Healing for the Church and Our Nation

Joshua West

The church isn’t every group of people who gather together on Sunday. The remnant, or the true church, was established and is built and sustained by the person of Jesus Christ. Where should we gather? A great kids program, a state-of-the-art sound system and multimedia setup, a great band or coffee shop, or a celebrity pastor shouldn’t have anything to do with where you go to church. 

The first question you should ask is this: Is the word of God preached and proclaimed from the pulpit? If the answer is no, turn around and look for a church where it is. Do the Scriptures have the final say in all situations? Does the Bible have authority? None of that other stuff matters. There’s nothing wrong with having a great sound system or an amazing children’s program, but not at the expense of sound doctrine.

Obviously, nothing touched by human hands can be perfect, but if a church doesn’t seem to be deeply concerned with what the Scriptures say about all things, then find a church that does. Watch out for celebrity preachers. I am not saying that all notable or popular teachers are bad; I am simply saying make sure you judge a tree by its fruit. Don’t trust someone just because they are famous. In fact, be more skeptical. Is Jesus the star, or is a man? The job of a preacher is to simply proclaim the Word of God, anything beyond that is from the evil one. 

A Call to Repentance
The American church needs to repent for falling so far. We must rebuke false teachers, hold people who say they represent Christ to the standard of the Bible, and God will honor this. He always has. This is what the prophets of Old Testament looked like. This is what the preachers and apostles of the first century church looked like, and this is what we should be doing as well. 

We must destroy all the idols and raise up a standard that brings glory to God and lays our flesh to waste. We must decrease so Christ can increase in us. Healing in the church or in a nation always starts with a few who are faithful, like Nehemiah who was willing to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem with one hand building the wall and the other hand holding a sword. 

In the story of Nehemiah, Israel was in ruin and the wall that protected the great city of Jerusalem was in rubble. Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the Artaxerxes, king of Persia. As the cupbearer, Nehemiah lived in the palace and probably had a comfortable life. He became aware that there was trouble for his countrymen because they were exposed without the wall of protection around the city. God called Nehemiah to go and rebuild the wall. 

Things probably looked beyond repair, but God called and Nehemiah obeyed. He was called by God to risk all his worldly comfort and to ask the king’s permission to rebuild the wall of his homeland, which the king allowed. Once he began the process of rebuilding the wall, he faced trial and opposition of all kinds. 
Nehemiah was a man of patience, courage, integrity, and true conviction; but most importantly, he was a man of prayer. He waited for an answer from God over the course of months while fasting and praying about how to proceed to recover this ruined situation. 

He was persecuted greatly by Sanballat and Tobiah while trying to rebuild the wall. These men tried to stop him through sabotage, and they scoffed at his work. They threatened to injure or kill the men working with him, as well as threatening to kill Nehemiah himself. Nothing could stop him. Nothing could cause him to waver. He had heard from God and would trust God and do the work God had called him to do. 

Preachers of Conviction
We find ourselves in a similar situation here as Christians in America. We don’t need any more prosperity preachers, life coaches, and rock star pastors who love this world. These are men who have grown fat and comfortable in Persia and would rather be cupbearer to the king of this world than to stand for the truth and rebuild the wall. 

We need pastors and preachers of conviction who cannot rest until the wall is rebuilt. They will be men of true faith who are willing to follow the conviction of what God spoke to them, even if that leads them to persecution or death. We need preachers who preach like prophets, who preach like apostles, who preach like Jesus. 

Whatever happened to praying through? Whatever happened to waiting on the Lord until he moves? Where are the men and women of God who will rebuild and watch the wall? God is looking for humble but bold men and women who want to hear from God so desperately they will fast and pray until he shows himself. 

Lead us through the narrow gate of repentance, Lord. Break us once again so you can build us back into something that is pure, holy, and brings glory to your name. 

Opposing Corruption
In 1 Kings 18:16-45, the prophet Elijah found himself in a similar situation. Because of Israel’s sin, God withheld the rain for three and a half years. At the same time, Jezebel, who was the wife of King Ahab, was killing the prophets of the Lord. She had turned the people to idol worship and to living in all sorts of wickedness. 

The people then, much like in our culture, claimed to serve God, but they also worshiped Baal and Asherah. This situation seemed almost unrecoverable because the entire nation was corrupted by sin and only a few true prophets of the Lord remained. However, Elijah stood up and challenged the corruption and had faith that God would back him up. 

When you have truly sought the Lord and know you are in his will, you can be confident that he will back you up. On our knees in prayer is where most of life is lived for a man or woman of God. There is no better place than in his presence. Like Elijah, we must wait on the Lord. 

Elijah told the four hundred prophets of Asherah and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal to meet him on Mt. Carmel, and they would both bring a bull to the mountain top and pray to their god, and whoever’s god answered by fire and consumed the bull was the true god and should be worshiped alone. Before Elijah does this, he makes a plea to the people. 

“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing” (1 Kings 18:21, NIV).

He preached a message of repentance before he called on God to rain fire from heaven. This is also a prophetic message for post-Christian America: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if the idol of the American dream is god, follow it. If the idol of entertainment is god, follow it. If money is god, follow it. Just remember to choose wisely because you cannot serve two masters.” 

The prophets of Baal and Asherah laid their bull on the altar and began to chant and dance for hours, and nothing happened. After them, Elijah rebuilt the altar of the Lord, laid his sacrifice on it, had them pour several barrels of water on his sacrifice, and then he prayed to the Lord.

