by: Mark Finley
Revival and Reformation
In every generation, God’s Spirit strives to bring revival to the hearts of His people. Revival is an ongoing, daily experience. Each of us should identify with an old hymn that says: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” Deep within, we know these words are true.
Our hearts are, indeed, prone to wander. Our minds drift from the eternal to the mundane. Our thoughts turn so easily from the heavenly to the earthly. Too often we seem to be in bondage to deeply entrenched habits. At times our own attitudes and reactions baffle us.
And that’s because, as the result of sin, our natures are fallen (Jer. 17:9). Our natural tendency is to turn from God’s way to our own (Isa. 53:6). With the apostle Paul we cry out, “O wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24), and with David we plead, “Revive me, O LORD, according to your lovingkindness” (Ps. 119:159, NKJV).
Revival is all about a God of lovingkindness seeking to deepen His relationship with us. The initiative in revival is His. His Spirit creates longings within us. His Spirit convicts us of our need. His Spirit reveals Jesus’ goodness and grace.
Throughout history, God’s Spirit has moved mightily in revival. When Israel drifted from God’s plan and purposes, God used the young King Josiah to lead the nation back to Him, and a mighty revival followed. At the dedication of the temple, God said to Solomon: “‘If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’” (2 Chron. 7:14, NKJV). God’s heart longing was for Israel to meet the conditions of revival, experience the power of revival, and reveal the light of His love to the entire world.
When God’s people responded to His appeals for revival, He worked mightily in their behalf. This was true for the New Testament Christian church, the Reformation, and the Advent Movement. It will also be true for God’s end-time people. His Holy Spirit will be poured out in its fullness and the earth will be “illuminated with his glory” (Rev. 18:1, NKJV).
This quarter’s lessons focus on the varied aspects of revival and reformation. Together we will probe such questions as, What are the conditions that God has given for the outpouring of His Spirit? Is God waiting for some magical moment to pour out His Spirit on His last-day church? What does it mean to live a Spirit filled life? Is there anything we can do to cooperate with God in order to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit now? Where does revival and reformation begin?
Ellen G. White described the importance of revival in these words: “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs.”- Selected Messages, book 1, p. 121. Heaven places priority on revival. What could be more important? This quarter, as we study such topics as prayer and revival, the Word and revival, witnessing and revival, a finished work and revival, and other related subjects, let us pray that God will powerfully speak to our hearts and draw us closer to Him.
Why not open your heart to the moving of His Spirit right now? Why not ask Him to do something extra special in your life today? He will answer your prayers, and heavenly blessings will flow in ways that you have not yet imagined.
A native of Connecticut, USA, Mark Finley, an internationally known evangelist, was a vice president at the General Conference from 2005-2010. After retiring from full-time employment, he became an assistant to the president of the General Conference to work part-time with the Revival and Reformation initiative. Pastor Finley and his wife, Ernestine, have three children and two grandchildren.
Read for This Week's Study: Rev.3:14-21, Heb. 12:7-11, Matt. 25:1-13, Zech.3:1-5, Song of Sol. 5:2-5.
Memory Text: “‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me’” (Revelation 3:20, NKJV).
Laodicea is the last church in Revelation’s sequence of seven churches. The name means, “a people judged.” It is also a fitting symbol for God’s last-day people.
Laodicea was located in an open valley in southwestern Turkey. It was an important financial capital, a fashion mecca, and an educational and medical center. Its inhabitants were independent, self-confident, and rich.
The one vital natural resource that the city lacked, however, was water. The water was piped in via Roman aqueducts from a spring five miles south of the city. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm. Jesus used that symbolism to represent the lukewarm condition of His last-day church, described as self-confident, complacent, apathetic, and spiritually indifferent. It is a church that has lost its passion. It is a church that needs a spiritual revival.
Nevertheless, the Laodicean message is filled with hope. Christ speaks to His people in love, offering to meet their heart needs and revive their deepest spiritual longings.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 6.
SUNDAY June 30
Jesus addresses each of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 with a title of Himself that is appropriate for their spiritual condition. The titles He uses in His message to the church of Laodicea ring with the assurance of spiritual renewal for all those who will heed His call.
Read the following Bible passages (Rev. 3:14-15; 2 Cor. 1:20; John 3:10-11; Col. 1:13-17). Why do you think that Jesus used the titles “the Amen,” “the faithful and true witness,” and “the beginning of the creation of God” to address the Laodicean church?
In Revelation 3:14, the Greek word for “beginning” is arche. It can mean “beginning,” in the sense that the one to whom it refers is the beginner of the event or action. In this context, arche refers to Jesus as the Beginner, or the first cause of all creation. In other words, He is the Creator (John 1:1-3; Eph. 3:8-9).
