Revival and Riot

Day 57

Acts 19 & 20

So you say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world. At least I know I do. It’s the one that’s always been true in my life — I’ve always wanted to change the world. As much as anything this is why I got so on fire for Jesus as a teenager…because I somehow knew this is the thing that really can change the world.

The Jesus Revolution. I’ve always like that term. Sometimes it’s used to describe the spiritual movement among young people that occurred in the early 70’s, but it’s really an apt description for the entire history of authentic Christianity. The Jesus Revolution. Sometimes it produces revival, sometimes it produces riot, sometimes both, but it’s always revolutionary.

We see the Jesus revolution producing both revival and riot in Acts 19 and 20. These two chapters are a synopsis of what is called Paul’s third missionary journey — a four year stint of ministry primarily in Ephesus and Greece (A.D. 53-57).

What revival! God was working unusual miracles through Paul. Handkerchiefs from Paul’s body were so saturated with the anointing on his life that they healed the sick and drove out demons! People were being saved, the church was growing, the gospel was spreading. People were so hungry for the Word of God that they would hold meetings at midnight! And if someone happened to fall asleep and fall out of the second story window, Paul just raised them from the dead.

That reminds me of a story. Seven years ago I was on my third ministry trip to Nigeria. My preaching schedule was absolutely packed. A pastor kept asking me to preach in his church and I told him I didn’t have any availability. He said, “What about Friday night at midnight?” I said, “No one is going to come to church at midnight.” He said, “Yes, they will.” I was somewhat skeptical, but I took him up on his offer. After preaching all day and all evening in another church, I arrived at his church at midnight. Two thousand people were there! After an hour of worship I got up and preached for an hour and then prayed for the people until nearly 3 A.M.! That’s revival!

But Paul had riot too. You cannot invade new territory long held by demon powers without there being some kind of resistance. But I would rather have riot and revival than no revival at all. Because I want to change the world!


I Found What I Was Looking For

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

-Bono (U2)

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

-Jesus (Matthew 13:45–46)

I can tell you exactly why I became a Christian. I didn’t what to go to hell. As a fifteen year old by I became convinced of the absolute reality of heaven and hell and I understood that the only way to escape hell in eternity was to receive Jesus in this life. So I did. A desire not to go to hell is a perfectly good reason to become a Christian. But it doesn’t answer everything and it won’t satisfy every deep longing. The truth is that you are looking for something more than the insurance policy of not-going-to-hell-when-you-die. You are looking for some things that pertain to this life.

Whereas it is true that I became a Christian because I didn’t want to spend eternity in hell, that doesn’t explain why since that time my life has been consumed with a burning passion for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. When I received Jesus as my Savior that Saturday night in November of 1974 I knew I was saved; I knew I was going to heaven and not hell. From that point on I could have done what a lot of Christians apparently do: I could have just cruised through life as a casual Christian with the calm assurance that I had a home in heaven waiting for me at the end of this life. But that’s not what I did. From the very first days of my conversion my life has been centered around and focused upon King Jesus and His Kingdom.

Why is this? Is it because I have such a deep sense of gratitude to my Lord and Savior Jesus that I want to spend my life serving Him? Well, I do have a deep gratitude toward Jesus and I hope I am growing more and more in this attitude, but I can honestly say that this doesn’t fully explain the intense passion I have had for the Kingdom of God since the earliest days of my Christian experience. I think I can simply put it this way: When I found the Kingdom, I found what I was looking for. Let me say it again: When I found the pearl of great price that is the Kingdom of Heaven, I FOUND WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR!

Like the merchant in Jesus’ parable who was seeking beautiful pearls and found one of such exquisite beauty and that he gladly sold all he had to obtain this one pearl, so I found what I was looking for in the Kingdom of God. How I knew as a teenager that everything I was looking for was to be found in this heavenly Kingdom, can only be explained as a revelation from the Holy Spirit. At that point in my life I doubt that I could have put into words what I was looking for, but I knew I was looking for something. I couldn’t verbalize it, but I felt it. And I knew when I found the Kingdom that I had found what I was looking for…I KNEW IT!

Now these many years later I think I can put into words what I was looking for and what I have found in the Kingdom of God. It would say it is three things: A Revolution, an Adventure, and a Community. This is what I was looking for and this is what I have found in the Kingdom.

John Lennon sang, You say you want a revolution, well you know we all want to change the world. I know what it’s like to feel that way. I can remember as a teenager having a brief infatuation with Marxism, not because I really knew anyhing about Marxism or really thought it was a good idea, but simply because it was revolutionary! It’s hard to imagine a thinking person that doesn’t acknowledge that the world needs changing; a few minutes with a newspaper or CNN ought to convince a person of that. But history is littered with revolutionaries whose radical ideas of been tried and found wanting — because the real problem with the world is not social or political or economical, but spiritual! And that reality makes Jesus the greatest revolutionary of all time. His life and gospel have changed the world — one radical salvation experience at a time. In Thessalonica they said the Christians had turned the world upside down! (Acts 17:6) There is no denying that the gospel of Jesus Christ is revolutionary and the greatest force for positive change in the world. When I came into the Kingdom, my desire to be a part of a revolutionary movement that could change the world was satisfied. Today I know I am part of a sacred revolution, spiritual awakening that is effecting global change.

Though I initially became a Christian to avoid hell, I quickly realized that I had found much more than a ticket to heaven. Almost immediately I discovered that life in the Kingdom of God is the greatest adventure of all — and I was looking for adventure. I knew I didn’t want to be just another participating rat in the rat race of mundane living. I wanted something thrilling, something exciting, something adventurous — and I found it in the Kingdom. Shortly after I became a Christian I took down the rock star posters that adorned my bedroom and I replaced them with a giant poster that said, JESUS CONQUERS BOREDOM! I am totally convinced that God is the only perpetual novelty in the universe — everything else will eventually become tiresome and boring, but the pursuit of the knowledge of God is the eternal wonder, the everlasting adventure. The 19th Century British preacher Charles Kingsley said, “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we really need is something to be enthusiastic about.” I believe that is true, and I am endlessly enthusiastic about the adventure found in the cause of Christ.

I initially came to Jesus Christ out of a concern for my personal welfare, but in doing so I was saved into the body of Christ. When we are saved, we are saved out of something — out of sin, out of the world, out of the power of the devil. But we are also saved into something; we are saved into the Church, the body of Christ. During the first year of my Christian walk I gained a whole new set of friends. The old Brian Zahnd was gone and the new Brian Zahnd had new values, new priorities, new interests and needed new friends. I found these friends in the koinonia fellowship of the body of Christ. Modern society suffers much from human disconnectedness. Vast segments of our population are terribly lonely. We were not created to live like this — everybody has a deep need to belong to some kind of community.

I remember the first time I want to the Black Hills motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota where over 300,000 bikers had gathered. The American biker is a symbol of nonconformist individuality, an icon of personal freedom and rugged independence. But there we were, hundreds of thousands of us…all looking alike on our Harleys, wearing blue jeans and black leather jackets. That’s when it hit me, despite the iconic stereotype, we weren’t trying to express our individuality, we were trying to belong to something. Because everybody — from bikers to bankers — wants to belong to a community. I found the fellowship of community in the Kingdom of God.

I became a Christian out of a legitimate concern for my eternal destiny; but I have passionately pursued life in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ for many years now because in this Kingdom I found what I was looking for. And you can too.