If you want to get caught up on my most recent series, read The Coming Movement is Now, and Making Sense of a Transitional Season. Today, I will be looking into how to best respond to God in this critical hour of human history.
Hearing and understanding the hour in which we live is the first step. In Matthew 24, Jesus cautioned us to “take heed”, encouraging a sense of watchfulness that is not commonly embraced by mankind. This has obvious applications to the end-times, that we would be able to comprehend the generation of Christ’s return. Yet, if we sustain a watchful spirit, we will not only recognize the signs of Christ’s return but also the work that He longs to accomplish in each generation. I believe that this is why many revival movements throughout history possessed a such a focus on Christ’s return. Being watchful and responsive to the “latter work” of God cultivates a sensitivity to the “now work” of God.
I’m not writing today to tell you anything groundbreaking. Hearing and understanding simply comes from a lifestyle of prayer. Are you taking the time to be watchful?
It is said that those who sow in righteousness reap in mercy. The contradiction to this should be painfully evident in our culture today. We live in a culture which promotes a righteousness of the world which reaps a strict penalty of mob judgment. Those who sow in righteousness as Jesus does will effect mercy in their sphere of influence.
Sowing righteousness means to first do what God calls right or just. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes works of righteousness as prayer, fasting, forgiveness, and serving others by offering your time, energy, and provisions to perpetuate blessing and justice for others. These are the things we do in secret, as much as is possible.
Sowing in righteousness comes with the promise of reaping in mercy. Another way of looking at it is this: works of righteousness will test your commitment to God’s mercy. Are you going to serve those you perceive to be undeserving? Jesus loved us and served us by offering His own life to those who rejected His own Father. God desires mercy!
On an aside note, our “works” of righteousness are designed by God to produce a blessed attitude and hopeful lifestyle. For this reason, we cannot treat the pursuit of these works as legalism. Jesus commanded them and His promise of blessedness comes with them. His Sermon on the Mount was not merely a list of suggestions. If we are struggling with sin or bad attitudes, these works help us climb out of a mindset of condemnation and into right relationship with Holy Spirit, where our true freedom exists. For instance, if we are constantly practicing forgiveness towards others, the Holy Spirit will minister to us a spirit of mercy in our own heart and mind.
These first two responses are challenging because they are the exact opposite of what our culture emphasizes. The gross amount of entertainment available to us competes with the lifestyle of prayer. Our God-created desire to be fascinated requires that we satisfy this desire with something.
Watchfulness is one thing, but we’re coming back to an aspect of prayer to dig into response #3. There is a “time” to seek the Lord in a defined, communal manner. Hosea 10 describes this as “breaking up the fallow ground”.
In Old Testament times they referred to this as the sacred, or solemn assembly. In Acts 13 we see a New Testament example of this. Here, we see Paul fasting and praying with other prophets and teachers. During one of these times of ministering to the Lord, the Holy Spirit commissioned Paul and Barnabas. As a result, the disciples sent them out on their first mission as newly appointed apostles.
Before Paul was commissioned in his apostleship, he had been a teacher in Jerusalem for at least eleven years and also spent three years in Arabia. Depending on your interpretation of events, it was somewhere between fourteen to seventeen years from Paul’s conversion and calling until the time he began serving in his apostolic ministry.
We read Paul’s epistles and often see the great man of God and his teachings. That’s all good. Yet, the bigger picture here reveals Paul and others responding to the divine moment of God. It was time for a great shift. For the first time in human history, the forward thrust of the Gospel was toward the Gentiles as well as the Jews! Arguably the biggest paradigm shift in all of the New Testament came within the humble context of communal fasting and prayer. One simple “prayer meeting” in a series of prayer meetings brought forth the most important transition that took place in the Book of Acts.
For many of us, the gift and call of God lies dormant during the divine moments of God because we simply don’t know how to respond. Start by praying with other believers if you’re not doing so already. It doesn’t have to be a big gathering. Whether you’re gathering with two or three, or two or three thousand, what is important is that you’re pressing into a divine moment that may not come again during your generation. If you’re reading this, you probably already feel the urgency. Simply respond.
Many are called.
“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.” -Hosea 10:12
J. S. Marek