The Great Cover-up is Our Sin: This is Our Problems
If we are honest with ourselves, we would find that we are much more broken than we think. Of course we usually do not think about ourselves in this way. We rather pride ourselves in how good we are. We pretend that we have no problems. In order to keep up the game, we try to think that a big degree, being famous, landing a good job or owning a great house or propriety or car shows how ‘good’ we are. We love to cover over our spiritual, moral, social or marital problems. But in fact, we are broken, and we need fixing. Jesus said it this way,
‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelation 3:17-19).
We believe we have need for nothing and so we will find no solution. Only when we see that we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, can we find help. This is the biggest problem with things going well. We think everything is okay when it is not.
If I have an empty glass, it is easy to take it and fill it with water. But if I think that it is full, then I will never go fill it up. This is the way it is with our spiritual lives. Jesus is the River of Life and yet we do not really go to Him for help.
The sign of Christian maturity is not how long one has been a Christian but how much he believes the real truth about himself: that he desperately needs help and Christ is the only way that helps comes. Some of you know that this “Filling of the Holy Spirit” is our need every moment of the hour. I would like to touch upon this topic today. We will look at two of the basic requirements for the filling of the Holy Spirit from Psalm 119. The good part is that any Christian can meet these requirements. The bad part is that many of us are just too prideful to share our lives with Lord Jesus. Let’s look at the first basic requirement for the filling of the Holy Spirit.
1. The Acceptance of Our Spiritual Needs (Psalm 119)
The first thing that we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to recognize how empty we are without the Lord filling our lives. Wealth and riches have fooled most of us. We think that if we can buy what we want, then one’s life is successful. But we only need to look around and find out how this is not true at all. How can those who were so excited to get married would even think about a divorce now? Why would those who just had their baby regret that they even have a child now?
Psalm 119 has always impressed me. As I read it, I always feel like I have a long way to grow. If I would think there was anyone who had a handle on spiritual living, it would be this Psalmist. But then, what do we find throughout this Psalm of 176 verses? We see that he consistently calls out to God to be revived. This is where I draw my first conclusion. That it is the humble that are lifted up. It is those who are aware of their real needs that really are the strongest. Let’s look at how this Psalmist uses this phrase ‘Revive me’ throughout Psalm 119.
Psalm 119:25 My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Thy word.
Psalm 119:37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Thy ways.
Psalm 119:40 Behold, I long for Thy precepts; Revive me through Thy righteousness.
Psalm 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction, That Thy word has revived me.
Psalm 119:88 Revive me according to Thy lovingkindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Thy mouth.
Psalm 119:93 I will never forget Thy precepts, For by them Thou hast revived me.
Psalm 119:107 I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Thy word.
Psalm 119:149 Hear my voice according to Thy lovingkindness; Revive me, O LORD, according to Thine ordinances.
Psalm 119:154 Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Thy word.
Psalm 119:156 Great are Thy mercies, O LORD; Revive me according to Thine ordinances.
Psalm 119:159 Consider how I love Thy precepts; Revive me, O LORD, according to Thy lovingkindness.
Was this a man who had things together? Yes and no. Nine times he is seen crying out to God, ‘Revive me!’ Only two times he has shared how he has been revived.
What is the Definition of the Word “Revival”
The first thing we need to do is define this word ‘revive.’ We have focused on and prayed for revival for several years. Most of us are not new to this word, and yet, it is an easy word to forget what it means. At the root level this word revives here in Psalm 119 means ‘bring to life.’ From the Latin root, means again and ‘vivere’ means life. In fact some versions and translations do not use this word revive but the words bring to life.
Why would this living person ask to be given life? This phrase ‘bring to life’ or ‘give life’ can be quite vague. What does it really mean? I think of someone who this week said the bike was broken. Others were out biking, but this person tires were flat. It wasn’t going anywhere. The tires needed more air. Revival has to do with bringing new life into our souls. Somehow there was a leak. Our fervency, our prayer life, our giving, our service, our worship, our love for God’s Word, our willingness to stand up to God’s moral standards have somehow weakened. Instead of being strong and firm, we are like a plant that needs water.
Did you ever walk by a wilted plant? If it could cry out, it would shout, “Water me or I will die!” The cells are not properly functioning and the whole plant is quite limp. Once one gives water to the plant, it is revived. It straightens back up. The cells again are properly functioning. Revival basically means restoring what needs to be restored so that the person can live. If a person asks for revival, he is essentially saying that he is dying and needs help from another. This is where most of are at but we do not recognize it.
