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Spiritual Awakening

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Without Jesus lost people are hopeless.

In today’s Bible reading, Paul continues his allegations that no one has an excuse when it comes to having a right standing before God. Paul quotes Psalm 14:1-3 and Psalm 53:1-3 to say that all are guilty. None are righteous and no one seeks God.

Just Friday morning, I saw a group post on Facebook where a small church pastor asked for prayer. He said he was preparing to preach a funeral of a nonbeliever who worshiped a lot. I responded that nonbelievers may go to worship services, but nonbelievers are incapable of worship of God. Those who have the Law are condemned by the Law and even those without the Law are condemned by the law in themselves.

Application

Paul makes it crystal clear. Fallen people don’t have it in themselves to be sensitive to spiritual things. It takes a miraculous act of God to spark life in us that enables us to even be interested in the things of God. But when we experience God’s miraculous act of salvation, we so quickly latch onto the promises of God! We know instantaneously that God is all that He claims to be in Jesus Christ.

God is gracious to reach out to us in the midst of our fallen condition. Under what other condition could we be? Those without Jesus are in a desperately hopeless condition. They may think they’re only slightly affected by the Fall. But Paul couldn’t be clearer that apart from Jesus, we are lost. We are hopeless. We are helpless. By definition, we are unworthy of God’s grace.

And recognizing our condition is the best place to be to cry out to God and to receive His grace and mercy. We may think this heartcry is our initiative. But Paul says it’s simply a response to God’s initiative.

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awestruck

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus tells His Disciples that one must come to Him as a child. In fact, one who comes like a child will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

What is it about coming as a child that Jesus praises? Well, He mentions one thing: humility. Like I’ve said before, the first rule in Christianity 101 is God is God, and the second is, you’re not God. If you want to come to Jesus, you have to come in humility. You have to lay aside your claims to privilege. You have to lay aside your preferences. You have to accept His preferences. And the more you can do that, the better things will go for you in your life.

I’m not saying that your life will only go well. On the contrary, your life may look like it’s falling apart from the outside. But as you seek His priorities, the more you will see higher purposes for the things that happen in your life, the good things and the bad things that come through the hands of your loving Father. Nothing happens apart from His control. Nothing happens apart from God’s very decree.

But not only is humility part of coming as a child, so is coming with a sense of wonder, a sense of awe concerning the things of God. You may see children as being gullible. They tend to believe everything. But not only that, they also have a sense of recognizing wonder in the universe.

“As much as children ask why, when it comes to the wonder of the world around them, they do not ask why because they are skeptics, but rather they ask because they believe and thirst to know the world’s secrets. The miraculous is everywhere, and the children embrace it. There is something about growing older that turns us off to wonder, making our visits to Narnia less and less common. David Bentley Hart contrasts the way of children with the way of adults: ‘As we age … we lose our sense of the intimate otherness of things; we allow habit to displace awe, inevitability to banish delight; we grow into adulthood and put away childish things.'” [1]

Application

If you are a Believer, where is your sense of awe? Where is your sense of wonder? Where do you find delight? What childish things have you put away?

When was the last time you were awestruck by an encounter with God through His Word? When was the last time you were rendered speechless with thoughts of the things of God?

In what ways do you need to recapture the humility, awe and wonder of childhood?

[1] I just happened to read about this just this afternoon in None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God by Matthew Barrett. © Copyright 2019 Baker Books, p. 42.

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This video showed up in my Facebook Newsfeed this evening. Is this true?

Regardless, let’s use this time to pray that God will use our current crisis to turn hearts to Himself.

God, will You do it again? Will You send a Third Great Awakening to our country to spread around the world?

Jesus sends our His Disciples for ministry
Image source: LumoProject

In reading through today’s Bible reading and looking back on the past four weeks of “stay at home” to flatten the curve of the coronavirus, I must say, I’m very much in a reflective mood.

As you look at what Jesus said in Matthew 10:5-15, you see a lot about what the Disciples were commissioned to do, but Jesus didn’t tell them how to go about it. One obvious point is that not once did He say anything about setting up a building as a center for ministry.

In one YouTube video I saw today, the speaker said that some church leaders (of large churches) in Canada suggested that they may not be able to return to “normal” church services until August or September. August or September!

In light of Jesus’ commissions for His Disciples in today’s reading and our recent inability to do church like we’re used to, we really need to ask some serious questions about how we are supposed to do church as we move forward.

