My Thoughts On Revival
by RevRik, guest-writer (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
After a retreat, God opened my soul to His direction and one morning as I was in prayer, God laid this onto my heart. I have not cleaned it up other than to run it through a spell check because I want for it to be a sharing from my heart.
Birth control to teenagers without parental approval. Abortion on demand, even in the last tri-mester. Divorce rate soaring past 60%. Drug abuse on the rise. People killed for their clothes or cars or cash. Rape, murder, assault, burglary, suicide; all on the rise. Homosexuality out of the closet and out in the streets, the office, the pulpits. Runaway children. People living on the streets. Assisted suicide. Alcoholic teens. Welcome to America as we slip down into the 21st century.
What makes these problems in our nation very scary to me is the fact that 80% of Americans claim to be Christians. How can all this happen?
80% of us believe in God and in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and yet we live in the country that banned public prayer in school. We live in the country that disallows the public expression of Christmas outside of secular ideals. We live in the country that disallows the 10 Commandments to be on display in public buildings and that disallows the 10 Commandments to be taught in our schools as guidelines for living. We live in the country that only allows the Bible to be used in schools if it is taught as just another book of literature instead of as the powerful and enlightening Word of God the Almighty Himself. We are living in a country and in a time where we may see the slogan "In God We Trust" disappear from out currency.
How can we who are Christians and account for 80% of the population have allowed all this to happen?
I am afraid that it is because a majority of those who claim to be followers of Christ are merely Sunday Christians. You know them; the people who show up dressed nice and scrubbed clean Sunday morning in churches around the nation, weather and game schedules permitting. They are the people who enter the sanctuary and sit quietly letting the warm sunlight shine through the stained glass windows of their local church, soaking up the warmth of the sunlight and the warm words of their pastor. They come every Sunday morning to get their weekly fix of warm, fuzzy feelings so they can go home and get on with the rest of their week.
And the pastors at those churches are quite happy to give the people what they want to hear. After all these are the people who pay their salaries and keep them in their pulpit for another round of Sundays. This parody of church goes on every single week in every single city of our nation. It doesn't matter if you are a Lutheran, a Catholic, a Pentecostal, a Baptist, a Methodist, or one of the many other expressions of Christianity. This is not about denominations, it is about being human.
Jesus Christ called the Church to be a light unto the world. Yet as we sit in our darkened sanctuaries being washed by the many colored warmth of the sunlight streaming through our stained glass windows, there are people outside looking at us. What do they see? They see a building with doors closed surrounded by a parking lot full of cars. And when the service is over, there is a mad rush to get out to those cars and to get home so that the day can begin. As they drive home these people feel good because they gave God His hour for the week and now they can have the rest of the week for themselves. Within half an hour of arriving home you cannot tell these "Christians" from their neighbor who slept in and read the paper instead of going to church.
Where is God for the rest of their week? Is God something we take out of the closet on Sunday mornings with our nice church clothes? Is He the big magician in the sky we expect to handle our troubles? Is He the one we complain to when our needs are not being met? Is He the one we turn to only when we need something. Is He the one we say that memorized grace to before we sit down to our dinners without really thinking about how much He has blessed us during the whole day?
Where are the Christians who take a stand on the truth they learn in Scripture? Where are those who will take a stand for Jesus Christ who was killed, buried, resurrected, and ascended for them? Where are those who believe the words of the prayers that they have memorized since childhood? I am saddened to say that they are in the minority of that 80% who claim to know Christ. In Scripture we even hear the words of Christ telling the majority who claim to know Him; "I do not know you, depart from me." Read in the book of Revelation where Christ tells one of His churches; "Because you are neither hot nor cold, I spit you out of my mouth." Is this what we want to hear on that day when we appear before Him. Wouldn't it be nicer to hear these words from Him; "Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into my rest."?
How can we be sure of the words that we will hear on that day? Listen to the Word of God. The entire Word of God, not just those verses that make us feel good. I mean those verses that cut us to the core of our being, that convict us of right and wrong in our own lives instead of using them as a battle axe to convict others of their right and wrong attitudes and ways of living. I mean those verses that are hard to take because they do not fit our image of what a loving God would say and do. I am talking about those verses that show another side of Jesus other than the picture of loving kindness for "everyone" no matter what. "The Word of God is a two edged sword dividing bone from marrow." It is not a butter knife that spreads warmth and love and goodness on our skins, it is a sword to pierce our souls with revelation of who we are and who God is. It is a sword that cuts us to the heart to show us how far we are from living in a way that is pleasing to God. Look in the Word for more; "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." It says it is to be used to teach, to rebuke, to correct. It may soothe and comfort us too, but it is meant to be a tool for God to use to re-create us so we may be useful tools in building His Kingdom here on earth. There is comfort in the Word, but the comfort is a rest after we do the work that we are created for. His Word teaches us how to follow Him and how to live in a way that brings us closer to Him and to each other.
