Easter Sunrise Service at the Rock in Morro Bay, CA April 8, 2012
This last Tuesday when I met with our noon men’s discipleship group, we wrestled with this question: Does the Bible support the contention that Jesus Christ – the Risen Head of the Church – intends to so powerfully work in and revive and purify His church before He returns – – that cities, states and even nations will be transformed by His power and grace? As you think about this question, please understand that I am not saying everyone will be saved; nor am I saying that there will no longer be rebellion against Christ. I am asking if there is any reason for us to believe biblically that the Holy Spirit might work so powerfully in our coastal region before He returns that everyone who lives and works here would at least know about it, whether they choose to participate in it or not? In other words, might we experience here before our Lord returns, what we read about in the book of Acts, and what we’ve read and heard about in reports of revivals and great awakenings that have happened at various times in human history?
Well in the nine or so minutes I have left, allow me to share why I believe we need to believe God for this.
1. Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision (or it could be translated “revelation”), the people are unrestrained…”
It is my contention this morning that the enemy of our souls, the devil – lives to rob us of the vision and revelation of God and His purposes that we so desperately need . Without a steady supply of this expectation, it is very difficult to please Him and to effectively and consistently resist the temptation to settle for less – otherwise known in scripture as sin and unbelief.
Nothing sets us up more for under achievement and for settling for going through the motions spiritually than having an inadequate revelation of the purposes and intentions of God, not to mention faith and confidence in His ability to pull off His intentions and purposes in and through us. Jesus Christ said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hades will not overpower it.” The apostle John said in his first epistle, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” In spite of those declarations, many people in the church today have more faith in the devil to deceive and destroy, than they do in Jesus to revive and purify and perfect His people.
I believe one of the things the Head of the Church is doing in our region in these days is restoring vision and revelation to His church of His intention to display His glory and power in a region shaking way here before He returns, and not only His intention to do this; but His ability to pull it off with the likes of us’ns.
2. Surely one of the things that motivated the apostle Paul to pour out his life for the sake of the Gentiles and the church of Jesus Christ was his vision or revelation of the glory of its Savior and this Savior’s lofty intentions for His blood bought church. No where do you see this more clearly than in his letter to the church in Ephesus.
In chapter one, Paul goes to great lengths to help us see how great this salvation is that we have received through Jesus Christ.
In chapter two after reminding us of how great and merciful God’s saving intervention was – at a time when we were helplessly and hopelessly lost in our sins, he then begins to help us see how our Prince of Peace has begun to weave the believing gentiles and the believing Jews together into one glorious body or people or “temple in the Lord” or “dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
In chapter 3 Paul speaks of this glorious mystery that he has been entrusted with to reveal to all of us regarding God’s intention to make known His manifold wisdom through the church to all the watching angels and demons throughout the universe. Only a risen Savior could bring together in growing unity and oneness these two diverse groups of people (Jews and Gentiles) who for centuries have hated one another, and had nothing to do with one another; and this same unifying miraculous work also applies to all the divisions we have in our society and communities today. Then Paul, knowing that only the Holy Spirit can truly open our eyes to God’s glorious intentions for His church – – stopped midstream in chapter 3, and recorded the prayer he often prayed for the church in Ephesus as well as all the churches in all the other cities where he ministered. If I could sum up his long prayer, Paul prayed that Christ’s church would be filled up to all the fullness of our triune God – so that we could accurately and powerfully reflect His glory and majesty on the earth. Then for all of us perhaps who have been a part of the church for a while, and who know how far we are from attaining to this fullness – – Paul seeks to get our focus off of us, and back on to the one who said He would build His church, in ch. 3 vs. 20 “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen”!
In chapter 4:11 Paul begins to discuss the special giftings or offices (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) He has given His church to help equip and strengthen it. The crucial question to ask at this point is: Why? What is the intended purpose or result of all of this equipping and building up that vs. 12 talks about? Is it to help us hang on until Jesus returns and rescues us from all this misery? Well he didn’t leave us “hanging” ….. so to speak. Listen to vs. 13: “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” In other words – Jesus Christ fully expects us to become fully like Him in every way – so that we are in effect walking mirrors or representations of the glory and majesty of the Son of God. And He wants everyone of His present day disciples in every region to attain to this.
Some of you might be thinking at this point, “How in the world are we going to pull this off? We can’t even keep our marriages together!” Well I find it very interesting that in the next chapter – Paul – in the longest passage in the Bible about marriage – tells us – that the very model or standard that husbands have been given to learn how to love their wives is by meditating on this passion our Lord has for His church’s perfection, completion and/or maturity or fullness. Listen to vs. 25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” You might say, well what Paul means is we are going to be that way when He returns for us and transforms us in heaven. But if that is what he means, then what help or encouragement to we husbands is that? Instead what Paul is saying, is as we husbands meditate on Christ’s passion for His church; and His passion to make us a united, loving, Christlike people; as we meditate on how He seeks to pull that off – – and how He loves us to holiness – – then we can begin to see what it means to love our wives.
When Paul sought to encourage the church in Phillipi to fight the good fight; and not get discouraged or to think God is somehow limited by Paul being in prison, he assured them of his absolute confidence that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Can you find a letter of Paul to any church where he starts off saying, “Now you Christians need to do this and do that and not do this, and get this program going, and quit bickering with each other, and have your quiet times – – remember it all rides on you and your performance…”? No! To the contrary, in every letter Paul first seeks to build our faith and expectation in the greatness of our Savior, and His power and His ability to finish what He has begun, and the sufficient resources He has given us in Christ and through the Holy Spirit and in one another. Then he shows us how this should look in our every day character and behavior.
The order of William Carey’s famous dictum is crucial folks! “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” Without the expectation of God’s great work in our day in our region, there will be no great attempts to fulfill His great calling on our lives.
I leave you with this short story of an account of revival some hundred years ago in a very improbable place. Charles Finney, the great revivalist, relates that in a certain town there had been no revival for many years. The church was nearly run out. The people were unconverted. Spiritual desolation reigned. There lived in the town an old blacksmith who stammered so greatly that it was painful to hear him speak. At work in his shop his mind became greatly exercised about the state of the church; his agony was so great he locked the door and spent the afternoon in prayer, prevailing with God. He then obtained the reluctant consent of his pastor to plan a meeting. This preacher had no hope of any attendance, but the room filled to overflowing. All was silent for a time until one sinner broke out in tears and begged for someone to pray for him. Others followed, and it was found that people from every quarter of the town were under deep conviction. All dated their conviction from the hour the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful revival followed.”
He is Risen!