What stirs hope for you? When you have navigated a difficult stretch of terrain in your life's journey what enables tenacious faith, stirs joy, and expands energy and strength? What do you need to embrace renewal? I have been working on a drawing that seeks to reflect this movement into flourishing. How does God invite us to be more closely aligned with His Spirit and rooted in his love?
God desires health and growth for us. He patiently waits for our wholehearted "Yes" to intimacy with Him. Despite our love for God the distraction of the world, the pain of suffering, and our own idolatry and sin bent can pull us off course. In Revelation Jesus' letters to the church uncover some of the beauty and the brokenness of God’s people. Jesus begins these letters with the exhortation, "Do not be afraid." And he reminds us why we do not need to fear... because he is the "first and the last, and the Living One." (Revelation 1)
Let's look at just one of the messages to the churches: Revelation 3:14-22 records his exhortation to Laodicea. Jesus knows the beauty and the brokenness of his church, and each one who is a part of His church. This church is described as self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and claiming need of nothing. Perhaps along the way they began to pursue and trust things of the world that lacked substance, significance, or true value. They were caught in their sense of self-sufficiency and were not self-aware. They did not understand their real state of being. Jesus challenges them to pursue that which he offers.
Jesus advises the church to pursue three things. First he says pursue gold refined by fire. This church claimed wealth that was not tested or real. In my life what treasure do I need to pursue that has been tested and purified by fire? Jesus challenges the church to pursue a white garment, the righteous covering he provided by his own perfect life sacrificed for us, to cover our nakedness. For we, the church, are not covered by our own righteousness, we fall short because of our sin. Since the fall of Adam and Eve our nakedness has been revealed. I must rely on the covering Jesus has provided for me, my own performance and righteousness will not cover me. How have I relied on my own good works to seek approval? And finally Jesus exhorts them to pursue healing of their skewed perspective. How have I been blind and need my perspective renewed?
“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.
I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.'Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.'” Revelation 3:14-22 NLT
But there is such hope here. Jesus promises to correct those he loves. He will not leave us in our neediness, our nakedness, or our blindness. He calls us to turn our hearts toward him and respond to his pursuit of us.
For me, renewal and repentance often involves a first step of attention. I must recognize my distraction or resistance and turn my gaze to Jesus. If I listen I will hear his knock at my door. If I open the door I will see Jesus' love for me in his gaze... but I must open the door.
The second step is usually an action step. It may be as simple as an act of obedience or repentance: turning away from my idols and turning to Jesus. If I know how temptation hooks me then faith will often feel like the opposite. It will be leaning into the intimacy and relationship Jesus offers me.
The third step is often about perspective and discerning his leading. Jesus wants to give me his insight: first about me and then, perhaps, about those things and people around me.
Maybe I need to take a deep dive into his Word and soak in it. If I am struggling with difficult relationships he will probably lead me to the way of love that is hard for me, counterintuitive. Maybe I need to set a boundary. Maybe I need to be vulnerable and have an authentic conversation. Maybe I need to forgive or have a heart of compassion. Maybe I need to move into gratitude and recognize God's provision. Jesus knows what is needed. Jesus always knows what is needed. I can trust His lead.
A retreat around the theme of restoration and renewal
at Grace Bible Church in Souderton
-limited space available-