[In previous posts I offered a passionate plea to restore our passion for God’s Word and offered several reasons why we devalue it in our personal life and public worship (See here, here, here, here and here). Strangely however, some diminish the importance of God’s Word in a pursuit of spiritual renewal. To “save the church” or to be “personally fulfilled” they believe they need something more than what God has provided. In this article we discover that spiritual renewal results only when God’s Word is given its rightful place. Enjoy.]
Like the dying embers of a fire we are prone to let our love for God grow cold. Even as you read this your ship of faith may be caught in the spiritual doldrums. You’ve dropped anchor in your spiritual growth. Sin does not convict you as it once did. Worship has lost its splendor. You mouth the hymns but nothing happens in your heart. You’ve lost that burning desire to worship with the saints, and days go by without ever thinking of heaven or praying to God. Oh, you’re still sailing to that heavenly shore, but your waters have grown shallow and stagnate.
Does that sound familiar? Yeah, me too. I’ve been there. A lot of God’s people have, and God sees it! Jesus told the saints in Ephesus, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4). Externally the works were done and the truths were held, but the heartbeat of their love grew weak.
God saw the same tendency in His Old Testament people. To Israel He said, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness” (Jer. 2:2). Their bold declaration of commitment was slowly replaced by the cold silence of coexistence. You hardly see it coming. A bride doesn’t go to sleep one night madly in love with her husband only to awake the next morning to forget his name. No, over time she becomes distracted, then disinterested, and then disdainful.
Our journey of faith is rarely a gentle ascent on an escalator. Genuine faith encounters sheer cliffs, frightening valleys, and deceptive detours. What we do then determines the reality of our faith. In those moments will we trust in ourselves (our methods, thoughts and feelings), or will we trust in God?
You see, there is a strong temptation to solve our spiritual stagnation by trusting our methods. There are many Christians and churches who are saying, “Things aren’t right. The fire is gone!” The diagnosis may be right, but what shall we do? Some propose that we should follow the pattern of churches that are growing and mimic their worship structure. Others suggest the way out of the spiritual winter is to put a new emphasis on personal relationships. The options are limitless, but they all have one thing in common, they originate from within us.
The path to spiritual vitality is not hidden. It comes from God! He reveals it to each generation in His Word. Have you ever wondered why the Bible contains so many stories of spiritual departure and renewal? God wants us to know the way back to Him. The path to a spiritual spring is not hard to discern (it is present in every Biblical revival), it is hard to apply. But it is the only one that will work in the end, because it is the only one from God!
When you read the stirring stories of spiritual renewal in Scripture these six things are always present. Are they present in you?
A Fresh Affection For God’s Word. Only God’s word has the power to give life, and those who long for spiritual renewal find a new passion to hear His truth. Ezra “read from the book of the Law of God” (Neh. 8:8), Josiah “read all the words of the covenant” (2 Chron. 34:30), and filled with the Holy Spirit Peter “raised his voice and said” (Acts 2:14) and everything changed! We must be deeply concerned about an approach to “church growth” or worship that diminishes the centrality of God speaking through His word. “Oh, how I love Your law!” is the cry of spiritual renewal!
A Brokenness Over Sin. The brightness of God’s Word reveals the rottenness of sin that eats from within, and we cannot stomach it. When Nineveh heard of God’s coming judgment they quit work, put on clothes of grief, and cast themselves onto piles of ash and said, “Let everyone turn from his evil way” (Jonah 3:8), and they lived! We cannot grow in faith until we hate every sin within us (Psalm 51:17).
A Fervency About Prayer. The awareness of our own desperate need drives us to humbly approach the only One who can help. When Daniel realized what sin did to Israel it caused him to pray the longest prayer in the Bible (Dan. 9:5-38). Can we not find spiritual deficiency enough within us and our world that we are not driven to grasp our hands in prayer? So pray!
A New Courage For Holiness. Remove everything that rivals your affection and devotion to God. Remove it! Fleshly Jacob wasn’t ready to come home and become “the prince of God” until he put away all the idols from his house (Gen. 35:2). We will not have a joyful life of faith until we have ruthlessly removed all the “high places” and “idols” in our lives that keep us from a single-minded devotion to God (1 Kings 18:21; 2 Chron. 31:1; 34:4). What do you need to stop doing, watching, reading, and spending to really find life in Christ?
A Genuine Heart Of Worship. Genuine worship is the heart’s natural response to the grace of God. It cannot be manufactured by music and mood. It cannot be crafted out of styles and structures. It comes from knowing God as He is revealed in His Word, and seeing ourselves as the recipients of His abundant mercy (2 Chron. 29:20-ff). Then worship will not be a chore, but a joyful, daily experience.
A Passion To Share Your Faith. Spiritual renewal cannot be caged. It seeks to radiate the truth of God in all directions. We humbly warn, “repent,” and gladly announce “the kingdom of God is near!” (Matt. 3:3) so that all may know the glory of our God.
Our world is in desperate need of God. No doubt! We are in desperate need of spiritual renewal. For sure! We must seek it in God’s way.
Here’s an exciting bit of information…nearly all the spiritual revivals in Scripture began with one person or one small group of people and they ended up touching thousands. Let that one person be you!
“Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor. 16:14)
Book Suggestion: Revive Us Again by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
In this book Walter Kaiser examines fifteen Biblical revivals. He does a wonderful job expositing each text. He makes well-known stories fresh, and unfamiliar stories relevant. I think you’ll like the book.
The introduction is worth the price of the book. In it Kaiser offers a reason why 2 Chronicles 7:14 should be seen as an outline for the rest of the book. Here’s a quote:
“The centrality of 2 Chronicles 7:14 for the study of revivals in the Bible can be witnessed by the fact that it provides the outline for 2 Chronicles and sets the agenda for the material selected from the lives of five key Davidic kings of Judah. Each of the four conditions for revival is taken up separately as the single most important term for the reigns and lives of these five Judean monarchs. The resulting pattern forms an inclusio, with the first and last king sharing the same term. It may be plotted as follows:
King under Whom the Revival Came
|“Seek my face”||
|“Turn from your wicked way”||
Fifteen of the thirty-six chapters of the book, or almost one-half of the material, are given over to the reigns and revivals of these five kings, for they honored God during their reigns by leading their people in revival. It is not an extravagant claim, then, to see the theme of revival as one of the central organizing motifs of 2 Chronicles.” (Kaiser, Walter C. Jr. Revive Us Again. Broadman & Holman Publishers. 1999. pg. 5-6)
A Sermon: The Path To Healing (2 Chronicles 7:14)
This sermon was originally presented in a series on repentance. Enjoy!
The Sermon: The Path To Healing (2 Chronicles 7.14)
A Song: Rise Up, O Child of God! by William Merrill
A song that will spur on your own spiritual renewal. The song is in the public domain, so use it in your own worship. Download a pdf of the song here: Rise Up O Child Of God.
Rise up, O child of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of kings.
Rise up, O child of God!
His kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.
Rise up, O child of God!
The Church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task.
Rise up, and make her great!
Lift up the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod;
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O child of God!
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14)