Spiritual Renewal: Renewal Involves Ordinary Practices

(This is a continuation of our study on spiritual renewal. You can find all of the posts here.)
"[R]evival is an intensification of the normal operations of the Spirit (conviction of sin, regeneration and sanctification, assurance of grace) through the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, prayer, and the sacraments)."
-Tim Keller
Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 8
Lesson: Perhaps the greatest difference between the biblical vision of renewal and the revivalism of some churches is that of the “means.” How does revival come? For many, the answer rests in unusual, extraordinary measures – special services, special speakers, special miracles and movings of the Spirit. If we don’t feel like something out of the ordinary has happened, we assume God has not moved.
Our reading from Nehemiah records the great revival that swept through Israel after they had been restored to the land. Certainly, the assembly was deeply moved – they fall on their faces, praise God and weep in conviction for their sins. However, there was no swelling music or camp-meeting fire. Rather, this was the result of a simple reading and explaining of the Word of God. What’s more, what resulted was also ordinary – a restoration of the religious life of Israelite society, embodied here in the Feast of Booths.
True renewal always flows through the ordinary means of grace. God has given us tools through which He moves and gives spiritual life. Prayer, Scripture, the worship of the church, baptism, the Lord’s supper, fellowship and acts of service are the bread and butter of Christian faithfulness. They are also powerful and deep wells of spiritual life. When we want to see the Holy Spirit move, God has told us where He can be found, and it is in the faithful, heart-engaged exercise of these practices.
The danger of seeking renewal in the extraordinary is that it causes us to neglect the very things through which true renewal comes. We might, through a preacher crying and gesticulating and a worship band repeating a bridge enough times, stir up a certain emotional response in our hearers. They might even provide occasions we look on with fondness in our spiritual histories. However, they cannot create lasting heart change. God alone does that, and the normal way He accomplishes these goals is the daily, faithful application of His ordinary means.
Prayer: Gracious Father, You have told us where You might be found – in Your Word, at Your Table, in prayer and the gathering of Your people. Our problem is that we do not faithfully seek You in these places. We often neglect them, and when we do attend to it, we do so in a halfhearted way. Stir up in us a passion for these things. Meet us through them. Use them to stir up life and joy in our hearts. Do this in the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.