Before Revival, Reform
Over the past few weeks of looking at what church really is, I have myself drawn to several incidents in the Bible that reveal more of God that I had noticed before. Of course, this happens to us all the time. The Holy Spirit can unlock hidden secrets and mysteries in scripture at any time He chooses. Now, this is no ‘DaVinci Code’ moment, but I believe with all this clamour of revival everywhere we turn, it could be a moment of significance.
That we all want revival is obvious. In fact a Holy Spirit driven revival saves us the effort of getting out there. Why wouldn’t we want it. But that we clamour for it in the way we do suggests to me that there might be something in our approach to this that will preclude revival ever happening.
I am sure that many of you will have been to meetings over the last few years with trendy titles that are advertised in such a way as to make you feel like you will be missing out on a great move of God if you are not there. And when you get there you will find whichever pastor or groups of pastors up the front sharing some vision or prophecy about revival coming and it being just around the corner. Then there will be a time of praise and worship designed to release euphoria in the room. Then there will be a message about how it’s up to us, followed by some altar call so that the backsliden can be redeemed again. Then we might have a load of declarations to the heavenly realms. Shouting at the ceiling. You know the sort of thing. And then we go home.
Now, I have no real problem with such meetings if the purpose is to glorify God. And I am quite sure that when we glorify God the Holy Spirit presents Himself and manifests with signs and wonders. But there is something missing…several things actually.
1. Humility – Without true humility we cannot expect the Holy Spirit to move or settle upon us. Often in the Bible the Holy Spirit manifests as a dove. A dove is a peaceable bird who will only settle when it feels safe. Of course the Holy Spirit is a person of great power and might but nevertheless, if you want a dove to settle in your garden then shouting and screaming at the top of your voice will not help. Likewise if you wish for the Holy Spirit to be present in your meetings then demanding revival at the top of your voice probably won’t help.
Jesus practiced humility everywhere He went. Even on the night He was betrayed, (and before His final teaching session with His disciples) He practiced the ultimate in humility by talking on the servant’s role and washing His disciples feet. Whilst washing their feet he said:
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” [John 13:14 NKJV]
Years ago I had the slightly cringey experience of being at a men’s meeting at a church when the pastor and a couple of the elders washed the feet of everyone. Once the self-conscious embarrassment had passed you caught a glimpse of humility in those called to teach who were now knelt in front of you lovingly bathing our smelly feet. In fact, even the experience of having my feet washed I found humbling. I am not suggesting that we do this. Why? Because we would make it into a ritual like we do everything else and before you know it there would be a rota and those on feet-washing duties would have their own FaceBook page…you know what we are like. But I am suggesting that we follow Jesus’ example and look to practice humility. Not only to one another (this is vital, in fact a command!) but in front of God. Remember that it is because of His great mercy for us that we even have the right to enter before Him with our requests. Even the great prophet Jeremiah recognized this and came before God with humility:
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” [Lamentations 3:22]
The Bible describes us, the church, as the bride…often enough that we should take note of how a bride might behave during an engagement such as we are in. We are betrothed to the King of Kings and yet sometimes we behave in an unbecoming manner. The opposite of humility could be seen as arrogance. I have been to meetings where I would say that we as a body have displayed a level of arrogance that just isn’t right. It is as if we have earned revival and therefore we arrogantly demand it of God.
I have titled this post ‘Before Revival, Reform’. A few months ago I felt the Holy Spirit just place this phrase in my mind. I can’t describe it any better than that. It wasn’t a ‘small still voice’. It was just there. So I started to seek God on what He meant by it and whether it held up to the light of scripture. I have always been taught to test everything in the same way: Does the Bible support such a word/vision whatever? If the word/vision/whatever involves me directly, are my motives solely and exclusively focused upon glorifying God? etc etc. With this particular phrase there was clearly no motivational issue because it didn’t involve me directly but when I started to look to the Word of God for confirmation I was amazed at what I noticed. But before we explore the scriptures and see what I found let us first consider the state we are in.
The idea of the Body of Christ is defined by unity. A body with a detached arm or leg is incomplete and the detached limbs are merely food for carrion birds. Presently it is easy to see that as a body of people who all follow and love Jesus we are fragmented. We divide ourselves according to doctrine or the way we practice man-made rituals. There is no tolerance between one denomination to another. There is little or no humility between believers. We are divided. No one can deny that. So when we ask for revival we ask for it on our terms…because we believe that we have got it right. We ask for revival when we really just want approval from God that our particularly brand or formula of churchianity is right. We measure our success in numbers…bums on seats. If you want approval ask the Holy Spirit. But ask in humility. Be prepared for Him to say no.
So, humility first. Always. Just like Jesus.
