In recent weeks, being moved in my heart by the Spirit, I have called on Gethsemaneans to take the present crisis that churches face due to COVID-19 seriously. What could it be that Christians are kept away for so long (almost 16 months) from gathering for worship, fellowship and service? Biblical history teaches us that whenever God's people provoked Him to wrath by their sins and hypocritical worship, He would cast them away, taking away their privilege of drawing unto His presence. Anyone who sincerely considers the spiritual condition of today's churches would know that the present crisis is the divine displeasure against the rampant sins of the churches of this age.
So, I have given you a pastoral call, over the last two weeks, to set aside time to sit before the LORD humbly to sanctify yourselves with fasting, repentance, rededication to spiritual renewal. About 70 brethren have responded and sent messages to me, indicating their readiness to seek the LORD for His forgiveness and sanctification through fasting and prayer.
Like the saints of the past, it is time for us to consider our ways and confess our sins. We cannot worship and serve the holy God with impure hearts and unclean hands. The churches of Jesus Christ have been profaned with materialism, carnality and worldliness of the people who gather to worship and serve. We have become like the church in Laodicea, which Christ had sharply rebuked. Consider His warning to that impure church – and even to us:
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 3:15–22).
Those who have indicated their desire to seek the LORD with fasting are added to a ‘Whats App’ group, to be provided with short exhortations and prayer items. Following is the first exhortation sent to them.
"I send the following exhortation that you may know why and how you should take time to examine yourselves and confess your sins before the Lord.
We must humble ourselves before the LORD to ask Him to guide us in our self-examination. The Bible requires of us to search/examine/judge ourselves that we may repent of our sins, lack of faith, devotion and service to Him.
Lamentations 3:40 – "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD."
Haggai 1:5 – "Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways" (cf. 1:7).
2 Corinthians 13:5 – "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"
Like God's servants who prayed that they might know their sins so that they may repent of them, let us also humbly pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps 139:23-24).
We have imperfect knowledge of our failures in character because sin shrouds our understanding. God alone can show us how and where we have failed. We need divine help to be enlightened of our trespasses and iniquities, which we have been committing against Him. No man knows himself till he has been taught of God. So, we must pray, like David, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression" (Ps 19:12-13).
With hearts that are readied to know and repent from our sins, we must prayerfully apply the Scripture truths to our hearts. "Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me" (Ps. 40:11-13). Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:26 about the church's purification, "that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word". When we carefully hold our thoughts, words, conduct and actions against the counsels of God's Word, we will see our trespasses and sins. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Psalm 119:9). So please read the Scriptures that you may be led to see your sins and that you may seek the LORD's forgiveness and help to put aside all your sins.
Advice on Fasting: According to the LORD's guidance in your heart, choose a day of the week when you can fast before the LORD. As the Lord enables, you may decide whether you allocate a part of the day or the whole day for fasting and prayer. (If you are sick and on medication, you may devote time to prayer without fasting.) Remember, when you fast, you are not just giving up a meal but also devoting that part of the day for prayer. During that time of prayer, you may meditate on God's Word for self-examination, confession of sins, seeking forgiveness, rededication of your life, etc. You can also pray for your family's, the church's and the nation's renewal. Pray for a biblical revival in our lives.
I will be sending you a guideline to pray (please remember it is only a guideline to help you with some thoughts as to how you can pray on your own)."
Below, I include some of the responses from brethren that I have received. May you be encouraged to desire and seek your sanctification as you read the hearty responses of the brethren.
“Dear Pastor, though both my wife and I have an ongoing weekly fasting and prayer programme, we're interested in joining what you've planned for the church, which “harmonises” with what we’ve been endeavouring. Thanks for your initiative for the church. Praise the Lord for especially directing you to start this oft-forgotten source of the believer's edification and blessings. May this be a start of the revival that you so long to have in our church. May the Lord grant you the desires of your heart. In the family devotion this morning, we remembered you and all the other preachers in our church in prayer. May the Lord continue to strengthen you all as you serve Him.
