Genuine, God-centered revival involves vital changes in one's thinking and actions. Learn how you can experience true spiritual renewal.
In August 2011 an estimated 30,000 Christians gathered at a large stadium in Houston, Texas. Their purpose, was to seek God's help in solving national problems through prayer and fasting. Texas Governor Rick Perry, asked people to join him, "as we pray for unity and righteousness--for this great state, this great nation and all mankind." He urged, "Americans of faith to pray on that day for the healing of our country, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of enduring values as our guiding force."
Now some Christians believe that a call for national prayer and fasting will ignite an old fashion revival and save the United States from pending doom. Non-Christians, and even some Christians, worry that a religious revival is a threat to multicultural democracy. Would a Christian renewal solve our country's political, economic and social problems? Well on Beyond Today we're going to tackle the question: What would happen if there really was a Revival?
Governor Rick Perry's call for a day of fasting and prayer in August 2011 was greeted with both enthusiastic approval from many evangelicals and hostile condemnation from groups promoting separation of church and state, gay activists and secular humanists.
Deal Hudson, president of the Catholic Advocate in Washington D.C., captured the cynicism felt by some Christians when he was questioned by The Dallas Morning News about attending this religious occasion. Hudson said, "Yes, I would attend, but I know that such an event is political down to its bones. I don't think Governor Perry would deny the political side of the event…[the] event will very likely appeal stylistically only to evangelicals, and many Catholics and mainline Protestants will very likely feel that they are at a revival meeting."
Why does the word revival have such a negative connotation for many people? It's because they associate a revival meeting with undisciplined or even undignified emotionalism.
In the official proclamation Perry stated, "Given the trials that have beset our country and world--from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and wars...it seems imperative that the people of our nation should once again join together for a solemn day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our troubled nation."
Governor Perry isn't the first politician to turn to prayer and fasting in times of national trouble.
John Adams and Franklin Delano Roosevelt publicly encouraged people to pray for God's guidance and blessing on the nation. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of prayer and fasting and in 1952 Harry Truman signed into law a resolution instituting an annual national day of prayer.
Now, could a national day of prayer and fasting lead to a great Christian revival in the United States? Could this spiritual revitalization help us find solutions to our economic, agricultural, educational and moral problems?
I suppose the real question is: What variety of revival would be successful? I mean, what kind of religious renaissance would really deal with the despair of poverty, child abuse, crime, drug addiction or divorce?
At the beginning of the 1900s, there was a religious revival in Los Angeles, California, involving participants who spoke in tongues and fell to the ground in fits of spiritual elation. That revival spawned the modern Pentecostal movement. Would that kind of religious experience turn people to God and bring about the solutions to our moral and economic problems?
Of course, tent meetings and those kinds of revivals were the rage during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. Evangelists traveled from town to town setting up large tents, performing healings, and calling on people to believe in Jesus and be saved.
The 1960s, the 1970s we saw the Jesus People who sprung from the hippie culture. To those involved in this movement, sometimes called Jesus Freaks--Remember those?--traditional Christianity was seen as a ritualistic and rigid religion, and it was rejected, for a religion of free love and communal living.
So what would a 21st century Christian revival actually look like? Would it promote traditional Protestant mainstream views of hell and damnation? Would it espouse the New Age concept--that all paths lead to God as long as we love one another? Would a religious revival be politically motivated? Okay, which Jesus would you follow--the Democratic Jesus or the Republican Jesus?
Here's the difficult truth Christians must face. The spiritual revival that you desire isn't going to happen because tens of thousands of people gather for a public day of prayer and fasting. It's not going to happen by consolidating political power through the electoral process. This spiritual restoration won't be found in returning to the faith of the Founding Fathers or in promoting an ecumenical movement. A God-centered revival is going to take a lot more personal examination than making a public stand against abortion or homosexuality.
A real, biblical, God-centered revival involves a radical change in your thinking and actions. It requires a radical change in your life. It's even going to take a radical change in how you define Christianity.
Jesus came to launch the greatest religious revival in human history. Now He outlined the requirements when He said: "If people come to me and are not ready to abandon their fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers and sisters, as well as their own lives, they cannot be My disciples. So those who do not carry their crosses and follow me cannot be My disciples" (Luke 14:26-27, God's Word Translation).
Now Jesus is not teaching that all of us should abandon or mistreat our loved ones. His point is that in order to call yourself a Christian, the Founder of Christianity expects you to be willing to give up everything you have and everything you are to be His disciple. A disciple is more than a student. A disciple is a person who imitates the Teacher. If you're going to be more than a Christian in name only, you must imitate His life. Christianity has enough believers in Jesus. What Jesus Christ wants are disciples.