As we begin to talk about going back to church — at least at first — we won’t be able to go back to what we’re used to. We will have to do some things differently. The mission remains, but the methods must change.

Perhaps God is giving us a chance to press the “Reset” Button. Perhaps what we’ve been doing for the past five hundred years needs to look different as we move forward. Maybe we need to stop doing some things we’ve been doing because the methods have served their purposes for a time and it’s time now to move on to more relevant things.

In some ways, we have already done this. Compared to fifty years ago, how many churches still conduct “Bible Drills” and Vacation Bible School? How many churches have an active “bus ministry”? How many churches have “Revival Services” twice a year anymore? How many churches still have a choir that wears choir robes for Sunday Morning church and present two cantatas per year? How many preachers still wear three-piece suits on Sunday Mornings? How many churches still have weekly door-to-door cold-call visitation?

Things have changed. We have already laid aside many things that may have run their course for our specific context. Note: I’m not saying that churches shouldn’t do any of these things anymore. I’m just saying that in many contexts, these methods aren’t as effective as they used to be. As a result, we have retooled our methods, as retail stores have abandoned brick-and-mortar-only approaches to selling products to customers. The market changes and our methods of delivering on our mission should also change to reflect those changes.

Just before we began to talk about merging churches, I preached about our need to do whatever it takes to reach different types of people: The lost, the traditional church-goers, and the former traditional church-goers.

Application

I have a few quick questions for our church specifically, and to other church-goers in general. When you look forward to getting back to meeting together as a church, what are you looking forward to? What do you miss? Finally, what needs to change when we go back?

On Wednesday afternoon, I attended a webinar about finishing well as a believer and church leader. Someone commented that preachers oftentimes say that they are “called into the ministry”. He followed this by saying, “No. You aren’t called into ministry. You’re called to intimacy. Ministry will flow out of intimacy.” As I reflected on this profound quote, I wondered if the intimacy he referred to was limited to (vertical) intimacy with God or if it includes (horizontal) intimacy with others.

Especially in light of today’s reading and my comments above, I believe it includes both types of intimacy. Having said that, I have to ask how much of my ministry has not been focused on vertical (with God) and horizontal (with others) intimacy (ie, the mission), but rather on the methods.

I have a lot to learn.

Nothing is more relevant to the world right now than the message of the Gospel. People are reaching out, looking for hope. Looking for answers. Record numbers of people have downloaded the YouVersion Bible App. And I have been shocked at how many people are viewing our Sunday Morning Messages on Facebook Live.

May we be true to our mission and flexible in our methods, seeking God’s leading all the time.

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And now, the rest of the story

Apollos was an eloquent preacher. He was well-versed in the Old Testament Scriptures. He knew his stuff. But he wasn’t “up to snuff”.

In today’s Bible reading, Dr. Luke tells us about an Alexandrian preacher named Apollos. Look at the positive words Dr. Luke uses to describe him: eloquent, competent in the Scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in spirit, speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus. (Acts 18:24-26)

But Luke adds that Apollos only knew of John’s baptism. So Aquilla and his wife Priscilla take him aside and teach him more accurately. What was lacking? What needed clarification?

If Apollos only knew of John’s baptism, he didn’t know about the Holy Spirit’s baptism and Jesus’ resurrection. Those are some very important things! The Holy Spirit’s baptism and Jesus’ resurrection are what make Christianity more than just another religion or a cult of Judaism. With those two realities, Believers are empowered to live the life that the Jewish Law prescribed. Radio commentator Paul Harvey would have said that the Holy Spirit’s baptism and Jesus’ resurrection are “the rest of the story”.

Application

Yes, Apollos preached about Jesus accurately. But he needed to know — and experience — more accurately. And by taking him aside and explaining the rest of the story, Aquilla and Priscilla changed his trajectory from being an eloquent preacher to being an empowered preacher. Being eloquent wasn’t enough for Apollos. And it isn’t enough for you or me. We also must be empowered by the Holy Spirit to live the obedient life to which we’ve been called.

It’s relatively easy for someone to go out and get an education and then teach the truths of the Bible. But being empowered by the Holy Spirit takes the education to “a-whole-nother” level. God doesn’t want us to simply transfer knowledge from one person’s head to another person’s head. God wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) as the Holy Spirit applies the truths to our hearts.

Are you being renewed? Are you seeking to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit? (Ephesians 5:18)

Don’t settle with mere head-knowledge.

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