The Spiritual State of the Union

Sept. 22, 2012 Janet Parshall

Session Transcript

Good morning. I am so glad to be spending this Saturday morning with you. And ladies, I’m going to be completely honest and transparent with you and tell you that Professor DeMoss has given me a very sobering task this morning.

If you woke up and thought, “Boy, I can't wait to get in there and get a warm fuzzy message,” you've come to the wrong place. So I want to ask a couple of things before we start. I know about the check-out. I know about the luggage. I know about the brain fry at this point. I know about the fact that you are processing and unpacking and those hard parts of the soil of your hearts have been pulverized and that seed of truth has been planted and you are almost waiting for a quiet corner where you can just go and be still and know that He is God.

But I join with those who have already said this morning that we want the Lord to visit us this morning. And we want to hear from Him, and we want His whole message. We don't want just the parts that are comfortable. We just don't want the parts that are manageable, but we want all of our God and all of His message. So that's our task this morning.

I'm going to ask if you would just quiet your hearts in prayer before we begin, please. Gracious Heavenly Father, we woke up this morning with hearts overflowed with thanksgiving because You blessed us before we even opened our eyes.

You have provided grace that was more than sufficient for the day. Your tender mercies were renewed this morning, and we were reminded anew and afresh that nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God. That is more than what we deserve and more than what we need.

Now, Father, we still have this time apart. Thank You for being a God who gives us times apart to be with You. Real life is waiting for us right outside that door, but we still pant after You. We still run to You weeping, waiting to hear more, Father, wanting yet again another anointing, another fresh touch, another word from You.

So Father, while we're anticipating as we women do about check-out and luggages and travel and all of that, Father, quiet our hearts. Take those thoughts away now so we can focus in on You and on Your Word. Father, in this sobering moment when we really hear another attribute of who You are as our holy King, Father, I pray that You would quicken our hearts and move us to that which we have desired all weekend long, real personal repentance followed by real, personal revival. And we pray this in Jesus' name, amen and amen.

Mr. President, we welcome you to the Senate. And Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.

That's what the Deputy Sergeant at Arms says each year when the President of the United States gives his State of the Union Address.

Why does he give a State of the Union Address? Because he has been charged by the Constitution of the United States to do just that. Article 2, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution says this: “He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the state of the union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Necessary and expedient. The President, by the way, then discusses the legislative state of our nation and casts a vision for what he thinks is best for the nation. And then far more importantly, the question before us today is not a legislative agenda by any stretch of the imagination. It is, in fact, the question what is the spiritual state of our union?

And I will extrapolate two words from the Constitution. What is, in fact, necessary and expedient? So here's some interesting numbers. By the way, fair warning—fasten your seat belts. It will be a bumpy ride.

Here's a few statistics. Gallup found some interesting indicators. When asked the question about the spiritual health of our nation, this is all people, is it important or not, sixty-three percent of all respondents said, “Yes.” That's down fourteen points since 2002. Seventy-nine percent of churchgoers said the spiritual health of the nation is important, and forty-four percent of self-identified liberals said the state of the spiritual state of our nation is important.

When it comes to the question of trust, four in ten Americans believe today that in general people can be trusted—four in ten. Six in ten think, “Well, you can't be too careful.” Eighty-five percent of Americans mostly agree that being ethical would pay off economically.

What about religious conviction? Since 1999, Americans say that they are, “Spiritual but not religious.” This is increased by ten percentage points. They're part of a Christian religious tradition—that's declined six points since 1999. And they have no religious tradition at all, that's increased by five percentage points since 1999. Eighteen percent of the adult U.S. population can be described as highly spiritually committed—eighteen percent.

Forty-nine percent believe themselves to be religious. Forty percent say they are spiritual but not religious and seventy percent say that because of their faith, they find meaning and purpose in life. That's seven out of ten people who say they have a faith believe that faith provides meaning in their life.

