RSS icon Email icon Home icon
  • The ABC’s of Spiritual Revival (from Isaiah 64)

    Posted on September 14th, 2010 admin No comments

    Earlier this year I decided to plant a garden. I cleared brush from a small area in my backyard. A friend came over and tilled the ground. I planted six tomato plants, two hills of squash and two hills of cucumbers. I made sturdy cages for the tomato plants. I put grass clippings at the base of the plants, and kept that little garden looking nice. I enjoyed going out to the garden each day for a few minutes to stir up a little dirt and to observe the new growth.

    At the end of July I traveled to South Carolina to spend a week with my family. When I came back to town, one of the first things I did was check the garden. All of the squash plants, except for one, had dried up to nothing. The cucumber plants were crying for water. The tomato plants were barely hanging on. My once healthy garden had dried up. My garden needed revitalized. If I were to ever enjoy fruit from those tomato plants, I needed to address the dry condition of my garden, and I needed to do it immediately.

    You may be at a place today where the condition of your spiritual life resembles the condition of my garden in early August. You were once healthy. You were once growing in your relationship with God. You had an intimacy with Jesus Christ that brought you more joy than anything the world can offer. But something happened in your life that made your spiritual life dry up. You’ve lost the joy of being in fellowship with God. You’ve lost the hope of knowing that God works on your behalf. You’ve lost the wonder of worshiping God. Your spiritual life has become dry. Your spiritual life needs revitalized.

    If you don’t address the dry condition of your spiritual life, your heart will harden. Your spirit will crack and filth will seep inside like wild bees flying into the cracks of clay soil. Your appearance will even wither as you long to drink from the streams of living water provided only by Jesus. If you don’t address this dry condition of your spiritual life, you won’t produce any spiritual fruit. Sure, you can go through the motions of doing church, but you will know in your heart that you are drying up.

    That’s no way to live the Christian life, so let’s look to Isaiah 64 to answer the question, “How do you revive a dry spiritual life?”

    In Isaiah 64, the prophet Isaiah called out to the Lord on behalf of the nation of Israel. The people of Israel were God’s chosen people, yet they found themselves separated from the chosen land and from the Lord. Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 64 provide instruction for us, during our times of spiritual dehydration. This process of spiritual revitalization involves three steps. I call them the ABC’s of spiritual revival.

    First, Acknowledge God’s sovereignty.

    Isaiah 64:1 begins, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.” The prophet Isaiah recognizes the spiritually dry condition of Israel, and he asks God to show himself. Isaiah knows that God has appeared to his people in the past, and he wants him to do the same thing again. Let’s look at three examples from the Bible where God let his presence be known:

    Exodus 19:18-20 says how the Lord descended on Mount Sinai in a flame of fire. The mountain was surrounded by smoke, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. Moses spoke to God, and God answered him in thunder.

    The song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:4-5 records how God made his presence known, “Lord, when you… marched… the earth trembled and the heavens dropped, yes, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked before the Lord… the God of Israel.”

    Psalm 18:6-12, “6 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. 7 Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. 8 Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. 9 He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. 10 He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. 12 Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.”

    Isaiah knows how God has made his presence known in the past. In Isaiah 64 he wants God to do the same thing again. He thinks, “If God would only show himself, then people would turn their hearts back to him.”

    Isaiah did not have the developed revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ that we have today. Hundreds of years passed between Isaiah 64 and Matthew 1. Those were seriously dry years for people of faith. In Isaiah 64:1 through 4, the prophet’s cry was, “Show yourself God. Make your name known. Reveal yourself to us!”

    Maybe you’ve been there in your own life. You are desperate for God to show himself in some tangible way. You think that if only God would do something that you could see or touch, then you would have a massive faith infusion that would get you through spiritual dry spells. If that’s you, then let me tell you something very important. God has made his presence known in tangible ways. Yes, God caused mountains to tremble. He has caused coals of fire to rain down through his clouds. But, the greatest way that God has made himself known to humanity is through the person of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to beg God to do anything else. There’s no need to ask God to come down from the heavens, because he has already done that in the person of Jesus Christ. God has provided the way of salvation through Jesus. If you want to experience God, then get to know Jesus Christ.

    Our job as Christians is to acknowledge Jesus for who he is. He is more than a good man. He is more than a faith option that works for some. Jesus is the only way to God the Father. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is the creator of all things (Colossians 1:16). Jesus is the one who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). Jesus is the head of the body, the church. Jesus is the beginning. Jesus is supreme (Colossians 1:18). Jesus is the king.

    If you are in need of spiritual revival, start by acknowledging the sovereignty of God. Lord God, you control all things. There is no power beyond you!

    Last month I played a round of golf in Gatlinburg, TN. I started the round with a bad attitude. The condition of the course wasn’t very good. The guy behind the check-in counter charged me a rider fee for my golf cart companion. My bad attitude caused me to completely miss the splendor of playing golf in the smoky mountains. It was until I recognized the grandeur of the mountains, and the rivers, and the trees, and the clouds, that I started having and good time, and playing much better.

    We can make the same mistake in our spiritual lives. We can get a bad attitude about our job situation, a friend who said something mean, the price of eggs, the condition of our tomato plants, or even the latest doctor’s report. If we aren’t careful, that bad attitude can cause us to miss the splendor of God. Look to the cross and see what God has done for us. Know who Jesus is. Acknowledge God’s sovereignty.

    Second, belt our your sins. Just like the little child who screams above the other kids when he sings in the school choir, belt out your sins to God.

