Spiritual Renewal: God Renews

(This is a continuation of our study on spiritual renewal. You can find all of the posts here.)

“If you can explain what is happening in a church, apart from the sovereign act of God, it is not revival.”
— Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Lesson: An idea arose in the 1800s that revival is a sort of Biblical guarantee. Taking certain Scriptural promises to Israel out of context, the idea became that human beings could engineer awakenings through the application of proper methods. If we simply prayed the right prayers with sufficient fervency, preached the right sort of sermons and put the right people on the “anxious bench” (a 19th-century tool for putting specific peer pressure on those a preacher wanted to convert), then renewal was guaranteed to follow.

Like all errors, this one arises from a half-truth. It is the case that there are means we can use to prepare ourselves for the moving of God. We will discuss those in coming days. However, the place we must start is with a recognition that all spiritual life is ultimately gifted, not deserved, and that God alone is the one who can and will bring renewal in His time and as He pleases.

Nowhere is this more vividly portrayed than in our reading from Ezekiel. God’s people, in exile and under judgment, are pictured as a valley of long-dead bones. This speaks to their spiritual deadness, their absolute inability to revive themselves. It is not that they are battered but still-breathing soldiers asking for help, needing some assistance to win the battle. They are bones, sun-scorched and scattered.

The only hope they have for renewal rests with God, which is what He has Ezekiel declare. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them.” God must move by His Holy Spirit; only then can spiritual renewal occur. “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.”

Perhaps you feel like such a truth is discouraging. It shouldn’t be. If revival depended on us to engineer, there would be reason to despair. After all, the times when we most need to be renewed are the times when we are least faithful in ourselves. The good news of God’s sovereign love is that even when we are dead in our trespasses God seeks and saves us and that even when we are dead as His people He breathes out and gives us renewed life.

Prayer: Sovereign Father, we cannot renew ourselves. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot make ourselves what You call us to be. We need You to move if we are to be alive. So we ask You to move. Breathe out Your Holy Spirit over our dry bones and raise us up that we might follow You. Do this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN