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Satan knows that to resist broad-scope revival, the spiritual battlefront is ironically very personal. You must understand your vital part in the immanent battle and equip yourself enthusiastically to answer the call.
The corporate body of Christ's war is very personal battle—it is in a real sense, an "army of one"!
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Fire From Heaven
God's provision for personal spiritual victory
By MARK I. BUBECK
David C. CookCopyright © 2007 Mark I. Bubeck
All rights reserved.
IGNITING GOD'S PEOPLE TO JOIN THE BATTLE
Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."
"Do it again," he said, and they did it again.
"Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
1 Kings 18:30–35
I wonder what the world might look like if Elijah were with us today. Would Christ's church be characterized as "on fire" or soaking wet? Would our altar be in disrepair ... crumbled and scattered about?
The truth is, we are facing a sopping spiritual malaise among professing believers today that will not be easy to penetrate—not any easier, anyway, than what Elijah faced in his increasingly pagan nation.
Can anyone reasonably deny that our situation is much like what Jesus Christ spoke to when He addressed the church at Laodicea?
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Rev. 3:15–17)
I am sure that Jesus' words must have been shocking when read by that assembly of professing believers making up the church at Laodicea. Jesus Christ wanted them to be shocked. He was not pleased with their spiritual condition. But He was offering them revival—the opportunity to return to Him—and He wanted them to see their need through His eyes.
It is also noteworthy that although His offer was to the corporate body of the church, Jesus kept it in a personal, individual focus: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (v. 20). Revivals are always intensely personal. The changes take place within each believer's innermost person. The corporate effect flows out from each person's personal encounter with God.
Revival Means Your Personal Transformation ... from Within
It has been said so many times that to repeat it almost seems clichéd: The spiritual condition of the church at Laodicea was remarkably similar to today's evangelical congregations.
Getting past the apparent cliché, though, it can also seem rather harsh. I hope that does not seem too judgmental. I don't mean it that way. I write in the same spirit that many followers of Christ look at Christ's body today: with tears of grief and a longing hunger for change. I include my family, my church, most of my Christian friends, and myself within the parameters of our Lord's words.
Jesus Christ knew Laodicea to be a very needy church. And He knows that about us. We too are very needy. If we are to experience His healing, we need to listen. This is our Lord Jesus Christ speaking: "These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation" (Rev. 3:14).
He is competent to speak—that's the sense of that strange syntax: "These are the words of the Amen." Jesus Christ has the final word. He is the "so be it" One. He speaks with authority. Likewise, He is "the faithful and true witness." Jesus Christ is faithful because God is faithful, and Jesus Christ is God. He is the "true witness." He not only speaks the truth, but also He declared Himself to be the truth (John 14:6).
Jesus is also "the ruler of God's creation." The apostle Paul enlarged upon that infinitely expansive claim with these words: "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col. 1:16–17). How wonderfully reassuring to know that Jesus Christ speaks with unchallenged competence. Every created thing and every created being in the universe answers to Him. He is the One who holds it all together.
This is the voice that speaks the hard words, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot" (Rev. 3:15). These are the words of the omniscient One, the all-knowing Creator. When He declares that He knows, He really knows. He reads it as it is. His knowledge surpasses our own awareness. He knows in the sense of absolute truth. None of us can hide from His analysis of our true condition. We must accept it. For a believer to be "lukewarm" is offensive to the Lord. That kind of spiritually insipid condition is so nauseous to Him that He resorts to graphically descriptive terms: "I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
Our highest level of repentance may need to begin right here: "Lord Jesus Christ, You have helped me see that my indolent, lukewarm spiritual apathy is grossly offensive to You. I acknowledge this sinful condition to have a serious hold on my life. I repent of it and ask You to relight the fires of joyful obedience to do Your will within the wholeness of my person. In Your precious name, I look to You to meet my need."
Lord, Diagnose My True Condition
You say, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Rev. 3:17)
The process by which true believers degenerate into a lukewarm spiritual condition is extremely subtle. At Laodicea, Jesus showed that it began with their move away from spiritual values into a desire for material wealth. Their sense of contentment and well-being focused upon their bank accounts and investment portfolios. The apostle Paul warned his "son in the faith" concerning these dangerous perils of materialism: "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Tim. 6:9–10). This speaks to what is probably the most dangerous temptation being overlooked by most believers in our day.
