Our First Work
“Happy New Year” greetings bring all sorts of thoughts. Out with the old and in with the new. An opportunity for new beginnings, new habits, new choices, new resolutions to be better people. All of that is good until we realize our promises and resolutions are often no more substantial than the proverbial ropes of sand. With our human propensity toward evil, we are in bondage to a power we cannot break on our own. Scripture alone reveals the remedy for our condition. Our only hope is Jesus Christ — crucified, risen and returning soon.
In many hearts, there is scarcely a breath of spiritual life. Our need is to look to Christ, who said, “I in them and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23). It is hard to wrap our minds around the fact that the Father loves us as much as He loves His Son.
More than 100 years ago, Ellen White believed that “a revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work” (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 121). Imagine what she would say now. Satan fears nothing more than when God’s people clear the way for the Lord to pour out the His Spirit on a weak church. Why? Because every struggling Christian who prepares their heart to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit will be spiritually strengthened and renewed.
The Bible reminds us that spiritual revival is not something we muscle up on our own. It is the unique work of the Holy Spirit and will come only in answer to earnest prayer. The Spirit brings us the breath of spiritual life we are dying for. It’s the only way Christ can be in us and us in Him. Every church, every one of us, needs this, and the time to pray for it is now.
So, how do we do that? How do we change from lukewarm Christians and faltering churches to being fully alive in Christ?
Here are a few suggestions from Scripture that have richly blessed my life as I have brought my own failings to Jesus.
First, an earnest, sincere searching of the heart and confession of sin. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Second, united, persevering prayer and through faith a claiming of the promises of God. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13).
Third, deep humility — being willing to accept instruction and guidance from the Lord. God dwells “with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15).
Fourth, allowing the Spirit to help us love others as Christ has loved us in acts of kindness throughout our neighborhoods. The Holy Spirit will communicate and bless all who are doing service for God. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35).
Let this be our first work of the new year. Create a process to follow throughout the year. Do not get discouraged. Remember, this is work our Lord delights in — to remake us from the inside out. He will bless all who come to Him in faith and trust in His goodness.