Now another real difficulty in these verses is the phrase, "So those who do not carry their crosses and follow me cannot be my disciples." What does it mean to carry a cross? In our society, it really doesn't have much meaning, does it? I mean we see people wearing little crosses, but that's not what this means.
Carrying a cross was very dramatic to people living in Judea at the time of Jesus. I mean, they often saw Roman soldiers whipping and prodding a person who was dragging a heavy beam through the streets. And it was a sickening sight, because the person was literally carrying his execution stake. How long did he carry it? He carried it until he was nailed to it. You see, that's the level of commitment God wants from you, not just some tent meeting, if you want to participate in His revival. And the old time religion, it's not where it's at, and neither is the political bully pulpit.
To be a real disciple of Jesus Christ involves that you have to surrender your entire life to His control. It means to be out of step with society because you must believe that human nature, even your human nature, is fatally flawed and every political, economic and ecumenical solution we devise will eventually fail! Now that's the bad news.
The good news is that there is a great revival on the horizon, and you can be part of it!
Now before I tell you about how you can be part of the great spiritual revival, I want to tell you how you can get a copy of your free booklet, Transforming Your Life. This Bible study aid will help you discover what the Bible teaches about personal revival--that is true repentance and commitment to God. You will learn that the earliest Christians were more than a group of believers. They were spiritually transformed people. You will discover the vision and mission Jesus Christ defined for His disciples. And you know, it's the same vision and mission He wants in your life.
Now you can read this online at BeyondToday.tv or request your free copy by calling: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632.
Now I also would like to invite you to something very special. Beyond Today and the United Church of God are conducting Kingdom of God Bible Seminars across the United States, Canada and around the globe. If you would like to know more about the return of Jesus Christ to set up God's Kingdom on this earth, then you need to attend one of these free seminars.
Now most Christian faiths don't recognize or understand the significance of the Kingdom of God. But it's important for you to learn about Jesus Christ's original message and its meaning for you today.
Go to BeyondToday.tv and look for the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars" link to find a seminar near you and register to attend.
We're talking about spiritual revival here today. How can you be part of the great spiritual revival that's on the horizon?
The world's in trouble. The country's in trouble. You may be in trouble. You may be worried about paying your bills. Politicians seem more interested in padding their own bed than helping solve our problems. Students pile up huge college debt only to end up working in a fast food restaurant. And the nation's infrastructure--I mean, roads, bridges, dams, you know, levies--it's deteriorating. Our educational system has fallen behind much of the rest of the world. The news is filled with violence and robberies. And to make matters worse, you just found out that your denomination is considering redefining marriage.
The nation has lost its way and needs a spiritual revival. Now, many days--think about it--you suffer from vague anxiety that you can't even define. You don't know where to look for the answers, but you feel a desperate need for a spiritual renewal.
Well let's ask this question: What would a biblical, God-centered, Christian revival really look like in your life? Not a politically tailored media event, but a personal connection between you and your Creator?
You know, whenever there is a call to religious renewal, there is usually a call for prayer and fasting. How can fasting help bring about personal spiritual renewal?
Well let's begin by looking at what the Bible teaches about fasting. You know fasting in its simplest application, means to go without food and water, for a certain period of time, as a way to experience humility and repentance before God and to seek His guidance. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave instructions for fasting, and fasting is an important aspect of personal Christian revival.
Now fasting is a new idea, even for many Christians. When someone first hears about fasting the natural question is: What is intense prayer and denying myself food supposed to produce between me and God?
Well the prophet Isaiah, told of a time when the people of ancient Israel prayed and fasted for God's help. Remarkably, instead of receiving God's blessing, they received a scathing rebuke. God actually rejected their fasting. Isaiah was inspired to write God's response to their days of fasting and prayer, "...they seek Me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God..." (Isaiah 58:2, NKJ). God accused the people of ancient Israel of appearing religious, but in their daily lives, they ignored His instructions on how He was to be worshipped and how to treat their neighbors.
The religious leaders of the day asked God why He didn't respond to their days of prayer and fasting. God answered, "In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers. Indeed, you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high..." (Isaiah 58:3-4).
Now I want you to think about what God is saying in this passage. God tells these religious people that He has rejected their request because their motive for praying and fasting was an attempt to force God to listen to their demands, but they had little interest in listening to God's demands. Listen: Fasting is not a ritual that prepares God to become attentive to your desires and actions. Fasting is a humble seeking of God that prepares you to become attentive to God's desires and actions.
Christians need to be going before God in prayer and fasting, not to seek political solutions to our problems, but seeking God's involvement in our lives. There is a great need for you to turn to God, confess your sins and seek His forgiveness. You must also seek His desire for your life and trust in His guidance for your life. Now you discover His guidance in this book, the Bible.
Spiritual renewal can only happen when you are willing to completely give up your life, pick up your cross, and tell God: You are my Father. I am your creation. Fulfill in my life what you decide is best and I will follow.
I mean, Christians want to change the world, but the real question you need to ask is, have I really submitted to God and allowed Him to change me? You see, this change is more than attending church. It is a complete change of life.
Now it can feel very religious to publicly denounce the big sins like radical terrorists--I mean that's an easy one to stand up against--or abortion. And we should! I mean it's a terrible crime against humanity. But before we can call on society to repent--listen to this--before we can call on society to repent, Christians must first humbly repent and that's what's missing in the revival.
I mean, how can Christians really have any credibility in promoting family values when they have almost the same divorce rate as non-Christians? How can Christians argue that the Ten Commandments are the basis, the foundation of our Judeo-Christian heritage, when our own lives are filled with idolatry of the almighty dollar? We use God's name in vain every day. We ignore the seventh-day Sabbath and we dishonor parents. I mean all those instructions are from God and are in the big Ten. Church goers fight for the posting of the Ten Commandments in public places, but the moment someone says we should obey them, we label that person a legalist.
It's interesting to examine Lincoln's "Proclamation Appointing a National Day of Prayer." In part it reads, "And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord."
The proclamation goes on to state, "It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."
Now I ask you: When was the last time you heard anyone speak of God as the offended Power? A real spiritual renewal must involve your submission to God and to His law as the righteous Creator whom you have offended. Now it's true that God loves you. I'm not taking away from that. He obviously loves us. But God's love isn't a free pass to disrespect His love. A personal revival requires you to get on your knees and admit that your ways don't work, and to seek His desires in your life.
Now a national revival would involve not just a day of prayer and fasting, but crying out to God for His forgiveness for all of our national sins. It would involve admitting that no political candidate, no political party, has the real solutions to the national debt, injustice, crime or prejudice. A national revival would require a return to not just paying homage to the Ten Commandments, but a commitment to obeying them. We need God to radically change our personal lives. We need God to radically change our churches, before we can expect Him to radically change the nation.
So what does God want you to do? And what does He want to do in your life?
Well at the beginning of His ministry on earth, Jesus Christ stood in the synagogue of Nazareth, opened the book of Isaiah, and read from this passage, "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed..." (Luke 4:18-19, NKJ).
God wants to prepare you for the greatest revival the world has ever known. The great spiritual renaissance that we're talking about here is more than a dream about a better future. It is a time when all humanity will receive workable solutions to political, economic and social problems. Jesus Christ is returning to lead this revival, not through tent meetings or political movements, but by literally establishing God's Kingdom on this earth. You can take part in this spiritual renewal by submitting to Him right now.
Now we're going to talk about this future revival, and how you can be part of it, with Steve Myers and Darris McNeely. But first let me tell you how you can get a free subscription to The Good News magazine.
When you order your free copy of Transforming Your Life, we will also send you a free one-year subscription to The Good News magazine. This magazine will help you explore what the Bible says and discover how God will create a spiritual renewal in your life.
Each issue includes articles to help you make sense of the world events around you, practical Christian living and biblical teachings few churches really want to tackle. Your knowledge of the Bible, of God and of His great plan for your life will grow with each issue.
Now you can receive this free magazine by calling: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632. Or go online at BeyondToday.tv where you can also watch Beyond Today programs from our extensive archives.
We're now joined by fellow Beyond Today hosts Steve Myers and Darris McNeely. You know, many religious people are searching for a spiritual renewal. And what we really want to do is to help people understand that the Bible contains prophecies about a great, future, spiritual revival, doesn't it?
Over and over again the Bible talks about it. One of the passages that came to mind when you mentioned that, is over in Daniel 2 where it goes through all the various kingdoms that will rule this world over time. Because you talk about a political awakening, a political revival that somehow is going to bring Christianity to the forefront, is not going to happen by our means. Christ has to return. Jesus Christ is going to return to this earth and He's going to establish the Kingdom of God. That's a focus of our program--God's Kingdom. That's going to be a revival. That's going to be the ultimate opportunity for mankind to repent and change and begin to follow God's way.
