Six steps to personal spiritual renewal
By Stan Toler
At the dawn of the 20th century, General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, listed six points of departure from the faith for a backsliding 19th-century Church. They were:
- Christianity without Christ. People found it popular to claim to be a Christian, but didn’t want to commit to Christ and His Lordship.
- Forgiveness without repentance. Many craved forgiveness, but clung to their sins.
- Religion without the Holy Spirit. They feigned “a form of godliness” while “denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). In other words, they didn’t long to go deep into the heart of holiness.
- Salvation without regeneration. Church members wanted to be saved but didn’t desire the | change of heart brought about by regeneration.
- Politics without God. Booth I lamented the crookedness of | politicians and how God was | left out of national decisions.
- Heaven without hell. Preachers enjoyed talking about heaven but were reluctant to talk hell.
My pastor’s heart is stirred that these same issues exist as we enter this new millennium. Yet the issues are not new. They are as old as the problem of sin. Moses himself would have easily agreed with Booth’s six points of departure as he watched the children of Israel fling themselves in debauchery at the feet of the golden calf. Simply put, human beings without a radical encounter with God are far from holy, regardless of the generation. Yet, the remedy for the children of Israel, the 19th-century Church, or the Church in the 21st century is exactly the same: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
We need an old-fashioned revival in the land! A revival of prayer, of love, of evangelism, of generosity, of power, of genuine faith.
A revival of prayer. In Acts 4:31, early Christians experienced the incredible force of prayer: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” That same power is available to us. If we are to have an old fashioned revival in the land, laypersons and pastors must become prayer partners, and all church prayer vigils must be a way of life.
A revival of love for one another. First Corinthians 13 stresses the magnitude of love. When this type of supernatural love exists, there is no issue of wicked power struggles or fighting within the Church. A dose of this love results in a turning from wickedness that leads to restitution and reconciliation in relationships, especially within the Church.
A revival of evangelism and outreach. Once those called by His name have experienced divine love and divine forgiveness, they will be driven to share Christ’s love with the world.
Jesus’ final recorded words to His disciples were, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The word “go” here is not used as a command. Instead, it takes on the nuance of a compulsion. In other words, a revival of outreach and evangelism will happen when Christians are so awe-struck by God’s grace and forgiveness that they are literally compelled to share it with everyone they meet.
A revival of generosity in the Church. In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul clearly reinforces the tithe principle found in Malachi 3:10, and even urges Christians to sow generously (9:6). In short, when there has been a revival of generosity in the Church, we will become like those who “urgently pleaded . . . for the privilege of sharing” with those in need (8:4).
A revival of power and demonstration. One of the most radical demonstrations of God’s power is healing, whether it is mental, emotional, spiritual, or physical. The word “salvation” means to be made whole. As Christians did in the 19th century, often 21st-century Christians want healing but don’t want to seek God or turn from wicked ways. Still, the avenue through which healing will occur involves seeking and turning.
A revival of genuine faith and obedience to the will of God. We will not see any revival if 21st-century Christians don’t exercise a genuine faith in God and radically abandon themselves in obedience to Him. The dragon of materialism has robbed many of their faith and weakened our belief in the fact that God can and will do anything but fail. Many have become like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30, available to do anything but sell everything they have, give to the poor, then follow Christ. True following of Christ involves the kind of abandonment that says, “God, I will obey you no matter what.”
Abraham experienced this kind of abandoned obedience when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham became like a child before his Creator. God cannot and will not move in the 21st century until Christians are willing to likewise become like children (Matthew 18:3). A child is born naked. If we are to see the outpouring of God’s Spirit, we must become spiritually naked before Him, stripped of possessions, solely focused on Christ, cherishing no relationship above the one with our Creator. Then, and only then, will we have a revival in the land—a revival that will revolutionize our churches and ignite our world with the Holy Spirit.
Copyright © 2012 by Stan A. Toler
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