When we start talking about spiritual growth, when we start asking how to restore spiritual passion – we are dealing with the real thing, not some theoretical, harmless make-believe world.
When you have a physical illness, you take it seriously. You know that to ignore it might have serious consequences for your long term health and might even cost you your life. Your spiritual life and spiritual depression, if left unattended, could have just as significant effects, even jeopardizing your eternity.
Paul knew something about spiritual discouragement, and he also knew the antidote: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)
A chapter later in 2 Corinthians 5, as he talked about the struggles and concerns of this life, he wrote: “We live by faith and not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7)
Yes, while we are in this body, in this world, we will struggle with spiritual discouragement, but Paul reminds us, the real world is beyond the grasp of our physical sight. And God is at work in ways that we may not be able to see, but are more real than we can possibly know.
God is in the business of changing lives; he is at war with those forces that battle for our souls, and he uses live ammunition. (The Greek word for power in the NT is “dunamis,” from which we derive our English word, “dynamite.”) And I believe so many of us struggle spiritually because we think this battle is all in our hands, that it rests on our strength and power, and we feel so inadequate for the task.
It reminded me of that story in Isaiah 37. Jerusalem is surrounded by the Assyrian army. They are outnumbered and they face certain defeat and death. King Hezekiah is fearful and hiding and the prophet Isaiah comes to him with a message that the Assyrians will never step foot in the city; they will never shoot an arrow in attack. God, through Isaiah, promises Hezekiah, “I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.” (Isa 37:35). During the night an angel came and slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers and their king Sennacharib, returned to Ninevah and stayed there.
You have that same God fighting your battles, protecting you from attack from an even deadlier opponent – Satan. Never underestimate, not only what God is capable of doing, but what he has promised he will do.
What do you preach to folks who almost didn’t come this morning? Who had other things they could have been doing. Who, but for a last nudge of habit, a last twinge of conscience, might have stayed home and tended to some long overdue chores around the house. Who might have headed to the golf course on a beautiful day. Who might just have slept in and then read the newspaper over a late breakfast?
What would I say to those folks? Folks for whom their Christian obligations are neatly confined to an hour of Sunday morning worship. It might not always have been that way. You might even hope that it wouldn’t always stay that way. You come, hoping that something might be said, some word of conviction might be spoken that would reach down deep into those inner recesses where your spiritual longings lie buried under layers of routine and disappointment, of lesser priorities and missed opportunities.
Let me tell you that I would start by saying, “I’m glad you’re here.” I’m glad that out of all the other things you could have chosen, you chose to be here. Preachers seem to spend a lot of energy beating up on people for not being more spiritual--devoting more time--giving more money-- living up to some standard that we raise like a bar that no one could hope to jump.
This is where God’s people need to be, this is where God wants you to be. This is where lives are changed, this is where spiritual passion is ignited – not this building, but in the midst of God’s people.
Last week I shared two principles and two actions to get started on the road to restoring your spiritual passion:
1) If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
2) It’s easier to act yourself into a better way of feeling than to feel yourself into a better way of acting.
3) Immerse yourself in God’s Word.
4) Connect yourself with people.
This week I want to head inside – to work on our hearts – who we are that really precedes what we do.
What restores spiritual passion? Being captured by an incredible vision – taken captive by a great task.
Isaiah 6:1-7 –In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
This is not a passage on worship, but on commissioning – vs. 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah has been like every other Israelite – pretty comfortable where he is. He goes to church every week, he prays, he gives – we’d be proud to have him as a member – we’d make him an elder! But then, Isaiah experiences something that changes his life forever – he sees the Lord – he hears the call and he says, “Here am I, send me.”
And you’re thinking – “If I had an experience like Isaiah had, I’d be fired up too.” And so you wait, squirm, fidget and think, “I’m just not getting much out of this.”
The truth is, Isaiah didn’t go to the Temple that day because they had some great speaker or some special event. He was there because that’s where Isaiah always was on the Sabbath. And I imagine most Sabbaths were routine – the same ol’, same ol’. But he showed up – he came because that’s what God’s people do. And you never know what might happen when you show up where God is at work.
