NEW TESTAMENT REVIVAL

Check out this continuous revival centuries ago.

JOHN. How’s this for a mighty move of God with the Baptist? “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Mark 1:5). Multiplied thousands.

JESUS. “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee…Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria…Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him” (Matt. 5:12, 23-25). As the miracles increased, so did the massive crowds, often difficult to control or to avoid. There were times when the disciples wanted Jesus to themselves—and could not have Him.

APOSTLES. Some of these Jews who Jesus ministered to were no doubt present on Pentecost, along with people from around the world in Jerusalem for the festival. When the outpouring of the Spirit spilled onto the streets, a huge crowd gathered because of the tongues activity. Peter likely preached to 10,000 or more. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41). From 120 to 3120, quite an upgrade!

After the healing of a well-known cripple, “all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade” (3:11). Time to preach again. Peter and John got thrown into jail, “but many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand” (4:4).

PHILIP. “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (6:7). Persecution after the death of Stephen pushed the church outside of Jerusalem, and even Samaria, hated by Jews, experienced a powerful move of God through the preaching and miracles of Deacon Philip.

PAUL. Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire (after Alexandria and Rome) at 500,000 inhabitants, experienced a move of the Spirit when persecution continued to push the church north, this time including Gentiles. They were received because Peter’s experience in Caesarea with the Cornelius crowd in a living room revival opened the door to non-Jews (11:18). “For a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people” (11:26). Antioch before long overtook Jerusalem as the center of the early church movement.

Revival turns to vival, and visitation becomes habitation when God’s people fully embrace the work of the Spirit and let it transform them. Do it again, God!

REVIVAL TRUTHS FROM THE BOOK OF JONAH

  • Asking Jonah to preach in Nineveh would be like asking a Jew to go to the Nazis or the parents of the Japanese journalist who was beheaded to go to ISIS. The thought of mercy in light of unspeakable atrocities is repelling to a sense of justice. Think cross and the unthinkable crime.
  • Jonah finally went. He preached judgment, and God released mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (Js. 2:13). Christ gets the curse, and sinners receive righteousness. God told Ezekiel, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live” (33:11). Jonah was right: “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God…” (4:2). God loves sinners. The Spirit (not the preacher) convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment, bringing mercy for the repentant. If we preach judgment, we do it, as D. L. Moody says, with tears. The last line of the book of Jonah is most telling regarding God’s heart. He reasons with Jonah, “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Can we hear Him say, “Should I not be concerned about the Twin Cities?” “…about Seattle? Moscow? Tokyo?”
  • God initiates revival but looks for partners. “How can they hear without a preacher?” This shows the incarnational character of revival: it is both a divine and human event. No revival has ever been a solo flight from heaven. God always looks for co-workers. And He uses all kinds. Elijah showed his fragility only moments after one of the most incredible days any prophet could imagine—fire from heaven and the demolition of the prophets of Baal. John the Baptist showed his weakness when behind bars. And Jonah did not want to abandon his anger toward Assyria. Yet God chose to use him. And He will use you. Sign up!
  • The pagans come off looking better than Jonah. First, the sailors were reluctant to throw Jonah over. When they realized they had to, they offered a humble prayer showing that they believed what Jonah said about his God: “You, O Lord, have done as you pleased.” Second, the preaching of Jonah evoked incredible city-wide repentance. What a lowly response from a king: “Who know? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” The greatest resisters to a move of God are sometimes the people of God. In the case of Nineveh, it was the prophet. Guard your heart when revival breaks.
  • Six centuries after Assyria fell, “a wicked and adulterous generation” asked for a sign. Jesus gave them Jonah, who prefigured His death and resurrection. The greatest proof of His Sonship was not the healing of a demonized blind man—enough of a sign, but His coming out of the tomb, just as Jonah came out from a death-defying ordeal in the same time-frame. Jesus also said remarkably, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here” (Matt. 12:41). Listen to that: they were truly converted—by a prejudiced preacher. They will say to religious resisters, “What?! We repented with Jonah, and you didn’t even repent with the Son of God!” Powerful book, powerful message, powerful God!

WHAT MIGHT A REVIVAL IN 2015 LOOK LIKE?

More and more prophetic types are saying that revival is imminent. 225 pastors recently met in the Twin Cities to talk and pray about revival. They said the meeting felt like they may be walking through the door.

Revival is God’s business. We don’t serve it up; we respond to a God who causes the wind to blow. And yet we take part in the dance. God brings unity and we maintain it (Eph. 4:3), God engineers revival, but we steward it. Here’s an outlook I would recommend we consider as we walk into the Big One that is upon us.

