The Great Awakening – Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
Oct 30, 2011 AM
Today, we will finish our study on prayer by putting into practice what we have learned from God through his Word. Everything we’ve focused on has been in preparation for this evening, when we will gather as one body of believers to pray for the dreams and plans God has for us as a church in the coming weeks, months, and years ahead. Why is this important? It is important because never before has there been a time when our nation and world is in greater need of a Savior. It is a time set apart time for personal and corporate prayer, crying out to God in repentance and fresh surrender for all his purposes and power to break forth upon our church, our city, and our country.
Since 1947, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has depicted on its cover what is called the Doomsday Clock. This clock registers how close the world is to nuclear apocalypse by the proximity of the minute hand to midnight. These nuclear scientists weigh both positive and negative factors in the world and make their determination about how close we are to ruin. However, far more ominous than any human danger is the unspeakably awesome wrath of God. The prophet Joel shocked the nation of Israel when he ordered the blowing of the trumpet, which is akin to turning on an air raid siren. At that sound, everyone dropped what they were doing to gather for war. Yet, what enemy was bearing down on them? What army threatened them? Once they gather Joel explains who is breathing down their necks and it is not some unforeseen enemy, it is God himself! Doomsday is at hand! The same could be true for our day and age as well! What needs to occur? I believe a great awakening within the church itself. Let’s discover what that means…
Christianity today has lost its focus in finding out what God desires, and rather centers on how we can manipulate God so we can feel better about ourselves. God is not fooled by our selfish duplicity. Romans 1:18 tells us that God’s wrath is against all godlessness and unrighteousness. What is the wrath of God? The word describes a settled and abiding disposition against something. Just as God always loves, he also always hates sin. What if all that we are experiencing in our society or in our own lives is the result of reaping what we have sown, that we are experiencing God’s wrath because of our sin? A great awakening needs to occur and the prophet Joel tells us…
I. That awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to! Joel 2:1-2
1. Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand… (Joel 2:1 NIV)
1) An alarm is only an alarm if it is recognized as such. A few years ago on the Oregon coast, they ran tsunami warnings complete with horns and sirens. Few folks heeded them because few had ever heard the horns before and many of them did not work! I believe the same is true for the spiritual alarm that needs to be sounded in our day and age. Many have never heard it and many pulpits are broken in declaring it! It is time for the church to sound the alarm and make Christians aware of what it means. I am not talking about the end times, but the judgment that is occurring. Interestingly, this section of Joel is spoken to the priests, whose business it was to blow the trumpets for calling solemn assemblies to meet in the temple. It gave notice of approaching danger, of enemies, or in this case of judgment. How do we sound the alarm in our day and age? We sound it by reminding God’s people about God’s wrath, “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalms 2:11-12 NIV) Christians can become spiritually arrogant in their relationship with Jesus thinking they will escape by God’s grace. Ultimately yes, but not in what they reap for their lives now. Believers can and will suffer the wrath of God when they ignore his grace. We are reminded that, “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day!” And that the person “who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made!” (Psalms 7:11, 15 NIV) Paul reminds us to “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 5:6 NIV) It is time to sound an alarm! To blow the trumpet in Zion! Awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to!
Paul made it very plain to those of the first century church that when believers try and hide their sin, God’s wrath will come on them. In fact, he admonished them to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:2-6 NIV) This tells us…
II. That awakening occurs when we return to God! Joel 2:11-13
1. “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”(Joel 2:12 NIV)
1) Repentance is a harsh word for our day and age. We love to “feel” sorry for the things we do, and we want others to forgive us when we do them, even if we never ask for forgiveness, but this simply is not biblical. Repentance means we recognize the sin we are in, stop doing it, openly and honestly confess it, turn from it completely, and turn to God totally! In Romans Paul asks those who thought of themselves as enjoying God’s favor no matter what they did in life a very pointed question, “So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:3-4 NIV) Paul knew that “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV) For real repentance, God demands complete and utter brokenness, Godly sorrow. Otherwise, we “show contempt for the riches of his kindness.” What we fail to realize is that God’s wrath is coming and we will know the full force of it unless we repent of our sin and return to God! This is why Joel called the people to return to God with “all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” We are to literally, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:13 NIV) Tearing one’s garment meant they were publicly displaying their sorrow, but God is not interested in outward show of feelings! He desires us to repent of our sin and turn back to him! True awakening occurs when we return to God!
