Tag Archives: fellowship with God

Meet the Holy Spirit: A Proper Introduction

 

A Proper Introduction

Our discussion on “surrender” has raised new interest in a topic WordBytes has “directly” addressed only ten times since our first publication in 2010.   Although each bible teaching makes mention of the works of this person, I have failed to dedicate a study about Them.

Who is it?  The Holy Spirit!  My failure was not my belief that teaching about the Holy Spirit wasn’t important.  On the contrary, I wrongly supposed that everyone knew everything about the Holy Spirit.  Faulty assumption!

Therefore, for the next few weeks, I’m going to dedicate time to reintroduce us to the Holy Spirit.  It is my prayer that at the end of this series, we will desire to draw closer to God after learning about His Spirit (Psa. 42:1-2). Why is this important?  As we will learn, the Holy Spirit is vital for victorious living and kingdom building.   That’s why we need a “proper introduction”.

The Holy Spirit of Pentecost

This month we celebrated Pentecost in churches across the nation and around the world.  With Christ’s completed work of salvation—His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension—the promised Holy Spirit would come and dwell within us (Acts 2).

It was the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence that would enable Jesus’ disciples to continue the work He had begun. Pentecost marked the availability of the Holy Spirit to everyone who would “call upon the name of Jesus” (Rom. 10:13).

While we may know about the various ministries of the Holy Spirit, it is even more important to fully grasp the enormity of His Presence within us. Deity is living within us! I love the way Jesus described this phenomenon: “I (Jesus) in them (Believers) and You (God) in me, (so) that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23).

Like the disciples on the day of Pentecost we need the Holy Spirit’s power and direction as we live for God’s glory. We are invited to join with the Triune God in Their ministry of deliverance, wholeness, and grace (Eph. 2:10).

God wants to lead you to places you cannot get to without Him, and He does that by the power of His Spirit. He can bring you into the realm of the miraculous—not as a show, but as a demonstration of His love and compassion for the lost, hurting, or needy. Who among us doesn’t want or need that?[1]

Another like the Other

In anticipation of His departure, Jesus promised the disciples “another Comforter” (allon parakletos)—another of the same kind to aid (John 14:16).  The Holy Spirit would represent God to the disciples as Jesus did in his incarnate state.

The Holy Spirit would direct the disciple’s decisions, counsel them continually, and remain with them forever.  Jesus knew the heart of His disciples and the importance of His presence in their life.  That same Comforter now dwells within each of us who are in Christ (Eph. 1:13).

Jesus knew that, even in the 21st century, we would need the loving reassurance of His presence.  With the uncertainty of the world we live in, it is comforting to know that we are never outside the watchful eye of God IN ADDITION to being indwelt by the very presence of Jesus, who is the Holy Spirit living within us.

“The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and

the Church is famishing (starving) for want of His Presence.”

                                                  A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

God never changes and His promises are still true—”He will never leave or forsake us” (Gen. 28:15).   We are never out of God’s watchful eye or reach.

[1] Stormie Omartian, Lead Me, Holy Spirit:  Longing to Hear the Voice of God.

The Knowledge of God: An Enlightened Conclusion

An Enlightened Conclusion

Knowledge of God: Recap

Knowledge of God is critical.  For believers, it establishes the moral authority and inspiration in our life, which results in purposeful living, and understanding what God has given to us. For non-believers, it can influence their decision to either accept or reject Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation.

Knowledge of God is not only to be intellectually informed, but to be experienced as our personal reality.  With the coming of Christ, this experience is possible as a result of our faith response and acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  (John 14:7; 17:3)

As believers, we are instructed to “grow in the knowledge of God” (2 Pet. 3:18).  The driving force for knowing God is relationship.  Relationship with God requires both commitment to Him and connection with Him.  We abide in Him (Psa. 91:1), we dwell with Him (Psa. 27:4), and we thirst for Him (Psa. 42:1-2).  We grow!

And in doing so, our minds are renewed, and we are transformed:  changed into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 12:2).  Our knowledge is continually expanded as more about God is revealed through the Holy Spirit.  What we currently know is only a foretaste until we see Him “face-to-face” in eternity future (1 Cor. 13:9-10).

Knowledge of God or spiritual ignorance?

We’ve all heard that “knowledge is power,” often to the point where it seems like a cliche. The idea that “knowledge is power” is used often in the business world, especially in negotiations.  Knowledge of God is also powerful.  In 2 Peter 1:2-3, the apostle encourages Christians to persevere in persecution.  Why?  How?

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. 

The Apostle Paul concurs with this thought in his letter to the saints in Ephesus who had power through their knowledge of God, yet they were living as beggars.  They had relegated themselves to live in “spiritual poverty” amid God’s abundant grace including adoption, acceptance, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, inheritance, the seal of the Holy Spirit, life, grace, and citizenship (Eph. 1:3-14).

As believers in Christ, are we exercising the power that has been given to us through our knowledge of God?  Knowing “who we are” and “whose we are” gives us extraordinary advantage and power.  Our relationship with God (as His children) and our position (in Christ) gives us access to unlimited resources to stand firm, immovable, always abounding in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).

Knowledge of God and power

Paul prays for “revelation” for the church; that they may see (and know) how to navigate the challenges they face as a new church in a pagan and hostile city.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,  the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power. (Eph. 1:17-19)

Paul sets out to explain how the wisdom and knowledge of God can address the needs of the church.  In this context, that knowledge is obtained as a result of accepting Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation.

“may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him

Some commentaries interpret spirit (pneuma) as a disposition or attitude one might possess.  Of course, we cannot obtain such a disposition apart from the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom gives insight into the true nature of things.  Revelation is the unveiling of God Himself.  The purpose of both wisdom and revelation is to know God better.

“the eyes of your understanding being enlightened

Paul prayed that they might have true spiritual insight into God as a result of the eyes of their heart being enlightened.  It is the heart where transformation begins.  Paul testifies to the church at Corinth that “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, had shined in his heart to give the glory of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

That we might know

Having prayed that the Ephesians might know God personally, Paul gives the reason why knowledge of God is important.  THAT WE MIGHT KNOW.  Know in this context is factual knowledge.

The hope of His calling.  This pertains to the believer’s present hope when he was called to faith (2 Tim. 1:9).  This occurred for the believer in the past. Hope in Scripture is the absolute certainty of a believer’s victory in God (Col. 1:5).

The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.  “His” in this text pertains to God Himself.  At the time of the resurrection of believers, God will inherit those whom He has purchased at a great price according to the riches of His grace. This will occur in the future. God’s inheritance will be the saints themselves.

The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.  This power of God is directed toward believers. This pertains to the present time. Using three different words—power, working, and mighty—Paul underscores the magnitude of God’s great power available to Christians.

I close this series with this quote from Dr. Max Anders, pastor and noted author:

To know God and to find one’s full satisfaction in that knowledge is the ultimate goal of the Christian experience. The Lord’s greatest delight comes when His people discover the ultimate value lies in the knowledge of God. Nothing in the material world can complete the delights that are present in His Person.  

The Knowledge of God: Grow in the Knowledge of God, Part 2

Growing in the Knowledge of God, Part 2

Keep on growing.

Why should we care about knowing God?  As we stated earlier in this series, knowledge of God accomplishes three things in our life as believers: (1) it establishes the moral authority and inspiration in our life, (2) it results in purposeful living, and (3) it enlightens us as to what God has given to us.

More importantly, knowledge of God puts us in position to experience the fullness of God in our lives (Eph. 3:19).  It is found in experiencing a loving and secure relationship that is not dependent on our acceptability but is based on God’s grace and mercy.

This relationship will prepare us for whatever comes our way.  With this knowledge, we will be able to not only persevere during difficult times, but also do it with joy, peace, and hope (Rom. 15:13).

