Do you understand the difference between faith in crisis and faith in the process?

Conversion to Christ comes in a crisis. In a certain place at a certain time, you heard the good news about Jesus, and by faith you turned from sin and received God’s forgiveness. You became a true follower of Jesus at a turning point. That was faith in a crisis.

We are often taught wrongly that once you had that faith in a crisis, then everything else in your Christian life will be a process called sanctification. If you have been taught “process only” sanctification, then the focus of your Christian life becomes being a better dad or mom, learning how to manage your finances, or being a good example at work. Keep trying, keep growing, keep moving ahead in an endless cycle of data-gathering and hopeful implementation.

Process is important, but process alone will not complete the work God began at your crisis of conversion. Colossians 2:6 (esv) says, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” I bet if I heard your conversion story, it would go something like this:

I was going along thinking I had it all together, and then God dropped a boulder on my life. He got my attention! I had a problem and realized I couldn’t handle it on my own, so I reached out to the Lord; later I realized that it was really God reaching out to me.

Is that pretty much your story? Yeah, it’s all of ours. The label on the boulder may be different for each of us (e.g., an existential crisis, a little boy afraid of going to hell, an empty wife in a failing marriage), but the purpose it served was the same. God got our attention.

“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord,” Paul declares in Colossians 2:6, “so walk in him.” The crisis is not sup- posed to be left in the rearview mirror as we begin to grow in Christ. There needs to be a regular interval of turning and returning to the Lord where the cords of commitment that bind our hearts to His are tightened up again.

While we are eternally forgiven the penalty of sin through faith in Christ, the power of that sin still looms large over our old nature. A poor choice, a weak moment, a willful wandering—and we are in need of another crisis.

Don’t just try harder; return to the Lord. Not because He has left you (He hasn’t!) but because, like Jonah, in some way, at some level, you have left Him. As you received Him (a moment of turning), so walk in Him (a moment of returning). Every so often as we follow Christ through the months and years, we need to say, “I have slipped. How did I get over here? I must return to the Lord.”

Regular Returning

For two thousand years the church has understood the need for regular returning or reviving. I have a three-inch-thick book on my shelf entitled Accounts of Revival that is filled with stories of revival in the lives of countless people through the centuries. It was published in 1754, then revised in 1845. But for the past 150 years, there has been less and less emphasis on reviving in the experience of a believer—only the crisis of conversion followed by an endless process that leads most people to a spiritual drought, desperately in need of a downpour.

Even fifty years ago in Baptist and Methodist and most other Protestant denominations, churches would hold a special series of revival meetings every eighteen months to two years in order to provoke this crisis of returning. The pastor would announce, “We’re going to have some revival meetings.” A week would be set aside, and a guest preacher would bring an urgent and more crisis-oriented message than the people got week in and week out.

These revival preachers moved from church to church and focused their entire ministry on these weeks of “returning to the Lord.” In effect their message was, “What are you doing way over there?” and the people would agree, “You’re right. I don’t even want to be over here; thanks for reminding me where I really want to be. I’m coming back right now.”

That pattern is almost gone from the churches of our day. Our “special speakers” actually take us deeper and more analytically into our process. We are offered endless teaching and tapes, books, and seminars on “how-to’s.” How to be a better friend/neighbor/witness, how to com- municate with your spouse, how to make a difference at work, how to make peace with your past, etc. So much of the teaching today is about horizontal behavioral adjustments, but there is very little on the vertical focus of you and God.

The sad result, as every survey confirms, is very little heart transformation. We used to believe that if we got our lives where they needed to be with the Lord, the other stuff would fall in place. What we desperately need is a crisis, a turning, a returning to the Lord.

There will be no revival without it.

An Honest Question

When was the last time you had a spiritual crisis in your life? When was the last time God brought you to your knees with the weight of weeds growing unwanted and treacherous in the garden of your heart? When did you last have a deep, heartfelt rekindling of love and passion for God’s Word?

How recently has your heart been so tender that you wept over lost people in your family or your co-workers who desperately need the Savior, and who are in danger of hell if they were to die today? If your honest answer is like that of most believers I know, respond now to the invitation: “Come, let us return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1).

Used by permission. Excerpt taken from Downpour by James MacDonald, © 2006 B&H Publishing Group.