Knowing the history of revival tells us that it includes some important ingredients, like prayer, but the shape it takes depends upon how the wind is blowing. 2015 looks different from 1905, and even the Jesus revival of the 1970s. The internet could be used to great advantage in a viral culture. When people are healed of incurable diseases and 200,000 witness it instead of a hundred, we thank God for the internet!

What if…

  • As many people came to faith in Starbuck’s as at the altar? We have been transforming the marketplace into the ministry center the last two decades. In the ‘70s, we were still stuck at church. Some today may tarry at the altar; others at the coffee shop. Whatever works! Some would rather meet us on their turf than ours. Hey, that’s what the word “go” means.
  • What if no-names in every healthy church replaced the famous revivalist preacher? Bound to happen. We have enough churches ripe for revival that will spring into action. Having no-names share in leading the revival puts the right face before people—Jesus.
  • What if the revival was embraced by many churches, and revival turned into vival? Visitation becomes habitation, and God decides to stick around. The impact is long-term, because we move from a revival culture to a pastoral culture.
  • What if we were unable to pinpoint where it started? Then we would conclude it started in heaven. If it breaks out in many places simultaneously, we don’t have people flocking to a place but a church flocking to the people. Cool!
  • What if folks keep their hands off it, don’t try to own it but steward it as a move of God? Revivals are not affiliated with any denomination. Churches that know revival is a part of biblical and American history are more willing to embrace current revivals.
  • What if local churches had their own spin on the revival, each responding according to its own needs? Can a revival take on the flavor of the church receiving it? Hope so.
  • What if revival meetings were training sessions to take it to them? Few will come to us. (We’re doing it at our house, starting June 1st ).

Important ingredients:

  1. Extraordinary prayer. Down through history, prayer has been the single most important catalyst for revival. Pray for humility, discernment, unity and for multitudes swept into the kingdom. Join with others!
  2. Multi-generations. Malachi 4:5,6 waits to be fulfilled. An un-fathered generation stands under a curse. This revival will include a Father blessing from heaven and physical fathers renewed to put children above career.
  3. Five-fold ministry. We didn’t know a couple decades ago that the pastoral could be encouraged by the apostolic and the prophetic strengthening the evangelistic.
  4. Wider participation, including Catholics and Orthodox.

A MIGHTY MOVE OF GOD

…through an angry prophet. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me’” (1:1,2). The stench of their vile deeds had risen to heaven.

Jonah headed for Tarshish. Wrong direction. It’s been said, “If you want to run from God, you won’t have a transportation problem.” Jonah hated the Assyrian superpower, known for their brutality. Think Nazi or ISIS. He probably knew relatives victimized by unspeakable atrocities with monuments to prove it. You don’t want to know them.

“But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a violent storm…” (1:4). In a storm, you might want to ask who sent it. This had God’s signature. Disobedience brings discipline, but discipline shows love. God could have used someone else. “Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep” (5). Sounds like he’s escaping.

First a really bad storm. “Man overboard.” Then a really big fish. “Man swallowed.” Yuck! He cried out from inside: “In my distress I…” (finish the sentence)…”got angry at everybody,” “…sunk deeper in depression.” It reads, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave (Sheol) I called for help…” (2:2).

Imagine it: first being thrown into raging waters, sinking deep and almost drowning, then being swallowed alive. Hard to imagine anything more terrifying. Read his brilliant prayer, answered when the fish upchucks.

“Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” (3:1). There it is—God of the 2nd chance, and the 30th. Where would we be if He stopped after the first flop? Simon became Peter because God gave him another chance.

Round two: “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh…On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.’” Astounding: “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth…’Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’”

“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.” Call it the greatest single revival—ever. A whole metropolitan city repented at the preaching of judgment from a reluctant prophet.

God hated the brutality of the Assyrians like Jonah, but He wanted to give them another chance. “Justice is better served by reformed characters than corpses” (Leslie Allen). Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it”(Matt. 12:41). They repented—the religious leaders didn’t! We’ll meet them in heaven. No one is beyond grace.

Jonah’s experience gave him sufficient motivation to preach, not enough to forgive the Middle East bullies. The book of Jonah closes with God speaking a powerful question to Jonah “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Listen to the compassionate heart of God. If Nineveh, then Tokyo, Moscow, the Twin Cities. Should I not be concerned about Minneapolis/St. Paul?” Watch it happen—this summer!

ELEVEN REASONS FOR PRE-MARITAL PURITY

Sex is God’s idea. Satan has fooled many with the idea that God’s commands are too limiting, that “holy” and “happy” should not be used in the same sentence. Christians ask, “Why must we wait? We are engaged—or almost. It’s all right, at least not that wrong. Forgiveness is available.” Others acknowledge that they wanted to abstain but regretfully didn’t.

