Tuesday, 18 September 2018

O On the edge of revival

A change of heart

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Pre-Revival Night – Dordrecht, The Netherlands - October 14th, 2016

While religion lets you work as hard as you can, to become the “perfect Christian”, true relationship does not. You were never meant to work as hard as you can to change yourself. This is not what Christianity is about. It has nothing to do with your own efforts, but more with the likeness of Christ. The likeness of Christ can basically be described in one word: dependency. And that goes directly against our human nature. We all have the tendency to first make ourselves good or perfect, before we present ourselves to God. When we’ve committed sins, we all have the tendency to get rid of it first, before we go back to God. In many cases, we work as hard as we can to change ourselves. But here’s the thing with sin. There are no gray areas in life. It’s either black or white. Good or bad. Everything that is not good is bad and needs change. But the only change that lasts is radical change. The sort of change that turns your life around. It is the only form of change that is acceptable to God. Here’s my most honest experience with trying to defeat sin. The harder you try, the harder you fail, the harder you fall. So the question arises, what actions can we take to get rid of sin and to get that radical change that is needed in our lives. Here’s what Jesus said about it: 

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Matthew 5:29-30

Now that is radical language. It even seems that Jesus is offering us the solution to our problem. So let’s sharpen our axes and knives because we have some plucking and cutting to do. Really? Of course not. Then what is He saying? The keywords in this part of the Bible are the words “if” and “cause”. If it would be your eye that causes (literally: ensnares) you to sin, then you would have your solution by plucking it out. If it would be your hand that causes (literally: ensnares) you to sin, then you would have your solution by cutting it off. Then you would have a life that is free of sin and you would have eternal life in heaven, even though your body would be maimed. That is if it would be your eye or your hand. But the second keyword I mentioned was “cause” and the fact is that neither your eyes nor your hands are the cause of your sins. In many cases they carry out the sin which has already been fully grown. However, the cause is something entirely different.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:27-28

This goes deeper. Way deeper. We have to understand that sin in itself is not just an action. Sin is a process, a series of actions. And here Jesus describes the start of that process. Many people think that this only applies to adultery, but it goes much further than that. Jesus just gave a very common example, to show us how the process works and how God looks at it. Later He specifies the condition of the human heart. 

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
Matthew 15:19

If we would apply the earlier solution that Jesus gave, then we would have a major problem. It is not the eye or the hand that causes us to become ensnared in sin. It is our heart. What should we do about that? Pluck it out? Cut it off? That would instantly kill us. What Jesus is emphasizing here is that there is nothing that we can do to get rid of the cause of our sin. Jesus is making very clear that we are in desperate need of help. Otherwise, we are confined to a life of sin, without the hope of ever being free. 

And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 3:10

John the Baptist said that Jesus would come to do several things. One of these things is to lay the ax to the root of the trees, which is an image of the full-grown sins in the human life. He also emphasized that the only solution to get rid of sin is to cut it off at the root. As long as the root remains untouched, it will continue to produce sin, over and over again. Since Jesus pointed out that the human heart is the root of our sins, that’s where the change needs to happen. But that starts with recognizing and acknowledging sin and the condition of our carnal human heart. If we do not see, recognize and acknowledge our condition, we can never move further. If we do see it but don’t acknowledge it, then we have a big problem with God. 

God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?
Job 9:4

Now that is an excellent question. The answer is “no one”. For what is the result when we have sin in our lives and when we refuse to do something with it? What is the result when we start to justify our sinful deeds? What happens if we consider sin as righteousness and depart from the Word God has given us? God departs from us!

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1 John 1:8-10

Yes, God will depart from us and we will be left on our own again. For when His Word is not in us, Jesus is not in us, for He is the Living Word. Where does all of that start? In our hearts. We can recognize it by the fruits, but God already sees it when the sins are not full-grown yet. And His judgment is not just at the end of a life, or what people call judgment day. He judges us continually. 

The Lord shall judge the peoples; Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity within me. Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. My defense is of God, Who saves the upright in heart.
Psalm 7:8-10

Who does God save? The upright in heart. Only those who mean what they say. If the words of our mouths are matching with the counsels of our hearts, and when those are in line with the Word of God, then He will save us. In other words, our lives may be in bad shape and we may even still have sin in our lives, but when there is the sincere willingness to change, God will always come to rescue us. However, if we confess that we want to change, while we cherish one or more of our sins, change will never come and none of those sins will be forgiven. We have to make a decision. God is not asking if we can change, for He knows we can’t do that in our own strength. He asks us if we want to change. That means we have to decide what we want. 

