“If my people who are called by my name will 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 Chronicles 7:14).
1. Humility is needed. Pride blinds one to his own sins (Luke 18:9-14). Pride deceives one into a false sense of security (Obadiah 1:3). Pride hinders spiritual health and growth (Proverbs 26:12). Pride prevents one from returning to God (Hosea 7:10). Pride is an abomination to the LORD (Proverbs 16:5; 6:16-19).
The first step to forgiveness is humility. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God” (James 4:6-7a). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). The humble pray, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:14). They do not deny their sins. They are not arrogant or self-righteous. They understand just how much they need the mercy and grace of God.
2. Prayer is needed. When one has become guilty of sin, denying that guilt will not help. The Bible declares, “He who covers his sins will not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13a). When sin exists in one’s life, denying such is at best self-deception (1 John 1:8), and at worst it is lying to God (Acts 5:4), or even denying His word and thereby calling Him a liar (1 John 1:10).
When one has sinned, one needs to humbly acknowledge such to God. “Whoever confesses and forsakes (sins – B.H.) will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13b). Peter instructed Simon, “Repent… of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). John declared, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:10). David prayed, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions…” (Psalm 51:1-3). The tax collector beat his breast saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). It takes humility to do this. It takes a broken and contrite spirit. He will not despise such (Psalm 51:17).
3. A God-ward seeking needed. Some do not have a God-ward attitude. There are those who do not like to retain God in their knowledge (Romans 1:28). They do not even like to think of Him. There are those who worship Him with their lips, but their heart is far from Him (Matthew 15:8; Ezekiel 33:31). There are those who try to run from their God given-responsibility, as did Jonah (Jonah 1:1-3).
One needs a God-ward heart to be spiritually successful. “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:29-30). “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33). Christians are to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). Creation should “Seek the Lord, in hope that they might grope for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:27). It has been promised, “You will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). The spiritually successful seek Him. They want to know Him. They want a good relationship with Him. The want His fellowship.
4. Repentance is needed. Some want a relationship with God, without any change of behavior. It will not work. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6). “He who says ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).
One in sin needs to repent. Repentance is a change of mind, and this change of mind will produce change in behavior (Matthew 12:41 cf. Jonah 3:10). “Whoever confesses and forsakes (sins – B.H.) will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). “Repent… and pray” was the instruction given to Simon
If these four things are followed good things will result. God will forgive sins. A nation ills can be healed if the whole would do these things.