"The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." – Genesis 17:8
Yea, I know. You thought I was done didn’t you? I had a pretty good run of a few weeks but I just got tired and quit writing.
Well, you were wrong. Sorry! I’m back and ready for some writing-action. Last week at Licking County Church of God, we had a great revival that went from Sunday to Sunday (Saturday was the only day that we didn’t have service). I love having revival, especially when there is more than one preacher, because God always seems to tie thematic and even scriptural threads through each of the services. It’s no longer surprising to me when I see sermons from totally different preachers line up with one another as if they had been planned that way. So, I thought it would be a fitting way for me to begin writing this week by noting some of the things that God taught me through the revival last week.
Revival May Not Be Pleasant…
Last Sunday morning, Brother Tony Bartlette preached on Joshua 5:6-6:1. He used these passages to draw a parallel between our lives and the life of Israel as she came out of Egyptian bondage. He noted that every person on Earth is either in bondage to sin, freed but walking in the wilderness, or enjoying the blessings and promises of Canaan. He then shared his belief that most Christians never make it out of the wilderness. They “accept Christ” but they don’t walk in true faith on a daily basis. As I listened to him speak, my mind was drawn back to a 2011 article I read from Barna. Their research showed that “among those who become ‘born again Christians,’ most never move past stop five (i.e., having invited Christ to be their savior and then engaging in a lot of religious activity).” They’re walking in the wilderness. As Brother Tony went on, he made the statement that when God wants to “birth something”, it’s never an easy or pleasant experience. He noted the births of Moses and Jesus, both of which took place in the midst of incredible carnage. Today, God wants to birth revival in His people; however, it won’t be an easy experience. It will be painful and uncomfortable. Like a woman experiencing birth pains, we will have our mind set on one thing: seeing the fruits of our labor. This message set the tone for the entire revival. Service after service, God continued to call His people to a full surrender to and focus on Christ alone.
Revival Begins With Seeing God…
Sunday night, we enjoyed another beautiful service that continued the ideas from the morning service. In this service, the necessary foundations for revival were laid. Brother Todd Watson brought a message that reminded us of the importance of treasuring the splendor of God and not losing sight of Him. Once we see God in all of His Glory, our own pitiful state without Him will be that much more obvious and confession will naturally result. For the church in America to experience real revival today, we desperately need to see confession. Too many Christians have held on to their private and public sins, not desiring salvation from sins but a salvation in their sins. We desperately need the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit to fall heavy on us, searching and trying us. We need him to see if there is any wicked way in us. And once it’s apparent, we ought to fall on our faces, confessing our sins and seeking God’s forgiveness. This is where true revival starts. The Welsh Revival of the early twentieth century is just one example of true revival beginning with confession and repentance but thousands of examples could be given. This is the root of God’s desired revival.
Christ is the Center of All…
Monday and Tuesday night, Brother Iran Watson brought two messages that continued the same theme. One was on the importance of keeping Christ at the center of all, the other concerned living in obedience to Christ’s commands. Once we experience conviction of sin, confess those sins, and repent of them, the next step is keeping our focus centered on Christ and His atoning work. 1 John 2:1 says, “These things write I unto you that ye sin not, and if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous…” Christ calls us to a life free from sin, but not a life lived in our own power. Christ’s message, and the message of the Apostles, was simple: Remain in Christ. As we remain in Him, obedience to his commands will flow from our lives as naturally as a branch will be empowered by the vine it’s connected to and will eventually bear fruit. Revival can’t be about how many people came to the altar or about singing great songs or listening to great preaching; it must be about Christ and Christ alone.
Christ Requires Our All…
God gave me such confidence in His word as I prepared to preach on Wednesday night. I looked at the binding of Isaac from Genesis 22 and reminded the congregation that God has called us to lay that which we ‘love’ on the altar just as Abraham had been asked to give up his son whom he loved. Jesus consistently asked those who came to him for that which they cared about the most. One of the best examples is the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus was clear, nothing could come in front of him. Not father, mother, son, daughter, or even self. Everything that we care about needs to be placed on the altar and submitted to God’s control. He may give it back to us, as he gave Isaac back to Abraham, but he may keep it. Regardless, we must be willing to part forever with anything he asks for. It’s an incredibly difficult position to be in, but it’s the only way to the Promised Land that God has waiting for us.
Choose the Narrow Way of the Disciple…
Brother Harold Kelly finished out the week by preaching Thursday and Friday evenings and Sunday morning. Each message built on and reiterated the points made earlier in the week even though Brother Kelly didn’t hear any of the message beforehand. Each of these messages were clear calls to choose the way of Christ and walk the narrow way. That’s what revival really comes down to, isn’t it? Realizing our need for God, choosing Christ, and walking in the Spirit. I’m including a few scriptures that we heard through the week as meditations for you to enjoy this week. As of right now, none of these messages are on our website; however, if that changes, I’ll include a link so you can enjoy them as well.