Experiencing Spiritual Renewal – Where to Start

Being a Christian is not always easy. There are many unique challenges faced by those who choose to follow Jesus. One thing is certain: We’ve not been called to take the course of least resistance. Since American culture has become more secularized, challenges to our faith and faithfulness have become increasingly common. The need for spiritual renewal is greater than ever before; as witnessed by the “conversations” taking place in every Christian community in America; the increasing number of people for whom church shopping and church hopping is the norm; and the increasing number of people we know who report their frustrations, saying such things as:
– I’m just don’t feel spiritually fulfilled
– I just don’t feel like I have a vital part in the church
– I find worship to be a meaningless repetition of ritualistic practices

Sometimes the only way to get a clear picture is from a distance…

Christianity in North America has become tainted: Too many Christians have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5). Missional renewal and church planting are desperately needed in a generation in which too many churches have accommodated to the rationalism and life styles of popular culture and do not readily reflect the majesty, glory, holiness, and love of God. –Gailyn Van Rheenen

We are faced with a conundrum. We are plopped down smack dab in the middle of this mess. What are we to do? How do we keep the fires of zeal burning brightly? How do we fan dieing embers to a roaring flame once again? What program can we put in place, what ministry can we launch, what new attitude can we embrace, what experts can we hire, what traditions should we emphasize or what traditions should we discard in order to get on the right path?

To be more precise, what does it take to experience spiritual fulfillment on a personal level? How does a person become a vital part of his or her church family? How can I find fresh, new meaning in my worship experience? Now, to be candid, there is no program, no ministry, no new attitude, no expert advise, nor any amount of change or refusal to change with respect to “the way we do church” that will produce the spiritual renewal that is needed in our world, or in our churches, or in our families, even in our own lives.

To be completely candid, everything mentioned previously is just cosmetic. No, it’s worse! It’s like treating a melanoma with a band-aid. This is the reason that Jesus was so opposed to the Pharisees. Their practices produced only a pretend righteousness—they held to a form of godliness but denied its power! Only when we are thriving in a vital relationship with God that revolves around Christ and is made powerful by the Spirit can we experience the kind of spiritual renewal that sets us on the road to revitalization.

See how this is brought to light in Ephesians 3:14-21, “ 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Still, you may be wondering…
…What does it take to experience spiritual fulfillment on a personal level?
…How does a person become a vital part of his or her church family?
…How can I find fresh, new meaning in my worship experience?

The answer is brought to light in Revelation 2:5

Remember the height from which you have fallen!
Repent and do the things you did at first (Renew).
If you do not repent, I will come to you and
remove your lampstand from its place.”

Before we look more closely at this verse, let’s remember a few things about the context:

First, these saints had previously soared to great heights in service to Christ. From this vantage point they were able to see the Gospel of Christ make an impact throughout their homeland. It seems that the result of Paul’s daily discussions with the disciples in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, resulted in all the Jews and Greeks in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. (See: Acts 19:8-10)

Second, they were known for several distinguishing qualities (Revelation 2:3ff) such as: their deeds and hard work; they refused to tolerate wicked people; they tested those who claimed to be apostles; and, they endured hardships for the name of Christ and did not grow weary

Third, the Lord said, in spite of these things, He did hold one thing against them. He said, “You have forsaken your first love!”

Now, to these people who were clearly in need of revival–to these Christians who were, at best, stumbling in the light, Jesus issues a three-fold exhortation. In a sense this is His recipe for revival. He says with clarity that they should REMEMBER; REPENT and RENEW!

As we consider how this truth applies to us, each of us should:

(1) Rise to the challenge: Have I forsaken the Lord, my first love? Am I teetering close to the brink of doing so?

(2) Look deep within: Do I have a vital relationship with God that revolves around Christ and is made powerful by the Holy Spirit?

(3) Look around, all around: Have I forsaken your Lord’s commandment to love my Christian family? Am I a faithful encourager or a frequent discourager?

REMEMBER – REPENT – RENEW

THE NEXT MOVE IS UP TO YOU!

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, Blogroll, Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Following Jesus, Life, Preaching Notes, Spiritual Renewal. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Experiencing Spiritual Renewal – Where to Start

  1. Greg England says:

    Anything short of “Christ in us” (Colossians) is dung … to paraphrase Paul. And his use of that particular Greek word is not a cleaned up version! It’s a filthy, nasty word.

  2. So true. So true…thanks for the reminder, Greg!

  3. Angie says:

    Bill, once again you’re my hero.

    This is the heart of the matter to so many people I know, whether they have been missionaries for years or if they’re just coming into relationship with God. It’s on my heart now as well… What a battle it is to fight off the daily distractions living in this world brings! Your 3 R’s are really the ROOT of new growth though… those are the things that will bring us into the awareness we’re looking for. The nearness of God isn’t always apparent, though it always exists. I’m glad transformation is a process, and I love the glimpses He provides along the way. Just got one here today…

    Confession: I cannot believe the wealth of things you have to share on your blog… seriously, man, you’re hard to keep up with! Everything is so rich – makes me sad when I am not able to keep up with your blog. It’s obvious your heart overflows with what God is doing in you. I’m so glad to get these pieces of it…

  4. Excellent material Bill. Easy to remember. Difficult to live. Thank you Lord Jesus for the Spirit that lives within.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine
    Stoned-Campbell Disciple

  5. kreyes says:

    Oh hey, you put me on your blogroll – how sweet! I didn’t expect you to do that. Just a note: Sometimes I do post irreverantly…..I’ll give you a heads up when that happens. I have a very quirky sense of humor. Make no mistake though, I am a beliver through and through – just a very human one.

