Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why No Change in Professing Believers?

We live in a day where what we claim with our lips, seems to be contradicted by our lives. Unfortunately in much of American "Christianity," no one seems to challenge that. We have so catered to the spirit of tolerance, that even in the church, we very rarely "hold each others feet to the fire." If we are honest, we would have to admit that several things hinder us from practicing Biblical Christianity - of obeying the "one anothers" of the New Testament. We are commanded to exhort one another, pray one for another, confess our faults one to another, admonish one another, forbear one another, forgive one another, be kindly affectioned on to another, love one another, edify one another, bear one anothers burdens, have the same care one for another, etc.. So what hinders us from "getting into each others lives" - caring, encouraging, challenging, reproving, considering one another to provoke to love and good works?

I think many things hinder us, but perhaps to mention a few: a fear of man, a lack of love, being consumed with ourselves, a lack of obedience to the scriptures, perhaps an ignorance of our responsibility within the body of Christ. In any case, the current spirit of indifference within the body of Christ has caused a powerless form of religion under the guise of being called "Christianity," allowing many attendees who've never had a transformation in their lives and lifestyle to feel comfortable in our churches. Church history will tell you that our Christian forefathers did not hesitate to call for "credible evidence of regeneration" in the lives of those wanting to join the church - today, you can join our churches as easily as you can join the Rotary, or Moose lodge or AARP!

I think the primary reason for this is the lack of a call for repentance - either in the lives of unbelievers, or in the lives of believers. As I study the scriptures, I find that repentance is not only something you do when you come to Christ, but something that is to continue in our lives until the day we see Christ face to face. I challenge you to examine in the scriptures and show me one person, who repented, whose life was not different afterward. Think of the New Testament - can you think of one person who encountered Jesus that was the same afterward, as they was before? Most all were changed to the good, only a few met Jesus, and decided to follow a different road - Judas Iscariot, and the rich young ruler - who went away very sorrowful because he had great "riches" and would not surrender them to Jesus, though he claimed he had been following all the commandments "from his youth up". On the other hand, the prodigal son, when he repented knew that his return to the father would involve "a change of mind that brought about a change of life." Some American theologians in our day try to take the power out of repentance, by saying that the word really only means "a change of mind." The only problem with that proposition is that the overwhelming evidence of scripture is NO ONE was the same after meeting Jesus - being "a new creation" was not merely a positional truth, it was backed by a changed life - every time!

When John the Baptist called men to "bring forth fruits worthy of repentance," and they asked him what that would look like in their lives, he gave them tangible "handles" for that change. He said, if you have two coats - give one to someone who has none, if you have extra meat, do the same. The tax collectors said, "What shall we do?" He said, do not collect more than you are supposed to (don't line your pockets with their money because of your authority). The soldiers said, "What about us?" To which he said, "Do violence to no man, don't accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages." Now, I ask you, could He possibly have been more down to earth in addressing people right where they live? In essence John was saying, if you follow God, your life will be diffferent. In other words, be sure your life demonstrates what you claim with your lips.

Just one more thought about repentance. The Greek word, metanoia is a combination of two parts - meta (change) & noia (mind) - thus the loose interpretation - a change of mind, however - you need to know that the root of the word is CHANGE! This is not the only use of this root in the New Testament. You are familiar with New Testament words like: transformed, translated, transferred & transfigured. Each of these words begins with the same Grk. word - meta. The word itself involves two key thoughts - change and movement. All the words you know involving that prefix have in them the same idea - something that is moving, something that is changing. Transportation, transmission, transpose, transact, transplant, transfusion - these all involve action, movement, change from one place to another. So, why are we afraid to call for change in the lives of professing believers?

