Friday, February 11, 2011

Revive Us! Change Us!

Here’s one thing I’ve never heard a Christian say: “The church isn’t in need of revival.” I think that we’re all troubled by the state of the church, even the state of our own lives! At least, we should be! But from where does revival come?

It doesn’t come from us and our strenuous efforts. Joshua had lamented that Israel didn’t have what it took: "You are not able to serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:19). Moses had expressed a similar lament:

• “But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.”
(Deut. 29:4)

However, he assured Israel that,

• “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”
(Deut. 30:6)

Even now, under the New Covenant, we are still utterly dependent upon God. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that he had to first learn to despair of his own abilities before he could learn to trust only in God’s (2 Cor. 1:8-9; 3:5). This lesson is especially true when it’s a matter of changing hearts. If we can’t add an inch to our heights, then how are we to change what is invisible and contained within! This should alert us to the fact that prayer to our omnipotent God is the most appropriate exercise.

In fact, it’s a blessing to know that we can’t handle our lives. A vast, unstoppable army was invading Judea. King Jehoshaphat knew that Judea couldn’t withstand such an army. He therefore humbled himself before his God, praying:

• “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."
(2 Chron. 20:12)

It wasn’t just the King’s eyes that were upon the Lord. “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD” (2 Chron. 20:13). Their only hope was in their God, but it was well-placed. A prophet then announced:

• “This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.’”
(2 Chron. 20:15)

Israel was instructed to merely observe His deliverance. They didn’t have to lift a finger. However, they did humble themselves before their God (2 Chron. 20:3). Any request for God’s deliverance must be accompanied by the knowledge of our own inability to deliver ourselves and the acknowledgement that we aren’t entitled to anything from Him. This acknowledgement includes a confession of our sins, every last one, of which we are aware!

I don’t think that revival will come until we are desperate for it, so much so, that it becomes foremost in our lives. Nor will it come until we confess all of our sins. King David gave us a good illustration of what personal revival looks like. He held back nothing from his confession list, even confessing that he had been a sinner from the get-go, exactly what our posture must be before God:

• “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts...You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
(Psalm 51:6, 16-17)

“Truth in the inner parts” is a matter of facing and confessing who we are and what we’re really about. This is what revival requires – complete transparency and brokenness before our Redeemer, and a recognition that it’s all about Him!

The same principle applies to both personal and national revival. This nation had been conceived on the principle that “all men are created equal.” We hailed this truth but refused to live by it, making ourselves hypocrites. Even the one who had coined this famous phrase, our third president Thomas Jefferson, had failed to release his slaves, those with whom he shared this equality. On numerous occasions, he had been confronted with his hypocrisy, once in 1791 by a free black leader in Maryland, Benjamin Banneker:

“How pitiable it is to reflect that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of these rights and privileges, which he hath conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren, under groaning captivity and cruel oppression.”

Sadly, in the absence of true repentance, it required a bloody war to relieve this nation of its hypocrisy. We too cannot give sanction to any hypocrisy or refuge to any lie:

• “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
(Proverbs 28:13)

We are in need of His mercy, a mercy that turns wrongs into rights, the bad into good. But it requires that we humble ourselves – something we find quite unpleasant and unnatural. The atheist and writer, Aldous Huxley, had stated as much, “Rolling in the muck is not the best way to get clean.” However, this is God’s way, and it yields great blessing, even revival!

The famous Augustine of Hippo wisely reflected: “We make a ladder out of our vices if we trample those same vices underfoot.” By trampling and them standing on them, we stand higher than we had before. I don’t think we will have revival until we “roll in the muck” so that we can then stand upon it.

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