We’re in a series talking about what revival is and what gets us there. A revival is a spiritual reawakening, waking us up to something we’ve been neglecting. Revival can be for those who have never believed in Jesus Christ, but more so, revival is for the current believers, for us. The “re” in revival means we’ve been awake once, but have fallen asleep so we need reawakened.
Remember when Jesus was praying in the garden just before He was arrested and crucified, He asked the disciples to be praying with Him, but instead He found them sleeping and said, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Matthew 26:40-41
We tend to have seasons in our lives when we get comfortable and distant from God, when we get complacent to the world around us, and even forget about God. We know He’s there, we still think He’s great, but He’s just not on the forefront of our minds. As common as that may be, it’s not okay. So, a revival opens our eyes back up to what we are missing and neglecting.
Revival is renewing our love for God and our appreciation for His holiness. Revival is a convicting awareness of our sin, a desire for repentance and reconciliation, a desire to be obedient to God. Revival revitalizes and deepens our faith.
So what gets us to revival? So far, we’ve talked about getting into the Word of God and how important that is. Without it, we don’t learn God’s ways and words for our lives, and we miss great opportunities for Him to speak to us. We also talked about prayer and how Word and Prayer go hand in hand as that is the primary way for us to have a two-way conversation with God, to be connected with Him.
This week, we talking about repentance. This is so critical for revival. And who better to hear from about repentance than John the Baptist whose role was to prepare the people for the coming Messiah.
In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2 “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” 3 The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”
4 John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. 5 People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. 6 And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.
There was nothing fancy about John. Instead, he was extremely simplified so he could be humble with God. Yet many came out to hear him.
7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. 9 Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. 10 Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”
It was John’s announcement of the kingdom of God that made people curious enough to come out of their homes and down to the Jordan River to hear what he had to say. In fact, we know it made a lot of people very curious because a lot of people came. And once there, they were affected with this deep sense of sin and compelled to repent. But John doesn’t allow this conviction to just remain a mere emotion in the heart; he offers the people something physical to do to not only witness to others, but to show God they get it—baptism. Baptism gave them an opportunity to own their sin, repent of it, and accept and commit their lives to God’s mercy and grace. They moved from curiosity to repentance to baptism.
The people John baptized acknowledged their need of a new start with God. That is revival.
John the Baptist is the kind of fiery preacher often associated with Christian revival. Author, Philip Ryken imagines how his message might sound today, writing, “You know what you people are? You’re all a bunch of hypocrites! You go to church on Sunday but then you forget about God the rest of the week. You’re living a double life. You say that you belong to God, but then you secretly go indulge in all kinds of sinful pleasures. You live in your nice big houses and drive around in your fancy cars, but you never do anything to help the poor. You snakes! Do you really think that God is going to save you just because you’ve been baptized and belong to an evangelical church? Listen, unless you turn away from your sins, you’re going straight to hell.”
Given the confrontational tone of John’s message, the huge response to his preaching is a significant part of this story, and we need to pay attention to it. The words John spoke were not some fancy words or promises that got the people’s attention. They were truth straight from God Himself. The people knew it because remember they were already believers in the One True God. They knew they were not right with God as they heard these words.
And I believe we know it too. We know we have work to do. Today, right now, we are being called to repent. The only way we will be reconciled back to God is to repent, to confess our sins and ask God for forgiveness. There’s usually one of two reasons why we don’t. One, we don’t think we need it, or two, we don’t think we deserve it.
WE ALL NEED FORGIVENESS
You may recall that the Hebrew word for sin means to “miss the mark.” This was a great illustration, particularly in a day when people hunted with bows and arrows. And just as an archer’s arrow might miss the intended target, we as human beings miss the target too.
The word points to the undoubtable truth, that there is a mark we human beings are meant to hit, a target we are to be aiming for. John Wesley called this process sanctifying grace, where once we acknowledge and accept God’s grace, God is continually working on us to help us hit that target. But since we miss the mark on a daily basis – saying, thinking, or doing things we should not do, or failing to say, think, or do the things we should do – we find ourselves in need of forgiveness.
Have you ever heard of the “seven deadly sins?” The list comes from the 4th century, and these of course are not all of the sins that we could do, but it is believed that every sin that we do is stemmed from one of these. These can be a real help in examining ourselves to see where we are missing the mark. The deadly sins are: Lust, Greed, Anger, Envy, Pride, Gluttony, and Sloth.
Gluttony – means over-indulgence in something….food, alcohol, items, activities – Whatever it is, it’s when it gets unhealthy.
Sloth – means avoidance of doing what we’re meant to do, which tends to lead us to do the very things we are not supposed to do; often bringing suffering to others and in others words not caring.
Now be truthfully honest, who hasn’t struggled with these sins? Another way to look at “missing the mark” is to think of the things we are meant to be defined by. Like the one’s Paul list in the Fruits of the Spirit. He paints a picture of marks that God intends for us to define our lives with.
