God's Sovereign Power for
Renewal and Revival" (e)
I read a statement the
other day that said that all the spiritual revivals recorded in God's Word
only occurred in the Old Testament history. Great men like Hezekiah, Josiah
and Nehemiah led them. The author went on to say that there is no recorded
spiritual revival occurring in the New Testament. At first that sounded
pretty good, but after thinking about that for a couple of days, I began
to realize that statement wasn't exactly true. Actually the entire New
Testament is about the greatest spiritual revival of all time. God is seeking
a spiritual renewal and revival of humanity through Christ. The gospel
went to the Jew first because God wanted to revive Israel in Christ. Then
the gospel went to the uttermost part of the world
Acts chapter 3 might
seem like an odd chapter to many to find principles for rededicating our
efforts in God's service. But it was here at the temple God sought to renew
and revive his chosen ones. The fundamental principles essential for personal
and congregational spiritual revival are found in this story. The truths
in this story are crucial to the basic concepts of renewal.
Luke doesn't spend his
energy analyzing what is happening. He only tells it in storybook form.
He knew that we would only get paralysis from analysis. It is in this true-life
story that we find the power of God for those in need of renewal. The healing
of a birth deformity becomes the backdrop to reveal the power of God for
a new spiritual beginning. It is God's power seen in this healing that
is absolutely essential for a spiritual rebirth.
The opportunity for
a new start following a failure is the major distinctive of Christianity.
While most Christians acknowledge this opportunity for an individual, many
fail to allow its application to congregations that have gone into decline.
To the alarm of some observers, it would seem that a great number of people
believe that once a church starts downhill, it can never be reversed. Because
of this failure-oriented mindset, many churches disintegrate unnecessarily.
While some churches really are declining, and renewing a struggling church
is a monumental task, the barriers can be overcome. The power of God should
not be sold short--it is His church, after all, and He is able to bring
about the needed changes. Human effort alone cannot sustain or build a
Power of Christ Brings Revival
As we follow this story
through chapter 4, at least eight references are made to the "name of the
Lord." Peter proclaims the power for salvaging our lives, for beginning
life anew begins with the authoritative power found in Christ. The miracle
performed simply substantiates his claim. Peter makes a bold proclamation.
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of
the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness
shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you
and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of
Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead,
that this man stands before you healed. He is "'the stone you builders
rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one
else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we
must be saved." (Acts 4:8-12 NIV)
You have probably heard
someone say, "You can use my name." That usually means, in certain circles,
their name carries a certain amount of clout. However, a human name won't
get you very far, because regardless of the circumstance, human authority
and power is very limited in the overall scheme of things. If you were
to go to the White House and say, "Jim Davis sent me." How far do you think
that would get you? But if you were extended an invitation by the authority
and power of the president, that would have clout. Yet, when it comes to
salvation, Christ has all authority and power. It is through the authority
and power of Christ that we find hope for rebirth and renewal. It is little
wonder that the apostles proclaim the authority and power of Christ. In
essence, that is what the very name Church of Christ stands for. Everything
we do should be done by the authority and power of the living Christ.
There is power
in Christ name. The Jewish community, before whom this miracle
was performed, faced two alternatives. They could continue to trust in
their personal ability to save themselves through obedience to the law
or they could trust in the authority and power of Christ to save them.
We may think the choice is obvious. But for those who have lived out their
lives trusting in self, the choice doesn't seem to be that obvious. It
is especially not as obvious as it might seem for those of us who have
grown up believing that you must pull yourself up by your own bootstraps
through personal strength and ingenuity. This approach about making a difference
in our world leaves the vast majority on the outside looking in.
The power for rebirth and
renewal is only found in God through Christ. It comes down to one simple
question . . . Shall we continue to depend upon our own efforts, or shall
we receive by faith the power of God found in the name of Christ? This
was not only the choice of the Jews in Acts 3, but it continues to be our
looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" So
the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I
give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking
him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and
ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he
went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising
planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who
makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose,
and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are
God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace
God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone
else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For
no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is
Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold,
silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what
it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with
fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. (1 Corinthians
It is not the quantity
of our faith, but the quality of our faith that makes the difference. A
quality faith is found in Christ. It is through faith in Christ that we
allow God to enter our lives, enabling rebirth and renewal. It is a mutual
effort. As we follow the Spirit's leading and guidance through faith, we
allow God's transforming power to enter our lives.
Embracing God's Power
Brings Spiritual Revival
It wasn't a power
that brought attention to the apostles. The early disciples always
stressed the power of the risen Lord. They never regarded themselves as
the sources of power but only as channels of power. They were well aware
of the limitations of what they could do. They were aware of their previous
Peter said to the Jews,
"Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made
this man walk?" (3:12) Then Peter says that it was "By faith in the name
of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus'
name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete
healing to him, as you can all see." (3:16)
God's salvaging power
is identical with the power that made the cripple whole. Later in the story
we find the apostles preaching the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
It is here that we discover the power for a new beginning is also identical
to the power exerted in Jesus' resurrection from the dead. (4:2) It was
this power that gave unschooled, ordinary men astonishing courageous boldness.
(4:13) It was God's power that made what they said powerfully undeniable.