Perhaps from this word we can gather some practical understanding of the stages of spiritual life. Which stage best describes where you are at? From this Psalmist’s life, we can see that a desire to have more life or to have these life principles more alive and operative is fundamental to his strong godly life. This awareness of the need of God’s grace and mercy was one of the strong factors that defined his life. And so we conclude, if we want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we first must be aware of our need for His grace. This is not only true for a person coming to know Jesus but also for the Christian in his walk with God. Being aware of our spiritual needs has at least two basic assumptions.
(1) Being alert to where we are in our Christian lives to how we need to grow.
(2) Being alert to the great mercy we need from Christ to forgive us and cleanse us from our sins.
One of the greatest problems that Jesus pointed out that hampers a Christian from growing is the fact that he does not think he needs to grow. Only the sick, He says, will come to the doctors. We need to come to the River of Life. We need the Spirit of God to come fill our lives today.
2. The Desire for God’s Word in our Lives. (Psalm 119:156)
When we looked at all the ‘revive me’ verses, we were surprised to see someone so strong in their Christian lives to regularly cry out ‘Revive me!’ There is another characteristic of this psalm and therefore the Psalmist. If you have read Psalm 119 before, you no doubt recognize that he is preoccupied with the Word of God. Do you remember how many verses are in this 119th Psalm? 176 verses. Every verse but a few refers to the Word of God. Being a poet, he uses all sorts of words to describe God’s Word. But again and again he mentions the truth of God.
It is this great need and love for God’s Word that is the second prerequisite for the filling of the Holy Spirit. If you want to be a strong Christian, you need a great love for the Word of God. You can easily take your spiritual temperature by asking yourself this question, “How much do I want to read God’s Word today?” Our conscious need for God’s Word shapes how we approach making time in His Word. If we do not believe it is that important, then you and I will read without reading or not read at all. It’s important to note that our desire for something shapes our approach.
This Psalmist encourages us by His great love for God’s Word. In order to show you more what this is like, let us focus only on one verse. Many are like it, but we will choose to reflect on Psalm 119:156.
Great are Thy mercies, O LORD; Revive me according to Thine ordinances.
Revival is shaped by God’s Word. Please notice with me how revival or new life takes place. We could perhaps fill the blank in many ways.
“Revive me through ______.” Some want excitement. Others change. Some like the adrenalin through joining a crowd of sports fans. Others like feeding their sensuality. Others like to do daring things. Some like to keep moving house or changing jobs. Others think of changing partners. Others think of getting pay raises. People want success and fame but they are not looking to the Lord to fulfill their lives. Many like to buy things. The Psalmist, however, jostles us awake. He does not seek the world to fill him but God’s Word. He knows real life come from God’s Word. Before we are filled with the Spirit of God, we need to be empty of the world.
But when we study this Psalmist’s writings, we find something very interesting. He repeatedly affirms that revival comes through God’s Word. Did you notice how many times he said this?
Ps 119:25 Revive me according to Thy word.
Ps 119:37 And revive me in Thy ways.
Ps 119:50 Thy word has revived me.
Ps 119:93 I will never forget Thy precepts, For by them Thou hast revived me.
Ps 119:107 I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Thy word.
Ps 119:149 Revive me, O LORD, according to Thine ordinances.
Ps 119:154 Revive me according to Thy word.
Ps 119:156 Revive me according to Thine ordinances.
How does God’s Word bring revival? How can the Bible, a book written so many years ago, so greatly impact our lives? At the time this Psalmist wrote, he probably only had the first five books of the Bible or maybe a few more. Most of the Word of God was written at later periods. In fact this word ‘ordinances’ is most often translated ‘judgments.’ It usually refers to proceedings from certain court cases. These are the legal words from God’s covenant in the Book of Moses. You might wonder how can the Psalmist get so excited about them. For him, it was God’s Word. God revealed something special to man. He gets to learn and apply it to his life.
We have to face it. If we want revival, then we need a renewed way at looking at God’s Word. The Bible is not only to introduce us to God Himself but also to keep us close to Him. We might think of it as a good marriage. One of the keys of a good marriage is a couple who often communicates to each other. Now I talk to married couples who hardly ever communicate with each other on a deeper level. Even if they sat next to each other, they would not know what to say! All they might hear is a question about what to do next, who will drive the car or putting the car away, what do the kid eat today or what date they are going out of town on business. They just never talk. It doesn’t take a wise counselor to see that this marriage is wobbly. Communication at a deeper level is important for the development of any relationship including our relationship with God.
This is where some of us fail. We think God is a means to get something that we want or need. If I believe in Jesus, then I have eternal life. But God has much more for us all. Salvation is the beginning of a lifetime relationship or friendship with Him. We need to realize that it is a beginning of something wholly new.
The richness of life comes about when we realize that having the Lord close to us is the most important thing of life. He makes everything special and dynamic. By listening to His Word and trying to learn from Him, you have a special access to the Lord. You are deliberate about reading and meditating on His Word. On the other hand, if you are ‘too busy,’ then you will not make time in your schedules for the Lord. You basically shut Him out of your life. Even though He has so many things to teach you and help you live out a Spirit-filled life, you have chosen to live it out on your own strength.
In a very short time, you will begin to feel very barren and dry. Fears, worries and bitterness often accompany these backslidden times. Any time that you or I choose to live without the Spirit of God, then we are essentially no longer living by faith but by our own flesh and for our own purposes. But you still might be wondering, “How can the Word of God become so special?” There are a number of issues here. I have spoken about a few of them already. Let me summarize them and then go on and provide a few illustrations.
(1) God wants to regularly commune with us as a friend. By conversing we get to know each other.
(2) God has a lot to say to me to help me with life. I only can gain these things if I purposely listen to Him and obey Him.
(3) It is through God’s Word that we can hear Him. I am not sure what percentage of communication is through His Word, but my experience is upwards to 90% of His help stems from meditating in His Word. Now He can speak through others, situations and dreams. But more than likely without a close relationship sustained by meditating on His Word, we will not even notice these other forms of communication or even worse we will misuse them.
The Spirit of God works through His Word. Unless we are devoted to God’s Word, then we will never hear what He has to say to us. Devotion to God’s Word is directly related to our growth in our spiritual lives. But let us mention a few more points here for we all want to be filled with the Spirit. For here we see the mighty Spirit of God move through His church such in the days of old. Why play with religion when you have God’s truth? Why play with virtual love when it can be real love that comes through your life. God’s Word is a mighty shaper. So how does God revive us according to His Word? Let me propose a number of ways this can be understood. I will suggest seven!
1 God’s Word gives us the pathway by which we can restore our lives. The way back to God is always obedience. The struggle is whether we will submit to God’s truth. This is because our flesh is so rebellious.
2 God’s Word marks a clear way to follow. When we are confused, it is its light that can help show us that narrow path that leads to life. When feelings get confusing, go back to God’s Word. When arguments arise, go back to God’s Word.
3 God’s Word brings God’s special peace into our lives. When we are so confused as to what we need to do or how we are to do it, take some time out and just quietly meditate on His Word. He will bring peace to your heart and mind.
4 God’s Word clearly instructs us what is right and wrong when values are being thrown all about. The world might state there is no reason for marriage; God lays it all out right here in His Word.
5 God’s Word is where we find God’s purpose in life. We not only understand where we fit in but where everything fits in. It is absolutely tremendous in throwing aside all our futile short-term goals for that which is great, glorious, worthy, good and right.
6 God’s Word is where we come to grasp God’s holy person. Only here can we understand His person and how He desires to involve Himself in our lives.
7 God’s Word is where we hear of His marvelous plan to forgive and save all who come to Christ. Have you come to Him? What holds you back? No life means death. Spiritual death forever. Things only get worse.
Revival comes when we let the Word of God shape our thoughts, decisions, motives and character. The more we allow His Word to influence our hearts and minds, the more revived we become. This is the opposite to Satan’s method. Where Satan uses lies to confuse us, the Lord uses truth to clarify things so that we can have strong lives.
The question of revival comes back to how much we really are exposed to God’s Word. We see two main problems.
- · I fall because I do not know God’s Word.
- · I fall because I do not allow God’s Word to sufficiently challenge my thoughts and ways.
They are both solvable. They both stem with the root problem that we do not think God’s Word is so important to our lives.
(1) The first one is an issue of priority. If you want revival, spend more time in His Word. Plan right now when to do this. Tell someone close to you of your decision and keep you accountable. But getting near God’s Word is not necessarily the same as getting God’s Word in you.
(2) Secondly we do not allow God’s Word to really touch our lives. I would like to use the remaining few moments to share one or two illustrations from Psalm 119:156 on how to do this.
Reviving our Hearts through Psalm 119:156
Let’s look at this verse Psalm 119:156 together in our closing moments. Let us not only look at this verse but put our lives into the verse or bring it into our lives. This is not going to be our plain knowledge of that verse that will make a difference in our lives. We can memorize it but that does not mean it is having a true effect on my life. We just heard a sermon on it, but that can fall far short of bringing the impact of God’s Word on our lives.