    In the first line of Isaiah 64:5 Isaiah says how God meets people who work righteousness. To understand what that means, notice the first line of verse 5 is parallel to the second line, “those who remember you in your ways.” Both lines of poetry are saying the same thing. The idea is that God has fellowship with people who do what God tells them to do.

    The second half of verse 5 gives us more insight into Israel’s spiritual condition during the prophet’s ministry. “Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time.” Israel’s disobedience wasn’t something new; they had spent many years rejecting God, and that angered God. The last line of verse 5 tells us that the prophet wondered if there was any hope for Israel. Would God save them, or would they continue in captivity until death?

    Verse 6 uses several similes to convey the idea that the nation of Israel was in a place of hopelessness. The first line of verse 6 says that the entire nation had become as unclean as a leper. According to the second line of verse 6, even the people’s best deeds were filthy—as filthy as a dirty cloth used by women during their monthly cycle. The people were as spiritually dry as a shriveled leaf that would soon be blown away.

    In verse 7 we see that the Israelites did not call upon the Lord. There was no one who reached out to God. Their sin made God angry such that he hid from them and gave them over to their sin. The people of Israel at this time saw no reason to call upon God because they doubted he would respond even if they did pray. Sin separated the nation from God. Sin kept pushing them farther and farther away from God. Sin led God’s people to a place of spiritual dryness.

    Rather than doing nothing, they should have belted out their sins to God. “We’ve turned away from you. We’ve worshiped idols rather than worshiping you. We’ve failed to follow your commandments.”

    This challenge to belt out your sins doesn’t have to come in the form of audible words. Should the Spirit of God prompt you to follow the ABC’s of spiritual revival during a meeting at work, you may lose your job if you start screaming out your sins like a child. Make this “belt out” challenge a spiritual discipline between you and God. It certainly works as a scream—should you be alone in a field somewhere—but it also works as a quiet whisper or a silent thought.

    The New Testament makes this need for confession very clear. In his first letter, the John says, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

    Third, call upon God to act. Present your requests to God.

    Isaiah 64:8 begins, “But now.” Sometimes we all need a “but now” moment. Call this “but now” moment an attitude adjustment, or another chance to live in God’s grace. Regardless of how dry your past has been, God is ready to give you another chance. This “but now” moment begins with you though. You are the one who must turn to and call upon God.

    Notice how, in verse 8, Isaiah presents his requests to Lord. He calls out to the Lord in a personal manner whereby he addresses God as Father. Isaiah doesn’t just unload his wish list for better living. In verses 8 through 12, Isaiah repeats the process that forms the outline for this entire chapter. In presenting his requests to God, Isaiah works through the ABC’s of spiritual revival.

    He begins in verse 8 by acknowledging God’s sovereignty. “We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” The prophet Jeremiah reported similar words from the Lord. Jeremiah 18:6, “Behold, like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses the same illustration to teach about God’s sovereignty in election. Romans 9:20-21, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” The basic idea in all of these passages is that God is sovereign. He is in control. He is the potter, who can mold and shape everyone however he sees fit. The best thing we can do as the potter’s clay is to acknowledge his sovereignty over us by allowing him to have his way with us. “I’m putting myself on the potter’s wheel; mold me and shape me o God!”

    In verses 9 through 11 Isaiah belts out the sins of Israel. One of the many blessings of being a New Testament believer is that we don’t need anyone like Isaiah to belt out our sins for us. We can go directly to God with confession, so we must do that.

    Even though God knows the condition of our lives, tell him. “Dear Heavenly Father, I feel distant from you.” Tell God that you are in a spiritual drought.

    In verse 12, after acknowledging God’s sovereignty, and belting out Israel’s sins, Isaiah calls upon God to act. He has already mentioned his request earlier in verse 9, “Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever.” But in verse 12 Isaiah calls out to the Lord, “Will you restrain yourself at these things, O Lord? Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?”

    Given all the bad that Israel had done, Isaiah still called out to the Lord to act. What Isaiah wanted more than anything was for God to once again show himself to his chosen people.

    A few weeks ago I got home from the Friday night Bible study and discovered that I was locked outside of my house. I needed to get inside the house so that I could work on a sermon for Sunday. I started thinking of the sin in my life. A little thing like being locked outside of my house reminded me that God is in control and that I am dependent upon him. In that place of desperation, I acknowledged God’s sovereignty, belted out my sins, and called upon God to act.

    Should you find yourself in a spiritually dry condition, remember the ABC’s of spiritual revival.

    The maintenance light on the dashboard of my car recently came on. I got out the owner’s manual to figure out what type of maintenance that light was referring to, The owner’s manual said, “change oil.” I have no problem if this vehicle wants to tell me to change the oil. However, I just changed the oil less than 200 miles earlier. I googled this issue and discovered that the maintenance light is programmed to turn on automatically every 5,000 miles. When you get your oil changed at the dealer, the dealer resets the maintenance light. I changed the oil myself, so I needed to learn how to reprogram that light.

    I found an on-line bulletin board that explained how to reset the maintenance light. I followed the procedure, and the maintenance light went off.

    Spiritually dry seasons in your life should serve as that warning light to your soul. When the maintenance light comes on by experiencing spiritual dryness, don’t think your life is over. You haven’t lost your salvation. You are going to be okay if you simply perform routine maintenance on your soul. When the maintenance light comes on, follow the ABC’s of spiritual revival. Then trust God to reset that warning light by bringing you back into fellowship with him.


    Leave a reply