My Lord dealt deeply with me on this very issue in recent days when I really didn't think this spiritual problem was an issue in my life. I love to give and have rejoiced to be a faithful steward of all that the Lord sends our way. But the Lord stripped off my blinders and let me see some things that I did not know; perhaps admit is a better word choice. When He showed me that certain practices in my life all really amounted to a subtle love-of-money issue, He gave me the grace to enter into some deep repentance and important changes.
The problem is as common to both those who are not rich and those who have wealth. The focus is upon the attitude and the mind-set, characteristically made evident by our life practices. Since we all live in a society given over to materialism, we need the Holy Spirit's wisdom to avoid and escape from this deadly peril with its pull toward making us lukewarm.
Christ helps us see how very serious this "love of money" is by His truthful diagnosis of the Laodicean believers: "But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Rev. 3:17). Those are very humbling words. He is not describing some homeless, hungry, sick, tattered beggar living on the street or under a bridge down by the city dump. He is describing the spiritual state of "a good Christian person" who has a nice home, an acceptable car to drive, money for retirement, and all the visible amenities that we deem important.
Yet spiritually he's "wretched"—his true spiritual joy has evaporated. And he is "pitiful"—he is so out of touch with reality that he is not even aware of his true spiritual state. He is also "poor"—true spiritual riches have disappeared from what he owns. He is "blind"—he just does not see why he needs revival—yes, other people perhaps, but he knows he's saved and he's on his way to heaven. And finally he is "naked" of that spiritual clothing, which is a likeness to Jesus Christ: "Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Col. 3:12).
What a terrible way to appear—naked before our Lord Jesus Christ. If this diagnosis isn't changed by our response to Jesus' corrective words, it might suggest one reason why, at the judgment seat of Christ, God will be wiping away tears from some eyes (Rev. 7:17). Dare we dismiss this very serious, warning word from our Lord Jesus Christ?
His revival is desperately needed. He wants us to have what we need. As you are reading these words, pause and ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to see your own need for revival.
Lord, Counsel Me about What I Need
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Rev. 3:18)
The prophet Isaiah in speaking of the coming of the expected Messiah wrote, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). In Revelation 3:18 that "Wonderful Counselor" offers His counsel to the church at Laodicea and to all of us who know that we fit the diagnosis our Lord gave concerning Laodicea's spiritual condition.
"I counsel you to buy from me." The Lord Jesus Christ lets us know that He has the answers we need for our serious state, and we may "buy" from Him what we need. His counsel is that lukewarm people need three things from Him: (1) They need gold refined in His fire that will remove their wretched, pitifully poor state of spiritual poverty and credit true riches to their account; (2) His counsel is that they can buy from Jesus Christ "white clothes to wear" that will be effective to provide the Lord's covering for their "shameful nakedness"; and (3) the Great Physician counsels them to "buy" His healing—to have "salve to put on [their] eyes" so that they would be able to see what He knows they need to see.
Christ does not specify the meaning of these three things that they need to buy from Him. Yet one can recognize that the "gold refined in the fire" has reference to His chastening discipline; this enables a person to see his sinful attitudes and practices that need repentance and to experience freedom from those defeats He addresses.
Indeed, Hebrews 12 reminds us of the spiritual riches that come from welcoming our Lord's loving discipline: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed" (vv. 11–13).
Revelation 3:19 makes it clear that this is the meaningful purpose of our Lord wanting us to buy gold from Him: "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." It's amazing how quickly spiritual poverty can be turned into spiritual riches when true repentance comes. The riches are what take place in the heart that brings forth the blessings of revival.
The buying of "white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness" may refer to many things that counter our impotence to impact our world for our Lord Jesus Christ. In part, at least, it must include moral cleanness and purity of thoughts and practices. Our shameful nakedness in this matter is epidemic. Living in a morally bankrupt culture takes its toll even on God's people.
