Have you heard the one about the guy who washed his hands too much during the pandemic?
Repentance is like that. Cleansing of sin reveals answers from God
A church where I once served held a unique series of revival meetings. Our pastor called it a “solemn assembly.” One like good king Jehosophat proclaimed for Judah in 2 Chronicles 20:1-34.
The congregation met each evening for worship and prayer, but with no preaching. This went on for a week. As we sought God, confessing our corporate shortcomings, divine answers appeared.
It was a type of two-factor authentication–to use the cyber security lingo.
“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol.” Psalm 24 :3-4 (NIV)
Clean hands and a pure heart: the two things needed to climb the holy north face. It’s thought-provoking here that hand washing comes BEFORE heart cleansing. That’s because the purest form of worship is repentance. I experienced this personally during those revival meetings. As my view of God became clearer, my walk with Him grew closer.
Seeking God in earnest reveals the true nature of one’s heart. In my case, there was too much of me. Recognition and a change of heart’s direction cleared the road back to the Father. But this practice hasn’t been a “one and done” event. The narrow path to heaven is susceptible to drifted snow.
Need answers? Invite yourself to a Solemn Assembly–just you and God. It will be a purifying experience. I know this because it was for me.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)
My blogging buddy Jeffrey has a daily series where he shares a scripture passage and then provides some brief thoughts. The topic this July 4th was, “Let it go,”– based on Colossians 3:13–and it was all about forgiving the faults of others because, after all, Jesus does the same for us.
Jeffrey is quite the wordsmith when it comes to encapsulating truth. And somehow, this pithy statement (below) jarred my memory about a rush to judgement involving someone who later became famous.
We’re all in the ditch. Who’s got the right to say I’m muddier than they are?
I recently learned an interesting fact about country music legend Willie Nelson. In the 1950’s he taught Sunday School at a Baptist church in Fort Worth, Texas! However, his pastor gave him an ultimatum–either stop playing music in beer joints, or stop teaching Sunday School.
Nelson, who told Rolling Stone magazine in 1978 that he once considered being a preacher, left the church (and organized Christianity) for good. Understandably, he was disappointed by a policy that arbitrarily condemned people like him. According to a 1997 interview in Texas Monthly, “Willie’s God was always willing to give a guy another chance.”
*Maybe it’s just me, but that pastor sounds a bit legalistic.
No, playing music in bars and teaching Sunday School don’t exactly go together, but was it REALLY necessary to give Willie such an ultimatum?
“Don’t conclude before you understand. After you understand, don’t judge.”
Instead of firing Willie, his pastor could have suggested starting a Saturday night concert series at the church, where Nelson and his music buddies played alcohol free shows featuring gospel and G-rated country music. Monetary donations for the musicians could have come from church members and the community. Who knows, maybe the “Red-headed Stranger” would have said yes?
That church missed a unique opportunity to reach people with the gospel.
This brings up the idea of repentance. It means the same thing between everyone and God–a turning around–but it doesn’t always happen the same way. Some have an all-at-once-life-changing testimony, but others do not.
Please observe the following crudely drawn illustrations:
My good friend, and brother in Christ, came up with a saying that’s a great example of the picture on the right:
“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.”
Just in case you’re wondering, the idea that people can repent in stages, and not just all at once, is in the Bible.
2 Kings chapter 5:1-19 tells the story of Naaman, a brave Syrian army commander. He was a successful soldier, and the king’s right hand man, but Naaman had an incurable skin disease called leprosy. Through a captured Israelite girl, he is encouraged to seek healing from the prophet Elisha.
The General is healed of his leprosy, and pledges—going forward—to worship only the God of Israel. However, he asks for forgiveness, when, back home with the King of Syria, he visits the temple of the pagan god Rimmon and customarily bows to the idol.
Elisha’s response? “Go in peace.”
So, there it is. One of the greatest prophets of Israel’s history didn’t condemn a man for wrongly bowing to an idol; he knew Naamon would keep turning left until he was right.
Something tells me, had they lived at the same time and place, Willie and Naamon would have been good friends.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Jesus –Luke 6:37
*Perhaps it’s hypocritical of me to judge Willie’s pastor. Like my buddy Jeffrey H. King says, let it go.
Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;
My wife and I enjoy the show “Holmes Makes It Right” on HGTV. If you haven’t seen it, the show stars Mike Holmes, a veteran contractor and home inspector, who helps homeowners fix major issues with their properties. On many episodes, Mike runs into even greater difficulties than expected. Invariably, it turns out an unqualified person did electrical or plumbing work. The work was not done to code and has been a hazard, hidden inside walls or under floors for years. “Just one spark (or leak),” says a scowling Mike, “and the whole house could have been ruined.”
God has a reality show as well. It’s called, “Unless the Lord Builds the House.” On the show, God, the veteran creator and life inspector helps people fix major issues with their lives. Invariably, His clients find more personal problems than expected. The Lord, however, is not surprised. The work was not done to Biblical code and has been a hazard, hidden inside hearts and minds for years. “Just one prayer,” says a smiling creator, “and your whole house can be saved.”
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!