Posted by: stpowen | February 10, 2010

Looking to God for Revival (1)

Looking to God For Revival (1)

The Call

Read 2Chronicles 7:11-16.

These verses from 2Chronicles constitute one of the texts most often referred to in connection with revival.  They are frequently preached on and have even been set to music, but I have my doubts as to whether they are truly understood or, more importantly, obeyed.  Being of the view that Britain, Europe and America stand in desperate need of revival from God, I propose to look at these verses in five or so articles in the hope of encouraging my readers to understand  the four conditions for revival that the Lord lays down here and commit themselves to them.  I do not believe that there will be revival without them.

 In the U.K.,  just before Easter, a Nation-wide evangelistic event will be taking place.  A Passion for Christ (1) is being promoted by the various ‘Gospel Partnerships’ up and down the country.  Whilst I would not oppose the event in principle and my church will be taking a small part, I cannot say that I am any too confident about the likely results.  Just a few years ago, there was an extended series of tent meetings organized in Exeter by a  well-known evangelist and large amounts of money were committed to the event by the local churches.  Many people responded to the altar calls and there was much optimism about the results, but I am not aware of a single person being permanently added to any participating church.   I see no reason to suppose that this second event will be any more successful.

Why am I so gloomy?  Why should not such events be blessed by God?  Because it is self-evident that God has turned His face away from this country at the present time because of its sins.  ‘Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear’ (Isaiah 59:1-2).  The reader should read the rest of Isaiah 59 to see the nature of these sins and iniquities.  There are the empty words and lies spoken by religious leaders; there is a turning away from the truth of God to nihilism and existentialism, and most particularly there is the shedding of the of the innocent blood of unborn children.  I do not really believe that there is any such thing as a ‘Christian nation,’ but it is very clear that whereas Britain was once a nation whose people by and large respected the Bible and paid at least lip service to Christianity, today the vast majority of her people is almost unimaginably far from God and increasing numbers feel quite free to scoff at and blaspheme the Name of the Lord.  In Rom 3:10-18, the Apostle Paul lists the sins of the people of his day and concludes with the words, ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’  So it is with contemporary Britain.

These things in themselves would not necessarily prevent God from sending us revival.  After all, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself came into a world no less evil than it is today.  No, the problem lies with the Church and in particular with its leaders.  It was the apostasy of the religious leadership in Judah that finally ended the Lord’s patience and provoked Him to send disaster on that land.  ‘I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem:  they commit [spiritual] adultery and walk in lies…………….But if they had stood in My counsel and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil ways and from the evil of their doings……..Therefore behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you and forsake you……and will cast you out of My presence’ (Jer 23:14,  22, 39).  It is the churches and their leadership (2) in Britain that by their failure to preach the word of God and to live it out, have caused Him to turn His face away from us and leave our prayers unanswered and our evangelistic outreaches to wither on the vine.  It is simply no good blaming the Government for our moral problems; they have merely given the people what they want:  seven day shopping, 24 hour drinking, value-free sex, abortion on demand, the lottery and violent T.V.  Before we criticize, imagine how many votes a Party would get that tried to abolish or restrict that lot!  Also, how many professing Christians do the lottery?  How many do their weekly ‘shop’ on Lord’s Day afternoon?  How many sit in front of the Telly regardless of how foul the programme?  And how many churches are busy holding raffles or applying for Lottery grants?  No, if we would see our churches revived, judgement must begin at the house of God (1Peter 4:17).

Let us now consider the first part of our text.  ‘When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people……….’

I suppose that some readers will have a problem with what I’ve been writing.  Perhaps your view of God does not permit you to believe that God visits the world with judgement.   In the minds of many, God is a sort of cross between Mr Chips and the Tooth Fairy- too soft and kindly ever to get angry or to judge sin, and only really there to minister to our needs.  In Jeremiah’s day, many of the religious leaders were of just such a view.  ‘They have lied about the LORD and said, “Not He.  Neither will evil come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine.”’ (Jer 5:12).   And again, ‘They have healed the wound of My people slightly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace’ (Jer 8:11).  The fact is that God does indeed visit this world with calamity.  ‘When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?’ (Amos 3:6).   Perhaps I should address a word to any church ministers or elders who might be reading this.  If you have been accustomed in your church to preach only the love of God, leaving aside His holiness, His justice and His righteous anger against sin, then there is a part of this text that would have an especial relevance to you:  ‘Turn from your wicked ways!’

