The temple had just been completed and King Solomon had led the people of Israel in prayer. He was concerned with what would happen if the people became disobedient in the future and brought judgment from God. When he finished praying, God answered as “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (7:1). God then answered Solomon’s prayer with the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 quoted above.
The passage reveals how a person or a people can return to God after a period of disobedience. The wonderful implication of this is that there is always a way to return to God and be forgiven and healed if we so choose. We believe this year is a year in which God’s people will be brought to a point of choosing between Him and the world. We Christians have compromised our faith and allowed the droning deadness of religion to become the norm in our lives. Most of us have not denied God but we have walked away from a close, intimate walk of obedience to Him. We have replaced that walk with empty religious works that sound good but produce no unity or power in our lives.
Some of us have denied Him, giving in to the world’s enticements and pressures and walked away. A recent Pew Research poll indicates that the number of those call themselves Christians has dropped about 8 percent since 2007. Most of these are the 20 to 30 something young people who see no life or power in the church and so have given in to the alternative—the world’s materialism and social culture.
We do not foresee a massive revival of Christianity that sweeps the nation back to God, but we do see and expect a remnant of God’s people to respond to His present-day call for repentance. There is a call coming out from God Himself that is similar to the promise given to Solomon when the temple was completed. That call from God is sent out to His remnant of faithful who will hear His voice and respond.
That promise that ends with the healing of the land begins with our responsibility to humble ourselves. Keep in mind, however, that the words are addressed to those “who are called by my name.” We cannot even begin this process of returning to God if we are called by some other name. Our identity must be in Him and Him alone—not in a religious denomination, movement or program. We must come out of the divisive, fruitless, lifeless, powerless structures that have divided the body of Christ. If we are not willing to do that, then this promise is not for us. You cannot even begin to humble yourself until you abandon the connections you have with religiously worldly walls that fence in and divide the people of God.
How can we truly humble ourselves unless we admit that the place we are in has not produced the results He desires in our lives? We cannot begin this journey if we are not able to see that our present condition does not line up with what we see in God’s word. We must see our condition as a people called by some other name before we can then begin to fall before Him in humility and receive again our identity as “my people who are called by my name.”
It is not enough to simply have the right doctrines and take the right political positions. We must reach the point where we are willing to accept a disruption of our status quo for the sake of our Lord. The church belongs to Him. He died to pay the price for it. We need to stop clinging to church structures that have not welcomed the One who was crucified to set it free. You will have to be before the Lord about this. It is not my call but His. We simply need to hear what He is saying to His churches today (Rev. 2:7ff).
Then and only then can the humbling begin. To humble ourselves is to put all that is of our self aside and place ourselves under His divine will. We must step down from our throne and let Him be God once again. If He is our God, our Lord, our Master and King, then we must let Him sit in His throne and rule in our lives. We must be the sheep of His pasture and let Him be the Shepherd who leads, feeds and refreshes. But that means coming out of any other pasture we have chosen to dwell in and come to His fold and let Him be the Great Shepherd.
Jesus is our example. Paul says He “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). We are told here to “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (vv. 5-7). Here we are encouraged to have the same mind that Christ had when he emptied Himself of His own desires and will and submitted to the Father in all things.
Yes, we are to be like Christ in humbling ourselves. The appeal to “Have this mind in yourselves” is Paul’s way of saying that we are called to be like Jesus in our humility—in humbling ourselves and becoming obedient to God. He did the same thing in regard to His Father. He said, “The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). He submitted to His Father in all things and never acted on His own but did what he saw the Father doing.
That may sound like something so divine that it is impossible for us, but it is where the Lord is calling us in 2016 and it is the clear message of Christ to His people. This is what was on Paul’s mind when he expressed his concern to the Galatian churches that he desired that “Christ is formed in you!” He said of himself in the same epistle, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). He lived a life of submission to Christ. He had humbled himself so that Christ could fully live in him and express His life through him. Christ must be formed in us as we allow our self to be crucified and replaced by Him.
With powerless Christianity as our norm, this all sounds like naïve, impossible wishful thinking. That’s because we have become accustomed to doing our own thing, in our own time and in our own way. The results have been a disaster but we don’t see the defeat because we are not submitted to the One who inspired these words.
This is a new year, a new day and it will bring new challenges. I predict that God’s people will experience challenges never before faced by the church. Those challenges will either make us bitter or turn us back to Him. If our faith in Him is real we will turn to Him not away from Him and that will be the beginning of revival in our lives and in the remnant of faithful who join us. 2016 will be a year of separation in which sheep will be separated from goats, true followers will be distinguished by turning to God when the going gets hard. The pretenders will blame God and move on with their secular lives. Churches in it for the money and esteem will collapse or compromise. Churches that love the Lord will turn to Him for help, life and power to stand firmly for His will.
The political, social and cultural turmoil that is on the horizon is enough to distract even the called faithful of God, but His mercy will strengthen us to continue the journey. It will turn us back to the One who is our refuge and fortress and to the others who follow Him. It will cause us to leave our manmade structures and come to Him in humility. Love and unity will grow in our midst as we submit to Him and allow His life to prosper in us.
That coming together of the church in love and unity will result in a release of power into our lives. Do not seek the power apart from the humbling. Peter reminded us that only when we humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). He exalts us to a place of power and authority when we are committed to Him fully. This exaltation is where we are supposed to be as possessors of the keys of the kingdom. We were never meant to be pawns in the game of life but kings and priests of the Most High God. As we take our places, the wonderful feats of the early church will be surpassed in power as we go forth with the message of hope and redemption in Christ to a world devastated by sin and rebellion.
Jesus promised, “"Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:19, 20; NKJV). The words “it will be done for them by my Father” are conditioned on “if two of you agree.” The Father does not pour out His power indiscriminately, but gives it to those who can come into agreement with Him and His purpose. That requires humility on our part in setting aside our will so that we can embrace His will. That requires churches gathering in His name, putting aside their agendas and living in humbled submission to the King.
Notice also, He is in the midst of those who are “gathered in my name.” There is that admonition that God gave to Solomon when He addressed “My people who are called by My name.” Our identity must be in Him alone. When we are gathered in His name he is there in our midst. That is why the Lord is not in the midst of much of His church today. He is with us individually because He loves us and gives us His redemption, but He wants to dwell in our midst. He wants to have a corporate body in which He can be the Guest of honor and lead us into His perfect will. He wants not only to be in us individually but among us as a living expression of His life on earth. That requires love and unity as the body comes together in His name.
So 2016 will be a hard year for many. It may be the hardest year any of us has ever experienced in the flesh. But the tribulation of the times will drive the remnant of true followers out their places of hiding into His divine presence. When that begins to happen all of heaven will be unleashed in our lives and we will see this as the finest hour of the church.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chron. 7:14