A Mindset for Renewal
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
How do we move from our usual mode of life to a mode of renewal? Let’s start with mindset. We are pattern-based creatures. We get into habits and often get stuck. When we sense God wants to bring renewal into our lives, we begin to understand that he is going to interrupt our old patterns. We have to begin to see our old patterns of life and ministry that have not been delivering the renewal we yearn for. If what you’re doing is not bringing renewal, you can’t just continue what you’ve been doing.
Of course, sometimes God just wants us to persevere and to continue to do something because it’s about building up our obedience over time. But there are seasons of renewal—when God wants to expand, renew, and deepen our lives. So, there’s a realization that if we’re going to be aligned with renewal, change must occur.
Start with an assessment. You need to ask:
- What am I doing now?
- What do I need to start doing?
- What do I need to stop doing?
You can fill your life with a lot of things that seem to be important but are not achieving very much. One aspect of every renewal is a hunger for God’s presence through prayer–when God brings a conviction to pray and seek him through prayer. So, one of the things you’ll need to look at is your time and the possibility of redeeming your time.
Your time and attention are up for grabs in our culture today. Time has become a commodity and is stolen from us. How do you spend your time? How can you recapture time and divert it to God’s purposes, which makes it holy and an act of worship?
Following the Heroes of the Faith
We tend to allow our friends and peers to become the standard or baseline of what we think Christian behavior and discipleship should look like. But as God starts to prepare you for renewal, you need to stop looking at the baseline of your peers and instead look to biblical heroes and heroines. We need to look at the great saints of Christian history who did great things. Then we need to do what these people did. How did they study scripture? How much time did they give to prayer? What were the standards they were reaching for? This raises the standard of what God is calling us to.
And as you move from seeing your peers as your comparison to looking to great heroes of the faith, there are a few key things you begin to see in their lives.
- They prayed big, bold prayers.
- They were people of the word. They spent time in scripture, musing over it, memorizing it, praying it, applying it, speaking it (you get the idea).
- They understood their life to be a contribution to God’s bigger thing, so they trained people well. They created systems to replace people after them and they took the long view. They wanted to invest in the future.
- They learned from the past. They read and anchored themselves in the wisdom of the past. Part of this is what made them hunger for renewal in their day.
Like the prophet Habakkuk, six centuries before Jesus came, longed to see God move mightily and miraculously among his people. He prayed:
“O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work.
In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known;
in wrath may you remember mercy.” –Habakkuk 3:2
Holy discontent is a strong dissatisfaction with your low level of faith. As Pastor Garrett said this past Sunday, “Holy discontent means that you feel that way because your life and the world around you do not align with the way of Jesus. You are in inner turmoil and disturbed because your life or your community is not aligned with God’s Word and God’s Way.”
Can you see the holy discontent in these verses from the book of Habakkuk?
How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. –Habakkuk 1:2-4
Habakkuk was one of God’s prophets and at the very beginning of his letter is holy discontent. Justice is lacking. The law is paralyzed. There’s violence going unpunished, and he’s crying out to God, who seems silent. Holy Discontent. God loves justice. God loves mercy. God loves the law. But it was absent during his time.
There’s a great phrase used in the world of psychology called: the crystallization of discontent.
Crystallization of discontent is the moment when your discontent gets strong enough that you decide you will not live with it anymore. This is the moment (for example) when someone who has been a part of a cult realizes it and leaves. Or when a spouse who has been in an abusive relationship finally realizes that the abusive partner is not going to change and won’t live with it anymore. It’s an important moment because we can all live with discontent about certain injustices and decline, etc.
Do you have holy discontent yet?
The Big Picture
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. –Jeremiah 29:13
What is renewal exactly? You could say it’s the refreshment, release, and advancement that individuals, churches, and cultures experience when they are realigned with God’s presence.
When we experience God, we normally start with REGENERATION. This is the process where the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and makes us aware of our need for God. We see Jesus and the cross, and we turn to him in faith and he gives us his righteousness. We are new creatures in Christ.
This often leads to the process of RESTORATION. Where God, in his kindness, begins to bring back things that were lost, either through generational sin or your own sin or decisions, and begins to restore your life.
And this often leads to personal REFORMATION, when you become aware of your old way of life and your need to walk in the Spirit. This is about putting on Christ and putting away the flesh and can often feel like a stern struggle of growing in spiritual maturity.
If you get people experiencing this together, this can lead to RENEWAL. And this is where there just seems to be a new atmosphere, new life, and new energy around passionately following Christ.
On top of renewal is REVIVAL. The great 18th century preacher Jonathan Edwards called revival: “an acceleration of the normal work of the Holy Spirit.” This is renewal gone viral. Revival is when renewal catches fire and spreads.
And revival can intensify and grow to the degree it becomes an AWAKENING. And an awakening is when not only are people, churches, and communities transformed, but God transforms the culture.
We ultimately want an awakening, but let’s first get serious about praying for a renewal of God’s presence in our lives.
Patterns and Processes
There have been numerous times in history when renewal and revival has happened. Quite often, the first stage is a time of DARK DAYS where people abandon faith, there’s a pervasive worldliness, and the church depends more on human striving than God’s Spirit and God’s power. The second stage is when things HIT BOTTOM and a dissatisfaction and holy discontent is felt by a remnant of people and they begin to pray and seek God for renewal.
Then there is a REVELATION OF A PROMISE from God. Psalm 119:25 says, “My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.” And we want out renewal to be within biblical bounds. So, God’s word plays a pivotal part.
In the mid-20th century revival in the Scottish Hebrides (for example) the promise that birthed the whole renewal they experienced was Isaiah 44:3: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
The holy discontent these Scottish believers had came from the fact they had no young people in their church at all. So, Isaiah 44:3 became a rallying cry for revival: “O God… we are thirsty… pour out water on our dry ground and your Spirit on our descendants.”
So, then you see God beginning to do an inward work in the hearts and lives of the people who are crying out to him. He begins transforming the character of the people who are CONTENDING IN PRAYER for God’s renewal to come (contending is our theme for next week).
And, finally, comes a RELEASE OF GOD’S SPIRIT and God’s people are renewed and revived. In the midst of these “dark days” we’ve all been experiencing in 2020, are you sensing God speaking to you about seeking him for renewal and revival?
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