Spiritual Renewal: Renewal Starts With The Church
“The whole world is a theatre for the display of the divine goodness, wisdom, justice, and power, but the Church is the orchestra, as it were—the most conspicuous part of it; and the nearer the approaches are that God makes to us, the more intimate and condescending the communication of his benefits, the more attentively are we called to consider them.”
Lesson: Who is renewal for? That question might be harder to answer than we think.
When I hear people talk about revival, it tends to have its focus on something outside of the people of God. Sometimes it is our nation-America needs to be revived. Other times it is particularly non-Christians–often revival services are synonymous with evangelistic crusades.
Some of this confusion comes from a misunderstanding of Old Testament quotations. The Psalmist in our reading speaks of God’s favor toward the land. We think that revival is about physical space, and translate Israel’s land into the geographic boundaries of the United States. However, the land in the Old Testament matters precisely because it is God’s people who dwell there. Throughout Psalm 85 it is the saints, the people of God, who are the object that need to be renewed.
Spiritual renewal should have an impact on the world. However, that is a secondary effect, not the primary aim. The people who need to be renewed are the church, the people of God. It is we who have wandered, wavered, and lost our spiritual life. It is we who need to be restored.
Spiritual renewal is what happens when a large number of Christians realize that they aren’t really Christians at all, or at least aren’t living much of the life Christ calls them to, and rediscover and recommit to that spiritual life. It is about self-professed believers actually beginning to believe, supposed disciples actually beginning to live the life of discipleship.
Of course, when that happens, the world around such renewed churches feels the effects. As the beauty of the gospel is rediscovered and shared, neighbors will hear the good news. As the love of Christ begins to be manifested in lives, communities and even nations will be changed. Yet all of that can only happen if the church is first revived. As long as we focus on renewal as something that must happen out there rather than asking how it can happen in our midst, we will never see past the log in our eye to try to remove the speck in our brother’s.
Prayer: Loving Father, restore Your people again. We do not rejoice in the gospel as we should. We are not faithful in discipleship as we should be. We are not the church that we should be. Forgive us and renew us. Work among us, calling us to press into Jesus, and as we grow in this calling, so let the world be changed. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN