Dr C. Peter Wagner, formerly Professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, author of numerous books, is President of Global Harvest Ministries and Co-ordinator of the United Prayer Track for the AD2000 and Beyond Movement.
The Kingdom of God has been steadily advancing
and the rate of advance has never been greater than it is now
The 1990s were extraordinary times. The Kingdom of God has been steadily advancing and the rate of advance has never been greater than it is now. The steady movement of the light of the Gospel of Christ has pushed the forces of darkness into their final comer, the part of the world called the 10/40 Window [people living 10-40 degrees north from west Africa to east Asia]. The future has never been brighter for the people of God, but at the same time the task has never been more formidable. As Scripture says, the devil has great wrath because he knows he has a short time (see Rev. 12:12).
New Spiritual Weapons
God never fails to provide the resources His people need for any challenge He gives them. The unusual times in which we live are no exception. God has provided the Body of Christ with some new spiritual weapons which will help us penetrate the darkest realms of the Enemy with the message of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Among these new weapons of warfare, three stand out above the others in my estimation:
* Strategic‑level spiritual warfare
* Spiritual mapping
* Identificational repentance
When I say these are ‘new’ weapons, I do not mean that they have just now come into being. Their roots go back to the Bible. Certain individuals and certain Christian traditions have used them in the past to one degree or another. The newness comes in the fact that only in the 1990s has the broad spectrum of the Body of Christ begun to understand the nature of these weapons of spiritual warfare and how to use them in advancing the Kingdom of God.
At this time I am going to deal with the third of these spiritual weapons: identificational repentance. This gives us the awesome power to heal the past.
For me at least this is very new. I have been a Christian for 45 years, and I never once recall hearing a sermon from the pulpit on identificational repentance. I have four graduate degrees in religion from respectable academic institutions, and I was never taught a class on the subject. You do not find the issue raised in the writings of Martin Luther or John Calvin or John Wesley.
Fortunately, we now have a textbook on the subject, namely John Dawson’s remarkable book, Healing America’s Wounds (Regal Books). In my opinion, this is one of the books of the decade for Christian leaders of all denominations. Only because we now have access to this book has the United Prayer Track or the AD2000 Movement been bold enough to declare 1996 as the year to Heal the Land, featuring massive initiatives for repentance and reconciliation on every continent of the world. This is so important to me that I require my students at Fuller Theological Seminary to read Healing America’s Wounds and I invite John Dawson himself to come in and help me teach my classes.
Some may wonder what international significance a book like Healing America’s Wounds might have. Only this. We Americans are not ignorant of the fact that our nation has gained high international visibility for many things, some good, but some very bad. Now by God’s grace many American Christian leaders want our nation also to be known for our deep remorse over the national sins and atrocities we have committed. We want to be among the first to corporately humble ourselves before God and before the people we have offended, to confess our sins, and to seek remission of those sins in order to heal our deep national wounds. With no desire to be arrogant, we hope that if we provide a good example which pleases God, some other nations may see fit to follow our lead.
What exactly is involved in identificational repentance?
In order to understand it, let’s go from the known to the unknown. Most of us have been well trained to understand personal repentance. We know that sin can and does invade our personal lives. When it does, it has devastating effects not only on us, but on others around us. And we know what to do about it when it happens. This has been taught in every one of our seminaries and Bible schools. We do find it in the works of Luther and Calvin and Wesley. It is no secret that personal sins can and should be remitted.
A basic theological principle for this is found in Hebrews 9:22: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sins.”
In Old Testament times the blood was that of bulls and goats and other animals which were sacrificed. Then Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross to pay the price for sin once and for all. So today when we deal with a sin in our personal life we know that we must:
* Identify the sin specifically.
* Sincerely confess the sin and ask God to forgive it.
* Know that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins whenever we do confess them because of the blood which Jesus shed on our behalf.
* Once forgiven, walk in obedience from that point onward, and do whatever is necessary to repair the damage that our sin has done to others.
It is important to recognise that having a sin forgiven does not automatically and by itself heal the wounds that the sin might have caused.
We must recognise that nations can and do sin corporately. God loves nations, and I join those who believe that God has a redemptive plan for each nation, or for that matter for each city or people group or neighbourhood or any visible network of human beings. But corporate national sin damages the relationship of the nation to God and prevents that nation from being all that God wants it to be.
Is this a hopeless situation? No. The Word of God has clearly outlined the remedy:
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14).
God desires to bring corporate healing. He wants to heal the land. The way that He does this is parallel to the way He deals with individuals. If we desire to see the healing come to our national wounds, we must take the following steps:
1. Identify the national sin. This is no place for vagueness. We must be specific, not evasive. For example, the principal sin of my nation, the United States, is clearly racism and our corporate sins which have established the spiritual strongholds are clear. The broadest and most pervasive sin that our nation ever committed was bringing Africans to our shores as slaves ‑ human merchandise to be bought, sold and used for any conceivable purpose to satisfy the desires of their white masters. But beyond this, the deepest root of national iniquity, and also, as I see it, one of the primary causes of our subsequent lust for slaves, was the horrendous way we white Americans treated our hosts, the American Indians. What does the breaking of over 350 solemn treaties say about U.S. national integrity?
2. Confess the sin corporately and ask God for forgiveness. We must not assume that one act of repentance and confession will suffice in all cases, although in some it may. Because the ministry of identificational repentance is so new to many of us, we do not as yet have a clear idea as to specific rules and guidelines on this matter. Meanwhile let’s follow John Dawson’s advice: we keep doing it until it’s over; or Cindy Jacob’s criterion: we forgive until there is no more pain.
3. Apply Christ’s blood. Since there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood, there will be no remission of national sin outside of the atonement of Christ. For this reason it is very important to recognise that only Christians can do the necessary confession and repentance because only they have the spiritual authority to apply the blood of Jesus. Granted, Christian leaders who have been endowed with a higher level of spiritual authority than others can often be the most effective participants in such spiritual initiatives. But political, judicial and legislative authorities who are not redeemed by Jesus Christ and who are not filled with the Holy Spirit cannot be designated as point people for significant acts of repentance, although they may often be present when the act occurs and participate in whatever gestures of forgiveness may be appropriate.
4. Walk in obedience and repair the damage. Obviously this final step will frequently be the most difficult to implement, particularly in cases where the national iniquity has passed through many generations. Presumably, however, legislative acts and judicial decisions will much more readily accomplish their intended purposes once the strongholds of iniquity have been removed and the power of the Enemy has been weakened.
The Iniquity of the Fathers
Why should we be concerned about what our ancestors might have done? This is an important question raised by many who hear of identificational repentance for the first time. The answer derives from the spiritual principle that iniquity passes from generation to generation. One of many biblical texts on the matter comes from the Ten Commandments that Moses received on Sinai: “I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations…” (Exodus 20:5).
Technically speaking, sin can be understood as the initial act while iniquity is the effect that the sin has exercised on subsequent generations.
I interpret the reference to the third or fourth generation as a figure of speech meaning that it can go on and on. Time alone does not heal national iniquities. In fact if the sin is not remitted, the iniquity more frequently than not can become worse in each succeeding generation. But the cycle can be stopped by corporate repentance. Quite obviously, the only ones who can confess the sin and put it under the blood of Jesus are those who are alive today. Even though they did not commit the sin themselves, they can choose to identify with it, thus the term “identificational repentance.”
We have two clear biblical examples of how this is done, Daniel and Nehemiah: Daniel said, “I was… confessing my sin and the sin of my people” (Daniel 9:20). Nehemiah said, “Both my father’s house and I have sinned” (Nehemiah 1:6).
Notice that each of these two confessions has two parts: the sin and the iniquity. Both Daniel and Nehemiah confessed sins that they did not commit, and both recognised that the iniquity had been passed to their own generation. Because of this they admitted that they were not personally exempt from the residue of that sin in their own daily lives. For many of us the second part is more difficult than the first because we have too often tended to fall into patterns of denial.
When we remit the corporate sins of a nation by the blood of Jesus Christ through identificational repentance, we effectively remove a foothold that Satan has used to attempt to hold populations in spiritual darkness and in social misery. It happens because we are recognizing that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, as Paul says, but “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). When we do that, the glory of Christ can shine through and the Kingdom of God can come in power.
“Heal the Land”
The year 1996 was designated as the time when Christians around the world agree to take aggressive action toward healing the wounds of their lands. Many initiatives begun in 1996 will continue in subsequent years. For example, a “Reconciliation Walk” in which thousands of Christians will walk the known routes of the Crusades was planned. Scheduled from November 1995 to June 1999, the top agenda item was repentance for sins of Christians against Muslims and Jews. Other planned initiatives include:
American whites repenting on the sites of Indian massacres.
American whites repenting for the slave trade.
Christians from Japan repenting for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Europeans repenting of the sins of World War II.
Christians from the North and from the South repenting over sins of the American Civil War.
Similar events are being planned on every continent of the world.
As the Body of Christ agrees to pull down strongholds of corporate sin, the way will be opened for revival of churches and a harvest of souls greater than anything previously imagined. Identificational repentance gives us the power to heal the past.
© C. Peter Wagner. Used with permission of Global Harvest Ministries.
Some books by C Peter Wagner
Leading your Church to Growth (1984)
The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit (1988)
Your Church can be Healthy (1990)
Spiritual Power and Church Growth (1990)
Prayer Shield (1997)
Churches the Pray (1997)
Breaking Strongholds in Your City (1997)
Church Growth and the Whole Gospel (1998)
Church Quake (1999)
Your Church can Grow (2001)
Your Spiritual Gifts can help your Church Grow (2005)
Praying with Power (2008)
Warfare Prayer (2009)
Discover your Spiritual Gifts (2010)
© Renewal Journal 8: Awakening, 1997, 2nd edition 2011
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