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About this series
Unleashing God's Power into Impossible Situations
What do you do when a circumstance or relationship in your life is so hard, so big, so overwhelming that it truly becomes impossible? You need a divine, supernatural intervention. In this new 5-part series from Chip Ingram, you’ll discover the steps to experiencing breakthrough and how to make breakthrough a normal part of your life.More from this series
Research tells us, when a city sees about ten percent of the population converted to Christ, you begin to see a ripple effect. Then, educational, governmental, corporate, and entertainment cultures – they get transformed.
But they don’t get transformed by external power, and saying, “This is the way it’s going to be, because we’re going to say what happens in a country.” They get transformed, historically and biblically, because how we live transforms things from the inside out. The values are so attractive, it’s not “you Christians” against “us.” It’s “you Christians” meeting the deepest needs and living the life. “I wish I had a marriage like yours, the way He repaired it.” “I wish I had a relationship with my kids like yours.” “I wish my finances were in order, at a time like this, like yours.” “I wish I experienced peace the way I see you do.”
Rodney Stark, in a very interesting book that’s probably worth reading – he’s a secular author. I don’t know if he’s still a secular author, because this book, I think, rocked his world. He wrote a book called The Rise of Christianity.
He’s a sociologist, and he wanted to figure out – because it didn’t make any sense to him – what were the cultural or sociological issues that, in the first century, could begin with a few thousand people, and, by the fourth century – actually, 313 A.D. – have the majority of the population of the Roman Empire be followers of Jesus?
It was estimated there were about sixty million people in the Roman Empire at 313, and about thirty-three million of them were followers of Jesus. And there’s no book of Acts; there are no miracles; there’s no this, no that. All he does is, he’s looking at the research.
And as he looks at it, he realizes, in the first century, there are two epic plagues that wipe out, at times, a third of the whole population. And so, the elite run to the hills and run away, but there’s one group that feed people, nurse people, give them food, and, in many cases, lose their lives. At times, whole towns – two-thirds of towns – would be lost. This happened twice in the first century.
And out of all his empirical data, what he says is, the Christians loved people. The Christians cared. The Christians didn’t change the culture externally. What happened was, the people that were left were Christians, or the people that Christians loved, and when your family members have died, and these are the people that loved you and cared for you, there were great conversions.
Later on, in the next few centuries, Stark points out that there were three major cultural issues that destroy a culture. Number one, he said, there was no sanitation, and there was ethnic division. Number two, he said, the treatment of women was deplorable. And third, he said, we had a situation where, all around the known world, infanticide – children were routinely drowned.
And what the Church did is, they expressed the goodness of God, and they began to clean up and find cultural solutions that were creative to sanitation. They elevated women as coheirs of the grace of God and, in their relationships, treated them quite differently than a piece of meat to be passed around or to be used. And they began to pick up the children from the dumps and raise them themselves. And he said it was this internal magnification of the – he wouldn’t call it the “grace of God,” because he didn’t use those terms, or the “goodness of God,” but from a cultural perspective. Do you get – that’s what God wants to do.
Now, here’s what I want you to get. As I was studying and praying and thinking – I jotted this in my journal, because I wanted to kind of get a picture of how this works.
When the consequences of unrighteousness multiply, and God’s judgment, out of His compassion and sovereign plans, align, it’s time. It’s time for a major breakthrough.
One, He always calls individuals. Two, they first return to an accurate view, first and foremost, of His goodness and mercy that leads them personally to repentance. Three, dependency and humility follow, evidenced by cries for help and direction from God.
Four, people seek God, personally and corporately, in prayer and fasting, for forgiveness and direction. And that becomes the norm in their experience. Adoration and praise replace consumer-oriented prayers of, “Fix my life, and make me happy.” Fifth, a missional concern for God’s love for others, and the need to demonstrate God’s love for one another, break through religious activity into service outside the Church, and the relational support and unity with tangible expressions inside the Church that cross denominational and gender and ethnic boundaries.
God’s Spirit then prompts individuals to take specific steps of repentance and obedience – in their families, in their churches, in their communities – to reach into their neighborhoods and to their workplaces with an unusual boldness and sacrifice, often accompanied, then, by supernatural manifestations of God’s presence and power to authenticate His Word and His work.
It starts organically. It’s an office here, a family here, a neighborhood there. And, like a mustard seed, it begins to grow. God’s favor and hand in blessing is poured forth, resulting in renewal, revitalization, and a massive movement of people outside of Christ finding Christ as Savior, and a new level of commitment and love of those inside the Church. It’s God’s plan. God will do breakthrough. It starts with individuals, then groups, churches, cities, nations.
I believe God, if you look at our world, is ready for a breakthrough. I jotted down – would you like a quick picture of our world? Could it be ripe? Global instability; religious division; idolatry and corruption within and outside the Church; the sacrifice of children in slavery, abortion, famine, infanticide; moral decay; family institutions and family life deteriorating; a global one-world economy; debt; class divisions; the rapid acceleration of technology; uncertainty and rapid national change in regions, with major shifts of power.