What impacts our ability to grow?

There are many factors that impact our desire to grow in the knowledge of God, but I will share what I’ve heard as reasons.

Some individuals simply do not desire to learn about and experience God.  They have chosen other means to address their “spiritual curiosity”.  Their faith walk is more of a spiritual expedition than a personal connection.

Others feel that to learn more will require too much in the way of commitment.  Growing in knowledge takes time and effort. While they acknowledge regular devotional practices like prayer, scripture study, and reflection cultivate a deeper understanding of God, they feel their time is better spent elsewhere.  Their faith walk will often lack the vitality they desire because it requires a personal commitment.

What does growth feel like?

While pursuing the knowledge of God may involve connection and commitment, the driving force behind it is relationship.  If we want to know…be familiar with…understand how someone is, we spend time with them.  How do we spend our time with God?  How much time do we spend with Him?  Is it a quick “snatch-a-verse”, punctuated with an even quicker prayer?  God said, “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

The writers of Psalms provide wonderful models for what relationship feels like.  In Psalms 91:1, the writer declares that the person who “dwells in the secret place of the Most HIGH will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”  Abide means to lodge, stop over, pass the night, or remain.

King David exclaimed in Psalms 27:4, that of all that he possessed, one thing he desired and would seek after (seek after) and that was to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life to behold the beauty of the LORD (NLT, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in His Temple).  To dwell imagines one who remains or “sits down in quiet”.

Last, but not least, is my favorite verse, Psalms 42:1-2.  “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.  I thirst for God, the Living God.”  Long is translated in the King James Version as pants, meaning to long for or to cry.

Do we desire to abide and dwell with God? Do we pant for God?  These are just a taste of what knowledge of God offers.

How do we grow?

We grow by reading and meditating on His Word.  It is God’s Word that transforms our hearts and minds.  As we read God’s Word, which is alive and active (Heb. 4:12), our minds are renewed (Rom. 12:2).  This renewal causes us to be receptive and obedient to the things of God.  What God began at the moment of our salvation, God WILL PRODUCE in us (Phil. 1:6).

We grow through cultivating an active and robust prayer life.  Active and robust infers intentionality and priority.  Time should not be an issue when we pray.  It is prayer that will shift both our circumstances and shift us!  Our will, our perspective, and our desires (Ezek. 36:27).

The key to remember in embracing the different spiritual disciplines is to remember that the intent of the disciplines is to draw us closer to God.  That we may know Him (Phil. 3:7-10)!  We practice spiritual disciplines not out of legalism but out of gratitude for the grace that has saved us.  They are “habits of devotion” and a means of intimacy.

It is God’s will that we may know Him—up close and personal. Because of Jesus, we now have an incredible opportunity to experience His presence, and His extraordinary love.  Who would turn that opportunity down?  Not me!

Return to Fellowship

Return to Fellowship with God

We must draw near.

There are two (2) biblical truths that should motivate believers to live their lives “more fully and abundantly” (John 10:10).

The first truth is that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, presently lives within us.  Jesus promised this to those that “believeth on and in Him” (John 14:16-17).  The second is that we live continuously in the presence of God (Ps. 139:7).  There is never a time nor is there any circumstance in our life where we will find ourselves outside God’s love and purview.

Both truths are “spiritual blessings” gifted to us from our heavenly Father (Eph. 1:3).   But even with God’s commitment to be in and among us, we as believers have a responsibility to draw “near to God” (James 4:8) by entering into intentional fellowship with Him.  God will not force His presence upon us.  God is daily inviting us into the joy of fellowship.

What is Fellowship?

What does “fellowship with God” look like in the life of the believer?  Fellowship has been described as the sharing of experiences with likeminded people.  However, fellowship with God is much more, for “who has known the mind of God (Romans 11:34)?” Through Jesus Christ, believers are able to “know by experience” God’s heart and mind.  Such was the case with the Apostle John.  John and the disciples were uniquely privileged to witness, firsthand, the person and works of Christ.

