Harris asks N.C. Baptists, ‘Are you desperate?’by BSCNC Communications
The prophet Jeremiah was known as the “weeping” prophet because of his burden for God’s people who turned away from God after He brought them deliverance and redemption. The nation of Israel was blessed and prosperous beyond their wildest dreams – yet they forgot God.
“Jeremiah lived in a day much like ours. But Jeremiah wasn’t into asking the ‘what’ questions. He was all about asking the ‘why’ questions; the difficult questions,” said Mark Harris during his president’s address to messengers of the Nov. 11-12 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) Annual Meeting in Greensboro.
Preaching from Jeremiah 8, Harris described the truths and applications of this text as “one of the toughest in all of Scripture that God has burdened my heart to declare. I wish I could come and share everything good. But sometimes God burdens the heart of an individual to be sure he is sharing the whole counsel of God. Sometimes those things are hard to hear.”
Harris, who completed his second term as BSCNC president after presiding over the recent Annual Meeting, pleaded with North Carolina Baptists to be bold enough to ask the ‘why’ questions and to hear a word from God – not from man.
“I believe God is calling North Carolina Baptists to stop asking the easier, surface questions of ‘what’ and finding simple answers and solutions. Let’s lead this state and nation in asking the hard questions and get down to the root of the issue,” he said. “Is it possible that a nation might fall and reach such a depth that it can no longer rise again? Is it possible that a people can so turn away and go so far that they can’t return again? Those are powerful questions.”
These questions God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah and they are just as relevant for today’s nation. Jeremiah asked the nation of Israel why they had slidden back and why they did not recognize God’s judgment.
“We are still not yet desperate enough to turn back,” Harris said. “We will not come before the Lord and pray until we are really desperate. So many of our prayer meetings are all about all kinds of things except really seeking the heart and mind of God.”
Although Jeremiah calls for the nation of Israel to turn from their idols and lusts of the flesh, the people are unaware that their unrepentant sin and lives of disobedience have removed them from God’s presence. God’s power was no longer in their midst and they were not even inclined to seek it.
“He is calling for repentance and looking for the slightest sign of anyone who will say, ‘what have I done?’ And yet, He sees nothing,” Harris said. “The Spirit of God had fled – and the people didn’t even notice.”
The people didn’t notice because they had just enough “religion and religious practices” that they deceived themselves and wandered from the truth of God. The people made excuses for sin, trivialized sin and refused to repent before a holy God. The nation of Israel provoked God to anger because the nation’s leaders held the people captive to lies, encouraging them to rationalize sin.
“Why do we sit still when it’s time to come together in repentance, confessing our sin?” Harris said. “Are you willing to come in silence and simply submit to His judgment and confess that it is your sin and my sin that’s to blame?”
Israel, like America, held the answer to their plight, the solution to their recovery, in their hands – the Word of God. Jeremiah knew this was the answer and he used the “balm of Gilead” as a symbol for the healing power of God’s Word. Jeremiah cried out for God’s people to apply this healing balm to their lives.
“Why is there no recovery today? Is there no balm today? Of course there is. But, is there no physician left to apply it?” Harris said. “This is a question for the American pulpit.”
If America is ever going to experience spiritual awakening and revival, pastors and spiritual leaders must step up and point people to faith in Jesus Christ as they boldly proclaim His Word.
“Are we going to preach for popularity, political correctness and itching ears, or are we going to be wiling to stand and proclaim the Word of God? Are we willing to pay whatever price may come?” Harris said.
“We have one life to live. One life to give for the furtherance of God’s plans and purposes.”