One of the most impressive events in the Bible is the moment where God visited Solomon and asked him what he wanted. He was allowed to ask for anything he wanted, no matter what, and God would give it to him. Not even the sky was the limit. Yet Solomon was not aimed at material possessions, fame or power. He saw his condition and the gap that his father, King David, left behind. He realized that he would never be able to lead God’s people in a way that would be pleasing to God. He realized that he was lacking in so many areas, and yet his heart’s desire was to please God. That is why he asked for something that would help him to achieve that, instead of everything else he could have asked. He asked for the wisdom and the insight he needed to lead God’s people. 

Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king— wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”
2 Chronicles 1:11-12

We cannot fool God. When we tell Him something, He looks right through us, as if we were made of glass. He always looks at our heart when we tell or ask Him something. When that doesn’t match, nothing will happen. Then we’re just left with dead, useless religion. But when it does match, like with Solomon, He will go to great lengths to help and bless us in everything we do. Now you may wonder what all of this has to do with an upcoming revival? Because the heart is where it will start.

Many people look at revivals as they look at parties. Many "feel good" moments, huge signs and miracles, a sudden outburst of joy, prosperity, blessings etc. But the fact is that none of the real revivals ever started that way. Yes, all these things do occur eventually. But it’s not how it starts. Every revival starts with a revelation of your own heart and of everything that is going on there. When the fire and the glory of God comes near, it will expose every weakness, every shortcoming and literally every sin. Why does God do that? Not to accuse us, that’s for sure. He does that to show us that we need change. That is exactly what Christianity is all about. Change. Real change. Eyes that are focused on Jesus. Hearts that are completely restored. But only God can do that for us. It is something that He did deliberately. For when we can’t change ourselves, what does that make us? Right. It makes us completely dependent. Not the kind of dependency where nothing ever happens, but the kind of dependency where He will show us Who He really is. A loving Father Who gave His only Son for us. For you. For every sin, every weakness, every shortcoming you have or may ever have. When we start to realize exactly how bad our condition is, how sinful the human heart is, we start to cry out for His mercy. But in order to see that, we need revelation first. We need to face the part of our lives that many would rather not see. We need to acknowledge that we are in bad shape and in need of change. Only then we will be able to truly value the gift of grace. But is goes further than that. God does not only give us grace, He gives us more than that. 

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Ezekiel 36:26-27

Most churches will teach you about salvation. If you’re lucky you’re even in a church where they teach you about the Holy Spirit and about our need for Him. But very few churches emphasize the need of a new heart. The “old” human heart cannot be fixed. God will never work with our own carnal heart. But if we want, and ask for it, He can and will give us a brand new heart. That doesn’t happen automatically. We need to recognize our need first. Why? Because otherwise, we would fall into the exact same traps again. So where do we start? In the Word of God. Only the Word of God has the power to change you. Jesus is the Living Word. The more you abide in His Word, the more you abide in Him. When you do that, it sets everything in motion and it will bring change. Real change. But we have to ask. We have to diligently search for it. We have to keep knocking on His door (Matthew 7:7). What does that mean? It means we have to pray. It means we have to spend time in His Word, not just reading a few verses, but with our full attention and with the aim to truly understand. And last but not least, we need to have perseverance and endurance. In other words, we have to really want it in order to get it. We need to see the value of it first, before God allows us to receive it. When we do, no door shall remain closed for us. 

Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.
Psalm 10:17-18

Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not: Do you not fear Me?, says the Lord. ‘Will you not tremble at My presence, Who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it. But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart; They have revolted and departed. They do not say in their heart, “Let us now fear the Lord our God, Who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season. He reserves for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.”
Jeremiah 5:21-24

When will we return to our God? When will we humble ourselves again and fear the One Who created us? As you may know, the former and the latter rain are an image of the outpouring of His Spirit, which we call revival. When the rain of His Spirit starts to fall, that’s when change starts to happen from deep inside of us. But we need to humble ourselves and we need to admit our need of Him. Without Jesus, we can do nothing. Nothing of value that is. We can have our religious services, but we will never have something that is pleasing to God, until the change starts from within. Only the Spirit of God can help us with that. The way to get there is to humble ourselves before God and to express our need of Him, while we acknowledge our sins. Jesus is an expert in dealing with sins. He paid for all of it. When we present our sins to Him, He deals with it and there is forgiveness and grace. Only then the Spirit of God will take over and restore and change everything. The decision is ours. Will we continue to live in denial? Or will we come to the acknowledgment and confession of our sins? The choice is yours.

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