 

Why wait?

  1. Waiting builds trust. If you can break God’s law now, you can break it after you are married. Karen and I have no doubts with each other. We started building trust when we dated.
  2. Sex includes the possibility of a child. Are you ready to have a child? Not if you are not married. The first command given was to “be fruitful and multiply…” Sex is the consummation of marriage, not the preparation for. To join together sexually and yet not be prepared to accept all the responsibilities that accompany such action puts a strain on the relationship that God did not intend it to have.
  3. Jesus affirmed the order of creation. He said, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:4,5). Physical union is the privilege of a man and a woman committed to live together for life. Until a couple has made that commitment and gone public, they are not ready to have physical relationships. Jesus said so.
  4. Intimacy is for marriage. Paul wrote that “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (I Cor. 7:9). The solution the Bible offers to one whose passions are getting the best of him is to get married. Solomon writes, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”
  5. You’re not married until you’re married. Many are engaged and break up. They give themselves away, then wish they had not. The soul ties created by illegitimate sex can wreak havoc on marriages. Using sex to get a mate could mean getting the wrong mate. Sexual involvement blinds couples to the will of God as the physical relationship takes precedence over the spiritual and relational. Don’t sleep with someone else’s future spouse.
  6. Sex calls for boundaries. Like a power plant, strong and dangerous, it needs protection, which marriage provides. Sex without boundaries is a fire out of control. When sex does not include the borders of marriage, it cannot be enjoyed in the same way. Shame, guilt, doubt, distrust, and resentment often come from going ahead against the will of God. Sex on the sly does not bring the greatest fulfillment. It lacks the commitment that raises it to a higher level. (Warning: this blog is longer than usual).
  7. Restraint is not repression. Jacob waited for Rachel because he loved her. Some men use the opposite reasoning: “Because I love you, I want you.” Love can wait; lust cannot. Are you planning on being married for life? Then can you wait six months to prove your love?       At the center of the cross is self-denial. Followers of Jesus know the value of crucifying fleshly passions. Our greatest need is not for pleasure; it is for holiness.
  8. God knows how to enjoy sex. Satan does not. It is not that Satan is too passionate; he is not passionate enough. He separates sex from commitment, from child-bearing, from loving our partner God’s way, reducing the intensity and the joy of sexual love to irresponsible intimacy. Sex is more than a physical act; it is spiritual—every time.
  9. Look at the casualties. If you have stepped over the line, would you say it was worth it? You reap what you sow, and when you sow patience, you reap character. Once virginity is given up, it is never recovered. God forgives. but forgiveness does not restore the original condition. Some brides and grooms wish they could give their partner the gift of virginity. A wedding day can be clouded over by a pregnant bride or by a couple who have given themselves to multiple partners. Wondering if you are pregnant (and desperately hoping you are not) is a lousy way to enjoy sex. And abortions are out of the question for committed Christians. But then—so is pre-marital sex.
  10. Character counts. There are better tests for the choice of a marriage partner than physical compatibility. God provides a way to overcome temptation (I Cor. 10:13). Accountability to Christian friends can help. Engaged couples that pray together and walk in the light with mature Christian friends will look back on their engagement period with delight, not regret. According to the Bible, our bodies are not our own to do with them as we please. We give them to God to do as He pleases (Romans 12:1,2; I Cor. 6:19,20).
  11. The Bible says to “flee sexual immorality.” That doesn’t mean seeing how close you can get to the fire without being burned. Don’t put yourself in an apartment alone if you want to live by biblical convictions. Acknowledge your weakness—and your hormones. If my children said, “Don’t you trust us, Dad,” I would answer, “Of course I don’t. And I don’t trust myself. That’s why I construct moral fences.” Don’t assume that you can do what you want and simply play the forgiveness card. He does not forgive those hardened by sin and living for personal pleasure. He does forgive those broken by sin—and treats them as if they have never sinned. The grace that forgives is also the grace that empowers us to live in a way that brings more than God’s forgiveness; it brings His favor.

So what if you have already crossed the line? What if you have tried to come back and can’t? Sexuality takes in much more than the physical. A complex of issues could be involved, like abuse, poor parenting, mistaken identity, loneliness, or depression. We are not looking for people to blame, but we may need to look for the need behind the deed in order to find freedom. Without the grace of God to carry you, these eleven principles will only crush you. They are fulfilled not by grit but by learning to trust the indwelling Holy Spirit. This may require the help of a mentor or counselor to bring you to freedom. Because the Christian life is described as a walk, a process rather than an event, you may not be able to count on one prayer session or one talk with a friend to break the power of sin. Know that God has liberty for you, even if it takes time and a battle. Remember that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”