CBN.com - Breaking
Up Unplowed Ground
When we begin to contemplate the conditions of revival, we need to
start with the "unplowed ground" in our own hearts. This is anything
that blocks our relationship with God, and keeps us from maturing —
any obstacles to loving God, hearing His Word, and obeying Him. Some
of these include: unconfessed sin, pride, rebellion, hardened hearts,
apathy toward unbelievers, lost love for Christ, and superficiality
(shallow faith reflected in prayerlessness and lack of Bible study).
We may not feel that our hearts are hardened. We may attend church,
worship God, lead a cell group or Bible study, and minister in the choir
or Sunday school. Yet our commitment may be outward only. To live as
a faithful disciple, continually responsive to the Spirit and instantly
available for service, we need to ask God to show us our hearts, to
repent continually of known sin, and to seek his face. The Lord asks,
"Who is he who will devote himself to be close to Me?" (Jeremiah 30:21).
As David said, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast
spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant
me a willing spirit, to sustain me" (Psalm 51:10, 12). Apart from Christ,
we can do nothing. And as we humble ourselves before God, He will cleanse
us, restore us, and transform us into the image of Christ. Cleansing
from sin lays the groundwork for revival. We have the promises of God.
Rooting Out the Thorns
Besides breaking up our unplowed ground, we need to keep from "sowing
among thorns." In Jesus’ parable of the sower, the seeds sown
among thorns grew a little, but then were choked by the thorns, so that
they were not fruitful. Jesus described the "thorns" that can choke
out our own fruitfulness, hindering the life of Christ in us and the
good works He has foreordained for us to do. These thorns are "the worries
of this life," "the deceitfulness of wealth," and "the desires for other
When the Lord told the Israelites in Jeremiah 4 not to sow among thorns,
He was lovingly warning them not to let anything choke out His Word
from their lives. They needed to pay close attention to what He said,
take it to heart, and obey it. Yet, as was mentioned earlier, they ignored
In preparation for revival, we must examine our own lives to see if
anything has become more important than our relationship with the Lord.
If so, we are in real danger of being choked by the thorns that distract
us from God. This is serious and not to be taken lightly. We need to
ask ourselves, do we have an undue preoccupation with the worries of
this life? Do we keep putting off our time with God until we can fit
it into our schedule? Do we fret about material needs instead of trusting
God? God knows we have needs. Yet they must not hinder us from trusting
Him, from keeping in constant communion with Him, and being responsive
to His Spirit.
We also need to ask ourselves questions about our attitude toward money
and material things. Are we pursuing money with the wrong motivations?
Are we storing up wealth with no consideration for the poor? Do we consider
money and possessions to be our security, rather than the Lord? There
is nothing wrong with money, in and of itself. Yet God does not want
a desire for wealth or security to come before our trust in Him. Jesus
said that without God it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom
of God. He said this directly after the rich young ruler refused to
follow Him because he would have to give up his riches. This incident
recorded in Mark 10:17-31 is instructive. Jesus had just invited the
young man to follow him and become one of his disciples. He might have
been another Peter or John. He had the potential to be dedicated uniquely
to God. Indeed, Jesus "loved him" (v. 21). Therefore, we must not miss
Jesus’ call to follow him by having a distorted view of money
and possessions, and what they can provide for us.
Finally, are we setting our hearts on "other" things — things
that are not of the Lord, or do not have eternal value? What are our
priorities and goals? We live in the "real" world, and must go about
our daily lives and tasks. We have jobs, spouses, and children who require
our care. There is nothing wrong with these things; they are a normal
part of God’s created order. Yet Jesus said, "Seek first His Kingdom
and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as
well" (Matthew 6:33, emphasis added). Are we seeking first the Kingdom
of God? Do we love Christ and obey his commandments? Is Jesus Christ
really the Lord of our life? The apostle Peter wrote, "But in your hearts
set apart Christ as Lord" (1 Peter 3:15).
Such a Spirit-led examination of our hearts and motivations is essential.
And it is a regular part of Christian discipleship and growth. But in
preparation for revival we are to seek God and examine ourselves with
special dedication and intensity. This does not mean brooding introspection
or self-condemnation. Rather, it means an honest look at the way we
are ordering our lives. Other interests in life should pale in comparison
to seeking God, praying for renewal, and obeying him. This is not a
license to neglect our families and responsibilities. But it does mean
scheduling our time and sacrificing lesser priorities to seek God wholeheartedly,
and with humility.
Righteousness and Truth as Seeds of Revival
After we have removed the thorns from our lives (an ongoing process),
we need to "sow seeds of righteousness" in preparation for revival.
Two of these seeds are integrity and truth. We need to renew our own
commitment to biblical truth, accountability in church fellowship, and
the authority of spiritual leadership. In our churches we need to preach
the whole Gospel, not a "watered down" version that neglects ongoing
discipleship and faithfulness. When sharing with unbelievers on a one-to-one
basis, we must also emphasize the full Gospel in our conversations.
And above all, we need to be living testimonies to the truth of Jesus
Christ. Our lives, our words, our actions need to be honest, faithful,
and sincere. As St. Francis said, "Preach the Gospel all the time; if
necessary use words."
Accountability as a Seed of Revival
As just mentioned, we need to renew our commitment to church fellowship
and accountability. Historically, we’ve seen how small bands of
people, such as Wesley’s "Holy Club," gathered for mutual growth
and responsible Christian living. Such small groups are essential for
personal holiness before God. On our own, we are likely to become spiritually
lazy, to ignore or bury sins rather than repent of them, and to pursue
selfish gain and desires instead of godly purposes.