2. Words – Too often there are too many words. Too many of the wrong words. Be honest with yourself now. How often do we say the wrong words about someone who is in the body of Christ alongside us? We think that it doesn’t really matter because they can’t hear us. Wrong. It does matter. Our words have such awesome power but we fail to recognize it. Can you imagine the surprise of the disciples when they first realized the power they had with their tongues? (Even the demons obey us!). Guess what…we have that too. Yes we do. Honest. I have seen it in the last week when I ‘spoke’ healing to someone and (to my surprise) they were healed! With just words.
Words can build up and words can tear down. Be careful how you use them. Let no unwholesome word come from your mouth…ever. Bless and do not curse. Bless. Read Romans 12. Read it again and again.
Now let me try and explain how this works. Or rather how I believe it works.
There are several factors involved. There is our free will. There is God’s will. There is the Holy Spirit. We know that God’s will is perfect and ours only sometimes lines up naturally with His. Let me give you an example firstly from my own life:
Last year we were given several pieces of scripture relating to God’s purpose for the Cornerstone. We call these our rocks. We stand on them and them alone. No matter what anyone else says (unless of course they come with an update from God!). These pieces of scripture show us God’s will for the Cornerstone. Recently God allowed us to be put in a very difficult position in order that we might exercise or ‘stretch’ our faith in Him. When shouting at Him and crying and everything else hadn’t produced the results we expected, we started to declare what we believed to be God’s will. And, very nearly instantly, the situation changed completely. Why you ask? Yes, because we had (quietly – no need for force just authority) declared to the heavenly realms God’s will and had both agreed that we wanted it fulfilled. At that point the Holy Spirit had the permission He required from us to fulfill God’s will. And He did. When Gabriel visited Mary and told her of what was to come she said “Let it be according to your word.”…and it was. You see, God never interferes with our free will. Never. He wants us to want His will because He knows what is best for us.
Now whilst it was a tough lesson to learn it is vital. If you have any unfulfilled prophecy that has been said over you or given to you, my advice is to start speaking it our now and declaring that you will it to happen. Let it be so. For the time is now.
For the rest of your days on this planet only speak out good words about others. Stop all gossip and slander immediately. It will only backfire on you. Be free by speaking good words or encouragement and love over family members and fellow believers. Watch situations change before you can say ‘let it be so’.
3. Fruit – Jesus said that by their fruits you shall know them. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruits of the Spirit. This means that if we live by what the Holy Spirit says and not by what we ‘feel’ then these ‘fruits’ should be evident to everyone. If we continue to live according to the flesh or are governed by our emotions then the fruit we will produce will be bad.
The harvest is coming. Revival is a harvest. At harvest time it is fruit that we harvest. But no matter what you are growing, in order to produce fruit or a crop of anything you need the right conditions for growth. Good soil, sunlight and water. Without those you can never expect to grow properly. The soil can be likened to our minds. If we fill it with rubbish then it will produce rubbish fruit. But if we are careful of what we allow to filter into our minds in terms or what we read or watch then we can produce fantastic fruit. Get stuck into the word of God and if you are not good at reading download a Bible App that will speak it to you. Fill your mind with God and good fruit will ALWAYS be the result. But remember fruit takes time to grow. Don’t rush it. Learn to walk in the shadows of Jesus. Follow Him. Make yourself into a disciple. If you are unsure how ask God to put you in touch with someone who can guide you. He will.
Before Revival, Reform…
Of all the Kings of Judah Hezekiah has always been my favorite. I’m not totally sure why. He’s just admirable for most of the time I guess. But there is a valuable lesson he teaches us about revival. And his lesson must be important because the account of his reign appears in the Old Testament in three separate places (2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-31 & Isaiah 36-39). Usually when the Holy Spirit emphasis things in this way it is because they are highly significant.
From the moment he ascended the throne Hezekiah started to reform Israel. He cleansed the temple; consecrated the priests; and ultimately reinstated Temple Worship. In other words, his reforms led to revival. I’m not going to dissect everything he did here…that is for you to do with the Holy Spirit. But, I will say this. If you want revival in your church it will involve humbling yourselves before God and changing your ways. Too many pastors are talking of revival as if it is something ‘out there’ that is going to come to us. Or as if it is rain that is going to fall. The rain will be the out pouring of the Holy Spirit before the harvest of the world.
Revival starts within each of us. It bubbles up inside and overflows. See Isaiah 43:18. It springs up, not falls down. Revival isn’t just around the corner. It is here already in our hearts. The Kingdom of God is already here, all around us. No use waiting for it to come. It is here. Revival starts here, in us and flows out to those around us. It starts with humility and with good words said over one another and when the fruit shows, then we will already have revival. Jesus said the world will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another. That’s revival right there. Love one another. Build up not tear down. Interestingly enough that was about all Jesus said about evangelism.
Look at Hezekiah. Don’t assume we’ve made it. Don’t look for God’s approval of your latest formula for growth and demand revival. He has put the power in our hands and in our mouths. Speak out love. Declare His will. Watch the world around you change.
God is calling for prophets now. People willing to speak out His will. The time is now.