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The Interceders Encourager No. 10

Is It Right To Pray For Revival? (4)

There are those who say we shouldn`t pray for revival in Britain, as the Western world has changed so much in the last hundred years that revival, in the traditional sense, is no longer possible.

These people assert that we now live in a sophisticated, scientific, technological society, which is largely irreligious. People no longer accept the views of their parents and grandparents. They "do their own thing", and demand their rights. Furthermore, Britain is not a homogeneous society, as it was a hundred years ago. It is a multi- coloured, pluralistic society, in which Christianity is thought of as just one religion among many. It is merely an option, for those who like it. Moral standards are now all relative. There are no absolutes. All that matters is doing what you like and what you think is right.

That is why, this argument proceeds, the only revivals seen in Britain in the last hundred years, have been in traditional religious areas on the fringes of Britain, where old standards prevailed, such as Northern Ireland, the edges of East Anglia and East Scotland and The Outer Hebrides; and any revivals or transformations taking place today are in relatively primitive, non Western places.

1) The first thing to say in response to this is that even though most of the communities where revival/transformation is taking place now are in the third world, or among non - western people, there are also some communities in Eastern Europe, some in Canada and some in the USA where the Spirit is moving, so it is not true to say that all such movements are among non - western people groups.

2) We will now look back at the situation in the first century AD. The pagan world that confronted the early Christians was one of cruelty, violence and moral corruption. The gospel appeared as a strange foreign religion from an uncivilised outpost of the Empire, but, in the end it won the day. The terrorist who hung on the cross at the side of Jesus recognized Him as Lord. The Philippian jailor, who would have been a tough, swearing pagan, was won for Christ, and baptized in a single night. Members of Caesar`s household became Christians. Some of the believers in the church at Corinth had been idolaters, fornicators, adulterers, effeminate men who practised homosexuality, some had been thieves, others had been drunkards, slanderers and swindlers. The society at Corinth was as bad, if not worse, as that of any city today, yet the Spirit brought them to repentance, and they were washed and justified.(1Cor. 6:9-11). In 1Tim. we read that the law is for lawless and unruly people, for the ungodly and the wicked, the unholy and the profane, for murderers of their own fathers and their own mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for those who practise homosexuality, for kidnappers, liars and perjurors.(1Tim.1:9-10) The world of the first century was not a very pleasant one. It was violent and immoral, very similar to our own, if not worse. That world was turned upside down by the gospel, as ours could be.

But it will not be turned upside down by today`s Church, as it is, for that Church is too similar to the world. A compromising church will never change anything. The Early Church won not only because it had the power of the Holy Spirit, nor because the gospel was preached by anointed men, but, above all, because its standards were far above the standards of the people round them, and they were prepared to stand out and be different, no matter what the cost. As has been said, "They outthought, outlived and outdied their pagan contemporaries." That is why we need an uncompromising, revived Church to turn our world upside down. If they could do it, so can we.

3) We also need to remember the situation in 18th Century Britain before the awakening. The situation was so bad that some despaired for the future of the Church, and thought it would die out. Wesley described what it was like: "Blatant sabbath breaking," (notice he puts it at the top of his list), "cheating, lying, stealing, fraud, injustice, violence, murder, homosexual practices, barefaced wickedness, laziness, living in luxury, drunkenness, cursing and swearing and the rejection of the Church."

Skevington Wood adds to this; open sin and debauchery among the leaders in society; religion being openly disregarded and ridiculed, (not even 1% of the country`s leaders acted according to religious principle); Christianity was thought of as fictitious; the sanctity of marriage was widely ignored; gambling was an obsession among the whole population; society was like one vast casino, with State lotteries; popular literature was degraded, immoral and despicable; violent crime was rife: groups of young hooligans roamed the streets, causing havoc and terrorising neighbourhoods; prisons were overcrowded; unbelieving, lazy and evil clergy actually incited violence against preachers of the gospel; morality and religion had declined to a degree that had never been known in any Christian country; the torrent of evil threatened to destroy society. Wesley concurred with this when he wrote that the sins of Britain were worse than anywhere else on earth.

Yet the amazing fact is that, in spite of such a record, this nation experienced a profound turn around as the Holy Spirit worked through praying, preaching and discipleship that was dedicated to raising up holy people who were separated from their sins, given to good works, and devoted to evangelism. As He did it then, He is able and willing to do it now.

