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!