These are the words from Rev. Duane Eastman, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lamar, CO. This was printed in the FBC Lamar newsletter The Messenger.
Last year Myrna and I enjoyed a rare Christmas with our grandsons in West Virginia. We never dreamed that we would celebrate Christmas in Lamar in 2007. It's a new experience for us, and that is good! That's because Christmas is about how God comes to us in the new.
There is a lot of talk these days in evangelical churches about revival. When I asked a colleague what he meant by "revival" he responded by expressing a longing for a movement of the Spirit of God as in the days of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, or Billy Graham. Sometimes we long for the "good old days" of the Spirit, as if God is not as powerful now as He was in the past. It is a spiritual nostalgia myth to believe that if we go back to doing things as they were done back then, we will experience the same kind of spiritual awakening, i.e. "the good old days." But for the believer, the good days of the Spirit of God are always right now.
The word "revival" does not appear in the Bible. "Revive," as in "to resuscitate," appears only four times-all Old Testament references. To return to the nostalgic past has never, ever been the way of God. While it is the natural way of mankind it has always been a barrier to our experiencing the new things God is doing. The Israelites failed to see Jesus for who he was, because of nostalgia. They were trapped into seeing the status with God defined by the "good old days" of temple worship, military might of David's throne, and possession of the land. That nostalgic memory blinded them to the vision of God's kingdom and purposes as fulfilled in the church.
In contrast to "revival," the word "new" appears nearly 200 times in the Bible with significant emphasis on concepts such as new hear, new covenant, new people, new way, new teaching, new wine, new wine skins, new commands, new creation, new self, new order, new name, new birth, new heaven, new earth, new song, etc. In Revelation 21:5 is the final proclamation: He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Obviously, to understand the church in the paradigm of the old, as a modern equivalent of ancient Israel, is a critical mistake. in the same way, to try to return the church to what it was in the past is also a mistake. too many things are new. Virtually every facet of our social structure (government, education, community, family, corporate business, etc.) has gone through a major revolution. Accordingly, it seems that instead of praying for "revival" we should be seeking "renewal."
To suggest the use of "renewal" instead of "revival" is more than semantics. It is a critical awareness of the radical nature of the New Covenant initiated by the birth of Christ. He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Renewal is a return, but not to the forms or formulas of the past. It is a return to daily dependency on the Holy Spirit, who always leads God's people into the realm of the "new mandate." Renewal means that the focus is not on the way things were, but on the humbled hear and transforms it into a heart for God. Renewal means to trust God, not our habits. Renewal means to respond to all situations for a heart that is motivated by love.
It seems appropriate that only a week after we celebrate the birth of the Savior that we enter a new calendar year.
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