4) We need to remember how great is our God. He has created this vast universe, of which this earth is but the tiniest speck. His power and intelligence are far greater than we can imagine. His weakness is far greater than our strength, and His foolishness is far wiser than the wisest of men. We are dependent upon Him for everything we have or are, and for every breath that we breathe. Therefore it is incredible affrontery for anyone to think that he or she has outgrown the need for Him. He sits and laughs at the rulers of the earth, and warns them to serve the Lord with fear, and make their peace with His Son, or they will be destroyed.(Ps.2:1-12)

It is also the greatest disbelief on our part if we think that our great God is not capable of dealing with any of the inhabitants of this tiny planet. "Nothing is impossible with God", Jesus assured us. God`s power has not lessened since the first century, still less since the 18th century, nor has the devil`s power increased. The weapons of our warfare are still just as effective as they have ever been. Jesus Christ is still the same yesterday, today and for ever, and in the end, everyone will have to bend the knee to Him and confess Him as Lord. This will be true, irrespective of what they think they have achieved. All the puffed up pop stars and footballers, the presidents and the prime ministers, the business tycoons and the media moguls, all the religious leaders and their followers, they will all bow the knee to Jesus, and acknowledge Him as the Lord of heaven and earth.

The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all those who are proud and lifted up, when everything exalted will be brought low, the arrogance and the pride of man will be humbled, and the Lord, alone, will be exalted on that day.(Is.2:11,12&17) We need to stop fearing man in his pride and arrogance and rebellion against God. He has but a breath in his nostrils, and is of no account.(Is.2:22) Modern man may be more knowledgable and sophisticated, but in the end, he is but the dust of the earth and a spirit that will return to God to be judged, and he needs to know this.

5) The Bible not only says that God doesn`t change, its opinion of man is absolute, and is not determined by the age in which people live. "The heart of man is deceitful"; "Out of the heart proceeds everything evil"; "There is no one who is righteous"; "No one does good, not even one"; "They use their tongues to deceive"; "The way of peace they do not know, there is no fear of God before their eyes." This is why everyone needs to be saved, whatever century they live in, however clever they think they are, and however irreligious they have become.

6) However we need to seriously look at today`s people, and question whether they are really so clever and so sophisticated. One has only to listen to the conversations that take place. Most of them are very mundane and far from being sophisticated. We can notice what is portrayed as normal and typical on the television "soaps". The characters tell lies with impunity, and are unfaithful to each other. Nobody can be trusted any more. The characters are having arguments with each other most of the time. We can send men to the moon, but we cannot control our own tempers. We cannot even control our own children and young people, who are the most disrespectful and the worst behaved that the world has ever seen. We have incredible electronic communications that can circle the globe in seconds, but husbands and wives and parents and children cannot communicate properly with each other. We have the highest divorce rates we have ever had as married couples cannot get along with each other. We have the highest number of couples living in sin we have ever had, because they are afraid to commit themselves to marriage, as they don`t trust their "partners". We have made the most wonderful medical advances, but we never get on top of the problems because we are creating more and more diseases through our selfish and promiscuous lifestyles. Man has the means to eradicate disease and poverty, but spends huge amounts of his money on guns and bombs to defend himself and attack others. Wars still ravage the earth. By our selfishness we are polluting and destroying this beautiful world that God created good. Man has more to be ashamed of than proud of.

In spite of all his vaunted intelligence, discernment and sophistication in this "post Christian"society, 21st century man is still very ordinary, very weak and shallow. Under the surface, people are vulnerable, insecure, uncertain and afraid, especially our young people who are lost in a sea of confusion, with no guidelines. They still die without hope and without joy. Only the Christian has joy at the graveside. They all need the Lord, just as all who were before them did. They are still sinful, selfish, fallen creatures who need to be saved from their sin.

7) If the world is going to become increasingly violent and dangerous, as seems likely, we need to remember that there are very few atheists on the battlefield. In the recent bomb scares in London, many people were heard praying. When faced with death, people know that there is no one else to turn to. In spite of "post Christian " man`s self sufficiency, he knows deep down that there is a God, and he is without excuse before Him.(Rom. 1:20)

8) If any are thinking that the problem is not just the relativism and indifference of today`s society, but it is linked with the weakness and muted witness of today`s Church, it is helpful to notice the experience of a reporter for The Liverpool Daily Post in December 1904. "If I had been asked a month ago whether a revival was possible in Wales", he wrote, "I should have answered no. It seemed to me that the higher criticism had wrecked the ordinary machinery of a revival, and that until theology had been reshaped in accordance with its conclusions, nothing would happen to disturb the prevailing apathy." But the reporter was wrong. God is able to break through all barriers, and break through all preconceived ideas. When the Holy Spirit can flow through clean channels, and work in an unfettered way, He can speak to the heart, and bring conviction of sin. When He works, and "God takes the field," as Duncan Campbell used to say, then all the barriers come down.