God revealed himself that day to Isaiah because he knew Isaiah’s heart. He spoke to Isaiah because he had a job for Isaiah to do. And the truth is, he has revealed himself and he has spoken to us as well! Isaiah’s response depended on the readiness of his heart to hear. And so does yours.
Spiritual passion will be yours when you decide you want that more than anything else and are willing to pay the cost. God’s promise:
Jesus – “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these other things shall be yours as well.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled”.
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Jeremiah – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Someone who is a casual observer will never experience the life-changing, life-empowering spiritual passion that Jesus promises to those who commit themselves to following him whole-heartedly.
There is an old saying -- “Most Christians have just enough religion to make them miserable, but not enough to make them happy.”
The fact is, you get out of something what you put into it. If you don’t put much in, you won’t get much out. You only get out of church what you bring with you.
Satan’s strategy with Christians has always been to get them to settle for where they are at. Don’t call, don’t ask, don’t depend on God to do great things. You’re just fine where you’re at, relying on your own cleverness and resources.
Some of us have settled – this is all there is – but God says, “There’s more!”
Illustration – a fisherman watched the water nymph become a graceful dragonfly.
Paul writes that, through the Holy Spirit, we are transformed into the likeness of Christ from one degree of glory to another.
What restores spiritual passion? Knowing whom it is who restores it.
Once you decide who it is that gives real life, let that real life-giver take it from there. No one shares the stage with God.
Our problem is, we’re looking for some new technique, some exciting answer, someone to come and say, “Here it is!” – and everyone gathers around and says, “ooh, aah!”
We’re looking for something packaged and marketed – in a shrink-wrapped box with a table of contents and a leader’s guide.
If you’re looking for spiritual renewal and passion – you don’t need a new program and a PowerPoint presentation to get you fired up – you need to know the one who ignites the fire.
We know all about God – we lay out our flip charts and expound our syllogisms – oh, we know all about God – but do we know God?
I encouraged you last week to immerse yourself in the Word – not for the purpose of becoming a biblical scholar, but to fall in love with God. God has revealed himself in his Word – he wants us to know him – to have a personal, daily, intimate relationship with him.
When Jesus was talking about that relationship he has with us, he talked about shepherds and sheep – about knowing his voice, and laying down his life. And in the middle of all of that in John 10, he said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Do you want your spiritual passion to be rekindled? – Jesus came to give your life the abundance – the fullness – that only he can give.
What restores spiritual passion? Experiencing the power of prayer.
And I don’t mean at all that what we need is a class on prayer, or a workshop on prayer – that all might be good. But what we need is to pray – to become men and women of prayer – for whom prayer is food and water – we cannot live without it.
If we aren’t people of prayer – everything else is just window dressing. Nice buildings, organized programs, enthusiastic preaching aren’t going to make up for prayer-less lives.
And I wish I had something clever and creative to say about prayer other than to get on your knees and open up your heart to him. But prayer isn’t clever and it isn’t creative. It is basic, it is fundamental, but it is not simple – there is nothing simple about talking to the Creator.
It is letting God know everything about you – warts and all.
It is confessing your sins and exalting his holiness and praising his goodness.
It is sharing your struggles and your victories – and being a voice for others whose lives need his strength and intervention.
It is letting God know what your needs are – even though he knows them better than you do.
And it is listening to his answers – sometimes yes – no – wait.
Where does God begin spiritual revival in the life of an individual and in the life of a church? With prayer. Prayer has been the beginning of every spiritual revival – whether it has been in the life of one person, one church, or an entire nation.
We read a passage from Jer. 29 – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Let’s back up a couple of verses and hear God’s heart and God’s direction. God’s people were about to go into exile for 70 years – away from their homes, away from the Temple, and in their minds, away from God.
It was a time of despair and fear. God speaks:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
In 1983, when the young Apple Computers was struggling to find its place in the computer marketplace and in danger of becoming another footnote in the history of the computer, like Atari or Tandy, Steven Jobs went to John Sculley, the successful CEO of Pepsi and tried to persuade him to come and work with Apple. At first, Sculley refused the offer until Jobs asked him “do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want to change the world?”
Posted on Sun, July 12, 2015
by John Roberts