Back to Basics: A New Year’s Resolve
by Doug Stringer
Around this time of year we hear all about resolutions. As people look toward the future, they want to resolve (meaning, to come to a firm decision), to change things for the better. Most resolutions people make for a new year have to do with getting back to basics. Whether it’s their diet, health, habits, or relationships, people aim to cut out the bad things that have crept in over time and get back to the simple, unadulterated basics.
Many years ago in the mid-90s, I did a teaching titled Back to Basics. This teaching was the result of an entire month spent fasting and praying. For one month, I didn’t go into the office, and for the most part, stayed inside the house while I fasted and sought the Lord. The result of this time of focus was a desire to get back to the basics. I recently read the transcription for this teaching and was reminded of the importance of restoring our foundations and restoring the altar of repentance, worship and simple obedience-what it will take for the people of God to have an authentic personal and corporate revival.
The book of Malachi also carries the theme of revival basics. At the end of Malachi, in chapter four, we are given a preview of what God will do before the great and terrible day of the Lord. “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet… He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
We are told also that for the righteous, the day that brings down the arrogant and the wicked will be a day in which “the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”
I long to see the day when revival fire restores the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers, and when the sons and daughters of God are released from their restraints with the healing power of God. What a great and glorious day that will be! However, I believe that before we can get to the revival of Malachi 4, we must return to the basics of Malachi 1-3.
An answer within the question
Do you remember watching the show Jeopardy? Contestants were required to give their trivia answers in the form of a question, such as, “What is Waterloo?” or “Who is Napoleon?” Well, in the book of Malachi, God does a similar thing—giving answers within the questions he poses. Chapters one and two of Malachi are full of questions that provide a revealing dialogue between God and His people.
The first question and answer dialogue we see is in Malachi 1:2. “’I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’”
The first of the basics we must understand and return to is our love relationship with God. In Revelation 2:4, it says, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” The dialogue in Malachi 1:2 reveals that God’s people were not settled in their love relationship with the Father. They did not understand His love, and were incapable of remaining faithful in their love to Him.
The second question we see in Malachi 1:6 is, “If I am a father, where is My honor?” To get back to revival basics, we must get back to honoring our Heavenly Father. We do this by honoring His Word, but also by how we honor others—our parents, our elders, and other authority figures. Even if we disagree with these leaders, do we still show them honor and respect?
Those of you who know my personal story might remember that I had many challenges in my relationship with my stepfather. I was angry as a young man and did not show my stepdad the honor and respect that I should have.
But as the Lord began to work in my heart, I began appreciating my stepdad as a father, and as a result, something began to change in him. You see, the more you speak life over someone, the more life comes out. But the more you depreciate them, the less life comes out. As I honored him, our relationship was restored.
Later in verse 6, God asks His people, “If I am a master, where is My respect?” Like many of us today, Israel in Malachi’s day proclaimed God as Lord and Master with their lips, but showed Him no respect with their actions. Malachi chapter one goes on to describe how the people gave God the worst of their sacrifices and the least of their time.
How many of us do the same, giving God our least and our worst, and yet expecting and even demanding from Him His best? We give Him the leftovers in our schedule, and yet want Him to be there to answer our prayers immediately when we call. We give Him scraps in terms of the giving of our time, talents, and treasures, and yet we expect His blessings to pour freely to us. How can this be so? If we call Him Master, where is His honor, reverence and respect?
Finally, Malachi addresses treachery against one’s brothers (“Do we not all have one father?”) and sin against one’s spouse (“For what reason [does God disregard our offerings]?”). Until we are willing to restore our relationships with those in both our spiritual and natural families, we will not be fully ready or prepared for lasting and sustained revival.
Ready for His coming
Getting back to the basics—by returning to a love relationship with the Lord; by showing honor to our Heavenly Father; by giving God His due respect and the best of our time, belongings, and efforts; and by dealing rightly with those in both our spiritual and natural family—prepares us for the outpouring that lies ahead. By removing the impurities that have crept in over time, we can be ready for His coming.
Malachi 3:2-4 says, “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.”
There is a purging fire and a cleansing we must yield to in order to become once again a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. We must resolve—coming to a firm decision—to get back to the basics. We must resolve to love God first, to honor Him, to give Him our best, and to do right by others. “Return to me, and I will return to you,” the Lord says in Malachi 3:7.
As we enter 2013, let our resolution be to seek the Lord for his purifying fire. Let us encourage one another to melt away the dross and scrub away the impurities. Let us be those who fear Him and await His glorious return with prepared hearts.
My prayer is that this year be a year for restoring covenant with God and restoring covenant relationships with others. Let us restore the altar of authentic worship as living worshippers that attracts the presence of God. May this be our resolve.
Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. “They will be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.