Though I did not talk about Ash Wednesday yesterday, today I thought it would be good to understand a little more about our need to cry out to God for salvation. No I am not talking about saying a little prayer, I am talking about pleading with God to free us from our captivity and then be willing to be changed. Sadly many in church think they have been saved yet remain captive. The next two blogs will be about the promise to David and the remnant that remains. If you don’t believe those two things you will not see the need to cry out. I will assume that if you are reading this you want God to move in power once again. We need to plead with God because it is easy to see the desolation of the church, just look around! Last Sunday we saw that God will rescue His people if we cry out to Him. Paul said in Romans 7:24 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” God has always rescued His people when they cry out to Him.
Today again, as I asked on Sunday, please make a concerted effort and be diligent in calling out to God for our salvation. Ask yourself how desperate are you for God to clothe us with power once again. We need to be in desperate need for God to turn His face on us once again. So we also plead with God, Psalm 79:8 “Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. 9 Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. 10 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Those who went before us took us down an empty path. 2 Kings 22:13 “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” Moses said, Deuteronomy 32:5 “They are corrupt and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation.” Hezekiah said, 2 Chronicles 29:6 “Our parents were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the Lord’s dwelling place and turned their backs on him.”
We are given the same promise but we must turn from our wicked ways. 2 Chronicles 7:14 “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Peter said in Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call. 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” If we turn back there is still hope that our joy will be restored. Psalm 60:1 “You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us; you have been angry—now restore us!” Psalm 80:3 “Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.”
The focus of Ash Wednesday is repentance. What is often said on Ash Wednesday is what I said yesterday at the end of the blog; "Repent and believe in the Gospel." Unfortunately most have no idea what the true gospel really is. This is not a one-day event but a return to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which means this is a return to God’s word and abiding by it. This is about turning away from the ways of man. Our pleas need to be much more than a day of penitence, as the outcome of our lives depend on it. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. This 40 day (46 in total including Sundays) journey is far more than giving something up like chocolate or having ashes on your forehead. Our focus should be on giving ourselves over to God as a living sacrifice and doing as we are commanded to do. Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Lent is a season of fasting and prayer. Read Isaiah 58 about true fasting. Yes we have been a rebellious people and we must turn back to God. If you have already turned back, continue to wait in expectation for Him.
Here are a few prayers to help guide our pleas. David said, 2 Samuel 22:7 “In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. 34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” 36 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.” Solomon prayed, 2 Chronicles 6:19 “Lord my God, give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence. 20 May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 21 Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive.” Here are two prayers that reflect on our sins as a church before God. Nehemiah prayed, Nehemiah 1:5 “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you 9 day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you.” Daniel prayed, Daniel 9:17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
So no we do not deserve God’s mercy, but He is a merciful God. Psalm 103:8 “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.” No we do not deserve God’s mercy but we must be a faithful people. Matthew 8:8 “The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” We must believe God as His word. God said Malachi 3:7 “Return to me, and I will return to you,” So continue to plead with God for mercy so that he will clothe us once again with His power.