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The Greatest Hindrance to Revival in the Church Lies Here

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It’s clear that many churches have closed or have considerably shrunk in size since COVID-19. Reasons range from “church-goers are still scared to return,” to “they prefer watching live feeds.”

But why have bold churches experienced tremendous growth? This issue is much deeper—it’s crystal clear that people are hungry for the truth.

As a church in California located in Los Angeles County, I understand the enormous challenges of pastoring in these dire times. But, if the truth is told, the COVID crisis simply revealed the foundation of many churches as well as the heart of many pastors. But thank God there is hope!

Pastors, I’m writing this to you to encourage you to be bold as you lead your congregation through these difficult and challenging times. But this boldness won’t come naturally, it will come supernaturally. It will have a cost: “Life-giving preaching costs the preacher much—death to self, crucifixion to the world, and the travail of his own soul. Crucified preaching only can give life. Crucified preaching can come only from a crucified man” (E.M. Bounds).

As I was working on my newest article, A Measure of Revival in Our Bondage, the thought came to me to tailor it to pastors and Christian leaders and to re-release it with that theme in mind. Here are some of the points:

The Fire of the Spirit is Contagious

On October 25, 2021, we began having church every night at 6 pm for two straight weeks. At times, the atmosphere was overwhelming–a full altar, dozens of baptisms, the demonic realm being crushed and countless lives changed, both in person and through Livestream. As the old-timers used to say, “God heard our cries and showed up!” The key verse for us was Isaiah 64:1, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence.” (You can view the services here.)

Speaking boldly is no longer optional, it’s essential. That’s the missing ingredient today. God is no respecter of persons, status, or achievement, but He is a respecter of principles (Acts 10:34). If you seek Him with all your heart you will find Him. Then you will be better equipped to lead your congregation to the Fountain of Living Water once you yourself have drunk deeply. The fire of the Spirit is contagious.

This doesn’t mean that your church will grow; it could shrink, but it does mean that you’ll now have the power of the Spirit resting upon your life. Churches filled with the Spirit do the works of the Spirit. Jesus said that “whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12 NIV). If your church doesn’t look like the New Testament church, are you sure that you’re truly “having church”?

Death is for a Graveyard, not a Church

The Christian life is to be living and vibrant, not dry and dead. It begs the question: “Where are the rivers of living water that Jesus spoke about in John 7:38?” When it comes to experiencing a spiritual awakening (revival), it can’t be worked up, it must be brought down from heaven.

In Lev. 9:23-24, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people and the fire came down and consumed the burnt offering. God brought down the fire, but the responsibility fell on the leaders to keep the fire burning. They were to remove the waste but not the fuel. The same holds true for you and me. We must remove the waste of pride and add the fuel of humility.

Ignite your church with prayer meetings and worship nights. Humble yourself and lead the way and find comfort on the altar as you cry out to God for boldness. The two-week event described above was over a decade in the making as we persisted in seeking the heart of God. He truly is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). When God chooses to give us a measure of revival in our bondage, worship, humility, and obedience is the fuel that keeps the flame going.

The Beauty of Brokenness

The beauty of brokenness is that humility crushes pride and ushers in the presence of God. Moses spent years on the backside of the desert as God broke and prepared him. Joshua’s humility no doubt came from lingering in the presence of the Lord. Isaiah was completely broken when he cried, “Woe to me! … I am ruined! …. my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). Jeremiah collapsed and cried out for humility in the people, “My soul will weep in secret for your pride” (Jeremiah 13:17).

The Psalms are saturated with the brokenness of David, and Jesus’ disciples had to be crushed like olives so the anointing oil could flow. Paul had to be knocked to the ground and his eyes blinded by the glory of God before true humility became a mark of his ministry.

Do you sound like a voice “crying in the wilderness” because you’ve been touched by God, or a voice whining in the wilderness because you’re dying spiritually? You can change that today.

We Provide the Sacrifice, He Provides the Fire

When you lose intimacy with God, you lose boldness and the Spirit’s fire. Return to Him, and He will return to you (Zechariah 1:3). The strength of your church is in its purity and spiritual power, not in its numbers. God doesn’t need a majority—He is the Majority. We are not CEOs running a business, we are watchmen warning a nation. Prayer can no longer be a footnote at the end of a sermon; instead, prayer and worship must guide the church in these critical times.

How can you receive a measure of revival in these dire times if there is no desperation? God can’t pour into your heart if it’s already full of self: Self-willed. Self-sufficient. Self-made. Self must die in you before God can really live within you.

The greatest hindrance to revival is within your own heart. It’s time to break up your fallow ground and seek the Lord while He still may be found (cf. Hosea 10:12). Again, although we can’t work revival up, God can bring it down from heaven if we prepare the soil of our hearts. We provide the sacrifice–He provides the fire.

Listen here to the sermon, A Measure of Revival in Our Bondage.

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Southern California. More can be found at shaneIdleman.com and free downloads of his books are available at wcfav.org. Visit him on Facebook and subscribe to his podcast.

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10 Sins Jesus Condemns Most Harshly in Scripture

10 Sins Jesus Condemns Most Harshly in Scripture 

  • Selfishness

    Jesus ministered with an attitude of humility. He is quoted as saying, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”(Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45). Jesus warned his disciples against using their status to dominate others. Rather, they were to be servants to all (Matthew 20:25-28).

