If we are really going to see a gospel-based moral and cultural revolution, then we must be a spiritual army, and if we are really going to be a spiritual army, then we must be a people who are submitted to authority.
Otherwise, there will be a revolution, but not a Jesus revolution. It will be a revolution of the flesh, a revolution of rebellion, of pride, of self-will, of independence, of retaliation, of carnal anger – of everything other than the Spirit of God.
It will not be born in heaven, but it will be “earthly, unspiritual, of the devil” (Jacob [James] 3:14). It could even, God forbid, lead to violent confrontations.
That is not the revolution we need, and I for one want no part of it. It bears no resemblance to the character and substance of a God-sent, Spirit-led, Jesus-initiated, world-changing, holy movement.
One revolution brings life; the other revolution brings death.
But make no mistake about it. The Jesus way is not easy.
The Jesus way means crucifixion before resurrection and humiliation before exaltation.
The Jesus way means radical submission to God, turning the other cheek to offenses, suffering misunderstanding and rejection, being mocked and ridiculed and scorned, without fighting back in a fleshly, carnal way.
Young people in particular need to hear this clearly, since within youth – especially through the teen years and into the twenties – there is an innate tendency to resist authority, to push against boundaries, to challenge restrictions, to question standards, to test limitations, to desire change for the sake of change alone, to experiment and search and try new things, to rebel.
That’s why college campuses have been hotbeds for revolution, and that’s why a slogan from the 1960s counterculture movement was, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
But that is not the slogan of the Jesus Revolution.
The Jesus revolution is built on Malachi 4:6, God turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers.
It is built on the joining of generations.
It is built on family, on community, on mutual subjection, on gentleness of spirit and meekness of heart (although meekness has nothing to do with weakness).
It is built on Jesus Himself, and that means the way of submission.
You see, before we can say, “I must obey God rather than man” (see Acts 5:29) we must have a proven track record of submission to authority, of working well with leaders, of crucifying the flesh, of being willing to receive correction.
Otherwise, what we call “obedience to God” could simply be the outward expression of an unsubmitted, unaccountable, stubborn, rebellious attitude.
If we are to take a stand for truth even when others call us extremists; if we are to refuse to submit to unrighteousness even when pressure mounts on us to compromise; if we are to call for radical change and swim against the tide even at great personal cost – if we are to do these things we must be sure that our motivations are not fleshly, that we are not merely giving place to our own independence, that we are not simply rebels with a cause.
Put another way, if you really want to be a Jesus revolutionary, you must crucify rebellion, independence, pride, self-will, ambition, carnal anger, rage, retaliation, and all related fleshly behavior. You must cultivate humility, longsuffering, and willingness to bear reproach; you must learn to turn the other cheek and overcome evil through good.
In other words, you must swim against the tide by, so to say, swimming with the Lord.
The plain fact is that almost every earthly revolution contains a strong element of rebellion against authority, and God hates rebellion. (The Bible is filled with examples of this.) And so, if there is rebellion in our lives, it must be utterly uprooted – ruthlessly, decisively, and categorically.
Rebellion is from below, not from above. It is a stiffening of the neck, a hardening of the heart, an obstinate determination to yield to self rather than to God.
I know, of course, that a rallying cry of the American Revolution was, “Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God,” but I believe we must put our emphasis on the word “obedience” rather than “rebellion.”
That’s why I prefer to emphasize “biblical obedience” rather than “civil disobedience,” since our primary calling is not so much disobedience to ungodly demands as it is obedience to God’s commands.
“Then how do we really change the world?” you ask. “How do we overthrow the status quo and challenge the establishment? How do we act on the convictions which drive us day and night? How do we say no to unjust laws and refuse to submit to unjust demands?”
The answer is simple: It is through complete submission to the commands of Scripture and the voice of conscience, doing what an army general commands even when it contradicts the earlier command of a sergeant.
We are people of submission, but we submit to the highest authority, which for us as believers, is always the Lord. And so, we change the world by carrying His burden, acting at His direction, and executing His orders rather than by merely getting aggravated and agitated and reacting in the flesh.
In short, we change the world by saying Yes to God even when that means saying No to earthly authority, by obeying God and His Word even when that means disobeying the government and its laws.
That’s why we must always remember that the Jesus Revolution is based on obedience, not disobedience; on submission, not rebellion; on compliance to God’s standards rather than defiance of earthly standards.
This is something we must get right, since nothing less than a sweeping revolution will change America right now. (The awakening for which we pray most certainly will include a moral and cultural revolution.)
If you agree with me that we need a nation-shaking revolution, the question for you is simple: Will you be a revolutionary or a rebelutionary?
I say on with the Jesus Revolution. The time for radical change is now.
(Excerpted and adapted from Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change.)