The reminder to pray for you and all our preachers came from a most relevant devotional in this morning's reading from CH Spurgeon, which I wish to share for the benefit of every believer, as below:
‘Brethren, pray for us’ (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
This one morning in the year we reserved to refresh the reader’s memory upon the subject of prayer for ministers, and we do most earnestly implore every Christian household to grant the fervent request of the text first uttered by an apostle and now repeated by us. Brethren, our work is solemnly momentous, involving weal or woe to thousands; we treat with souls for God on eternal business, and our word is either a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. A very heavy responsibility rests upon us, and it will be no small mercy if at the last we be found clear of the blood of all men. As officers in Christ’s army, we are the especial mark of the enmity of men and devils; they watch for our halting, and labour to take us by the heels. Our sacred calling involves us in temptations from which you are exempt, above all it too often draws us away from our personal enjoyment of truth into a ministerial and official consideration of it. We meet with many knotty cases, and our wits are at a non plus; we observe very sad backslidings, and our hearts are wounded; we see millions perishing, and our spirits sink. We wish to profit you by our preaching; we desire to be blest to your children; we long to be useful both to saints and sinners; therefore, dear friends, intercede for us with our God. Miserable men are we if we miss the aid of your prayers, but happy are we if we live in your supplications. You do not look to us but to our Master for spiritual blessings, and yet how many times has He given those blessings through His ministers; ask then, again and again, that we may be the earthen vessels into which the Lord may put the treasure of the gospel. We, the whole company of missionaries, ministers, city missionaries, and students, do in the name of Jesus beseech you: Brethren, pray for us.”
“Dear Pastor, I thank God for your love for Him and His flock. I thank God for your steadfast faith and commitment to be true to your calling in spite of obstacles and trials as you lead GBPC. For your loving exhortation, correction and rebuke to our family, as well as your prayers, care and counsel all these years. Thank God for using you to cause us to realise during this time, God's wrath is upon His people who profess Him with their lips but with hearts not committed to obedience unto our Almighty God. May God hear us during this season of prayer as we repent and call upon Him to forgive and restore us. While the Lord tarries, may our feet be found walking in His righteous path, our eyes lifted to heaven, and our hearts yielded in humble submission to Him.”
“Dear Pastor, thank God for putting in your heart this burden of calling God's people to "fast & pray". After hearing your impassioned plea during the prayer meeting, I have purposed in my heart to have my family included in this spiritual exercise. God willing, we shall forego 1 dinner per week, so that we may have a protracted time of prayer in our family devotion, without the hassle of getting ready for dinner.
Admittedly, I've noticed of late my children's lack of fervency / zeal in their prayer life, & tendency to pray in a perfunctory manner. Sure, they seem to be quick in regurgitating biblical truths & able to give right theological answers, in general. While I'm thankful for their commitment to church & God's truth, I am nonetheless troubled by their general lack of a prayerful disposition. Without prayer, their communion with God will only be that superficial. Without agonising in prayer, they can do nothing spiritual, with the intended results of reaching the heart & piercing the conscience of precious souls! The desire of my heart is that this "fasting & prayer" be a time of revival for my family as well.
Undeniably, our prosperous, affluent society has, ironically, lulled us to a sense of self-sufficiency & to spiritual complacency. We forget that "he that cometh to God must believe that ... he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb 11:6b). If we're truly honest with ourselves, we've to confess that we have not sought God as we ought -- especially in non-pandemic times. But now with this worldwide pandemic raging unrelentingly, resulting in restrictions of movement, gatherings & many other activities (including several means of grace which we've taken for granted in earlier days), we have to realise that this is also a time of chastening for God's children. "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (1 Pet 4:17). May we not be engrossed in things that do not matter to God's kingdom. May we instead desire for things that do matter: purity of faith & conduct; and burden for souls!”
“Thank you, Pastor. These are truly challenging times, and we want to pray steadfastly as a family too.”
“Dear Pastor Koshy, … I would like to join you in fasting and prayer in regard to all our sins against God.”