This is extremely significant. Jesus, the One who spoke and worlds came into being, the One who created the earth, the One who spoke life into existence-this same Jesus speaks hope to Laodicea. The all-powerful Creator can create new life. He can recreate new spiritual longings in our hearts. He can transform our spiritual lives.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:14-15. What do these texts mean to you personally?
Why is the Laodicean message a message of hope? What is it about the introduction to this message of strong rebuke that encourages you? Which of the three titles of Jesus do you personally identify with the most, and why?
MONDAY July 1
Read Revelation 3:15-16. Why does Jesus give the Laodicean church such a strong rebuke? What does it mean to be lukewarm? What other words might Jesus have used in place of “lukewarm”?
Commenting on Revelation 3:15-16, Ellen G. White states: “The message to the Laodicean church applies most decidedly to those whose religious experience is insipid, who do not bear decided witness in favor of the truth.”- The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 962. This is a fascinating statement. An insipid religious experience is one that is lifeless. It has the outer husk of Christianity but lacks the substance. It has the external form but lacks the living power. The Laodiceans are not heretics or fiery fanatics; they are, simply, spiritually indifferent. The Laodiceans appear to be good moral people. They have what Paul calls, “a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5, NKJV). Jesus speaks of religious people in His day who “draw near to [Him] with their mouth and honor [Him] with their lips, but their heart is far from [Him]” (Matt. 15:8, NKJV).
Read Hebrews 12:7-11; Job 5:17-19; Psalm 94:12; and Proverbs 29:15, 17, and describe God’s purpose in His rebukes.
Our Lord loves His people too much to let them go easily to perdition. He will do whatever it takes to rekindle a spiritual flame in their hearts. His strong rebuke is because of a stronger love. His chastisement is only because of His longing to heal us. The prophet Hosea echoes this sentiment with this call to repentance: “Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up” (Hos. 6:1, NKJV).
Has God ever used painful, even embarrassing, experiences to humble you and draw you closer to Him? What did you learn from these experiences that, ideally, ensures you won’t have to go through them again?
TUESDAY July 2
There is a gap between what Laodicea says and does. There is an even greater gap between the spiritual experience that Laodicea thinks she has and what she actually does have .
Read Revelation 3:17. What is Laodicea’s evaluation of herself? What is our Lord’s assessment of her? How do you think a people could be so blinded to their true spiritual condition? In what ways might we be blind regarding our own spiritual condition?
One of Satan’s fatal deceptions is to blind us to the reality of our spiritual needs. Some of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were blind to their own spiritual poverty. They were Bible-reading, Sabbath-keeping, tithe-paying “church” members looking for the coming of the Messiah. Yet, many were in darkness regarding the type of spiritual kingdom that He would usher in. Jesus called them “blind guides” (Matt. 23:24). Paul writes to the church at Corinth about those “whose minds the god of this age has blinded” (2 Cor. 4:4, NKJV). This is why Jesus said that He came for the “ ‘recovery of sight to the blind’ ” (Luke 4:18, NKJV). Jesus will restore the spiritual eyesight that we have lost if we allow Him. Every time that Jesus opened blind eyes in the New Testament, He was revealing His desire to open the eyes of our minds in order to enable us to see Him clearly.
Read Matthew 25:1-13. What are the similarities between the foolish virgins and the members of the church at Laodicea?
What ways have you found to keep spiritually alert? Why do you think it is so easy to become spiritually indifferent? What are some ways to counteract religious apathy?
WEDNESDAY July 3
There is hope for Laodicea, just as there is hope for all who are afflicted with spiritual apathy and in-difference. Our Lord has the divine remedy. The fact that the Lord speaks to this church shows that hope for the church exists if His people accept and follow His counsel .
Reflect on Jesus’ counsel in Revelation 3:18-19. What does Jesus mean when He talks about “gold refined in the fire,” being clothed in “white garments,” and our eyes being anointed with “eye salve”? (See also 1 Pet. 1:7, Zech. 3:1-5, Rev. 19:7-9, Eph. 4:30.)
“Jesus is going from door to door, standing in front of every soul-temple, proclaiming, ‘I stand at the door, and knock.’ As a heavenly merchantman, he opens his treasures, and cries, ‘Buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.’ The gold he offers is without alloy, more precious than that of Ophir; for it is faith and love.
“The white raiment he invites the soul to wear is his own robes of righteousness, and the oil for anointing is the oil of his grace, which will give spiritual eyesight to the soul in blindness and darkness, that he may distinguish between the workings of the Spirit of God and the spirit of the enemy. Open your doors, says the great Merchantman, the possessor of spiritual riches, and transact your business with me. It is I, your Redeemer, who counsels you to buy of me.”-Ellen G. White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Aug. 7, 1894.
