The Church’s Ups and Downs

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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!

Be Faithful For Revival

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“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.

Test For Revival

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 (ESV)

If you haven’t guessed from my posts I am a Charismatic, or better, a continueist. This means I believe the gifts and the signs of the kingdom of God can still be practiced and seen today; for example, healings, miracles, prophecies, and those “nefarious” tongues.

But, just because I am a continueist, does not mean I cannot learn from my cessationist friends. These friends don’t believe these gifts and signs are for today, rather, they ceased when the last Apostle died almost 1900 years ago (some believe the gifts ceased when the canon was completed).

I came across this article, “Jonathan Edwards and Why I am a Cessationist,” written by Jeff Robinson. Though, he does not really describe why he is a cessationist, other than him being creeped out by a Charismatic service he attended. But, he goes on to describe how Jonathan Edwards handled the revival he encountered, and the working of the Spirit upon men and woman.

One of the “neutral signs, as Edwards put it, is bodily effects. Our body can do some strange things when encountering the Spirit of God: fainting, shouting, tongue talking etc… But, because these bodily effects happen does not mean they are evidence of the Spirit. The effects can happen without the Spirit. One only has to visit a sporting event to know this.

But, there are five things that Edwards lists that are marks of true revival. I’ll list them here without comment – I want to comment on Jeff Robinson’s comments.

1. A deep and aiding love for the person and work of Christ.

2. A desire to kill sin and break the bonds of worldliness.

3. A deep love for and desire to feast on God’s Word.

4. An unshakable conviction of sound doctrine.

5. An increased love for God and man.

These are positive signs that God is moving in the heart of people when revival comes. Edwards was no continueist, but, what he gives us here are tools for us to use to “test the spirits” when the Spirit does come.

The author of the article does on to ask, “How might Edwards advise us to approach today’s claims of revival?” He goes on to list out 4 items for us to consider.

1. We must beware of accepting everything as from the Lord. The fault of my tradition is the fact we have not tested the spirits. We have not filtered our experiences, and our prophecies, against the Word of God. We went with whatever happened because of tradition, leadership, or because we saw bodily effects as a sign of God moving on people.

2. Not all spirits are holy. This is very true, especially when there is a move of the Spirit of God. The enemy is always outside looking in, seeking how he can penetrate into the kingdom to do damage. He will enter through unsuspecting people willing to grasp hold of any spirit that will give them the experiences they are witnessing. Without sound doctrine to guide us, and to guide the people, they can fall into error and seek the experience instead of the Spirit behind the experience.

3. We should be skeptical of any movement that draw attention away from the local church and its preaching ministry. I believe the goal of a Spirit initiated revival is to make disciples of people. While parachurch organizations, revivalists, and traveling evangelists may be involved with a revival, they cannot replace the local church.

4. Such movements often foster what I call a “lightning-bolt spirituality.” I haven’t seen what Robinson describes here. What he describes are revivals that are person centric that promotes encounters where you are “struck by a spiritual lightning bolt and become instantly more sanctified.” He goes on to say that sanctification is a progressive through God’s grace. While I agree with him, I do believe one can surrender more to God, so much more than they have before, in one life changing event. The revival can be such one event. What Robinson does say is any revival needs to point people to Jesus, and not an event or certain teachers at the revival. The goal is for people to become followers of Jesus Christ – saved, discipled, and working for the kingdom.