Today in the western democracies traditionally associated with Biblical Christianity there is a decline in church attendance. Of course you have the mega-churches which have no problems getting ‘bums on seats’ but what is really happening in these churches with their seeker sensitive, seeker friendly ‘feel-good’ programmes? Are they really seeing Biblical revival? In the time of men like John Wesley, William Booth and D.L.Moody you not only saw a revival of the Church but ‘sinners’ saved and saints sanctified and society as a whole changed. In their day and age such things as same-sex marriage and Euthanasia were not even considered as acceptable practices even by those who were not Christians. A hundred years ago people still had some sense of moral and spiritual responsibility.
Judgement begins in God’s House
Today in almost every western democracy same-sex unions are now legal and Euthanasia legalized in most democracies. The socio-economic and moral problems are everywhere today. The media bombards us with images and lifestyles that pander to the lust of the fleshly appetites and the Church seems powerless to prevent this spiritual, moral and socio-economic landslide. Many churches are promoting Alpha and Purpose driven and ‘seeker friendly’ church services and programmes of one sort or another to get people into their church pews, if the truth be known, but overall society is going ‘down the gurgler’ big time! The Bible says that judgement must begin in the House of God, the Church. The apostle Peter wrote; “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17) We need a good old fashioned Biblical revival! So then when is a revival necessary?
1. A Revival is necessary when brotherly love is lacking.
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
There is a ‘Guru mentality’ in many church fellowships today. This is one of the problems in the mega-churches where Christians do not really read and study the Bible for themselves but go with what their teachers and ‘spiritual gurus’ tell them the Bible says. Paul wanted to impart to the believers at Corinth solid food from the Word of God but could only give them ‘milk’ as they were acting like argumentative children. They were still given over to their fleshly thinking in spiritual matters. Some followed Apollos and others Paul. Because of their spiritual immaturity the apostle Paul could not give them the ‘meat’ concerning the deeper truths of God’s Word because spiritually they were not ready to receive it and they would only get spiritual indigestion. Added to this they were indulging in jealousy and strife over the matter of who they were to follow. They had lost the centrality of the Lord Jesus as the one who had given Apollos and Paul their gifting as apostles and teachers. In their behaviour they were acting in the same way that the unsaved in the world were acting. Whatever it is that causes jealousy and strife within a local fellowship these things must be dealt with first and foremost if that fellowship is to have a revival. You can be sure when these things are present that a revival is necessary.
Serving one another in love
As the Apostle James wrote; “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behaviour his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18) Paul also wrote; “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:13-16) Where there is jealousy, strife, selfish ambition, arrogance and biting and devouring one another a revival is desperately necessary.
2. A Revival is necessary when the spirit of the world gets into the Church.
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion”… Those who recline on beds of ivory And sprawl on their couches, And eat lambs from the flock And calves from the midst of the stall, Who improvise to the sound of the harp, And like David have composed songs for themselves, Who drink wine from sacrificial bowls While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils, Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.” (Amos 6:1a, 4-6)… “Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, Until there is no more room.” (Isaiah 5:8)
One of the most subtle enemies to our spiritual growth is luxury or having it good in this world. Money itself is the most subtle of our enemies as believers in the Lord Jesus. Indeed as it is written; “Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” (1Timothy 6:9-11) When Christians chase after wealth and prosperity and fall into the trap of seeing these things as automatic proof of God’s blessing they are in trouble. Now God does prosper His people in order that they might use what they have to support the work of evangelism in the world. As it is written; “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:18)
“At ease in Zion”
In the Bible the term Zion refers to God’s people and to the place where they reside whether on earth or in heaven. Those “who are at ease in Zion” are those believers who not only have it good in this world but are spending most of their time and their money on their own pleasures and pursuits in this life and acquiring property and material possessions to the neglect of God’s work. They spend most of their time eating at the best restaurants in town, reclining on the sofas watching sport or television, attending concerts and entertainment of one sort or another, wine tasting, wearing the most expensive clothes and going on expensive holidays. Not once do they ever grieve over the spiritually backslidden state of the Church. They are “at ease in Zion.” If Christians really honoured God with their wealth then God’s work would never lack supplies. There are even professing Christians whose lifestyles outside of Church activities are no different than the lifestyles being lived by the pagans.
