Posts Tagged ‘repentance’

There is a plethora of “churchy” words that, when invoked, sounds like little more than meaningless jargon in the ears of most people outside of the church. On the other hand, even inside the great family of God there are some expressions that have become so muddled under layers of generational over-familiarity that the original convictions or spiritual insights that they represented have been lost in antiquity.

The word “revival” may be as good an example of this as any other word of which I can think. Even in areas or among populations where the word is widely used, its real significance is generally entirely overlooked. Most of the time, when the word “revival” comes up, we refer to a set of meetings (usually running about a week and often featuring various singing groups and certainly fiery speakers). And if we as Christians tend to miss the point of the word, “revival”, it should come as no surprise that the world too can have some funny ideas about what we mean when we throw up our banners and advertisements promoting them.

The word “revival” itself simply refers to the restoration of life. As Christians we use the word to refer to God’s restoring His people to an exciting and satisfying relationship with Himself after they had repented from falling away from Him, having been either distracted or enamored by other things.

“Revival” therefore does not refer to a meeting. Contrary to some opinions, it does not even refer to a large number of people receiving the Lord Jesus as their Savior and becoming Christians. Such a response can be a fruit of revival but is not revival itself. After all, how can one “re-vive” something (that is to say “to bring to life again”) when that something was only just then receiving life for the very first time?

Today, as we look across the spiritual and moral wasteland that besets our vision, we might wonder if the church has a diminishing capacity to make a difference in the world. If so, it is because we need revival. We are no longer living with the power of Christ Who, in His earthly ministry, left people knowing that somehow life would never be the same for them because they had been confronted with the presence of God.

“When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29 ESV).

Authority? Yes… He did not instruct them as we often do in the presumption of our own intellect and limited abilities. He came sanctioned by the Father to bring the message of God’s love and the glory of His manifest (unveiled) presence. He came in power and that power, produced in His life by both the presence of the Holy Spirit within Him and the approval of the Father upon Him, radically engaged people with the spiritual facts of life: 1) that there is a Holy God in charge of the universe, 2) that humanity is woefully and eternally separated from Him by the reality of sin (selfish willfulness in our own lives), and 3) that God has mercifully provided Himself as the object of justice in the form of His Son that we might receive forgiveness and restoration with Him provided we truly turn to Him in faith.

And it is still the Father’s will that such power continue to engage the world today. Access to that power has been entrusted to God’s people “to preach good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to recover sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (from Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61:1-2).

Consequently, as we walk humbly with Him through life, cultivating our relationship with Him, He Himself dwells within us, assaulting bastions of hatred and despair with love and hope. In reverse, if we do not walk with Him, we lag behind His activity in the world, we become disconnected from the lifeline of His love and our hope becomes eclipsed by cares from the world. When God is not first place in our lives, the whole world suffers for it.

But thankfully, He has promised that, “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

Perhaps we as the church of today are losing our ability to powerfully and effectually conquer the world with love and faith because we’re allowing our lifeline (relationship with Him) to become detached. Perhaps we’re ceasing to be a living “body” of believers and are little more than dry and barren structures upon which spiritual flesh once hung. Maybe we’re dangerously close to being a great mass of “dried up old bones”.

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” - 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” – 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

That is what revival is. It is God gracefully bringing us back to spiritual life when we’ve finally despaired of all the deadness that the “alternatives” to faith in Christ offer us. Once we’ve repented of our own waywardness and have returned whole-heartedly to Him, we allow Him to take His rightful place in the throne of our hearts. As Lord of our lives, He brings healing, hope and fulfillment once again to not only His children but to the rest of the world, too.

“Revive us again; fill each heart with Thy love. May each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Revive us again (“We Praise Thee, O God” by William P. Mackay, 1839-1885).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan


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Broken Cisterns

How infinitely sad when we “forsake Him, the fountain of living water, and dig our cisterns for ourselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water” (from Jeremiah 2:13).

