Friday, 19 September 2014

The Heart of Renewal

Exeter Temple Message notes
14th September 2014
Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 30:11-20

 As we think about worship, discipleship, pastoral care, mission and service and all that is involved I wonder if we say, “It’s too hard, it sounds great but it’s beyond us.

At the end of his life, Moses spoke to the people of Israel.   They had been released from slavery and come through the desert and were about to enter the Promised Land as a Covenant people, to enter into a new phase in their history, not just as a loose connection of nomadic tribes but with the hope in their hearts of becoming a settled nation, governed by laws given by God himself.
And many were daunted by the thought.  The phrase, “It’s too hard.” was on their lips. 
We have often I have heard those same words, sometimes from people, thinking about Christianity; “It’s too hard to understand, I’m not good enough, I’m too busy and I’m alright as I am.”  Or perhaps from church members in terms of worship and prayer; “We can’t agree about worship styles and everyone is too busy to pray. It’s too hard.” As for discipleship and holy living, we may have heard people say “It’s so hard, everyone is so materialistic and complacent about spiritual things.” It may be said in terms of mission and service.  The world is different than it was in the New Testament, in the early days of the Army, its more secularised, more complicated, more apathetic, laws are stricter, people are more easily offended, our numbers too small and our lives more pressured. “It’s too hard”.

v11 “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” 

In a word the commandments, laws and expectations of God are do-able.

 v12 “It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?”

God’s will is not up in the sky, it is not so airy, speculative or obscure that we cannot grasp its meaning. It is not among the secret things God has yet to reveal.

v 13 “Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ”Who will go across the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it.”

In other words you do not need to be superhuman heroes to go and fetch it.

Paul backs all this up in the New Testament.

2 Corinthians 4:6 "For God, who said, ’Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

God is able to change our hearts. There is nothing too hard for God and He will not give us impossible demands.
We have been considering the 5 Purposes of the church. What has been said has not been new but simply a renewed emphasis with the hope that we will find a renewed passion and commitment to see them operating among us.

1. Reason for Renewal
All of us, throughout our lives and throughout our Christian walk will need personal revival at various times, just as every person needs to take regular baths.  Every church that has survived more than a generation or two will require times of revival if it is to continue to represent and serve Christ in a powerful way.
“Revival is God at work, restoring His church to health.  Walter Boldt

Revival is needed when there is complacency, a religion of good works , lack of concern for the lost, hiding or covering secret sins or we are harbouring ill feeling and an unforgiving spirit towards other people; when there is pride.
These are areas that affect individuals, the church, the Salvation Army and our nation. We need to look at these things, not only with our minds but ask the Holy Spirit to show us what the reality is of our spiritual health. 

2.  Hope for Renewal
We can look back on times in the history of the Church in the UK when God has brought new life, restored health and growth. We can be inspired by our history.  We are not asking for something that has no precedent. There are examples of revival. The Welsh Revival in the 1900’s brought thousands into the church but also impacted society.
Between 1906 and 1910 80,000 people were added to the churches in Korea. Since the Korean War, 15 million have come to Christ in a nation of just over 40 million. There were less than one million Christians in China prior to 1950 but there are no between 70-90 million believers in a nation that contains one-fourth of the world’s population.
 “Lord, you can revive us again. We are not so deep in the mire but that You can lift us out. We are not so dead but that you can make us alive. Will you not revive us again? It is impossible to us, but it is possible to you. Lord, one touch of your hand, a breath from your blessed lips, and it is done.

“Brothers, Sisters, we believe in God, do we not? And if we do, we believe that whatever state a Church is in, God can bring it out of it! Do not run away from it and say, “God can never bless it.” He can bless it! Pray it up into a blessing and make this the essence of your prayer, “Lord, You can revive us. We believe it, and we look for it.”  Charles Spurgeon

3. Path to Renewal
It is good for Christians to reform and reshape; good to rework our thoughts and to reorganize our programs. It is good but not enough.   We have to go beyond reform to renewal and revival. There is a part that we have to take if we are going to go beyond reform.
True revival always involves the acknowledgement of sin and the forgiveness of sins. As he asks God to be merciful towards a people who have grieved him and caused him displeasure, he does soon the basis of the character of God.  “Show us your unfailing love O Lord and grant us your salvation.”   He sees that repentance is linked to joy. 

We connect repentance with tears but not joy.  But the one leads to the other. To confess our sin and to turn around and set off again knowing that you are now on the right road is to know a tremendous release.

It is sin, not the process of repentance that is the burden.  Revival may bring in tears, but it proceeds to joy. The Christian who is continually grieving on our past sins does not understand the grace of God. Revival and rejoicing go hand in hand. The coal mines in Wales were filled with singing. 

Renewal is not just about emotional moments.  It is on-going; not a spur of the moment trip to the mercy seat.  When we pray for renewal we need to count the cost and examine our motives.
If we want renewal because we want more exciting meetings and we think revival means God will zap everybody with conviction and we won’t need to do any more embarrassing evangelism then we had better forget it.  If we are looking for revival so that we don’t have to work so hard in the church because there will be more people about to do the jobs, forget it.  In Revival the voice of God is more clearly heard and will call us to greater challenges.  And we need to remember that alongside revival there is often also an outbreak of persecution. But to walk with God, in harmony with his will and with his approval has to be worth any cost. 

God bless

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