CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 1, 2023 – The church does not need a revival. It doesn’t even need a revolution.
It needs a reset back to God’s original settings.
Let me explain.
Jesus didn’t come to start a revival. He came to show us how to live our faith. Living by faith doesn’t involve listening to a sermon for an hour on Sunday and then throwing a few bucks into the collection basket, thinking we’ve done our part. It doesn’t involve living the life of the world such that our lives and those of unbelievers are indistinguishable, such that our celebrations and those of the world are the same.
No. He didn’t come to show us that.
He came to show us what living your faith means.
And in so doing, he came to reset our faith back to God’s original settings.
Jesus’ reset started when he left Nazareth. He walked away from his family, his friends, his job, and his possessions, leaving everything behind that had defined him up to that point. He took nothing with him into the desert, not even food or water. He had only the breath in his lungs, the clothes on his back, and a willingness to do whatever God asked of him.
Forty days and nights later, Jesus emerged from the desert fully reset. Fasting had likely whittled him down to skin and bone, to the bare minimum required to sustain human life. All superfluity had been purged. He still had no possessions other than the clothes on his back, but he had a God-sanctioned public identity – THE SON OF MAN – and a God-sanctioned occupation: To preach and teach God’s Kingdom, and to heal all those who came to him for healing.
Tellingly, Jesus chose none of his family or friends as disciples. He’d separated himself from them for a reason. Just as tellingly, he required his disciples to do as he had done – to leave everything and everyone, and to do without. Their lives were reduced to needs, not wants. He even gave them different names to distinguish who they were from who they had been. This was the beginning of their reset back to God’s settings.
One of the first things God had Adam do in the Garden of Eden was to name the creatures living there. Names are important. They’re identifiers. God renamed Abram “Abraham” and Sarai “Sarah” when he blessed them with a child in old age and promised them they would have countless children. God renamed Jacob “Israel” when he made him the same promise. Jesus made a big deal out of renaming his disciples when they first started following him. He gave them descriptive names that defined the role they would play in the Kingdom. Peter became the Rock. Saul later became Paul.
When we’re born again, we change from a creature of God to a child of God. We’re not born children of God; we become children of God through the process of rebirth, and our title in the spiritual realm changes accordingly. Scripture tells us that we all have a unique moniker that we’ll learn if and when we make it home to Heaven. Until then, we’re known as children of God. We’re also God’s prophets. A prophet is someone who speaks God’s Truth, not necessarily someone who foretells the future. Born-again believers are both children of God and prophets of God. We automatically receive these God-sanctioned identifiers upon rebirth. We do not need to petition God for them; they are given to us as gifts at our rebirth to welcome us into the Kingdom.
Conversion is nothing short of a reset, a physical turning back to God that mirrors the spiritual turning back to God. You can also go back to the pre-reset you, but you dare not go back. You dare not do anything that will plunge you back into your former spiritual deafness and blindness, as there is no way to return to a state of grace once you lose it, once you go back or even look back with longing.
After the initial euphoria of the exodus had worn off, the children of Israel began to long for the fleshpots they’d left behind in Egypt, to long for the demon worship they’d falsely attributed to providing them with those fleshpots. The reward for their longing was both physical and spiritual death. We need to be careful not to fall into the same trap of wanting the pleasures and comforts we’ve left behind when the going gets tough and rough (and it will get tough and rough). As with the children of Israel, we will also be tempted to long for our pre-reset creature comforts. But that’s all it is – a temptation. We cannot retain our grace and at the same time turn back to what we were.
When Jesus asked his disciples if they, too, will leave him, like his nominal followers had left him, Peter responded: “Where would we go?” There is nowhere else to go, once you become a genuine follower of Jesus. There is nowhere else to go once everything clicks into place and God’s Truth is revealed to you. You can go back, but you dare not go back.
The right way forward is always back to God.
Unlike revivals and revolutions, resets restore what was lost. Revival simply amplifies what already exists, revolutions build something that did not exist before, but resets reclaim lost territory. In leaving his former life, Jesus threw off everything he was in order to become what he had been, what he was already spiritually, before he became the son of Joseph and Mary. Jesus then demanded that his followers do the same.
