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“Looking into the Word”
by Art Sadlier   
January 12th, 2011


As we look out at the Body of Christ today, we see that in general, the church is at low tide spiritually. I am not speaking about, or to, that which is counterfeit or spurious. I wish to address the true body of Christ. We stand in need of revival.

I believe this has occupied the hearts and minds of pastors and their people for much of the church age. I believe this is especially true in the present hour. I also believe that since the 1950’s many of God’s people have looked in the wrong direction for revival. Many have failed to recognize the true need of the church and the essence of what revival is and what it produces.

The church growth movement was a quest for revival, but it was totally misdirected and misguided. It was a substitute for true revival. Instead of building the church, it destroyed the church. It sought to win the world by becoming like the world and joining with the world. It borrowed the principles of the world in order to grow the church. It adopted the things of the world to bring the people into the church, all the while thinking numbers were equated with revival. They use the music of the world and they use the Lord’s music in a worldly way. They developed a ‘night club’ atmosphere through the worship team and various forms of entertainment. They lost the realization of what the church's worship is to be.

The result was, ultimately, that the world came into the church and took it over. Instead of the church winning the world, the world won the church.

That is the history of the destruction of the evangelical church through the philosophy of New Evangelicalism.  It is not to that group that I wish to speak, that group represents Laodicea, and the remedy for God’s people concerning Laodicea is to come out of her.

If we are honest, we must admit that much of the true body of Christ; stands today desperately in need of revival.

I, among many others, have sought to identify how to bring this revival about. I have recognized that I do not have the answer; we must find it in the Word of God. There are many key things found in God’s Word that need to happen in order to have revival. Soul searching and repentance is certainly one key factor. In every generation there are specific areas of failure that need to be recognized and faced in order to have the blessing of God that brings revival.

We need to get back to God’s program for the church. It is not enough to recognize the failure of the Evangelical / Laodicean church around us. We need to see where we to have left the track that God has laid out for the body of Christ.

As I look back on past days, and remember the church in revival, there is one thing that stands out in my mind. The teaching of the Word of God has been the single most powerful means of revival. The essence of the vitality of the church is, and always has been, the changed lives of its people, lives changed by the Word of God.

The first change is the change brought about by the preaching of the gospel. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  That is the transformation of salvation.

But that is only the beginning of the Christian life. The great purpose of the Christian life is to be transformed into the image of Christ. That is a life-long, on-going transformation; that is a continuous process. I suggest that it is a continuous revival. The church may have a time of repentance, a time when spiritual tides run high, and that is a time of revival. However, that revival will not sustain itself; there must be a continuous revival. That continuous revival is fuelled by the on going process of the sheep being transformed into the image of Christ on a daily basis. Their lives will be transformed as they are fed by the Word of God.

I thank God for those faithful pastors who, day after day, week after week spend long hours labouring in the Word on their knees before God (at least figuratively), in order to feed the sheep. How many times without number, we have heard and seen the testimonies of believers who have given testimony to the transformation which came at salvation and to the ongoing transformation that has taken place in their lives.

I believe that right here, in that ongoing transformation, we have the key to ongoing revival in the church. The ongoing transformation, the ongoing process of being conformed to the image of Christ is the key to continuous revival in the life of the individual and the life of the church.

What is the major factor in this process? I believe the New Testament clearly and fully answers this question.

When Jesus gave Peter his commission in John 21, He said to Peter three times, “feed my sheep.” Jesus said to Peter in so many words, "Peter if you love me follow me and feed my sheep." Peter said to the elders or pastors in 1 Peter 5:2, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” The shepherd’s calling is to feed the sheep, if he does that he will fulfil his calling: if he fails to do that he fails in his calling, and he has been disobedient to the Lord. You will lead the sheep properly when you feed them properly. You can’t lead them if you do not feed them. Well-fed sheep will follow.

Pastor, don’t let your deacons, or anyone else distract you from your high calling of feeding the sheep and feeding them well. Don’t let anyone rob you of your time spent quietly alone in God’s presence feeding yourself on the Word. Don't spend your time on things that may seem important to others, but are really irrelevent. Pastor, don’t prepare sermons to preach: preach out of what God gives you in your time alone with Him in His Word. Some years ago I had the opportunity to sit down with the great Bible teacher Clarence Didden. In the process, I asked him the question, “If you were to give a young preacher one piece of advice, what would that advice be?” He thought for a moment, then he said, “I would tell him not to study to preach, rather to preach out of that which God gives him in his study of the Word.”

Healthy, well-fed sheep will grow and win others to the Lord and the church will experience continual revival. Hungry, poorly fed sheep will wander away and cause confusion and bring defeat into their own lives and the life of the church.

It is an awesome thing to be called to pastor, to be called to be a shepherd, to be called to feed the Lord’s sheep. If you can’t or won’t do it, you would be wise to get out of the ministry.

The book of Ezekiel is written to Israel; however, its principles are applicable to the church and the pastor. In Ezekiel 34:2, Ezekiel said to the shepherds of Israel, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?” That is a serious warning to pastors.

In verse 8 we read, “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock.” In verse 10 we have a stronger rebuke to unfaithful shepherds, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves anymore; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.”

The challenge to the sheep is to pray for your shepherd, encourage him and support him. The greatest challenge to the sheep is to sit under his ministry with a prepared heart and grow as you are fed.

In Ephesians 5: 12-13 we see the whole matter of the church in continuous revival summarized. Though there are other gifts, Paul is speaking to pastor/teachers in these verses. Though others, doubtless, have the gift of teaching, Paul is here speaking to pastors. “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” That is the fruit of faithful, effective feeding of the sheep. If the saints are well-fed they will carry on the work of the ministry and the church will be in continuous revival.

A revival of repentance and renewed commitment is of tremendous importance, yet it is no substitute for a continuous revival carried forth by the effective teaching of God’s which effectively feeds the sheep.

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