    Peace and thanks!
    K. Reyes

  6. Angie… What a joy it is to hear from you! I’m always encouraged by your comments…especially when you say things like: the nearness of god isn’t always apparent, though it always exists! Kinda like the air we breath, huh? When you talk about transformation being a process, it reminds me of the song: He’s Still Workin’ on Me. Remember it? Oh, and thanks, also, for your entertaining post today. It makes me laugh just thinking about it now!

    Bobby… You are so correct. I walking by the Spirit were as simple as rattling off a few catchy phrases, wouldn’t be a cinch? I think the key factor has to do with the first word in that phrase. We’re called to walk, which suggest measured and steady progress. The joy is in the journey, because God is with us IN SPITE of our weaknesses and failures! Praise the Lord!

    KReyes… Here at the Spiritual Oasis we are firm believers in the idea that it takes all kinds. As one of my spiritual shephers says, “We are all works in progress.” Besides, those of us with four or more children have to stick together!

    Grace and Peace to all,
    -bill

  7. cwinwc says:

    The key for our churches to “grow spiritually” is for each member (including me) to individually want to grow spiritually. If we can somehow tune into the spiritual discipline that the Holy Spirit offers we can start on this path rather than argue and fuss about issues that keep us off balance.

  8. dojo says:

    Sometimes the “renew” is the hard part…you have been there before and suddenly you can’t find peace in #3. Many times we let that effect how we carry out #1 and #2.

    We have to do our part to make our community vibrant and yet, this is not our idenity. We must establish and nurture our relationship with God, sometimes that too has to be done “from a distance”.

    Great thoughts Bill!

  9. Yes, Cecil, you are correct. It is not by individual effort (by might) or by our combined efforts (by power) that we accomplish what God has called us to; instead, it is by God’s Holy Spirit! See: Zechariah 4:6. I know I keep beating that drum. Please forgive me if I sound like a broken record. But my sense is that we are going to need to hear this over-and-over before the reality finally sinks in!

    Donna:

    I am sooo glad you found this little blog. Your comments are so poignant. Especially when you say: We have to do our part to make our community vibrant and yet, this is not our idenity. We must establish and nurture our relationship with God, sometimes that too has to be done “from a distance”. So true! So true!! Thanks, sis., for blessing us with your insight!

    Grace and peace to all,

    -bill

  10. Kathy says:

    Bill, can we really come close to fulfilling #s 1 and 3 if our lives are not totally immersed in love and devotion to God – a Christ-centered life, powered by the Holy Spirit? If we are not like Paul and King David, intoxicated with God, how can we possibly hope to accomplish love for our fellow man, especially for the Body of Christ? And if we ARE like them, how could we then possibly be teetering, as you mention in #1? How can we possibly NOT love others if we are totally Christ centered and intoxicatedly in love with our God, LORD and Savior and Holy Spirit?

    That love is our balance pole, it is the engine that motivates and steadies us in our spiritual journey.

  11. Kathy says:

    A quick addition to the above.

    We often are so concerned with being moved out of difficulties and pain that we forget that God has said the only way He can finish our sanctification, is to burn the dross out of the gold ore through trials. Paul says we are to give thanks for those trials and for God’s discipline – they are expressions of His loving presence in our lives.

    Ergo, I agree with Oswald Chambers. Rarely do I pray that a fellow believer’s trial be lifted, rather that as they go through it, they are aware of God’s presence with them, guiding them, comforting them, showing them His purpose in their trials, giving Him the glory for all that occurs in their lives. We pray, rather, for their reliance on God, for their absolute trust in Him, trusting that He is guiding our lives, and the outcome of all problems will bring Him glory if we are truly Christ-centered intoxicated with Him. Tough to do at times, but what a glorious worship of our LORD grows out of that full trust and leaning on God.

  12. Bill says:

    Excellent thoughts Kathy! Thank you so much for sharing them here!! There are so many facets to this topic. Everyone merits our consideration, too.
    I think you’ve amplified what I was trying to say when I stated:
    “Only when we are thriving in a vital relationship with God that revolves around Christ and is made powerful by the Spirit can we experience the kind of spiritual renewal that sets us on the road to revitalization.”
    I especially agree that this comes about through living a Christ-centered, love-filled life, which seems to be the essence of Ephesians 3:14-19. Your thoughts about prayer and the believer’s trials are particularly poignant. Some of Paul’s greatest lessons were learned in the furnace of adversity, huh? Peter called such suffering as “necessary” in order to prove the authenticity of our faith… “These (grief in all kinds of trials, v. 6) have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

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