The RETURN: A National & Global Day of Repentance
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One of the most important principles evident throughout the course of history is the periodic need for renewal and restoration. This principle can be observed in nature, business, politics and religion. It is of paramount importance, however, in the spiritual realm—where the purity and openness in one’s relationship with God can be easily polluted by human frailties and sins.
God recognizes this tendency and has warned us against spiritual indifference, compromise, and backsliding. When such a falling away occurs, His command is clear; “Repent and return to your first love.” In fact, historically, all great moves of God begin with this one idea—repent, turn back to God! And the Almighty also makes it perfectly clear that failure to obey this command will result in His judgment.
The nation of Israel is a classic example of the tendency of God’s people to fall back into their old ways. At least seven times in the Old Testament, the same cycle was repeated: blessing, disobedience, warning, judgment and repentance. After giving his people numerous opportunities to repent, God finally left Israel to their own devices, allowing them to be conquered and carried away captive by their enemies. These consequences came, not just as the tragic result of their moral failures, but from their failure to confess and forsake those sins. In other words, their failure to repent.
Biblical history is replete with examples of man’s inclination to become so enamored with his own abilities and successes that he neglects his relationship with God and loses sight of his desperate need for divine help. As man neglects his relationship with God, he becomes indifferent, a progression that ultimately leads to rebellion and even outright rejection of God. From the very first instance of man turning his back on God, to the vision of final judgement in Revelation, the Bible’s primary theme is that of God’s plan to restore his wayward children to Himself. Whether dealing with individuals, institutions, or nations, God always speaks of reconciliation and restoration before He speaks of judgment.
Solemn Assemblies do not happen spontaneously. They are called by leadership—the reason being, that sin walks hand in hand with the rejection of godly authority. When godly leaders sense the need for revival (a return to God, followed by renewal and restoration) they must first respond and submit to God’s call for repentance in their own lives, and then, gather together those they are responsible for as an assembly, urging them to return to Biblical order.
The Solemn Assembly is a corporate time given to soul-searching and self-examination. It is a time of repentance and confession, not simply for individual sins, but for corporate sin. Corporate sin can only be confessed and repented of when the corporate body comes together to ask God for forgiveness, and this through leaders and representatives. Additionally, fasting can be powerful indicator of a sincere heart of contrition. Genuine humility before God is essential.
The Solemn Assembly is an opportunity for the church to act in its high priestly role toward the world, confessing the sins of cities and nations, and by so doing turn away God’s wrath and judgement. As churches intercede for the cities and regions for which they have spiritual jurisdiction, God will send revival and visit the unrighteous on behalf of the righteous.
Our national plight at present is this: God is allowing us to experience the consequences of our sins and the choices we have made to leave Him out of our lives and our nation. He has allowed the enemy to “come in like a flood” (see Isaiah 59:19). The urgency of the hour is that the Day of the Lord is at hand!
Many charge that America was raised up in the last days as a nation to aid in the evangelization of the world. It is true that we have indeed impacted the world. Other than Israel during the Old Testament period, no other nation has come so close to being a Biblical theocracy. Ultimately though, unless we repent and experience a revival in righteousness, we may become more of hostile territory to the Christian faith, rather than the fertile soil we once were.
America needs to repent. But like Sodom and Gomorrah, America has thus far refused to do so. It is therefore the responsibility of the church, like Abraham, to pray the priestly prayer, interceding for her. Listen to Abraham plead with God; “If fifty righteous be found, will you spare the city? …forty? …thirty? …twenty? …ten?” (see Genesis 18:23-32). The church must no longer be held hostage by the sin of the nation and the world; we must no longer be silent! Although we live in a nation that is worthy of the wrath of God, we must pray that God would treat us mercifully, pouring out a spirit of conviction with love upon our entire nation, thus birthing a revival of righteousness and sparing us His judgment.
In the past it has been said: “Denominations tend to follow a course of spiritual decline. The movement is born in revival; the revival becomes a sect; the sect becomes a church; the church becomes an institution and functions primarily to perpetuate itself. Maintenance and self-preservation become the order of the day. Everything exists for the sake of the institution. Unless there is repentance and revival, the denomination will become spiritually irrelevant and eventually will die. The preservation of the institution becomes the highest goal and programs become our products without anyone daring to alter the institutionally approved staple product or program. Risk takers are pushed out. Visions and dreams are discouraged unless sanctioned by headquarters. Pastors become spiritual clones trained to keep the machinery running smoothly.”
Then the Church starts to look eerily similar to the rest of the world. It looks the same, not different, not set-apart. Holiness has become designated as a religious relic. Sadly, this accurately describes the state of the church today. The time to act is now—never in our history have we had such a call. We are overdue. Any other solution, without prayer and repentance, is like shifting chairs around on the deck of a sinking Titanic. We may change outward appearances, but the ship is still going down.
The Great Awakening will come when we recognize that personal “white flags” of surrender need to be raised by all of us. God is pleading with us to seek his face because there is much He wants us to do. Denominational pride tends to build walls between us and other churches; it turns us against each another, effectively preventing networking and collaborative efforts to win cities to Christ. No single denomination can evangelize the world; therefore, we need to humble ourselves, repent of competitiveness, and lose the attitude of exclusivity.
The genuine Solemn Assembly involves times of intense grief and conviction over sin, in the church and in the world. Open weeping may take place (and appropriately so), by leaders, as well as participants. It involves fasting, an extended time of prayer, the public reading of the Word, the public renouncing of attitudes and actions displeasing to God, and heart-felt declarations to love God (expressed in worship) and to serve him (manifest as a burden for the lost world). It involves crying unto God for mercy and grace, and reaffirming our covenant with him. We do this by professing our faith and the exalting of God as the center of our lives.
Throughout history, God has used the solemn assembly as a means to bring revival. Of the twelve periods of renewal recorded in the Old Testament, each was preceded by the calling of a solemn assembly. Jesus’ followers gathered for several days in Jerusalem for the commanded solemn assembly of the Feast of Weeks, before receiving the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in what we have come to know as the Day of Pentecost. In America, historical documents verify that before every major national revival, the emphasis was placed upon days of fasting and solemn assembly.
“Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God and cry out to the Lord…Blow a trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble” (Joel 1:14, 2:1a).
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