This impact starts when we like the Psalmist have faith that God really can and wants to speak to us right now through His Holy Word. This has to do more with how we train our minds to learn. Remember we want to take God’s Word in our minds and transport it down in our hearts. Why? Because we believe God has much, not a little, to say to us. We believe we cannot do without His word. Like the Psalmist God’s Word is the very means to revive my burdened soul. Let’s start from the beginning and look at it in its three natural parts.
Great are Thy mercies, O LORD; Revive me according to Thine ordinances (Psalm 119:156).
- “Great are Thy mercies, O Lord.”
Here is a clear proclamation of God. He is humbling himself before God. Mercies are a picture of how God pitied us in our poor situation and rescued us. We need to start going through our lives and recounting how many ways we have seen God’s mercy actively at work. Do your thoughts convince you that His mercies are great? Do you find yourself starting to worship and admire Him because of His great mercies? He is great because they are great. The Psalmist sees them. Do I or we also?
Then comes our time to respond. For what is in our mind must touch base with our heart if it is going to truly impact our lives. Usually God’s Word prods me as to how I can grow. You might tell the Lord that you really don’t know how He has been merciful to you. If this is the case, you should tell the Lord that you want Him to teach you how He has been merciful to you. Prepare yourself. God is serious about such conversation. Keep alert to how He teaches you through all sorts of means. More than likely He will show you how horrible you and your generation are without Him and how patient and kind He has been to us. The some situations and challenges we are confronted with in live didn’t make people bad but only revealed what people are like without their security and without God.
In any case, we should see that this ability to see God’s mercies and be moved to adoration of Him should be something that we all have. We need to confess how we really don’t sufficiently know Him and therefore do not rightly respond to situations in our own lives. Ask Him right then to give you a better perspective. This is the way we begin to get a biblical mindset so that the Spirit of God can freely reign in our lives. The degree of mercy that we show to others is dependent on the amount of mercy that we have perceived ourselves to have received from Him. Even as I prepared this, I noticed that I do not have enough mercy in my own life. I do not know God sufficiently in this area. “Oh Lord, revive me according to Thy Word. Awake us to who You really are.”
2. “Revive me.”
As I said, we need to firstly understand what this term means. Always force yourself to put His Words in your own language. When you do, you will see that it can have different shades of meanings. Examine the word in its full range of meanings. In this case, we have seen that revive literally means renewed life. This Psalmist seems so spiritual but even still he desires to have more life. He realizes how spiritually impoverished he is. “Blessed is the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). I will not go through what this word means here, but we need to transfer this to our hearts.
Am I spiritually poor or dead? Where am I not doing well? Do I even know where I am dead? A dead person is defined by not being aware of his circumstances. Do I care whether I am dead? Then whatever I see in my life, whether it be a poor prayer life, lack of mercy, insensitivity to His Word, I ask for forgiveness and genuinely from my heart plead that the Lord would revive me. Can you do this now wherever you are? Cry out, “Lord, revive me!”
3. “According to Thine ordinances.”
This is the last phrase we are to discuss. And again, we have already explained what it means. Revival comes through the way God’s Word shapes our hearts. This is what we are doing now in a very practical way. But we need to ask ourselves, “How devoted are we to His Word?” “Is revival far from me because I doubt parts of His Word?” If so, we better detect what it is that causes us to doubt and seek the Lord for answers.
Do I believe the way I can improve any aspect of my life is through God’s Word? The point is, we put our effort into what we believe can help us. If we do not believe it is helpful or relevant to us, we hardly listen. But when we know that the Lord has special insights to impact our lives, our eyes brighten up. We start paying close attention. We begin in faith to start looking what He has to say to us. This is biblical faith. The confidence that our Creator has something to say to us that is very important to our lives.
Our generation has the luxury of the printed and audio Word. Satan no longer could keep the Word from us so he changed tactics. He started using distraction and wealth. So now even though we might own the Word of God, we are too tired, too busy working, too busy working out, too busy watching television to experience the Lord through His Word.
The Lord says that if we could put down all these distractions just one day a week, we would do very well. But often we can’t stand being away from other things. The attractiveness of the world around us might hinder our closeness with the Word of God if fixed our eye and heart on them, but our lives should not focus on the activities around us but on our relationship with the Lord. Again, going back to our own lives. Do I really believe that my greatest joys and problems are founded in times with the Lord in His Word? What does my Sunday look like? The Lord has spoken so clearly about time for Him. If I examine my week’s schedule, how much time is spent in His Word? Is there a way, I can put aside some time away from distractions and make the study of God’s Word a priority? Or perhaps you have a regular devotional time but just can’t get anything out of His Word.
