A Fresh Encounter With God
October 11, 2020

A Fresh Encounter With God

*** Watch: https://youtu.be/Av_GUr5qWI8

{Open your Bibles to Revelation 2, and we’ll be reading from verse one through verse seven.}

Today’s I’d like to continue looking at this whole issue of Revival. Now, over the past several weeks we’ve been looking at God’s call to revival from the books of Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah. Today, however, I’d like to look at it from what Jesus said to the church in Ephesus found in His letter to the church in the Book of Revelation.

“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitians, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’” (Revelation 2:1-7 NKJV)

Now, our second pillar at Living Waters Fellowship is that of discipleship. And with that call should come a passionate pursuit of God’s presence, and a following hard after God. And the end goal of such a pursuit is so that we can have a fresh encounter with God.

God’s desire is for all of us to experience a fresh encounter with Him. But what does such a fresh encounter look like?

To answer this question let’s take a look at what a fresh encounter with God looked like in the life of the prophet Isaiah.

It was the year in which King Uzziah died. Isaiah was in the Temple when he either had a heavenly vision or was literally taken up into heaven where he said in chapter six, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up.” (Isaiah 6:1 NKJV)

It was from this encounter with God that Isaiah realized his own and Israel’s unworthiness and sin saying, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5 NKJV)

After confessing this to the Lord, God cleansed him by taking a burning coal from off the altar and placed it upon his lips and then called Isaiah to be His mouthpiece to the world.

Having a fresh encounter with God will do two things. It will reveal God’s holiness coupled with our sinfulness. And in these encounters God calls His people to return to Him, which is what revival is all about.

When we look at the world it seems like everything is just growing darker by the minute. Wickedness is increasing, perversions are multiplying, and morals are disappearing. Essentially people are doing whatever they want, whatever is right in their own eyes, and when we look back at history and the Bible, we find this is a recipe for disaster.

But it doesn’t stop there. All around the world, especially here in America, which was founded upon God and His word, where religious freedom is touted, what we see are people, organizations, religions, and government opposing the Bible and those who hold to its truths.

And so, to have that fresh encounter with God, the first thing God is calling for, and from what we see in our text, is for our return to Him.

1. Return

“I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4 NKJV)

Our nation is at a point of a moral and spiritual crisis; much like it was during the time when Isaiah experienced his fresh encounter with God.

Yet this shouldn’t surprise us. We shouldn’t be surprised by the spiritual darkness. Instead it should indict us. The problem isn’t that the darkness is spreading; rather it’s that God’s light is diminishing.

When light shines, darkness flees, and the brighter the light, the less darkness there is. And so the growing spiritual darkness in our land is because the light of Jesus Christ, the light that founded this nation is not shining as brightly as it should. Not only did Jesus call Himself the light, but He also said that we are to let His light shine through us.

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NKJV)

Jesus then calls us to bring His light to the world.

“You are the light of the world … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV)

And so here’s my point, I think that as believers we’re focusing on the wrong thing. Instead of focusing on all the darkness going on around us, we should instead be focused on Jesus Christ and start shining His light to dispel the darkness.

Unfortunately, we have hidden that light. We hide it under the cares and pleasures of this world. We also hide it through our own un-confessed and un-repented of sins. And so when the light of Jesus Christ is dimmed within us, that’s when darkness increases.

But I don’t want us to be discouraged because of how bad it has become, and the reason is because God is merciful and cares for His people.

Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord said, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? … I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.” (Isaiah 49:14-16 NKJV)

Take a moment and catch this picture. Just as a nursing mother cannot forget the baby at her breast, God cannot forget His people. Why, because God has engraved us on the palms of His hands. Jesus is saying, “I can never forget you; just look at my hands.”

Though times seem dark and desperate in our world, in our nation, and in our lives; God still reigns supreme, and He is stirring our hearts to seek hard after Him, to passionately pursue His presence. And He is doing this because we are getting closer and closer to the point of no return, much like when God warned His people by giving them this promise.

“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 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV)

What I believe the Lord is saying is that the healing of our nation, the healing we so desperately want, is waiting for us to humble ourselves, pray, and turn from our sins.

Now, we need to get this straight. The healing of our nation won’t happen by the government getting its act together. Instead it will happen when we as God’s people start following the Lord God, and what He says through His word.

Now, the first part of 2 Chronicles 7:14 outlines our responsibilities, and I believe that for our time, it is the last one that we have to focus upon if we want to have that fresh encounter with God, and that is to turn from our wicked ways, which goes along with what the prophet Isaiah acknowledges in His fresh encounter with God, and then with what Jesus tells us in his letter to the church in Ephesus.

2. Repent

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works.” (Revelation 2:5 NKJV)

The healing of our nation is waiting on God’s people to repent. A true and genuine revival will only happen when God works this into our hearts. God is holy, and He is looking for holy people, that is, a people called out by Him through whom He can work through, a people completely devoted to Him, which is what the word, “holy,” means.

The Apostle Peter said, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness … be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” (2 Pet. 3:11, 14 NKJV)

In fact, it was this very message of repentance that was at the heart of what Jesus’s message and what Jesus was saying to the people.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2 NKJV)

And repentance was at the heart of Peter’s and the church’s very first message that saw a revival, a spiritual awakening spread throughout the whole world.

