Friday, July 25, 2008

Personal Revolution: A Teaching on Revival

Churchgoers often lack a world view. We see our religion as being within four walls on Sunday morning. We fail to think about the reason why we are saved -- to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world! Most churches have annual revivals. These are week-long church services that typically have a theme of spiritual renewal. The problem is... in my experience... the renewal lasts no longer than the end of the service.

Some think of revival as an annual week of worship services. I see it as more. I consider revival to be something we should engage in on a daily basis. Why? Because sin occurs in our lives on a daily basis. And the need to share the gospel is in front of us on a daily basis.

Sin Occurs in Our Lives on a Daily Basis

I remember being on vacation... alone in a new city. While exploring the area surrounding my hotel, I noticed that there were a plethora of... shall we say... sinful establishments. Well, a man of God should not even consider going into such a place -- but I did. Why? That old sin nature comes creeping back when we least expect it. At first, I blew it off and continued with sightseeing. But after driving past several times... I had to stop and go inside to see what was what.

It didn’t take long before I found myself taking a trip to the spiritual woodshed... the Holy Spirit awakened me to my “Casual Christian” behavior and warned me to straighten up and fly right. I was grateful that the Lord caught me before I fell completely over the deep end -- and I marveled at how easy it was for me to dip my toe into the water and then take a big belly flop into the center of the pool!

The Lord reminded me that satan never sleeps... and his demons are continually working to get us to fall asleep spiritually so that our flesh can have its way. Now I understand the reason why the Lord Jesus said:

And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [[a]disown himself, [b]forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, [c]refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [[d]cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also]. For whoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it [[e]from the penalty of eternal death].
Luke 9:23-24 (Amplified Bible)

Denying ourselves can be something as simple as giving up food or television for a season... or shutting in to seek God in prayer and study of His word. But I believe that we also need to deny those sins and weights that so easily beset us. To deny ourselves is to die to self. As Jesus died on the cross, we must take up our cross (spiritually speaking) and die to the lusts and sins and hatred and anger and temper tantrums that so easily beset us. And, as Jesus said in Luke chapter nine, it is something that should be done DAILY.

The Need to Share the Gospel Daily

Taking up our cross on a daily basis is necessary because we encounter temptation on a daily basis. It is also necessary because we encounter people every day and, for some, it may be their last moment on earth. I watched the execution of Saddam Hussein and thought --- wow, his soul is now in eternity. Whatever state he was in when that rope went around his neck, that will be the state in which he stands before the Almighty.

Not every person will walk handcuffed and shackled to a gallows. Some people will lay down and never rise again. Others will get into their automobile and wind up on a slab with a toe tag. Regardless of whether they live for a minute or a decade or more... they need to know about Jesus. We should be diligent to pray for boldness to not only tell them but also to show them by our lifestyles.

When I notice how easily a lie will slip out of my mouth... that is when I go before the Lord and pray Psalm 39:1 and Psalm 141:3-4. When I notice my temper flaring or my eyes wandering, I will seek the comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit and pray Psalm 19:13-14 and Psalm 51:10-11. I want people to see Jesus in my actions... to hear Jesus in my words... and to feel Jesus as they interact with me.

We Die So That We May Live

It is very important for us to die to ourselves - to die to selfishness - so that we can be alive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. As we die to self, we die to sin. And we are alive to fulfilling God’s plan for this world.

How often do we shrink away from God because we fear that He will ask us something that we don’t want to do. I am reminded of a Christian Comedy song “Please Don’t Send Me to Africa” by Scott Wesley Brown:

O Lord I’m your willing servant
You know that I have been for years
I’m here in this pew every Sunday and Wednesday
I’ve stained it with many a tear
I’ve given you years of my service
I’ve always given my best
And I’ve never asked you for anything much
So Lord I deserve this request

Please don’t send me to Africa
I don’t think I’ve got what it takes
I’m just a man, I’m not a Tarzan
Don’t like lions, or rivers, or snakes
I’ll serve you here in suburbia
In my comfortable middle class life
But please don’t send me out in the bush
Where the natives are restless at night

I’ll see that the money is gathered
I’ll see that the money is sent
I’ll wash and stack the communion cups
I’ll tithe 11 percent
I’ll volunteer for the nursery
I’ll go on the youth retreat
I’ll usher, I’ll deacon, I’ll go door to door
Just let me keep warming this seat

Sometimes, that is the case. But we should not fear the leading and guidance from Above. I recall the story of a woman who was called to the mission field but she prayed that the Lord first give her a husband. Finally, she gave in to God’s will and went... only to find the man of her dreams was there on the mission field awaiting her arrival. Going overseas was not an imposition for this young woman. It was a great blessing. She just had to have her attitude adjusted.

