"He then began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent" (Matthew 11:20).
In anger He rebuked Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (Matthew 11:21); with tears, He cried out to Jerusalem (Luke 13:34). If He expected cities to repent in the first century, He expects cities today to repent as well.
"For if the MIRACLES had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (Matthew 11:21).
What hinders the turning of the people's hearts? Part of the answer lies with the Church, with our sins of self-righteousness, indifference and unbelief.
Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities known for their debauchery and sin. Yet, Jesus said that His life, revealed in power, can bring even the vilest of cities, places which ought to be destroyed, to "sackcloth and ashes." The strategy, therefore, to win our cities is for the Church to reveal Christ's life in power. Yes, the revelation of Christ in us as individuals, and the power of Christ displayed corporately through us, can turn our worst cities back toward God!
The future does not belong to the world; it belongs to the transformed Church. God "desires all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4). With this in mind, Paul taught that entreaties and prayers should be made on behalf of all men, "for kings and all who are in authority" (1 Timothy 2:1-4). The sacrifice of Christ provides for the salvation of all men. Heaven waits only for the Church to act.
One may say, "But, that was then. Our cities are worse. They are beyond redemption." Not so. Jesus continued His rebuke of cities, saying, "If the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day" (Matthew 11:23). Amazingly, when Christ is manifested in power, Jesus said even Sodom could find repentance!
The Obstruction to Revival: Complacency
Jesus does not have a problem with the hot or cold dimensions of life. It is the lukewarm that He will spew from His mouth (Revelation 3:15-16). What stopped the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum – communities that already had the blessing of Christ's healing – from embracing ongoing renewal? They assumed Christ's love was given only to enrich them. All they saw were the rewards of Christ without understanding His requirements.
The majority of the first century saints gave their lives to Christ with the full knowledge they would face persecution, suffering and, possibly, death for their faith. Such was the character and vision of the Church in the first century.
The main emphasis of much of today's Christianity, however, is to help Believers become "normal." So much of our contemporary teaching keeps alive the very nature Jesus calls us to crucify! We need to re-evaluate our preaching. Are we preaching the Cross and the call to follow Jesus? What are we training our people to become? More importantly -- are we training and equipping (DISCIPLING) our people?
Church members need to be encouraged to "think bigger." They need to see themselves as ministers to their fellow man. God doesn't call us to earn money, but to change lives (DISCIPLE others). If we will remain concerned about lives and doing the will of God, He will take care of the finances.
One of the unique things about the Church of the New Covenant is that God has authorized and commanded every believer to do the work of the ministry! God wants an entire army of workers out doing the vital work of DISCIPLESHIP of the saints and building up His Body, the Church.
The Father's goal is to use us to turn our cities back to Him. But God has made no provision for the healing of our land apart from us becoming Christlike! Once we realize this vital truth, we shall return to the source of New Testament Christianity, and our cities will have hope for redemption. When the Church demonstrates the love and power of Christ, repentance and revival can occur even in a place like Sodom.
Lord, forgive us for our unbelief and apathy. You have promised that even Sodom would come to You at the revelation of Your character and power. Transform us, Lord Jesus, for the sake of your glory and the renewal of our cities. Amen.