Rom.12:2, says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind - the word - metamorphosis means Christians are to be different than the world. The J.B. Phillips translation of that verse says, "stop allowing the world to squeeze you into it's mold!" We are to be metamorphosized - you know the most recognizable illustration of that word is the transformation of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly! Oh the amazing difference between a worm crawling to advance his progress and a butterfly at liberty to fly! When the prodigal son returned to his father (which by the way, the entire of chapter of Luke 15 is about repentance) he knew numerous things would have to take place. While in the pig pen, "he came to himself"( a change of mind), he said, "I will arise" (activated his will), "will go to my father" (return from the place of rebellion), and "will say to him" (repentance involves confession), "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against thee"(conviction over sin), and "am no more worthy to be called your son" (attitude of unworthiness), "make me as one of your hired servants" (obedient heart to do the father's will).

I believe it is time again for us to call for changed lives if someone is going to claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The real power of God is demonstrated through a changed life. One reason why there has been no national revival in America for over 150 years is because we have stopped preaching for change! In times of genuine revival, the world sits up and takes notice because believers lives are different. Their lifestyle is uniquely noticeable, calling attention to itself, not because it is "like" the lost people around it, but because it knows the power of surrender and separation. A true believer lives for a different cause. Not money, not popularity, not worldy gain, not the deceitfulness of riches, not a lustful, never satisfied, covetous heart. A repentant believer talks differently, lives differently, gives differently, and is controlled by different viewing and listening habits. In the "unrevived" state of the church in America, we have spent millions of dollars & thousands of man-power hours trying to convince a lost community around us of their need for Jesus - much without power and to little avail. Church history records that in the revived state of the church, lost people will "climb over Christians" in an effort to get to God for salvation! 2000 years of Church history proves that the greatest times of regeneration of lost souls have come, not as a result of a direct evangelistic effort, but because of genuine revival in the lives of born again Christians. After all, the word "revive" means to live again. In order for something (or someone) to live again, they must have had life to begin with. Revival is NOT lost people getting saved, that is regeneration. Spiritual awakening (lost people coming to Christ) is a result of revival! Oh Lord, wilt Thou not revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Satisfaction of Seeking God

You shall seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with ALL YOUR HEART. (Jer.29:13) That really is the issue, isn't it? ALL your heart. We should not, in essence, be seeking revival ... we should be seeking God. It is while seeking God, that revival WILL come. You may ask, is this Biblical, is this New Testament theology? I believe it is, "Without faith, it is impossible to please God, for he that comes to God must believe that HE IS, and that HE IS A REWARDER OF THOSE WHO DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM." As Leonard Ravenhill said, "The one main reason why there is no revival in America today, is because we are content to live without it!"

What really is involved in "Seeking God?" Is this something that is done individually, as a family, or corporately as a church, a community, or as a nation? The answer to that question is undoubtedly ... YES! It incorporates all these levels - and as you look at church history - it has started at different times in each of those settings. Sometimes revival seems to begin TOTALLY as a Sovereign pursuit by God to us, however ... it also cannot be denied by any honest church historian, that at times, it was out of the desperation of men's hearts, that God moved in answer to their cries. Oh, I know that ALL OF THAT IS GOD'S IDEA ... for every good and Godly desire we've EVER had, began in the heart of God and was implanted in our hearts by the Spirit of God Who lives within us as believers. So now that we've settled this thing of God's will versus the freewill of man (like that is ever going to be settled this side of eternity LOL), let's move on to OUR responsibility in SEEKING GOD. There are SO many verses and exhortations for us to seek Him, that I cannot quote them all here, you can do your own search with a good commentary, I just want to give you the bottom lines, and then say to YOU ... GO FOR IT! SEEK HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART, FOR THE REVIVAL WE SO DESPERATELY NEED.

1) Seek Him first! Let God be our first stop and not your last. How many times do we only draw near to God when we want something? Our motives sometimes in this Christian life are so fleshly and self centered. Mt. 6:33 - Seek you first the kingdom of God ... Zech. 8:21,22 - Let us go SPEEDILY to pray before the Lord, & to seek the Lord of Hosts ... many people & strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts ...