    • “That which was heard” were truths that Christ declared concerning the kingdom of God and His offer of eternal life (Luke 4:43; 9:11).
    • “That which was seen” included the many miracles of Christ; miracles that would attest to the coming of the promised Messiah (Matt. 11:2-5).
    • “That which was looked upon and our hands handled” recounted the disciples’ examination of Christ’s glorified body after the resurrection (John 20:27).  All of the disciple’s senses were engaged as Christ manifested (revealed) Himself and the Father.  

Get up close and personal!

The disciple’s experience with Christ was not viewed from a distance but “up close and personal”.   Since Father and Son were one (John 17:11, 22), the disciples concurrently experienced fellowship with the Father (v. 3).  Fellowship is translated as “communion” and “participation in a common life.”

John’s personal witness was an invitation to the early church to participate through a common lifestyle that was centered on relationship—unending communion with God the Father and the Son.    Therein is the basis for John’s statement that their “joy may be full” (v.4).

Fellowship with God is a lifestyle.

Though John’s letter was written thousands of years ago, its message is still relevant for today.  Fellowship with God begins with a lifestyle that seeks to draw near with faith (Heb. 10:22) and learn of Him (Matt. 11:29).

It includes our living by “that which we have heard”—the truth found in God’s Word and the counsel of the Holy Spirit.  It involves our personal witness to “that which we’ve seen”—God’s unconditional love and salvation in exchange for our sin and brokenness (1 John 1:3-4).

Are we experiencing fellowship with God?   We must daily ask the Holy Spirit to show us those things that stand in the way of being in fellowship with God and how we can draw closer to Him.

Return to Our First Love

 

Return to Our First Love

Do you remember?

Who can forget their first love?  The excitement we felt when that special person entered the room.  The anticipation of seeing them and the connection that was made as eyes met.  The experience of first love, with all its innocence and purity, was never to be repeated—for that is the way of “first things”.

Remember the first time you professed your love for Jesus Christ?  With that experience came the same excitement and anticipation as our first earthly love.  Unlike most first things that eventually lose their luster, it is important for us to make every effort to nurture and cultivate our personal relationship with our First Love, Jesus Christ.

How’s love today?

Are we feeling distant and estranged from God?  Do our prayers appear routine and repetitive?  Is our praise predictable and puny?  If we answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s time for us to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5) and see what is hindering our personal relationship with the Lord.  God never changes (Malachi 3:6) nor has God moved.  Maybe it’s time to return to our first love for Jesus.

The church at Ephesus had persevered and endured hardship for the Lord.  This was a critical part of the early church’s responsibility to insure a clear and true presentation of the gospel (Eph. 4:1-2).  In general, this church had continued in its faithful service to God for more than 40 years.   While all these “efforts” were important in the development of the early church (as it is now), there was something noticeably absent.  They had left their first love for Jesus.

Time to return.

Jesus lays a charge of carelessness in Ephesus’ relationship with Him in Revelations 2:4:  ” Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

In the literal translation of today’s text, the order of the words in Greek emphatically denote the strong rebuke directed to the church. “Your first love you have left!”  This second-generation of believers, had retained purity of doctrine but were lacking in deep devotion to Christ.

As believers, we must ask ourselves if we too are careless in cultivating our relationship with the Lord.     Remember the first time we professed our love for Jesus Christ?  With that experience came excitement and anticipation.  Are we now guilty of taking our eyes off the Lord?  Are we more concerned with our personal agendas than practicing the presence of the Holy Spirit?  Have we left our first love?

And what can we say about the Church, Christ’s bride (Rev. 19:7-9)?  The Church needs to heed the same warning given to the Ephesians.  Orthodoxy and service is not enough.  Christ wants hearts as well as our hands and heads (Matt. 22:37).

How can I return?

Last week, we agreed that repentance is the starting point to return to God.  Once this has taken place, we might consider the following strategies to return to His side (1 John 1:3).

