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A quick study of the history of revivals since the days of John Wesley through America’s Second Great Awakening, and into Billy Graham, and Dwight Moody in America reveals that at the core of these preachers’ message was a call to live a life separate and different from the world around us. Two favorite Bible verses that come to mind are Jesus is prayer in John 15 where Jesus told his followers to be in the world of not of the world. A second verse, in Peter's first book, describes Christ-followers as people who were called out of the world, a chosen nation, a royal priesthood and a holy nation. Yet just as much controversy surrounds these two vintage versus as does the way these verses were interpreted and applied. Through the centuries, these verses have been interpreted to mean many things.

  1. For the monks in 15th century Europe, being separate from the world meant hiding themselves away with the scripture in monastic castles, away from the corrupting influences of the world. Their approach didn’t work too well, and the absence of God’s word in the culture contributed to the Dark Ages, the Crusades, corruption in the church like no other time in history.

  2. For the Amish, who came to America with roots in the self-same Germanic, separatist ideals, living apart from the world means living on farms without electricity, in cloistered communities. I respect the dedication and hard work of this modern separatist tribe, but it seems like they missed something along the way. Is it really holier  to have to work a farm behind a horse-drawn plow? I’m not sure that’s how Jesus would define holiness.

  3. For the Catholic Church through the centuries, living as the “one true church” apart from the world meant that its members had to do what the church prescribed. Members still focus on partaking regularly in a list of seven sacraments in order to be considered part of the “holiness club.” Also dating back to Medieval Europe, this approach worked well when poor peasants were dependent on the wealthy land owners, (who were also church leaders) for land, food, and blessings, (which unfortunately were available at a price for those who could afford them.)

  4. Today in America, historically traditionally structured denominational churches are dying in record numbers, especially here in West Michigan. For the past 50 years, these churches have remained static in the midst of a changing culture, because that is just the way, they always did things. Their decision to demand that the world do things they way has left their seats and budgets empty.

 

No, I don’t think being a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation is about building walls around our religious club, and demanding that the world must learn, and keep our particular membership rules if they want to be included. Am I being too harsh? Maybe, but what does the church accomplish when we approach those who don’t come through the doors a Sunday morning with this kind of attitude? I believe that Jesus taught a lived a different interpretation of “in the world, but not of it.”

Jesus lived an example, and left us large footsteps to follow. His command to go into the world and make disciples of all nations was built on two other foundational pillars. Jesus said first that all authority under heaven was given to him, and therefore, we go forward in his power and unction.  Secondly, Jesus lived an example that was in the world, eating with the “sinners and tax collectors” and those outside of the religious life of his time. He made a difference in their lives by the way He treated them. He gave up his rights to stay comfortably in heaven, demanding we meet the standard of the OT. He expanded the kingdom and gave us the same charge, by living a different sort of life. Then, after setting the example personally, Jesus’ asks us to:

  • Transform the culture, not hide from it.
  • Expand the kingdom by inviting those who don’t know him into a relationship with him,
  • We have to demonstrate what that love relationship look like by engaging those outside the world with his love, and demonstrating that love between us.
  • Reveal God to the blind, help the deaf hear, and heal the lame, both literally and figuratively.
  • Be filled with power so that our words, works, actions and relationships all point the same direction.

For three years, the disciples watched Jesus's model these five principles in EVERYTHING he did. Jesus lived with power, focus, and love they had never encountered in anyone else. Jesus didn’t “have a ministry” he ministered. He didn’t write books or distribute podcasts; he gave divine, power-filled life to those he met. His platform pylons were driven deep into the bedrock of prayer. In fact, the only thing Jesus's apostle asked him to teach them was how to pray. They knew the source of his strength, wisdom, power and faith because, again, Jesus modeled a life built on prayer.

Like Jesus, the solution to powerlessness and path toward revival starts in prayer. The course corrections for a drifting life, ministry, or church are anchored in prayer. Like the example Jesus gave of what a revived life looks like, the early church left was the example of where revival starts.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord, in one place.
(Acts 2.1 KJV)

The apostles left the mountain after watching Jesus ascend into the clouds and obeyed him. He told them to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit; they gathered together and waited. Because they listened when Jesus taught them about prayer, they followed his example, and applied the lessons. Then, when they were all together, gathered, obedient and open, and in one place, joining their voices in prayer and study of God’s word, he filled them with his Spirit’s power.

We don’t know when revival will start, but it always starts with God’s people. We don’t know when Jesus is coming back, but he’s asked us to be busy about the affairs of the kingdom until he does. Let’s start the New Year with a commitment to increasing the intensity, frequency, commitment and duration of our daily prayer. 

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Comment by Cindy Huff on January 3, 2013 at 7:04am

Great words of encouragement to start the New Year.

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