If your family is like ours, there are days when the busyness of life seems to overcome the daily renewing of our hearts and minds in Christ. How can we combat the furious pace of our culture and turn our hearts to seek – not worldly things – but the things of God? How can we experience a lifestyle of continual revival within our families? It will take a daily, purposeful recognition of our individual and collective sinfulness…leading to repentance. It is only as repentant people that our families can have any hope of being truly revived.
How, you ask, is this even possible? How can an entire family live out a Christ-like life in a demonstrable way? Is it possible for us to draw near to God day by day, moment by moment…as Jesus demonstrated, by saying and doing only the things we hear and see our Lord saying and doing? For most families, this will seem to be a formidable assignment. However, if we are willing, and yielded to Him, our God is capable of demonstrating His love for us by pouring out His Spirit of revival into the very heart of our families. Remember, our God is Lord of the possible and the impossible: "Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’" (Matthew 19:26).
Is there anger and dissension in your family? Are idols being worshiped in your home (television, video games, food, etc.)? Is disrespect a way of life for your children? Perhaps it is time to seek the Lord for revival in your household.
Psalm 24 gives a good description of those who have carefully cultivated a revival lifestyle: "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior" (Psalm 24:3-5). How can we attain a revival lifestyle (a life lived in the presence of Christ) within our families? Only the Lord can truly pour out His revival spirit; however, Psalm 51 illustrates some steps we can take to prepare ourselves to receive it. This is in no way a "magical formula" to receive blessing from the Lord. It is a way to align our hearts with His so that we place ourselves in complete obedience and submission to the working of His Holy Spirit in and through our lives. Ultimately, the Lord will judge the true intent of our hearts: "…so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge" (Psalm 51:4). If we, as individuals, and as families, truly desire spiritual renewal in the form of complete awareness of Christ in us – God will be pleased to use us in this yielded state.
Steps Toward Family Revival:
1. Recognize that we have turned from the Lord – A recognition of sin: "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…" (Psalm 51:3-4).
Whatever actions –in words or deeds are causing anything but the fruit of the Spirit to be acted out in your family –need to be dealt with. Is there anger? Is there disobedience? Are there words being spoken which tear down rather than encourage and uplift? We must take the time to recognize these things for what they truly are – sin! Help each other to deal with issues that are not pleasing to the Lord. Take time to pray that the Lord will allow you to recognize sin, as individuals, and in whatever ways you may sin collectively as a family. Perhaps you have neglected the poor in your community…or you have said unkind things about a neighbor. Be careful not to "culturize" things that God considers to be sin. We have allowed ourselves to be desensitized to the wrong things we do because it is so prevalent in our culture. If it isn’t something Christ would think, do or say…or if we neglect what He would think, do or say…it is probably sin. Therefore, we need to learn to recognize it quickly and DO something about it.
We must also be constantly aware that we have an enemy, the devil, who hates our families. We must always be spiritually prepared, by daily putting on the armor of God "…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes" (2 Corinthians 2:11).
2. Stop to assess sinful behavior – The second step towards becoming a revived family is to STOP and take stock. Are we pleasing God or grieving His Holy Spirit? This is easier said than done, as all of us in families know. Often, we sin against God and others in our own family because we don’t stop long enough to even realize we are doing it! "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place" (Psalm 51:5-6). Because our natural tendency is to sin, it is much more difficult to stop and take a good look at what we have been doing. Often, we try to justify sin as "a mistake" or "an error in judgment." If we, instead, learn to quickly recognize sin and call it what it is…we will be well on our way to the Christ-like behavior we desire to attain.
3. Confess and repent – Once we have recognized that we are sinful, and we have stopped to assess the sinful behavior in our lives, we have placed ourselves in a humble posture, ready to confess our transgressions and repent for them. "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow"(Psalm 51:1-2, 7). In our natural selves, we could find many excuses for our sinful behavior, or generate all of the reasons why our actions weren’t "all that bad." However, with God, we have that power at our disposal, to allow us to reach into the deepest parts of ourselves, known only to Him, and feel sorrow and remorse for our actions…or lack of action. In order to have clean hands and a pure heart, we must confess and repent for our wrongdoing. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).
4. Intentionally purpose to change – Confession and repentance are extremely important; however, if we are to invite the Lord to pour out revival upon our family, we must completely turn our backs on ungodly behavior and the temptations of the world that have caused damage to His kingdom. After receiving His forgiveness as a result of our repentance, by His redeeming grace, we must now make a change. As we refocus upon behavior that honors God, we must continuously be aware of Christ in us by asking the questions: Is this how the Lord wants us to behave? Are we bringing honor and glory to Him in our actions, and in our speech? Change requires much prayer! Pray that God will change your hearts. Pray for clean hands and a pure heart – daily…and moment by moment. It is not a bad thing to be slower to speak and act! Our culture demands instant response – which leads us into wrong behavior due to haste. If we were instead to go at the pace of Christ, who was never in a hurry, we could make huge changes in the way we speak and act.
If we could learn to purposefully die to self – daily…and moment by moment, we would be changed into His likeness so much more rapidly.
Pray: "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).
5. Yield our renewed lives to the power of His Spirit – God can now continue His work in us. "…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). A yielded person…or a yielded family is one through which the Lord can accomplish His purposes and plans. Now we can be truly used! "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you… O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise" (Psalm 51:13, 15). When we have completely surrendered our wills, by dying to self, the Lord can use us to accomplish His will on this earth. What an exciting prospect – to be used by the God of the Universe in whatever way He desires, to carry out His plans and purposes. It is difficult to give up some of the things that are so attractive to us, and perpetrated upon us by our worldly culture. However, the reward is great!
6. Stay attached to the vine – we must receive our revived hearts with joy and realize that the only way to live in a continual state of revival is to willingly and purposefully stay attached to Jesus! "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me" (Psalm 51:12). Only then can we maintain our clean hands and pure hearts! "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:5-8).
What an astounding promise! If we, as individuals, and as a family will stay attached to the vine continually, we will bear much fruit. As we remain in Jesus, and in His Word, we may ask whatever we wish and it will be given to us. When our hearts are revived, our prayers become lined up with the perfect will of God. We will begin to pray earnestly for the things that are upon His heart, because our hearts will be connected to His.
Now, our clean hands can be characterized by guiltless actions and our pure hearts will demonstrate right attitudes and motives. We are moving in the Spirit of God in every action, every thought, and in every word because they will be the actions, thoughts and words of Jesus.
Let’s review what we have learned. To be revived, our family will need to:
Recognize our sinful behavior.
2. Stop and assess the behavior we have recognized is sinful.
3. Confess and repent of our sinful behavior.
4. Purpose to change our behavior so that we do not commit the sin again.
5. Yield our renewed lives to the power of His Spirit.
6. Stay attached to the vine so that our lives may bring glory and honor to Jesus!
Can you imagine the impact one revived family will have on a neighborhood, a church, a community…and beyond? What if every Christian family would seek the heart of God in revival? What could God accomplish through imperfect families like ours who have experienced revival? Our churches would be filled with people acting like Jesus and demonstrating His perfect love to a dark, imperfect world! As a family, would you begin to pray for revival? Pray: "…revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved" (Psalm 80:18b-19).