~ Where Is Your Zeal And Strength? ~
We Christians cherish studying the prophecies that mark the approach of Christ's Second Coming, and rightfully so. However, there are prophecies and promises that depend upon the Church for fulfillment, and it is to our shame that one of these have not even come close. That calls for a deep scan of conscience by Christ's Church.
In Romans 11:11, St. Paul explained almost two thousand years ago that the rejection of the Gospel by the Jewish people was part of the impetus for the gift of redemption to be given to the Gentile world. However, and very importantly, the effect was supposed to produce a jealousy or envy among the Jews. Although there are small contingents of Messianic (Christian) Jews scattered throughout the world, our Church history has never witnessed a massive Jewish flocking to Christ, in effect saying, "The blessing and power of the Gospel was originally given to us and Christ shouldn't be an exclusively Gentile gift. We, as a people, must also reclaim that blessing!"
In verse 26, Paul declares that Israel shall be saved, a prophecy elaborated upon in Revelation. But the burning desire for the Good News of Redemption by the Jewish people and others must be fueled by our witness. The Holy Spirit in the Church and in us individually bears witness to the Christ and Christ bears witness to the Father God.
When the Holy Spirit was given to Christ's followers, new life was infused, a revival in effect, and three thousand were baptized that first day. (Acts 2) The manifestation of the Holy Spirit waxed and waned throughout Church history, but the 16th to 19th centuries saw waves of spiritual revival. The past 20th century brought nothing approaching what the world witnessed previously. In fact, the past century was the most evil, violent and bloody one since the Pentecost. More Christians were martyred in the past one hundred years than the 1900 years previous.
The Church hasn't experienced a revival in a hundred years. Yes, 20th century evangelists filled many sports stadiums with thousands of excited people, claiming this to be the work of the Holy Spirit. The last few decades saw the rise of the "megachurch" phenomena, churches with ten to twenty thousand weekly attendees. However, for centuries locals and pilgrims crowded Vatican Square in Rome by the thousands, often standing for hours, even days, in the rain or heat to worship. And while credit is given to the Holy Spirit, the world isn't impressed, because it has produced far greater gatherings and powerful events of its own without the Holy Spirit. Even in its theaters and concert halls, from classical to heavy metal and hard core music, people's souls and energies are stirred and they don't want the event to end, crying "Encore, more!"
How many of us experienced church services where, at the end, people didn't want to leave, and were crying out for more? How many examples of Christ's promise, "And you will do even greater works than Me," have you experienced? How many articles or media presentations have you seen that documented and expressed amazement at the power, strength, works, and humble Christlikeness of Christians and the Church?
As we accelerate towards the end of time, as persecution of the Church escalates, as evil proliferates and our own children are lured by its enticing promises of self-exaltation and happy grandures, our Church needs a revival. However, revival is not a noisy, exciting, feel-good time of meetings and religious entertainment! Revival is, instead, the Holy Spirit exploding His Presence within you, individually, and within the Church, corporately, with the world taking great notice and interest, and millions embracing the Christ as their Lord and Loved One.
Revival doesn't begin with planning committees and slick promotions with a time schedule. Here is how to start a powerful, Spirit-led revival: You and members of your family or church separate to be alone with God. Go into your prayer closet, your prayer room or sanctuary. Commune with our Lord until revival enters your prayer closet and your spirit. Then assemble with those who have done likewise and see the day of Pentecost be recreated in and among you! Thus "we all come in the unity of the faith... unto a perfect man (entity), unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13)
Several Psalms, such as 79:10 and 115:2, echo the taunting of the world in the question, "Well, where is your God?" The prophet Isaiah's prayer may be prayed on behalf of the Church: "Look down from heaven, from the habitation of your holiness and glory. Where is your zeal and strength? The yearning of your heart and mercy toward me? Are they restrained?" (Isaiah 63:15)
When the Church and Christians try to live on their own abilities and pass off accomplishments as God working, we can see how they are just poor, bad, shabby replicas of the true work of God. The world scorns and we feel despair when we cannot point to clear and unmistakable evidences of God's power when asked, "Where is your God?" Then we pray, "Where is your zeal and strength, Lord? Are You holding back from me?" Yes, God will hold back His outpouring of power when we do not fully depend upon and surrender to Him, as a Church and as individuals.
To keep credibility with the world, to be a welcome and enticing refuge to those outside of Christ, to be victorious in the great spiritual warfare that rages globally and personally, we must, as instructed by Christ, yield completely to Him, and let His Holy Spirit abide in us and animate every aspect of our being. Trappist monk Thomas Merton remarked that the "desert fathers" of the early centuries didn't go into seclusion to be closer to God, but first to lament over how estranged from His Holy Spirit they allowed themselves to become. In the prayer closet of their solitude, infusion with the Holy Spirit followed the lamentations. They did, and we can, all wait in prayer for revival in our very hearts and bones. Then we can all pray Psalm 40: "I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me and heart my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings. He has put a new song in my mouth, praise unto our God. Many shall see it and have reverent fear, and shall trust in the Lord."
What will the many of the world outside of Christ see, revere and thus trust in the Lord as a result? Our Spirit-established goings and His new song and praise in our mouths! And what a blessing that is to us and the whole world that watches us!
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © May 19, 2001
"God's Word" is a copyrighted work of God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. Quotation are used by permission.
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