Americans love to manufacture things, including spirituality. If we cannot gain God’s attention the way we desire, then we will mount an ad campaign and publicly pronounce that God is indeed in what we desired all along. Sadly, we get what we pay for or as the Bible teaches, we reap what we have sown. Simon, a first century sorcerer turned believer, wanted to buy the spiritual presence of God. He was sincere, but sincerely wrong. Peter tells him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.” (Acts 8:20-22 NIV) This shows us…
III. That awakening occurs when God’s people get serious! Joel 2:15-18
1. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. (Joel 2:16 NIV)
1) While your eternal relationship can be found immediately in the Lord, your daily reliance in him is not. What do I mean? Salvation is instantaneous, but abiding in Jesus takes effort. Holiness demands personal sacrifice. Paul would say it is a moment-by-moment occurrence, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) You cannot find it once a week in worship on Sunday. This is why, I believe, much of what is done in churches today is to manufacture a sensation of holiness rather than true holiness! Joel saw with God’s perspective that his angelic army was marching toward the gates of Jerusalem. No power on earth could stop it. God’s wrath was coming. Joel realizes what most believers today are blatantly ignorant of, that God demands his people get serious about him! What is being done in many churches today is a convoluted spiritualized version of blind man’s bluff. We are spiritually blinded people trying desperately to bluff God into thinking we are holy! It is time for us to “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, [and] call a sacred assembly!” The early church had folks caught up in trying to manufacture spirituality as well. So much so, they begin to see certain spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, as more important than others. Paul met this heresy head on by asking, “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:7-8 NIV) The answer is, “No one.” They had forgotten their spiritual gift was not for their pleasure, but to declare the gospel clearly! It is serious business. Perhaps we have forgotten just how serious. Paul would remind us, “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:13-14 NIV) It is time for God’s people to get earnest. Spiritual awakening will occur only when God’s people get serious!
As your pastor and spiritual leader, I am calling our church to a sacred assembly. Tonight, we will spend time in seeking God’s face for our lives and the life of the church. We have dreamed dreams and set aside some things we believe God is calling us to do, but these will not happen until we get serious about our walk with the Lord. This will be a service that will call each of us to “fast” in some area of our life that God asks us to in order for us to see him more clearly. James’ advice is good for us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV) We “do what it says” by listening to what God says to us through it! When this happens, we know…
IV. That God’s Spirit will be poured out when awakening occurs! Joel 2:28-32
1. And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28 NIV)
1) Perhaps Christians have forgotten that we are to be spiritual children first before we can be the physical adults God desires. Jesus perplexed Nicodemus by telling him, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6 NIV) We are to be spiritually reborn in order to live as God wishes. In fact, we know that whoever believes in Jesus, “streams of living water [the Holy Spirit] will flow from within” them! (John 7:38-39 NIV) This is why Paul would write, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13-14 NIV) When God awakens his people to do his will he always uses his power through them! Paul gives us a good clue as to why this is so important for us to comprehend. He writes the Corinthian church, “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5 NIV) Notice that Paul’s emphasis was on his “weakness and fear.” He knew he could not do what God desired unless he was willing to be emptied of himself and to be used of God. He wanted his message to rest squarely on God’s power! God tells Joel, “Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.” (Joel 2:27 NIV) When we get out of the way by getting right with the Lord, God’s Spirit will be poured out and awakening will occur!
What if this was the time for God’s great awakening and we were not ready for him to use us? What if we as a church, and as individuals, allowed ourselves to get in the way of the Lord and not be a part of his great awakening? We have learned this morning that awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to, awakening occurs when we return to God, awakening occurs when God’s people get serious, and God’s Spirit will be poured out when awakening occurs!
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.