It’s Time For Revival…
It’s time for revival…and believe it or not it starts with God’s people–Christ-ones–repenting of OUR SINS and walking away from the unfaithful aspects of OUR LIFESTYLES before we ask non-believers to do the same. Revival starts with us followers of Jesus being willing to humble ourselves to stop living a 21st century American version of Christianity and to start living a 1st century Biblical version of it.
Here is a quote from Vance Havner (1901-1986) that he wrote in 1937 but that powerfully applies to Christians/church attenders in the United States in 2013:
“This generation (1937) is perhaps the most lukewarm, flat and colorless of all Christian history. The average person is not ferociously bad but not fervently good either. He is simply indifferent, fed-up, nonchalant, yawning from one worn-out thrill to the other. In churches, the problem is not the vicious sinner but the average attender who is neither cold [acidic against Jesus] not hot [on fire for faith in Christ]. She is lukewarm, a little too good to be bad and a little too bad to be good. Jesus declares that such a person is nauseating to Him and that He will spew such out of His mouth” (please click HERE for Revelation 3:14-22 NLT).
“Jesus would rather a person be a straight-out sinner than a lukewarm professor of of Christianity who is near enough to the Flame of God to get warm but not enough to actually catch on fire, a person who has enough religion to dope his conscience to sleep but not enough to save the soul…The Laodicean church prided themselves upon being broad-minded, middle-of-the-road Christians…disciples of the Great Happy Medium…[and this is what angered Jesus the most].”
“Our churches are not succeeding because they are conforming to this world and excite no opposition from non-believers. It is emasculation [watering/cutting-down] from within rather than opposition from without that is weakening the churches. We have lost that sense of being a peculiar and separate people with a possession, a vision, and a work that the world knows not of. We had better get back to the SIMPLICITY and NARROWNESS of the Gospel. We have broadened the faith until it has become pitifully shallow. We must return to the hardships and suffering of the Gospel. Religion now is luxuriously easy; but Ananias was sent to Paul to tell him ‘how much he must suffer for the sake of Jesus'” (please click HERE for Acts 9:13-16 NLT).
Wow.If that doesn’t cut you to the quick/core
if that doesn’t rouse you from your spiritual slumber,
if that doesn’t bring you out of your seat and onto your feet,
if that doesn’t sober you up spiritually,
if that doesn’t ignite the flame of holy fear and trembling,
if that doesn’t cause you to make practical changes to your daily/weekly lifestyle,then I don’t know what will.Here are some thoughts on Mr. Havner’s quote:
1. We (United States Christians) are too concerned with NOT being Pharisees. Jesus rightfully railed against the Pharisees (those so focused on obeying the letter of God’s law that they completely missed the heart of it); but perhaps He focused on them so much because they were SO CLOSE to getting it right. Just as a coach is often toughest on his best players, perhaps Jesus was so abrasive to the Pharisees because He saw such potential in them, saw beneath their hypocrisy a deep desire to honor God with every detail of their lives. Yet over my thirteen+ years of being a born-again Christ-one, I have experienced very few legalistic and opinionated Christians, so few Jesus-people who are parodied and stereotyped and caricatured in the American culture. Instead, I have come to know so many wonderful followers of Jesus who seem so focused on NOT being like the Pharisees that they plateau at becoming more fully like Jesus.
A. We want so badly to NOT be hypocrites that we are quiet on calling sin what it is–sin–lest we someday be caught doing that particular sin;
B. We want so badly to NOT be legalistic that we condone/approve of/participate in many types of questionable/socially acceptable behavior;
C. We want so badly NOT to be judgmental that we allow people to step on/get maimed by the landmines of sin;
D. We want so badly NOT to offend others that we bury our testimonies about Christ in the sand where it cannot multiply/grow/attract others to Him
2. We work so hard at finding common-ground with non-Christians (in an effort to evangelize them/tell them about Jesus) that we are abandoning the property/inheritance/identity that Christ has given to us exclusively as His children. As such, we are losing our distinctiveness (holiness, separate-ness) as followers of Jesus Christ. Christians are not supposed to be people who do good-deeds (which any non-believer can do) but who also happen to believe in Jesus; we are called to be entirely new creations, different (not better than but certainly different) and set-apart from non-believers. It’s ok to offer non-Christians our seats of honor at the table/feast of Jesus and to then go and sit down at the least desirable seat, but let’s not go out to eat (i.e. live) at a different restaurant entirely, leaving Jesus behind, in order to built camaraderie with non-Christians. Let’s connect with/love non-Christians in the hope of helping them move to connect forever with Christ and His love instead of directly/indirectly encouraging them to feel comfortable staying where they are, separated from Him. Let’s invite non-Christians into Jesus’ family instead of helping them be happy/fulfilled orphans. Let’s attract non-Christians to take up an eternal residence in the house of God instead of trying to make them as satisfied as possible in their spiritual homelessness. While finding common-ground with non-Christians is important, here are some negative consequences with focusing on it too much:
A. We ignore/downplay the controversial statements of the Bible/Jesus (or simply stop believing/start re-interpreting them altogether so that they are more digestible to others!);
B. We design worship services to make non-Christians as comfortable as possible (the Temple was for God’s people–He graciously allowed Gentiles into the outer-courts but the inner chambers were for Jews and Jewish converts only. I’m not saying we should not allow non-Christians into our church sanctuaries but that we should be careful about designing our worship services around them);
C. We strive to blend in with non-Christians as much as possible so they don’t think we’re weird;
D. We focus so much on building relational bridges with non-Christians with our actions that we conveniently forget to ever drive across those bridges bringing the Good News of Jesus with our words.