Many of the kings urged and led the people in seeking God - David - I Chr.22:9, Solomon - II Chr. 7:14, Rehoboam - II Chr. 11:6, Asa - II Chr. 14:2,4,7, Jehoshaphat - II Chr.20:3,4, Uzziah - II Chr. 26:5, Hezekiah - II Chr.30:19; 31:20,21, Josiah - II Chr. 34:3.

2) Seek Him early. Oh God, Thou are my God, early will I seek Thee. Psa.63:1. in their affliction, they shall seek Me early - Hos.5:15. Psa. 53:2 - God looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were ANY that DID understand, that DID seek after God ... take a minute to ponder that thought ... the implication is that IF we understood, we WOULD seek. Understood WHAT? The heart of God? The purposes of God in eternity? The desire of God for YOUR life? The depth and richness of God? Whatever is means ... IF WE UNDERSTOOD ... WE WOULD SEEK. I think the essence of what this phrase means - early (quickness, speed, urgency, determination, intention and deliberateness - all in the original meaning) the bottom line is this - I think it means SEEKING GOD out of conviction, rather than out of crisis.

3) Seek THE LORD, not an experience. We are such a feelings oriented society today, especially in our "American christianity." We have almost demanded of God, that He give us a good feeling, an experience. So many of our services are geared toward getting us a "quick fix" so we can go on another day. And what happens if we don't get our "fix," we start to question the integrity & reality of God. If God really "loved me" or if God really "cared for me" He would make me feel better, or meet my financial "needs" or "bless me." Only in America do we equate the blessing of God with money and things! I have often told people, "God would do YOU an injustice if every time you met with HIM, He made you feel good." Then you would begin to relegate your relationship with God to good feelings. Then, your faith would be based upon feelings and experience, rather than faith! Without FAITH it is impossible to please Him ... the just shall live by FAITH ... now FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things NOT SEEN. He that comes to God must BELIEVE that He is, not feel that He is.

  • Experience must flow out of relationship, and not vice-versa. Rom.5:3-5

  • Experience must always be subject to the Word of GOD. Heb. 4:12 (Today, people are throwing off doctrine for that sake of their experience - "I don't care if it's Biblical or not ... I know what I experienced!") That is very dangerous! I actually saw a t.v. preacher tell about his experience to an audience, then mockingly say to them, "so you ask me, where is that in here" (mockingly holding up his Bible), then continue by saying, "it ain't in there" as he took his Bible and threw it across the stage! What did the crowd do? Did they rebuke him, did they walk out, did they in shock gasp at his actions? No ... they applauded and went right along with his blasphemous actions! How sad, how grievous! We, as fleshly, casual, CARNAL (at best, if saved at all) as American believers are going to have a lot to account for in judgment!

  • Experience must not become the standard of comparison for others. II Cor. 10:12 (some "push" their experience on others, and even whether or not that person is "spiritual" on whether or not they've had the same experience you've had)

  • Experience must never be raised to the level of inspiration. II Tim.3:16; Heb.1:1,2; II Pet.1:16-21 Some today in America have elevated to their experience to the level of inspiration - "you may not find it in the Bible, but I know what I experienced ... and you cant tell me it was not 'of God' "

  • Experience must validate itself through visible change in one's life. II Cor. 4:2; 6:3,4

  • Experience must be open to challenge and Godly counsel. Acts 11 (even though Peter had encountered God on the rooftop while God was opening the gospel to the Gentiles - when he went to give account to the brothers in Jerusalem - it was validated through proper channels -there was prayer, a vision, a voice, it was confirmed three times, the Spirit commanded, it was witnessed by these 6 men, the Holy Spirit fell upon them as on us at the beginning, then I remembered the Word of the Lord. All things were done decently and in order.

  • Experience must not become a determiner of doctrine. Eph.4:13-15 - grow up and stop being children swayed by every wind of doctrine!

