Tuesday, June 14, 2011

No more "holier-than-thou"

1 By the time the seventh month arrived, the People of Israel were settled in their towns. Then all the people gathered as one person in the town square in front of the Water Gate and asked the scholar Ezra to bring the Book of The Revelation of Moses that God had commanded for Israel.
 2-3 So Ezra the priest brought The Revelation to the congregation, which was made up of both men and women—everyone capable of understanding. It was the first day of the seventh month. He read it facing the town square at the Water Gate from early dawn until noon in the hearing of the men and women, all who could understand it. And all the people listened—they were all ears—to the Book of The Revelation.
(Nehemiah 8:1-3)

We hear much talk about revival in America.  These concerns about revival have churches preaching that we need to bring back prayer in our schools - in the face of severe opposition to keep it out.  There are movements to reach out to the "un-churched" - connecting with them in a "seeker-friendly" manner.  All this is well and good, but it misses the mark of how and where revival starts.  Revival starts with the cries of hungry hearts that desire obedience over comfort and the desire of a leader to bring forth the word in a manner that does not compromise its integrity.

Ezra was such a leader to Israel - he had received grace to return to their home land and he had the familiarity with the Word of God as a "scribe" of that word.  His position as leader was appointed by a worldly king, but anointed by a divine God!  As such, he was in the unique position to bring the people to a place of revival.  

The leader plays a great part in the times of revival - but it is the individual hearts of the people that must be in alignment with that move of the Spirit that brings people to the next level with God.  These believers stood before Ezra that day many years ago with several earmark characteristics of the heart of one who desires revival - not just in the church - but in their individual lives.  Those characteristics can apply to each of us today:
  • They were hungry - there was a great number of them who were hungry for something more in God.  Whenever a group of passionate people begin to gather together, there is a tendency for the passion of the individual members to "build" or "ignite" the passion of the others in the group even more.  Where there is a similar longing of the heart, there is a tendency for that longing to build.
  • Their hunger caused them to want to understand the Word of God like they never had before.  It is one thing to hear - it is quite another thing to hear and come into understanding.  The hunger of a passionate, seeking heart will move the Spirit of God.  There are times in our lives when the Word of God is spoken, but it falls on deaf ears and a hard heart.  The hunger of revival breaks through the resistance of heart - opening us to new understanding.
  • There was an attentiveness to the things that they had learned of God.  Revival begins with hunger - but hunger is only sated when there is an intake of what is provided.  Their desire for more of God was affecting their mind - they were no longer content with double-standards.  They desired to "attend to" one thing - God's will.  We come to that place of choosing to embrace God's will by the revival of our mind, will, and emotions.  
  • There was a unity in the group - no one displayed any level of arrogance or "holier-than-thou" persona.  In other words, they were "real" with each other and they were "real" in their display of love for God.  There is nothing more liberating than to make the choice to get truly transparent with God and with each other.  In turn, there is a sense of worship that builds until the heart cannot contain it any longer.  That kind of worship is what God desires.  When he sees that embracing of him, he cannot but help reach out in embracing his people.
Tomorrow we will look at the response of revival.  For today, consider your level of hunger.  Is your hunger for God's best in your life enough to bring you to a place where you finally "get real" with him and with those in community with you?  If not, then you know where to begin!