(excerpt from the sermon)
Sermon Series: The Year of Re
We want revival. We've said that we want to experience God like we've never experienced Him before. And we said that you can't work up revival. You know, I wish we could do some kind of dance. And suddenly, like praying for rain, God shows up and revival comes, but it doesn't work like that. We've defined revival as seeing things we haven't seen before, feeling things that we haven't felt in a long, long time, and being able to do things that we never thought we could do. Revival is when God shows up. Now, God is always here, but it's when you don't have to ask people to come to the house of the Lord. They're afraid to miss it because God keeps showing up and doing fantastic, wonderful things. It's when people rejoice and they're celebrating on their way to the house of the Lord.
Some will try to promise you this treasure chest, but the only real motivation for great generosity, for service, for love, for kindness, for all of those things is when you fall in love with Jesus. Nero, in 64 A.D., blamed the fires of Rome on the Christians because he hated them. He hated them because the Christians gave their allegiance not to Rome but to God. So he blamed the fires of Rome on them. He arrested Peter and crucified him. Oral tradition tells us that when Peter was crucified, he asked that he'd be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to be killed or crucified in the same manner as his Lord. Now Peter's come a long way from denying even knowing Jesus to say, “Yeah, I know Him, and when you kill me, when you crucify me, crucify me upside down.” What, in your life, has the spirit of God asked you time and time again to give up that you will not give up? Here's what I need to tell you: You're stuck.
You can't graduate, you can't go on. You can't climb the spiritual growth ladder. You can't be used to any greater degree than you're used to now. You're stuck. Until you do that, you can't move ahead. You can't go forward. He loves you, but you can't go forward. Remember the story I told you about the historian who wrote about the fourth-century Asiatic monk, Telemachus? Telemachus is up in the hills and the gardens where he likes his peaceful life. And one day he hears the voice of God and God tells him to go down into the city. He goes (this is the short version) down into the city. As he's going down into the city, there's a crowd that he's never seen. He's lived up in the mountains for so long, it's kind of intimidating. They push him into the arena. As he's in the arena he witnesses, for the first time, the gladiators. You know, where they would come out and say, “To we who are about to die, we salute you.” And all the crowd, they're just bloodthirsty. Telemachus sees this and because he's been in community with God, it offends him and he yells in the stadium, “Hey, in the name of Jesus Christ, stop this thing. Stop this.” People just ignore him. You know, like they would at any other sporting event. He runs down the first level and he says “In the name of Jesus Christ, forebear, stop this thing.” And the crowd hushes, they're paying attention to him now. Somehow he leaped the wall and got down into the arena and he shouted in front of everybody, “In the name of Jesus Christ, stop this thing, stop this.” And suddenly everybody in the audience says, “Run him through with the sword.” And the guard comes over, “Run him through, run him through.” And he says, one more time, “In the name of Jesus Christ, stop this thing.” And the soldier takes the sword and runs Telemachus through. And as he's got the sword, dying, bleeding out, he kneels down on the dust and says one last time, “In the name of Jesus Christ stop this thing.” And the historian says that many other things were brought to bear, but never again was there a fight in the gladiator arena. People sometimes say, “Well, Jesus would never ask me to give up anything that's good.” Was Telemachus’ life good? And God required it. This is something we don't talk about because it could be offensive. It could cost us too much.
Have you ever read Matthew 11:12? The kingdom of God suffers violence and violent men and women take it by force. You know what the passage is about? Jesus speaks it. And He's saying this: Living in the kingdom of God is a daily fight. It is a battle between the spirit and your flesh. It is a battle between you doing what Christ wants you to do and living a theocentric life or an ego-centric life where life is all about you. And can I tell you: Until you fall in love with Jesus, there's no way you're going to sacrifice anything for Him. So when He asks you not to do that, you'll find a way to do it (to obey). When He asks you to give up your money, your time, your resources. That's the beautiful thing about Christ, He says, “Look, I'm giving you all these things for your enjoyment. You've got so much, but there's a part of you I require and you're not going to sacrifice.” There's no way you're going to give that up until you fall in love.
The truth is, you never know how God's going to use one person over another person. It's none of your business. You follow Jesus. He may ask you to give up something. He may not ask anybody else to give it up, but you follow Jesus and He may lead you into difficult roads. Follow Jesus. But can I tell you something? You won't do it if you're not in love with Him, you won't do it. You see how everything hinges on the first part of the passage. Until you understand what God has done for you. Until you've understood the treasure He has given up for you and His own Son, you're never going to treasure Him.
“Pastor Jeff, I really want to, but I just don't feel it.” Okay, get down on your knees and pray that the God of heaven opens your eyes to the truth of the gospel so that your heart will be melted and you'll fall in love. You can do that, you know. Pray that your heart will be melted. Say to Him, “I don't love you more than anything else, but I want to. I won't sacrifice everything for you, but I want to. And I'm not sure I want to follow where you lead.”
Do you remember the story in the Old Testament? Where David has lost his armies, he's lost the battle, he's leaving Jerusalem and his kingdom has come to disarray, because of his own mistakes or his own failures, or his own sins. And as he's leaving Jerusalem he gets some of his men who are left with him to take the Ark of the Covenant, because you want that ark. You remember what happened when the ark got in somebody's backyard and the corn grew so high? Another guy got the ark and everybody started getting healed. So David says, you know what, we may leave the women and children, but we're taking that ark. We're taking the ark. And then he gets outside the city and, after all this work and effort, he looks to his guys and he says, “Guys, take the ark back into Jerusalem and leave it there.” In that one moment right there, David finally stopped manipulating God. And he says in that passage, “Do to me, as it seems good to you, God.” You know you've fallen in love with Jesus when you say, no matter what you face in every new day, no matter what obstacles in your life, because there are a lot of people hurting right now, I promise you there's a lot of people that are hurting, that are worried, that are depressed, that are anxious, that don't know how they're going to face tomorrow. Those things are real.
Your only hope is Jesus. And to put yourself in His hands and say, “I don't like this right now, but do to me as it seems good to you, and wherever you lead my life, I'll follow.” Let me tell you something, I can't promise you that everything will get better tomorrow, but I can promise you this, your countenance will be lifted because you know He's got the whole world in His hands. This is the revival that I want for us, that we fall in love with Him and that we say to Him, “We'll sacrifice everything for you if you require it of us.”
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