Are you seeing the gap? Consider these statistics. Eight out of ten Americans feel the U.S. economy could collapse completely. Eight out of ten Americans think they were dissatisfied with what is happening in this country.

Four out of ten say the current economic downturn is part of a long, permanent decline and the economy won't ever recover. Half of us think we're heading to another Great Depression and by the end of 2011, seven in ten Americans said we're headed down the wrong track.

I'll do my own poll here. How many of you think America is headed in the wrong direction? Overwhelming. Overwhelming. Something in the human heart says something is broken. Something is not right.

Now, on the questions of America's spiritual health chart—and by the way, this is Gallup, a secular pollster who gathers this data. That's what he does. All kinds of questions to all kinds of people about all kinds of issues.

Truth. Eighty-six percent believe in God in this country, but ninety-one percent lie regularly. Twenty-eight percent believe that the Bible should be taken literally. Twenty-eight! That's less than three out of ten Americans think the Bible should be taken literally.

Morality. Seventy-eight percent believe we're in a moral decline, and yet here is the disconnect. Ninety-six percent believe they're doing a good job in teaching children moral values. Only eleven percent believe that their life has something to do with moral decline in the country—another disconnect.

Family. America has the highest divorce rate in the world. There are over fifty million abortions in America since 1973. And globally, lest you think that problems can only be boxed by America's geographical boundaries—number of abortions per year in the world, forty-two million. The number of abortions per day globally, 115,000 abortions a day.

Forty-one percent of all children are born out-of-wedlock. Cohabitation has increased a thousand percent since 1960. And the number of unmarried people living together has increased seventy-two percent just between 1990 and 2000. Something is terribly wrong.

America is deemed to be the most religious of all the industrialized nations, and yet, George Gallup has said that America (and remember, this is a secular pollster) is a nation of biblical illiterates. Ouch. That's an indictment.

Now, Gallup also is constantly assessing U.S. morality. He has been doing this for a long time. Gallup made the declaration that he has never seen such bad ratings. In fact, these are the worst over the last ten years.

When asked the question, "How would you rate the overall state of moral values in this country today?", forty-five percent said poor, fifteen percent said excellent. Right now he asks the question, “Do you think the state of the moral values in this country as a whole are getting better or getting worse? Fourteen percent said getting better, seventy-six percent said getting worse.

Listen to the opinions of some secular influencers in this country. If you were to look at a political spectrum, these people come from both the liberal and the conservative side, and yet listen to the unanimity of opinion in what they have to say.

Keith Olbermann, who's a political commentator on MSNBC, said, “This is the beginning of the end of America.”

Al Gore, former Vice President, has said he believes that America is in grave danger and that the world faces a planetary emergency.

Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer Prize winning conservative columnist, has said that “it's midnight in America.”

Paul Krugman, he's a New York Times columnist. He believes the American dream is not totally dead, but it's dying pretty fast.

Peggy Noonan, she writes for the Wall Street Journal as a columnist. She says, "There is across America a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks; that in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed or won't be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with 'right track' and 'wrong track' but missing the number of people who think the answer to 'How are things going in America?' is 'Off the tracks and hurling forward toward an unknown destination.'"

Chalmers Johnson, who was a professor emeritus at the University of California in San Diego, wrote before he died in 2010, “The capacity for things in America to get worse is limitless and Roman history suggests that the short, happy life of the American republic may soon be coming to an end.”

Thomas Sowell, professor, economist observed, “The collapse of a civilization is not just the replacement of rulers or institutions with new rulers and new institutions. It is the destruction of a whole way of life and the painful and sometimes pathetic attempts to begin rebuilding amid the ruins. Is that where America is headed? I believe it is. Our only saving grace is that we are not there yet." No, Mr. Sowell, our only saving grace is Jesus.

In your view, Gallup asks the question, what's the most important problem with the moral state of values in this country today?

  • The number one issue by respondents was tolerance.
  • The number two was lack of family structure—divorce, kids' upbringing.
  • Number three was the lack of faith and religion.
  • Number four was values.

Look at the choices we're making as a nation. The stats on pornography are off the charts. Twelve percent of the websites on the Internet are pornographic. That is, translated into numbers, 24,644,372 pornographic websites.

Every second in America $3,075.64 is spent on pornography; 28,258 Internet users are viewing porn every second in America. Forty million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites, and one in three porn viewers are women. If you look at the money, in the U.S. Internet porn pulls in $2.84 billion per, and worldwide the industry is worth $4.9 billion.

In 2010 there was an estimated 22.6 million Americans over the age of twelve that were current or former illicit drug users. That equates to about nine percent of the population ages twelve and over any time involved in illicit drugs.

That's the world. The statistics could go on and on and on. But Nancy wisely took us to 2 Chronicles and she wisely talked about Asa. You'll notice that we didn't read a passage that dealt with Pharaoh. We dealt with a passage that dealt with a king, a leader of God's people.

So do we really look at the fallen state of the world? After all, is it not a world turned upside down? Is the prince of this world not still prowling seeking whom he may devour? The focus it seems to me is not on the spiritual state of the nation, it is rather on the spiritual state of the Church. And that's where the challenge is.

First Peter 4:17 says judgment starts with the family of God, and it begins with us. I don't expect those who don't yet know Jesus Christ to be living a life of the redeemed. I expect the redeemed to be living the life of the redeemed.

And what about the Church? Are we that much different from the world around us? This is where the statistics are particularly troublesome.

This is about Christians. Four out of ten Christians believe that Satan is not a living being but is, in fact, just a symbol of evil. Additionally, two out of ten Christians, that's nineteen percent, say that they agree somewhat with that perspective. One quarter, twenty-six percent, disagree strongly. About one tenth disagree somewhat. The remaining eight percent aren't sure what they think about the existence of Satan.

Well, just one quarter of adults, that's twenty-seven percent, are convinced Satan is a real force, even a minority of born-again Christians, forty percent have adopted that same perspective.

Now much like their perspectives on Satan, most Christians don't believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force. Overall, thirty-eight percent strongly agreed, twenty percent agreed. That's a total of fifty-eight percent. Over half of those who call themselves Christians do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force. How can you be empowered by the Holy Spirit if you don't believe in the power that empowers you? The statistics go on. Apparently now one out of three believe. One out of three Christians believe the Holy Spirit is a living force.

About one-third, thirty-three percent of self-defined Christians who agreed the Bible and the Quran and the Book of Mormon all teach the same truths. And yet they also believe that the Bible is totally accurate in its principles. Explain that. Even though they have different ideas.

So either this Book is absolutely completely true or the Book of Mormon is absolutely, completely true. They both can't be completely true. They're mutually exclusive approaches. How can we say they're the same?

One-third of all adults believe moral truth is absolute. That's all adults. Now when we get down to Christians, slightly less than half of born-again believers believe in absolute moral truth. Dear ones, what is this if it's not absolute moral truth?

The numbers are overwhelming, and the numbers are a wake-up call for the Church. It goes on. Half of all adults firmly believe the Bible is accurate in all the principles. That portion includes four-fifths of born-again Christians. Eight out of ten Christians say, “Yes, we believe the Bible is accurate.” What about the two out of ten born-again Christians who don't believe the Bible is accurate?

Who are you serving? What do you believe? What does the Word say? One-quarter adults believe it's impossible for someone to earn their way to heaven through good behavior. Not quite half of all born-again Christians, forty-six percent, reject that idea. That's less than half reject that idea.

If you look at this, that means the majority of believers think that works are necessary for salvation. “For by grace are you saved through faith not of works lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8)

It's crystal clear. When all else fails read the instructions. It tells us where salvation can be found and how salvation is granted to us. It has nothing to do with us. It is the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

A minority of American adults are persuaded that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life while He was on earth. Less than two-thirds of born-agains believe strongly that He was sinless. That's serving a second-rate Savior and not the Savior that has been revealed in Scripture.

Church attendance. Well, we've blown it there. We aren't interested in going to church apparently. Now only a minority, about forty-seven percent, can be found in church events during a typical week. Adults are eight percentage points less likely to attend Sunday school in a typical week than twenty years ago. Less than one out of five now attend during a typical week. Thirty percent of all self-identified Christians volunteer at church in a typical week. Back in 1999 the number was twenty-two percent higher than it is today.

Bible reading, it has dropped over the last twenty years, going from fifty-one percent to forty-six percent. How do we know our Savior if we don't read His love letters? The numbers are indicting.

And those who embrace the label Christian for themselves are now ten percentage points more likely to be in church than was true in 1991.

Dear ones, we are in a spiritual recession. The news is not good. So it begs the question: Is God trying to get our attention?

Now, if you look at your watch, it says, “Matthew 24.” Look at the time. Matthew 24, Jesus is teaching us how to tell time. He gives us the signs that says that the end is going to approach.

He tells us to be on the lookout for various things. Among them, the Bible says, in the last days there will be an increase in natural disasters, famine. In one of the most horrific global economic eras of our lifetime, we're seeing famine. We're seeing multiple countries on the cusp of economic collapse: Mexico, Pakistan, Ukraine, Venezuela, Argentina, Iceland, Greece.

A new report that just came out this week from the World Economic Forum found that the U.S. is slipping in dozens of areas compared with just a few years ago. Most troubling of all is the conclusion that since 2008 the United States has slid from number one in the world in terms of global competitiveness to now number seven.

Earthquakes. He says, in Matthew 24, earthquakes. Look at the horrific earthquakes we've seen in Japan and Haiti and China. God used an earthquake at the crucifixion and the resurrection to get our attention. Is God trying to get our attention?

The Bible also says roaring seas and the waves. Look at Katrina; look at Irene. Churck Colson said Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call to this country. It wakes us up to the fact that our God is sovereign and we should be constantly in a state of repentance seeking God's favor.

In 2011 we saw the worst outbreak of tornadoes in fifty years.

The persecution of the Church. We're told there have been more people crucified for the cause of Christ in the twentieth century than all nineteen centuries combined. Persecution is at an all-time high.

Wars, rumors of wars. Would you like me to tick off a few countries? Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Libya, just to name a few. As we speak, ships are amassing in the streets of Hormuz with the threat of an Israeli attack against Iran.

Is God trying to get our attention? It's a wake-up call.

And terror threats. Growing fears. 9/11. Mumbai. London. A huge four-foot poster in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, with a picture of Osama bin Laden that says, “America be warned. We have 1.5 billion bin Ladens.”

Is God trying to get our attention?

And most troublesome of all, in Matthew 24, we read, "Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people."

Sisters, we are in a state of spiritual emergency.

Now, during the 900s John had been exiled to the penal colony on the Island of Patmos, forty miles from Ephesus. One day he was worshiping God and the next he saw the veil between heaven and earth rent, and he found himself in the presence of the risen, glorified Christ. Oh what a moment that must have been!

And based on what he was about to see, John was instructed to write a letter to the seven churches. In truth, it's an amazing, horrifying, majestic, nearly incomprehensible, God-given vision of the things that must soon take place.

Six of the seven churches had letters filled with commendations in areas of strength. Two of the seven churches were spared a rebuke from the Lord, but one church, one church was a stand-out from all the others, but not for what it had done right.

Ephesus was the church full of good deeds but empty of love for God. Smyrna was the suffering church. They received no criticism from the Lord. Pergamum was the church that compromised on the truth. They were involved with false doctrine and worldly morality. Thyatira was the church that took tolerance to a new level by tolerating sin. Sardis was the dead church that was spiritually asleep because they lost their love of the truth and felt no need to repent. Philadelphia was the youngest church, the smallest church, but the one that received no criticism but only got condemnation from the Savior Himself. But the church at Laodicea stood by itself because it's the church that nauseates God.

Open your Bibles to Revelation 3, and join with me as I begin reading at the fourteenth verse. It’s a very powerful passage and a wake-up call to a church that currently is in the midst of a spiritual emergency.

"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (vv. 14–16).

Let me tell you something, dear ones. It's a whole lot easier to take Jesus with children on His lap by the Sea of Galilee than to think about a God who's ready to spit us out of His mouth. But we take every word from Genesis to Revelation. Every word reveals who our great King is. The parts we like and the parts we don't like.

It is what C.S. Lewis says, “The whole package. You take all of it or you take none of it.”

And we are a people now who are interested in that which tickles our ears. “Tell me that it's my best day ever. Tell me that I can name it and claim it. Tell me it's all about me.” And God said, “No. It's all about Me.” So the church in America has to make a decision.

So when we look at this Laodicean church. God's Word is so rich and packed with so much. Laodicea was an amazing town. It was a major banking center in Asia, the central part of Asia Minor. Affluence and power could easily describe Laodicea.

It was known for its thriving textile trade because only in Laodicea could you get this beautiful, glossy, shiny, wool cloth. The city was also known for its medicine. In fact, we've done archeological digs where we've found coins minted with the faces of famous physicians who practiced in Laodicea.

And in particular, the city was known for a particular powder they had that was used as a salve to be put on the eyes to treat eye ailments. It was also located about six miles to the south of Hierapolis, known for its hot springs, and Colossae, ten miles to the east, which was known for its cold water supply. Freshwater could not be found in Laodicea.

They had a water problem. No freshwater supply whatsoever. So this bustling metropolis had to bring water into the city through large underground aqueducts that were built. By the time the water reached the city, the water was tepid; it was chalky; it was bitter from traveling through all of that stone. It was repulsive, and it was almost undrinkable.

Visitors, when they came to Laodicea, not being aware of their water problem, would drink it, and it would make them sick. They would spit it out of their mouths because it was so repugnant.

Dear ones, in what is definitely not a warm and fuzzy message, God is saying to the Church, because you are neither hot nor cold, I'm going to spit you out of my mouth.

Do you know what the word spit means? It means “vomit.” The church is literally making God sick. I don't know what that does to you, but that makes me want to fall to my knees. Here is the holy God of all creation saying to this church, “You make me sick.” It's pretty strong. It's pretty convicting. It's like an arrow through the heart.

Lack of water would be the eventual ruin of Laodicea. Today, if you go there, you see fallen stones and interestingly one of the stones is part of the aqueduct system, preserved as if to be a message for generations that followed.

The church there was in a wretched state. It was self-centered. It was indulgent. It was half-hearted; it was lazy; it was materialistic; it was insincere; and it was fleshly. The church was blind to its own needs, and it was unwilling to see the truth.

Which is a paradox, because remember as we began those couple of verses the message came from the great Amen. Do you know what amen means in Hebrew? It means truth. Every time we say amen what we're really saying is truth. Every time we hear it. So truth is telling the church, “You make me sick because you are neither hot nor cold. You're self-centered, you're indulgent. It's all about you. You've lifted yourself up and put Me in the back.” It's a wake-up call to the church. So the great Amen delivers the message to not only the church at Laodicea, but perhaps is delivering a wake-up call to the Church today.

They lost their fire. They lost their spiritual vigor. They, and perhaps we, have lost our burning heart for God.

Luke 24 tells us about the two that were on the road to Emmaus. And they said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road? While he opened up the Scriptures?" Is our heart burning for Him today?

In Romans 12:11, it says, “Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord.” And prayer—prayer is inexorably connected to a heart on fire. In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul writes Epaphras is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God mature and fully assured.

He then directs this same letter to the church at Colossae to the church of Laodicea way before John has his vision. At that point in time they were already sending signals that they were becoming lukewarm, and Paul was trying to send them a wake-up call.

They didn't heed his words. They lost their fire. They lost their prayer life. They lost their zeal. Warren Wiersbe says, "The lukewarm Christian is comfortable, complacent, and doesn't even realize his own need."

The church at Laodicea was prideful and utterly so, they thought, self-sufficient. Had they forgotten that without Christ they could do nothing? Had their arrogance and their affluence caused them to think they only needed God when they thought they needed God? Are we in that place today?

And He goes on, chapter 3, verses 17 and 18. And He says, “You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize (this is the great Amen talking) that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." What a wake-up call!

Then He says this, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (v. 18). Brilliant teaching from the great Amen.

Worldly wealth can bring spiritual poverty. And it did in Laodicea. All the ledger sheets look good. Their building project was coming along nicely. They had expanded their family ed center. Looked wonderful. From all outward appearances it looked terrific. But on the inside it was a rotting corpse. It was a dead church.

And then the great Amen brilliantly unpacks that which was so germane to Laodicea. Look what He does. I told you it was a banking center, right? So God goes for the issue of banking. And He says to buy from Him the gold that will be refined by fire so they may become rich in heaven's eyes, not in their bank accounts.

And then understanding that Laodicea had this marvelous rich black wool. He says, “I will provide for you white clothes to cover your sin. You can't do anything in your own right, Laodicea. You need to trust Me because I will provide the robe that covers your sin.”

And as the Great Physician, knowing that this eye ointment was renowned in Asia Minor, He goes right to the point and He says, “I provide the salve that removes your spiritual blindness.”

What He is saying in no uncertain terms is wake up, Church, it's all about Me. You need Me. You've gotten arrogant and self-sufficient. It is all on your own. You come to Me from time to time, but you don't make Me the center of worship and the center of your church.

Well, is it too late for us?

You know, the Bible says that He rebukes those whom He loves. This is also a tough verse. We've talked a lot about how God seeks us. We've talked a lot about His unconditional love. How He meets us where we're at, how He pursues us, but He also rebukes us. This is that part of the package we don't like to talk about.

So we read in verse 19 the great Amen. “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” You know what's happened is the world has done a marvelous job of ridiculing repentance.

What does the world see? They see a man walking around in sackcloth and a sandwich board that says, “Repent or Die.” And it becomes a caricature. And yet, in God's eyes it's deadly serious. Repentance is important to the heart of God.

I don't want to presume to know all of His ways. His ways are not our ways, but is God potentially rebuking us today? If so, He does it because He loves us. And if so, He does it because He is trying to get our attention. He is calling us to repentance just as He called the church at Laodicea.

And if we want revival, every single time there was revival . . . There were seven major revival movements in the Old Testament. We have had two Great Awakenings in this country. You never have revival without repentance. There is work to be done in repentance.

It is meeting God and saying, “I am in agreement with You. There is sin in my life, and Father, I ask You to take my sin away.” Knowing that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and will always cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.

So the question is whether or not we're willing to do the work of repentance. The personal inventory, the transparency, the openness, the honesty. The genuinely open transparent heart of a true woman of God.

You know, when we look at this verse, we don't understand how much repentance is necessarily tied into revival. So Jesus then says this, something very interesting. A lot of pastors even have this as a painting in their pastoral studies. “Here I am!” This is the Great Amen talking. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

Now, we often associate that marvelous verse with salvation. In fact, that verse was extremely instrumental in bringing my husband to faith in Christ Jesus. But notice the context of where this is being delivered.

He is not delivering this verse to the unsaved. He is saying this to the Church.  Because the Church has asked Jesus to step outside. So here He is gently knocking. You know, Jesus is a gentleman Savior. He never kicks open the door. He knocks gently.