Recommit ourselves to Him.   Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Rom.  6:16) Recommitment involves renewing your loyalty to Christ and His lordship over your life.  This includes directing your time, talents, and treasures to the service of the Lord.  We are so grateful that there is nothing that can ever separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:39).

Renew our love for Him.  I will love You, O LORD, my strength (Ps. 18:1).  Tell the Lord how much you love Him.  Although He is all-knowing, He still wants to hear us tell Him how much we adore Him.    We must let Him know that we desire Him with all our heart and soul (Ps. 42:1-2).  Let us show our love for Him through our praise and worship.  We are never closer to Him than when we “love on Him” (Ps. 22:3).

Reprioritize our life around Him.   Christ set the standard for priority when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt.  6: 33).  However, to make God the center of our life is counterculture.  When we place Christ first in our life, we are assured that we have chosen the “Good Part” (Luke 10:42).

It’s time to return to our first love!  He is waiting for us (Isa. 30:15, 18).

The REST we need!

The Rest we need!

 

The Biblical view of rest

Last week we asked the question, “Do you need rest?”  We examined the three (3) biblical rests God has provided for His Covenant people.  Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, and Eternal rest.

We concluded that accessing these rests is possible through development of an intimate relationship with God.  Our rest can be found in listening to His voice and obeying Him.  We closed with Lawrence O. Richards’ explanation that Christians often struggle with learning how to enter God’s rest.  God’s rest is a place of confidence and contentment that can only be found in relationship with Him.

The Scientific view of rest

In her Ted Talk, “The 7 Types of rest that every person needs,” Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, shares what is really needed for us to rest.  My biggest take away was the fact that we often mistakenly view rest as sleep.

“We go through life thinking we’ve rested because we have gotten enough sleep — but in reality we are missing out on the other types of rest we desperately need. The result is a culture of high-achieving, high-producing, chronically tired and chronically burned-out individuals. We’re suffering from a rest deficit because we don’t understand the true power of rest.  “

Dr. Smith concludes her study with the definition of spiritual rest.  She describes it as feeling a “deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance, and purpose”.  She recommends that to receive spiritual rest, one needs to “engage in SOMETHING GREATER THAN YOURSELF, ADD PRAYER, MEDITATION, OR COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT.”

For me, and believers in Christ, that “deep belonging, love, acceptance, and purpose” is found in Christ. Christ is the better rest.

A Better Rest

Paul states that in Christ, “we live, and move, and have our meaning” (Acts 17:28).  This includes our time of rest.  Even during our physical rest, we must not forget to maintain relationship with Jesus.  It is in acknowledging the Lord’s presence, that our better rest begins.

Jesus invites the crowds in Matt. 11: 28-29 to “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”   Jesus offers rest.

After the disciples had returned from their mission trip (Mark 6:7-13), Jesus instructs then to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”   Jesus is rest.

“Alone time” with God can allow God to examine us. It can be a time of knowing God more deeply, a time of strengthening, a time of refreshment, a time of sharing our deepest concerns with God, and a time of simply being with the One who formed us and loves us beyond our understanding.[1]

Rest:  How do we enter it?

The rest we need can only be found in relationship with Jesus.  It is “relational rest”.  This rest can be found in the practice of spiritual disciplines.  Spiritual disciplines are not an end in themselves.  Spiritual disciplines are intended to deepen our relationship with God.[2]

Prayer Talking to God
Meditation Listening to God
Solitude Alone with God
Contemplation Thinking about God
Worship Glorifying God

I close with a formula on how to enter God’s rest.  Feel free to develop your own.  The main thing to remember is to keep Christ as the source of your rest.

R. Reflection. Daily examine where God has been at work. This will foster awareness of God’s presence.

E. Exchange. Trade-out Satan’s lies for God’s truths. This will increase your wisdom and discernment.

SSolace. Find comfort and consolation in God’s presence. This will strengthen your confidence.