Reajusting spiritual priorities
A Revival readjusts believer’s priorities to think spiritually and Biblically. The Lord Jesus put things into perspective when He said; “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) These days many in the Church seek for blessings, health, wealth and prosperity and for having things good in this world but very few hunger and thirst for righteousness. If we pursue righteousness and godliness then the things we need will be given to us according to what God knows is best for us. God is not stingy but will always see to it that our needs are met and sometimes above anything we can ask of think. A revival then breaks the spirit of the world in the hearts of believers.
3. A Revival is necessary when Church members are falling into sin.
“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-3)
When open sin is not dealt with in the local assembly God is dishonoured, the Holy Spirit is grieved beyond measure, younger believers are tempted to compromise their commitment to the LORD and even some leave the fellowship because the sin is not dealt with. When this kind of thing is allowed to go unchecked it can even lead to division in the fellowship. If the elders of the local assembly know what is happening and do not deal with it or seek to hide it then spiritual disaster lies ahead for that fellowship. They may still be a gospel preaching, Bible believing Church but are like a boxer ‘boxing at the air’ because they have no dealt with the sin and with this who are involved in it. Sadly and tragically there have been churches that at one time were thriving evangelical Bible preaching fellowships whose leaders failed to deal with sin at the leadership level and as a result when the sin came to light the fellowship was split apart and in some cases ceased to exist. While sin is allowed in the local assembly spiritual defeat is inevitable.
Victory or defeat?
When the Israelites sacked Jericho they were to destroy everything devoted to destruction. Achan kept something for himself that should have been destroyed. The sin was covered up. However, when the Israelites marched on Ai they were soundly defeated. Once Achan’s sin had been exposed and dealt with, the Israelites had victory once again. When Israel avoided sin they were successful but when they harboured sin and did not forsake it they were defeated. Biblically there is a way to deal with sin in a local fellowship but if avoided then disaster lies ahead. Of course exposing sin is no laughing matter but very serious because others are involved. In moral failures there is always ‘collateral damage.’ King David tried to conceal his sin until it was exposed. He was forgiven once he had confessed but the effects of what he did on his family remained with him until the day he died. In a revival secret sins are exposed.
4. A Revival is necessary when there is controversy and arguments.
“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided?” Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1: 10-13)
Satan knows very well that if he can get believers in the local assembly to quarrel and fight each other then they will not be able to take their stand against him. He has been around for a long time and knows which ’buttons’ to press among believers to get them fighting and arguing among themselves. Usually clashes occur over personalities. At Corinth people had the ‘Guru’ mentality which we have already touched on. Church history has had many instances where people have followed certain leaders or Bible teachers that has resulted in division and controversy. Sometimes a man preaching under the anointing of the Holy Spirit will say things that are controversial, not be that way, but because the Holy Spirit is directing his message.
Is God contraversial?
When you consider the scope and breadth of God’s Word it is in fact controversial in that it cuts across the opinions and doctrines of men. Some like to stir up controversy to draw attention to themselves. Controversy and argument for its own sake has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. James put it this way when he wrote; “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:1-3)
This kind of thing when it gets into the local fellowship grieves the Holy Spirit beyond measure and spiritually short-circuits His power in the lives of the believers. When this sought of thing is tolerated there is always collateral damage in the fellowship. Godly wisdom is lacking in all such circumstances. As James also writes; “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behaviour his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18) Those who cause divisions and quarrelling and refuse correction and hold on tenaciously to their power games will eventually be removed from the fellowship by the Holy Spirit if they do not repent. Sometimes correction is needed and this can cause dissension and even controversy but if it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit by speaking the truth in love things will ultimately settle down in the fellowship. Sometimes in dealing with difficult and proud personalities takes time but in the end saves time.
