Intro: You know, in spite of the crazy weather we have had over the last few weeks, I live this time of year.
Flowers blooming, longer days, getting to play t-ball with my son and practicing softball with my daughter.
Not to mention all of the great sporting events during this time of year.
You go from March Madness into the Masters Golf Tournament and then quickly into Major League baseball; and let’s not forget NASCAR…it is hard to beat the springtime isn’t it?
What I love more than anything though is what God is doing in our church and in our community.
I really do think that He has big plans for us and is working on doing something great because He is a great God.
And that takes me to what excites me most about this time of the year, the fact that we are going to be holding revival services in just a few weeks.
Our leaders are two of my best friends in the world, Eric Hattaway from French Corner Baptist in Ponchatoula preaching for us and Mitch Rousse from Calvary Baptist in Longview, TX leading us in worship.
They have been seeking God for a message for us, and if we are in tune with His Spirit…there is no doubt that we are going to hear that message and respond in obedience.
When I speak this morning about revival, as you will see, I’m not simply referring to a week of extra worship services and a guest preacher…I’m talking about a revival in the hearts and lives of God’s people, an awakening of the Spirit of God in us that burns into our community and beyond.
Although revival is a movement of God, and it is really nothing that we can actually schedule to take place…we can do our part by praying for God to pay us a visit and do a miraculous work in us and through us, and for His spirit to reach into our community changing lives through the Gospel of Christ.
Before revival can begin, we have to establish where we are in terms of spiritual need, and then decide if revival is what we truly want and more importantly, what we need.
So today, I want to look at a passage of scripture that I do believe deals with the subject of revival, and borrowing the title from an AW Tozer book, I want us to decide on Rut, Rot or Revival.
Turn to Ezekiel 37 (give a moment, and then “blow dust” off of it).
Let’s face it, Ezekiel is not usually on our must read list for books of the Bible, in fact, preparing for this message was the first time in a while that I have opened it up.
It was written by Ezekiel who was a Jewish prophet and priest, but had been exiled to Babylon around 597 BC.
This book came out of his 23 year ministry of preaching to the exiles of Judah and the remnant left in Jerusalem who had lost focus of God’s covenant with them
Our chapter this morning is a vision that He received from God and it is a classic picture of God’s ability to breathe new life into the spiritually dead.
Read text, Eze 37:1-10 and pray.
AW Tozer is probably the premier author, pastor, spiritual leader and model Christian of the 20th century.
Long before Max Lucado, Charles Swindoll or even Rick Warren were even a thought, AW Tozer was penning works that less than 100 years later are spiritual classics.
He has been credited with nearly 100 books and booklets, the most famous of which is The Pursuit of God, but one of the most intriguing I think is called “Rut, Rot or Revival.”
It is in this book that Tozer makes the very bold statement, “What is the present condition of the evangelical church? The bulk of Christians are asleep.”
From there he begins a dialogue that takes a different route than what we are taking today, but his title does fit into our passage today.
Individual Christians as well as the Christian church are currently in one of three stages, and they are the ones who have a choice in which stage they are in.
Today I want to look at each of them, evaluate them, and after evaluating where we are as individuals and as a church…hopefully move forward to where God desires for us to be.
Let’s look at those 3 places now….
First of all;
1. We can choose to be in a rut
In our text, this is the valley that is spoken of by Ezekiel.
Read vs. 1.
We need to evaluate what is meant by a valley here.
Often when we consider a valley, we think of the plush and often very green area that can be found growing around the bottom of the mountain ranges…this is not the valley being spoken of in our passage.
The valley Ezekiel referring to is a valley as in Death Valley, CA. It is an area that is arid, no life, no growth, if anything…it is nothing short of death; hence the name of “Death Valley”.
For a believer and a church, the valley is called plateuing or can be found in the early stages of decline.
There is no forward progression, and for the believers and churches that are stuck in a rut…that is just fine, because in spite of the dire circumstances surrounding them, they can find contentment where they are.
Think of it this way…in your vehicle, if you are in a rut you are stuck and just spinning your tires; getting no where fast.
ILLUS: You may not believe this, but there are people who find the arid conditions of a valley to be their cup of tea.
They build a little house, they have all of their necessities, and they stay put because that is what they like and that is what they think they need.
They have no companionship, modern conveniences are for other people, and if someone else doesn’t like it…tough, they can get over it.
My question is, are we as believers or we as a church much different?
Tozer himself addressed this by saying, “I say to you that the people in the religious rut are getting, older, but they are not getting any holier. Time, which they have trusted to be their friend, is betraying them and proving to be their enemy. Time is doing something else to them; it is increasing their indifference to spiritual things.”
Have you gotten comfortable in what God has, but not putting as much stock in what God is doing or what God is going to do.
This usually isn’t because of not seeing what God is doing, except that you can’t see much when you sleep.
Keith Green wrote a song back in the 1970’s called “Asleep in the Light”, that speaks volumes today.
The world is sleeping in the dark, That the church can’t fight, cause it’s asleep in the light,
How can you be so dead, when you’ve been so well fed, Jesus rose from the grave, and you, you can’t even get out of bed,
Open up, open up, and give yourself away, You’ve seen the need, you hear the cry, so how can you delay,
God’s calling and you’re the one, but like Jonah you run, He’s told you to speak, but you keep holding it in,
Oh, can’t you see it’s such sin? How can you be so numb, not to care if they come,
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done, Don’t close your eyes…You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done.
Here we are, one week after we celebrated the resurrection of Christ…the single most important and greatest event in all of history. How has that changed your life?
Does it make a difference to you each year as we remember the resurrection of Christ?
Does it make a difference to you that when we come in here, we come in to join other believers as we enter into the presence of God?
And does it make enough difference to you to take what you experienced here out into the world and share it with someone who doesn’t have the hope that you claim to have?
Depending on how you answered those questions, you may be in a rut…and depending on the collective answer of us a church, we too may be in a rut.
Only one way to get out of a rut…you’ve got to will and work your way out of it.
Read Phil 2:12-13
Discuss working OUT salvation vs. working FOR salvation
Are you in a rut? Are we as a church in a rut? Are you ready to get out of it?
So, first of all this morning, you can be in a rut, or…
2. We can choose to rot
In our text, this is represented by the bones mentioned in vs. 2.
Why do I say rot in terms of the dry bones…because bones don’t just become bones.
After death takes place, it takes time for the natural process of decay to take place…and what takes place prior to bones becoming simply bones can be described as rot.
The key thing to remember here is this comes after death.
How does this affect us as Christians or as a church…
First: Joy is gone…no hope.
ILLUS: Church bulletin error that reads, “Don’t let worry kill you - let the church help.”
When people look at you, or when they look at this church do they see a group of believers whose lives have been changed by the grace of God and have been filled with His Holy Spirit?
Or do they look at us and see an example of why they don’t want to have anything to do with that “Christian stuff”?
A distinguishing mark of the believer and of the church is joy…because it cannot be found anywhere else.
When you look in the mirror of your soul…is there joy there?
Look around here for a second…is there joy here?
If not, then we are in need of revival.
Second: Egocentric as opposed to exocentric…more concerned with self than with a lost and dying world.
New Barna research says 2 out of 3 people are unchurched.
Jesus did not stutter when He gave the great commission, His words were “go”…the “wait” message were for those believers who witnessed his ascension.
They had to wait for the Holy Spirit…and when the Holy Spirit came, their mission began…it is found in Acts 1:8.
READ Acts 1:8. Jesus didn’t say focus on yourselves, make sure you are doing ok, and hope that others see how “good” you are doing…but said, “Be my witnesses”…are we as believers being the witness that God has called us to be?
Or we as a church focusing on our mission of reaching a lost world for Christ, or are we focusing on making sure every jot and tittle of our own lives are taken care of?
New Barna research says less than half of the adults in the US attend church on a weekly basis, and 1/3 of all adults are totally unchurched…now take into consideration the fact that these numbers don’t include kids, and doesn’t specify if attendance is at an orthodox Bible teaching and believing church. With this factored into the equation…the number will probably double at the very least.
We can’t afford to be egocentric…the world can’t afford for us to be egocentric at a greater expense.
And third sign of rot: Being Hearers and not doers.
Read: James 1:22
Bible teaching is important…we need to hear the Bible taught and preached. But if that is all we are doing, it doesn’t do anyone any good…especially you.
We have a lot of Christians that have chosen to belly up to the spiritual buffet; and if the church doors are open…you know where they can find them.
But sadly, that is pretty much the only time you can find them during the week.
The rest of the time, they are enjoying what they ate, and looking forward to the next “meal”.
In a given week, most people have at least 3-4 hours they can commit to the church…if that is the case, here is the break down I would prefer:
1. Hour of worship and preaching
2. Hour of small group Bible study
3. Hour of prayer, individual and corporate
4. Hour of ministry
If we are taking in and taking in and taking in…it’s no different than eating non-stop without ever exercising.
It’s not healthy for you because you are keeping what God is giving you to yourself.
You suffer, and everyone else suffers because of your selfishness.
Are you giving as much as your are taking?
Is the Word that you are hearing from God getting legs and making in an impact in someone else’s life?
If not, you are simply hearing and not doing…and you are in need of revival.
We’ve look at two options, the option of being in a rut…not going anywhere and not doing any good, the option of being in rot…where if anything you are causing more harm than good, and that takes us to our last choice:
3. We can choose revival
Read remainder of passage.
Charles Finney, the great preacher of the 2nd American Great Awakening said revival is, “a new beginning of obedience to God.”
Revival can also be defined as “the restoration of God’s people after a period of indifference and decline.”
Revival first and foremost comes from God…it is an act that He performs for mans benefit, for His glory.
All of mankind benefits because we are the ones who have relationships restored with Him, and the lost are brought into the fold.
Revival is not just a yearly event we can and should have our church calendars…it is a time for us to call upon God, with humility and repentance, seeking God’s face and asking for Him to heal.
I’ll be honest…I need revival.
And I think that if we are all honest, we would all say the same time…about our selves and about this church.
Are we going to do something about it?
Are you going to pray for revival?
Are you going to repent of your sins, and seek restoration in relationships where needed (with God and with man)
Are you willing to let God do something in your life?
You see, revival is up to God…He will bring revival in His own timing, but He won’t bring it to those who are not willing to seek it and ask for it.
I’m ready, are you?
CLOSING: Write down 3 names of people who you think would benefit from being a part of the revival services.
Who are they? Friends? Neighbors? Coworkers? Family members? Yourself?
If you did not put your name down, you may benefit the most from being here.
INVITE Musicians and close:
If you are a believer, this message was for you, revival can start here, where you are standing.
If you are not a believer who has not put their faith in Christ alone for salvation…I’m not leaving you out today.
The life that God can bring to those dry bones, He can give to you today.