CRY OUT TO THE LORD
* Introduction *
Throughout the Bible, one recurring theme seems to be how often the people of God move away from Him.
However, because of another recurring theme, that being the love of God, He often prescribed times when He called His people to renew their relationship with Him.
Interestingly, sometimes those calls for renewal came following disasters. One example is a time after God’s people were taken captive and carried into exile in the neighboring kingdom of Babylon. Before that, the people of God had fallen away from God. That is what caused the captivity and exile, but the people were called to renew their relationship with God. When that renewal came, the result was spiritual healing and eventually being able to return home.
Other times, God’s call for renewal came before disaster occurred. For instance, one time in the Old Testament, the king of God’s people heard God’s word read. The king right away realized the people, including him, were not following that word. The king’s response was to tear his robes in anguish. He thereby humbled himself. He then called on the people he led to repent. The result was that generation of God’s people being spared destruction.
I assume we all agree it is better to be spared destruction than it is to be rescued following disaster. So it is that during today’s service, we are going to focus our attention on spiritual renewal.
This is not to say anyone here is evil, but we need, at least from time to time, to make sure we are right spiritually. We need to cry out to the Lord that we be humble, that we have repented of whatever sins we have committed, that we are willing to yield to the Lord’s will, that we will intercede for each other and others beyond our congregation.
This morning, let’s cry out to the Lord.
* Humility *
To be renewed spiritually, we need to cry out to the Lord. Our cry needs to be for humility.
We know the importance of humility - the result of humility - because of II Chronicles 7:14. Let’s say it together. These are words of God, given to Solomon to share with God’s people. “If My people, who are called by My name, 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.”
That verse speaks of two wonderful gifts - forgiveness of sins and the healing of our land. However, it is critical to remember that those gifts are not just given. They are rewards from God, available when we, His people, do certain things.
Things like pray. We are doing that today during the service. We will do that again during the seminar following this service.
Things like seeking God’s face. We need to know what God wants. That seeking comes through Bible study. We need to know His will. That comes through prayer.
Things like turning from our wicked ways. We will have a chance to think about that a bit later when we pray about repentance.
But did we catch the other important phrase? When we “humble” ourselves.
When I studied this verse for this message, I was reminded that while we must be humble ourselves, thinking of each of us individually - each of us must, individually, be humble - that phrase in this passage was actually a call to the entire nation. That means we are to pray for humility among all people. That must start individually, but we should also pray for humility in this congregation. Then we can pray for humility for all God’s people throughout the nation. We can then pray for that to catch on for all others.
We must be humble. Which means we do, not what our human natures say is right or what society wants or says is acceptable. We are to be under the authority of God, doing only what He commands. What is pleasing to Him.
Again, that needs to start with us, but the goal for this part of crying out to the Lord is to pray that all God’s people will put themselves under God’s authority.
Let’s pray for humility among us and all God’s people.
* Repentance *
To be renewed spiritually, we need to cry out to the Lord. Our cry needs to be for humility. It also needs to be a cry of repentance.
Have any of us done something, even recently, that we know is wrong?
When I was little, I stole my sister’s crayons. My mother made sure I felt bad about that.
I also remember a lie I told a few years ago. Right after I told that lie, which was during a phone conversation, I called the person back up. I admitted my sin. I said I was sorry. I gave the correct information, which was that I had not done something I had promised to do.
I also apologized to God about my lie. Repentance. That means being sorry for what is done wrong. Being sorry about sins committed. But it means more than just being sorry. It extends to turning away from the sin, the turning away to be an indication you or I will never do that bad thing again.
I think that has worked with the two sins I mentioned. Never since stealing my sister’s crayons have I stolen anyone else’s art supplies. I do not remember lieing since that time a few years ago.
However, there is an important request in Psalm 19. The request is by David. Read it with me. This is verse 12 of Psalm 19. “Who can discern his errors? Clear me from hidden faults.”
David is famous for many things, most of them very good things, both before and when he was king of God’s people. However, he is also known for two horrible sins committed when he was king. Those sins were adultery with another man’s wife and the murder of that other man so David could make the woman his wife.
When those sins were brought to David’s attention [why he did not already know those actions were wrong, I do not know - maybe he acted without thinking], he repented.
That is what David needed to do, but he was also concerned about other things he had done. Other things he had done without thinking. Sins he did not know about. He wanted those hidden faults to be forgiven as well.
May we be willing to repent. To be sorry for and turn away from whatever we know we have done wrong. May we also ask God for forgiveness for and then the strength to move away from any hidden faults we have.
That is a critical part of being spiritually renewed, and it is important, not only for us individually, but also for our congregation, and for all of God’s people, the hope being that others will catch on about the need to repent of anything and everything that is against God’s will and way.
Let’s pray for repentance among all God’s people.
* Yield to the Lord’s Will *
To be renewed spiritually, we need to cry out to the Lord. Our cry needs to be for humility and for repentance. It also needs to be a cry for the willingness to yield to the Lord’s will.