The rise of radical Islam; the shift of global power to China and India; America’s decline in education, economics, innovation, and leadership.
You know what? That could be a depressing list. I don’t think it is. I think you and I are in a window of time where we are ripe for, not just individual and group and church and city breakthroughs. We’re ripe for a time of God doing a great work.
And by the way, He’s doing it. It’s happening in China; it’s happening in Korea, it’s happening in Africa, it’s happening in South America – it’s not happening in America. Why? My premise: We haven’t made room.
Okay, there’s the big picture. What would it look like, for you, what would it look like, for me, to make room in your heart, your life, and your relationships for God to break through? You ready? Two action steps – your personal pathway to breakthrough.
Action step number one – right out of Mark, right from the lips of Jesus. He said – what? Mark 1:15: “The kingdom of God is near.” What was He saying then? The kingdom – what’s the kingdom? The kingdom is, who’s King, Jesus, is here, with unlimited power, and His heart is full of goodness and mercy to do good.
So, how do you respond to the King, who wants to do good to you and to everyone around us? “Repent and believe in the good news!” The truth: God is good. God wants to bless you in all that you do. Do you believe that? He’s good. The first step to breakthrough is understanding and believing God’s goodness.
Here’s the question, though – put a star by this one. The question is, from where or whom do you believe the good in life will come? That’s critical! Ask yourself, from where do you believe – I mean, the good. What I mean, the good in life – satisfaction, fulfillment, great relationships, prosperity – however you define that. Or from whom?
And what I’m going to tell you is, the Bible’s really clear. There are two options: There is Jesus, and there is the world system. And I think if you would stop and pull back, and say, “My energy, my time, my thoughts, and my money – do I believe the good in life is, man, when we go public, when I finally have kids, when we remodel the kitchen, when I find the right girl, when I find the right guy, I’ll tell you what, if I can keep working out and, man, when I get really buff and look really sexy, then, then, then, then, then.”
The world offers idols. That’s all they are. And the idols say, “We’ll deliver for you! We’ll love you! We’ll make you famous! We’ll make you significant! We’ll make you happy!” And instead, they make you a slave, and they put you in bondage.
And God says, “Believe that I’m the source of goodness. Believe that I will give you the highest and the best. I’ll not withhold any good thing from those who walk closely with Me. I’ve got your best.”
And so, when you answer that question, now we’re hitting the pay dirt of where and why and how you need to make room, because action step number two is, make room in your life for God’s breakthrough. Isaiah 57:15, you might jot in the corner. It’s one of those interesting passages. It says that God can only dwell in freedom, and in all that He is, in two places.
And it says He dwells in the highest place in the heavens, that is absolutely pure and angels adoring Him, and also with the humble and contrite in heart. Those that have a broken spirit and a contrite heart, those that are desperately dependent, those, in Jesus’ words, that are poor in spirit, those who say, “God, I’m in desperate need of You.”
Those are the people that have made room, so that the Spirit of God and the love of God and the goodness of God can satisfy – didn’t Psalm 23 say: He’ll refresh, He’ll satisfy your soul? What money can’t do, what a relationship can’t do, what a house can’t do, what a new car can’t do, what a promotion can’t do, what going public can’t do, what looking younger can’t do, what a surgery can’t do, He says, “I’ll do.”
Well, how do you make room? The truth is, it’s the goodness and kindness, the tolerance and the patience of God that leads to repentance.
And then, in the – put the next line, put a parenthesis around it. Because it’s really just a definition of repentance. It’s a change of mind that always leads to a change of behavior. That’s how you make room. You realize, I’m thinking like this about God. I’m thinking like the prodigal son. I am in the pigpen, and I’m thinking, “Give me my money; I’m going to do my thing. And God, you know, I might want a little fire insurance, but I’ll do my thing, my way, when – and I’m going to do my own stuff.”
Repentance is the Dr. Phil question: How’s this working for you? “I’ve royally messed up my life.” “I’ve royally messed up my relationship.” “I’ve royally messed up my health.” “I’ve royally messed up my work career.” “I’ve royally messed up…”
And, unfortunately, most people think, then, I guess I need to work my way back to getting religious, and try really hard, and improve my morality, and someday, some way, somehow.
And over there, there’s a Father, this day, a Father – arms open, “Come, daughter. Come, son.” And when you see His goodness – no one wants to run toward someone who’s, you know, saying, “Okay, I’m glad you finally came. You are a jerk, okay? We got that down. And you’re an immoral jerk. And, by the way, you do this, you do this, you do this.” I mean, it’s, like, hey, I don’t need that. It’s all true. See, we do that to ourselves.
God will show us our sin, without condemnation. He’ll say, “All that’s true. I placed that on My Son. I love you, and I’m going to change you from the inside out. But you’ve got to make room for Me.”