Probably one of the most important prophecies to consider with your topic today, Gary, is the prophecy that's in Revelation where it says that when Christ returns the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of His Lord and of His Christ. What people don't understand in our audience especially, and those seeking a revival and a turn back to values, is that when Christ returns, not only is He going to topple nations, but He's going to topple churches. He is going to topple the forms of religion and the antithesis of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. And that's going to surprise a lot of people. Because we find that, just as you said in your program, you quoted some of the statistics of people who claim and profess faith are some of the biggest hypocrites in their own personal lives. And Christ is going to turn over the tables of religion and churches just like He turned over the tables in the temple when He was on this earth in His first coming, He's going to do the same thing at His second coming and it's going to surprise a lot of people. That's probably one of the most significant prophecies.
Probably a misnomer to think we can have revival, because what are you going to revive to?
Where we started as a people, as mankind, we didn't start at the right place.
Yeah, well when we talk about revival, we've got to go clear back to the first century. We have to go clear back to Jesus walking the earth and His teachings, the Sermon on the Mount. That's where we start. We don't start with any religious movement that's popular today.
It's going to go clear back to there. That's the revival.
No revival, no movement of the last 25 years, the last 100 years, the last 250 years. It's going to go further back than anything we can imagine.
So, the three of us are pastors. We deal with people that come to us all the time and say, I need a revival. I need renewed in my life, spiritual renewal. What's your advice to people? The first steps they should take when they come and say, I need a spiritual renewal in my life?
One of the things that come to my mind is, I think about how Christ began His ministry. He focused very clearly and He said, the Kingdom of God is at hand. Okay, what do I do because of that? Because there is a godly Kingdom coming, what should my reaction be to that? What do I, what do I do if I want revival? He says repent.
Repent! Because His Kingdom is coming. There is going to be that Kingdom there, so I need to change. I need to look at my life. What's important to me? I think when God began to open my mind, I was in a totally different place, absolutely different place. My experience was I was focused on what I wanted to do, what my life needed to be, rather than focused on what God wanted. What did God want for me? So it was a total change. It's a different foundation. I had to go back and say, you know, I need to reorder my life and put it on the foundation of Jesus Christ. And I didn't even know what that was at first, so I had to figure out with God's help, where to begin.
To tell people what God wants can be a rather frightening thing because it can be a truth that most of us don't really want to accept and face. The type of revival that Christ really points us to--where do you begin? You begin at the Sermon on the Mount, where He talks about being a peacemaker, being meek and really understanding what that means.
Do we deal with our own personal lives and what we do when we get up from a prayer, or we end a day of fasting or we come out of a spiritual experience like one of these rallies that you talk, opened and were talking about here today, Gary? Do we go out of that and then, you know, really look at hard and seriously at what our life is like? And the entertainment we get into, the books we read, the movies we see, the television shows that we watch? The way we talk about our neighbor, the way we talk about our closest friends? Do we really want to change that? That is where people are going to have to face some very serious introspection, to face truth that is very difficult and hard to understand and accept at times, but I think that's where God wants us to begin.
Well I think we have a problem. Many times we think of repentance, we think of a one-time event. People think well I repented...
It's an ongoing matter, right...
Repentance is a lifestyle. It's constantly finding out where you're not matching God's desires, repenting and turning back to God. It's a lifestyle and that's where much of Christianity is missing it.
God wants you to be part of the greatest spiritual revival in history. Now remember today's free offer.
We want to send you a copy of our booklet, Transforming Your Life. This biblical study aid will help you discover how you can become spiritually transformed, and be a full part of the body of believers that Jesus Christ leads. When you order your copy we'll also send you a free six-month subscription to The Good News magazine.
Call 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632. Or go online to BeyondToday.tv.
Now I would also like to remind you that Beyond Today and the United Church of God will be conducting Kingdom of God Bible Seminars across the United States, Canada and many countries around the globe. If you would like to know more about the return of Jesus Christ to set up God's Kingdom here on this earth, then you need to attend one of these free seminars. Go to BeyondToday.tv and look for the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars" link and register to attend a seminar near you.
You won't want to miss these live events about the good news that Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God.
Now, go to BeyondToday.tv and look at the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars" link to sign up to attend. It's absolutely free.
Well join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom of God. It's the message of which Jesus Christ always spoke. We also invite you to join us in continually praying, "Your Kingdom come."
For Beyond Today, I'm Gary Petty.