Although I hope every Christian experiences a genuine encounter with the manifested presence of God, I also realize that a supernatural encounter alone isn't enough to ignite true revival in a church, a city or a nation. Encounters with His presence change us, but there is a bigger picture and a greater purpose behind it all.
Our God, "who desires all men to be saved," wants more people to come to Him through Jesus Christ, and that brings us to the subject of revival (1 Tim. 2:4). But what is true revival?
Some say all you need for revival is for God to show up. I've also heard revivalists say in previous years, "Give me a crowd of people, and I'll give you revival."
Real revival, however, is when both God and man show up at the same time in the same place. That can happen only when you have enough credibility in the human realm to make man feel comfortable and enough credibility in the divine realm to make God feel comfortable.
We know that Mary and Martha managed to make Jesus feel totally welcome in their house in Bethany. They did it by successfully juggling two seemingly conflicting priorities: Mary entertained His divinity while Martha entertained His humanity.
It was through the careful accommodation of two realms that Mary and Martha made their house in Bethany a meeting place where God and man came together in an atmosphere of hospitality and worship. As far as I know, it is the only house mentioned in the New Testament that became a habitual resting place of Jesus (see Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-11).
There was something right about Mary and Martha's place that drew God through the door. It seems the Bethany model for turning divine visitation into divine habitation is the only way to bring the humanity of your community into contact with the divinity in your house.
We must do whatever it takes to become a Bethany kind of church, a Bethany-hearted people and a family marked by genuine love and hospitality. Each one must learn how to chase God while serving man—how to worship divinity while also serving humanity.
Striking a Balance
The church is usually a little unbalanced because it is constantly torn between the practical and the spiritual. Most local bodies are either socially active or spiritually passionate.
Very seldom do you find a church that manages to be both. When you do, you have found a very unusual environment where both God and man are comfortable. It is the kind of place where true revival is most likely to break out.
If God is comfortable there, then that church has credibility in the heavens. If the church body is actively compassionate about humanity, then it enjoys credibility on earth.
God is searching for modern "houses of Bethany" that have credibility in both realms. Christ's cross depicts the divine balance we all seek, where compassion for humanity on the horizontal plane of our lives intersects with passion for divinity on the vertical plane of eternity.
I've been around some people who exhibit an unusual ability to perceive spiritual truth and reveal a deep understanding of God's ways and nature. Yet the same people can hardly relate to "normal" people.
It is very difficult to be around super-spiritual people. The problem is they don't have credibility in the human realm because they seem to care little whether people live or die, prosper or perish. They see others as bothersome distractions from their personal pursuits.
The church has always wrestled with the extreme attraction of intimacy with God to the exclusion of everything else. The ascetic school of thought held that the highest service to God was done in total isolation from all worldly distractions.
But if you know Him, you should make Him known. If God put something in you to pass on to others but you separate and segment yourself from society so that you never touch anybody, what good are you? (See Matthew 5:13.)
You can worship God all day long, but He may be trying to tell you, "I would really like to see some of the glory I poured into you released and sprinkled over someone else. You are My hands and feet on the earth, so carry My presence with you into the world of men."
You will know you have credibility with man when you can call for humanity to come to your house for a visit and the response is, "We can trust them. Why? Because they fed us when we were hungry, and they clothed us when we were cold. They sheltered us when we were in need, and they cared for us when we were sick. They even visited us in prison when no one else cared whether we lived or died." (See Matthew 25:31-46.)
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