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Reviving a Dying Faith

Reviving a Dying Faith

A young lady is uncomfortable about her spiritual life. She believes in God, belongs to a Christian church, attends weekly, gives offerings, takes Communion, and yet she still feels emptiness and confusion. In the back of her mind, she is asking the questions:

• What’s wrong with me?   • Is this all there is to being a Christian?   • Am I really saved?

• What must I do to experience the real touch of God in my life?

She may not be alone. There may be thousands or even millions of Christians in the world who suffer the same way. If you have any of these thoughts or feelings today, then God has an app for that! We will look at God’s solutions by beginning where we ended last week.

Rev 2:1-7 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

The church of Ephesus is a picture of many Christians today. Godly on the outside but empty in the inside. The fervor and passion has cooled, the excitement and zeal of a first love for Jesus has faded.

This spiritual malady does not take place all at once, but it is a gradual process. It usually begins with little departures from the truth of God’s Word—making little allowances and compromises here and there with truths upon which we once firmly stood.

The loss of zeal or love for Christ begins with a rationalization of our behavior, excuses for our actions or beliefs, and resorting to situational ethics about what is right or wrong.

Recently we studied the Book of Acts. We saw the joy and commitment of those Christians in spite of severe persecution. We saw that signs and wonders were the norm of the early church.

We might say this is something that we long to see take place in our church. But do we really? We sing, “Revive us again,” and “Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead,” but do we really desire and plead for the presence and power of God?

I wonder if we are content with the “mercy drops” and satisfied to simply have the Lord break through, every now and then, to do some mighty things among us, but we really aren’t serious when it comes to wanting to see the full power and presence of His Holy Spirit.

Now some say we are living in a different dispensation and that the age of miracles is over. That was for a specific time and place to authenticate the message of the apostles, but we no longer need that today. Really!! The church doesn’t need the power and presence of Holy Spirit today? Miracles are happening in mission fields where people never heard of Jesus, why not here? Is not “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” as it states in Hebrews 13:8? I’m afraid we have become comfortable and accustomed to the absence of God’s Presence in our meetings. In reality, the Presence of God scares us, just like it scared the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. As a result, we don’t experience the miracles of God and our faith is dying.

The church needs to discover once again that we have an unchanging God and an unchanging Kingdom. We need once again to experience the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to be filled with the Spirit and use His gifts to edify the Body of Christ. We need to see people’s lives turned around. We need to see people healed physically, emotionally, relationally, socially and spiritually. We need to experience the unity of the Spirit as the early church did. We need to be living in genuine love for each other, and when we fail at that, then we need to seek reconciliation. We need to have the fire of the Spirit to fall and the people of God to rise up, because the weak, apathetic, dying faith of the Church is making it irrelevant to society!

When God sends forth the Holy Spirit, amazing things happen: barriers are broken, communities are transformed, unity is established, disease is cured, addiction is broken, races are reconciled, hope is established, people are blessed, and revival happens.

If that is going to happen in our church, we must realize the Christian life is not about keeping rules, but about knowing Christ. As I was growing up I heard a lot about being nice and how important it was to be a good person. I was told to be kind and to love everyone.

In churches all across the United States the gospel of “being good” is being preached. In some places, it is translated as being active for social causes, or at least becoming concerned. In other places, the measure of a person’s Christianity is in how tolerant or inclusive they are in their acceptance of other ideas. But 1) until we renew our love for Jesus Christ, we will not experience the Presence of the Holy Spirit or know the zeal of the early church. 2) Until we, who call ourselves Christians, renew our commitment to knowing Christ on a daily basis and living faithfully for Him, we will not experience the power of the Holy Spirit. 3) Until we live by repentance and faith, we will always be going through the motions of religion without knowing the person of Jesus Christ.

As long as we think that Christianity is something that WE do, we are missing the point. It is not about what we do, but what God, the Holy Spirit, does in us. Being a Christian is not doing the right thing or believing the right doctrines, it is knowing the right Person. It is not about being a member of the church, feeding the poor, or reciting creeds. It is not about baptism or communion, although those are very important principles of our faith. It is about surrendering our life, our body, our mind, and our heart to Jesus Christ and desiring Him to take up residence in us by His Holy Spirit. It is about confessing our sin and turning from it. It is about banking everything we have and are on Christ and loving him with our whole heart. That is the work that faith produces.

