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Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival
By Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Tim Grissom
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2004 Life Action Ministries
All rights reserved.
Revival: Who Needs It?
The revival we will be talking about in this study is for God's people—those who by faith in Jesus Christ have received salvation and belong to Him. (People who do not belong to God cannot be "revived;" they first must be regenerated!) Since the days of Adam and Eve, God's people have often chosen to resist His will and rebel. Because of His great love, God keeps calling them back to intimate fellowship with Him. God's grace—the desire and power He gives us to return to Him—always accompanies His call to revival.
"Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, til He comes and rains righteousness on you."
(Hosea 10:12, NKJV)
Going Deeper in the Word
2 Kings 22:8-13, 18-20
Day 1: Faith-Builder Story
(1) Why did you decide to do this study? As you begin to seek God in a fresh way, what are some of your hopes? Your fears?
Read the following story of one self-made man's realization. Then answer the questions that follow.
"I thought I was going to get away from the Lord! But wouldn't you know, the Spirit of God went right along with me."
I was a man who truly had everything I ever wanted—a beautiful family, lovely home, several successful business ventures, and respect in my community and church. Like the foolish rich man in the parable Jesus told, my "barns were full and overflowing," and I felt pretty good. I certainly didn't see any need for "revival" in my life.
But God knew my true condition, and He loved me enough to do something about it. I attended an extended series of special revival services held at my church. Through the Bible teaching, God began to show me how blind and spiritually bankrupt I was. I was being confronted with truth from God's Word, and the Holy Spirit was convicting me. I found this very uncomfortable. In fact, when I had to go on a business trip for three days in the middle of the crusade, I was relieved; I thought I was going to get away from the Lord! But wouldn't you know, the Spirit of God went right along with me. Those were three miserable days of conviction.
The next Sunday morning the speaker shared the Bible story of Naaman, the commander-in-chief of the Syrian army. He was a wealthy leader who had it all together—except that he had leprosy. Naaman wanted to be healed, but he didn't want to do it God's way. So he approached it the way I would have; he loaded up six hundred shekels of gold and ten talents of silver, and went down to buy his way out of his problem. Right in the middle of this story, God's Spirit said to me, "You're just like Naaman! You've got spiritual leprosy, and you need to be healed. You can be restored, but you're going to have to do it My way."
I realized that I was proud, rebellious, ungrateful, and unyielded.
I fell on my knees and cried out to God as best I knew how, asking what He wanted me to do. In my heart I heard Him say, "I want two things: submission and obedience." Those were strange words to me, but I put myself at His mercy, confessed my sin, and repented.
God slowly showed me that I was trying to hang on to all the "things" I was accumulating instead of trusting Him to provide for us. He began to deal with me about my business and financial affairs, which resulted in a freeing, radical change of values for my family.
"God said, 'I want two things: submission and obedience.'"
(2) Identify some of the outer and inner factors that brought about spiritual change in this man's life.
(3) Have you ever experienced the kind of encounter with God that he described? What was the message you needed to hear?
We are hardly the first human beings to discover our need for personal revival. Listen to the ancient cry of the psalmist's heart:
6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 8 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. 8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. 9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. (Psalm 85:6-9)
(4) According to these verses, who needs revival?
! Key Point
Revival is for God's people who have drifted spiritually.
(5) What are some of the results of revival among God's people?
If you haven't already done so, be sure to read the Introduction on pages xii-xv. It helps define what revival is.
Day 2: Truth Encounter
To begin our study let's look at the Old Testament, where we clearly see God's desire to restore His wayward people. Consider, for example, the prophet Hosea.
Hosea prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel during a period of rapid moral decline ending in destruction by Assyria in 722 B.C. Hosea's family was a symbol of God's relationship with His people. His wife was a prostitute (representing spiritual adultery), and his children had prophetic names.
God sent Hosea to prophesy to the nation of Israel. Though they were God's chosen people, the nation was in a sad state of spiritual and moral decline. For years they had enjoyed God's blessings—material bounty, military strength, peaceful relations with neighboring nations—yet they still turned away from Him. They stopped viewing God as the source of their blessings and chose instead to credit themselves. They put off worshiping God. They ceased loving Him. They replaced Him with idols, worldly pursuits, and earthly wealth.
It was to these confused fellow countrymen that Hosea delivered repeated rebukes and appeals. If they did not return to the Lord, he warned, judgment would surely come. Here is the essence of Hosea's message:
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. 13 You have plowed wickedness; You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, Because you trusted in your own way, In the multitude of your mighty men. (Hosea 10:12-13, NKJV)
Key Point !
If we want to return to God, we must be prepared to break up the hard, barren ground of our spiritual lives.
(6) What was Hosea's charge against the Israelites?
Old Testament prophets confronted sin, warned of God's judgment, and urged people to repent.
(7) What do you think it means to "break up your fallow ground"?
Fallow ground —once plowed, but now lying waste—must be tilled (broken up) with a sharp plow in order to make the soil ready for seed and, ultimately, fruitful and productive.
