MESSAGE DELIVERED: JANUARY 29, 2017
Last week I told you how, sometimes in the South, people would respond to the “Invitation” in a more open and obvious way, and make public commitments to serving the Lord, to “RE-DEDICATE” themselves to that service. And having done that, many of you MADE that public response, and MADE that re-dedication. And I suspect that several MORE of you have made the same commitment, but for whatever reason, didn’t come forward. And that’s Okay. You do not need to “walk the aisle” in order to serve the Lord.
What that PUBLIC rededication does, is to encourage the CHURCH. And can even cause others to make a similar commitment, maybe after praying about it or chasing it around in your mind.
So what I wanted to do today, is KEEP that spirit going, by telling about something ELSE we would do, down in the South…and that was, to hold a REVIVAL, at least ONCE each year. There were a number of men, all preachers, who would travel from church to church, holding 5, 6, even 7-day Revivals. And they would use those services to try to PUMP the church up. And then they’d move on to the next church.
Today, I don’t know of a single man who claims that title. And anyway, if that traveling evangelist was able to GET the church pumped up about service to the Lord, then why not just hire HIM as pastor? Isn’t that what the church NEEDS?
Well, last week in the evening service, which is more of a TEACHING time, since it’s understood that those that come TO that service are most likely to already BE committed Christians…anyway I asked them what that word, revival, means…and we settled on the definition of “bringing the church back to life”, with the understanding that the church is made up of individuals. So, bringing the members of the church back to life…that NEW life, in Christ.
Now, there are probably some of you sitting there thinking that is a GREAT idea, and others thinking ‘why bother?’, that it’s just a big waste of time, and they don’t need it! And can I say that the fact that you think you don’t NEED revival shows how MUCH you need revival?
We have a tendency, as a church, and as we GROW in GRACE and in WISDOM, and UNDERSTANDING of the Scriptures, that we become so involved in those THEOLOGICAL issues, and various DOCTRINES, that we sometimes lose SIGHT of the very BASIC things we are called to do.
Even the Glorified Spirit of Jesus, Who met with John on the Island of Patmos, and gave him messages for the churches, told the church at Ephesus…”You’re doing all sorts of good things, but you have LEFT your FIRST LOVE”!
And THAT, right THERE, is what revival is all about…to bring us BACK, to that place where we FIRST MET Jesus, and where we had that TREMENDOUS ZEAL to tell EVERYONE about this wonderful thing you found in Jesus…where you had such a DEEP and OPEN love for the Lord, that it actually SHOWED…and everyone KNEW you had found the Lord.
That’s what I want to see happen here. That WE would be RESTORED to our FIRST LOVE. And make sure you understand what “first love” IS! “We love HIM, because HE FIRST love US!” John wrote in 1st John 4:19…and “God has demonstrated His Love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8.
That church at Ephesus was saying “just LOOK at how much WE love the Lord! Look at all the STUFF we’re doing FOR the Lord, because WE love HIM”. Let me read you a quote from Dr. Gary Gilley…
“The most successful arm of the evangelical church in recent years, in terms of growth, prestige and money, has been ‘Market-Driven philosophies’. But, how does that line up with what we read in Acts? This is an obvious formula for success and is being copied throughout America and all around the world. But what I wonder is; is the WORLD defining the church, or is the WORD defining the church?”
So I wanted to use Paul’s words here to talk a bit about revival; what it is, how to do it, and what about those who think they don’t NEED it. Let me tell you about a cartoon I saw a while back. It was of a man sitting in one of those too-revealing gowns, in a doctor’s examining room, and the doctor is holding a chart and has a real puzzled look on his face. He is saying “This looks serious, Mr. Smith. It seems that you are allergic to yourSELF”!
In our text today, that’s basically what Paul is saying. He is confessing to being ‘allergic to himself’. During his ministry, Paul had all sorts of conflicts with other PEOPLE, but what he’s talking about HERE is an INNER conflict, where he himself is BOTH SIDES of the conflict.
Conflicts with other people are far different from INNER conflicts, although the one may LEAD TO the other. You might have a nasty encounter with someone, and then later regret it, and say to yourself “Why did I do that?” or “why did I SAY that? I didn’t want to argue with him or her”. And end up viewing the encounter as a personal failure, and getting mad at yourself.
And at the same time, because you allowed your anger to jump out at this other person, now THEY’RE mad at you, so now you’ve got TWO conflicts.
As humans, we sometimes claim a higher morality than we actually possess, and THAT can lead to those inner-conflicts too. In other words, we might “talk the talk” but not always “walk the walk”. And when we see that we have fallen short of what we see as our OWN moral values, we often start to ‘beat ourselves up over it’, like Paul is doing here.
