Through the years, I have heard people make the statement, “What we need is an old-fashioned revival.” Someone else chimes in and says, “Yes, we need to rediscover our roots and return to our founding principles.” Statements like these are revealing. They imply something is wrong with our relationship with God. They indicate a time existed when people were more committed or enthusiastic about serving God, but like the Church at Ephesus, people have lost something.
There is unquestionably a spirit of indifference and lack of commitment prevailing over many churches. I am certain it can be said that many congregations barely pray, hardly support foreign missions, or effectively evangelize their community. But I am convinced turning back the clock does not remedy the dilemma. Some people honestly believe if preachers would preach the old-fashioned way, and if churches would chant the refrain of ancient songs, and if Christians conducted church as in bygone days, revival would blaze uncontrollably. But it might surprise you that the Bible does not propose such a solution. The cure for spiritual indifference is not a throwback to the “good old days.” No, the Bible says the solution for spiritual renewal arises from the present. In Isaiah 43:19 God told Isaiah, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
The rain of the Spirit and His “times of refreshing” come through a new experience with God. And Isaiah wasn’t the only one understanding this. Scripture repeatedly expresses God’s desire to do a “new thing.”
Jeremiah 31:31 says: “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”
Ezekiel 11:19 says: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them.”
Concerning Christ’s ministry Mark 1:27 says: “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority!”
2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
2 Peter 3:13 says: “we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”
Revelation 21:5 says: “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
The Bible has this issue firmly settled: God wants to do a “new thing”! And when you think about it, this is what we really need. For example, would you rather have God restore your 10 year-old automobile or would you rather have God supply you a new automobile? Would you rather have God restore your 5 year-old computer or mobile device or would you rather have God supply you with a new one? God’s thoughts toward you are the same: He wants to give you a new heart. He wants to supply you with a new vision. He wants to rain afresh on your parch land and give you a new harvest. But how do we allow God to do a “a new thing” in our life?
Paul unveiled the key to seizing the moment when he said, “This one thing I do, forgetting the things that are behind, I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus.” That’s what Isaiah meant when he said to “forget the former things; [and] do not dwell on the past” (43:18).
(Illustration) Some years back I attended a Pastor’s Christmas banquet and sat by a couple from a non-denominational Charismatic church. We enjoyed a pleasant discussion until I innocently mentioned that the Charismatic movement had crested and a new move had emerged. I wasn’t criticizing the Charismatic Movement, because God has used it to impact a wide range of denominations and introduce millions to the Holy Spirit. But the fact is, the Charismatic Movement peaked years ago. But when I said that, you would have thought I declared the next World War. She and her red Christmas outfit instantly morphed into the SWAT patrol. “The Charismatic Movement has seen its day?” she said. She launched an assault that would have made General Patton proud. Why did she do this? It was because she had become a Christian amidst the flames of the Charismatic renewal and “how dare” anyone suggest God was doing a “new thing.”
We have to understand that Movements and waves of the Spirit constantly shift. And when God consummates a particular mode of operation in His kingdom, or even in our life, we should be willing to thank Him for it, release it, and let Him birth a “new thing.” What God did ten or twenty years ago is wonderful, but it was a “new thing” then and God required us to “seize the moment” by accepting something new. That’s why we need to pray for God to keep our soul as a new, flexible wineskin.
There’s a reason God asks us to accept “new things.” It’s because the issue of faith is at stake. Faith isn’t activated by looking back, it’s released by participating in God current activity. When we exhibit excessive affection to a past move of God—when we coddle it, venerate it, and talk about it like there will never be anything better—it means we aren’t accepting God’s contemporary dealings. But it means more than that. It means doubt has crept in and we assume God can’t improve on what He did years ago!
I’m thankful for the Spiritual Movements from years ago, but it takes no faith to live in the past and talk about the “good old days.” It may create goose bumps and a warm fuzzy feeling, but clinging to the past can’t move us forward! When you read the Bible you’ll see that God used people to do a “new thing” that was untested or unconventional.
When Moses installed Joshua as Israel’s leader, Joshua’s first command to Israel was to march around the walls of Jericho. This was a completely untested and unconventional military strategy!
Elijah commanding the Syrian General Naaman to dip seven times in the Jordan River to remove his leprosy was novel treatment.
Jesus walking on water and pasting mud on blind eyes and dividing a lunch basket to over 5000 people were “new things.”
The Holy Spirit sweeping over 120 Believers with wind, fire, and tongues was a “new thing.”
Peter’s shadow passing over the sick and Paul’s swatches of sweaty clothes being carried to the infirmed had never been practiced by Jesus or any of the Old Testament prophets. But miracles followed!
(Transition) When we allow God to move in a new way something special happens.
Shortly after Moses delivered the Israelites from Egypt, they approached Canaan. The plagues had shaken Egypt and the Red Sea had opened for Israel’s passage to freedom. You remember all those “signs and wonders” God used to deliver Israel. They were spectacular! And I’m sure the Israelites assumed they would quickly overtake Canaan. But God had a different plan. Instead of leading the Israelites on a short, straight route into Canaan God led Israel on a longer, circuitous route. And while God had a predesigned purpose for it, Israel didn’t understand it. But true to Israel’s reputation, instead of willingly submitting, they did what they did best—they grumbled! Numbers 21:5 says Israel became impatient and grumbled against God, Moses, and their food. But God had a cure for their murmuring. He sent venomous snakes into their camp!
