The Church’s Ups and Downs

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Habakkuk 3:2 says, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.”

“The history of the Church has a history of ups and downs. It is there to be seen on the surface. When you read the history of the past you find that there have been periods in the history of the Church when she has been full of life, and vigour, and power. The statistics prove that people crowded to the house of God, whole numbers of people who were anxious and eager to belong to the Christian Church. Then the Church was filled with life, and she had great power; the Gospel was preached with authority, large numbers of people were converted regularly, day by day, and week by week. Christian people delighted in prayer. You did not have to whip them up to prayer meetings, you could not keep them away. They did not want to go home, they would stay all night praying. The whole Church was alive and full of power, and of vigour, and of might. And men and women were able to tell of rich experiences of the grace of God, visitations of his Spirit, a knowledge of the love of God that thrilled them, and moved them, and made them feel that it was more precious than the whole world. And, as a consequence of all that, the whole life of the country was affected and changed.” Martin Lloyd-Jones in Revival (Crossway, 1987), 26

Father, we remember the great miracles you’ve done in the past. Repeat those same miracles today!

Pray For Revival

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” Mk 9:28–29.

I am reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “Revival.” It is a book that J.I. Packer said, “I do not think that our age has seen any more powerful or profound treatment of revival than this book.” With such an endorsement I felt the need to buy the book to see for myself.

Right away he begins, with what I believe, is the heart of every revival: prayer. Speaking from the verse above he emphasizes being able to discern the time that we live in and see that we need something more than our day-in-day-out practices within our faith communities. Praying and fasting is the way in which we can ascertain the condition of our culture and act accordingly.

But, Lloyd-Jones doesn’t go into how to “fix” our culture. Rather he goes on to “fixing” the church. With so many leaving the church during his time, we are seeing the same things happen in our country with church attendance has dramatically dropped in the last 20-30 years.

He says the disciples who asked Jesus why they could not cast out the demon were relying upon the power they had received earlier. When Jesus chose his 12 Apostles he sends them out and gave them “authority over the unclean spirits.” Now they are attempting to use the same power to cast out a demon from a boy. But they were unable to. Lloyd-Jones speaking as Jesus, “You have not sufficient power. I did what you could not because I have power because I am filled with the power that God gives me by the Holy Spirit.”

The disciples had confidence in their abilities and even rejoiced in them. They came to rely upon themselves and not upon the Spirit of God. This is why Jesus said, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” This demon required a greater power. Humans alone cannot wield this power. Only through the Holy Spirit can they wield this power.

“We must cease to have so much confidence in ourselves, and in all our methods and organization, and in all our slickness. We have got to realize that we must be filled with God’s Spirit.” ~ Martin Lloyd-Jones

How we tap into this power is through prayer. There is no other way to obtain the power of God. Jesus instructs us to pray for the Spirit. To wait for the Spirit. To be Filled with the Spirit. The way to revival is through prayer. Prayer that “can enter the souls of men and break them and smash them and humble them and then make them new.” Without the Christian being renewed, we will not see revival, and our communities to know Jesus Christ.

Be Faithful For Revival

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

“If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” Luke 16:11 (ESV)

Ray Ortlund gives insight into this verse I had not seen before. This verse comes on the heels of Jesus parable usually called, “The Parable of the Shrewd Manager.” Some Bibles, like the ESV and the CSB now call it, “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager.” The different titles come from the difficulty of interpreting this strange story.

There is a rich man who had a manager who oversaw the rich man’s possessions. It was found out the manager was “wasting possessions.” The rich man called him looking to hold him accountable. He told him to turn in his books for he was fired. The manager was beside himself wondering what he was going to do for a living.

His idea: approach the rich man’s clients, offer them a smaller payout to clear their debt. This shrewd manager was the manager’s attempt to make friends with the rich man’s clients. When he is no longer working for the rich man, perhaps they will hire him, or support him. In the end, the rich man commended the manager for his shrewdness in spite of his dishonesty.

Then Jesus says something curious. He says, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

The point of this story has been interpreted in many ways. However, the point that Ortlund makes concerns in verse 11 where Jesus says, “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?”

Ortland says the unrighteous wealth is the money of this world. How we deal with money determines how we will be entrusted with the spiritual things of the kingdom. He quotes Francis Schaeffer,

“The church is constantly saying, ‘Where’s our power? Where’s our power?’ Jesus’ statement here gives us at least part of the answer. We must use money with a view to what counts in eternity.”

Perhaps one of the reasons the church has not seen a revival in a long time is we are mishandling the resources that God has given us. If we think we can misuse the material things God has given us, how will he entrust us with the spiritual things? How can we handle a revival, a powerful move of the living God, if we can’t handle the dead materials of this world?

God expects us to be faithful with the little we receive. Then he will give us revival.