3. We focus so much on the friendship of Jesus that we forget the Lordship of Christ. Jesus is not my homeboy; He is my friend and Savior, but He is also my Judge and my God, my King and my Owner. Let’s not get so comfortable in the House of God/with the love of God that we intentionally trample His carpet with muddy shoes, that we carelessly/nonchalantly kick our dirty feet up on His furniture, that we toss Him around like last year’s now-obsolete IPhone. He loves us just the way we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us just the way we are (Rick Warren). He is graciously approachable, but let’s not take advantage of that by being flippant/disrespectful/inattentive. He is meek, but He is not weak. He did stoop down to save us sinners, but He also went back up to rightfully sit on His throne. May we remember the friendliness of God while not forgetting His holiness.
A. God’s Hebrew people were so terrified at the sound of God’s voice that they asked Moses to speak with God and then relay to the them His message (Exodus 20:18-21);
B. God’s Hebrew people were so filled with fear/dread at the presence of God that they asked Moses to cover his face after he spent forty days in the direct presence of the LORD (Exodus 34:29-35);
C. Hardened Roman soldiers were knocked off their feet when Jesus said the simple phrase, “I am he” (John 18:2-6);
E. God promises to avenge/repay the harm inflicted on His people and so Paul reminds us that “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31 NIV);
4. We are not collectively living the way our spiritual ancestors did in the book of Acts
–this is unacceptable and must stop. We strive so hard to be like celebrities that we forget about striving to be like Paul and Silas, Lydia and Priscilla. We try to keep up with the Jones’ externally/materialistically that we are lazy in/have no energy for keeping up with Eunice, Lois, and Timothy spiritually/internally. I’m not talking about speaking in tongues or having public miracle healings. Rather, I’m talking about:A. Actively being witnesses to Jesus’ identity as God and Savior in our homes, neighborhoods, cities, counties, state, region, country, hemisphere, and world (Acts 1:8, 5:42);
B. Constantly praying with other Christians (Acts 1:14 and 2:42);
C. Using our words to point others to Jesus–warning them, pleading with them, teaching them how to be saved (Acts 2:14-41, 5:42);
D. Devoting ourselves to understanding and living out the words of the Bible (Acts 2:42);
E. Devoting ourselves to truly being together with other Christians often (e.g. eating meals together regularly; true fellowship/community for more than 60 minutes per week)(Acts 2:42 and 46);
F. Sharing ALL POSSESSIONS with other Christians WHENEVER there was need UNTIL the needs were meet/satisfied (eliminating poverty among local Christians)(Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-36);
G. Praising God together with other Christians at church AND at home (not just hanging out to talk about sports but meeting together to praise God)(Acts 2:46-47);
H. Noticing the spiritual and earthly needs of non-Christians and doing all we can to meet those needs (Acts 3:3-10);
I. Understanding how the Bible ties together as ONE STORY and being able to explain this to non-Christians (not just leaving deep Biblical understanding to pastors and professors)(Acts 3:11-26);
J. Boldly believing in and proclaiming to others the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven (Acts 4:11-12);
K. Disobeying authorities that tell us to stop telling others about Jesus (Acts 4:18-19, 5:28-29);
L. Sharing with other Christians the details of our lives, our victories and our trials, and praying about them together (Acts 4:23-24a);
M. Confessing, repenting, and crying out to God to enable us to be truly and wholly unified with other Christians (no bitterness/animosity/unforgiveness)(Acts 4:32a);
N. Calling out other Christians/holding them accountable when they sin (Acts 5:3-11);
O. Consistently meeting with other Christians as one large group (not only as individual local churches)(Acts 5:12a);
P. Telling non-Christians about Jesus in the public places where a particular society/neighborhood gathers in large numbers (Acts 5:20-21, 42);
Q. Praising God when we are mistreated by others because of our love for Jesus (Acts 5:41);
R. Pastors choosing to focus on prayer and teaching the Bible while personally choosing, laying hands on and praying for others to carry out the practical actions of ministry (Acts 6:1-5);
S. Listening to the complaints of others and actually doing something about them (Acts 6:1-5);
There. That’s a good start. How’s that for allowing the Bible to rock our world?!If we 21st century American Christians would just start acting like the earliest followers of Jesus in the first six chapters of Acts, then perhaps God would bring about revival today, perhaps our busy yet seemingly powerless toil for the Lord would erupt in a beautiful bonfire, perhaps then what Luke reported to have occurred in Acts 6:7 would happen to us:
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly…