Revival in the land

December 31, 2009

Evangelicalism or historical [classical] Christianity as known in the fifteenth through nineteenth century at least, the term “revival” was not likely understood as much as it was experienced.  With clearly and incredibly gifted preachers, teachers and evangelists such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon [among many at the time], one could not escape the knowledge of the true gospel.   In light of pioneer-like expository preaching and teaching that men exemplified at such a masterful level, it is no surprise that hundreds if not thousands of souls were drawn to the foot of the cross of Christ by merely expositing the Scriptures and directing the teachings of Christ and the inerrant Word to grip the soul of the troubled sinner.  That is you and me.  These days, it seems that it is difficult to define what a revival is. 

One may or may not be surprised that I would continue this excerpt with Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones.  To many, he is simply someone that an evangelical has heard of or respects as a preacher.  To other professing Reformed Christians as of late, it seems that he is virtually unheard of.  Most of these people would say that they know of John Piper, but Martin Lloyd-Jones is a faint memory of a familiar name.  But, to one who is very familiar with the doctrine of the Puritans and Puritan names in general, Dr. Jones is a jewel.  Most notably, he is seemingly the most recent [20th Century] vessel of Jesus Christ in the kindling or “re-kindling” of a revival in the evangelical church.

“There was another debate occurring during that time but it was private and known only within Martyn Lloyd-Jones himself. Martyn and his brothers had all joined their church back in Llangeitho in 1914 at the encouragement of their minister but Martyn was now beginning to take a hard look at the reality of his spiritual condition. He later wrote, “For many years I thought I was a Christian when in fact I was not. It was only later that I came to see that I had never been a Christian and became one. “3 As he struggled with his salvation a grace truth came into focus. Martyn had not really heard sound preaching of the gospel in his early life. As he said, “What I needed was preaching that would convict me of sin and … bring me to repentance and tell me something about regeneration. But I never heard that. The preaching we had was always based on the assumption that we were all Christians …”4 As the young doctor read for himself he slowly but surely saw the logic and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the waves of the incoming tide, the reality of God’s grace swept over Martyn’s heart until trusting Christ was all he could do. As surely as that reality overwhelmed him personally it overwhelmed him professionally. Soon it became apparent that God was calling Martyn Lloyd-Jones to preach and for that the world would never be the same!”

I would like to note Martyn’s quote, “The preaching we had was always based on the assumption that we were all Christians.”  This was stated probably somewhere around 1920 or 1930.  The theological understanding of this fact in his modern day preaching sparked a conviction within his soul.  The preaching he had been sitting under was apparently an inoffensive gospel and clearly liberal.  Because of this conviction instilled by the Holy Spirit and realization of the condition of  the church in general at the time that was subjugated to such liberal theology, he by God’s Grace molded and shaped it by expositing the pure Word that eventually provoked a new revival in England. 

There are many other things that Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones has contributed to the church that books have been written about.  The truth is that it is only the efficacy and empowerment of the Holy Spirit alone that enabled Dr. Jones and any other believer to speak or preach the truth of God’s Word.  If theology was liberal then, it is more liberal now.  If the church were in need of a revival then, we are more in need of a revival now.  So, what is the definition of a revival?  I would define it as an urgently desperate effort and realization of one or more pastors or teachers of God’s word to simply restore the “pure Gospel” where it had been lost and perverted into man-pleasing doctrines [as the church has combated since the first century].  It is a particular effort to preach, in utter despair, about the dreadfully lost and radically depraved sinful condition of all man-kind that we are in need of regeneration and to be saved.  I do not believe that specific Scriptures are required for this, but the entirety of the Scriptures or any one Scripture can suffice to be exposited and expounded upon to teach sinners of their lost condition apart from the substitionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross in their stead.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones had an incredible grasp of this truth and consistently and thoroughly presented the radical nature of the true Gospel and what it requires of man.

Since only the Holy Spirit can be given credit to the provocation and initiation of an eternally blessed revival, only a true and humble student of the word of God will be enabled to speak the words that will cause sinners to grip the pews in conviction.  For example, Martyn Lloyd-Jones was known to read the entire bible at least once a year and he would take many months or even years to expound a single chapter of the bible verse by verse in his sermons.  He was a student of the Word.  This means that He was a student of Jesus Christ.  This is what the church is lacking today.  We are no longer interested in church history or how we are able to hold the bibles we have.  We are no longer interested in theology and the deep things of God.  We have indeed developed itchy ears and man-made doctrines as we have all turned aside from the truth and into myths (2 Tim.4:3-4).  This is what already naturally happens in each depraved sinner.  That is why it takes a special work and power of the Holy Spirit to cause a revival to sweep the land, convert souls and make disciples.   

