Sermon: The Great Awakening - Romans 1, Joel 2

Today, we will culminate our study on prayer by putting into practice what we have learned from God through His Word.

Sermon series: When the Church Prays

  1. The Priority of Praying Together - Acts 6:1-5
  2. The Critical Mass That Unleashes God’s Will - Revelation 8:1-5
  3. Why We Believe Better Than We Behave Concerning Prayer - James 4:1-2
  4. Principles for a Powerful Prayer Meeting, Part 1 - Acts 12:1-11
  5. Principles for a Powerful Prayer Meeting, Part 2 - Acts 12:1-11
  6. The Great Awakening - Romans 1:18; Joel 2

Scriptures: Romans 1:18; Joel 2

Introduction

Today, we will culminate our study on prayer by putting into practice what we have learned from God through His Word. Everything we've focused on has been in preparation for this evening, when we will gather as one body of believers for a Prayer Summit. What is a Prayer Summit? It is a time set apart for personal and corporate prayer, crying out to God in repentance and fresh surrender for all His purposes and power to break forth upon our church, our cities, and our country.

Throughout biblical history, these solemn assemblies for prayer marked extraordinary spiritual breakthroughs for God's people. To prepare us for this evening, I want to place before you the truth of God's Word that accurately diagnoses the present danger that our nation is in, not from terrorists, but from God. I also want to show you from history the place that intense times of crying out to God have in the outpourings of the Spirit of God in revival. And it is my prayer that a Spirit-created urgency and intensity will overtake our souls, so that tonight's Prayer Summit becomes too important for you to miss. To that end, pray with me.

Since 1947, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has depicted on its cover what is called the Doomsday Clock. This clock registers how close the world is to nuclear apocalypse by the proximity of the minute hand to midnight. These nuclear scientists weigh both positive and negative factors in the world and make their determination about how close we are to ruin.

The last time the clock changed was in March of 2002. After considering the continued threat of terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and the action or non-action of nations in regard to peace, the team of scientists adjusted the clock to read seven minutes to midnight. (source: Claude King) In their estimation, we're dancing on the edge of disaster.

But far more ominous than any human danger is the unspeakably awesome wrath of God. Romans 1:18 tells us that God's wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people. What is the wrath of God? The word used here describes a settled and abiding disposition against something.

To say that God is wrathful describes His determined and continual opposition towards that which repulses Him. God's wrath is the reflex action of His perfect holiness against that which is unholy. And get this: When God is wrathful toward a person, it doesn't mean He's flying off the handle in a rage or loosing control in a fit of anger. No, when God's wrath rests upon a person, it means He has set Himself in battle array against that person.

The OT prophet Joel shocked the nation of Israel when he ordered the blowing of the trumpet, which is akin to turning on the air raid siren. At that sound, everyone drops what their doing to gather for war. What enemy was bearing down on them? What army threatens them? Once they gather, Joel explains who is breathing down their necks: God Himself is coming! The Lord raises His voice in the presence of His army. His camp is very large; Those who carry out His command are powerful. Indeed, the Day of the Lord is terrible and dreadful- who can endure it? (Joel 2:11) God had seen Israel's sin and had come to fight against them.

That's the biblical picture of God's wrath. Generations after Joel, the Apostle Paul picks up this theme in Romans 1:18 and tells us that God is on the move, continuously, deliberately, like an unstoppable army. He rumbles into the lives of those whose attitude is irreverent, perverse, and idolatrous (that's godlessness). He squares off against all actions that are loveless, immoral, and pridefully rebellious (that's unrighteousness).

It's a disturbing thought to consider that our own Lord may be the One stirring up our enemies against us. We Christians complain about secular humanism, about the pervasive subjectivism, about the removal of critical spiritual elements from public schools and judicial settings. We grieve over media bias and the homosexual agenda and the creeping immorality on the airwaves and on television. We perceive ourselves to be victims and pray for the Lord's protection. And in one sense, this is right. The Bible says we live in the last days, demon-possessed days.

But could it be possible? Could it be that maybe, just maybe, our Lord Himself is prompting these adversities against us, as He did in Joel's day? Are we who know the Lord not just victims, but part of the problem?

Let me ask it this way: Why does God say in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 say, 13 "If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name (Not the lost or immoral or the worldly!) humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land"? Why does 1 Peter 4:17 say "the time has come for judgment to begin God's household..."?

I wonder where the hands of the divine Doomsday Clock are for our nation? He is on the move in wrath across this land. But listen to me: He would much rather turn the hands of the clock back. Let me show you.