Luke writes, "But since they could see the man who had been healed standing
there with them, there was nothing they could say." (4:14)
They recognized the
need for God's sovereign power to make their mission successful. Notice
what Luke writes in the latter part of chapter 4.
Through faith they were
trusting in God's sovereign power to enable them to proclaim his Word and
accomplish his will. The power was such that they couldn't help speaking
about what they had seen and heard. (4:20)
release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all
that the priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they
raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord,"
they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything
in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your
servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot
in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather
together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' Indeed Herod and
Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel
in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.
They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants
to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to
heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your
holy servant Jesus." After they prayed, the place where they
were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy
Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. ( NIV)
God's Power Embraced
through Renewing your mind.
brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But
this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets,
saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from
the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you--
even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God
to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.
For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like
me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.
Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among
his people.'" (Acts 3:17-23 NIV)
Times of refreshing
or renewal are dependent upon repentance. Although there is nothing
comparable with God's power, it is powerless to salvage our lives without
our cooperation. Peter points out our personal responsibility in accepting
the power of God. "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may
be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that
he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-- even Jesus." (3:19-20)
Repentance focused them on the possibilities of a personal faith in Christ.
In Ephesus, the burning
of the magic books showed the depth of repentance following Paul's preaching.
They were preparing to reprogram their mind to think scripturally instead
of reliving and dwelling on past inadequacies. The beginning of the church
occurred in a revival setting, with large numbers of conversions in a short
embracing all there is of God. Some come to Acts 3 believing what
is said here makes other commands unnecessary. They believe Peter's teaching
of repentance negates what he said about baptism in Acts 2:38. In the previous
chapter, Peter said, "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name
of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Yet, Peter doesn't mention
baptism in Acts 3. However, a little thought reveals that repentance must
embrace all there is of God. Repentance has to do with changing our minds
about how we are living. Repentance is exchanging our way of thinking for
God's way of thinking. Essentially that must include everything God has
taught through the inspired writers. Therefore, we must see repentance
as embracing all of what God has taught on every subject rather than seeing
repentance as negating God's previous teaching on any requirement. In the
word repent, we see a figure of speech where one word is used to describe
the whole process of conversion. It is inclusive; it does not eliminate
anything previously taught on baptism, confession, etc.
As the Spirit of God,
through the teaching of the Word, turns us to embrace all there is of God,
we begin to discover the refreshing enabling power of God to begin a new
way of thinking and living.
God's Power Embraced
through Praise and Prayer
Praise "opens the door
to everything--and the pathway God directs us to walk." Far from being
a religious ritual, true worship is an individual reflecting a proper value
judgment about God. In fact, the English word "worship" comes directly
from the word "worth." Our God is worth praising.
When the Prince of Wales
visited a city in India many years ago, everyone was occupied with the
splendor of his greatness. His name was on every tongue, and he was given
great honor. As he was about to return to England, a large crowd including
many noblemen came to the railroad station to bid him farewell. From private
soldier to mighty merchant, they all fixed their eyes on him as he stood
with royal bearing waiting for the approaching train. Suddenly the prince
spied a little child on the tracks. Realizing the danger, he instantly
rushed forward and picked him up in his arms. When the people saw their
royal visitor stoop down to save the youngster, shouts of praise broke
forth. He was exalted in their eyes even more than before!
When Peter and John
returned from the Sanhedrin court, they had seen first hand the power and
willingness of God to assist them in difficulties. This resulted in them
praising God for his direction and deliverance.
their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported
all that the priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this,
they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign
Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything
in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant,
our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together
against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' Indeed Herod and Pontius
Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this
city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They
did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now,
Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word
with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous
signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." After they
prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all
filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly."
(Acts 4:23-31 NIV)
Praise and prayer
go hand in hand. Until we learn to praise God for what he has done, we
will never be able to pray properly. Praise is aimed at recognizing who
God is and what God has already done in history. In their praise they recognized
what God had done and then they began to realize what God could accomplish
through them. It is little wonder that they began to praise God for what
he had done and ended up praying for him to continue his powerful work
through them. So they prayed, " . . .Now, Lord, consider their threats
and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch
out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through
the name of your holy servant Jesus."
"What should our attitude
and posture be as we approach God--repentance or celebration? Jeremiah
tells us that those who come into God's presence will do so with tambourines
and dancing (31:4), but notice what Jeremiah says next: They shall come
up to Zion with weeping and supplication (31:9). The fact is, as we approach
God's awesome presence, we need a great capacity to do both: to leap with
unspeakable joy, and to weep in agonizing prayers of supplication and repentance."
(Gerrit Gustafson in Worship Today, Sep/Oct 1993)
The histories of many
churches will reveal that a large percentage of them have experienced periods
of stagnation at one time or another, yet have survived and even flourished.
Growth can occur even
without costly programs and evangelism efforts as churches acknowledge
that it is God who gives the increase. New members and new leaders can
bring new life into a church and can even help overcome obstacles that
have stymied growth in the past. The remnant of faithful ones has always
been God's starting point for renewal.
"Renewing the church
is like remodeling your house: it takes longer than you hoped, costs more
than you planned, and makes a bigger mess than you ever thought possible."
--Paul Smith (quoted in Christianity Today, Oct 25, 1993)