Times of Refreshing

With radiation poisoning, you can be dead and not even know it. The damage has been done already, but it is not yet felt. Our spiritual life can be damaged in the same way. We can be walking around, yet dead to our calling and connection to God without even knowing it. If by the grace of God, we can catch it in time, there is a way to renew spiritually. But would you even know if you need to? Learn more in Spiritual Renewal Part 1: Times of Refreshing.

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Today we will embark upon a new series called Spiritual Renewal. It’s especially for those Christians who think they don’t need spiritual renewal right now. And why is that? Well, because we gradually become depleted and don’t even know it. We think we’re fine, but in reality, we have diminished – slowly veered off the track or drawn away from God and His calling without realizing it. We’re going to look, today, at some of the things God shows us and tells us to do to renew ourselves spiritually.

Let me notify our viewers and listeners now. I know you already know about prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting. So I’m not going to go over all of those again. We’ve covered that elsewhere. I’m assuming that you know Christians need to pray, study God’s word, meditate on His ways and fast. What I’m going to focus on, in this series, is what to pray, study, meditate on and fast about. It will likely be something that’s been in the Bible, but unnoticed all along – something new. So let’s get to it.

Sometimes we just get tired. Most of us, when we recognize the signs of weariness, know what to do – get more sleep, do a little less work, take a break from our work, do something different. When I get that way, I like to go backpacking. I’ve noticed, after I do that, even though backpacking can be strenuous, that I feel refreshed when I come back. It’s like all the meters are set back to zero again and I have a fresh start. I was thinking about why that’s more true with backpacking than just taking a vacation. I think it has to do with the nature of the activity. Everything that’s easy down in the low country is hard up in the mountains. And everything that’s easy in the mountains is hard down low. You know, it’s easy to keep clean down here – hard to keep clean up there; easy to get from one place to another down here – hard to do that up there; easy to fix food down here – hard to do that up there; easy to get away from stress up there – hard to do it down here; easy to see inspiring vistas up there – hard to do that down here; easy to find peace and quiet up there – but hard to do it down here. With backpacking, many things are just the opposite of the way it is down here. It’s a change – a total change.

And change is good for our mind when we’re tired from working. A change of diet can also help renew us. There’s a story in the beginning of the book of Daniel about that. Four Jewish young men were selected by King Nebuchadnezzar to be educated in Chaldean culture for three years so they could be his advisors. The king graciously offered to feed them with the same kind of rich food he ate – you know, “fit for a king” is what he was thinking, right? But Daniel asked to be excused from that. Beside the fact that there were unclean meats in that food, instead he wanted – according to the King James Version – pulse and water. The word pulse in the King James is actually two words, which can be translated parts of things that are grown. So juicing comes to mind. They went vegan for ten days, in other words. After that, they looked healthier and had more mental acuity than before. They were renewed physically – ready for the task of going to Chaldean College, so to speak.

I come back to the movie I saw recently – Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead – about the man who went on a sixty-day juice fast. At first he felt terrible as his body detoxified itself, but then his energy gradually came back and went beyond what he had before. He looked better after ten days. He was thinking more clearly, everyone reported.

So have I proven that I understand about physical renewal yet? We’re not going to talk about that so much in this series.

Okay, let’s begin talking about spiritual renewal, of which physical renewal is a very small part. There is, in the book of Revelation, a statement made by God to some people who needed spiritual renewal. He tells them what spiritual depletion is and what to do about it. If we want to understand what spiritual depletion is and what to do about it, we need to listen to what God says about it. So do you want to understand? Most people who are spiritually depleted don’t think it’s important, because they don’t know they’re spiritually depleted. So this information could save your eternal life. My job, as a minister – to quote Paul, who was quoting Christ – is to equip you for every good work. And overcoming spiritual weakness is a good work – a spiritual tool every Christian needs to have in their spiritual tool chest. Let’s look at what God says about it now in Revelation 2:1.

