Friends, America desperately needs to turn away from sin and return to God. Yet, it’s easy for us to point the finger at others so we don’t have to look in the mirror at ourselves. However, each of us, personally, needs to turn away from the world and turn to God. If we draw close to God, He will draw close to us.
My great hope is that everyone would turn away from the world and turn to God and thus experience a great personal revival. I have been praying for this kind of revival for a long time. Many in our church and in our community and in our nation have been praying for revival. We long for the return of those days when revival swept across our land in days of old: when thousands upon thousands turned to the Lord and were save, when churches were filled on Sundays, when Americans lived godly lives of integrity, when our leaders led our nation according to the will of God.
The Word of God in James 4:8-10 speaks plainly on the subject. It speaks to me. I pray You will hear God’s Word speak to you today. May it cut straight to your heart, convict you, and challenge you to change.
8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
If ever there were a phrase that describes Americans today, verse 8 describes us when it says, “…for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” This is what distinguishes us from the Christians of the New Testament. It is what separates us from early Americans who built this nation, inspired by their commitment to Christian values.
Some have said, “Well, it was easier for them to be close to God. They actually saw Jesus and they witnessed miracles.” My friends, they were no more equipped to draw close to God than we are. Their closeness to God was a conscious choice. They chose to forsake all else and draw near to God and He drew near to them. They saw miracles because they were close to God. Their success at changing the world was directly related to their commitment to God. We remember and venerate these “saints” of old because they forsook the world and chose God.
But what of Americans in the 21st century? Can we say we are wholly and completely committed to God? Are you? It should be no wonder to us that America is in the state it is in for, “…your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” Worshiping God on Sunday morning has become just one option among a myriad of things we can do. We could choose instead (and quite often we do) to: sleep in, go to a ball game, hang out with friends, go fishing, work in the yard, see a movie, watch TV, clean the house, play video games, have friends over for lunch, go shopping, or any number of other things. (There’s nothing inherently wrong with these activities; but our loyalty is divided because we treat worship as if it is optional and often place other things ahead of God.) We have come to believe and live as if our comfort and happiness are what’s most important. It’s all about us (so we think). Did it ever occur to you that life is not about you? It’s not even about your family or your kids. Life is our opportunity to glorify God. It’s what we were created for:
God put air in your lungs so you could sing His praises.
God placed beauty all around us so we could see THE ARTIST.
But we have made it all about us and what we want. How selfish! How foolish! The servant has said to the King, “No! I don’t want to serve you! You serve me!"
We have fallen for the world’s lie that our security is found in: more money, a better job, and social acceptance. We seek shelter in our comfortable lives, always doing what we want, what we are used to, and turn away from the mission of God because it seems too risky. We don’t want to be different. Everyone else is doing the same as us and we feel justified in being like everybody else. We are like sheep all heading off to slaughter. We feel safe in our flock walking along together, until it is too late and we feel the knife at our throat. O wake up! Wake up! Before it’s too late!
A Personal Revival
What then should we do? James tells us. O hear the Word of God! “Let there be tears for what you have done…” Are you not sorry that you have traded loyalty to the God who made the heavens and the earth, who also made you, who gave you the ability to know love and joy and peace and happiness, and who (even when you rejected Him) left the glory of heaven and came to earth to save you by dying on the cross—paying the price for your sins—that you might take off your filthy ways like a dirty garment and put on a brand new, pure and brilliant, white robe?
You have traded your loyalty to Him for the world—for empty pleasures that do not truly satisfy, that are worthless, that are selfish, empty, shallow, shameful, and self-indulgent, that bring about evil and suffering and destruction for you and the whole world. You have traded your loyalty to God for worldly ways that lead to the exploitation of the poor and needy, that foster injustice and oppression, that hammered the nails through the hands and feet of Christ. Are you not full of sorrow and grief that you have betrayed God for the sake of the world? Oh recognize how far you have fallen from the high calling of God! How you have broken His heart! How your actions are leading to the enslavement of America and the whole world! Does it not break your heart? Are you not ashamed? Does it not fill your eyes with tears?
Then, “Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts…” You cannot wash away these sins with water. There is but one ingredient that can wash away the stain of your sins. It is the blood Christ, which he shed on the cross at Calvary.
“Humble yourself before the Lord…” Bow your head in humble prayer. Earnestly ask the Lord to forgive you and wash you clean. And humbly commit yourself to Jesus—completely and wholeheartedly. Choose this day—as did the Christian saints before you—to no longer divide your loyalty between God and the world. Instead, give your allegiance completely and fully to God. Cast away anything else that threatens to draw you away from Him. And follow the Lord from now on.
Some say revival is a week-long series of church services designed to get people saved. Some say revival is a movement in history like the Great Awakening in America in the 19th century when people were swept up in religious fervor. But I say the essence of revival is James 4:8-10. Revival comes in our individual hearts when we humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and choose God—forsaking all else. Revival comes when we yearn to follow God more than we yearn for anything else. Truly, revival is when we want God only (and nothing else).
Revival can spread across the land like a wildfire when just one person lives an authentic Christian life and leads another to do the same. Soon whole churches, communities, even the whole world is changed forever because individuals had the courage to live wholeheartedly for God despite what anyone else did.
So hear the Lord crying out to you: “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”
If your heart is broken because you have loved or been loyal to the "world" instead of God, I invite you to confess your sins, repent, and make a change. I offer the following confession adapted from page 890 of United Methodist Hymnal. May these words be your sincere prayer to God. He will hear you and forgive.
Prayer of Confession
Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone. I have not loved You with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and forgive me; that I may delight in Your will, and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your name. Amen.
My Prayer for You
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen!