AGCC Sun. a.m. 12/28/97



TEXT: II Kings 18:1-4; II Chron. 29:1-5


It is a tragic fact that spiritual fervor and discipline can often decline in the midst of great blessings. Such was always the case with Israel, and with every other nation that has walked with God and then found itself being greatly blessed. At such times action is required to revive the spiritual passion and discipline if that individual or nation is to continue to experience God's blessings. In almost all cases such "backsliding" from God does not occur overnight, but is a gradual process of moving away from God. ILLUS: The life of Edgar Allen Poe is one of the most tragic of all American writers. Within a brief span of forty years he literally went from riches to rags. Raised by foster parents who loved him deeply, he was provided with an education that matched his genius in his field of interest. He attended private schools in England. He was schooled in Richmond at the University of Virginia. He even spent a period of time as a cadet at West Point. Poe, in his heyday, was unparalleled as a literary critic, editor, poet, and author of short stories. Most of us have probably had our spines tingled by The Pit and the Pendulum or The Tell-Tale Heart or The Raven. His works have indeed left their mark. But the mark left by his life is another story. Poe lost his young bride through a bitter case of tuberculosis. By that time, alcohol and drug abuse, along with involvement in the occult and Satanism, had proved to be his undoing. Depression and insanity plagued his short life, eventually leaving him unconscious in the gutter of a windswept street in Baltimore. Four days later he died, having never regained consciousness. Poe began his life with money and brilliance, which quickly brought him prestige and fame. But it was only a matter of time before he became a ragged, penniless bum. This tragedy, the slow slip from riches to rags, happens not only to individuals but to churches as well.

We as a people are in need of revival, and the Bible does show the pathway to revival, the only question is whether we are ready to follow that path.

PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that the pathway to revival begins with repentance, not just sorrow, but a change of direction!