You may say you have never known this about the Word of God and that may well be. Why have so many of us heard the words of comfort and joy and peace and not heard the words that challenge us and cut us. We need to be cut so that we may feel. When we feel we know we are alive. If we do not feel the Word of God cutting us, we are dead in the spirit. Why don't we feel the cutting edge of the Word in our lives? It is because just as there are many Sunday only Christians, there are also many pastors in many churches who do not preach the whole Word of God. They preach the parts that people like and enjoy. They preach the parts that give warm, fuzzy feelings to the listener. Some may even preach like that because they have not let the Word of God cut to their souls yet; they may not be able to preach the Word with application because they have not experienced the Word and its application in their own lives. Some of these pastors are comfortable in the church they are serving and want to continue serving where they are. They know that if they do not preach what the people want to hear, the people will either go elsewhere to get what they want or they will bring in a new pastor who will give them what they want to hear. These pastors see the Word of God as some commodity or as a product to sell. God even saw that this would happen. Let's turn again to the Word. In fact this is just a few verses later in 2 Timothy after the verses I quoted in the paragraph above; "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." And the sorry part is that there are many pastors out there who are too willing to be ear ticklers instead of sword carriers.
But there are many pastors out there who are faithful to their calling, who preach the whole Word of God to their flocks. One more set of verses from 2 Timothy tells us; "In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His Kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction ... But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." Where are the pastors who will follow the instructions that Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy? Where are the pastors who will look at their own lives under the magnifying glass of Scripture? Where are the pastors who fully trust God enough to discharge the entire Word of God to their congregations? Are there any left who will stand up for the Word of God in all its fullness? Are there any who have the guts to preach the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
There are some. They are out there. But they are not the popular ones. They are the ones who people talk about, poke fun at, laugh at behind their backs and even to their faces. They are called fanatics by some, old fashioned by others. They are labeled as Bible thumpers, fundamentalists, extreme rightists. They are the ones who have the courage to preach the whole Word. They are the ones who are moved from congregation to congregation because the people do not want to hear the whole Word. They move from pastorate to pastorate until the day they stand in a pulpit and the people are open to what the Word has to say to them. They enter the pulpit of a church where people have had enough of the snake oil salesmen who claimed to be ministers of the Word. They enter the pulpit where people don't want their ears tickled, they want to be cut with the Word so they may be a people growing towards God. They enter the pulpit where people are on fire for the Lord and want to be true people of God every minute of every day and not just on Sunday mornings for an hour. When they enter such a church, these pastors will be blessed by God as they bless the people of God with a full measure of the Word of God delivered without the sugar coating.
These people will be blessed as their church goes through a holy revival for God. Not a revival that makes public statements that confuses people and is filled with questionable signs. Not a revival where you have to go somewhere to catch the fire and bring it back to your own church. Not a revival where people are on fire for a while and lapse back into their old ways until the next years scheduled revival. I am talking about a true revival, one that begins in the heart of an individual and spreads out to others in a holy love. You cannot revive a church until the people have been revived by God. As each of us listens to the Word of God and learns His will for our lives, we will be able to be revived in our own hearts and in our own spirits as God works within us to mold us into a tool of blessing for others. True revival must be something that causes people to grow in their spiritual walk with the Lord. True revival must reach out beyond an individual to ignite others into revival. True revival gives all glory to God and God alone. True revival is possible and is needed now in our churches. True revival brings blessings to a church: both its pastor and its people.
Before I close I just ask you to please read 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. Paul talks about the unity that should mark the body of Christ, he discusses spiritual gifts and then he talks about using them in love. In fact chapter 13 is a parenthetical chapter between chapters 12 and 14. Chapter 12 opens with Paul telling us about spiritual gifts and moving on to true unity in the Church with Christ as the head of it. He ends chapter 12 telling us to "eagerly desire the greater gifts." The greater gifts are not the signs and wonders that most people associate with revival churches, the greater gifts are the ones that lead to the glory of God and the edification of the Church. The greater gifts are not tongues and healing, they are important, but not the greater gifts. The greater gifts are teaching and prophecy because they are the gifts that lead people into a deeper life with God. Paul even develops the difference in importance between tongues and prophecy in chapter 14, but before he does this, he gives us chapter 13. Chapter 13 is one we all have heard, usually at a wedding and has been called by some the Love Chapter. The last sentence in chapter 12 is the intro to chapter 13; "And now I will show you the most excellent way." Love is the most excellent way. We can have all the signs and wonders, but if we do not have love for God and for others, what is the use of those signs and wonders. They all come to nothing if we do not use them for the glory of God and the spiritual growth of others.
Using the gifts of the Holy Spirit in true love leads to blessings for the people of the Body of Christ, the Church, His Bride. A full measure of the Word of God given in love will lead to major blessings for the people of God. The people will be blessed as they hear the Word of God in all of its majesty and glory and power. They will be blessed as the Word convicts them and challenges them to grow. They will be blessed as the Word prepares them to be people of God in whom Christ dwells and who are filled with the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit of God. They will be blessed as they see their children grow into a people strong in their faith. They will be blessed as God works miracles among them in response to earnest prayer from hearts that want to know God and His will in their lives. They will be blessed as they grow in all areas of their lives under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit who lives within them. They will be blessed as they in turn become a church which opens the doors and windows and lets the light of Christ shine out into a world that is fast filling with darkness. And the Lord God will one day say to these people and to their pastors; "Well done good and faithful servants. Enter into my rest."
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