T. Transformation. Each day seek to be conformed to the image of Christ. This will please God.

[1]  Got Questions, “What does the Bible say about the value of solitude?”

[2]  Rev. Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield, “A Prayer for Presence.”

Do you need REST?

Finding our wilderness rest

Finding our wilderness rest

Rest.  Who needs rest?  We all do!  Health professionals agree that the need for rest is critical.  It is essential for our overall well-being.  This includes our emotional health and cognitive performance.

But how can we rest?  21st century living has introduced a unique set of challenges that radically impair our ability to rest.  Our current life experiences have resulted in heightened anxiety within our families, our cities, and our nation.

Similarly, rest for believers has always been (and will continue to be) challenging.  This is because we live in a fallen world.  However, the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 4:9-11) offers a “viable solution”.   He invites believers to enter God’s rest.

Defining rest

Webster defines rest as not only sleep but also as freedom from worry or trouble.   Rest in the Bible is used most frequently in non-theological terms.

However, it takes on spiritual meaning when used in relationship to God and His people.  Most specifically, when used in reference to the Old and New Covenant.

God addresses wilderness rest

In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest is first introduced in Genesis as God ceases from His work of creation (Gen. 2:2-3).  God later commanded Sabbath rest as part of the Mosaic Law (Exod. 31:15).  He knew that all living creatures needed physical renewal.

Canaan rest began with the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt.  Rest was defined as deliverance from slavery.  Canaan rest established protection from and victory over Israel’s enemies as they entered into the Promised Land (Josh. 14:15).  By following God’s commandments, Israel would no longer be threatened by attack from Canaanite inhabitants (Josh. 23:1).  Peace in the land would be their rest.

Most importantly, Jesus Christ’s arrival and selfless act of atonement introduced us to God’s Eternal rest.  This rest surpassed those previously offered beginning with precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 26).  Believer’s eternal rest will culminate with Jesus Christ in eternity.

Accessing God’s rest

Accessing God’s rest is possible through development of an intimate relationship with Him.  Our rest can be found in listening to His voice and obediently acquiescing to His will (John 10:27).  For example, believers should let God’s Word and Spirit guide us.  God has already provided solutions for our problems therefore releasing us from unnecessary anxiety and fear.

On this matter of rest, Lawrence O. Richards, noted theologian writes:  “The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest.”  That is, believers need to be more responsive to the Lord.

Responding to wilderness rest

We can find rest as we listen for and respond to the Lord’s voice.  We trust the Creator of all rests—Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, and Eternal rest.

Only Sovereign God can create, deliver, and protect.  He gives use victory over the challenges we face (Rom. 8:37).  God knows the end from the beginning and His purpose will stand (Is. 46:8-10).  It is God’s desire that we live more fully as recipients of His gift of rest.  He invites us to draw near.

Do we need revival?

Do we need a revival?Revival?

When I say the word, revival, what comes to mind?  Perhaps the first thing we think about is something from the past becoming popular or important again, such as the revival of board games or the revival of drive-in theaters.

From a religious standpoint, however, a revival is the “reawakening of religious zeal or enthusiasm”.  I remember as a child when revivals were held in our community.  Sometimes it was initiated by our pastor who felt his members needed a “spiritual jumpstart” to either usher in the new year or finish up the old one.

During the summer, it was not unusual to have traveling evangelists come into our community.  With large tents and wooden platforms, they would preach “fire and brimstone” in true “Elmer Gantry” style, until someone came down front to “repent and turn from their wicked ways.”

We hear of revivals even today, but probably with less frequency, as people choose more convenient and less demanding ways of “stoking their spiritual fire.”  The question is, however, is what we’re doing enough to truly “maintain the spiritual fire” we need in our souls?  Do we need revival?

Why revival?