Revelation 2:1 – To the angel of the church of Ephesus write: The words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walk among the seven golden lampstands, “I know your works, your toil, your patient endurance, how you cannot bear those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My namesake and that you have not grown weary.” They didn’t need a juice fast. “But I have this against you – that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” They’re still waiting at the gate. They haven’t given up. They’re patient and they’re not tired. They’re not weary – juice fast isn’t going to fix it – but they have veered away from the love they used to have for God. And what happens when we do that? What’s a sure-fire sign of it? Well, verse 5:

V-5 – “Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen. Repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I’ll come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.” So, a sure-fire sign of spiritual depletion is that we stop doing what we used to do for God. When we veer off from God – when we move away from Him – we lose sight of the things that he told us to do in the beginning – our calling, our mission. One way to understand this is to think about human relationships.

I have a friend here in town. We have work and a number of interests in common. We genuinely like to be with each other. We have fun. We would get together every few weeks for coffee and we would plan activities. Lately, his wife has been ill and so has his father and his sister. And lately, I’ve had events that have eaten up much of my free time, too. So we haven’t had to do our coffee thing for quite a few months. And we haven’t had time to do any of the activities we used to do. So gradually, gradually we’re becoming a bit disconnected. We don’t feel as close as we were. And, if it keeps going this way, pretty soon we won’t miss doing things together. We won’t feel the need to do coffee because it will be replaced for other things and other people.

It’s the same with God. Spiritual weakness is pulling away, being consumed with other things, too busy to focus on our relationship. Spiritual renewal is getting back to the way it used to be. You might think differently about it. I know I did, but I’m reading to you God’s take on it. So who’s right? You and me or God? What does God say to do about the issue? Well, He says we need to get back to doing what we did at first – in the beginning. But how do you do that if you can’t even remember and if you don’t feel like there’s a need for it because you’ve drawn away from God?

I still remember that my friend and I used to do coffee every few weeks and, if we start doing that again – if we make time for it – then we will grow close again, just like we were before. And it’s the same with God. That’s exactly what He tells us to do. “Just go back to doing what you used to do with Me and for Me and you will be renewed.”

Are there other scriptures that demonstrate this? Well, let’s go to Galatians 6, and verse 9.

Galatians 6:9 – And let us not grow weary with well doing. For in due season we will reap if we do not give up. If we don’t give up, God won’t take our lampstand from us. So staying on track with God and live to our relationship with Him is about continuing to do the good things we did in the beginning.

There’s a poignant passage in Jeremiah where God reminisces about the early days with Israel after coming out of Egypt. God remembers, too. He goes back and thinks about these things. In Jeremiah 2:1 it says:

Jeremiah 2:1 – The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, ‘Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth – your love as a bride – how you followed Me in the wilderness in a land not sown. Israel, in those days, was holy to the LORD – the firstfruits of His harvest. The implication is that they had veered off from their love of God – their following God, their devotion to Him and to the calling He had given them.

We can read about what happened in ancient Israel. They got so far away from God they didn’t see any need to do what they used to do. Consequently, there was no motivation to go back and do the good works they did in the beginning. For them, it was too late. There was nothing they could do about it. They had completely lost their way. They forgot who they were and whose God theirs. So God had to intervene. And it wasn’t pleasant! But God loves us so much, when we get that lost, He’s going to do something to get our attention and to pull us back. And He did that with them. And it was not pleasant. So, one of the reasons we’re talking about this is so that we won’t have to go through that kind of unpleasantness. He sent them into captivity at the hands of the Babylonians.God counsels us to renew ourselves while we still can. Otherwise, He’s going to have to intervene. He’s going to have to take our lampstand away from us.

So let’s look at Revelation again – Revelation 2:5:

Revelation 2:5 – Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I’ll come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.

