According to Ephesians 3, God’s love for His people is beyond what we can comprehend. It’s powerful beyond description, casts out all fear, refreshes those who are spent and parched, heals the deepest of wounds, restores the disenfranchised, and fills the hungry and thirsty. How can we recapture this abundant life and experience God’s amazing love? We need a spiritual renewal of our hearts and lives that will allow us to absorb the power of His presence.
Do You Need Renewal?
The word renewal is defined as “to make new, fresh, or vigorous. To restore after decay or depravation.” Do you need renewal in your life? Here a few questions to consider if you are a candidate for renewal:
- Are you passionate about God?
- Are you on fire with love for Him?
- Does your heart desire more of Him?
- Is your soul hungry to know the Living God?
- If your heart for God was likened unto a thermostat, what does it read? Comfortable or on fire?
If we were all honest, there are some areas in our lives that need renewal and some that need a complete overhaul. The book of Judges covers 300-400 years of Israel’s history and gives great insight into patterns of rebellion and restoration. While Judges was written, the Israelites found themselves in a place where every man did what was right in his own site (17:6). They were in the promised land, Joshua had died, and the people started to drift away from the Lord as often is the custom for those who have been blessed and prospered. They came into abundance and started compromising with wickedness.
The Cycle of Renewal
Inevitably, the Israelites’ drifting led to bondage. After years of bondage, the people cried out to the Lord who would use a judge to respond to their petitions for help and forgiveness. It’s all too easy to find ourselves somewhere on this cycle of renewal. Consider the five key stages of the process:
Forget the Lord
Self-reliance develops the moment we forget the Lord, and spiritual decay sets in the minute we don’t depend on the Lord. It’s easy to get caught in religious motions and let our hearts grow far from God. When we don’t realize our ongoing need to abide in the Lord (John 15:4), we start to rely on ourselves and our own strength. This gives us a false sense of security and creates distance between us and the Lord.
- How will we first notice this dullness in our Bible reading, meditation, fasting and prayer habits?
- If your heart seems to be slipping, what steps can you take to revive it?
“After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.”
Forsake the Lord
Spiritual slack is always accompanied by spiritual distress. The greater the lack of righteousness, the greater the domination of evil. There is no “neutral” stage in our relationship with the Lord; we either grow close to Him or fade further away.
- What evil things are you tolerating in your life?
- Have you given up on trying to be good? This may display itself as apathetic indifference toward sin.
- What kind of trouble will be coming your way?
“The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord. They abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. Yet Israel did not listen to the judges but prostituted themselves by worshiping other gods. How quickly they turned away from the path of their ancestors, who had walked in obedience to the Lord’s commands.”
-Judges 2:11–13, 17
God Brings Trouble
Many troubles in life come because of our sin. On the one hand, we make ourselves vulnerable to the evil one, but we should realize our Heavenly Father is overseeing the process to call us back to Himself.
- Are you finding it hard dealing with life no matter which way you turn?
- Can you sense oppression in your life? General unhappiness?
- Do you think that this could be God’s discipline?
This made the Lord burn with anger against Israel, so he handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them. Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned. And the people were in great distress.
God Raises Up a Deliverer
The Lord’s covenant with His people means that even when they are doing evil things (13:1), He is already preparing for a deliverer (13:2-25). What amazing grace. What mercy! This is exactly what God did for Israel, and what He does for us. Our disobedience demands judgment, but God shows mercy toward us by providing an escape from sin’s penalty through Jesus Christ. When we pray for forgiveness, we are asking for what we do not deserve. Yet when we take this step and trust in Christ’s saving work on our behalf, we can experience God’s forgiveness.
- Are you desperate for help? Have you truly hit rock bottom?
- What have you tried to do to alleviate the problem?
- Have you cried out to God? How bad does your situation need to get before you cry out to Him?
Whenever the Lord raised up a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering.
Restored to Peace
What joy comes to God’s people when they are liberated! Living restored and full of His peace is God’s design for us. Oh, that our hearts would always be so vibrant and thankful. Be careful, satisfaction leads to self-reliance and discontent.
- Are you thankful and satisfied?
- Do you find yourself singing praise songs and enjoying the Lord’s presence?
Then the Lord raised up judges to rescue the Israelites from their attackers.
Living Abundant Life
Where are you currently on this cycle? It’s time to live in all the Lord has promised. He has promised you abundant life, a life of joy. He came to bring freedom and mend the broken-hearted, and He desires that we live in fullness of love and power. Cry out to Him, repent, and let Jesus deliver you from everything that is oppressing you. He is the God that liberates!