But when we do fall short of what we think of as our moral values, what we do NEXT can be very revealing. Do you just say “Well, what do you expect? I’m only human”, and EXCUSE your actions…or do you say “Why did I do that? What is WRONG with me?”
The way you react to your own moral failings can tell a lot about you. Let me tell you about a pastor I knew in Florida. He had a habit of regularly preaching against the ‘evils’ of MOVIES. Now personally, I think SOME of them are okay, and highly entertaining, while MOST of them are just garbage. But THIS guy was against them ALL!
And his reasoning was that most theaters had multiple screens and showed more than one fil at a time. So, he said, you might be going to see a perfectly innocent and entertaining film, like “The Secret Life Of Pets”…that one was hilarious!…but at the same time, in ANOTHER theater they were showing something cheap and trashy.
So, he says, someone seeing you going into that theater complex would not KNOW which one you intended to see, and jump to the wrong conclusion.
Okay, I can see his point, and people DO often jump to the wrong conclusion. BUT…the grocery store where I regularly shopped was in a strip mall, which also held a video rental store. And one day when I’m walking back to my car with my groceries, guess WHO I saw coming out OF that video store with a handful of tapes?
You guessed it. So I naturally hurried over to him to ask “If it’s wrong for me to go to a movie theater, why is it alright for YOU to go to a video store?
Well, he got a little flustered and said that it was okay because the store had a FAMILY section. I pointed out that they also had an X-rated section. But he quickly said “Oh, I’d NEVER look at THEM”!
But, I just couldn’t see the distinction between what he always SAID, and what I saw him DOING. It seemed to me that he was ‘talking the talk’ but not ‘walking the walk’.
It might be better for us to ADMIT that our will to do GOOD, isn’t always able to overcome our impulse to do evil, without trying to excuse it, like Paul did here. Admit that we are SINFUL creatures, but we TRY to do good ANYway.
When Paul says that what he wants to do, he doesn’t…and what he doesn’t want to do, that, he does…what he is describing is not something UNusual or ABnormal. We are forever, while we are alive here on this earth, burdened with TWO natures. It’s almost as if there were two people living inside of you, except both of those people are YOU! And you KNOW this! I’m not telling you anything NEW, and I’m not saying you have something like a split personality.
You have within you what is called the ADAMIC nature, that SIN-nature you have simply by being BORN into this world…and that is a nature of selfish rebellion against God! But you ALSO have a SPIRITUAL nature, by virtue of that SECOND Birth!
And for right now I am ASSUMING that you HAVE experienced that second birth…that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. If that is NOT so, then we’ll give you an opportunity in just a few minutes to DO that. But for right now I’m talking to those who HAVE given their heart to Jesus.
You’re SAVED, but that old OLD nature tries to draw you to SIN, while your NEW nature tries to draw you closer to GOD! Just imagine that you have two cute little bunnies…two baby rabbits, in separate cages side by side. Give ONE of them EVERYTHING it WANTS to eat, all the food it can use…but give the other one just enough to keep it alive, barely.
Which one will grow biggest? Which one will get the strongest? RIGHT! The one you FEED the most! Well, which of your two natures will dominate, depends on the same thing. Spend your time with other Christians, fellowshipping, worshipping, praying…and your spiritual nature will grow strong.
Or, you can hang around bars, casinos, strip joints, and you SIN nature will dominate. But as long as you are alive on this earth, you will not be able to completely get RID of that OLD nature.
The very worst, meanest, nastiest person alive, will sometimes exhibit flashes of CONSCIENCE…while the BEST of us will be troubled now and then by unwanted thoughts or actions.
Let me direct your attention for a minute to the fifth chapter of Galatians, verses 19-21.
Here Paul is speaking of the ‘works’ of the flesh. That’s that old sin nature. And notice he says ‘works’, plural. More than one. Much more than one. And he says that the works of the flesh are EVIDENT, as in ‘plainly manifest’…OBVIOUS!
And he goes on to list 17 different ‘works’, followed by the words “and such”…or “such like”, meaning this is NOT an exhaustive list.
Then in verse 22 and 23, he looks at the NEW nature, the SPIRITUAL nature, and speaks of the results of God’s Holy Spirit working in you. Notice that he says “FRUIT of the Spirit”, not “fruits”, but SINGULAR! And he lists 9 examples of that “Fruit of the Spirit”. ONE Fruit, with 9 separate elements.
So it should be obvious, if you look at the numbers from verses 19-21, and count those words “and such”, you will see 18 works of the flesh, but in verses 22-23, there are 9 elements to the FRUIT of the Spirit. There is more than ample opportunity to feed the flesh, actual 2 TIMES more, than the Fruit of the Spirit.