We don’t want to lose our lampstand that lights the way to God. If we lose that, God has to intervene to help us get back on track and we don’t want that. So spiritual renewal is about going back and doing what we did in the early days of our conversion, and dedication and love for God. But how do we do that if we can’t even remember what it was like? No juice fast, by itself, is going to do that. So it might help us to think more clearly and help us to do what we need to do, which is good, but what does God tell us to do here? “Remember from where you are fallen.” According to God, the core activity of spiritual renewal and spiritual on-trackness, if I can use that term, is to, in our mind, go back and remember – reminisce – about our early days with God – to pray about it, to think about it, to study the Bible about it. The remembering rekindles our love for God and puts us back on track.

I think about when I was just thirteen years old and I could clearly understand now – I didn’t know then – that God was working with me. I saw how He gently manipulated and moved me around on His chess board to get me in the right position, where I could understand the things that He wanted me to know. And I remember how He’s carried me ever since. I have a story about all of that – a recollection of it. And that’s what motivates us to do what we did in the beginning. My story is what pulls me back to my center – my foundation in Jesus Christ. If we don’t do the remembering part, we’re left with trying to do what we did in the beginning, but without our love for God. And since that love is what motivated us to do what we did, we will never be successful without it.

Another human example: My parents have been dead for over twenty-five years. Has my love for them waned? No! Well, why not? Well, because I’m constantly reminded of the life that we had together. My brother and I talk about them all the time. And the remembering keeps the love alive. It reminds me how they cared for me, and loved me, and sacrificed for me. And it makes me love them. It’s exactly the same with God. Let’s look at that in more detail.

What does remembering look like in the Bible? Turn with me to Deuteronomy 8:1.

Deuteronomy 8:1 – “The whole commandment that I command you today,” says God, “you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you – testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you, and He let you hunger, and He fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you. And your foot did not swell these forty years.”

So the works they did in the beginning was obedience to the law of God. And the recollection of why they did it was God’s great mercy and salvation from Egypt. So that’s a great example of how remembering causes us to do the first works that we did in the beginning.

Here’s another example – the book of Acts. It’s called the Acts of the Apostles. The foundations of the church are a collection of recollections of what happened from the beginning, written after the fact – in some cases many years later. It starts with Christ’s final face-to-face instruction, then it went through approximately forty years of church history. And the point of it? The point of it can be found in the book of Jude.

Jude 1:3 – Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all – some translations say, for all time – delivered to the saints.

So we’re to remember what the early church was like and do church like that. Any person who will honestly recall what is written in the book of Acts – read it for what it is – can be pulled back on course and reinvigorated to do the works done in the early church and, thereby, become a part of it. It right there. All we have to do is read the remembrances. It’s a history. Our recollections are our personal history with God.

Let’s look at another one – Deuteronomy 6:20:

Deuteronomy 6:20 –When your son asks you in times to come, “What is the meaning of the testimonies, and the statutes, and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed us signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt, and against Pharaoh and all his household before our eyes. And He brought us out from there so that He might bring us in and then give us the land that He swore to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God – for our good always – that He might preserve us alive, as we are to this day. And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God as He has commanded us.”

So, we, essentially, are to say to our children – and they said to theirs – “We keep the commandments of God because he saved us out of Egypt when we were helpless slaves. He extracted us by mighty miracles and fed us when we had no food and gave us water when we were dry. And He gave us this land. That’s how you came to be here. Don’t forget that it all comes from God. If we want to keep it, we must never forget where it came from and what we have to do to keep it.

So there it is! There’s another picture of how recollection causes us to remain steadfast and connected to God. God wants to have a relationship with us. He wants to include us in His work. He loves us and wants us to stay close to Him. He promises that He won’t give up on us. He wants to give us good things. And He makes promises to sustain us. Let’s read one of those. It’s in Isaiah 40:30.

Isaiah 40:30 – Even youth shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted. But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.

As with all God’s promises, there is something we have to do. And to acquire this one, we need to remember. Remembering helps us wait and know that God will appear, because He’s done it so many times in the past. Remembering helps us keep our love for God alive and His good works flowing out of us.

In the rest of this series, we’re going to take a deep thorough look at exactly what God wants us to look at and remember.

Well, that’s it for today. Check back in two weeks to see the next in this renewing series.