Jesus taught the need for that. Let’s say it together. Luke 9:23. “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
To yield to the Lord’s will means to deny ourselves. That was alluded to earlier when we talked about humility. We are to do, not what our human natures say is right, but what God commands. What is pleasing to Him.
To yield to the Lord’s will also means to take up our crosses, which may never be literal, physical crosses upon which we will be crucified, although that is part of the torture of Christians inflicted by groups like ISIS in the Middle East. Taking up our crosses might mean other things - enduring ridicule from family or friends, or having to give up activities the world deems acceptable but that are against God’s teachings, or maybe being more generous with time or money than is comfortable.
We are to deny ourselves. We are to take up crosses. We are to follow Jesus. How often?Daily. Every day we are to yield to the Lord’s will.
Which Jesus Himself did concerning God.
Remember the night of the Lord’s arrest? The arrest He knew would lead to His crucifixion? Before the arrest, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Three times He shared with God it was OK with Him if some other way was found for Him to save the world. Some way other than Jesus dieing on a cross.
That is what Jesus wanted, but remember His words to God? Say them, please. “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.”
What commitment Jesus had. That is what He wants us, His people, to have - individually, as a congregation, among all the rest of His people, the hope being that others will catch on.
Let’s pray for the willingness to yield to God’s will.
* Willingness to Intercede *
To be renewed spiritually, we need to cry out to the Lord. Our cry needs to be for humility, repentance, a willingness to yield to the Lord’s will. And a willingness to intercede for others, taking their needs and their joys to the Lord.
We do that every Sunday morning during our prayer time. In addition, joys and needs are shared each Sunday on the Weekly Prayer Guide.
For instance, today we are thankful for continued rains. How wonderful adequate moisture is.
Many people continue to suffer from physical or medical concerns. Some are recovering from or anticipating surgeries. We can pray for them.
Some have lost loved ones to death. Others have family members or friends suffering from personal issues.
Most weeks there is the name of one or another of the missionaries we help support. They and all other missionaries face unique challenges.
We already intercede for one another. The call is to cry out to the Lord to help us to be committed to continued interceding.
Plus, let’s not be surprised when our interceding is answered by God.
I am thinking of something recorded in chapter 12 of Acts. According to that chapter, after King Herod had the apostle James killed - after the king saw how that murder pleased the Jews - he had the apostle Peter arrested, the plan being to kill Peter as well.
It was going to be a few days before the execution was to happen. During Peter’s time in prison, awaiting being killed, the other Christians in Jerusalem did a wonderful thing. Say it. This is verse 5. “The other Christians prayed for Peter.” They earnestly interceded for him.
The result was that during the night before the scheduled execution, as Peter slept between two soldiers to whom he was bound… Isn’t that amazing? Peter was about to be martyred. He was, that night, chained to two soldiers. How uncomfortable was that? He slept. Talk about spiritual peace.
As Peter slept, an angel of God appeared. The angel struck Peter to wake him. The angel told Peter to get up quickly. In a rapid succession, the chains fell off Peter, he and the angel walked past two guards, the gate of the jail opened, and Peter was free.
The first thing Peter did was go to the place where the Christians were praying.
When he knocked on the door, a maid asked who it was. When Peter identified himself, the maid was so joyful she forgot to open the door, instead going to where the praying - the praying for Peter’s rescue - was still going on.
The maid told them, “Peter is at the door!” Their response? “You are mad. You are a crazy woman. Don’t you know Peter is in prison, about to be killed? That is what we are praying about, which we need to continue to do.”
No, they did not need to continue praying. Their prayers had been answered.
How interesting they were so surprised that their prayers were answered. Let’s pray for the willingness to intercede for others - others in this congregation, other Christians elsewhere, other people we know about. And let’s be joyful rather than surprised when those prayers are answered.
* Closing Song and Benediction *
Faith for Thy service, my Father, I ask -
Faith for the facing and faith for the task.
Faith for the moment and faith for the day,
Faith that my God will throw open the way.
Hope for new courage and hope for new sight.
Hope that He’ll help me His message to bear.
Hope that His truth with the lost I may share.
Love for my neighbor and love for my God -
Love that will cause me to carry His Word.
Carry it onward and outward to win
All who should know of salvation from sin.
Throughout the Bible, one recurring theme is how often the people of God move away from Him. But because of the love of God, He often prescribed times when He called His people to renew their relationship with Him.
Sometimes those calls for renewal came following disasters. Other times, they came before disasters could occur. I assume we agree it is better to be spared destruction than it is to be saved following disaster.
So it is that we need to cry out to the Lord - for humility, for repentance, for a willingness to yield to the Lord’s will, for a willingness intercede for each other and others beyond our congregation. Today and beyond, let’s cry out to the Lord for renewed commitment to Him. Amen.