The opportunities to feed the flesh are EVERYwhere, and you will need a strong commitment to staying IN the Spirit. So look back at Paul’s inner conflict in that 7th chapter of Romans. What can you do? Definitely, you can’t give IMPULSE free reign…that leads to anarchy, where there is no right or wrong, and everyone does what he or she wants.
Need some money? Rob a bank. Don’t like the way that guy looked at you? Shoot him. Want something that someone else has? Just take it. Do you know what I am describing? Anarchy…and Tucson, Arizona in the year 2017. You’ll find those events taking place on a daily basis here.
For a long time now, popular psychology has been saying that it is unhealthy…even unnatural, to SUPPRESS your inner impulses. So now we have entire generations of society that DON’T suppress those impulses…and nobody is real pleased with the results. Even those “popular psychologists” are now admitting that maybe those impulses MUST be held in check, if society is going to survive.
Most of us, as we grow and mature, are able to come to some kind of terms with those conflicts within us…between the Spirit telling us what we should do, and the flesh trying to get us to do the opposite. Wisdom, which is supposed to come with age…(some of us are still waiting for that to happen!)…but that WISDOM can help…but what is really needed is a COMMITMENT…a PERSONAL DEDICATION…that’s what we talked about last week…making a COMMITMENT to Almighty God that you WILL do what you KNOW is RIGHT!
That doesn’t mean that you just wait until you’re OLD and all your inner conflicts will be settled. It means you START, right NOW, and right where you ARE…and DEDICATE yourself to following your SPIRITUAL nature, and DENYING that old SIN nature. You make that COMMITMENT, that DEDICATION, between you and God, that you WILL allow HIS Spirit to lead you, from this moment on!
But listen, if I want to have potatoes with my dinner tonight, it won’t do much good for me to go out and PLANT them NOW! That needed to be done a long time ago. And in exactly the same way, your commitment to nurture and follow your SPIRITUAL nature, needs time to GAIN that strength and dominance. AND you have to be aware that in spite of your new commitment, your old ADAMIC nature will NEVER be completely destroyed! Not in THIS life!
He is ALWAYS going to pop up…and usually at the WORST possible time…and try to assert control again. You have to be constantly PREPARED, and COMMITED, to forcing him back down where he belongs.
And beloved, do you know what I’ve been talking about for the last several minutes? REVIVAL! That is NOT something that a traveling evangelist can bring to you in his briefcase. It doesn’t NEED another person involved! REVIVAL simply means that YOU are making the COMMITMENT to following God, and with HIS help you intend to KEEP that vow.
But we have to discuss HOW we gain control over that old sin nature. And Paul, as committed a man as you will ever find, asked the same question in verse 24 of Romans 7. He cried out to God in deep despair, and then in the NEXT verse, he gave the ANSWER, and the HOPE!
He has been chastising himself…beating himself up. There were things that he wanted to do, but THOSE things he DIDN’T do, while the things he DIDN’T want to do, THOSE he DID! And he cried out in despair “Oh wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death”?
And with his heart-felt plea, in the very next verse he answered his own question…”I thank God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord”. Just think of all the TROUBLE we could save ourselves, if we would just learn that simple truth…JESUS IS THE ANSWER EVERYTIME!
Paul came to the inescapable conclusion that only in Jesus can we live a sanctified life. But there is also the truth that IF you are a Christian, then what you ARE is a REDEEMED SOUL, housed IN a body of FLESH. And that FLESH wants to serve the laws of SIN…but JESUS will turn that around, and give you the strength, day by day, to triumph OVER the flesh.
The SPIRIT is from GOD, the FLESH is from the WORLD. If you will open your heart to Jesus, then we can say along with John…”greater is He who is in me, than he that is in world”. That’s 1st John 4:4, slightly paraphrased.
So, where are you right now? Are you being tormented by the desires of the flesh? Have you maybe given your heart to Jesus, but think there must be something wrong with you, because of all the internal STRIFE you’re experiencing? Then beloved, just give HIM that strife…HIDE in HIM, and let HIM fight that battle FOR you…let Him give you strength day by day and you will find yourself growing STRONGER, day by day. Jesus IS the answer, every time!
Or have you maybe not made the FIRST step, and taken the nail-scarred Hand of the One Who DIED for you, and said “Lord help me, I’m a sinner”. If THAT is you, then there is a room full of Christians praying for you right now,…praying you will make that FIRST step, and welcome Jesus into your life, and let HIM begin cleaning up the MESS you’ve made of it.
Jesus wants you to be Saved, Forgiven, and Accepted…so please, don’t make Him wait any longer…
While we sing number 101…”His Name Is Wonderful”…come to Him now.