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Jesus and Revival

I begin writing this Journal on a plane returning from Belgium. What a challenging and rewarding experience we had with God, with some men and women of God studying at seminary, and with the people of God in the churches. More later…

Revival is on my mind—Jesus style!

Most of the Scriptures used for revival are taken from the Old Testament writings, e.g., Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.

However, what has been on my mind lately is Jesus and revival. Are there New Testament texts of Jesus’ teaching that specifically address lazy and lukewarm Christians and churches? Are there demands of grace that are more stringent than the demands of the Law? I believe so! The standard for the NT believer is far greater than the Law could ever set.

For example, Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “It has been said … but I say unto you…” The moral and spiritual standards of Christ and His teaching are far superior in content, breadth, and depth than those of the Law. What the Law allows, grace does not! The Holy Spirit is grieved with what is allowed as acceptable by some Christians and churches.

Let us examine some of Jesus’ parables which illustrate this point.

Parable of the Sower

This is the first parabolic teaching of Christ. Part of the parable stresses the need for revival—not revival for the hard and sinful heart, or the stony and shallow heart, but for the divided and strangled heart—the heart that hears and receives the Word but the “cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of this life, and the lust of other things strangle the Word.”

Jesus taught that we are to hear, receive, and keep with patience the Word of God. We are to be careful not only about what we hear, but how we hear.

Do we allow ourselves to be strangled (choked) by a slow disintegration of spiritual life, where breathing becomes difficult and the life that once vibrated with a passion for God is now caught up with the gaudy possession of things?

Satan has allured many with a lifestyle that is not only displeasing to God, but does not satisfy the deep longing of the soul. His is a lying spirit that promises riches, happiness, and success apart from God.

But the riches of God’s grace and the pleasures of Life evermore are not to be compared. We have a “God-vacuum” that only God can fill!

Revive us again, Lord!

Salt and Light

Jesus also spoke about salt and light—two fundamental elements of life. Candles are to be put on lamp stands, not under the bushels of commercialism and materialism. We were created to reflect the Light of Christ to our world.

Can anything be more illustrative of many Christians today? Light? Yes. Shining? Yes, but their light shines dimly under the bed of neglect, compromise, and spiritual laziness. Though they are known to the world as professed Christians, they are not known as possessed ones!

Salt must maintain its saltiness to be a preservative and give “taste” to society. Has our salt become tasteless? Have we allowed ourselves to become one of the many mounds of useless salt? The very thing that should contribute flavor—a life of quiet influence through godliness—has succumbed and become insipid and tasteless!

Revive us again, Lord!

Parable of the Lost Son

Consider the elder son in this parable. He was part of the family and loved by his father. Here was a son that was “faithful” in his duties—he never transgressed openly as had his brother, who degraded his life by spending his inheritance on riotous living and prostitutes, ending up slopping with pigs (which were abhorred by Jews)!

“I am not like that,” the elder son said. “I am morally upright and loyal. I do not deserve this treatment from you. I am not at all like your son (not ‘my brother’), and I want to celebrate with my friends.” His relationship with the Father was one of law, not grace!

Do we see this kind of exclusivity in the Church—not considering others as part of the family of God because of their failures or because they do not have the same level of understanding as us? Do we ostracize and separate ourselves from “them”? Do we only accept others based on their living up to a certain standard, like a litmus test?

We need to express Christ’s love! Note that in this parable the father still loved the younger son, even kissing him with the stench of the hated pigs and slop still hanging on him!

What is the “condition” of God’s loving us? What if He held the same standard for us that we hold for other members of the family of God? When Jesus commanded us “to love one another,” it was that “the world would know that we are His disciples.” That does not come with a chit sheet or a check list!

Revive us again, Lord!

Parable of the Pounds

In the context of telling this parable, Jesus is speaking of His return. Until then, the Lord encourages His servants and challenges those who are satisfied with the status quo. On the Day of Accountability, the Nobleman rewards the “good and faithful servants”.

One servant had dug a hole (implying a total disregard and disrespect for the gift) and buried it! He claimed he did it out of fear, but the reality is that he blatantly refused the good grace of the Nobleman and lied about His character.

Jesus called him “wicked” and held a criminal complaint against him—and not because of some moral flaw, poor church attendance, or his tithing record! He was not judged for misuse, but disuse!

What a challenge to those who have received such benefits from the God of all grace, to release His gifts and ministries in the power of the Spirit.

Revive us again, Lord!

Parable of the Vine and the Branches

The obvious truth from this passage is that of renewal—of abiding in the Vine. It is a clear challenge to “abide” (continue, remain) in the Vine. Otherwise, we are “thrown out” as a dried branch—withered, cast into the fire and burned.

There are no real substitutes to abiding—no activity, work, good deeds, or service. One cannot recognize a dead branch immediately, but eventually we can see the withered branch which is to be severed from the Vine of Life.

There is no stronger text for revival! We either abide or are “cut off” from vital relationship with the Vine. By abiding, we accept the pruning and discipline of the Gardener and are changed, or we face the consequences.

Jesus defines abiding as “keeping His commandments”—not singing worship songs, attending church, doing good deeds, etc. The sole criterion is the keeping of Christ’s commands, and His commandments are not grievous: to love God and neighbor.

What a challenge! What an offer of grace! We receive the full benefits of the Vine as well as bring glory to the Father!

Revive us again, Lord!

Azores Islands

A fellow-pastor and I visited the Islands to explore the possibility of establishing a church in São Jorge, the island of my father’s birth. We visited the house where he was born to consider the possibility of using it for the church and parsonage. We shared the Gospel, prayed and laid hands on some of my cousins, and witnessed to several people in their homes.

I immersed myself (though briefly) in the Portuguese culture. I felt like I was going home culturally, having been born in the Azores and raised in a Portuguese home, and attending the church my Dad pioneered in Massachusetts along with other Portuguese-language churches he pastored.

The fellow-pastor began a weekly radio broadcast which we were able to advertise in the local newspaper. We believe the first evangelical church on the island will be established.

Belgium

Carmen and I returned to Belgium after 8 years. I taught a master’s level block course at Continental Theological Seminary, which is near Brussels. The class met 4 hours daily for two weeks. What a joy to see these vibrant men and women of God touched by the Word and Spirit of God. I also had the privilege of preaching at Christian Center (an English-speaking international church) and in a French church.

Again we are deeply grateful to the Lord Who gave us physical and spiritual strength during this time. It was physically demanding, but very rewarding!

Conclusion

World-shaking events are happening so rapidly! There is urgency in our spirit! The ministry in Greece scheduled for September has been rescheduled for January. We are so thankful to the Lord and humbled by His gracious hand of strength and provision, His overall superintendence, and His protection.

Also, we are so thankful to you, who have shown yourselves faithful in your uniting with us in prayer and support. We are honored and humbled! May God recompense you for your love and kindness. You are in our prayers continually.

Reuben & Carmen Sequeira
John 7:37,38; 12:24