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If my people who 
are called by my name ...

The full text of a sermon, part of which was preached at 
St Mark's and Putnoe Heights Church by
The Revd Eric Royden
on Sunday 21st April 2002

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways I will hear them from heaven and heal their land   2 Chronicles 7:14


As we look at this country at the present time, we see a nation in moral and spiritual decline. Morally we have become bankrupt, as the barriers of decency leave been swept away so that there are no restraints. Vulgarity and indecency are the norm. There is no limit to the obscenity shown on television. We are a sex saturated society in all that we see hear and read, bribery and corruption have become a part of public life.

We may not be attracted by such matter, but our children and grandchildren face growing up in a society which is falling apart. Our country fought the battle of Britain to fight a foreign force, now we face a ‘Battle for Britain’ against devilish forces. The devil has sure got a foothold in this country as people have given up fearing God and rebelled against Him. But make no mistake, there will be a price to be paid. No one gets away with violating God and His Word. There are rules for life which God has laid down, but too often they become merely a basis for negotiation

Spiritually there has been a steady decline in Church attendance with only 8% of the, population attending Church compared with 65% in America. This country desperately needs a spiritual revival, a getting back to God - a getting back to the Bible. Christmas Evans the Welsh revivalist once said ‘Revival is God breathing down to the dying embers of a fire which is just about to go out and breathing into it until it bursts into flames.’

In 960bc Israel was in a spiritual and moral decline and the people were failing to worship God. Solomon had just finished building his Temple and was dedicating it to God and he pleaded with God to forgive the nation of their sins. God answered that if they would humble themselves again seek His face and turn from their wicked ways He would heal the land. We need to make the same plea.

IF MY PEOPLE WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME

Today, God's people are those who worship Him, those who accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, those who profess Christ. They are the ones entitled to be called God's people. People like you who are here week by week. Not those who have a nodding acquaintance with Him every Christmas, those who use the Church as a backdrop for baptisms and weddings. People in a regular relationship with Him.

The added advantage of this call is that it can relate to all His people. There are some tasks in the church which through age or infirmity we cannot do. Here God is making it possible for all His people whatever their age or state of health to do. The solution to the nations problems lies not with politicians or human rights activists but with God's people.

IF THEY WILL HUMBLE THEMSELVES

Both individually and as a church there is a need for repentance. There can be too much pride. People can become obsessed with a sense of their own importance and if not given the due acknowledgment they feel they deserve, they may become upset. Satan said, ‘I will exalt my throne above God,' and some people want to do the same and so cause disruption in our churches. If we want revival we must accept we are all weak sinners.

God says a certain action is sin. We disagree and try to justify ourselves perhaps pointing out others who do the same. We think every one in society accepts this conduct so how unfair of God to criticise this. As we draw closer to God the sin in our lives which we first accepted as normal becomes distasteful.

Jesus told of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee was so convinced of his righteousness but the publican beat his breast and said, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ Jesus said the publican went home justified before God; the Pharisee did not.

Jesus also said unless we become like a little child we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. A child depends on its father for help and support and we are called upon to do that to our heavenly Father. We start by humbling ourselves before God then throwing ourselves on His mercy. We either justify ourselves or God. One way leads to darkness the other to revival.

IF MY PEOPLE WILL PRAY

Jesus told us to pray without ceasing and gave examples of desperate prayer. In one story a family had gone to bed when they were disturbed by a neighbour pounding on their door. The homeowner looked out and was asked for some bread by the neighbour to feed his guest. The homeowner refused but the neighbour kept on knocking until the homeowner gave what he wanted. The moral of the story was perseverance, it was desperation which won the day. Jesus said, ‘keep on asking and you will receive. Keep on seeking and you will find, keep on knocking and the door will be opened up to you.’ If we want revival we must pray in desperation.

There is an Independent Evangelical Church in Pensacola Florida, where the congregation prayed for two years for revival. On Fathers day in 1995 a mighty man of God named Rev. Stephen Hill was invited to preach at the morning service. At the close of the service it is the practice to have what is known as an altar call, in which the people are invited to step forward to the front of the church to commit their lives to Jesus Christ. So many went forward they were overwhelmed and Stephen Hill was asked to stay on for a while. The short while lasted five years; during which four million people from all over the world and from every State of the United States attended and hundreds of thousands offered their lives to Christ. It still has an impact on peoples lives; with people appearing on television to say how the Brownsville revival changed their lives. (So called Brownsville after the name of the church the Brownsville Assembly)

You may well ask, ‘how can we a small suburban church with not a huge congregation, many of whom are perhaps older in years, do very much?’ Hudson Taylor who founded the China Inland Mission was once asked why God had chosen him. Taylor replied `because God wanted someone small.' When God acts it is not in big cathedrals.