In both my prayer circle and Bible study group, “the buzz” is all about the need for revival—in our nation, in our churches and in our homes.  Although the actual word “revival” is not used in the Bible, there are many instances cited where revival or spiritual awakening occurred (1 Sam. 7:1-6; 2 Kings 18:1-7)

Revivals are not new in the economy of God. The largest recorded revival occurred in Nineveh where it is recorded that 120,000 souls repented and were saved from God’s wrath (Jonah 3:4-10).   Revivals are often preceded by a major moral crisis that has plowed the soil of people’s hearts, readying them for the fertile seeds of revival: God’s Word and God’s salvation.  Are we currently experiencing similar crises in our nation?

We have become desensitized to the social needs of people in our community.  Our entertainment choices reflect a tolerance for moral depravity and disregard for human life—not much different than Sodom and Gomorrah.

Man has “deified” himself over God.  Society continues to attempt to redefine God, trivialize family, and devalue Christ’s church.  And what have we gained in return? Broken and wounded people feeling hopeless, in despair, without joy.  Are we in need of revival?

Preparing for revival

To this point, we have described revival as a noun; an event that stirs up religious faith. Revive can also be a “verb”, which in Hebrew, means to bring to life or cause to live.  Do we need to be revived—brought back to life?

As I look around, I believe we are in desperate need of “spiritual CPR.”   We need new breath and true life that can only come from God (Ps. 85:6-7).  Using Jonah 3:4-10, below is a “CPR” acrostic to communicate how we can prepare for revival.

Confession.  Readiness for revival always begins with confession of sin. The people of Nineveh proclaimed a fast of which everyone participated, “from the greatest of them even to the least of them.” (v. 5) Confession recognizes the need for change and realization that the only true source of change is God.

Prayer.  Prayer is the most powerful force God has given us to implement change.  The city of Nineveh, “both man and beast were covered with sackcloth and cried mightily unto God.” (v. 8a) Prayer prior to revival prepares the way for the preaching of God’s truth. God’s truth defeats the lies of Satan and provides light to expose the darkness of sin (Acts 26:18).

Repentance.  Repentance requires two actions: the turning away from sin and the turning to God.  The people of Nineveh “turned from their evil way.” (v. 8) The turning away from sin begins with accepting Christ as both Savior and Lord.  Repentance should lead to transformed living—one of good works and service (Eph. 2:10).

Where do we begin?

I heard a minister state that individuals should “draw a circle on the ground and then step inside it—it is here where revival begins.”  Confess, pray, and repent. Revival starts with us. Are we ready to begin?

Altars of Earth

An Altar of Earth

It’s all in the instructions

I am notorious for ordering items online.   When the box arrives, I’m excited to see my item in the perfect spot I’ve chosen for it.  However, when I open the box, all I see are parts and pieces in plastic bags with the INSTRUCTIONS on how to put it together.  Thank the Lord, I have such a kind and knowledgeable husband who is good with instructions.

Today we explore a  set of instructions God gave Israel following His presentation of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:24).

An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you.

 God’s  “thunderous” manifestation of his  presence  impressed upon Israel that He was the “Living God” and not some impotent idol they had worshipped in Egypt  (Exod. 20:18-20). God was the Creator and not the molded creations of man’s idolatrous mind.  God was moving closer to His people.  He would come to them and bless them.

Why an altar of earth?

An altar of earth, a simple structure, or of stone (unhewn), was  to be constructed. God wanted them to build a plain altar of stone with no engraving. I’m sure many of the Israelites had seen the engraving of the statues and monuments in Egypt.  They may have even been engravers themselves.  But God required a higher yet simpler standard that would recognize who He was.   The moment a tool was put to the stone, it would be considered “polluted”.

It should be noted that the primary purpose of the altar was for worship.  That worship was to include specific offerings—a burnt and a peace offering.  There was no mention of presenting a sin and trespass offerings which were given to Israel later.

The peace offering revealed man’s need for  sacrifice that would reconcile him to God.  Jesus Christ accomplished that by His blood on the Cross.  The burnt offering speaks of God’s  worthiness and ability to save.  Christ was the perfect sacrifice and the only one able to satisfy the righteous requirements of God (2 Cor. 5:18)

Where’s my altar?