It doesn’t take long to repent with vipers coiled around your tent poles! But do you remember how God answered their repentance and brought healing for the snakebites? God had Moses shape and raise a brass serpent in the midst of the camp. Moses told the people if they wanted to be healed they should look at that serpent.
Now folks, that was a “new thing”! When people are healed by looking at a serpent on a pole; that’s different! Moses could have questioned God and said, “Lord, I’ve never heard of such a ridiculous solution to these snakebites . . . a serpent on a pole? There must be a better way to deal with this.” But Moses didn’t question God. And when Moses obeyed, God worked miracles.
Years ago, I realized something as I contemplated this strange event. With two to three million Israelites traveling through the wilderness, most people couldn’t see the serpent by simply looking outside their tents—the distance was too great. And then there were visual obstructions that prevented a clear view of the bronze serpent. The thousands of tents in the camp prevented people from a clear view of perceiving the bronze serpent. When I considered this here’s what I realized. While God provided the remedy, and even sent it right into their midst, the people had their obligation. God sent the solution, but the Israelites had to position themselves so they could see God’s offer of healing. Israel had to get into a “perceiving” position.
Saints of God, there may be a million steps that separate you from God, and God will take 999,999 to get where you are. But He is going to leave one step for you to take, and it’s called the “step of faith.” He wants you to take one step of faith that acknowledges you accept His work.
Have you ever wondered what eventually happened to that bronze snake? It’s almost unbelievable, but years later, after Israel settled into the Promised Land, they venerated it and burned incense to it. An object, which once brought Israel’s healing, was transformed into idolatrous artifact that violated the Ten Commandments. It took one of Judah’s greatest and most discerning kings to deal with the situation. 2 Kings 18:4 says Hezekiah “removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made.” It’s sad that Moses’ brass serpent had to be destroyed alongside objects of heathen worship! But it’s because God wants devotion to the Master not a monument; He wants allegiance to the Creator not creation; Jesus Christ is the focus of our worship and affection, not a movement, monument, or man!
One reason God hasn’t preserved Biblical artifacts for Christianity is because He knew we would worship them.
The whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant, the holiest of all Christian artifacts, is unknown to Christians.
The Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
Christ’s wooden Cross is forever gone—even His garments were seized by the soldiers crucifying Him.
About the only Christian artifact remaining is the empty tomb. And you see, and it’s not what resides in the tomb that we celebrate, it’s what’s absent from the tomb!
(Transition) Do you believe you’re capable of moving into a time of transition, and receive something new from God? Typically, Christians are the perennial obstructers to God’s “new thing.” They may mean well, but in their efforts to quarantine the Church against heresy they hinder the Spirit’s working.
Congregational singing, began by an Anglican Priest in the 17th century, was opposed by the established Church.
George Whitefield and those associated with America’s Great Awakening were resisted by the established Church. It was characterized as an “extremist” movement.
Can you imagine any Christian opposing missionary societies? Yet, this is what happened in the 1800s. Leaders of “organized” religion vehemently opposed Missions organizations!
Sunday School, which began in the 19th century, was initially scorned.
Even the altar call, originating in the 19th century, was contested.
The Pentecostal movement was birthed in 1901 and the flames of revival engulfed America. Believers spoke in tongues, exercised spiritual gifts, testified of miracles, danced, and rejoiced. But guess who opposed it? The established Church! G. Campbell Morgan, a great preacher of the 20th Century, declared: “This is the last great vomit of Satan before the return of Christ.”
In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s the Charismatic renewal spread into the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran Churches. Guess who opposed it? That’s right, the established church, along with many Pentecostals!
How many want to revert to the horse and buggy days? How many want the dentist to extract your tooth without anesthesia? Nobody wants this. And neither should Christians reject God’s contemporary offer. An outdated, worn-down Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, or Charismatic anointing won’t effectively work. Last year’s anointing won’t work. It will take a fresh impact of the Holy Spirit upon Believers to advance God’s Kingdom.
I want to share a passage of Scripture the Lord directed me to the other day. Open your Bible to 1 Chronicles 22:11-19 and let’s read.
Don’t misunderstand this passage of Scripture. God isn’t suggesting that we disdain the past or issue unwarranted criticism of it. God wants us to honor our heritage but then accept His present dealings with us. Remain open to the “new thing” God has for today.
(Transition) Let me conclude with some remarks toward those that need a fresh start in life. Perhaps you have been sidelined because of poor choices and mistakes. I want to assure you that God offers you a “new beginning.”
(Illustration) In the United States football is a major sport. One of college football’s most famous moments occurred in the early 1900s when Georgia Tech played California University. Late in the second quarter Tech fumbled and Roy Riegals scooped up the ball and ran sixty-five yards . . . in the wrong direction toward Tech’s goal. His own player tackled him at the two-yard-line. California attempted to punt from their end zone, but Tech blocked it and scored. At halftime, the teams went to their locker rooms where Riegals burst into tears. But the coach never mentioned Riegals’ misdirected run. As a matter of fact, Riegals was told he would start the second half. But when the team charged back toward the field Riegals wouldn’t budge from the locker room. Understanding human nature as he did, the California coach knew this experience could devastate Riegals. So the coach looked at Riegals, and with the sternness of an Army General said: “Roy, the game is only half over. Get out there. You belong on the field.”
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t eject you from the game when you make a mistake? With God, failure doesn’t mean the game is over. He has a “new thing” for you. I look forward to God’s presence and power gloriously descending upon us. God is doing a new thing in the earth and I want to be more than a part of it; I want to be a vital part of it!
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