He’s still making that demand.
We can stay in the world and be nominal followers of Jesus, or we can leave the world and become genuine followers. The choice is ours. When our time comes and we stand before God, we’ll be glad we chose to become genuine followers. Nominal followers, as Jesus reminds us, have only the rewards they gather in this life, which they cannot take with them. Genuine followers, if they stay the course laid out for them by Jesus, have Heaven to look forward to as their reward.
Are you a genuine or a nominal follower? Are you like Peter, who told Jesus there is nowhere to go but to him, or are you like the nominal followers who, one by one, drifted away because they thought Jesus was asking too much of them? Nominal followers do not make it Home. There is no heavenly reward for nominal followers. Spiritual fence-sitters who say they love God, who claim to follow Jesus, and yet dismiss the call to reset as no longer being required (“it was only for the early Church”), have no place in Heaven. While on Earth, they are neither the children nor the prophets of God, and when they stand before God at Judgement, they will receive the reward of the wicked, not of the blessed. This is a spiritual fact that the devil works night and day to hide from nominal believers, to keep them asleep, to keep them believing lies, to keep them shuffling into rainbow-draped churches lorded over by the depraved.
Jesus came to engender a faith reset in every genuine believer. He did not come to revive; he did not come to recreate: he came to reset us back to God’s settings.
Are you willing to become what God wills you to be, or do you only want what the world wants? Is your vision for your life God’s vision or the world’s vision? Do you follow Jesus or the worldly church?
There is no compromise in a faith reset. You either throw off the shackles of the world or you don’t, you either genuinely follow Jesus or you don’t. If you believe, you need to show that you believe. You need to LIVE YOUR BELIEF. A faith reset is not merely saying you believe but living your beliefs in real time. You cannot live the life of the world with family responsibilities, job responsibilities, debt responsibilities, etc., etc., and at the same time put God first in your life. You cannot have worldly friends and attend worldly parties and pursue worldly pleasures and ambitions and still call yourself a follower of Jesus. It’s not possible, and if you say it is, you’re lying to yourself. If it were possible, Jesus would have stayed in Nazareth among his family and friends and possessions. He would have done his ministry work in between his carpentry orders. He would have continued as he was, with his ministry work as an add-on feature of his life, not as the sole feature of it.
But Jesus not only left Nazareth, he was exiled from it. He was driven out of town. If he’d returned, he would have been killed. God permitted this situation because it was the best for Jesus. Being exiled from everything he had been was not a punishment for Jesus; it was a failsafe for his mission.
We, too, have a failsafe in the form of the promise of lost grace if we return to our own personal Nazareths. This is not a punishment, the promise of losing our grace if we go back to what we once were. This is not a threat hanging over us; it’s a warning sign of extreme danger that has been given to us by God because God loves us more than we love ourselves and knows us better than we know ourselves. To turn our back on God and reclaim the dead lives we once “lived” remains a possibility (and for some, a temptation) as long as we remain in our earthly bodies, but it would be a turning back to sure and unredeemable death. It would be grace lost and perdition gained. As Jesus would say, our end, if we did that, would be so horrific, it would better for us if we had not been born at all.
The church doesn’t need a revival; it doesn’t need a revolution: it needs a reset back to God’s settings. This is done through the rebirth that Jesus emphasized in John, that Jesus insisted was required for admission not only into God’s Kingdom on Earth, but also and more importantly into his Kingdom in Heaven. Rebirth is a reset, not a revival. Rebirth is the unshackling of the prisoner, letting him go free for the first time since his imprisonment. Rebirth turns us back to God, who removes the scales from our eyes and unstops our ears, so that we can see and hear and move freely, as God intended. What you do with that freedom is up to you. You can move forward, or you can fall backward, or you can walk in circles. It’s up to you.
But moving forward is the only way to get Home.
And the only way to move forward is to continue in God’s grace and in the reset started by Jesus.
There is no other way.