Facebook Twitter RSS

A Lifestyle of Renewal

Charles Finney wrote a great article entitled "Break Up Your Fallow Ground" (http://www.gospeltruth.net/1868_75Independent/740205_break_fallow_ground.htm). In this article he makes a distinction between revival and renewal. Revival happens when masses of sinners turn to faith in Jesus Christ and there is a great influx of new believers in a particular region. Renewal happens when the church of a particular region suddenly comes alive; when, as Finney says, the fallow ground is broken up in the hearts of believers so that the seeds of God's word can sink down deep and bear fruit. Finney's point is that revival is a great danger to a church that has not experienced renewal. For, in this situation masses of new believers are immersed into a community of luke-warm believers. Within a short period of time they will either return to their previous way of life, or become luke-warm believers themselves. In the end, the revival does more to hurt the gospel than to help it.

Consequently, Finney's approach was to enter a community and labor among the believers for their renewal, for the fallow ground of their hearts to be broken up so that they are ushered into a new place of repentance, faith, and humility and are set free from legalism and empty religiosity. According to Finney, when revival hits a church that has experienced renewal, the new believers have strong, fervent, passionate, committed, powerful, and vibrant believers as their example. In this situation they are easily assimilated into the community and are very naturally led to a place of maturity in Christ and in the expression of their ministry in him. 

The idea of "fallow ground" comes from the King James Version of Jeremiah 4:3 (For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “ Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns.") and Hosea 10:12 ("Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you."). The NIV replaces "fallow ground" with "unplowed ground." In the Parable of the Sower, found in Matthew 13, Jesus declared that the seed of the word falls on four types of soil: the road, stony ground, among thorns, and in good soil. The difference between the first three and the last is that the good soil has been plowed: it has been broken up, softened and turned over, and in the process the stones and weeds have been removed. Good soil is moist, soft, consistent, and receptive to seed. Hearts that are dry, hard, polluted by sin, and rebellious are resistant to God's word to the extent that the seed sown becomes fruitless and unproductive.

The most prominent sign of fallow (or unplowed) ground in the heart is spiritual stagnation. If you can no longer point to any signs of development or growth or process in your spiritual life, you are spiritually stagnant. If you cannot say that you are falling deeper in love with Jesus, that you are learning to hear God better, that you are growing in depth in the word, that you are sensing God's presence in greater and greater ways, that you are learning how to use your gifts both in the body of Christ and in the world... you are spiritually stagnant. The problem is not that God has quit working on you; the problem is that the ground of your heart is so hard that you have built up a natural resistance to God's work in your heart. You need the fallow ground of your heart broken up! And it is vitally important that we waste no time getting to it, because God is waiting for us to get renewed before he can send revival in the world! 

In Mark 2:21-22 Jesus presents one of his many cryptic teachings: “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” For years I read this passage and asked God for revelation, because I just never had a clear handle on what Jesus was communicating here. Then last night, as I was preparing for our New Years Eve service, the passage made perfect sense.

The new cloth shrinks, the new skin expands; the old garment does not shrink anymore, and the old skin does not expand anymore. Both the old garment and the old skin were once new. When the old garment was a new garment it was a shrinkable garment, but after being washed and washed and washed, it finally hit its shrinkage capacity and stopped shrinking. When the old skin was a new skin it was an expandable skin, but after being filled and refilled with new wine (that was constantly expanding) it finally hit its expansion capacity and stopped expanding. Like the cloth and the skin, believers tend to hit their shrinkage and expansion capacities at a certain point. The result is stagnation, the absence of growth in any direction.

When you first came to Christ, you most likely found -- like the new cloth -- that you were constantly shrinking as you were constantly being washed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Your humility was growing, and God was constantly cutting things out of your life and setting you free from things and revealing things that needed to be broken, and you were becoming smaller and smaller. But, if you are like most believers, at a certain point you hit your shrinkage capacity, and suddenly you stopped getting smaller. Your humility stopped growing. You once shared frequent testimonies of what God was taking out of your life and what he was healing you of and the ways in which you were learning to die daily to self and allow Christ to become your all in all. But at a certain point you developed a spiritual routine (which is definition religion) and lost your ability to decrease in size. 

The Scripture says that Enoch walked with God and then he was no more. He continued to decrease in size until he completely disappeared and was overtaken by the glory of God. Paul said it this way: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). This crucifixion to self manifests itself in the life of a believer who is committed to living in a perpetual state of decrease. 

Further, when you first came to Christ, you most likely found -- like the skin -- that you were constantly expanding as you were constantly being filled by the power of the Holy Spirit. Your sense of God's love was growing, your experience of his power was growing, your sensitivity to his Spirit was growing, your patience and compassion for his people was growing as God was continuously calling you to higher and higher levels of intimacy and expression. But at a certain point you hit your expansion capacity and suddenly you stopped getting larger. Your sense of God's presence stopped growing, your experience of his power stopped increasing, you lost your sensitivity to his voice. Instead of hearing the Spirit call you to higher and higher levels of intimacy and power, you opted for a routine that may include a little quiet time, a little prayer, a little church, and a little ministry.

In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul defines the life of faith as a movement from "glory to glory," or as the NIV says, "ever-increasing glory." This means that our sense of God's presence, power, purposes and promises should perpetually increase throughout our life-long walk with God. From glory to glory means that we must perpetually decrease in ourselves while perpetually increasing in God. A stagnant believer is a dead believer. A stagnant church is a dead church. In order to be alive we must be continually growing both inwardly and outwardly. In the posts that follow I'll talk about how.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: admin
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, contetur adipcing elit, sed do eiusmod temor incidunt ut labore et dolore agna aliqua. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.