Peter said, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19 NKJV)

God is calling us to return to Him, and when we do, then He will heal with His mighty power to forgive, cleanse, and restore. Therefore our healing isn’t waiting upon God to act; rather it is waiting upon us, God’s people, the church, to repent.

We see this in the Lord’s call to His people through the prophet Joel.

“‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.” (Joel 2:12-13 NKJV)

Note how this goes along with our two points, which is our need to return and repent.

When this happens, it will bring us back into a love relationship with Him, which is what God created for us from the very beginning. But sin entered the picture and separated us from God, and it is sin that still separates us from that loving intimate relationship with Him, and it’s what keeps us from that fresh encounter.

So, how does God get us to return and repent, and to let us know when we’ve strayed away from that love relationship with Him? It is through His word.

The prophet Amos said, “Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand…Then the Lord said: ‘Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel.’” (Amos 7:7-8 NKJV)

What’s a plumb line? It’s the way people used to see if something was straight. And so the prophet Amos is saying that God sets the plumb line of His word to our lives so that when we begin to move away from our relationship with God and are ready to collapse, that’s when His word will help get our lives straightened out.

Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23 NKJV)

The words Jesus spoke to the church in Ephesus was His plumb for them, and it is God’s word that is the plumb line for the church today.

And so, through His letter to the church in Ephesus, Jesus is telling us that we’re out of plumb with God, because we’ve left our first love relationship with Him.

And here’s the point, we cannot say we love God, and, not fully obey His word. It’s for this reason that we are in such darkness today. This is exactly what Jesus goes on to say in the next verse.

“He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” (John 14:24 NKJV)

Now, going back to the church in Ephesus, Jesus commended their work, their perseverance, and how they hated evil, but they had one fatal flaw, they’ve left their first love relationship with Him, that love relationship they had in the beginning, and to get that love relationship back Jesus invites them to return and repent.

Further, Jesus said that failure to do so would result in the removal of their lampstand, that is, they would no longer exist as a church, as a part of His body.

What I believe Jesus is saying is that when we leave that first love relationship we will no longer experience the abundant life He has for us, and as a result the world around us will continue it’s unrelenting march towards deeper darkness.

So let’s let God’s word be our guide. Restoration must begin within us and within our own hearts. This restoration is where we’ll experience the brokenness of God’s heart over what has befallen the world and His church.

And when we do that, when we have godly sorrow over our sinful condition, godly sorrow that will lead us to repentance, then we’ll see the light of Jesus Christ start burning away the darkness, and the revival we’ve been praying for will begin.

But what is revival? Over the years we’ve kind of got the word mixed up with evangelistic crusades and short-term meetings that we call revivals. But that really isn’t what a true and genuine revival looks like.

The word “revive” is made up of two words, “re” meaning “again,” and “vive” meaning “to live.” Therefore to revive means to live again, to be brought back to life, health, and vitality. And so a spiritual revival is when the spiritual lives of God’s people is revitalized and restored.

It’s like what one old country preacher said, “You can’t be revived unless you’ve first been vived.”

So a revival is a return of God’s people to spiritual health. Again I go back to what Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, and that is we need to return to that first love relationship.

Revival is a genuine heart felt and Holy Spirit generated change. It isn’t just changing our behavior, because changing our behaviors and habits isn’t enough, because unless our relationship with God is repaired, then the change we’ll experience will be short term.

It’s only when our relationship with God is restored through genuine repentance, through true godly sorrow over our sinful ways that then we’ll see the healing we desire, and the healing God desires to give.

Maybe I can say it like this, “Reformed behavior without a heart felt Holy Spirit generated change will only result in temporary relief.” In other words it’s a Band Aid solution; it’s spiritual Rolaids. True revival requires a change in our hearts where we love God with the whole of our being, and it’s where we obey His word.

And so God is calling us to repent and to return to Him and His word. And when we do, God will forgive our sins, cleanse us from our unrighteousness, restore us to spiritual health and vitality, and give to us renewed life.

Through the prophet Malachi the Lord said, “‘Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:7b NKJV)

Today, sin and compromise have become far too common within the church. And while most of those within the Church know the truth, and know what they are doing is wrong, they haven’t repented and turned back to God. Even pastors, who know what they did and what they are doing is wrong, and that what they did and what they are doing doesn’t line up with God’s word, are still going forward anyway because it aligns with their own agendas.

In a word they resist, and so God is bringing judgment to get the church’s attention so that it can start becoming what He has meant for it to be, to get itself back in line with His word, and return to that first love relationship.

And so it begins with us, and our relationship with God. Where do we stand before a holy and a righteous God? Isaiah found that everything he thought was righteous in his life was nothing more than filthy rags.

So, let’s start with where Isaiah started, and that is with a careful examination of our spiritual lives before a holy and righteous God.

Jesus message was simple, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Repent, that is, turn away from our sins and turn back to God, and follow fully after Jesus.

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)

The pathway to revival is to have this fresh encounter with God, and then with Jesus shining His light of life into this sin-darkened world through His people. Only then can the church and our nation be healed.

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