Only way out is up,’ Brunson tells conference

EULESS?For too many Christians and churches, the only way out of a life-and- death predicament “is up” through a repentant heart and directional change, Mac Brunson told the Empower Evangelism Conference during its Feb. 1 session.

Brunson, pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas, began his sermon with the story of three mountain climbers, one of whom strayed from his two friends while climbing in Yosemite National Park and found himself clinging for life on an icy ledge. The climber, Ben, faced one opportunity for survival?a risky step up onto a small crevice chiseled out by his friend and a hand extended toward his buddy. There was no room for error, “and it took less than two seconds to find out that my faith (in my friend) was well founded,” Brunson said as he read from Ben’s narrative of the story.

“And where Ben was is where so many Christians and so many churches are today,” Brunson lamented. “We’re in a precarious situation and we’re stuck and if we take a step, it’s generally going to be backwards and it’s going to be disastrous. And the only way out is up.”

Brunson said it must be a step up out of sin and into repentance, grabbing hold of the hand of grace.

In Jeremiah 8, Judah was in such a position and God had appointed the prophet Jeremiah to stand outside the temple gate and preach repentance?part of the temple gate sermons recorded in Jeremiah 7-10.

In many ways the American church resembles Judah in the days of Jeremiah, desiring its own ways over God’s ways to the point that “God eventually says, ‘You can have it,'” Brunson said. What resulted was its subjection to Babylonian conquest.

In Jeremiah 8:4-5, Brunson noted that the word turn is mentioned five times as the passage describes Israel’s refusal to repent.

“What happens in a nation is usually a reflection of what is going on in the life of a nation spiritually. Wonder why we’re in the mess we’re in in this nation? It is linked to where we are spiritually. Spiritually, the nation of Israel, or Judah, was worshipping not only Jehovah, the true God, but at the same time they had incorporated the worship of all these other gods.”

Even from its earliest days, Israel had incorporated the worship of pagan gods from surrounding nations into its worship.

For many believers, “we have so longed for and so lusted for the things of this world that God has essentially said to the church in America, ‘You can have it! It’s yours. You’ve longed for it and you’ve sought it and you wanted it, so now, it can be yours.’

“And we wonder why the divorce rate in the church is as high as it is in the society that we live in. Do you remember back when I was a boy the only people that got divorced were people in Hollywood? And yet we have longed for that lifestyle so much that now we are living the lifestyle that they lived and we’ve got the woes that they have.”

Brunson likened the spiritual numbness of many American Christians to living in a fantasy that will only be interrupted by God’s judgment.

Jeremiah’s message to the people at the temple gate was redemptive because God gives his people an opportunity to repent before he brings judgment, Brunson said, noting in Jeremiah 8:7 God’s charge that even a bird knows the seasons and when to turn.

“Now pastors, let me ask you something. What would it say to you if God had to call somebody to stand outside the front door and preach the word of God as your people came out of your church? ? That’s exactly what God called Jeremiah to do.”

At the close of the sermon, several hundred people gathered to pray at the front, followed by most of the congregation kneeling in prayer in the pews.

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