Apart from what we deduce from the Holy Scriptures and interpret using correct hermeneutics in light of sound doctrine empowered by the Holy Spirit, we cannot have a revival.  In other words, a revival cannot and will not happen using a “half- gospel.”  To define half-gospel in my terms, I believe it is just enough gospel truth preached to be calculably inoffensive and to seemingly purposefully “quench the Spirit” in terms of not starting a fire when one needs to be started.  In other words, it allows unconverted sinners to remain comfortable in the pew and indeed active in the church while they have no idea of the fire that awaits them if they should die in their sins.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones always started fires with his charismatic “Holy Spirit fire” doctrine and his understanding of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”  He was bold about this doctrine contributing to and in fact being a part of regeneration, the bringing to life of a soul or being born-again.  However, he balanced this doctrine by not exalting the gifts above Christ and His Sovereign distribution of them.

A tongue that is able to speak of the sweet promises of the Savior Himself as well as divulge and despise error and sin where need be is one who may be used in a revival.  One who is an expert on the doctrine of sin may be used in a revival.  One who holds the Scriptures to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God may be used in a revival.  That is, one who is able to grasp and understand the eternal significance of the soul and the practicality of the gospel through grace as the only true source of strength, sanctification, regeneration and overcoming sin and temptation, may be used in a revival.  Lastly, one who acknowledges the reality of Satan, human depravity, spiritual warfare and daily need for repentance through the spirit’s work in communing with God may be used in a revival.

According to Scriptures [Acts 2 in particular], God uses revivals to not only convert souls, but to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  In other words, false converts are weeded out.  In a true revival, a false convert who attends a local congregation will either come to true repentance and will realize that he was never a follower of Christ, or he will leave because of the impact of such truth and the true power of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel.  Peter preaches to the masses, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’  Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’  Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’” Acts 2:36-38

Many do not think the same gospel message that saved souls in the apostolic age is applicable today.  Many pastors today would not exclaim the above Scripture with the same urgency that repentance is just as much required today that was then.  Because of our sin and rebellion, we have all equally crucified the Son of God.  Since time does not forgive sin but only the blood of Jesus Christ, the same repentance is required of me that is required of the Philippian jailer.  Just as Paul states regarding the Holy Spirit in the obtainment of spiritual gifts, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.  So it is the same with the salvation of the soul.  It is the same mediator that passes over sins.  It is the same blood that was shed two-thousand years ago that justifies sinners today.  So on and so forth.

             Preacher, take the word and, as Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones did, diagnose the condition within each human soul.  “What purpose then does the law serve?  It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.  Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.” Galatians 3:19-20

Gaze into the congregation with the urgency that Peter had to convert souls.  It is not strictly an evangelistic effort, but an effort to revive the church!  It is to awaken the congregation to righteousness!  May we not be lulled to sleep and deceived by Satan into thinking that minimal effort is enough for the kingdom.  May we use the true power of the Holy Spirit, and let it change our lives to provoke practical communion and worship with Jesus Christ.  May we not denounce the utter importance of theology and what we believe about God, according to the Scriptures.  Yelling from the pulpit is not enough because what is said may not be true, or true enough.  We need men and preachers that do not care that the congregation is offended at gospel truth.  That is the very purpose of preaching the gospel!  Hearts must be broken over sin to be converted.  There is no other way to be saved.  As one who understands that it is far easier to write about the need of a revival than to actually start one, it doesn’t make it any less true to write about the decline of doctrine, theology and serious undermining of the power of the Holy Spirit in contemporary preaching.  It is gospel truth that actually converts souls.  May we raise up another Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  May we long for a revival.  Pray for that.

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“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  Any many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.  By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”

2 Peter 2:1-5 

            In the Christmas season, it is essential to meditate on the purity of the Word of God.  You have read in John 1, “The Word became flesh,” and this infinite miracle has been the pivotal point in which the mysteries of the Christ and the Gospel are understood to see His infinite glory and humility most clearly.  However, there are those who pervert and blaspheme the word of God and use the perfect pivotal point of the incarnation to create their own religion and turn aside to self-glorifying fables.  Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  He is one-hundred percent God.  That means that He fully contains and infinitely maintains all the attributes and characteristics of God Almighty perfectly as defined in the Scriptures.  He is also one-hundred percent man, containing all the attributes and characteristics perfectly that defines a man as a human being.  Yet, Jesus Christ never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  He is considered the Great High Priest because he was tempted in all ways as a human being, yet never sinned.  That, in itself, is a miracle that declares Him to be the Almighty and Great ‘I AM.’  His application of perfect sinlessness [i.e., never transgressed the law] distinctly separates Him from every other human and creature in the history of mankind.  Everything else, including every other human being that ever existed, plants, animals, cells and all the ground of the earth is cursed and dying due to the eternally devastating effects of original sin.  Therefore, any futile proclamation from the mouth of a sinner regarding the Gospel, God and Jesus Christ must have the Holy Spirit in charge in order to be declared and verified as truth according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 12:3).

            If we acknowledge these truths of the Christ, then we only begin to understand, with the assistance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the infinite measure of what the incarnation of God actually is or means.  The declaration of the Son of God coming to earth by conception of the Holy Spirit through a virgin shocks the human mind due to the obvious impossibility if it were a normal birth.  Even still, the Son of God was once a fetus, newborn and a child.  He developed in life exactly the same as a normal human being would.  The difference is that Jesus was and is the eternal God now manifested as a human being.  He is the God-Man.  This decree declares His status as infinitely humble and superbly majestic above all creation. 

