Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me– Psalm 51:10 NIV
Our world is a flaming-hot mess right now.
This is not a new thing.
Sin and the messiness sin inevitably produces is as old as humanity (Genesis 1-3).
It could be argued the world has been in a spiritual and ethical freefall for the better part of a century.
Hedonism replaced Christianity as the predominant worldview in Western society a century ago. As a result, the average person does not even know how to think about life from a moral and ethical perspective. Abortion is thought to be a human right. Marriage is one of plethora of options available for sexual fulfillment and individuals are free to define marriage any way they want. Attitudes towards sexuality have changed dramatically in recent years, with pedophilia being the latest in a long list of sexual behaviors that have become normalized, or are quickly becoming normalized. Most children are raised by godless influencers on google and YouTube while Moms and Dads blithely chase down self-actualization. Each new generation is more godless than the last.
The moral and social upheaval has accelerated at an unsettling pace over the last three years. Coronavirus is at least partly to blame. Coronavirus ravaged the economy of every nation on earth. The psychological distress brought on by economic hardships has shone a spotlight on the social dysfunction festering beneath the surface of society for decades. COVID-19 also accelerated the political corruption that already existed. Politicians used the pandemic as an excuse to grab power and make rules they themselves refuse to follow. Democracy hating revolutionaries seized on the confusion brought on by the virus and used underlying racial and economic tensions as an excuse to loot, burn and murder. These rioters said they wanted a better, more just society but their real aim was and is to create a new social order with a godless government.
Our world is in a state of chaos because most people are spiritually dead. They don’t know God or care about right and wrong. Most individuals do what they want with no regard for God or what will happen to them after they die (Romans 1:18-32, 1st Corinthians 1:18). Revival is something that occurs in those who do not know God. When authentic revival takes place, people who are spiritually dead and unresponsive to spiritual truth (non-Christians) have a spiritual awakening and are brought to spiritual life (Ezekiel 37:1-14). When this happens, their heart undergoes a profound change. They fall in love with Jesus, repent of their sins and begin to see life the way God sees life. As their thinking is transformed their behavior changes too (Romans 12:1-2, 2nd Corinthians 3:18) One consequence of widespread revival is that attitudes towards sin undergo a profound change and eventually every part of society is affected in some way. Historically, anytime genuine revival has taken place alcohol sales go down, divorce rates plummet and crime rates drop dramatically.
We could use some of that.
But, here’s the thing: revival generally does not occur without renewal first taking place. Renewal is a spiritual work that occurs in the hearts of those who do know God (Psalm 51). Renewal takes place when God begins to work in the hearts of people who know Him and have drifted from Him. God changes the hearts of Christians who have become disobedient or apathetic towards spiritual things. Renewal makes our faith fresh and new again. When renewal happens, Christians have a fresh hunger for holiness, a desire for truth and have a renewed longing to see revival take place in the culture. God always brings renewal before revival because renewal prepares the church to meet the needs of the new believers that come out of revival.
The church needs God to renew His people because for the most part, Christians have ceased to care about revival. Instead of praying for a movement of God we have settled for isolating ourselves from the sinners in our culture. The church has become far too focused on our own needs. This is demonstrated by the fact that most Christians are more worried about having their personal rights respected than in doing what’s right. We tend to see the world in terms of us (Christians) and them (non-Christians) and many of us would likely struggle to come up with one thing we would willingly give up to see someone else saved. Christians rarely pray and when we do pray our prayers tend to be fairly self-motivated, as a result we rarely feel personal conviction and when we do we seldom act on it.
The need for revival is always obvious when its required. The need for renewal is generally much less obvious but more critical because we will not get the first until we get the second. Renewal comes on God’s people when they collectively pray and ask God for it. God moves when His people seek Him with all of their heart, soul and strength (Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 22:37). Renewal occurs when Christians do the things they did when their hearts were on fire for God and when individuals couple right behavior with asking God to give them the right attitude (Revelation 2:5). I believe God wants to bring both revival and renewal to our world but He won’t do it until Christians around the world collectively ask for it.
Like we really mean it.