Our Pastor is teaching on the Kingdom of God. In thinking on these things and some things that have happened lately with people that used to claim Christ and who now have walked away from the faith, I began to re-examine how I pray for the lost.
In previous generations, there was centered, directed prayer for the lost. Believers gathered together on a weeknight and cried at the altar for those that needed Christ. Individually, they did the same in the secrecy of their bedside. The burden was heavy, but the victories...oh, they were glorious. When sinners did grace the doors of the church, they were confronted with their sin and because their lives had been seasoned with the tears of praying saints, were converted and gloriously delivered as they knelt in drying puddles of tears cried over their souls.
Now, those prayer meetings are practically non-existent. Instead, we have found a way to streamline salvation by inviting sinners to church where we pamper them, entice them with a feel good gospel and leave them feeling comfortable in their sin hoping that eventually they will somehow, without us directly confronting them with their state, become part of the Body of Christ through some sort of spiritual osmosis. The Lord does not have a payment plan. It's all or nothing. You count the cost. You pay up front.
The old timers prayed things like "Lord put a hook in his jaw and lead him to the bleeding side of Calvary." "Torment him with hellish dreams, insomnia, and nagging thoughts until he relents and collapses at the foot of the cross" Let the fun season of sin come to end and let the consequences of sin begin! "Make him miserable with Godly sorrow!"
Preachers today tell sinners "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." He understands your weaknesses and your sin." His grace to you is greater the more embroiled in sin you are." Grace, grace , grace, grace, grace. Love, love, love, love, love. All of this may be true, but it is not the complete truth. There is also the unchanging, holy side of God. He is a righteous judge and He WILL judge. There will be no excuses then for remaining in sin when His grace has provided a way out. In essence a lot of our evangelical message has created a different God, not like the God of the Bible at all! That is idolatry! How arrogant to think that God will conform to your perception of who He is. He said "I am that I am." We cannot create a God that satisfies our definition of who He should be and expect Him to conform! Basing decisions about life on these half-truths are not sound or effective because they are not based on whole truth and neither will they hold up when one stands before the Truth on that day.
I have decided to change the way I pray. I'm not so stupid as to believe that continuing in more of something that has produced the lowest number of Bible believing Christians in the history of the world is going to work. Instead I am returning to the message and method of prayer that has through all time produced fruit that remains.
Sinners are not to be pitied or pampered! Their own decisions, their rejection of Christ and His message, and their arrogance have brought them to their current place. They are nothing short of enemies of God. They are children of the devil, willing residents of his kingdom. Several times in scripture the Lord has said He was "sorry" that He had made mankind. They are presumptuous sinners, rebels in God's Kingdom. And yes, Christ died to save them but that salvation includes bringing them out of that kingdom and placing them in His Kingdom. There are no sinners saved by grace. There are former sinners who were saved by grace who are now saints. You can't be a saint and a sinner at the same time! It's impossible by the very definition of the two words! God cannot dwell with evil. If you have sin, you cannot be in His presence. Does that mean you never sin? Of course not. What it means is that you don't presumptuously sin or live in habitual sin. You are not quick to sin, but you are quick to repent. It means that it is no longer your nature to sin. You receive a new nature at salvation...thus the term "born again."
Christ is compassionate, but He is not tolerant of sin. He will save only the repentant. The call of the Kingdom of God is a call to live under the rule of its King! The invitation is absolute surrender to His Lordship in your life! The doorway is repentance. Forgiveness is not the entrance to the Kingdom. It is the evidence that you have crossed through the doorway of repentance and entered the Kingdom.
I'm not praying any more , prayers. No more prayers that stem from human compassion. Human compassion only breeds leniency. No more "it's Your kindness that leads men to repentance" prayers unless the kindness they discover is to see with clarity the utter depravity of their sin and the kindness of God in providing them a way out. This is a life and death event! The Kingdom is suffering violence, and the violent take it by force." From now on I will pray that sinners I know would have a head on collision with God. I am praying that God would bring them to their senses, that He would sober them up and bring them out of their drunken stupor of sin, that they would have a one on one encounter with the Holy Spirit. You know, being brought out of a drunken stupor quickly is not pleasant. It happens when your senses are shocked by something. I'm praying that sinners I know would be "shocked" by their own sin as it is contrasted with a Holy God. No more so called gum chewing "conversions" in altar calls that play on emotion but do nothing to touch the soul. I'm praying for snotty nosed, gross carpet conversions. I'm praying for conviction so strong they can't eat, sleep or move until they experience the cleansing Blood of Christ. I'm praying for the hammer of God to come into their lives. God said "is not My Word like a fire and a hammer which shatters a rock?" Let the hammer fall! Let them fall on the rock of offense, let them trip on the stone of stumbling, let them crawl bleeding and bruised to the foot of the cross of Christ. It is then that they will know that they have been changed by the power of God.
Now before you accuse me of being mean, keep in mind that I am talking within the spiritual context of prayer only. I believe that we should love sinners and treat them in such a way that we emulate Christ. However in prayer, we are facing the enemy of men's souls. The devil is mean. This is war. War is bloody but when they have been won for Christ, they will spend all of eternity thanking me! Better they enter heaven bloody and bruised than not at all. Someone did this for me. They prayed until I came to the end of my own self-reliance. They prayed and the Holy Spirit revealed to me the utter devastation of my sin, the hopelessness of my state, and my complete inability to do anything about it. My only hope was Christ and He has not disappointed me in any way...EVER! Oh that all men could know the Christ I found.
Many have had a religious practice but know nothing of the Christ of their religion. It is no wonder that eventually they fall away. Their heads have been full of knowledge but their hearts were empty. They changed their behavior and for a little while were fooled into thinking they had arrived. That is not Christianity. This is a deception that the devil provides "good" people so that they will think they are okay. You see, the devil doesn't care if you a "good" person by the world's standards because without this change, this supernatural event of salvation, you are still lost and in the end, he gets you just the same. Many will be shocked when they end up in hell but I guarantee you that no one will be surprised that they made it into heaven. Believe me, when you are changed by the same power that raised Christ from the dead, you know it, and you are never the same afterward. That is the power of the cross and the resurrection. This is your destiny in God. Give up everything to own it. Sell all to have it. Search for it. You will know when you've found it and you will never be the same.