4) Seek Him in the Word of God. This one should be obvious, but many times today, people will seek everywhere it seems BEFORE they get into the Word. Do you want to SEE Jesus ... do you want to KNOW Jesus? Then get into the Book!

5) Seek Him wholeheartedly!

  • Herein is the promise of finding Him : You shall seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jer.29:13; Psa. 119:2; Deut. 4:29; II Chr. 15:5

  • Herein is the place of rejoicing: Let all those that seek Thee, rejoice and be glad in Thee... Psa. 40:16; Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord ... Psa. 105:34

6) Seek His face, not His hand! The scriptures are filled with word pictures that help us in "seeing" God, as He is. Those pictures many times relate to different parts of our body, as human beings, in essence to reveal to us different traits within the nature of God. The theologians call these anthropomorphisms - that is the attributing of human characteristics to "non - humans" (which of course certainly fits God). We are told in scripture to seek His face for revival - II Chr. 7:14. Too many times we seek His hand instead. We use God in essence as our Santa Claus ... gimme' ... gimme' ... gimme'! We want power, we want provision for our earthly needs ... but we do we really want His face to be known? His face is synonymous with His favor, His pleasure, His smile. Psa. 105:4 - Seek His face evermore.

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. I Pet.3:12

Do we really want the favor of God? His face is inherently tied together in scripture with fearing God and righteous living. Hos. 10:12; Mt. 6:33; Zeph.2:3; Isa. 51:1; II Chr. 7:14 - seek My face and TURN from their wicked ways.

7) Seek Him continually. Seek the Lord, and His strength, seek His face continually. I Chr. 16:11. Seek His face evermore Psa. 105:4

Will you set your face to seek the Lord? What if revival never comes in your lifetime? Will you still continue throughout the rest of your life to seek Him in behalf of our nation ... in behalf of His kingdom. Do you remember where God said, I looked and wondered that there were no intercessors! Isa. 59:15,16; 63:5 Will you "follow hard after God" Psa. 63:8

Do you remember where God says, Seek ye the Lord WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND, call ye upon HIM, WHILE HE IS NEAR! The implications of this verse are astounding. There seem to be certain times when God is "near." Oh, don't let your theological mindset ignore or deny this truth. There are certain times when God draws near and draws near the hearts of those who are seeking Him. Oh, dear people, DO NOT MISS THIS! Even Jesus, while walking on this earth was looking for earnest seekers, those who would not give up on seeking and searching (Jn.4:23 - the Father seeks such to worship Him) ... those who were great in faith to pursue Him until their prayers were heard and their need was met. In Mt. 15 & Mark 7, Jesus leaves the Sea of Galilee area in order to go to the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, a roundtrip of somewere between 70-100 miles. There he meets a woman, a Greek, a Syrophenician whose daughter was demon possessed. She begs him to heal her daughter, he ignores her (answered her not a word), his disciples ask him to send her away, and even when she begins her plea he compares her to "a dog," and yet she worships at His feet, reasons with Him, and he grants her request, and states, "Oh woman, great is your faith!" Are you "okay" with this? Does your view of a "kind. loving, gentle Jesus" allow for Him appearing to ignore and deny this womans initial need? Please don't miss this ... He was wanting to find out if she would follow hard after God! She did ... and her need was met. From the text of Matthew and Mark, it appears that this was the only "project" Jesus took care of while in the coastal region of Tyre & Sidon - he then returns to the Sea of Galilee. I am convinced He went that 100+ miles specifically to meet this woman and daughter's need ... but it would only happen if she diligently sought Him. The same for blind Bartimaeus - had he listened to the crowd instead of continuing to cry out to Jesus, he would still be blind. I think Jesus heard him the first time he cried out, I believe He was waiting to see if Bartimaeus would listen to the crowd or get to God! Would he "follow HARD after God."

What will you do with this truth? Will YOU follow hard after God. Will you seek Him with ALL YOUR HEART? IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD, TILL HE COMES AND REIGNS RIGHTEOUSNESS UPON US! Hos. 10:12

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

God's Select Order for Revival

Leonard Ravenhill, whom I had the privilege of hearing in person and meeting with for questions and answers on several occasions stated it plainly, "The one main reason why there is no heaven sent revival in America today ... is because WE ARE CONTENT TO LIVE WITHOUT IT!"

I wonder how much that is true ... I wonder how often that is true in MY own life. Though I have carried a burden for revival for 35 years now, and seen it on numerous occasions ... how often am I content to live without it! I am convinced that THE GREATEST NEED in America is REVIVAL. Some are even uncomfortable with the word - they would rather talk about restoration, or renewal, or refreshing ... all good words, and all a PART of genuine revival ... but they are by-products and not the ultimate need. Psa. 51 would make it clear that they are all needed, but it seems we don't want to admit WE NEED REVIVAL. The other ideas "seem" a bit more positive, and we are more comfortable to say we need refreshment & renewal ... but we need to admit we are in many ways dead! We need to LIVE AGAIN. That is what revival means - God breathing LIFE back into the souls of His children.

I am firmly convinced that 2000 years of church history reveals that THE GREATEST TIMES OF LOST, UNREGENERATED PEOPLE COMING INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD, CAME, NOT AS A RESULT OF AN EVANGELISTIC EFFORT, BUT AS A RESULT OF REVIVAL. I spent 30 years of my life with Life Action Revival Ministries - where at that time (and as far as I know still) we stated our purpose for existence as a ministry was this - "To glorify God, through a revival among God's people, resulting in a spiritual awakening among the lost." I think there are several key things stated in that missions statement.

1) To glorify God - this is the ULTIMATE purpose for your life and mine while on this earth. It is not "soul winning" as vital as that is; it is not to build a large church building so people can come once a week for a couple of hours - then go out the rest of the week and "live for themselves"; or to be sure we have the best entertainment available in our community. Our purpose is, "whether therefore you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, DO ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD." I Cor.10:31

2) Through a revival among God's people - the very word revival means - to live again. I submit to you, that in order for something (someone) to live again, they must first of all to have possessed life. REVIVAL is for God's people. Are you hungry for new life to be breathed into you? Into your value system, into your choices, into your words, your use of time, your use of the finances entrusted to you, your morals, your viewing habits, your priorities. Can you think of any of those areas in which you need God to "breathe new life into it?"

3) Resulting in a spiritual awakening among the lost - certainly in our country we need moral reformation, we need character restoration, we need political replacement, we need historical return to the Judeo - Christian foundation that this nation was, without a doubt, founded upon ... but undergirding all of that ... we need millions of people in America to come to God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Once they are truly regenerated - they will begin to understand the need morally, politically, spiritually, socially in our land. Think of this - the last great revival that SO impacted the world took place in Wales in a 14 month period in 1904 - 05. Think of this - what if God were to move in America in just the same approximate level that He moved in Wales during that time ... we would witness over 30 million people getting saved in 14 months in our nation. Remember - He is able to do exceeding ABUNDANTLY ABOVE ALL (the name of this ministry) we can ask or think! How does He do that - through the power that works in us (believers) - what power - resurrection power. The same resurrection power that He demonstrated in raising Jesus Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19) He longs to demonstrate through us (Eph. 3:20) in revival.

So what are those ingredients in chronological order (which is important, since God outlines it as He did) II Chronicles 7:14 - we must:

1) Humble ourselves

2) Pray

3) Seek God's face

4) Turn from OUR wicked ways.

I will expand on those at a later time (though, if we are honest, we probably don't need someone to expand because the Holy Spirit in every believer is able to clearly expose to us, if we are listening, the specific needs in our own life).

DEAR FRIENDS ... we must humble ourselves. Shhh ... go ... get quiet ... listen to the Lord ... and let us agree with God, pray, seek His face and repent. Seek the Lord ... till He comes and rains righteousness upon us!