Principles of Revival: Ezra Part 2

Posted: February 22, 2009 by Josiah Batten in Bible Study, Christian living, Emerging Church, Reform, Revival, The Church
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As we read in Ezra Chapter 1, there was a Divine mandate to rebuild the Temple of God.  What had been destroyed and ground to rubble was in need of rebuilding.

We can look at this process in two phases:  First, the Jewish captives were set free.  Second, in their freedom the Jews returned to Jerusalem.

We’ll take this one step at a time.  How in the world could Jewish captives being set free apply to us today?  Well, when God’s people are oppressed they don’t function properly, they don’t do what needs to be done, it’s hard to act as God’s people.  There is not freedom to worship the Lord, obeying Him becomes considerably more difficult.

I’m not attempting to allegorize Ezra, because obviously it records historical events, but I think the principles are the same.  If we as God’s people are oppressed by some human authority we find it harder to function as God’s people.  Let’s make this practical.  In the Catholic Church is an individual believer able to read God’s Word, apply it, and live it?  No, not if they’re keeping with Catholic doctrine, because everything has to go through the priest, the priest through the diocese and Bishop, the Bishop through the Council of Bishops, and the Council of Bishops must be in accord with the Pope.  Protestant and Evangelical Churches aren’t much better.  In an Evangelical Church we have our deacon boards, our pastors, our general councils, our presbyters, and our overseers and superintendents.

Is something inherently wrong with deacon boards and presbyers?  No.  The problem is when those authorities are too focused on power and hinder the Church and the individual believer from functioning as God desires.  Now many people will say this isn’t happening.  Are you sure?  If God ordains someone a minister can they recieve credentials from their local Church?  Probably not.  Are credentials Biblical?  No.  Do they stop people from functioning?  Yes, because most of them forbid people without credentials from serving communion, baptizing new disciples, being able to preach publicly, etc…  Our Church hierarchies have become oppressive; we’ve created different classes of Christians.

By Divine mandate there is a breaking away from oppressive hierarchies to function as the Body of Christ.  This is the second aspect, the return.  We need to get back to the Church as Jesus established it.  We need Church leaders who stop working to maintain power and prestige and who start working to empower the whole Church to function as the Bodyof Christ with the goal of preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all nations.  We need to return to Jerusalem and begin the Divinely appointed work of rebuilding the Temple.

Now guess what?  There will be some Tobiahs (see Nehemiah) that try to stop this from happening.  There are going to be people who fight for the status quo.  There will also be people who, like Tobiah, work to remove the sacred things from God’s Temple.  These Tobiahs may come in the form of pastors, denominational leaders, emergents, and institutionalists.  When these people come up we need to respond with Nehemiah 2:20: “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”  (NIV, Emphasis mine).

I realize heavy liturgy, pompous ceremony, positions of great prestige, and centralized denominational power is how we’ve always done it.  I realize symbolic and sentimental rituals like those being promoted by the Emergent Church have been around for thousands of years.  I realize we’ve made congregents sit around as spectators as we perform our highly ritual routine week after week.  But just because that’s how we’ve always done it does not make it right.  Anything that distracts us from Jesus and that cripples us as His Body needs to be given the boot.

God bless!

Josiah

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