I. Factors affecting the wrath of God

1. God has established a limit to the amount of sin He will tolerate before He comes in wrath.

God's Word makes reference to a cut off point, when God's patience and tolerance reaches its end. I Thessalonians 2:16 speaks of people who are always adding to the number of their sins, and wrath has overtaken them completely. Genesis 15:16 talks about why God's wrath is not yet revealed against the Amorites: "the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." Jesus scalded the hypocritical religious leaders of His day with these words, "Fill up, then, the measure of your father's sins!" (Matt. 23:32).

According to Scripture, God has established a legal limit to sin. We do not know exactly where that limit is, nor do we know how close we may be to crossing that limit. When the sin of a nation or a person reaches that limit, God's mercy gives way for wrath.

Understand that when God sets Himself against a person or a nation, His arsenal is vast. He has more devices for confronting us than we have ways of evading Him. His wrath is so great and our countermoves so utterly futile that no one can successfully escape once He is in pursuit. In Ps. 90:7-9, we read about life under the opposing hand of God. 7 For we are consumed by Your anger; we are terrified by Your wrath. 8 You have set our unjust ways before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence. 9 For all our days ebb away under Your wrath; we end our years like a sigh.

2. Only those who are right with God are prepared for a time of God's judgment.

Listen to the word God sent to Ezekiel: 13 "Son of man, if a land sins against Me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out My hand against it to cut off its supply of bread, to send famine through it, and to wipe out [both] man and animal from it, 14 even [if] these three men-Noah, Daniel, and Job-were in it, they would deliver [only] themselves by their righteousness." [This is] the declaration of the Lord God. (14:13-14)

Oh, brother and sister hear me this morning: Do not be deceived into thinking that you can hold onto your sinful attitude or gossiping tongue or bitter unforgiveness and still try to claim the righteousness of Christ as your cover. Israel did something similar in the days of Jeremiah. They trusted in the fact that they were called God's people and had the temple of the Lord in their midst. (Jeremiah 7:8-11)

In Jeremiah's day, God brought His judgment on the nation at the hands of a Babylonian king in 586/7 BC. Centuries later, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, prophesying the destruction that would come at the hands of a Roman army in AD 70. And He brought the same accusation against God's people in His day: My house will be a house of prayer," but you have made it a "den of robbers."'"

Do you know when the people of God become a den of robbers? Claude King answers like this: "When they live lives of sin all week long and then come before the Lord and say, ‘We're safe. We're God's people.' They rob God of what He deserves by living and acting like the rest of the lost world all week long and them come to church on Sunday and say, ‘I'm okay. I'm going to heaven when I die. I prayed the prayer. I joined the church.'[1]

As God's people must confess and repent (turn away) from our sin, if we are to receive the cleansing Christ has provided through His own shed blood. Only through repentance can we stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

3. As God's people, we have a choice.

We can either see the pending danger and return to the Lord before He brings judgment, or we can wait until after the disasters to cry out for mercy and repent.

Throughout Scripture God prescribed Solemn Assemblies, what we're calling a Prayer Summit, as a key element in returning to the Lord. There were two approaches in Scripture to how a Solemn Assembly or Prayer Summit functioned. One function comes before the disaster and the other comes after the disaster.

Before.

When King Jehoshaphat saw a vast army coming against the nation, he called the people together to fast and seek help from the Lord (2 Chron. 20:1-30). God responded and saved the people.

When King Josiah heard God's Word read, he tore his robes in anguish realizing how much his nation had offended God by violating His commands. Josiah humbled himself before the Lord and then called the people together and guided them toward repentance. And God spared that generation from destruction (2 Chron. 34:14-35:19). This is one function of a Prayer Summit. Another comes after the judgment.

After.

In 586/7 BC, God used a wicked king of Babylon to execute judgment on Jerusalem and Judah, and Nebuchadnezzar carried God's people into exile in Babylon for 70 years. After experiencing such great judgment, Ezra and Nehemiah guided the people to stand before God in repentance so God would heal and restore the land (Neh. 8-10) - and God did!

In the Book of Joel, God's people had experienced great destruction from swarms of locusts. As a spiritual leader, Joel knew the remedy was to call God's people to return to Him in a Solemn Assembly. What he said to God's people I say to you this morning. (Joel 1:14-15; 2:12-14).

If you sense, as I do, that God's people must cry out to the Lord at a time such as this and seek His mercies, then join us tonight at 6pm. The spiritual healing of the United States is waiting on the repentance of God's people. We will see very little repentance in the world until the world sees repentance in the church.

Lloyd Stilley is pastor of First Baptist Church, Gulf Shores, Alabama. He is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Leeanne and is the father of Joey and Craig.