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Have I Gone Too Far?

There once were two ladies on a carriage in England, and a gentleman came in and got aboard that carriage as well. And these two ladies were singing, “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” You’ve sung it many times. You remember the stanza that says, “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.”

Well, as they sang this song, this gentleman leaned across and said, “Ladies, I would appreciate it if you didn’t sing that song. My name is Robert Robinson. I wrote that song and I would give a thousand worlds today, if I could feel now like I did then.”

Do you know something? There are millions of Christians in the world who would give a lot if they could feel now like they did then; if they could feel within their heart the presence of God, and the sense that they are being used of God, like was the case once upon a time in their lives. Having said that, I’m sure that you will agree with me, that one of the greatest needs of the Church in our time is for spiritual revival, whereby Christians can be brought back to the place of capability that once was the case in their lives.

Well, the first step that anyone must take in order to be the person spiritually that God wants them to be once again, is the step of review. Take a moment to look back at your life in the past. Let’s call it, “Reviewal.”

The clock of time is ticking for every one of us. Each day that passes is a day concerning which I must one day give a report to God. Review the past. Are you at the place where you should be for the Lord? I’m sure that many would say, that they would like so much to go back and be young again, and remake the decisions that once were made.

The poet said: “Backward, turn backward, O time in thy flight; Let me be young again, just for tonight.” Alas, that’s impossible. But we can review those days, and the sensitive heart will see engendered within it the prayer, “Dear God, make me the person I’ve long intended to be. Bring in spiritual revival to my heart.” Step number one is to take a moment to review. Preoccupation may be interesting, but it’s not good if it makes us forget the failures of the past and the person that we could be today.

Step number two: repentance. The word is interesting in the Bible. It is the word “metanoia.” It means, “a change of mind.” It refers to having believed the wrong thing about God, about His purposes for our lives, maybe about salvation, perhaps about the working of God within the lives of Christians. It refers to seeing the difference between what I have believed about God and about life in the past, and about how different that is from what the Bible teaches is the great purpose of God for my life. In fact, repentance implies a renewing of the mind. And the Bible says we are transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians after they had lived lives of terrible sin. Then he reviewed what had happened with them. They were smitten with conviction, and they repented. And the Apostle Paul said, “godly sorrow works repentance … not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10). So there was a vital transformation within the church, because these believers, who had played fast and loose with God, came to the place where they said, “Dear God, we see it in another way.” They repented of the sins of the past, and they moved into a whole new era in the life of that church.

The world is developing things in our particular time, that are absolutely fantastic, by the way of pressures to sin. But along with those pressures come spiritual opportunity.

The poet once upon a time said, “O for a closer walk with God, a calm and heavenly frame, a light to shine upon the road that leads me to the Lamb!” And in one of the stanzas of that grand piece of poetry, he said, “The dearest idol I have known, Whate’er that idol be, help me to tear it from Thy throne, and worship only Thee.”

That is a great key to making a spiritual comeback. And that is a great need in the lives of millions of Christians in our world today. We’ve thought about this, and I’m sure that we will agree that the beginning of a spiritual comeback is when we review the failures that we have seen in the past. Then we repent, that is, change our mind about the purpose of life, and the direction in which we are going to go from here on out.

Next, having been through these marvelous steps of faith, there is a beautiful thing that God, in His providence, brings to pass. And that is what we might call, restoration. Restoration to spiritual capability. Restoration to the ability to pray, to that walk with God, that we desire so much. How many have said, “Dear Lord, I would love to be the person that I know that I could be for the Lord”? It may be that you’ve walked in pride, and seen failure in days gone by. And you would like that spiritual capability to be restored.

You know, one of the classic illustrations of restoration that we find in the Bible is in the life of a king. Daniel told us about him. His name was Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up with pride. He said, “I am bigger than anything. In fact, I’m bigger than God.” As a result, Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by being forced to eat grass like an animal of the field. Well, when he finally came to his senses, he realized that he was not God, but that he must follow the Lord to know any kind of blessing in life.

Think of what Nebuchadnezzar went through, before he came to the place where restoration was possible to him! But that restoration only happened when he gave up his pride, and elected to walk with the Lord and follow Him.

I know many a servant of the Lord who has said, “I never preached better than I did when I was young, and I seek those times again.” And I know some whose lives have been restored in beautiful fashion, to capability such as they had never known before. They had a broken heart and a winsome spirit. As a result of facing up to the people who they truly were, spiritual restoration came to pass for them as individuals.

Now let’s think of that fourth step. Have I gone too far? How do I make a spiritual comeback? Review the past; repentance concerning the past; restoration on the part of God; and then, spiritual revival comes to pass. Habakkuk back in the Old Testament recognized that spiritual revival was the only hope for the nation of Israel. Spiritual revival may well be the only hope for your church, for your family, for your circle of influence.

