A political tidal wave washed ashore in the United States last night, bringing some hope to a struggling and fearful nation. A few weeks prior, another important but quieter riptide was set in motion in parts of the American nation.
One of these waves was political and the other was spiritual. At the center of both stands the re-emergence of a very important theological truth:
Political and spiritual repentance brought twin rays of hope to America today.
In my early years as a follower of Christ I wasn’t taught much about the concept of repentance. In fact, in some early discipleship classes, I was told that repentance was an Old Testament concept (primarily) and that it had been superseded in the New Testament by grace and faith.
Then I began to read the Bible for myself and found the word and concept of repentance all over the New Testament. For example:
- The first words that Jesus said when he began his earthly ministry are found in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Good News.”
- Thirty three times the word repent or repentance is mentioned in the NT books and letters (e.g. Matthew 4:17, Acts 20:21, Romans 2:4, 2 Corinthians 7:9,10 and Revelation 2:5).
- In the first recorded sermon of the Early Church era (Acts 3:19), Peter doesn’t mention the word “faith.” In order to be saved he tells people: “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
My early teachers must have been confused about the concept of repentance. Repenting from sin and error seems to be at the center of both the Old and New Testament teachings.
During my early missions training, I read Mother Basilea Schlink’s excellent book Repentance: The Joy-Filled Life which was required reading in our YWAM schools. That, and my continued reading of Scripture settled me in the truth that repentance was a critical character quality for both individuals and nations.
Repentance is necessary and it brings both joy and hope!
So what does this old theological word really mean?
Our English word repentance comes from the Greek equivalent metanoia which simply means to “re-think,” “change your mind,” or do a U-turn in thinking which, in turn, changes your life.
Sometimes we associate this change of mind with tears, regret, and an emotional experience that we call “repenting.” But the feelings are not the critical element.
Change of thinking is the key.
Changing your mind and life is a vital concept. We come into right relationship with God by re-thinking or changing our minds about our sin and rebellion against God. We’re wrong. God is right. Our change of mind leads to a change of direction–we stop living for ourselves ands start living for God and His glory.
That U-turn–from self-centered living to a God-honoring lifestyle–brings great joy and hope, not just on this earth but a promise of eternal life.
It might be true to say that nothing brings more joy and hope than the fruits of repentance.
Enter the 2014 election.
A Political Tidal Wave
Though I was expecting some change in direction in the American nation through last night’s election, the tidal wave of results truly amazed me and stunned most political pundits.
Politically, America repented last night. Some significant majorities “re-thought” their position on the way the nation was going and changed their votes to point us in another direction. To state it in negative form, they repudiated the growth of incompetent Big Government and decided to give the Republican Party a chance to take us back to smaller government, economic growth, moral values, and national strength.
This was nothing less than political repentance. Call it what you want–buyer’s remorse, seeing the consequences of bad policies, or feeling the pain of domestic and foreign upheavals–the American people went to the polls last night and RE-THOUGHT the direction they wanted America to go.
Their change of mind–repentance–gave birth to a historic change in voting:
- US Senate: The American people gave the Republicans majority control of the Senate with 8-9 pickups (Louisiana needs to go to a run-off). That was big deal, throwing out Majority Leader Harry Reid and bringing in Mitch McConnell and a new slate of leaders.
- US House of Representatives: Added 14 seats to the House of Representatives–the highest total Republicans have had since 1946. The House stands at 247-183, well beyond what analysts expected. A few races in Arizona and California were not called on Tuesday night.
- Governors: Grew Republican governorships to 31 versus 17 Democrats, with Vermont headed into a run-off and Alaska still being counted (if Republican Sean Parnell loses, it will be to independent Bill Walker.) That’s a net gain of four governorships for the GOP. This leaves Democrats at their weakest point in state legislatures since the 1920s.
- State Governments: Republicans seized new majorities in the West Virginia House, Nevada Assembly and Senate, New Hampshire House, Minnesota House and New York Senate, The West Virginia Senate is now tied. (Control of several legislative chambers was still up in the air early Wednesday as counting continued in several tight races that will determine control of the Colorado Senate, New Mexico House and Maine Senate.)
The lone bright spot for Democrats was holding majorities in the Iowa Senate and Kentucky House.
I remember being in Washington, D.C. during the days of the Reagan Revolution which brought a conservative president into the Oval Office and threw many liberal bureaucrats out of town. They called that era “Morning in America.”
We’re not there yet, but I see this morning a shining ray of political hope.
All because a majority of the American people repented (re-thought and changed their votes).
A Spiritual Rip-tide
Something else happened on the Sunday before election day (and the weeks and months that led up to it). Thousands of Christian leaders and their people gathered in a Houston Church to show solidarity during “I Stand Sunday.”
You’re probably aware that Houston Mayor Annise Parker, an avowed lesbian and LGBT activist, recently rammed through the city of Houston an ordinance that became known as the “bathroom bill” which allowed trans genders to use any facility they wanted.
In other words, if you were a man but wanted to be a woman, you could use the ladies’ restroom in any public facility (and vice versa). The residents of Houston didn’t like the intrusive bill and collected 50,000 signatures (30,000 were required) to bring it to a vote of the people.
The activist mayor not prevented a vote on the measure (how’s that for “We, the people”), but issued subpoenas to five local area pastors demanding their Free Speech-protected sermons, bulletins, letters etc. Mayor Parker was ticked off that the pastors had mobilized their people to gather the 50,000 signatures that were required to put the referendum on the ballot.
Her actions were shades of Nazi Germany or Communist China–not America.
Instead of Mayor Parker winning her way, she accidently lit a fire storm of protest from a sleeping church that woke up to realize that basic religious rights were being trampled by secular zealots and needed to be resisted.
The Church’s “repentance”–re-thinking their need to be the salt and light in this nation while facing outright persecution–caused them to rise up nation-wide to send Bibles to Mayor Parker’s office, start a cascade of prayer for revival, and led to the scheduling of “I Stand” Sunday on November 2 where thousands gathered in a Houston Church to speak up for freedom.
We can especially thank Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council for leading the “I Stand” charge.
One observer described “I Stand” this way:
“With more than 7,000 looking on within the sanctuary, there was no mistaking the energy and enthusiasm in the auditorium, as people stood and cheered for nine minutes as dozens and dozens of the area’s pastors marched into the sanctuary for the “I Stand Sunday” kick off. As Dr. Ronnie Floyd, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, told listeners, ‘it is time to wake up from our slumber! While Mayor Parker may have overstepped her bounds, that was only possible because the church had fallen asleep at the gate.'”
“’Our greatest problem,’ Dr. Floyd said, ‘is not in the White House, but God’s house!’ If you’re wondering why things like this are happening in cities like Houston, Fayetteville, and San Antonio, look in the mirror. The blame for this doesn’t rest with Annise Parker or the city — but every Christian, who has quietly stepped into the shadows on tough truths.'”
“‘It’s because a lot of people in our churches have said, “I just don’t want to get involved,” former Governor Mike Huckabee explained. ‘My dear friends, when the government comes to your pastor and says, “Cough up all of the sermons, sermon notes and correspondence that the pastor has had with his own parishioners,” you are already involved.'”
“‘It’s time’, Dr. Floyd and others pointed out, ‘to get right with God.'”
Just prior to the “I Stand” event, hundreds of pastors had participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday–an opportunity to resist some unconstitutional edicts of the IRS regarding free speech in the churches. In 2008, 33 churches participated in the thrust.
In 2014, 1600 churches joined the movement.
Numerous prayer thrusts, Pulpit Freedom Sunday, and the “I Stand” movement all galvanized this fall to call the Church in America to repentance–to change our minds and actions–to see people come to Christ in our nation and resist the advance of evil.
A spiritual rip-tide is beginning in this nation that brings a shining ray of spiritual light to the horizon.
In summary, God is moving in the Church and in our nation that could bring positive affects to our nation and the world in the coming years.
Repentance–continuing and deepening repentance–is the key to both, and can bring back hope that comes through change.