If not dealt with in our Lord's victory, the pornography problem on the Internet and in every facet of our society can have an explosively destructive and defiling influence upon our Lord's blood-washed saints. Our Lord Jesus Christ knows the full measure of the problem. Only He can bring freedom from that bondage and return His healing purity into the hearts and lives of His people. The Wonderful Counselor knows how much buying His white clothes is needed in these times when so much defilement is happening to His own.
The "salve to put on your eyes, so you can see" certainly must include the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who gives the Lord's people the capacity to see and understand God's truth: "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us" (1 Cor. 2:10–12). It was very important to Jesus that His disciples wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon them (Acts 1:8; Luke 24:49). The Holy Spirit provided the power they needed to carry out their Lord's commission and provide the illumination of God's Word so they could see spiritual truth and understand God's will and plans.
Jesus Christ offered the essence of revival to these believers who made up the church at Laodicea. Although, as He had just stated, they had fallen into in a very serious state of deception and spiritual decline, Jesus Christ offered them great hope for full restoration and some phenomenal spiritual rewards. There is prophetic significance here. This is one of several strong passages that provide hope for God to grant us a tremendous spiritual revival in the last days.
If Christ offered Laodicea such great promise for revival, He has the same offer for us. Laodicea was the last of the seven churches He addressed in Revelation 2 and 3, and as such, it would seem to have special significance for the end times. In the understanding of many, this church represents the predominate condition that will characterize evangelical churches in the end times.
We need to listen to our "Wonderful Counselor" and begin to "buy" from Him.
Buying from the Lord
For those of us yearning for this promised revival, there is an important question: How does one "buy" what he needs from the Lord Jesus Christ? The Lord seemed to assume that the believers at Laodicea would discern how they were to follow through on His counsel. Perhaps that assumption was based on the fact that He knew the issue had been addressed by His Old Testament prophet in Isaiah 55.
In my understanding, when we harmonize our Lord's counsel to Laodicea with the message of Isaiah 55, we will be brought to promised revival. God's people who obediently listen to our Lord's counsel in Revelation 3:18 and faithfully "buy" from Him will experience His revival. Such a conclusion fits what Jesus Christ conveys in His continuing words to the church at Laodicea. After urging them to "buy" from Him what is needed and to respond to His discipline with earnest repentance, He becomes very personal and conveys clearly how much He is both able and ready to meet their needs: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20).
These words have often been applied to what happens to a person when he or she becomes a Christian believer. Although it may be appropriate to use this text to illustrate what happens in our personal lives when we are saved, proper appreciation of the context does not focus on salvation. Jesus is offering His healing for their lukewarm spiritual disaster. He wanted them to experience His renewal. He offers them the essence of revival.
Clearly, the personal aspects of revival remain much of the focus. As one offering help, Christ forcefully interjects Himself: "Here I am!" Jesus Christ knows He is the answer to what His people need. In the confusion that a lukewarm, materialistic spiritual condition produces, God's people may fall into the fallacy of thinking that our Lord is reluctant to bring them to revival. This text refutes such thoughts. In essence Jesus Christ is saying, "Here I am. I am ready to bring My healing to you!"
The intimacy of His offer keeps probing: "I stand at the door and knock." Don't miss the tenderness and the caring love of these words. The door represents the personal, intimate core of each person. It's what we commonly call our heart. Jesus comes up to that door and speaks: "Here I am!" Knowing the personal nearness of the Lord Jesus Christ is a tender moment in anyone's life, but He doesn't stop there; He knocks and keeps speaking your name: "Mary, Mark, John; I am here. Open your door and invite Me in." Our Lord's eagerness to heal and turn around their lukewarm condition climaxes with His promise: "I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."
Excerpted from Fire From Heaven by MARK I. BUBECK. Copyright © 2007 Mark I. Bubeck. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. Igniting God's People to Join the Battle,
2. God Sends the Fire,
3. The Fire From Heaven Does Burn,
4. Resistance to Revival Fire,
5. God's Sure-Fire Protection Plan,
6. God's Sure-Fire Victory Plan,
7. God's Fire Across the Land,
8. Where to Begin: Personal Renewal,
9. Feeling God's Burden,
10. Believing God's Promises,
11. Making It Happen,
12. Protecting the Participants,
13. Resources and Weapons for the Battle,
14. United We Stand,
15. The Work of the Word,
16. The Time Is Now,
A Revival Cry,