DAY 1: We want to contend for renewal.
“Contending” is the act of moving from a life posture of consumption and passivity to one of active prayer for God’s presence to come with power.
With prepared hearts, we now step into the phase of contending—which means to stretch or fight for something. We come to the point where we realize that our lives, our faith, our churches, and our culture cannot be changed by anything other than the presence of God.
We wish for nothing but his presence, so we position and posture ourselves as contenders for his presence. Following the spirit of Ezekiel… “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one,” we choose to be the ones who stand in the gap for our culture, crying out for God’s mercy, asking for God’s renewal and revival to come.
This occurs through the shift of contending prayer, which is common in all moves of God. Individuals or small groups of people pray fervently and seek God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. This kind of prayer is almost always persistent, as God uses the passage of time to shape us, realigning us to his ways, teaching his people to value persistence, a vital element of those he wishes to use in renewal.
Last week we looked at a verse from Hosea that says: break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
And up until this point we’ve been discussing how to prepare for renewal and revival. So, now we want to look at the place where the inner work begins to radiate outward… in which we choose to align ourselves—proactively—with God’s agenda of renewal in the world. And this is the place of contending.
DAY 2: To contend is to do something.
Stepping into the posture and mode of contending requires that we shed the posture and mode of the passive consumer. Churches and faith built on consumerism don’t last beyond a generation. Consumer culture tells us we can do it all—yet we know it hasn’t delivered. What it does deliver is paralysis. We get paralyzed by the endless options. Our culture causes FOMO (the fear of missing out) which is now accompanied by FOBO (the fear of better options).
Christians have the opportunity to experience JOMO (the joy of missing out)! We have something better in our hands: the promises of God and his kingdom, and love and mercy and hope. And we have something more compelling to reach for and contend for: the renewal of his presence to come in power and bring revival among us.
Renewal comes when we walk the one true path.
We have to choose to contend. When we step into the posture of contending, we choose to stand in the place of transformation rather than accumulation. We no longer live to acquire a portfolio of possessions and cool experiences. Instead, the horizon we are heading for, which will shape our lives, is the meeting of heaven and earth at the end of the age.
Consumer culture is driven by stuff—grab all the stuff you can before you die. In contrast, the posture of contending flows from the truth that there is a great divine drama at play, and we need to keep in step with the Spirit. God invites us to partner with him, reorganizing our lives around his mission in the world. This is a truth that is not just affirmed, it is walked out. Nets must be dropped. We believe with our feet, each step a choice to contend rather than simply to consume.
DAY 3: Values worth contending for: GOSPEL & IDENTITY
The Value of the GOSPEL
We need to contend for the gospel. Throughout Jesus’s ministry, he proclaimed the good news (gospel) of the kingdom of God. Jesus made the radical claim that abundant life now and eternal life after death were only possible in him. He, and the writers of the New Testament, described our state apart from him as being dead, enslaved, and blind to the things of God in our natural state.
Apart from faith in his death and resurrection, and indwelling by the Holy Spirit, we are unable to know God or how to live as a follower of Jesus. We are unable to save ourselves, resurrect ourselves, or free ourselves from our broken ways of thinking and living; only Jesus can rescue, redeem, purify, and transform us. The good news is that Jesus offers salvation and life freely, not based on our works or actions, but purely by faith in him.
The Value of IDENTITY
As soon as we are born, our parents give us a name. Then, as they and our larger community observe and shape our development, these adults might even assign us identity markers based on culturally defined norms and values. Every culture, in fact, has an identity formation process it sends us through in order to determine our sense of self and our sense of value in the world. But every culturally defined identity has its flaws and shortcomings, and so we are often left struggling with isolation, insecurity, and shame.
In stark contrast to the way of the world, God wants to give each of us a secure identity based on his righteousness, his acceptance, and his divine purpose for our life. Through the work of the Triune God, we can become a child of God, holy and beloved. Instead of striving to live for favor and acceptance, we can live from favor and unwavering acceptance.
DAY 4: Values worth contending for: COMMUNITY & MISSION
The Value of COMMUNITY
Our God is a triune God who is always in community with himself. When God created humanity, he said that it was not good for man to be alone, and it is why he gave Adam and Eve together the job of being his image-bearers on the earth. Because God is three distinct persons unified in perfect community, only a communal people can accurately reflect his image well.
The same is true today. We are not meant to follow Jesus on our own, but as a community. In contrast to our culture that emphasizes individualism above communal life and preference over commitment, our God invites us to join his covenant people—seeing ourselves as individuals forming a unified whole. This is why the Bible calls us “people of God,” “the body of Christ,” “the royal priesthood,” etc. It is in the context of a covenant people that we can reflect the image of God and join him in renewing the world.
The Value of MISSION
As a redeemed people, God invites us to join him in his good work of bringing his kingdom and renewing our world. This mission involves spiritual renewal (proclaiming the good news of Jesus so people can be brought from darkness to light, from enemies of God to children of God), social renewal (tearing down the dividing walls that sin has created between individuals and communities), and cultural renewal (bringing every part of human society under the reign of God, so culture serves to aid in the flourishing of humanity and creation).
Every one of us is sent by Jesus into our world to bring the kingdom, to steward the gifts and resources he has given us for human flourishing, and to model his servant-love to those around us. Our mission is to glorify God through our worship and our everyday lives. There is no greater joy than to enjoy God’s presence and to make him known.
DAY 5: Values worth contending for: POWER
Jesus never intended for us to live the Christian life and follow him out of our own strength and power. Even Jesus waited for the Spirit to come upon him before he launched his ministry. Likewise, Jesus invites us to be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit each and every day—to experience his intimate presence in our life, to be transformed by him into his image, to allow the Spirit to bear fruit in and through our life, and to witness the miraculous power of God moving out of us to heal and renew the world.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. –John 14:12
The fruit, gifts, and power of the Spirit are not meant to be seen in the lives of just a few, unusual, “special” Christians. No, God intends us to have life and life abundant through his indwelling Spirit, and to do even greater things than he did (John 14:12). Through his Spirit, God transforms our lives from ordinary lives to extraordinary kingdom-bringing, renewed, revived lives.
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