God is a God of revival. When the world became so corrupt that the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, He sent a great flood. The flood was catastrophic, wiping out both mankind and all the animals. Death and destruction were the result of an incredible amount of wickedness. The world-wide corruption “grieved him to his heart” (Genesis 6:6 ESV).
It’s difficult to fathom what it would have been like to witness the destruction of the entire world. To be the sole survivors would have come with a lot of trauma. There is a phenomenon known as survivor’s guilt, where lone survivors feel guilty for having been spared when everyone else died. We can’t say for certainty that this is what happened, but the Bible tells us that Noah got extremely intoxicated after the ark landed on dry ground.
Though God wiped out mankind, he also established a covenant with Noah. God said, “Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you , your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you” (Genesis 6:17-18). While this story is incredibly tragic, God established revival once again. He brought life and joy by means of promise. Noah was told to be fruitful and multiply. His family lived a long and prosperous life. Revival happened quickly after the destruction.
Our theme this year is Revival. The very core of the gospel is revival. Jesus came to save that which is lost. The central theme of the gospel is repentance–literally turning around. Jesus reached into the lives of people whose worlds had crumbled around them. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He freed the oppressed. He cared for the orphan and the widow.
When John the Baptist began preaching, he immediately called for repentance. He called out to the crowd, “You brood of vipers!” John told them to bear fruits in keeping with repentance and said that the axe was already laid to the root of the trees, meaning the people who produced bad fruit would be cut off from salvation.
Luke’s account takes a turn from the other accounts. There is an interruption and the crowds ask, “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:10 ESV). Jesus’ response in in step with Isaiah 61, which is what Jesus quoted when he stood up and said, “Today these scriptures are fulfilled in your presence.” John answers, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:11). The tax collectors who came to be baptized asked the same question. John answered, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do” (vs. 13). Then the soldiers asked the same question. John answered, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (vs. 14).
Revival is rooted in repentance. God commands us to produce fruits that care for others. We need to treat people righteously, with fairness and by meeting their needs. Revival builds up that which has been broken or torn down. John’s message began quite the buzz. People were wondering if John was the Christ. When we bless people, God blesses.
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When Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read from the scriptures, he was reading Isaiah 61. Jesus indicated that the fulfillment of Isaiah 61 was happening with Jesus. Isaiah 61:1-2 (ESV) says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. . .”
Luke doesn’t record the rest of Isaiah 61, but Isaiah 61 is really about revival. God is a God who takes the broken and rebuilds. He restores. He redeems. Verse 4 says, “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” In this passage, there is rejoicing. The rebuilding that comes by God’s hand is something to be celebrated. They will receive the “oil of gladness.”
As we focus this year on revival, we should focus on rebuilding, renewing, and rejoicing! There is so much to be celebrated in the kingdom of God.
With a host of New Year’s resolutions stacking up for 2020, we mark both the turn of a new year and the turn of a new decade. Each year we begin a new theme for the sermon series. Since we are embarking on a new decade, it seemed fitting to follow the theme of “Revival!”
Revival is needed in every aspect of life because we have a tendency to stagnate. Marriages stagnate. Churches stagnate. Jobs stagnate. Life stagnates. Revival allows us to turn the page and bring about renewal. Psalm 85:6 says, “Will you not revive us again, that you people may rejoice in you?”
God is a God of revival. He revives that which was once lost and dead. He renews and restores. And God rescues and redeems. He revived Israel when he rescued her from Egypt, made a covenant with her, and promised to bring her into the promised land. Jesus revived the sick, lame, and dead. He restored their health and reunited them with their families.
Revival runs strong throughout the entire Bible, because that’s who God is. 2019 brought on many challenges to our congregation. We have faced poverty, death, and much sickness. We have endured and persevered. But now it is time for revival!
If you are tired, come for revival! If you are sick, come for revival! If you are grieving, come for revival! If you have left the church for an extended time, come back for revival! The church functions best when the body of believers joins together in perfect harmony. We’re excited to see where God is taking us and we long for you to be part of the journey!
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When Jesus was born, a man named Simeon was at the Temple, waiting for the consolation of Israel. The word for consolation literally means an urgent call done by someone close by. Context determines the exact meaning (e.g. urging, encouragement, comfort, appeal, exhortation). Luke 2:25 (ESV) says: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.”
Context for this word means “consolation.” Consolation is the comfort received after a great loss. Simeon was waiting for Israel to receive comfort by the one calling out on her behalf. He was told by the Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ. When the baby Jesus was brought to Simeon, he blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke2:29-32)
Israel was desperate. Injustices had gone on for generations. People were weary. They were crying out, desperate to find hope. God sent his son to rescue the perishing, to liberate the oppressed suffering.
At the same time, there was a prophetess named Anna. She was a widow and stayed at the Temple day and night with fasting and prayer. She was eighty-four. Luke records, “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel. Anna was speaking to all the people waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Christ was the one who would bring both consolation and redemption! The time was here for people to be comforted and rescued by the only One who would do so. Immanuel–God is with us!
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The parallels between the Exodus story and Jesus’s birth and first years are not accidental. Throughout the Bible, and because of God’s throne of righteousness and justice, God cares for what philosopher and theologian Nicolas Wolterstorff dubs “the quartet of vulnerable.” Those include widows, orphans, aliens, and the impoverished. It’s no accident that Jesus was born extremely poor to an unmarried Jewish couple. They were outcasts and had to flee to Egypt to escape death.
King Herod wanted to see Jesus, under the pretense of worshiping him but presumably to kill him. The wise men tricked Herod and an angel warned Joseph to take the child and flee to Egypt. Matthew records: “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son'” (Matthew 2:14-15 ESV).
This evoked the whole Egypt experience. Israel was living under oppression with a Pharaoh who wouldn’t let the Israelites go. The last plague required a sacrifice, a slain lambs’ blood to be painted over the door frame. Then God miraculously led the Israelites out of the foreign land of oppression into the Promised Land. God doesn’t just parallel these stories, Christ reenacts the whole Egypt experience.
People waited for the Messiah with anticipation. They longed to be healed. They longed to be freed. The vulnerable quartet of widows, orphans, aliens, and impoverished finally had a redeemer and protector-one who not only could save them, but one who also would.
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Christmas is a time when people around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, Messiah. He is the savior of mankind, and certainly is worth celebrating. But we can’t forget that the reason there was such a high anticipation for the Savior to come is because people were living in desperation, having been ravished by Assyrian and Babylonian captors and seeing the daily oppression that was their new reality. It wasn’t just sin that mankind needed saved from. It was oppression and a lack of justice.
Isaiah 59 foretells a time when the Christ will come: “‘And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 59:20 ESV). Before the Light came, there was darkness. The people were despondent from living in utter darkness for so long.
Isaiah painted the grim reality: “We hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. . . We hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us” (Isaiah 59:9-11).
If we truly are going to get into the Christmas spirit, we need to remember the oppressed. We need to reach out to those who are destitute and feed and clothe them. Jesus can’t be reduced to a Christmas tree and lawn ornaments. The reason we celebrate a savior is because people needed a savior. They needed a protector and defender. They needed a savior who was willing to lay his life down for others. Always remember the reason for the season.
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