5. A Revival is necessary when the weekly prayer meeting is dead, dry and without life and spiritual power.
“And when you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard.” (Matthew 6:7)
Prayer at any time is hard work. Paul writes about praying Epaphras who was always wrestling with god in prayer for others. Paul writes; “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in the full will of God. For I testify about him that he goes to great pains for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” (Colossians 4:12-13) Prayer takes time and work but it saves time in the end if it is offered up in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that will kill the effectiveness of a prayer meeting such as ‘vain babbling’ and repetition. Monotonous prayers that go on and on cause people to feel drowsy and heavy and next week they don’t bother turning up. Some at the prayer meeting may well fancy that they are praying well and even fervently but lack sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit and while they are busy edifying themselves no one else is edified at all but made to feel tired. This is one of the reasons the mid-week prayer meeting is poorly attended.
Prayer that works
When you get one or two or more who monopolize the praying others stay away because they never have the opportunity to pray or feel in the light of the so called ‘eloquent’ prayers being offered that theirs are really not that important. Others like to control the prayer meeting but do not have a spiritual connection with the Holy Spirit. All of these things fall under the term of ‘vain babbling.’ Corporate prayer is the key to spiritual survival for any local fellowship but often amidst the ‘razzle and dazzle’ of Church programmes of one sort or another it is sadly neglected. When a believer comes out of a prayer meeting they may feel tired but their spirit will be edified and there will be a certainty that the corporate prayers touched God and that what they have prayed and believed Him for will come to pass. God delights in the prayers of His people. As it is written; “But the prayer of the upright is His delight.” (Proverbs 15:8b) Praying in the Holy Spirit not only builds us up spiritually but has the capacity to build others up also. A revival will most certainly see the corporate prayer life of any fellowship revived! The key to any effective corporate prayer meeting is for those participating in it to make sure they are filled with the Holy Spirit.
6. A Revival is necessary when Churches become exclusive.
“Pay close attention to yourself and to your doctrine; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1Timothy 4:16)
Correct Biblical doctrine is very important to the ongoing life of any local fellowship. If the doctrine is wrong then the work of that fellowship will also go off the rails theologically and more important Biblically. When Paul wrote to Timothy he told him to do two things. Firstly; to pay close attention to what he was teaching. Secondly; to persevere in what he was teaching. Understanding the nature of salvation was vitally important for Timothy’s spiritual survival and that of those he taught. One of Satan’s traps is to get Bible teachers and pastors into extreme doctrines that ultimately lead to heavy shepherding. All Christian cults end up into extreme heavy shepherding where the teachers insist that their words are from God and not to be challenged by anyone. As a result of this kind of thing fellowships split or become exclusive and isolate themselves from the wider Body of the Messiah
Doctrine is important
Now doctrine is important and where doctrinal error is taught it divides fellowships. If you are a member of a local fellowship and you can see doctrinal error and unbiblical practices coming into the fellowship you have one of two choices, either you stand up and say something or you stand up and leave. Of course there is always an appropriate way of approaching those who are teaching error. When the Holy Spirit brings about a revival He deals with false doctrines because He is the Spirit of truth and not error. This is why Ecumenism will never work. When a local fellowship goes into an extreme doctrine or Unbiblical practices they become exclusive leading to pride and a condescending spirit to those who do not agree with them.
7. A Revival is necessary when Church pews are empty.
“And she called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.” (1 Samuel 4:21-22)
One of the saddest things is to see a Church that was once filled with saints and a soul saving station that is now a ‘white elephant’ usually maintained by a select few of ‘older saints’ who are just maintaining the status quo and seemingly satisfied with their lot. Excuses can be made but the bottom line is that the power of the Holy Spirit is no longer at work in that place.