I am not referring primarily to physical calamities here.  I am writing in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake in Haiti, and in the light of Luke 13:1-5 it would be perverse indeed to suppose that because there has been no disaster on such a scale in Britain, the British are therefore more righteous than the Haitians.  Rather such dreadful events should cause men to fear God and to repent, for “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”   The fact is though that there have been several physical calamities that have fallen upon Britain in recent years:  ‘Mad cow’ and Foot and Mouth diseases afflicting our cattle; droughts in one part of the land and floods in another;  epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, and most recently, a blight on our financial institutions.  I believe that these are remedial judgements by God on our nation, which, if we were wise, would be causing us to turn back to Him.  But, ‘The people do not turn to Him who strikes them;  neither do they seek the LORD of Hosts’ (Isaiah 9:13).

What I have in mind, however, is a spiritual judgement on the land rather than a physical one.  The famine that we are seeing in Britain today is, ‘Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the words of the LORD’ (Amos 8:11).  The Bible has never been more available than it is today, but how few are reading, studying and meditating on God’s word today, even among those who call themselves Christians. The locusts are those of materialism and secularism that are eating away at the moral life of the nation.  The pestilence is that of sin and immorality, with the grossest sins being not only justified but openly promoted, and the inevitable result has been a plague of STDs, divorce and fatherless children.

Our text is, of course, God’s response to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple (2Chron 6:12ff).  Starting at v19, Solomon cites various possible disasters that might overtake Israel and prays that whenever the Israelites come to the temple to pray in a spirit of confession and repentance, God will hear their prayers and forgive their sins.  The Temple is long gone, but in Jesus Christ we have One who is far greater than the Temple (Matt 12:5).  May we not believe that the penitent prayers of God’s people, made in the name of the Lord Jesus, will have no less effect than those offered in the Temple?

The instruction from God is for ‘My people, called by My name’ to do four things.  The Lord is not speaking to politicians or governments, nor even to those church leaders whom one regularly hears on the television.   Who was Prime Minister or Archbishop of Canterbury during the Great Awakening of the 18th Century?  Who knows?  Who cares?  They were irrelevant in that great revival that changed the face of Britain.  God used nobodies- ordinary folk to whom He gave great power; men like Whitefield, the Wesleys and John Newton.  For ‘God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty………..that no flesh should glory in His presence’ (1Cor 1:27, 29).

Nor is God referring to nominal Christians, those who may come to church to meet their friends and listen to their favourite preachers but do not fear the Lord and care nothing for His word.   Obviously there are thousands of such people about today, and God spoke to Ezekiel about them:  ‘So they come to you as people do, they sit before you [as if they were] My people, and they hear your words but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.  Indeed, you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them’  (Ezek 33:31-32).  No, the call is to God’s true people- and who are they?  They are those who have seen themselves as lost sinners, turned from their sins and trusted in Christ for salvation.  They may be never so humble in the eyes of the church- mere pew-sitters, sermon-fodder, just ordinary Christians- if such a term may be used of those who have been born again by the Spirit of God.  The call from God is for you and me to rouse ourselves, consider our ways  and call upon God to have mercy on our poor benighted land.  

The need is urgent.  I spoke above of remedial judgements being sent by God to call His people back to Him.  Yet it is certain that remedial judgements left unheeded lead inexorably to a final disaster.  This is the lesson of Amos 4:6-13 and Rev 9:20-21.  This nation cannot go on thumbing its collective nose at God indefinitely with impunity.   There came a time when God instructed Jeremiah not to pray for Jerusalem any longer (Jer 7:16) because of her sins.  Now is the time for God’s people in Britain to come before the Lord and cry for mercy before it is too late.

‘”Now therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning.”  So rend your hearts and not your garments; return to the LORD your God……….Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly;  gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes;  let the bridegroom go out of his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room.  Let the priests, who minister to the LORD weep between the porch and the altar; let then say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and do not give Your people to reproach…….Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”’ (Joel 2:12-13, 15-17).

In subsequent articles I hope to discuss the four prerequisites for revival that God has given us in 2Chron 7:14:  humiliation, prayer, seeking God’s face and repentance.

Notes

(1) http://www.apassionforlife.org.uk/

(2) I do not mean my criticism of church leaders to be universal.  I have great respect for many conservative evangelical ministers and teachers, especially those in the FIEC of which my church is a member.  My disapprobation is of those leaders who seem to appear on the Media regularly and seem to have far more to say about politics than about Christ and who never refer to the Bible.  I think most British readers will know who I mean.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: