Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you this week with a sweet visit that warms and revives your heart as He graciously grants you Himself in a time of refreshing of your spiritual life.
One of the sweeter promises in all of Scripture for the saint of God who is struggling with a coldness and hardness of heart, is the one given to us in Acts 3:19. It is there where we read the following: "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord . . .” The reason that this promise is so sweet to us is because there is not one of God’s people that does not periodically need for God to refresh us.
In the book of Revelation we read in chapter 3 that Jesus says to the Laodicean church that He wants them to be either hot or cold. Either they needed to be for Him or against Him – passionate about their walk with God or not walking with Him at all. These two descriptors – hot and cold express God’s desire that we either be saved and all in – or lost. What Jesus says sickens Him is when we are “lukewarm.” That state describes those who have at one time were hot – but who have had their love for Christ cool considerably. They would recoil at the thought that they were cold and lost – but in spite of this they do not grasp that their cooling was as great as Christ described. This is the coolness that desperately needs a time of refreshing (or reheating as this passage would state).
I am going to admit to a problem that has been with me for the past 32 years I’ve been a Christian. There are times when my time alone with God seems flat. There are times when I am not fired up about the Great Commission – and the lifestyle that embraces the Great Commandment doesn’t thrill me either. My passion for Christ “cools” over time. This can be due to sin that comes to me due to direct disobedience – or from little compromises that I become blind to that are building up in my life. The final result is always the same – my love and passion to worship, follow, learn, witness, etc. – dies down. My heart cools off and as a result my walk with the Lord needs refreshing. I am also going to admit to a solution that I’ve experienced time and time again when I experience “spiritual cooling” in my life. This experience is one that God has used to refresh me and revive my flagging devotion to Him. I’ll share the stages of it so you can estimate whether you might need a similar work as well.
First, as the cooling begins, I am pretty much oblivious to it. More often than not, I am making little compromises when this happens. One very common theme here is that I continue having a quiet time – but it becomes something I do as a duty. I don’t realize, at first, that I’m not truly connecting with God. I read – and record that I did, thinking that the reading is the key. God, on the other hand, notes that, where I used to come to hear from Him, now I come to fulfill some sort of religious duty. Whether I hear from Him or not no longer dominates my thinking. Instead, I am focused on being a good boy – doing my religious duty by reading so many chapters a day. Before long I’ve missed a day – then maybe two – and then at times I can miss several and not be concerned. God allows this – even retreating from our times together so that I see that reading alone is not the key. Note here that what He is doing is bringing me to a stale-ness so that I begin to miss Him. It is His presence that warms my heart – not necessarily just my reading material (even when it is the Bible).
Other scenarios include times when I think I’m smarter than God is, and as a result I know how I should live (which usually means in some sort of sin or mild compromise of His values). God, being Sovereign God and everything, does not take kindly to this arrogance on my part. Because His Spirit is grieved, He will allow me to try to live without His nearness and fellowship. Finally, there is that scenario when I just rebel – and know His immediate withdrawal of fellowship. My response, because I’m either angry, bitter, or honestly, just dumb – is not to deal with it and let it sit until it becomes a rancid “disobedience stew” that stinks up my heart and life.
Take your pick because in over 30 years of seeking to follow the Lord I’ve done a little of all of these. What I find amazing is not the cooling that takes place in my heart. That is a given. God warns of such things. What I find truly astounding is that God pursues me again and again. He often allows me to experience the Proverb, which warns me that, as a backslider in heart, I will have my fill of my own sinful ways. He may even allow some serious consequences to begin to manifest themselves due to my sin. Whatever the case, after a while, He begins to draw me back. It may begin just as whispers in the wind – or a distant echo of the sweetness of fellowship in times past. Whatever He chooses – He begins to draw me, and I begin to feel an ache in my spirit. Oh the sweetness of such moments as I become alerted to the souring of my soul.
The passage in Acts 3 is very instructive. The counsel in it is similar to that of Revelation 3. Repent and return to God! That is the whole of the counsel He offers – and truly it is all that we need. Repent – change your thinking. Consider your current situation and realize the spiritual insanity you are allowing to guide your thoughts of God and spiritual things. Sin, religion for religion’s sake, and compromise (no matter how small) will never lead to a hot heart for God. These are the frigid winds of the flesh! Radically change your thinking and reject these things. Return – the direction you are currently heading is the WRONG ONE! Turn around so that you begin heading toward God’s will and God’s way. The repentance will have you confessing sin and compromise. The returning will have you choosing obedience to God and His Word as your new path. This is the whole of God’s counsel to you and to me when we have hearts that are cooling toward Him.
The promise God gives when we respond in repentance and return is truly awesome. He promises that times of refreshing will come from His very presence. Here is something that we have to see. When the refreshing comes – the refreshing is Him! It is not some experience – nor is it some “thing.” The refreshing comes from the “PRESENCE OF THE LORD.” It is as we turn from everything and everyone – and run to Him – that we are revived. We only need remember that the blessing was not in connection with some “thing.” It was not a feeling – a gift – a provision – or anything else other than Him. It was when we experienced Him again that the feeling came. He was the one behind the gift, the blessing, or the provision. When we had Him (and I mean by this His manifest presence) we had whatever we needed. The Word becomes sweet again when we realize that the Word directs us to Him – so He can give us life!
So how goes it with you? When was the last time you met with Him? Can you remember when it was all about Him – fellowshipping with Him – experiencing Him – walking with Him – being empowered for ministry by and for Him and His glory? If it has been a while, and if you’ve been troubled by “spiritual cooling” in your life, repent and return. But as you do – seeking that time of refreshing – know that you are not in search of some “thing”. What you long for and miss so dearly is . . . Him. It will be when His presence once again floods your life that refreshing will come. So, dear saints, seek Him – call out to Him – long for Him. He IS the refreshing!