Everywhere Israel journeyed,  they made an altar of earth.  The altar was to be placed  in those places where  “God recorded His name.” One commentary states it this way:   “cause My name to be remembered”.

God would reward Israel’s offerings in those places where God was worshipped in sincerity.

Afterwards, God chose one particular place (Jerusalem) to record his name.  But now that has been taken away under the gospel, when men are encouraged to pray every where.  This promise revives in its full extent, that, wherever God’s people meet in his name to worship him, he will be in the midst of them, he will honour them with his presence, and reward them with the gifts of his grace; there he will come unto them, and will bless them.  More than this we need not desire for the beautifying of our solemn assemblies.[1]

This portion of the Exodus text caught my attention.  I then began to ask myself the following questions.

Where are my “altars of earth” to the Lord?

Where are the places in my life where God has caused me to “remember His name”?

Am I watchful and recognize when I am “out of fellowship”with Him?

Am I presenting offerings that worship God?

Do I bless God for all His benefits? His presence,  power, provision, and  protection?

Altars and offerings are no longer needed to be in right relationship with God.  Jesus’ death and resurrection eliminated that requirement.  However, it is important that we Christians spiritually create our personal altars to worship God in recognition of His love and gift of life through Jesus Christ.

I close with the following  scripture texts in the hope that they  will “cause His name to be remembered” by each of us.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.(Rom. 12:1) 

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Heb.13:15) 

Give to the LORD the glory due his name; Bring an offering, and come before him.  Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!  (1 Chron. 16:29)

[1]  Matthew Thomas Commentary

Turn on the Light!

Turn on the Light!

Jesus is the Light

Last week, we asked, “Where’s the light?” The answer to that question is Jesus.  Jesus is the Light of the world, in whom there is also life. Jesus’ light dispels the darkness that is so prevalent in our world:  the deceitfulness of sin.  Because of The Light, we have spiritual discernment and are able to see truth clearly in a world where there are no absolutes nor standards of integrity.

How is that possible?  Through the transformation that begins when we became “new creatures in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17).  Each day, we become more like Christ—a light that is to shine in a darkened world.

Light transformation

In Ephesians 5:8, Paul explains the extraordinary transformation Christ makes in the life of His believers.

Paul accomplishes this by contrasting the believer’s old life with their new life.  Paul borrows an example from nature that would be easily understood by his readers—light and darkness.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.  

“For you were once darkness.”  This statement of conclusion describes the state in which current saints found themselves before Christ.  Darkness (skotos) described their past condition.

We were not “in darkness” but we actually “were darkness”.  Metaphorically this describes individuals in whom “darkness becomes visible and holds them sway.” They are morally darkened by sin, spiritually bankrupt, and desperately in need of salvation (Rom. 3:23).

Who are you?

“But now you are light in the Lord.”  What caused the change between “once darkness and now light”?  Salvation!  God’s plan of salvation provided a change in status—from darkness to light.

Light (phos) is used figuratively to describe truth and its knowledge, together with the spiritual purity (in contrast to vv. 3-5) associated with it.  God took us (sinners) who were “foolish, disobedient, and deceived and according to His mercy, He saved them (us)” (Titus 3:3-5).

Life as a light bearer

“Walk as children of light.”  As new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), a new relationship emerged.  No longer in fellowship with darkness, we became children and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17) with all its power (Ep. 1:19) and privilege (Ep. 2:6).

In addition, our lives were redirected to God’s purpose—to walk as children of light.  As “light bearers” we now offer to the lost the same light we received when we walked in darkness.  By hearing our personal witness and the Gospel, the darkened world will be attracted to The True Light, Jesus Christ (John 8:12; 9:15).

As you plan your daily activities remember to embrace your identity as children of light.  Look for opportunities to “turn on the light” in dark places and “show others the goodness of God, for He also called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9, NLT).