Serving God is not a prison sentence. Don’t believe the lie that you should have fun first... and then lay it all down and serve God. The fact is, you will have the most fun and achieve the highest satisfaction when you are committed and submitted into the service of the King. After all, didn’t Jesus Himself tell us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light?

Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([a]relief and ease and refreshment and [b]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.(A) For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [c]good--not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.
Matthew 11:29-30 (Amplified Bible)

The Myth of the Bacardi Party

God is not the way the world portrays Him. The world wants you to think that the devil gives you fun with parties... drunkenness... and “sexual freedom.” But John 10:10 tells us that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus came that we might have and enjoy life in abundance, to the full, until it overflows. But why do people believe the opposite?

Look at the television commercials where people are having so much fun partying with their beer and wine coolers. The commercials fail to show those folks hour later, with their face in the toilet after puking their guts out.

Then, we see the advertisements that show people having so much fun smoking cigarettes. Forget the fact that the first puff will make you go blind for a second as your lungs clamp shut and your body goes into coughing convulsions. Eventually you’ll get use to it... at least, until they have to go in and remove a lung.

It is true that parties may be fun... until you look at your wallet and realize you have spent all your money. Getting drunk may be fun until the hangover comes. Having lots of sex without restriction may be fun until the doctor gives you a diagnosis of HIV positive.

God has a better plan for your life

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.
Jeremiah 29:11-12 (Amplified Bible)

In the Four Spiritual Laws, we learn that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. We should add a fifth law. The devil hates you and has a horrible plan for your life! This would debunk the myth of the Bacardi party!

The Price of Freedom

God only wants you to have and enjoy life in abundance, to the full, until it overflows (see John 10:10). However, there is a price to pay.

We must be willing to live the life of holiness that He requires. And remember, it is not a heavy burden but, rather, freedom. Yet, for freedom to be born into your life... for anything to be born for that matter... there is labor. Our labor is to repent from our sins, our selfishness, our hatred and anger and desire for revenge. When our heart is broken before God, He will surely hear us.

My sacrifice [the sacrifice acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart [broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17 AMP)

This means that we can’t be like religious hypocrites who stick their noses in the air and feel “holier than thou.” These are people who feel that they can march right into heaven and God will slap them on the back and say, “Atta boy!” No... we should maintain a humble, broken and contrite spirit as we realize how far we fall from God’s commands. Just like when I was tempted to go back and visit some of the things of the flesh... I had to turn away from that and humbly submit to the commandments of the Lord.

For all these things My hand has made, and so all these things have come into being [by and for Me], says the Lord. But this is the man to whom I will look and have regard: he who is humble and of a broken or wounded spirit, and who trembles at My word and reveres My commands.
Isaiah 66:2 (Amplified Bible)

Humble Spirit Brings God Closer to You

When we humble ourselves, God sees and hears us. He has regard toward us.

For thus says the high and lofty One--He Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, but with him also who is of a thoroughly penitent and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the thoroughly penitent [bruised with sorrow for sin].
Isaiah 57:15 (Amplified Bible)

God not only dwells billions of miles away in the heavens... he also is Jehovah Shammah, the God who is right there with the one who is of a thoroughly penitent heart. Do you have a humble and penitent heart? Then God is right with you at this very moment!

If you humble yourself and have an attitude of sorrow for your sins, God dwells with you. Read Psalm 91 to see all of the wonderful benefits of dwelling in the secret place of the Most High.

Humble Spirit Brings Blessings to You

Blessed (happy, [a]to be envied, and [b]spiritually prosperous--[c]with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!
Matthew 5:3 (Amplified Bible)

When we have that daily revival, we will find ourselves blessed, happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation -- regardless of the outward conditions of life. This happens when we humble ourselves... come down from our “holier than thou” high towers... and realize that we are sinful flesh, earthen vessels, in need of a Savior.

However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves.
2nd Corinthians 4:7 (Amplified Bible)

How is God glorified? By our transcending our human weakness and frailness to be vessels of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Make it a point every day to get yourself right with God, and then be always ready to share the Gospel with others.

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