The Lord sent fire from heaven, and Scripture says that it licked up all the water and consumed the bull. After this, the people fell on their faces and said that the Lord is God. They gathered up the false prophets and killed them all. Elijah prayed that rain would fall once again, and it did. The drought was ended, and God let the blessing of his rain come down, but not before a couple of things happened. 

Responding to God’s Call
First, God called Elijah who responded to the call of God. It’s hard to respond to the call of God in wicked culture when even the godly seemed to have compromised. 

Second, Elijah responded to the call of God and in obedience preached repentance to the people. He stood up in the face of corruption and compromise and called out the wickedness of his generation. Elijah wasn’t seeker-friendly; he called the people to repentance. 

Third, he rebuilt the altar of the Lord that the people of his generation had torn down to pursue a religion of compromise. The altar represents prayer and worship dedicated to a Holy God. 

Fourth, he poured out water on the altar, which in Israel was a precious resource because it is a desert land and because they were in the middle of a drought. This proved that all his faith was in the one true God to come like fire and receive his offering. God showed up, and the people fell on their faces in repentance. 

Finally, Elijah prayed that God once again would let it rain, and it did. 

Elijah stood up and rebuked the wickedness of the false prophets. There is no room for cowards in God’s kingdom. Either you are for him, or you are against him. You can’t be both. There is no middle ground. Just like in our culture, when you truly stand up for Jesus, you might be standing alone; but this is the faith it takes to see God move. 

If you are more worried about the opinion of man than the opinion of God, you probably don’t know and fear God in wisdom as you should.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5, ESV).

Just like the prophets of Baal and Asherah, the scientist who preaches naturalism, the secular atheist, prideful academic elite, pop culture, and the church of entertainment and compromise have no power to back up their claims. They may have a lot of followers with loud voices and a great marketing campaign, but they will never be able to deliver what the Lord can. 

Three Ways to Make a Difference
How do we affect change that brings true repentance in the modern church and in our nation? 

1.    Rebuild the altar of the Lord: Before we can do anything else, we must rebuild the altar of prayer that has been torn down to make room for a religion of comfort, compromise, worldly entertainment, and the idol worship that revolves around self. Elijah rebuilt the altar of the Lord and laid out twelve stones to remind them of the true God who established Israel. He wanted to make sure that the glory for what was about to happen could only be explained by God. It’s ironic that most churches in our day and age have taken out the altars and crosses, prayer meetings, and Bible studies to make room for entertainment and useless babbling, much like the prophets of Baal. Without earnest prayer and the preaching of the gospel, our churches are powerless and pointless. 

2.    Pour everything out on the altar: After Elijah rebuild the altar of the Lord, he laid his sacrifice on it just like the prophets of Baal and Asherah did, but he took it much further. He had them pour water over the sacrifice and the altar and in a trench that was dug around the altar. He didn’t want them to have any room to say the fire came from any other place. God will do the impossible if you set the stage for him to get all the glory. Remember it had not rained in three and a half years, and Israel is a place where water is scarce anyway. Imagine the anger the people must have felt when the same guy who prayed that it wouldn't rain for three and a half years was taking such a precious resource and pouring it all out on the altar. It reminds me of the story of the lady who broke the alabaster jar of very expensive oil to anoint Jesus’s feet and head and the anger the Bible says the disciples felt because of this (Mark 14:3-4). She saw the value of the Lord and bringing glory to him just like Elijah did. Jesus is worth it all. All things are for his glory, including our lives, time, and resources. He deserves it all. It is when everything we have is laid out on the altar that God moves in power. When Abraham laid Isaac on the altar, he proved once and for all that no blessing or resource could come between him and God. This is what loving God looks like. 

3.    Pray for Fire: We have replaced the fire and power of God with the methods of man, complacency, and a religion of self. Why does it seem like a poor and persecuted church is the place God always seems to manifest his power? God has no weapon in this earth more powerful than a Spirit-filled disciple who is completely unpossessed by possessions, loving nothing in this world but God and those created in his image. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, but it is hard for a rich man to even enter the kingdom of heaven. In the book of Acts, Peter walked past a lame man who was begging for money, and Peter said to him, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). The lame man got up and walked away. This is the power of a church that burns with the fire and power of God, where everything is poured out on the altar for his glory.

When the Catholic Church had become rich, comfortable, and corrupt, St. Thomas Aquinas made a profound statement to Pope Innocent II regarding the wealth of the church and what price they had truly paid to become a rich church. Aquinas entered the presence of Innocent II, before whom a large sum of money was spread out. The Pope said, “You see, the church is no longer in that age in which she said, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” “True, holy father,” replied Aquinas, “neither can she any longer say to the lame, ‘Rise up and walk.’” 

Healing Our Land
We find ourselves in a similar situation in the American church; we are rich but powerless. It is only when we pour out what we consider valuable that God sends fire from heaven. I’m not just talking about money, although our culture of excess is part of the problem. I’m talking about everything. 
God will not share his glory with a man, a church, or an organization. God’s healing for a person, the church, or our nation is only found on the other side of repentance. If we humble ourselves and repent of our infidelity, God will heal our land. 

“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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).

In Christ,

Pastor Joshua

Joshua West is a pastor, evangelist, and author. he is also director of the World Challenge Pastors Network.


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