Ellen G. White quotes Revelation 3:20, saying of Jesus, “ ‘I stand at the door, and knock.’ ” Jesus knocks; He doesn’t break down the door and force His way in. What this means is that, in the end, regardless of what God is willing to do for us, we must make the choice to let Him in. Ask yourself, “How resistant am I to opening the door to Him?” If you are resistant, ask yourself, “Why?” What is holding you back? What sin, what indulgence, don’t you want to let go of, or what is it that you find so hard to let go of?
THURSDAY July 4
Compare Revelation 3:20 to Song of Solomon 5:2-5. What similarities do you find in both instances? What do these passages reveal about God’s love?
The evening meal in the Middle East was and still is extremely important. When the work of the day was over and the men returned from the fields for the evening meal, the entire family gathered around the table. In most instances the extended family lived together. The number at the evening meal often would be quite large. Grandfather and grandmother, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and cousins, adults and children might be present. In this grand reunion after a hard day’s work, stories were told, experiences shared, and counsel given. It was a time of fellowship. It was a time of warmth and family intimacy. Jesus longs to have fellowship like this with us, as well.
How does Christ’s promise in Revelation 3:21 reveal His heartfelt desire for each one of us?
The book of Revelation mentions God’s throne more than 40 times. This is more than any other book of the Bible. At God’s throne, we join in with the heavenly chorus and joyously proclaim: “ ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing’ ” (Rev. 5:12, NKJV). He promises that we can participate in this grand festive scene of rejoicing once the long saga of sin ends.
Christ uses His greatest motivation for His indifferent end-time people. The greatest motivation to wake us from spiritual slumber is Jesus’ endless love, for He longs to spend all eternity with us. If that is not enough to shake us out of our spiritual apathy, what is? If that is not enough to bring us to our knees, seeking revival, what will?
His love has provided eternity for us. We have royal blood running through our veins. We are sons and daughters of the King of the universe. We can reign with Him, seated upon His throne forever.
Christ longs to be in fellowship with you. How much do you want to be in fellowship with Him? The answer is simple. How much time do you spend in prayer and fellowship with the Lord? What does your answer tell you about yourself and, perhaps, just how lukewarm you might be?
FRIDAY July 5Further Study: “A revival and a reformation must take place under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Revival and reformation are two different things. Revival signifies a renewal of spiritual life, a quickening of the powers of mind and heart, a resurrection from the spiritual death. Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Reformation will not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness unless it is connected with the revival of the Spirit. Revival and reformation are to do their appointed work, and in doing this work they must blend.”-Ellen G. White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Feb. 25, 1902.
“The counsel of the True Witness is full of encouragement and comfort. The churches may yet obtain the gold of truth, faith, and love, and be rich in heavenly treasure. ‘Buy of me gold that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.’ The white raiment is the righteousness of Christ that may be wrought into the character. Purity of heart, purity of motive, will characterize everyone who is washing his robe, and making it white in the blood of the Lamb.”-Ellen G. White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 24, 1888.
Ibrahim, 9, lives in the country of Azerbaijan. Most people in Azerbaijan are religious, but they are not Christians. Ibrahim loves going with his mother to do missionary work. Often they take a minibus to a village near their home. Ibrahim likes to sit near the driver so they can talk. One day the driver asked Ibrahim some questions: “How many eyes do two birds have?”
“Four!” Ibrahim said. “Now I have a question for you. How many days did it take God to create the earth?” The driver didn’t know. “It took six days,” Ibrahim said. “If you want to know more about what God does, you should buy a book from my mom. It’s called Only Allah Gives Us Peace.”
Some people on the bus heard Ibrahim talking to the driver. One of them asked Ibrahim’s mother about the book Ibrahim had mentioned. She told them that the book is about people who are faithful to Allah [God]. “How can we get the book?” a man asked. Mother usually sold the book to help pay their bus fare, but she let Ibrahim give a copy to each of the people in the bus for free.
Ibrahim walked down the aisle giving one to each person. The people smiled and said, “sahg-ohl” (thank you).
As Ibrahim and his mother got off the bus, he noticed several passengers reading the book he’d given them. We’ve just arrived at the village, and already we’ve shared God’s Word with many people.
At school, every student takes part in a religion class. One day Ibrahim’s teacher read the story of Noah. Then she quizzed the students about the story. “What did God tell Noah to do?” she asked. Ibrahim raised his hand.
“God told Noah to build a boat,” he answered.
“Yes,” the teacher said. “And how long did it take to build the boat?”
“It took Noah 120 years to build the boat and warn the people about the flood.
Ibrahim answered confidently. “But no one chose to enter the boat except Noah and his family-eight people. So God sent the animals into the boat and closed the door. Then the flood came.”
“How do you know so much about this story?” the teacher asked Ibrahim.
“My mother and I read the sacred writings together,” Ibrahim said.
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