God’s Word is real practical. In each of these three areas I can reflect and find that I feel God’s Word shaping my life. And after I take action on these few things, the quality of my life improves. I have a testimony of how God’s Word indeed has helped me. I will more clearly remember when I feel down, weary, sad or tempted, God’s Word is the place to be for it is where I will find God Himself. We all need God’s Word to challenge the very way that we think, approach things, and make decisions. Only as much as you dare to expose your thoughts to God’s Word, will you grow in your love for God.
A bike without air in its tires. A river bed without water. A car without fuel. A plant without water. All these are scenes of less than desirable situations. Sometimes our spiritual lives share the same problems. We do not have enough God’s life. God wants all of His people to be filled with His mighty Spirit. He wants all of us to make us a strong people of God. It will not happen as long as we allow two things to happen.
1) We do not really believe that we have a need for God.
2) We do not believe that God’s Word is important to our lives.
On the other hand, we can deliberately seek God’s Spirit full work in our lives. We are not trying to produce empty experiences. We first remember with this Psalmist that we ourselves need reviving. It is not just my enemy over there. It is me. Secondly, we need an encounter with the Word of God. Let the sharpness of the Word of God touch our very hearts and minds. Put your seatbelt on. Open the Word of God without any distractions. And get ready.
Many of us do not think we are ‘broken.’ Everything seems find, like when Moses was on the mountain with the Lord. But God has another perspective of our lives. We need to turn back to God and seek Him with all our face and with all our heart. For grace and life only come from Him. Only in Jesus are the Rivers of Life released in our lives.
Below are specific prayers we all need to pray today.
TEN SPECIFIC PRAYERS FOR REVIVAL, RENEWAL, REFRESHING
1. Ask God to bring deep conviction of sin, spiritual brokenness, a holy fear of God and genuine repentance among His people. There will be no revival without these elements and only God can produce them in His people. We cannot program or “work up” genuine brokenness and repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
2. Pray for deep cleansing, genuine repentance, and spiritual power to engulf pastors and Christian leaders. Revival and spiritual awakening are extremely unlikely without a mighty move of God in pastors and Christian leaders. Renewed pastors / leaders are crucial to a move of God in our day! (Ephesians 6:14-20)
3. Pray for God to bestow spiritual hunger in His people and draw them to fervent prayer. God has to grant people the genuine faith and the fervent desire for prayer. Promotion and programming cannot produce a genuine prayer movement.” (Philippians 2:13) Example: Let’s ask for forgiveness for failing to seek justice for those who are oppressed and overlooked. Cry out to God to bring justice to those who are oppressed and to use us as a voice for the voiceless, marginalized, and overlooked.
4. Pray that God will bring loving unity in our churches and a deep harmony between our churches. Pray that our churches would reflect the people living in our communities. Many churches need healing among members and should partner in advancing the Kingdom of God together, rather than seeking their own “kingdoms” individually. (John 13:35)
5. Pray for God to fill His people with a passion to see people come to faith in Jesus. (Only God can give a genuine burden for souls.) Until God’s people intensely pray for the lost and boldly speak the gospel to others, revival will tarry. Who are the not-yet believers that you can pray for right now by name? How can you be intentional about spending time with those people this week? This month? (Romans 9:1-3)
6. Pray for God to give His people a passion for everyday mission (in the neighborhoods and the Nations) and starting churches. Great revivals produce an explosion of new ways to engage on mission through missional communities, new ministries, new church plants, and by sending’s people to other countries. Only God can grant a genuine passion for mission. (Matthew 28:19)
7. Pray that God raise men and women up to serve both the body and the community with their God given gifts. Many churches are dying for lack committed, covenanted men and women who are seeking to serve, rather than to be served. How is the Lord calling to serve Kids? Administration? Music? Hospitality? What about new missional communities? We can start only as many missional communities as we have leaders to start them. (Matthew 9:37)
8. Pray that God will pour out His Spirit like a mighty purifying flood. Ask God to purify our motives as we pray for revival, renewal, and refreshing. After all, it is possible to pray for revival for selfish or ambitious reasons. Our motives must be solely for: (a) the glory of God, and (b) the increase of the kingdom of God. We must not pray for revival just to solve our own problems or make our church successful in the eyes of men. (James 4:2)
9. Pray for a mighty move of conviction and salvation upon communities of cultural influence. Some key examples are business owners, government officials, educators, teachers, and college professors, news and media people, talk shows hosts, comedians, LGBT activists groups, the music industry. (1Timothy 2:1-2)
10. Specifically pray for God to pour out His Spirit in a fashion even greater than He did in previous revival. Ask God for a modern day Pentecost in Ghana, Africa and the world. (Mark 11:22- 24; John 14:13-14.)