I. REMOVING WHAT'S WRONG!      II Kings 18:1-4

A. Dealing With Past 18:1-3 1. Hezekiah was the son of one of Judah's most wicked kings, king Ahaz! a. Yet, Hezekiah turned out to be one of Judah's most godly kings! b. How could this be? c. Hezekiah turns his back on his father's evil ways..and sets a path in a completely different direction...back toward God. 2. It is not inevitable for the children of one generation to follow the evil ways of the previous generation...or for the children of one generation to follow the godly ways of the previous generation! a. Each faces choices b. The path we walk is the one we get on. 3. As soon as Hezekiah no longer had to rule with his father Ahaz, he changes courses. 4. Hezekiah wisely decides to completely turn away from his father's evil, not just part of what Ahaz had done, but all of it! a. The tragic truth of today is that so many would repent only partially of their sins, in the hopes the just "doing better" will be good enough! b. This kind of "partial" repentance however does not break the hold sin has over our lives, it must be a complete turning away from sin! ILLUS: Like a letter to the IRS that came: "Gentlemen: Enclosed you will find a check for $150. I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since. If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest. Sincerely, A Tax Payer" 5. Hezekiah does not ignore the past, or excuse it, he deals with it. a. His father and that generation had chosen to sin against God, the condition of Judah had to be confessed and repented of. b. This is a necessary step on the path to revival c. This is the stage of repentance - recognition of the wrong direction. 6. Hezekiah knew the path Judah had taken was wrong, that they had been traveling down the wrong road for too long. It would be necessary to deal with the past now in the present! B. Dealing With Present 18:4 1. Hezekiah begins the path back to God by removing the "high places" a. These were altars erected to idols in most cases. b. But there were also altars and high places dedicated to God, but they had lost their true meaning and had become pagan also. 2. Hezekiah realized that a revival that only reignited the passions for God in a worship service would only be short-lived unless the high places were removed also. a. It is not enough to get "fired up for God" if we don't deal with the sin in our lives or our land! b. Revival has to be much more than just an intense emotional experience, it must be a transforming experience! c. Real revival deals with the past in the present....and it begins to tear down the places dedicated to those things contrary to God! 3. The mindset of our country is that passion is everything, real spirituality is nothing! ILLUS: Like earning another million? "Just in terms of allocation of time resource, religion is not very efficient. There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning." -- Bill Gates, Founder and CEO of Microsoft and Richest man in the world, Quoted in Chicago Tribune, Jan 13, 1997. 4. We are a country built on passion, but often passion that has gone astray ... and if we are not careful we can have spiritual passion that goes astray and forgets to deal with sin as a first step to a right relationship with God. a. In order for people to truly experience God, they must first come through repentance, not just ecstasy! b. It is the problem of sin that keeps us from God and God's best. 5. We must deal with the effects of our past in the present! a. Much of the indifference to sin today is the result of the past rejection of things spiritual. b. Today is the fruit of yesterday's rejection of God's Word. c. Usually the results of a gradual process, like Judah, they didn't get their overnight! ILLUS: What is happening today in many of our standard brand denominations? One of the first exposes of the beliefs of our future ministers was made by Redbook magazine in August of 1961. The publishers hired one of the top pollsters in the nation to survey a full representation of our seminaries which are supposedly preparing men for Christian service in the Protestant churches. Here are some of the results -- compare them carefully with what the Bible says about apostasy. Of the ministers in training, 56 percent rejected the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, 71 percent rejected that there was life after death. 54 percent rejected the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. 98 percent rejected that there would be a personal return of Jesus Christ to this earth. 6. Hezekiah realized a radical plan was needed to reverse the past errors, in order for revival to come, they had to get rid of the past mistakes as well as seek a new passion for God. 7. Even the Brass Serpent that Moses had made had become an object of false worship ... so this had to go to! a. God had told Moses to make this serpent so that the Children of Israel would be healed! b. But over time even something good given by God had become corrupted by His people, and when this happens, even this must go! c. Whatever encouraged the people to choose superstition over spirituality had to be discarded and destroyed. 8. There is no right way to do a wrong thing! 9. Removing what's wrong is part of the solution, but we must also choose what is right! II. RESTORING WHAT'S RIGHT! II Chron. 29:1-5 A. Determine the Priorities 29:1-3 1. In this other account of the same story, we find the focus on doing what is right, whereas in II Kings the focus is on getting rid of what is wrong. a. Notice that Hezekiah does not wait until an "appropriate" time to start correcting the errors, he does so immediately upon assuming office as King! "in the first month of the first year of his reign..." b. At the same time he is removing the "high places", he is establishing correct priorities again for himself and the people of God. 2. Hezekiah begins by reopening the temple of God that his father had closed...and repairing the damage done by the previous generation. a. There is no time to sit around and complain about the previous generation, there was too much that needed to be done to restore things now! b. Much time might have been used to blame the past, or the previous generation, but this would only have sidetracked them from getting things going again, Hezekiah spends his time on restoring rather than on blaming! 3. He does not wait for others to begin the revival, he starts with what he can control in the hopes that this will bring about changes in others too! ILLUS: Let him that would move the world, first move himself. -- Socrates 4. Hezekiah wanted to open up the eyes of the people to where they had gone astray, to accomplish this the temple of God would need to be reopened and the truth about God's Word revealed again. 5. This might not have gone over big with everyone.... a. All their high places had been torn down, this helps remove the temptation to idolatry. (1. We would do wise to learn here about conquering sin in our lives, repentance works better if we remove the source of tempation too! (2. Too many people are willing to repent, but not remove the source of their tempation, so they fall easily again. (3. Hezekiah was wise to remove the high places first! b. The Temple was open again. c. The Word of God would soon reveal the nature of where they had lost their way. d. How will they respond? e. How do we respond? ILLUS: A Wichita pastor's opening prayer angered legislators in the Kansas House of Representatives. "We confess we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism," prayed Joe Wright of Central Christian Church, the guest chaplain Jan. 23. "We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem." As one legislator walked out and another sat down, Wright continued. "We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbors' possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment." He closed with a plea for God's forgiveness, blessing, and wisdom. -- National & International Religion Report, February 19, 1996, p. 8. 6. This would be no return to just "religion" as usual, it was the beginning of "revival" because the call to repentance was real! B. Deciding for Purity! 29:4-5 1. Just getting them back to "Church" would not be enough, there needed to be a clear call for God's Word to come forth again! a. Hezekiah knew just opening the temple wasn't enough, even having great music would not be enough, there needed to be a clear message of what was right and what was wrong...and a call to repent if revival would come! b. Judah for too long had learned to compromise the truth and accept compromise as a way of life, now they needed to be called to purity, to holiness again! 2. The priests were pressed back into service again, and told to purify everything, themselves and the temple of God! a. In order for revival to come, someone had to set the example of cleansing! b. When confronted with their own sins, they needed to repent first so they could lead others! 3. Instead of explaining why they had drifted, they simply set their sights on dealing with the sin and calling the people to the same. ILLUS: In his book with Ken Blanchard, Everyone's a Coach, Don Shula tells of losing his temper near an open microphone during a televised game with the Los Angeles Rams. Millions of viewers were surprised and shocked by Shula's explicit profanity. Letters soon arrived from all over the country, voicing the disappointment of many who had respected the coach for his integrity. Shula could have given excuses, but he didn't. Everyone who included a return address received a personal apology. He closed each letter by stating, "I value your respect and will do my best to earn it again." There are two ways to gain respect. One is to act nobly. The other is, when you fail to do so, to make no excuses. -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 1. 4. The pathway to revival was well under way, when a person or people deal with their sins and repent of them, revival is not far away! 5. How do we restore our land? a. By tearing down the high places in our lives too! b. By repenting of our sins first! c. By calling others back to communion with a Holy God. 6. Let's not see revival as just a quick fix, not just something to stir our emotions, but as a real solution to a real problem, the problem of sin! 7. We need a revival, a Biblical revival...where sin is dealt with! a. This kind of revival is happening in many places right now! b. Is it happening here? With you? CONCLUSION: The pathway to revival is paved with true repentance. Revival that ignores the issues of sin will only stir the emotions for a short time, but one that deals with sin can change the course of life for sometime to come! Revival must be both celebrational and confessional!