The Christian faith is not a feeling. It is a real relationship with a real person — Jesus Christ. Christianity is about Jesus, the Creator and Lord of the universe, who desires us to know Him intimately. This relationship is not tame or boring, it is wild and powerful. Our desire should be like Paul’s, who said, Phil 3:10-11 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

The Christian life is not just about salvation, but transformation. To hear some people talk, you would think that once we come to Christ we just wait around to go to Heaven. If that is the way we think, we will never experience the Holy Spirit. We will never understand that Jesus Christ has come to establish His kingdom “on earth, as it is in Heaven,” and we are His agents through whom He works to make that happen. We are to grow in holiness, and be salt and light in a tasteless and dark world. We are to become transformed on a daily basis, through spiritual disciplines, and then be Christ’s ambassadors to the world.

The Kingdom of God is not far away in time and space, it is here and now. And to be living in this Kingdom, we need the power of the Holy Spirit operating in our life every day. The apostle John, in Revelation 14:12, talks about all the things we have to go through in this world and says, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.” Patience is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit and we cannot endure and remain faithful without Him.

We can’t try to be good and think that we are a Christian. We cannot just point to a past experience of being “born again” and say that we are a Christian. We have to grow after our spiritual birth. We have to be transformed into the image of Christ in order to be Christian, which means Christ-like. We can’t be apathetic toward the things of God and His Kingdom and expect to experience the Holy Spirit. A true transformation results in a change of the heart that loves Jesus and desires to know Him better every day.

When we are delivered from the bondage of sin and ushered into the Kingdom of God where there is freedom, we delight in the things of God. The more we know Jesus, the more we love Him, and the more excited we are about His Kingdom. The more we love Jesus, the more we want others to know Him. The more we experience His Presence and Power, the more of Him we want. This is the Way of Life in Christ. There is nothing apathetic or boring about this Life. We have been forgiven. We have inherited eternal life. We have experienced eternal love. We are holding nothing back because we have discovered real life. We have found the pearl of great price, and it is worth more than everything else we have seen or possessed. Because of this we are excited about the wonderful God we serve. We are willing to do whatever it takes to have more of Him! After we cut away everything that is holding us back and walk out of the bondage of sin, then the Holy Spirit comes to us in new ways, and we discover a life that we did not know was possible.

Are you ready to discover that life? Aren’t you tired of going through religious motions? Are you ready for a real intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? Assuming you are already a baptized believer, here are some of God’s app’s for that.

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Sin is a faith and joy killer. Joy is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit and sin grieves the Holy Spirit. Let’s get our eyes off sin, throw it off, and fix our eyes on Jesus, the real life giver. Remember that a follower of Jesus can expect treatment like Jesus. To face opposition from sinful men requires perseverance and power from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, let’s put off everything that hinders or grieves the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Ephesians 4:22-32 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

We wound our faith and grieve the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways when we are unwilling to yield totally to Him. What is in our heart, comes out of our mouths. If our heart is bitter, evil speech comes out of our mouth. That defiles us and everyone who hears what we say. We must repent and forgive, so the love of the Holy Spirit can control our tongues as we listen to His still small voice tell us what to say or when to remain silent.

1 Thes. 5:19-24 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

We smother our faith and put out the Spirit’s fire by stifling or suppressing the urgings of the Holy Spirit to do God’s will. Do not stifle the gifts of the Spirit that God has given to you or the other members of the body of Christ. Do not depreciate the utterances of preachers, nor despise inspired instructions, exhortations, and warnings, but test everything with the Word of God.

Phil. 2: 14-16 Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out  the word of life

Complaining and arguing grieve the Holy Spirit. These things will quickly put us in a depressed mood, show a lack of faith, and destroy our witness. Pray for grace to practice 1 Thes. 5:17-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Then we will shine like stars in this dark and depressed world.

Finally, the overall app is to let the Holy Spirit take full possession of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Luke 10:27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Ask the Holy Spirit to give you this grace and to take complete control of your life.

In summary, if we have a lukewarm or dying faith, we need to make Jesus our first and greatest love again. Today is a good day to rekindle that love and revive our faith. Let’s begin now to put off all hindrances, sin, and seek Jesus with all our heart again.

If you are not a baptized believer, this intimate relationship with Jesus Christ is still possible. Confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, repent of your sin and independent living, give Jesus your life in baptism, and receive His life in the Holy Spirit. What a great exchange!