We do not belong to Christ in isolation. We are always part of the
Church — the Body of Christ — and we need each other, if
our spiritual lives are to be sustained. Healthy groups that practice
accountability do not degenerate into social clubs. And they do not
allow the leader or others to control people’s lives and subject
them to humiliation for confessed sins. An accountability group should
be characterized by a commitment to biblical truth, unconditional love,
humility, prayer for one another and for the lost, bearing one another’s
burdens, testimonies to God’s work in members’ lives, worship
in Spirit and truth, and concern for the community and world.
Prayer as a Seed of Revival
After cleansing from sin, there is no greater or more essential foundation
for revival than prayer — not casual prayer, but intercession
that involves time and commitment. This is serious business because
when we enter into prayer for revival, we are immediately thrust into
the middle of a spiritual battle: a battle for the eternal destiny of
the souls of men, women, and children. Our adversary does not take this
struggle lightly, so we should not either. We must seek the filling
and empowering of the Holy Spirit for effective spiritual warfare, and
keep a continually cleansed heart before the Lord.
Our prayers need to reflect a divine love and concern for those who
do not know Christ. Jesus "came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke
19:10). As we are drawn closer to Him in devotion and service, we will
share his priorities and concerns. Jesus wept over the stubbornness
of those in Jerusalem who refused to come to Him. He told the parable
of the shepherd who celebrated finding one lost sheep and bringing him
safely home. He said, "I tell you that in the same way there will be
more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine
righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7). As we mentioned
earlier, Jesus also told the parable of the prodigal son: the father
rejoiced at the return of his son who had rebelled but had now returned
home. And 2 Peter 3:9 states that God is "not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance." Scripture is replete with God’s
calls to the lost and rebellious.
Although these scriptures are familiar, often they make little impact
on us. But as we seek the heart of Jesus Christ in prayer, we will begin
to comprehend the reality of eternity. We will share our Lord’s
grief and pain over those eternally lost if they do not repent and believe.
And we will also share in the unconditional love He has for them. This
understanding will not come unless we align our desires and motivations
with God’s. Likewise, we will not be motivated to pray unless
we have this oneness with the purposes of God. Dedicated intercession,
so essential for revival, requires us to identify with those lost in
their sins and to take personal responsibility for the sins of the nations.
Faith as a Seed of Revival
Since faith is essential to spiritual effectiveness, it is likewise
crucial as we prepare for revival. Society’s myriad problems cannot
be solved through human strength and wisdom; rather we must rely on
God’s promise to heal our land when we humble ourselves and seek
his face (2 Chronicles 7:14). Regarding the possibility of revival,
Jesus Himself told us to "open your eyes and look at the fields! They
are ripe for harvest" (John 4:35). The Lord challenges us to see the
potential for revival at home and abroad and then exercise our faith,
believing that the nations will be a spiritual inheritance for Christ’s
Kingdom. As we begin to share the Lord’s desire to bring spiritual
awakening, He will help and strengthen us. Once we realize this and
put our complete confidence in Him, we are on the right track toward
Consecrate Ourselves to the Lord by Circumcising Our Hearts
After breaking up our unplowed ground, guarding against the thorns
of spiritual distraction, and sowing seeds of righteousness, we need
to "circumcise" our hearts before the Lord. In the Old Testament circumcision
was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
Later, the law was given to Moses as a covenant between God and Israel.
The Israelites failed continuously to love God and remain true to the
covenant, so that God referred to their faithlessness and rejection
as "adultery," with all its painful implications.
With the coming of Jesus Christ came a new "circumcision" representing
the New Covenant God makes with believers. The problem of faithlessness
has been solved by God in the New Covenant, because He puts His law
in our minds and writes it on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). The apostle
Paul wrote, "circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit,
not by the written code" (Romans 2:29, emphasis added).
It is clear from Scripture that circumcision of the heart is the work
of God. How then are we to circumcise our hearts to the Lord? This act
corresponds with what Jesus told us is the greatest commandment: "Love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with
all your mind" (Matt. 22:37). We should settle for nothing but total
dedication of our hearts and lives to God. On the basis of the New Covenant,
we belong to Him and are to give ourselves completely to Him in love
and obedience. This dedication and obedience is to be marked by joy,
not fear, because Christ lives in us and enables us to love and obey
Him. He said, "If you love Me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15).
We are to live in the New Covenant God has made with us, not just consider
it part of our theology. Revival will come when Christians dedicate
all that they are and all that they have to Jesus; when they say, "Whatever
the cost, I give myself completely to You; work Your will in me."
Personal revival is an essential element of the conditions of awakening.
In the cycle of revival, it is what bridges cultural crisis and mass
conversion. Therefore, it is absolutely critical in preparing the way
for a general revival. Personal revival begins with spiritual discipline:
yielding to the conviction and prompting of the Holy Spirit, and living
in faithfulness, integrity, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice. Hebrews
12:10 explains that "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share
in His holiness." Discipline is not generally a pleasant experience,
but as we learn and grow from it, the life of Christ becomes manifest
in us and we are prepared for the widespread revival God wants to bring.
How do we seek revival in our own lives? We must first acknowledge
that God knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves, and that
He is aware of the areas we need to correct and change. Therefore, we
must ask God to show us our true spiritual condition and reveal the
deficiencies in our lives. This is not to bring condemnation, but rather
to manifest His holiness and to free us from sin. Holiness is one of
God’s major goals in revival. He desires that His people be holy,
because He is holy (Leviticus 11:44), and that holiness permeate society.
The Lord is concerned with our character and the state of our hearts.
We are often concerned primarily with our accomplishments. While He
desires that we are productive and do good works, we must first serve
Him with pure hearts.