I once heard an evangelist give a powerful message on revival. It was based on 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."
The message was nothing earth-shatteringly profound. He didn't point out anything in that was missing or hidden in the text. The original Hebrew never came up. He just gave us the main points of the verse (after the standard dispensational disclaimer that while the church and Israel are not the same, there are many parallels).
First, humble yourself. See yourself as God sees you. Measure yourself by His standard and admit how terribly sinful you are. We readily admit that we are sinners, but we don’t like to admit we sin. Our belief in total depravity often stops where our personal lives begin. The path to revival starts with a call to humility.
Second, seek God's face. Once you realize how wicked and totally undeserving of grace you are, then go to God and ask for that which you know don’t deserve. “But I feel like God wouldn’t want me!” Exactly, He shouldn’t, but He does. He has no reason to forgive anyone, other than His character. “I just feel like I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness.” Reality check: you never have, yet He has always forgiven you, and He always will. And when you realize this, you start to realize that He is the solution to your problem. Not another plan, not a system, but God Himself filling you with Himself. And you begin to go after Him with everything you have.
Finally, turn from you wicked ways. Stop it. Stop living for sin and start living for God. After getting honest with God and seeking His face with all your heart, you will walk away from the presence of God with the grace He offers to fight sin. And that is what hit me most about the sermon – I tend to want to do the opposite.
I want to change my ways, then go to God for forgiveness, then I’ll be willing to look honestly at what I terrible person I was (thinking somehow that I will be a different person than I was back then). Then I can comfortably look at my old self and say that by the grace of God (or if I was being entirely honest, by the work of my will power) I had changed. For some reason I don’t want to go to God and just admit that I was wrong. I want to prove myself first. I want to earn His forgiveness.
But when I do this, I deny the very heart of the gospel. While I wouldn’t like to admit it, I am trying to live by works. Will power doesn’t work, I can attest to that. Only through the power of God via His Word and His Spirit can I have victory. So the idea that I will live obediently before coming for forgiveness is more than ridiculous, it’s impossible.
In soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) theologians make a big deal about the order of salvation. They call the order of when God does what and when man does what ordo salutis (Latin for the order of salvation). What happens when is a big deal, and I think the same thing is true of repentance. Humility before God. Followed by a pursuit of God. Followed by righteous living. Not the other way around it. The order really does matter here.
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