As one gazes across the landscape of American Christianity, one can easily see that we are experiencing very little of the power and grace of God at work in our lives. When one considers God’s intention that there be so much more in our experience with Him and His people, this is indeed an incalculable tragedy. It seems that we either think that the spiritual realm is merely mythical or hypothetical and that God simply doesn’t “come near” to us as He did in the Scriptures or we feel that God should only have access to a limited number of spheres in our lives, ranking little more than just another spot on the calendar or one other thing to juggle in our busy schedules.

How sad when we come to these conclusions. Cynicism with people is one thing; cynicism with God is another. When God’s people stop believing that God desires to bless them, then they themselves shut the door of His grace and enclose themselves in a tight spot without access to the provisions of joy, peace, wisdom and love that can only be found in God’s larder.

The most significant roadblock, however, to experiencing God is satisfaction with what we’ve already got. When content with ourselves and our circumstances, we are not inclined to go out and look for more of God. Like the companions of Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey, we eat the fruits of the Lotus (namely achievement, pleasure, success, and fame) and we forget that our “home” isn’t here. Thus, we stop seeking Him. We stop desiring His presence. We settle for the intoxicating lures of a world that is simply way out of step with God.

How infinitely more sad when “we have forsaken Him, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (from Jeremiah 2:13). Imagine trudging along away from a fountain of clear, cool water, while saying to yourself, “No. I want to get my own water in my own way.” Imagine sitting beside a cistern that you have built with your own hands, hoping for rain, only to watch the sparse drops that smatter down, instantly trickle through the cracks left in the bottom of your basin. Wouldn’t that fountain of clear, cool water begin to haunt your thoughts and dreams? Wouldn’t you long for that?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” said Jesus in Matthew 5:3. Another way to say the same thing is, “happy are those who see their spiritual poverty for now the power and provision of heaven can come to them.”

We are horribly impoverished without God. We are miserably bankrupted when we seek sustenance for our souls in things other than His love. Sadly, we often just don’t get it. We feel confident in ourselves and in the security of our accomplishments and have no clue as to how precarious the position is in which we rest.

The Lord Jesus though, in addressing significant problems among His people in Laodicea, says in Revelation 3:17 and 18, “…You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”

If we come to our senses (see Luke 15:17) and realize the spiritual squalor in which we live, and our hearts “turn to home”, doesn’t it make sense to toss aside whatever rotten Lotus we hold in our hands, and cry out to God, “Lord, I need more of You!” and believe that this is indeed a prayer He longs to fulfill?

I often hear Jeremiah 29:11 quoted, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” How wonderful! But the next two verses spell out the necessary conditions for you and me to receive the benefit of His plans, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find Me. When you seek Me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 ESV).

God is not likely to pour out the blessing of His presence upon a life that passively hopes that God “might do something.” No, He waits for us to seek Him. “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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The biggest danger that we as Christians have at any given time is the ease with which we have in becoming distracted from the highest calling bestowed to us – that of loving God with all our heart and soul and strength (Matthew 22:36-38).  Gradually slipping from the wonderful summit of our first love, we cool down in our spiritual exhilaration.  The fading of our adoration is never instant nor easily recognizable.  Instead, it dissipates by degrees as the corrosion of our over-burdened schedules, over-stimulated senses, and over-whelming responsibilities eats at us leaving us little more than organic shells that function but don’t really live.

Just as each individual believer in Jesus is summoned to place all things under the banner of loving God with all that is within him, and secondly to love each other at least as much as each loves himself, the collective assembling of these Believers (the Church) is charged with the urgent and supreme task of leading people to faith in Jesus as Savior and teaching them to submit entirely to Him as Lord.

Just as individual Christians can become distracted, and as a result of that, become ineffective and fruitless, the Church can also be made so because those within her ranks become cold, apathetic, distracted, and disoriented.

The burning question follows, “Is the Church all that it should be?”  Is it compassionate, seeing with eyes like God’s the hurt and hopelessness of the world?  Is it pure, casting aside all things that hinder the fullness of God’s presence in its midst?  Is it faithful to carefully follow all of God’s loving commandments?  Is it visionary, seeking to bring the power of God into all spheres of human affairs?  And is it mobilized, soothing the wounds of people in the world with the balm of Jesus’ love?

And if we find ourselves unable to answer in the affirmative in each of these matters, the next question is one that we each should ask ourselves.  “Am I all that I should be in the Kingdom of God?”  The health of the Church is determined by the spiritual health of those that comprise her.  And if we do in fact find that the church (by which I mean all Christians as well as individual assemblies) is ailing, then we must conclude that those within her are ailing too, sick with the diseases associated with disharmony with God.

If we find that we have the symptoms that indicate that all things are not what they should be and the viruses of worldly perspectives and selfish agendas have infected us, we can assume that the Great Physician has already diagnosed our problem and is set on providing us the remedies necessary to set things right.

For example, in Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus speaks to the church in the ancient city of Ephesus, commending them on their hard work, but with His supernatural x-ray eyes, chides them for having lost their first love… their “passion” for Him.  The church in the city of Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) He acknowledges that they have been faithful in spite of strong spiritual opposition, yet points out that their passion for Him has become watered down among many passions, particularly physical ones which many today also erroneously equate with the term “passion”.  The church in the town of Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) He recognizes for their loving disposition, faith, service, and endurance, yet He zeroes in on the fact that their passion for Him has become obscured by immorality and idolatry.  In regard to the church in the city of Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6), He sees its program and visibility which likely seems really great and “cutting edge” to people all around them, yet, Jesus says that they are dead… that there is no life… no genuine connection with God and, therefore, no genuine spiritual activity in the hearts of its people:  a whole lot of “human” activity doesn’t necessarily mean that what is taking place is of God.  And finally the church in the town of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-20) He strongly rebuffs, diseased as it is with self and worldliness that run so deep that they have delusions of spiritual wealth and health.

If we find that we have the symptoms that indicate that all things are not what they should be and the viruses of worldly perspectives and selfish agendas have infected us, we can assume that the Great Physician has already diagnosed our problem and is set on providing us the remedies necessary to set things right.

If we find that the viruses of worldly perspectives and selfish agendas have infected us, we can assume that the Great Physician has already diagnosed our problem and is set on providing us the remedy necessary to set things right.

In each case, the remedy is the same.  Jesus said, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:19-22 ESV).

In each case, Jesus Himself is the answer.  We may look to a lot of different things in life to satisfy our cravings for attention, affirmations, and applause, but nothing and no one but Jesus Himself can bring to our hungry hearts genuine peace and hope.  We may settle for busy schedules and a lot of meager personal accomplishments that last for a little while, but nothing and no one but Jesus Himself can receive the investment of our love and service, multiply them so that they not only achieve more and go deeper than what we could on our own, but also make them last for eternity!

God’s love, revealed perfectly in the death and physical resurrection of Jesus, is the great need of our day… for us individually, and for us corporately in the church!  Not only so, but it is the great need of the world also.  If the church and her individual members have lost touch with their great lifeline, how then can the church be the conduit of hope that this messed up and suffering world needs?  Let it not be this way for us in our churches!  Let us seek God with all our heart, soul, and strength, bowing to His authority for our lives, for our families, and for our churches knowing that His will is best for us all.

“Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love Me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father’s Who sent Me” (John 14:23-24 ESV).


Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Teeny, tiny temptations tolerated today
                Wear at one’s weakened will.
Pride prepares in him a presumptuous point-of-view,
                While sloth saps his spirit’s strength. 
And he falls.
He races to rake up rationalizations,
                Determined to defend his doubtful cause.
He explains away entire episodes of ego and
                Jumps to justify his injurious judgments.
And he fails. 
Wreck and ruin wreathe his wretched life,
                While he shakes his fist at a holy God,
Who only patiently pursues him in spite of all,
                Until he comes to the end of himself.
And he turns.
            And he confesses.
                         And he believes.
                                      And God forgives
                                                     And then cleanses,
                                                                   And also restores.
Then the man revels in renewed revelation
                Of glorious grace and goodness granted him.
Triumphantly, he is transported from tempestuous temper
                To valorous victor in Christ.
And he worships.
             And God receives with pleasure
                          The praise of the man
                                        And bestows upon him
                                                        All rank and privilege
                                                                        Of the adopted son.
“If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by Whom we cry, ‘Abba!  Father!’  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:13-18 ESV). 
                                                                                                                      Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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