In 2006 our church experienced a revival-like period that lasted ten to twelve weeks. There are several factors I believe contributed to its waning. These factors are related to a misunderstanding or misappropriation of biblical thinking. I want to look specifically at four of them in the weeks to come.
In Jesus’ parable of the sower
(Mark 4:1-8, 14-20)
, the second type of soil was shallow and rocky, causing the plant to have no root. Jesus does not expound on what that missing root represents but it is clear from other passages what kinds of roots must be in place in order to produce a fruitful life. One of the foundational roots that must be in place in order for us to sustain God’s work is repentance. I am convinced that this was missing in some people’s lives causing the outpouring of God’s Spirit to not having a more lasting impact.
The fact that salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9), does not negate the need for a person to repent in order to be saved. John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles all preached the need for it. Some people believe they have only “received Christ” but without ever turning from sin. But this is not saving faith according to the Word.
Furthermore, even those who are truly saved regularly experience the gift of repentance as they undergo the sanctifying process of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is the heart’s natural and logical response to experiencing the reality of a holy God. This is why repentance accompanies every true revival. It’s been said that the depth of repentance will determine the depth of the revival.
When I was in my early twenties, trying to find myself, I participated in a New Age seminar put on by an organization called Lifespring. After our group had spent several days together, we did an exercise called the Lifeboat Game. We were instructed to imagine that we were on a boat that was sinking. Though our group numbered 40, there was only room on the lifeboat for twelve people. We had to decide as a group by voting which of the twelve of us would be saved.
Each of us took turns walking around the circle looking each person in the eye and saying “you die” or “you live.” Each person was allotted twelve “you live” votes. Staff members stood behind the circle and tallied the count.
I had a high opinion of myself and was confident that I would be one of the twelve winners. I figured people would favor me over most others. When the results of the voting were announced, each of the twelve chosen ones moved into the center of the circle. I was not one of them.
As I looked at the twelve that had been selected, I was filled with jealousy. In fact, I felt hatred toward the ones picked. As I recognized the ugliness of this intense jealousy and hatred in my heart, it broke me. Although I hadn’t cried in years, I wept uncontrollably for several minutes over the condition of my heart. I was not familiar with the verse at the time, but I was realizing the truth of Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB):
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”
Brokenness over our state is crucial to both salvation and to the revival of believers.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David wrote:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”
(Psalm 34:18). Hosea 10:12 says,
“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground.”
How does this plowing of the heart and broken-heartedness happen? A
person hears the high standards of God as revealed in His Word, in His Word and as lived out by Jesus. In view of this s/he says: “I have fallen short. I have blown it big-time. I deserve God’s wrath and I need a new heart.”
Comprehending God’s high standard, it is like holding up a pure white sheet of paper next to a person’s teeth. That individual may have thought that their teeth were white but the pure white sheet exposes the yellowing of their teeth. So also, exposure to the perfection of God reveals our sinfulness.
This kind of divine work prepares a heart to see its need and to truly receive Christ. After coming to Jesus, a person has a tremendous appreciation of the salvation he or she has in the Lord.
Imagine that you are with a small group of outdoor enthusiasts on a snow shoeing trip in the Cascade Mountains. The temperature is above freezing, it’s dry and your party comes across members of a search and rescue unit. How might you react to seeing them? It would not be that big of a deal given that you are doing okay and no one in your group is in any kind of danger.
But suppose the conditions were different. The temperature is below freezing and a blizzard is causing the visibility to drop to zero. Some of your companions have frostbite and others have hypothermia hampering their ability to make good judgments. You’ve built a snow cave and are desperately clinging to life.
Now suppose that a search and rescue unit comes by under those conditions. Desperate and needy, you would greatly appreciate them and what they have to offer. When you got home you would sing their praises and tell people all about your experience. You would be eager to donate money to the unit because they saved your lives.
So it is with Jesus. It is those who have deeply recognize how far they have fallen short that truly embrace Jesus’ grace and come to appreciate what he has done for them on the cross. Have you done this?
As Isaiah wrote, it is the poor in spirit that God revives:
For this is what the high and lofty One says-- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’”
Copyright Ed Skipper 2013