Eli and his sons
In the time of Samuel when he was still a little boy Eli the priest had become slack in his diligence to the LORD and has not disciplined his two sons Hophni and Phinehas who assisted him in the temple looking after the Ark of the Covenant. His sons were sleeping around and serving their sinful appetites and desires. In those days the word of the LORD was rare. Eli had lost touch with God’s power and was an old man by the time Samuel was born and was under his care in the temple. When the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines they were soundly defeated so they brought up the ark from Shiloh thinking that this would give them the victory over their enemies. However the Israelites were defeated and the Ark captured by the Philistines and Eli’s two sons killed. When Eli hard this news he fell out of his chair and broke his neck and died. Of course the LORD did not allow this act to go unpunished but plagued the Philistines until the ark was returned. The problem Israel had was firstly that their spiritual leaders had compromised with sin and lost the power of God. Eli’s daughter in law had a son and died after giving him birth and his name was called Ichabod meaning “the glory has departed.” Eli was no longer hearing the voice of God and his sons were living in sin and not restrained by him. The boy born to the wife of Phinehas was a sign to Israel that God’s power had been removed from the people and defeat before their enemies was the result.
There are many churches today that have empty pews. In times past many of them were places where sinners were saved and saints sanctified and their presence was well known in the community as places where God was at work. Look around today in the western democracies in Europe, Great Britain and Australia and see how many Churches there are that are basically empty. Some are now resturaunts and even some were evangelical at some time and even though they maintain their evangelicalism they are devoid of the Spirit’s power. Some might well point out the mega-churches but most of them are into programmes and practices that get bums on seats but as far as real Biblically solid churches they have compromised with self-esteem, feel-good sermons of one sort or another and into seeker friendly, seeker sensitive programmes. Many grow numerically by church transfer and not by sould being saved. Some even boast of having spiritual gifts but on the whole in society things get progressively worse.
The right programme?
Whenever a Church becomes spiritually arid and sees empty pews the leaders desperately scramble to find a solution and seek to find the right ‘programme’ that will fix the problem. Instead of going directly to the Holy Spirit and waiting on Him for direction and power they decide they have to do something about their dwindling and aging congregations. Hence you have programmes immerge such as Alpha and Purpose Driven or some other such ‘church growth’ programme. In the days of John and Charles Wesley and William Booth no such programmes existed but the Church knew the power of the blood of Jesus to save sinners and sanctify saints and the power of the Holy Spirit to make believers bold and powerful witnesses for the Lord Jesus. A Biblical revival will see the church revived, lives changed and society redeemed as it was in Wesley and Booth’s time.
8. A Revival is necessary when ‘sinners’ are careless and stupid in their behaviour and lifestyles.
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”(Romans 3:11-18)
If you look at an Alpha course or a Purpose Driven programme you will not find this kind of description of ‘sinners’ in their teaching manuals or DVD’s. If sin is mentioned it is toned down and hell and the coming wrath of God are virtually not mentioned if they are at all. As to the sinfulness of man these seeker friendly, seeker sensitive programmes whitewash over the deep spiritual depravity of the human heart by offering feel-good sermons or self-esteem talks that do not make people feel too bad about themselves. On the Day of Pentecost Peter told those who were unsaved in no uncertain terms; “Save yourselves from this crooked and perverse (depraved) generation!” And the key word was first to repent before believing!
A salvation offered that does not save and deliver a sinner from their sin is not Biblical salvation. A salvation offered that does not result in unconditional obedience to God and to His word is not Biblical salvation! A Salvation offered that makes one feel better about themselves and that they are not too bad because God loves them as they are is not Biblical salvation! Because God loves sinners and wants them free from sin He must first show them His Law and how far short they fall from keeping it and that hell and judgement await those who violate His laws and commandments. His Holy Spirit must firstly convict them of their sin of unbelief in Jesus as their rightful saviour and Lord, for their need of righteousness if they would enter His Kingdom and convict them of the judgement to come. (John 16:7-11) A revival produces spiritual sobriety in those who are satiated with the pleasures of sin and slaves to their fleshly appetites.
When is a revival necessary?
So then a revival is necessary when brotherly love is lacking, when the spirit of the world gets into the Church, when church members are falling into sin, when there is controversy and arguments, when the weekly prayer meeting is dead, dry and without life and spiritual power, when Churches become exclusive, when Church pews are empty and when ‘sinners’ are careless and stupid in their behaviour.