Near to the Heart of God
"The same heat that softens wax hardens clay" - shared Matthew Henry in the 17th century, although Origen of Alexandria seems to say the same thing, back in the 3rd century, in examining the human condition. I believe this spiritual insight is all too true in our world today, even in our churches. There are too few who are "melted" by the heat of God - the conviction of the Holy Spirit, as we look out and see a lost world.
Now I need to be honest: I am a people-pleaser at heart; I would much rather make people happy, and would rather seek to generate a warm, positive response as often as possible. Yet I am convicted by the Word of God and His warnings contained within, and firmly believe: “Outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know of no other hope for mankind” -Conrad Adonaur (chancelor in Germany after WWII)
So in confessing my own deadness and dryness, I begin to feel to feel God's pain for a lost world, a country, and city desperately in need of Him. It makes me think of how often the word "repent" is used by Jesus and His apostles, yet how little it is preached and understood in churches today. True change...true prayer begins at a point of anguish that leads to repentance. Paul is abundantly clear on this: "now He (God) commands all people everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30) And:
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11a)
Are we a people that has this "godly sorrow that leads to salvation"? Are we a Church that weeps over family/friends/acquaintances who don't know Him?
If I wanted nothing greater than to make people temporarily happy, I would not be bringing up this prevalent theme of scripture. The command of repentance is not naturally desired, and may cause many churches to dwindle in number as pastors replace "feel-good" messages with the whole of Scriptural Truth.
The same happened to Jesus Himself, who did not compromise the truth of His message to the multitudes following Him (because they were also fed by Him!): "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60), and "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:66-69)
As Mark Twain once wrote: "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."
This is a time to examine our hearts: Do I love Jesus enough to take His words and commands seriously, or am I just following along for the benefits? True repentance allows Him to "melt" me and change my heart to feel like His - regarding personal and corporate sins, the needs of the world, and His love for them.
If you recognize it - that you are struggling under sin, and there's no hope in yourself to be free...do this: 1. Know that the Lord still loves you. 2. Repent of your sins, asking the Lord to change your heart, produce godly sorrow in you. 3. Receive God's Love, and rest in His promise to forgive you and work in you.
For those who do, God's promise is clear: "Their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more" (Hebrews 8:12) See? Repentance leads to forgiveness, and forgiveness leads to rejoicing and spiritual rest, but also a burden for those who have not received it yet! Then this season can be one of true contentment and thanksgiving!
Thus the psalmist repeats 3 times for us in Psalm 80: "Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved." Amen, Lord! Let it it happen, and let it begin in me!