The condition of the Western church is remarkably similar to that of the nation of Israel. In many ways we too have forsaken God and attempted to replace Him with other gods (idols). If Hosea were preaching now, he would scarcely need to alter his words! He might tell God's people today:
Return to your former lifestyle of righteousness, to a time when you were close to God and obeyed His Word .
Accept God's mercy and forgive those who have wronged you.
Allow God to "plow up" the hardened ground of your hearts, especially in those areas where you have long neglected His will.
Grieve over your sins.
Ponder the consequences of sin that you are experiencing.
Accept responsibility by admitting you have brought these consequences upon yourself.
Make seeking God your highest pursuit.
(8) With the above message in mind, has there ever been a time in your life as a Christian when you walked more closely with God than you are walking right now? If yes, what are some consequences you have experienced as a result of this loss of intimacy with God?
Day 3: Truth Encounter
GOD'S LOVE DRAWS US
Why does God want to revive our hearts and restore us to a closer relationship with Him? One major reason is that He loves us!
We need to beware of misunderstanding the heart and ways of God when we study His dealings with His people, especially in the Old Testament. Due to the numerous accounts of God's judgment recorded there, we might get the impression that God was eager to punish or that He is harsh, demanding, and impatient. But really the opposite is true. Times of judgment usually came after years of pleading with His people to come back to Him.
Key Point !
God's unfathomable love for us moves Him to draw us back to Him when we've strayed.
Look again at the book of Hosea. God said:
1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols. 3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. 4 I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. (Hosea 11:1-4)
Then, after taking His people through a time of discipline and correction, God urged them once again:
1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity 2 Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, "Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, 'Our God' to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy." 4 I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. (Hosea 14:1-4)
(9) When did God start loving His people?
* After they "cleaned up their act."
* After He vented His anger on them.
* When they were young, at the beginning of their existence.
(10) Do you think God ever stopped loving them?
* Yes, at least for a while.
* No. God always loved them, even when they needed discipline.
Explain your answer:
The passages from Hosea 11 and 14 provide "before," "during," and "after" snapshots of how and why God revives and renews His people. The constant in all three stages is His love. God loved them when they were newborns ("child" in Hosea 11:1 literally means "infant"); He loved them after they returned to Him from a season of rebellion; and He loved them throughout the whole process of correcting them.
"Revival is that strange and sovereign work of God in which He visits His own people—restoring, reanimating, and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing."
It was His love for them, in fact, that caused them to want to return to Him. It wasn't that they suddenly "felt" love for Him again, nor that they somehow remembered how wonderful it was to live with an awareness of God's love. It was that God caused them to desire that love relationship again. He enabled His people to see not only how wrong they had been and why His discipline was necessary, but also that He would welcome their return because He had never ceased loving them.
Perhaps your own heart is hungering for intimacy with God—an intimacy that you haven't enjoyed for a long time or perhaps have never known. That very desire is God-initiated. He wants you back! Why? Because He loves you and knows that you cannot experience all He has for you in your present condition.
(11) Write a prayer thanking God for His faithful love and for His desire to restore His people when they have wandered away from Him.
Day 4: Truth Encounter
RETURNING TO OUR FIRST LOVE
The need for believers to return wholeheartedly to God—to be revived—is also addressed in the New Testament. The book of Revelation records the apostle John's vision. In this vision, Jesus speaks to seven churches. The church at Ephesus had once been a vibrant group of believers, deeply in love with Jesus. They had maintained their doctrinal purity and their separation from evil practices. They had worked hard and persevered, and they had a zeal for service. Yet something was wrong. After commending their strengths, Jesus addressed a matter of grave concern to Him:
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:4-5, NKJV)
! Key Point
We can get back our "first love" for the Lord.
(12) What had the church at Ephesus done that so displeased the Lord? Put into your own words what it means to leave "your first love."
(13) What three verbs do you note in Jesus' command? What light does this shed on the process of revival?
Over the years, the Christians at Ephesus had somehow lost sight of the Savior. Their love for Him had lost its fervor. They had transferred their affection elsewhere, and this deviation threatened to cost them dearly.
God wants us to love Him first and foremost. When we find ourselves trusting in people instead of the Lord, this indicates that our heart's focus has shifted from Him (Jeremiah 17:5). Love for people—friends, family members, or even ourselves—can compete with our love for Him (Matthew 10:37). Other substitutes for a God-centered love relationship may include money, pleasure, friends, work, ritual in worship, the teachings of respected leaders, or Bible knowledge without a relationship with Christ.
Revival does not begin when a struggling, wayward person decides to return to the Lord but rather when the loving heavenly Father, wanting His people to enjoy the safety and security of His love, calls him or her back to Himself. God is the initiator; the call to revival is a plea of love from the heart of God.
A major city in western Asia Minor (now Turkey), Ephesus was a center of early Christianity. Paul based his operations there for three years, and the apostle John is believed to have spent his final years as bishop of Ephesus.
Excerpted from Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Tim Grissom. Copyright © 2004 Life Action Ministries. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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