And the way you make room for God is, number one, you’ve got to get rid of the competitors. And then, He gives us a very clear process.
Would you open your Bibles to James? I want to give you just a beginning, to start here. James chapter 4. The context is, this is the very first book of the New Testament written. So, mostly Jewish Christians, they’re being persecuted, they’re spread abroad. I mean, they’ve lost their jobs; they’ve lost their homes. Some have been kicked out of their family. Life is really hard.
Chapter 1 tells them, never forget where the good comes. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” Regardless of your circumstances, the real good in life isn’t out there; it’s with God. And so, obey His Word. Don’t live in hypocrisy. Get a hold of your tongue.
Then, in chapter 4, He begins to speak to them, because some of them have made a new friend. Some of them have made a new friend that they think will deliver the good in life, and in verse 4, it says, “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend with the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you not know, or think that the Scripture says without reason that the Spirit is caused to live with jealousy because He intensely cares for you, but He says to us, and He gives more grace, and that’s why this Scripture says: ‘God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
And so, He says you’ve got to make room for Him in your life, and part of it is realizing the idols that we Christians worship, that are filling our life, have to get removed.
And then, are you ready? He tells us exactly how to do it. I want to give you the verbs. And what you’re going to see is, there are some verbs – they’re action words – and there are some promises.
Notice the first command – it’s overarching: “Submit therefore to God.” Write that down. It’s a military word – hupotasso – come under your commander. It’s a picture of a captain calling his troops. They say, “Yes, Sir.” First step to make room: You come over to God’s side, whatever it is you’re dealing with – whatever relationship, whatever addiction, whatever idol – and you say, “Reporting for duty. You are the good, kind God. Whatever You say, the righteous path, I will do life Your way. I’m taking on Your yoke. I don’t know what it is. I want You to know, I’m really afraid. But I want You to know that it’s not working for me. And You want to do the impossible.” Step one: “Submit therefore to God.”
And then, notice the next command: “Resist the devil and he’ll flee from you.” It’s a command. We’re talking about your soul! We’re talking about a battle that’s huge. And you will not be let go of lightly. And so, you don’t just say, “Reporting for duty,” and think, Oh, it’s going to be great. No, it’s going to get really hard. And so, you need to resist those lies: “You know what? You’ll be single all your life if you’re living together, and you move out.” “You know what? You’ll never rise in the company if you do that.” “You know what? I know everyone’s doing this, and they don’t report their taxes, and you’ll never build a business unless you…” Lie, lie, lie, lie! “Resist the devil and he’ll flee from you.”
And then, positive command: “Draw near to God; He’ll draw near to you.” Is this awesome? This is the prodigal daughter or the prodigal son, taking steps toward God, and before they get close, He runs. He will run to meet you. He wants you to have prayer times where you feel like He’s in the room. He wants to comfort you and love you and care for you and hold you.
Notice the next verb. He says, “Wash your hands and purify your hearts” – notice – “you double-minded.” We get our word schizophrenic. “Wash your hands” – it’s the activities. What specific activities are you doing, that you know are wrong? Stop it. You say, “I can’t.” Well, of course you can’t. You choose to stop it, and you get some help. But you take that step.
But He says it’s not just external activities that you know are wrong; it’s your motives in your heart. “Purify your heart, you double-minded.” See, their problem is the same as ours: “I want to be a good Christian. I want to go to heaven. I want to be deeply loved. I want God to bless my life. And my way, my stuff, my thought, my goals, my idol, my work, my family, my picture.” There is no middle ground with God. He won’t have competitors.
And idols can be your grandkids. Idols can be success. Idols can be your body. Idols can be money.
Idols can be the letters behind your name, or the letters you want behind your kids’ names. Idols can be the school they get into. It can be where they were on the traveling team, or their SAT scores.
And when you look at where your time and where your energy and where your focus and what really matters, that will tell you what you worship. And all He’s saying is, “You know? It ain’t going to be pretty later. Because they’re dead. They don’t give life. Make room for Me. Let Me love you.”
And so, then He talks about the emotional level. He says, “Grieve, mourn, wail. Change your laughter –” It’s a picture of, not, like, “ha-ha” laughter. It’s a picture of the sensual, foolish laughter.
You know, “Who cares, whatever.” And He says, “Turn it to mourning.”
So, this isn’t some little formula. This is heart to heart. This is on a certain day, at a certain time, preferably today, and you have a real gut check with God.
Last command: Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. I mean, that’s just – you know, “I give! I can’t do it!” And what’s the promise? “He will exalt you.” Literally, the word – He’ll lift you up. He’ll take you in His arms. He’ll fix things. He’ll turn things around. Overnight? No. Without effort? No. It’ll require courage.
And I will tell you what happens: When your God gets bigger, your problems get smaller. And He’ll work in you, and then He’ll work through you.