Now the stories of revival have been most interesting, as they’ve come to us in the marvelous pages of history. And generally speaking, revival comes when people recognize that they’ve lived lives of at least semi-rebellion against the known will of God. They’ve sinned against the Lord. Confession comes to pass, then forgiveness, and revival is the beautiful outgrowth of that. Can we confess, and can we be forgiven, of sins in our lives as Christians? Yes, indeed! The Scripture says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

What does it mean to confess? It means to say the same thing that God says about sin. It means to recognize sin for its horribly subversive nature. It then means to present that awareness before God.

The Scripture then says that, on the basis of that attitude, God is faithful. God does not violate His justice. But “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That becomes, then, the marvelous basis for spiritual revival. I hope that in your life, you have the opportunity sometime, somewhere, to have a true spiritual revival. Then out of that comes a great plan for the future. God wants to bring revival into your life, not just for its own sake, but so that you might be characterized by marvelous accomplishments for Him.

The most important thing, perhaps, in terms of producing spiritual capability for the future, is purpose—deep, spiritual resolve. That’s what brings things to pass. Now, having gone through a set of steps about revival, how can I protect myself from falling back into the slough of despond, into spiritual despair, in days ahead? Daniel had an answer. Daniel was tempted to do many things that compromised his testimony for the Lord. But the Bible says he “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s food, nor with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8). Daniel said, “This is not going to happen to me!” His life was characterized by tremendous purpose. You know, in the Book of Philippians, when the Apostle Paul talks about prayer, he tells us: “Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

But then he says: “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest...whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Don’t let your mind be corrupted with impure or inferior thoughts. But begin to think of the sublime, beautiful purpose, for which God called you to live in this world, and begin to realize all that you yet can accomplish for His glory. A lot of people experience some form of spiritual revival, but so quickly do they fall back into that slough of despond. They return to a life of despair, and so quickly are they once again under conviction, because they are not being used of God. The way to prevent that, is to plan from the moment that your life is restored to adequate fellowship with the Lord, for the great, the good, the perfect, the marvelous will of God to be fulfilled in your life.

You save yourself from a thousand points of despair, when you say, “Dear God, I’ve been made in Your image. I’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ. I’ve been endowed by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been forgiven and cleansed from sin. Therefore, I am not here in this world to live for a cheap and mean and lowly purpose that amounts to nothing. But I’m here to fulfill the will of God, and to accomplish His sublime purpose for my life.”

Do you know what God is doing in the world today? The Bible says He is working to bring “many sons unto glory” (Hebrews 2:10). That’s why He allows you to wrestle with temptation. That’s why problems come in life. It’s because the Lord wants to fashion out of your life—yes, your failures, and also your successes—a beautiful thing. He wants to make you a son of God, so that you may one day stand in heaven’s glory, and be a responsible representative of the family of God, able to accomplish the rulership of eternity.

That’s why He presses problems on your life today. And you must have a deep and profound resolve that you’re going to live for nothing less than the perfect will of God. That’s how God can develop in you a life that, whatever may be its pressures, whatever its problems, whatever its temptations, walks on the highest road of spiritual capability.

Resolve: it is so important! In fact, I rather think that I ought to suggest that there are too many people who are supine, who are entirely too much like a mushroom in their Christian lives. They’ve been taught somehow that all that you do is place yourself in the hands of God, and then you are wafted along in spiritual capability, apart from any resolute action of your own will. This is not the sense of the New Testament Scripture. But rather, the New Testament says, “We then, as workers together” with God (2 Corinthians 6:1).

The New Testament indicates that we have a great partnership with the Lord. He has resolved, He has purposed, He has told us in a thousand ways in the New Testament (the biggest way being His death on Calvary’s cross) that He has a great purpose to fulfill. When you conjoin yourself with that purpose, when you say, “Lord, the purpose for which Jesus died, is the purpose for which I am going to live,” and your heart is filled with that resolution, it is fantastic what you can accomplish for the Lord. From that point on, nobody can tempt you to fall into sin. From that point on, you can’t be scared. You can’t be thwarted from your mission. From that point on, like the Apostle Paul said: “Henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

He had been through it all. And the sublime and shining goal of his life remained after everything else had fallen away: “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Philippians 3:10).

The Apostle Paul came to the place where he said, “I will not live henceforth for lesser things. But I will work to attain unto the out-resurrection from among the dead. I will work to distinguish myself for all of eternity. That is the utter resolve of my life.” Consequently, this man was, many times, able to travel the road of loneliness and longing, the road in which there was very little help on the part of other people. But as a resolute individual, he moved to a life of fantastic accomplishment. When life was done, the Apostle Paul was able then to look back on his life and see, not breakdowns and problems and sins, but he was able to say: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

“Can I make a spiritual comeback?” Yes, you can! Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore. And God in His grace can lift you up even now, from the muck and the mire of your failed purposes, into His beautiful plan for your life.

From the writings of Dave Breese

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