And you'll notice also that the door has to be opened from the inside to let Him in. The Church needs to invite Jesus back in the midst of the Church. We've let Him out.

Apart from Him, we can do nothing. Smyrna was a church who thought it was poor, but it was rich. Laodicea was a church who thought it was rich, but it was poor. They started to measure everything with an earthly yardstick. They were proud of their ministry. They were confident in their own accomplishment. But in God's eyes they were wretched, miserable, and poor.

The world had worked its way into the church, and God was about to vomit the church out of His mouth. What a wake-up call. What a humbling, trembling message for the Church today.

So what do we do?

John Bunyan said one leak will sink a ship, and one sin will destroy a sinner. We may be sinners by nature, but we have been given the title of saint, by God's grace. We have to take full responsibility for our sin and turn from our wicked ways.

That's what repenting means. It means changing direction, going in a different direction because you're in agreement with God, and you want to leave your sins at the foot of the cross and walk away while walking closer to His heart through repentance.

Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

That's extremely important because what it means is that repentance isn't for some of us, repentance is for all of us.

I've got to tell you, a lot of pastors don't want to preach on this subject because it does impact their building project. Let's be honest with one another. But if you're going to preach the whole counsel of God, pastors, you've got to preach the whole counsel of God, and that means repentance as well.

Charles Spurgeon, as he often did so beautifully, encapsulated this. He said, "Learn this lesson: Not to trust Christ because you repent but to trust Christ to make you repent. Not to come to Christ because you have a broken heart, but come to Him that you may be given a broken heart. Not to come to Him because you are fit to come to Him, but to come to Him because you are utterly unfit to come. Your fitness is your unfitness. Your qualification is your lack of qualification.”

We need to start revival through repentance and the first step in repentance is to turn away from our sin. And then as was directed to the church at Laodicea, as was echoed in the verses we read in Luke and Romans, we need to be praying with a sense of spiritual urgency.

I can't tell you how many people I've talked to over the last couple of days here who have in their heart this sense of urgency. God is talking to His people. Jesus's return is imminent. Imminent. Now that's different from immediate.

Imminent means it could happen at any moment. There is no prophesy in this Book yet to be fulfilled before Jesus comes to take His Church home. Does that get your heart beating just a little faster? His return is imminent.

E.M. Bounds, who wrote powerfully on the subject of prayer, said an imminent historian has said that the accidents of personal character have more to do with revolutions of nations than either philosophic historians or politicians will admit.

The truth applies to the gospel of Christ. The character and conduct of the followers of Christ can Christianize the world, transfigure nations and individuals. So the question then becomes, are we wrestling in prayer for ourselves, for each other, for the Church, for our community, for our nation, for our world?

Are we wrestling with fervor or are we lukewarm? Are we cold? Is our prayer life tepid, insignificant, sloppy, unfocused?

Oh men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival of religion, men whose faith is large enough and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions; that God would appear among us and do wonders here as in former generations. —Charles Spurgeon

Another powerful Spurgeon quote. “I want a faith that is large enough. I want a love that is fiery enough.” Is that our one cry today? Is that what the Church should be praying for? So we turn, we pray, and last but certainly not least, and we've sensed just a little bit of that this weekend, we unite in our state of spiritual emergency. We have to be willing to unite our hearts for true revival in our nation by asking for revival first in our hearts.

Listen to the words of the prophet Joel. They still resonate today with clarity and with certainty. Joel said, "'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning'" (2:12).

Friends, that's messy stuff. That's messy stuff. Because it means you are willing to say, “Lord, if I want a heart like yours, I'm willing to have you break my heart. Just break open that earthen jar and spill out the contents and remove the cluttered, messy parts that are so non-reflective of who I am in you and who you are in me.”

And then Joel goes on to say, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORd your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (v. 13).

