(8/1) There is a wonderful older song that says, ĎBeautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of lifeÖ." There are some words that we love to hear and we are prone to preach about. Can you think of some? How about, love, or grace, or
joy, or peace (we could sure use some of that right now), hope, and faith? These are beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
But there is one word that is used extensively in the Bible that we donít use very much anymore. Perhaps we think it is archaic , or irrelevant, or we just donít like it, because it sounds too negative. Yet, it is the word that the Old Testament Prophets used and the words that John Baptist began his
ministry with as did our Lord Jesus, Peter, and Paul. It is the word, ĎRepent." The first recorded words of John the Baptist are, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand," (Matt.3:2). In Matt. 4:17, Jesus, our Lord, based His preaching on the same words, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." On the day of
Pentecost, when Peter had preached his great sermon, the crowd asked what should we do, and Peter said, you guessed it, "Repent," (Acts 2:38). Paul stood in Athens and said these words, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent."
Okay, so what does that mean? Repent is a compound word in the Greek, it means to change the mind, or the thinking, or the reasoning, with a view to changing my actions. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he said this, "You turned from idols to serve the living and true God," (1 Thess. 1:9). It is more
than being sorry, though sorrow is usually involved. It is sorrow that leads to a change in thinking and actions. For example, one can be driving the wrong way down a one way street and be sorry, but sorry is not enough. That driver needs to stop and turn the car around and go in the right direction. Many people are sorry for what
they do, but they donít change their thinking or their actions. Sometimes their sorrow is in the fact that they were caught (like speeding) and are sorry, not for the act, but for the consequences. True repentance is sorrow for the wrong thinking that led to the wrong actions.
Why bring all this up? The answer is that our country needs to repent, if we are going to truly sing God Bless America. Consider this; that in 1954, the phrase, "Under God," was added to our Pledge of Allegiance. Then, on July 30th, 1956, President Eisenhower, signed into law, that the phrase, "In God We
Trust," would be our national motto. Just 6 years later, the Supreme Court said, in contradiction to nearly two hundred years of precedence to the contrary, that our children could read the Bible or pray in our schools. In the 54 years that followed, we have in essence told God we donít His absolute truth, we want to make up our
own truth as we go. We donít want His morals, we will make our morals. We donít want public prayers and if we have to have them, we donít the name of Jesus mentioned, because someone may be offended. We have, as Isaiah the Prophet said, called evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20).
Our first President in his farewell address warned us of the danger of trying to have a lasting heritage without morals and religion. In His estimation, that nation would not last long. This pastor is constantly haunted with the words of Thomas Jefferson that appear on the 3rd panel of his monument in
Washington, "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice
cannot sleep forever:
Jefferson was right. Jeremiah the Prophet wrote these words from God, "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon
it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. 11 "Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
saying, ĎThus says the Lord: "Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good" 12 And they said, "That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart." (Jer.
Dare we think that because we are America, that we will not experience Godís wrath? Consider these words from our Lord Jesus in Luke 13, "Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no;
but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
Isnít it possible that the increased numbers of natural disasters; that is, the fires, floods, tornedoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes, as well as the conflicts we are fighting in our country and around the world, might just be the sovereign God of creation trying to get our attention and saying to us,
"Repent." (Consider Amos 4)
My study of the Bible has led me to this conclusion, God doesnít want to bring judgment, He wants to deliver grace. But itís our choice. Peter tells us that the reason that Jesus has delayed His return is because, "God doesnít want anyone to perish but that all should come to repentance," (2 Peter 3:9). He
sent Jesus to die, to pay for our sins, so He could give grace and not judgment. But its our choice. We can repent of our sins and receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord, or live our own lives our own way, and be separated from God forever.
But as a nation, we need a national repentance. When Solomon dedicated Israelís first temple, he knelt and prayed a long prayer to God. He remembered Godís warning to Israel if they forsook Him and lived like the nations around them. Solomon knew the nature of man, and wanted to know that if people did just
that, but then repented, would God forgive them. This is Godís reply to Solomonís prayer. "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
This is the hope for America. This is your hope. This lost word of Christianity needs to be the Word we again preach from our pulpits, and the word we reflect on in our prayers. It has to begin somewhere. May God grant that repentance may begin with you and me.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman