All of life is repentance – Martin Luther, reformed
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Jesus, reformer
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. – God, Father of Israel
We have been praying at length about seeing more of God’s power on the streets, in the form of signs, wonders and healing. He hasn’t yet answered….or has he?
Last week we heard of a young pastor who went to visit a lady with schizophrenia. Terribly abused as a young adult, she took to drugs and in the process developed the disease. Many who came to visit her in the name of the Lord pronounced healing over her, but she was never set free. This young pastor walked into her slum-like apartment and told her she needed to repent of the bitterness which she held against people, and her subsequent choices. Filled with fury, she threw him out the door. But his words had roughened her spirit, such that the Holy Spirit now had something to hold onto, and he began to convict her of sin. The minister’s words wouldn’t leave her, and over the period of a year she brought the various people who had abused her, some of which were her own family before God, and repented of her anger against them. She repented of her lifestyle.
After a year, she was off drugs and completely healed. Shortly after, she headed overseas and became a missionary where she serves God in absolute freedom. Unusual?
We have noticed similar things in our own work here. While Jesus calls us always to look after the poor, the widowed and the maligned as well as to heal the sick, are there limitations when we ask God for his intervention? For example, in the Housing Commission where we work to share the Gospel, there are many who are willing to accept charity while happily gambling, drinking and smoking their lives away. Many are in desperate need of deliverance, yet there seems much they could do to change their lives. What are we to do?
So often when Jesus healed, he spoke of the forgiveness of sin, and after healing warned people not to return to their sin. The two it seems are interconnected. Is our Gospel too soft, are we too afraid in our liberal society to speak the hard truth into somebody’s life that they need to turn away from their sin before God will deal with them? Perhaps as importantly, who will God deal with ultimately if we don’t (speak) and then they don’t (repent)?
We know many believers who work in local people’s lives, cleaning up their filthy apartments, washing, feeding them and so on. They do it because they try to serve Christ, and it is a good thing. I am wondering though, if God has answered our prayer and spoken to us, ‘preach repentance first.’ That’s not to say of course, that everyone who is sick is so because of some obvious sin in their lives, often it can be because of terrible wounding from the past, or simply that we all live in a fallen world where sickness happens.
But, we have been praying at length about seeing the power of God in this area, and God has pointed us through many instances to the need for repentance first. Virtually the entire message of the Old Testament can be summarised by God speaking to the Israelites, ‘if you will turn to me and leave your sin, I will heal you and your land.’
Of course, God being our loving Father hasn’t left it there either. ‘What about your own lives?’ he has asked us. We have become so aware that if we want to preach repentance and see deliverance and healing on the streets, then we had better clean up our own act as well. It has brought us to our knees before a Holy God who is a consuming fire.
I would have to conclude, after praying deeply into this for much of this year. The reason we don’t see much healing and deliverance around our neighbourhoods today, is because of a lack of Holiness in our own lives first. Come, let us get on our knees and pray, repent. God longs to move in our lives and those around us, but it seems we need to examine ourselves before him first.