    The story of the rich man and Lazarus displays the severity of punishment for selfishness (Luke 16:19-31). When we allow our own needs to blind us from meeting the needs of others, we harden our hearts to one of the core missions of Christ. 

  • Pride

    Jesus often warned those struggling with pride of its impending consequences. In Luke 20:45-47, Jesus warned his listeners to beware of the teachers of the law who prided themselves in their religiosity, yet failed to show hospitality to those in need.

    The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector illustrates how God sees spiritual pride (Luke 18:9-14). When the Pharisee prayed, in his pride he thanked God that he was not like other people, who he thought was less spiritual. At the same time, the tax collector bowed in humility from a distance and mourned his condition as a sinner. Jesus declared that it was the tax collector who would be justified before God because of his humility.

    “. . .For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

  • Unbelief

    Jesus often marveled at and convicts his disciples, as well as bystanders, for their lack of faith. In His hometown, He was unable to perform miracles because of the peoples’ unbelief. The Pharisees and Sadducees tested Jesus by asking His for a sign from heaven that He was the Christ (Matthew 16:1-4). In response to their unbelief, Jesus called them a wicked and adulterous generation and told them that no sign would be given except for the sign of Jonah.

    When we think about how the Son of God was unable to perform miracles due to people’s lack of faith in His hometown, we must ask ourselves how much we miss out on the Holy Spirit working through our own lives simply because we doubt His ability.

  • Hypocrisy

    Many unbelievers or ex-evangelicals today say the reason why they oppose organized religion is that there is too much hypocrisy. The good news is that Jesus opposed hypocrisy too. The gospels are filled with Jesus challenging the Pharisees in their hypocrisy.

    Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, he pronounced the “7 Woes” on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. In each of his pronouncements, he called them hypocrites. In Greek, the term means an actor or pretender. Jesus condemned these religious officials because they claimed to be leaders, yet their hearts and actions did not reflect their outward appearance.

    The result of their efforts was fruitlessness, spiritual destruction, and shedding of blood. Other words Jesus uses to describe hypocrites are blind guides, blind fools, and abrood of vipers (Matthew 22:13-39). 

  • Greed

    Jesus taught on money and possessions more than any other topic, which reveals to us His kingdom mentality. Jesus stated that no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will love the one and hate the other. Therefore, it is impossible to serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). 

    If we are bound by our affections of the things of this world, our hearts will never belong to the things of God. That is why Jesus commands his followers to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). He strongly stated that it’s impossible for a rich man to inherit the kingdom of God, not because Jesus condemned wealth, but because He knows how difficult it is for someone to lay aside greed.

    When we lay aside our greed, we are able to give what we have with joy. Jesus honors this virtue through the poor widow who gave all she had as an offering (Mark 12:41-44). She gave out of her poverty rather than her wealth. 

  • Unforgiveness

    Slide 6 of 10

    Jesus stressed the consequences of the lasting effects of unforgiveness. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus told his disciples that whoever forgives his brother will be forgiven, but whoever does not forgive will not be forgiven.

    Jesus also told a parable of the Unforgiving Servant to his disciples in order to emphasize the importance of showing forgiveness to others as a reflection of the forgiveness shown to us by God (Matthew 18:21-35). Jesus is the ultimate example of the One who forgives. Though not deserving death, he forgave his enemies even while on the cross (Luke 23:34). 

  • Disobedience

    While disobedience may seem like a catch-all for all sin, Jesus stressed the importance of obeying His teaching (Luke 11:28; John 14:15). The parable of two sons illustrates the importance Jesus placed on obeying His word (Matthew 21:28-32).

    In this parable, a father had two sons. One son told his father he would work the vineyard and did not follow through. The second son declared that he would not work yet changed his mind and went. Jesus’ point of the parable was that the one who receives the kingdom of God is the one who repents and believes. When we disobey the Word of the Lord, we need to check our hearts for disloyalty and a lack of love. 

  • Judging Others

    Throughout the gospels, Jesus ministered to many “sinners,” and received criticism from his disciples as well as from the Jewish leaders. For instance, Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector, to be a disciple. The new follower held a great banquet where notorious lawbreakers gathered. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus’ disciples about his behavior, Jesus told them that it is not healthy who needed a doctor, but rather the sick (Luke 5:27-31).

    Jesus is clear in his prohibition against judging others (Matthew 7:1-6; Luke 37-38). Oftentimes people are tempted to determine for themselves another’s guilt and announce a fate upon them. However, that role is for God alone (James 4:12). Believers are called to show mercy towards one another rather than judgment. 

  • Impurity

    In first-century Judaism, ritual and ceremonial purity were extremely important. However, Jesus taught the importance of moral purity. When confronted about the disciples’ lack of ceremonial washing, Jesus declared that it is not what someone puts inside of their mouth that defiles them, but rather what comes out of their mouths (Matt. 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23).

    He warned against the sins of the heart, which include: sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. Therefore, as followers of Jesus, it is important for us to allow God to examine our hearts daily to ensure that we remain pure (Psalm 139:23-24). 

    While Jesus taught on many “sins,” this list gives an overview of the heart of His ministry and teaching of the kingdom of God. He calls us as believers to a life of faith, obedience, love, and service to God and others. When we trust in Him rather than ourselves, regularly meditate on His Word, and fellowship with Him in prayer we can follow His teachings and live a life of true discipleship.

 

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