“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we hope to achieve these things. But looking over the list, it’s easy for us to see that there are places that we do “miss the mark.”
To be clear, I want to say it again, we sin by things we think, say, and do, but we also sin by failing to think, say, or do the things we should be doing. Either way, sin keeps us from being who God wants us to be and from doing the things God intends for us to do.
We see the impact of sin every day in our world. In the last 10 years, hundreds of millions of people died needlessly due to war, greed, unnecessary violence, terrorism, unclean water, lack of food and health care, and so much more. And the underlining cause of all these things can be summarized by one word: SIN.
Sin enslaves us. It robs us of joy. It’s a lie that over-promises and under-delivers. And it’s easy to look at the seven deadly sins and think they only apply to the other people, not me. But all that kind of attitude does is blind us from seeing and acknowledging that we each have our own struggles with sin.
Paul says, “We all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” Romans 3:23 We’ve all treated others poorly, been self-absorbed, failed to do justice and practice loving-kindness. We’re all difficult to live with at times. We’ve all missed the mark.
There’s another sense in which the word sin is used in the New Testament. Paul speaks of sin as a force, a drive, or a power that is at work within us, or seeks to compel us to do the things we shouldn’t do and not the things we should.
We’d all like to think that sin has no power over us, but that is so far from the truth. We all need to be aware of the power of sin because knowing that sin has power over us is the very thing we need in order to turn away from it and resist its power. As long as I don’t take the time to see my own inner tendencies of sin, I’ll not only find it easier then to do the sin, but I’ll also make excuses for them, I’ll blame them on other people, and I’ll justify each and every one of them.
But if I’m aware of my own sins and impulses that are at work within me, I’m better able to fight against them and actually overcome them. And let’s not forget, that among the many effects of sin in our lives, is a separation from not only from each other, but especially from God. So bottom line, we are all sinners and need forgiveness.
WILL GOD FORGIVE MY SINS?
Some people don’t think they can be forgiven for the things they’ve done. They’re uncertain if God will or even can forgive them. Some people are holding on to shame and guilt from years and years ago, and others take on a new load of guilt every day.
Now feeling some guilt is not necessarily a bad thing. We’re meant to feel remorse when we’ve done something wrong. That feeling moves us to repentance, to reconciliation, and to avoiding the same behavior in the future.
But at times, the awareness of our sin is like being shackled by a heavy burden. Some people struggle with excessive guilt, and it’s often because of how they see God or have been taught to see God in an inadequate way.
They may feel guilty when they are enjoying life, as though God doesn’t wish them to have any joy. They may feel they can never do enough to measure up to God’s exceptions. But let me tell you, if that is how you are feeling, that is not an accurate picture of God. The Scriptures tell us that God is rich in mercy and overflowing with a persistent love.
Jesus came to reveal God’s character and will, and all the way from His birth to His resurrection, Jesus offered grace for all sinners. Remember when the angel appeared in Joseph’s dream, announcing that Mary would bear a son, Joseph was instructed to “name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
Throughout the entire Gospels, Jesus told parables about God’s willingness to forgive sins.
Jesus was known by his critics even as a “friend of sinners.” Large crowds of people who felt alienated from God came to hear Him. He was constantly offering forgiveness to people who clearly needed to know that they mattered and that their lives could actually be made new.
On the night before His crucifixion, at the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and wine and said, “Take and eat. This is my body…Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28
And as Jesus hung on that cross, He looked at His persecutors and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 Then Jesus turned to the thief on the cross beside Him who recognized his sin, repented and asked Jesus to remember him in God’s Kingdom, and Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples, Luke 24:46-47
46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Jesus revealed a God who is more willing to forgive than we are even to ask. That’s why Jesus put it in the prayer He taught us…. “And forgive us our trespasses.” Which by the way, the Greek word for forgive is a word that means “to release.” We are asking Christ to literally release us from the burden of guilt. In other words, we can choose to carry the burden of our sin and guilt, or we can choose to accept God’s forgiveness and to allow Him to release us from the burden.
And when we trust in Jesus’ words about God’s mercy, and believe that God has released us from our sins, we also must release the burden ourselves. Because let’s be real, some of us are really good at asking God for forgiveness, and yet choose to continue to hold on tight to our guilt. But we have to know and believe that it is okay to let go.
God’s desire is that we repent and turn away from the sins we’ve committed, as well as the burdens of sin and guilt that weigh us down.
You don’t have to be defined by the worst things you’ve ever done. And you don’t have to be tomorrow who you were yesterday. God wants to forgive you. God is the God of second chances. Hence why Jesus suffered and died to redeem you. We must claim this every day. Forgiveness really is at the center of our faith.
Author, Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote, “We will never meet God in revival until we have met Him in brokenness.”
Transformation within ourselves and in the communities must include a sincere turning from sin and repenting. Repenting is confessing that we’ve done wrong. Simply put, it’s an apology. It’s then turning from the wrong to do better, aiming this time at the target. Repenting is an act of humility that allows our relationship with God to grow.