Is God relenting from sending calamity, or are we on the cusp of something very powerful that is about to take place in our world? Is God rock, rattling, and rolling a lukewarm Church? Is He asking us to come out of our complacency? Are we the church in America, in the world today, that is making God nauseated?

Well, Nancy referred to him when we started our time together. He was a man who was born literally in a gypsy tent. He had humble origins, and he ended up being invited to the White House by not one, but two presidents.

His official name was Rodney Gipsy Smith. And he came into the world in 1860 in a little town just outside of London. Forty-five times he crossed the Atlantic to preach to millions and millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic. His passion was almost unparalleled, and there was great fruit in all that he did.

What was Gipsy Smith's most powerful tool? Private prayer. His praying was even more powerful, they say, than his preaching.

And so a delegation once came to him to inquire how they might experience personal and mass revival just like he had. They wanted to be used the way Gipsy had been used.

Without hesitating he said this. And if he were here today, I think he would say the same thing to us. He said, “Go home. Go lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of your floor. And with a piece of chalk draw a circle around yourself. There on your knees pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.”

Gipsy Smith was right. And it's imperative that we understand that we are not only in a state of spiritual emergency, but God has issued us a warning. He is calling us to turn from our wicked ways to pray fervently with hearts on fire and to unite with other people to pray for real revival in our homes and in our world.

Is it possible? Well, the Scripture tells us that He is slow in anger, but someday He will come as the great and powerful Judge of us all. And when He does, will He find a lukewarm Church or will He find a Church whose heart burns for Him?

What an amazing time to be a saint. What a powerful challenge before us. We have a great God. Revival came in the life of one man by the name of John Newton. We love to sing his song, “Amazing Grace.”

Here was a man who was steeped in the sin of slavery, and he spent the rest of his life repenting, wondering whether or not he was truly worthy of God's love. He penned those words because if he could be saved in all he had done to traffic other human beings, then God must be a great God .

So he said this toward the end of his life. “My memory is nearly gone. But I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.”

And that great Savior is calling us today. Turn, pray, unite. It's the clarion call for revival. It is the clarion call of OneCry. I so appreciate all the work that they do.

Ladies, this is a personal call. Repentance precedes revival. After all that we've heard with our hearts filled to overflowing, are we willing to say, “Yes, Lord, I stand in agreement with You on my sin. I want to pray fervently. I want, as Jeremiah says, Your words in my mouth and fire in my bones for the cause of Christ. And then, Lord, help me find like-minded sisters who will fervently bang on the gates of heaven for revival in our world today.”

That's our prayer. May God bless us. May God continue to use us to His honor and glory.

Our gracious Heavenly Father, that is a very, very hard thing for us to hear You say to the church of Laodicea. Oh God, that You were sickened by the church should break our hearts. Oh God, we don't want that to be us today.

You were ready to spit them out of Your mouth because they had become arrogant and self-centered and self-sufficient. We tremble because we recognize the shadows of so much of that in our own lives and in our own churches. We don't want that, Lord.

We want our hearts to burn. We want real revival, but we cannot ever pray for revival without asking for repentance.

So God, draw us to the chalk circle. Draw us to that moment of private prayer like Gipsy Smith said. Move in our hearts, cause us to do housecleaning, deep housecleaning where we're willing to identify the sin that so easily entangles. And help us to throw it off so that we can run with perseverance that race that's been set before us.

God, You told us the only way we effectively run is by keeping our eyes on You, the Author and Perfector of our faith. Father, You are sitting down at the right hand of God. We must always consider You so we don't grow weary.

Father, You are issuing a wake-up call, and we tremble because You are a holy God. We take comfort in knowing that You are a God of love. But we recognize, Father, that time is running out. In the time that has been left, may we use it to serve You fervently, passionately, lovingly, and completely with the absolute assurance that when our race is run, oh Father, we run right into Your arms. Even so come, Lord Jesus. We pray this in Your name, amen and amen.