An American Christian programme following the September 11th attack on its country asked all its listeners to pray for fifteen minutes a day for fifty days for a revival and to phone in and say where they were from. A coloured pin was then placed on a wall map of the United States at their location. Within days the map was covered as people responded. Most of them were small churches, perhaps even smaller than this, but they reported new life and new people.

God acted when a Minister came to the small island of Lewis in the Hebrides prayed that God would bless them. A Minister in South Wales prayed and started the Welsh Revival. There are many examples of answered prayer for revival.

Neither is age a relevance. When the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites. Moses and Aaron were too old to fight but as the younger men fought they prayed and every time they did so the Israelites advanced. Older people can play a vital role in revival.

IF MY PEOPLE WILL SEEK MY FACE

God said, ‘if you seek me with all your heart you will find me.’ God wants us to enter into a relationship with Him. Not to see Him, as someone to go to when we want something, but as sons and daughters who want to respect the Father.

The Bible tells us that God communed with the man and woman. He who made man in the Garden of Eden, communes with us now through His Word, the Bible. Unfortunately so many people at all levels within the Church want to pick out those parts which suit their preference. The Church of England Articles stress the authority of Scripture as that to which we should pay heed.

The Chinese have a symbol for happiness which translates as ‘a garden in the presence of God.’ This is the relationship we should ultimately seek as we seek revival. In Isaiah we read `Come let us reason together says the Lord.' To that invitation we should respond.

IF MY PEOPLE TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAY

If a field is left idle without cultivation it goes hard and seed will not penetrate. The spiritual life of people can be like that. There is a lack of Bible reading and prayer, attendance at church is given up, we turn to worldly things; rejecting God's approval. We become no longer interested in Christian teaching. Some begin conduct they clearly know is wrong but the conscience, which for so long gave warning, doesn't work any more.

There is a need for examination of our lives to root out those ways which are not worthy of us as Christians. Things which the Bible clearly defines as wrong yet which are still practised by people who call themselves Christians. Adultery, homosexuality, hatred, discord, jealousy, envy, and witchcraft. The Bible says ‘woe to those who call evil good and good evil.’ The church as God's voice may have failed to speak out in condemnation of such ways for fear of upsetting the liberal tendency and being branded narrow, often preferring to align itself with society's standards. 'If you can't beat them join them' mentality. Can you imagine how little the Christian Church would have progressed if Paul had been so timid? Scripture alone should be our guide.

 

Sometime we have real unpleasantness in our churches. This is because some people see them as places to exercise a power they could not do so elsewhere. They become argumentative, rebellious, self-centered and enjoy causing disruption.

I was talking to a lady who told me how her Vicar made same slight changes to try and introduce new people to the church. She said the congregation became so divided it was like war. What sort of Christianity is that? Certainly not the kind Jesus had in mind when He said, ‘love one another.’

We are told the disciples were all of one mind at Pentecost and look what happened there. What an effect it would have in the nation if all our Churches were like those disciples.

As you seek God His love should make you tear down all barriers that keep people apart. Think of the awesome power that unity can bring. The devil will do all in his power to cause division among Christians.

In this sermon I have uses the word IF numerous times. This is a very big word. There are churches which would dread any revival preferring to keep things nice and quiet in a holy huddle. If a stranger should enter they say 'what is she doing here.' Some older people take a philosophical line and think ‘I won't be here in a number of years.’ So they don't let things concern them. We need all of us a passion for revival and we are poor Christians if we don't feel a concern for the future of the Church We must forget ourselves and our own desires for the sake of the Lord's Church. If we really believe Christianity is the only hope and answer for a fallen world then let us earnestly pray and work for revival and make sure we, are living as God intended Revival begins with Gods people, but the power of God is so strong it soon spreads to all society.

After Jesus had risen from the dead he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. Although their lives were in danger they gathered in that Upper Room and waited patiently for the promise of the Father. Then when the day finally came they were filled with the: Holy Spirit and were converted to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The same God who visited His people in Jerusalem is ready to visit His Church in England. He has promised to hear His people and answer from heaven. Let us seek His blessing for this parish of St Mark's and Putnoe Heights.