1. Is there a danger today of Christians returning to “the land of God” physically without really returning to God spiritually? If so, how do we avoid this danger?
Some hold on to the perception that the church building is the place of God. After a time away from involvement in church, people may feel a need to return to church to fulfill some type of religious ritual and feel better about them. Don’t we find it easier to perform outward acts that appear to evidence faith when our hearts actually are shallow toward God? See Matthew 15:8. There is no physical, earthly “promised land” for the church of the New Testament as there was for Israel of the Old Testament. This fact should make it easier for us to avoid Israel’s mistake of equating any kind of physical return with a spiritual return. But the physical should not be separated from the spiritual too much. Developing a deep faith is quite difficult when Christians neglect to be physically present with one another (Hebrews 10:25).
2. What are some specific things you need to do to conform your thoughts and actions to God’s standards?
This can lead to a wide-open discussion, even to a time of repentance. Expect answers that deal with prayer, Bible study, acts of benevolence, and a greater emphasis on evangelism.
One problem that can distract from the need to conform thoughts and actions to God’s standards is the danger being devoted more to a certain messenger than to the message itself. Paul spoke of those who were more interested in lining up behind certain church leaders rather than behind Christ (1 Corinthians 1:12). Some may quit going to a particular church when the preacher leaves. A church may fail to take action against a leader who has fallen morally, excusing or even rationalizing the sin. Such undue loyalty to the messenger of God demonstrates a disloyalty to the person of God by violating His Word.
3. The heart is considered the seat of the emotions. What steps have you taken to develop a proper heart for God and His kingdom? What steps do you yet need to take?
A good starting point is to examine how Bible characters developed a heart for God. David, a she cried for mercy from God because of his sin, said, “Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).The first step is humility.
Forsaking the lure of this world is also necessary in developing a heart for God. Paul says, “And be not conformed to this world: but he ye transformed” (Romans 12:2). Keeping God’s Word leads to a renewed heart. Jesus said, “But that [seed] on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). These biblical examples and precepts should shape our individual practices.
4. What modern applications can we see in Zechariah 7:12?
We remind ourselves that people have freewill—they can choose to close their ears and refuse to hear. Instead of their rejection causing us to be reluctant to share the message in the future, God expects us to continue to do our part by faithfully proclaiming His message. Jesus did! Even a cursory reading of Scripture reveals that the majority of people will reject the message (Matthew 7:13, 14). This fact should not dissuade us from being teachers of God’s Woe, sharing the message of eternal hope.
5.What are some modern examples of crying out to God as a last resort? Do you think, God ever honors those cries? Why, or why not?
A deathbed confession of faith is an example of a last-resort cry. Deathbed confessions comfort some people when they coax an acknowledgment of God from the lips of the one who is dying. Such confessions may or may not demonstrate true repentance. Only God knows the heart. After the person dies following such a confession, there are no actions possible by which that person can demonstrate true repentance. ‘Otis is not true in other situations. A person who cries to God for deliverance from an approaching tornado may live through the experience to demonstrate true repentance. God always honors True repentance.