“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying,’Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.’”

Matthew 1:20-21

            The beauty of the incarnation to believers is that, in its “foolishness” and humility, it publicly and eternally shames the wisdom of the world.  Sinners don’t want to be humble and naturally hate humility.  The religions that acknowledge Jesus Christ as a good teacher, prophet or leader, but do not acknowledge and revere Him as the Almighty sinless God who has decreed to succumb Himself to human flesh, utterly blasphemes His very name and purpose, regardless of the supposed intent or “respect” of Him.

“Pilate Therefore said to him, ‘Are you a king then?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king.  For this cause I was born, and that for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.’” John 18:37  It seems that Pilate has the same mindset of many cult heresies, i.e. Mormonism, Islam and Jehovah’s Witnesses, regarding who Jesus Christ was and is.  He asked, “Are you a king then?”  Pilate did not ask him this question as a reverent and contrite sinner, but as a completely arrogant, power-driven, self-righteous and ignorant man.  He presented himself to Jesus as if he had power over Him and did not see Him as God [John 19:10].  Pilate’s purpose to us is not to serve as an extreme example of one who personally ordered the murder [crucifixion] of the Son of God, but merely as an example regarding the natural futile and sinful thinking of someone who is directly under the wrath of God Almighty.  Pontius Pilate, like Judas Iscariot, merely served the purposed of, “crucifying the Son of God,” to fulfill the Scriptures as God had intended before the foundation of the world.  The mindset that Pilate and Judas were succumbed to have not changed since the fall.  In fact, all of sinful man thinks exactly like they do, due to depravity, apart from the Grace and Mercy of Christ.

            Many cults and heresies must not and cannot use the same Scriptures that God has Sovereignly ordained because the God-breathed Scriptures directly involve the foretelling, coming, humiliation, death, resurrection, ascension, return, worship and glorification of Jesus Christ alone.  To devise another “book” or “create another prophet” is to blaspheme God and divert the only way sinners can be truly cut to their heart of the deadly wickedness that dwells within them.  It is to attempt to snatch away the glory of God in Christ and clearly perverts the miracle of regeneration that must take place within a soul, wrought by the Holy Spirit of God to break a sinner’s heart of sin.  It is to make the cross of Christ foolishness and of no value to anyone.  The easiest way to know if a sinner is in error is to find if he is glorifying himself or working hard in a works-based religion, diverting attention away from Christ.

            Not many false prophets will dare mention anything “apart” from Jesus Christ.  Even if Islam makes him merely a prophet and Jehovah’s witnesses make him “a god,” they will still mention the name of Jesus.  Even atheists specifically attack the deity of Jesus Christ and usually not specifically Islam or Buddhism.  They claim they don’t believe in “any god or deity”, but they necessarily acknowledge biblical Christianity when they specifically quote from the Scriptures to attempt to refute it. In essence, they “borrow” a biblical worldview to say that it does not exist.  It is self-defeating logic and irrational circular reasoning.  It is like borrowing the engine of a car to try and prove that cars don’t exist.  It is the same with false doctrine, cults and heresy.  They all borrow the “idea” of a “God” or “Savior” from the Scriptures and then pervert and denounce anything sound in doctrine, according to the Scriptures.  It may have just enough “truth” in it to keep people listening and believing something that makes them feel important and part of something extravagant aside from being born-again to a new life in Christ.  The Apostle says that false teachers are as follows:

“For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.  For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, they latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.  But it has happened to them according to the true proverb; ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’”

2 Peter 2:18-22

            Generally, whenever a baby is born, those gathered around it are awestruck at the wonder of how it happens [especially the mother].  It is a miracle of God that any child is born.  Without the providential Sovereignty of God, no one would ever be born.    There is something about viewing the newness of life that causes others to respond favorably to the presented gentleness and grace of a newborn child.  Visualize the same scenario, but with a completely sinless newborn baby.  It is an altogether infinitely greater type of miracle in magnitude and majesty when God wills Himself to be born, as a man, from a woman who has never been with a man. 

            The wonder and splendor of Jesus Christ is in light of His Glory and wonderful Grace that He freely lavishes upon undeserving sinners.  The incarnation is merely one point among an infinite number of points that makes Jesus Christ especially beautiful and glorious.  It is because He is the Son of God that chose to make Himself known, as the God-Man, to save a remnant out of the fallen and sinful human race.  He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17).  Even as a baby, He is the visible image of the invisible God, perfectly representing the Almighty.  The unfathomable portrayal of seemingly perceived weakness and vulnerability in the incarnation truly illuminates His infinite wisdom, humility and mighty power over all creation.  Since we are eternally unable and unwilling to save ourselves from sin that saturates our souls to the deepest part of our thoughts and intentions, God in His goodness and decree, came as Jesus Christ the sinless God-Man, to die a bloody death on the Cross that we should deservedly die to bring us back to God.  There is nothing left for man to do.  There is nothing left that man can do.  There is nothing left that man should want to do.  We are sinners that are in desperate need for a Savior.  Repent and believe.  Receive Him by faith and grace alone that you may have new life.  We cannot get this wrong. 

 What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

 Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.