore you. If you will humble yourselves and pray, I will forgive your sin and heal your land.”

Perhaps you might think that such promises are only for the nation of Israel. If so I encourage you to read the book of Jonah. Jonah was sent to preach to the Assyrians.  At that time the Assyrians were probably the wickedest people upon the earth. Yet when Jonah preached judgment, the entire city of Nineveh repented and was spared of judgment.

We read in the book of Psalms- “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD…” (Ps 33:12)

B. God and America

God has blessed America in the past and I believe that He is still willing to bless us in the future – if the people of our nation desire to become people that God can bless.

Two hundred years ago a French philosopher named Tocqueville came to America to study our way of democracy. Later he wrote – “there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America.” (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, (New York: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1851))

American’s return to a fear of God is not going to come from Washington or Wall Street. It must come from the house of God. It is so easy for us to put all the blame on our politicians and to get up in arms because they will not include clergymen in a memorial service, but the question is – ‘How much prayer is going on among God’s people?’ ‘How fervent are God’s people to pray and to obey God’s Word?’ The LORD told Solomon –

2 Chronicles 7:14 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.

1. The People of Prayer

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray…

God originally meant the nation of Israel. The name Israel means someone who prevails with God.

But what about us today? What about those of us who aren’t Jews? What about the church? Consider these words from Peter –

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

a) We are the Peculiar People of God

‘Peculiar’ does not mean that we are to act strange. Instead it means that we uniquely belong to God, for we were purchased unto Him by the blood of His own Son.

b) We are the Royal Priesthood of God

Peter describes the Christians as being a part of a royal priesthood. We do not minister in an earthly temple nor do we offer up animal sacrifices. Instead we are a divine priesthood, with Jesus Christ Himself being our great high priest and we offer up spiritual sacrifices.

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

What are the spiritual sacrifices that we are to offer up to God? Our bodies for one thing. (Rom 12:1-2) in addition, we offer up the praise of our lips. (Heb 13:15) We also offer up our service. But perhaps one of the most blessed things we offer up to God are our prayers. One of the daily duties of the priest in the Old Testament was to offer up fresh incense as a sweet smelling aroma unto God. Did you know that the book of Revelation tells us that the prayers of the saints are like a sweet incense offered up to God? I’m not talking about elaborate prayers with flowery language. I’m talking about sincere that are offered up in faith.

God’s people are to be people of prayer and they are to be praying for the nation where God has placed them.

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Jeremiah 29:7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

2. The Passion of Prayer

2 Chronicles 7:14 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.

a) Shall Humble Themselves

Pride is what gets us into most of our problems and therefore it’s going to take humility to get us out.

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise .

Isaiah 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Isaiah 66:2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

God is waiting to heal the hearts of broken people.

b) And Seek My Face

One of my favorite portions of scripture is 2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

God is searching for people who are searching for Him and He will respond in a miraculous way in their behalf.  If the cry for God to bless America ten years ago had been a true heart-felt desire for God, we would not be experiencing an economic crisis today.

c) And Turn From Their Wicked Ways

There can be no restoration or relationship with God without true repentance.

3. The Productivity of Prayer

What will happen if we pray? What will happen if the men and women of God get right with God and get serious in their prayers?

2 Chronicles 7:14 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.

a) God Will Hear

b) God Will Forgive

c) God Will Heal

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