As I closed the final chapter of the book Doorkeepers of Revival by Pastor Kim Owens, I felt my soul wading through dark waters of concerns. So much, it seems, remains to be renewed in the beliefs and language of my generation. I’m alarmed by the sewage of heresies seeping into rivers of Christian faith. Though the toxins are as ancient as the forbidden fruit of Eden, these deceptions have subtly diseased the rivers of our day. Ingesting the songs and mantras of popular leaders, too many have consumed the putrid waters of worldly wisdom.
Affirming this caution in her book, Pastor Kim Owens unfolds the battles that her family and Fresh Start Church endured in fostering a life-giving flow of God’s presence into their community. Though the pollutants of revival may differ for every Church community, there are some common deceptions I feel must be unveiled. In the vernacular of scripture, there are a few significant “strongholds” or deceptions that must be overcome in pursuing God’s presence. What are they? Though the list could be extensive, these affronts to revival stood out to me as I read and applied the challenges of her book.
1. The sewage of self-worship
The stench of self-worship has once again poured its sour solution into the Church’s stream of living water. Through refrains of self-awareness, self-help books, and feel-better-about-yourself sermons, we’ve drank the toxic waters of self-absorption for too long. We hear it often in statements like these:
“God made you the way you are, don’t change for anyone.”
“Following Jesus is the pathway to living the best life.”
“If you don’t put yourself first, you can’t care for others.”
“You’re a good person; only Jesus can help you be who you truly are.”
Though the context of these statements can seem to affirm, they possess two underlying deceptions which lead believers back to the temple of idolatry.
First, we are told that we must love ourselves to produce a healthy, godly life. God’s Word tells us the contrary. From the day we draw our first breath, our souls are driven by self-preservation. We, by nature, look out for ourselves and love who we are. In his Ephesian letter, the apostle Paul writes, “no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” (Ephesians 5:29) The human default is self-love. On the other hand, God’s default is love that gives and sacrifices itself. In His call to the disciples, Jesus identifies a fullness of life that can only be found in denying one’s desire to worship themselves. (Luke 17:33)
Secondly, preserving one’s selfishness is strengthened by statements like “following Jesus is the pathway to living your best life.” This assumption holds fatal consequences. First, one is left to believe that suffering is not in God’s will. This unbiblical optimism has misled many into a habit of running from conflict. Secondly, those who endure suffering are left to question the wisdom and will of God when they encounter extended seasons of difficulty. Consider the Biblical characters such as Job, Leah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others who hoped for a remedy and deliverance but remained unfulfilled. It was in their suffering that they found and experienced God’s closeness and purpose.
Contrary to modern messages, the Biblical narrative presents this truth- The more you pursue righteousness, the more conflict will increase. As you oppose a world intoxicated with self-indulgence, you will prove to be a source of contradiction. (John 15:20, John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12) With a sincere effort to rescue many from the pit of depression and self-loathing, is it possible that we have inadvertently spiritualized the equally depraved behavior of self-worship? Until we get our self-focused nature out of the way, through the disciplines of fasting, prayer, and serving others, we cannot hope for the Divine nature of Jesus to manifest through us.
2. The pollutant of pride
I write this in the closing week of “pride month.” This superficial commemoration is a tribute to the wickedness of pride. The sexual perversions associated with communities that celebrate this month only serve as a symptom of deeper depravity. This wickedness has been permitted for too long, even within the Church. The folly of pride essentially says, “I have the right to be who I am, and no one dares challenge me.” I’ve even heard believers say, “if God wanted me to change, then He’d let me know.” Beliefs like this reflect a cancerous infection that can only be extracted by the powerful application of humility and repentance.
3. The poison of self-righteousness.
Self-righteousness is applauded in statements like, “You were born a good person, but society has conditioned you into broken ways of thinking.” To this, I ask, “who is society?” Who conditioned that society into broken ways of thinking? Was it the people who we claim are born uncorrupted? The circular argument that one is morally good until bad people corrupt them removes personal responsibility. Men and women cannot be redeemed through their moral resolves, meditation, positive thinking, or an appeal to supposed inherent goodness. The deadly aspect of sin is that humans cannot resist its power. Sure, one may be able to turn from a specific vice, but the pride one feels in overcoming a sinful habit is also a sin. Only the redeeming power of God’s Spirit in the believer’s life can give one power over sin. Consider Jesus’ controversial statement in Matthew 5:29-30. He says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Jesus is pointing to the source of sin. It is in the heart, the conscious and subconscious realm of our nature.
We cannot be made righteous by our abilities. No matter how good we are, unless we have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and obey His voice, we will fail to live free from sin’s power. We can only be made righteous by surrendering our independent, sinful nature for Jesus’ righteous identity. This transformation must be empowered by the Holy Spirit’s grace and our faith in His redeeming work. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
As these poisons seek to pollute the rising river of revival, I urge you to drink from the life-giving waters of truth. How do you do this? By consistently choosing to deny your selfish desires. This means saying no to self-promoting things and choosing to make Jesus famous. Secondly, choosing to live humbly before others is an effective way by which the pollutant of pride can be eradicated. Finally, put on the righteous nature of Jesus by listening to His voice and obeying the guidance of His Spirit day after day.
These three simple dynamics can keep your soul nourished in the streams of the Father’s love. As the beloved disciple, John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
I liked this for the title alone.
(Christ is LORD)