Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jesus Gave Us The Steps We Need For Spiritual Renewal

I want us to be honest with one another here and confess together that we get tired. We don't just get tired from our work and circumstances in life, we also get spiritually tired. Often this happens because we allow our activities to become more important than the relationship. When activities become the focus and we let go of our relationship building with God we start to grow dull in our hearing and it becomes harder for us to receive from God. We start relying on our own wisdom and strength while still trying to do Kingdom things, but Kingdom things require God's wisdom and strength. In time we will be incredibly weak and tired spiritually. This leads to all kinds of dangers, indifference toward God being the greatest.

Indifference has to be the worse mental state possible. It is the sense of not caring one way or the other about a person. Their actions, their words, their attitude simply has no affect on you, like they didn't even exist. This is terrible when we feel this way about a person, it is deadly when we feel this way toward Jesus. It happens more than you realize. Our churches are sprinkled with people who are indifferent toward Jesus, who are there to please someone else or simply because it's habit. The Bible refers to this state as being lukewarm and there is a warning that goes with it. In the book of John's Revelation we come across this power passage of warning:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16)

This state of indifference is a horrible thing that God can only deal with by rejection. Jesus says that he would have us be either passionate or cold toward him because with these he can work but indifference is an entirely different thing. The indifference of the church of Laodicea came about because of their lack of reliance on Jesus:

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:17-18)

It is not just riches that blind us to the goodness of our God and our reliance on him. When we start being independent from him, forgetting his benefits, we start relying on ourselves. Jesus says here that we do not realize that we are wretched, pitiful, poor blind and naked. We forget our dependence on his righteousness, that we are only good because he has declared us good, and we start believing that we are okay because of what we do. That sets us up for a fall because then we really think that we are righteous by our hand instead of because of God's unfailing love. The psalmist told us not to forget:

Praise the LORD, O my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:2-5)

I think many of us need to experience spiritual renewal again, when the Holy Spirit will come in and reveal to us our true condition, if we are willing to receive it. We have to seek his face, cry out for renewal. We first have to pray that he will call to us because we can't respond if he is not calling. Lord call to us so that we can fall on our face and respond to you. Jesus tells us there are three things that we need to do for renewal.

First, allow everything that does not belong to him to be burned away. Anything that is important will remain but everything else must go so that we will be freed again:

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich.

You will probably be fearful at first but let it go so you can possess what is of greater value. Refining fires sometimes hurt a bit as God walks us through some defining moments, but instead of fighting with him cooperate and see what he is doing. There are many things you have taken on that are nothing more than clutter, that are acting as a blockage between you and God. These have to be burned off so you can experience freedom in Jesus again. Allow the Spirit to guide and strengthen you.

The second step in this process is a willingness to confess your self-determination, self-ambition, self-reliance and also confess that only Jesus saves. Being clothed in garments of self-righteousness is ugly, full of decay and death. It is only in accepting the truth that Jesus' actions save us and that we are clothed in his righteousness that we will be able to progress:

and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness

In our luke-warm state we are naked and ugly. Our shame must be covered. You may not "feel" this way in your daily activities but in the quiet of the night you probably "feel" empty and distant from God. The moment we cease our activities we realize that something isn't right. That is the moment when the Spirit will speak and tell us that we need Jesus a lot more than he needs us. Stop trying to earn your salvation and allow God to cover you.

The third has to do with our spiritual eyes. When we become tired, indifferent, self-reliant we also become dim in our spirit and blind in our sight. We can no longer see what God is doing and what he wants us to do. The spirit realm is encased in a fog bank and we are left on the outside. Recognize this, confess it, be entirely honest about your condition. Then, as we allow Jesus to re-establish himself in us, the Holy Spirit acts as a healing salve on our eyes and restores our sight:

and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Indifference will keep us blind and will lead to our destruction. Can you honestly say that you are just as passionate and strong spiritually as you were at the height of our walk with Jesus? Has there been any slippage? Look at your life, the circumstances, the storm you are in. Is there a possibility that God is wanting to walk you through some refining fires:

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:19-20)

The time to worry is when you feel the indifference and nothing is happening in your life. You feel tired, lack any energy to pursue God, have become sick of the Word and prayer and really don't want to hear what God is doing in other people's lives. Your life is okay, no hiccups, no storms, no difficulty. Mind you, there is no joy, no pleasure and life seems kind of pointless right now, so that your only motivation is survival. Let me encourage you to fall on your face right now and repent. Call out to our Father and ask him to call to you. You are in a dangerous place and you desperately need renewal. Seek his face and you will find him but understand, because he loves you he will walk you through some discipline, some refining fires to bring you back to where you need to be. And he has promised us:

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)

Don't delay, not even for a moment; seek his face right now.

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