9) It is also worth noting that, in spite of the claims to modern man "coming of age" and dispensing with religion, there is an unprecedented interest in the paranormal, in the occult, in witchcraft and in New Age practices, pointing to a dissatisfaction with a merely physical, mental and emotional existence. People still yearn for something more, and will respond to something positively affirmed as the truth. This interest in the paranormal is evidence of the spiritual vacuum that has been created by a weak,uncertain and diffident Church that has not addressed the issues that people are concerned about, or has not done so with certainty and conviction. It also underlines the need for preachers to declare the truth of God,(including the unpalatable parts), clearly and authoritatively with no excuse and no apology.

This is what the preachers did in the 18th century. While others were bemoaning the situation, or moralising about it, they went to the people and declared the word of God as truth. They didn`t try to get people to believe in Him, any more than the Bible writers did. They knew it is only a fool who says in his heart there is no God, and that all human beings created by God know instinctively that He exists and that they are accountable to Him. So they presented this unknown God in all his glory and greatness. They didn`t give soothing messages about people`s problems, or appeal to their better natures. They told them they were hell deserving sinners, and only the blood of Christ, shed for them by the Son of God himself, could save them from eternal punishment. When people have deliberately turned away from God, this is what they need to hear. Nothing less will deal with their problem, and nothing less will turn the tide in this country. This is why the need for such preachers is greater now than at any since the early 18th century.

10) "I can see no Biblical reason," wrote Brian Edwards, "why we may not confidently ask for and expect revival. Our concern whether today`s generation may be beyond the reach, even of revival, assumes that there is a limit to God`s power, that there is a hardness of heart and confusion of mind into which even he cannot break. But no Christian can allow himself to be sucked into this kind of thinking. Certainly the days are hard, and the minds of men are far from God. Certainly life is different today from that in any previous century. But there is one constant for the evangelical Christian, and that constant is God. When we abandon Him, we abandon hope. We dare not doubt God. If the days are harder, then all the more glory will belong to God when He brings revival," In Ephesians we read that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, so we can never say that any situation is too difficult for Him. He can pour out his Spirit and send an awakening, no matter what the obstacles may be. He is still the God of the miraculous.

11) Finally, let us hear from Byron Paulus."Do you ever wonder," he wrote,"if a nationwide revival is really possible? Do you ever feel that it is too late, that the culture in which we live is too far gone for the tide ever to return? Do you think of the spread of false religions, the breadth and depth of depravity, the toleration of Godless and God defying thinking in the media, and wonder what can possibly be done; what real hope is there that anything could truly reshape the moral and spiritual landscape of this country? However, the main problem here is not the situation, but our thinking.

The absence of spiritual awakenings over long periods of time produces negative thinking. People seem unable to know or accept the ways of God. And in this lies a great danger. Not only are we lacking in faith, and therefore blocking the Spirit of God coming down in power, but we are also making revival impossible by our obstinacy. It was the generation that did not know the ways of God that"erred in their hearts" and provoked the anger of God."

The alarming outlook is that the longer this nation goes without experiencing the manifest presence of God in revival, not only will the world drift further and further away from God and his standards, but the further the Church will drift away from the faith that makes revival possible. As Thomas Charles said in the 18th century, Unless we are favoured with frequent revivals, the world gets worse and worse and the Church becomes more and more impotent. Unless we have people with a proper view of God, who know His ways, we will have a Church that is devoid of faith, and therefore fit only for judgment and rejection. The result will be a nation that is on a sure course for disaster and ruin, brought about by the judgment of God; and we are already seeing signs of this.

However, instead of coming to the point of resignation to the evil, we come to the point of desperation, so that we cry out to God to have mercy, then our thinking about our society will cause us to see victory. That desperation is what we need. Time and again, it has been that sense of desperation that has spurred people to pray with real earnestness, so that revival has come.

Ask the Holy Spirit to increase your faith in the miracle working power of God, and to give you that sense of desperation He wants you to have, so that you see the breakthrough that God wants you to experience. And to Him be all the glory for ever .