THE SPRINGTIME AND THE HARVEST
Grevillea macleayana (Sth Coast headland, Ulladulla, NSW)
What, then, is a revival of religion? Briefly, it means a season of special religious interest and activity. This sounds pretty boring!
I considered the word “revival” and explored its meaning a little more deeply. A further explanation provided me with the description:
“a restoration to bodily or mental vigour, or to life and consciousness.”
That I decided, was what we needed in Christendom.
We read of a revival in the study of the fine arts, a revival in science and literature, a revival in trade or commerce.
How deep is the interest of the merchant in the revival of his trade! How he watches the rise in the markets, observes the multiplication of orders and rejoices in the decrease and cessation of failures!
Observe the gardener, how he watches the revival of each season! The tender, opening leaves of the trees, the silvery green of the grass and the pink/brown of the rose buds, swelling in anticipation of early bloom, or the blossoms of the fruit tree promising a prolific summer yield.
Consider the love of a mother bending over her sick child; watching eagerly for the first sign of renewed appetite, the soft white cheeks colouring to a deeper pink, the eyes to brighten, and the ever-increasing demands upon her person, seem now, a burden of delight.
However, of far greater worth and significance, of importance and interest, is the awareness, of such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as results in the quickening of believers, the reclaiming of backsliders and the conversion of those who are lost in a murky bog of unbelief.
The first and most beneficial effect of true revival is upon the hearts and lives of God’s own people. Faith and dark despondency give way to bright hope. Christians are brought to a more vivid awareness of Divine truth. Souls are stirred to an ever-increasing love for God and to an awareness of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The scales then tip, to reveal in startling clarity, the foulness of our sin and guilt before a Holy God. This then draws us into fervent prayer, and proceeds to generate grief and concern for those in the world who are perishing for want of knowledge.
Those who were dead, formal and heartless in their worship, now have their hearts filled to overflowing with a love for God and are thus enabled to love their fellow-men.
Those who were indifferent to the salvation of the lost and wondered how others could reach out to the unlovely of this world are now empowered to pray earnestly, and work zealously, to bring sinners to Jesus Christ.
Those who before, were empty, cheerless and gloomy, are now filled with a holy joy and peace for “the joy of the Lord is their strength.” (Nehemiah 8: 10)
Divisions are healed and the discords of jealousy and strife are now without.
The Lord’s house is now filled with outbursts of holy singing, heart’s breathings of real devotion, rapt attention to the reading of the word, and a thorough diet of the solid meat of the work expounded by preachers, energised by the Spirit of our God.
Tears flow down weary, work worn and previously disillusioned faces, changed and refreshed by sacrifices of high praise to Jehovah God. The precious words, penetrated the starving depths of the soul, and feeding the Spirit within. Then is laughter in our mouth and our tongue filled with melody. God has turned has woken us from slumber to the long awaited work of grace in the midst of his people.
Such an arousing and intensifying, of the spiritual life of the visible Church, cannot fail to impress the masses of the lost outside the body of Christ.
The sweet breathing of the Holy Spirit bends the most stubborn wills like blades of grass in the wind. Sinners are shaken from their disinterest and the membership of the One true Church of the Living God increases.
The opposition by wicked, worldly, mockers seems lost in the call from heavenly places to join the army of God.
Angels look down with pleasure and Christians are filled with a sense of peace and joy in Jesus Christ.
This indeed is simultaneously the springtime and the harvest of the Church. A jubilee of holiness and the feast of fat things spread before the altar.
The gracious work can begin with the efforts of a single man or woman. History provides for us ample illustrations.
We may do well to ponder upon the activities of Nehemiah, Paul and Peter, Luther, Knox, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards and many others.
One live coal can kindle a great flame.
(John 4: 27-42) Jesus tells about a spiritual harvest in the story of the sinner of Samaria. The woman’s mind was in darkness and her life was unholy, she was not seeking a Saviour but Jesus revealed himself to her. She believed, and instantly she became a fountain of spiritual life to others. In that revival of only two days many were saved. She went forth in high excitement to gossip the Good News to everyone. “He told me everything I ever did”and many were saved.
(John 4: 13) Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The work of the Holy Spirit in a group of people, or in a town, or even a city, has small beginnings. At first, ankle deep, then rising to the knees, then to the loins, and finally waters to swim in, to rejoice in, a river flowing so strongly within our soul that it cannot be denied.
Should not such seasons of mellow fruitfulness be the object of intense desire, fervent prayer and earnest effort on the part of God’s people?
It may be indeed be said that the Church should always be awake and thoroughly in earnest. We would all readily admit the “should be” but are we?
Let’s be a lighthouse for Jesus
Hidden beneath the ordinary tasks of everyday living for both Christian and pagan alike a battle is being waged.
We need to see Christ Jesus placed where he belongs at the centre and heart of our cities, of our country towns, and tiny dwellings in the outback, forgotten, yet so needy of God’s love; and the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit becomes all that the name means for it to be.
I can remember a time when I stood before my two sons (both at that time non-Christians) and read from (2 Thessalonians 3: 6 to 11) I said to both of them, amid jeers and derision:
“This is God’s work ethic,” and I read to them from my “Living Bible”, my voice rising above the clamour, which soon abated under the Spirit breathed word.
The word of God works and within two weeks they were both in work after a year doing nothing, except make a nuisance of themselves.
(2 Thessalonians: 6-10) encourages us to make the most of our talents and time, doing all we can to provide for ourselves and our dependants.
I used to say to my sons “play hard and work hard”. Simple philosophies that I am sure countless parents have echoed down through the generations.
Today, things have changed markedly. A capitalist phenomenon has arrived. A phenomenon where a whole generation will grow up never having known what it is to have a job interview, let alone work.
I have heard so many Christians assure me that God will provide a job for them and that he will not let any of his people beg. However, thousands of Christians join with others in receiving welfare.
(1 Thessalonians 3: 11 & 12) tells us that the lack of activity, indulged in by the Thessalonians as they waited for Christ’s return, led them only into sin. They also became a burden to the church which supported them. They wasted time that could have been spent in helping others instead of being busybodies.
Satan is making full capital out of the economic strategies that dictate that people must be kept out of work to keep the inflation rate down.
Whilst the Thessalonican Christian involved himself in proving his spirituality by being out of work; young people struggle with the fact that they may never work, and their children may never see their parents work.
The evil one has his fingers in this ugly situation. Time spent in conversation with the youth of our city of Canberra disclosed very quickly, it was apparent there was an ever-increasing use of alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines and heroin, dulling thinking capacities into brain numbing unreality.
This is a sickness that is universal. It is becoming increasingly prevalent in every city and in the outer city reaches. As hopelessness sets in the need to offer alternatives which provide substantial answers is crucial. Those alternatives must revolve around Jesus Christ as the centre and hope of our lives and theirs, creatively and lovingly addressing the monumental needs of the great lost without robbing people of their personal responsibility to themselves and society.
There must be many people who love the Lord Jesus Christ without and within the Church environment, who have come out of a background of the hopelessness of drug abuse.
Surely there are many people with experience, skills and special gifts to help bring people out of the clutches of the evil one.
Sometimes the notion of dying for Jesus is an easier burden to bear than to involve oneself in the lives and difficulties of others.
The spirit of worldliness always ever prevailing, the spirit of New Age weaving itself cunningly into the fabric of our society; the drug scene eating into the lives of young people – who will say that we have no need for true revival.
We do not need to ask for power for ourselves, as one prominent preacher did. We need to be empowered by the Spirit of our God to cope with the complexity of the difficulties that surround us and to enable us to reach out to those around us with the love and mercy of Jesus.
(Matthew 5: 14) “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
If we live for Jesus Christ we will glow brighter than the lights of the city on the hill.
We can hide our light by being silent when we should speak, by going along with the crowd out of fear of opposition or ridicule; by denying the influence and prodding of his Holy Spirit to tell others about Jesus, and ignoring the needs of our fellow man.
The Christian needs to stand as a lighthouse of joyous righteousness and send forth an all pervading glow of his Holy Spirit within us.
What God is looking for in us are a people who will offer their bodies as a living sacrifice. The Charismatic movement has largely provided for our comforts – healing for our bodies, healing for our emotions and always seeking the need for spiritual experience. We constantly seek after God to provide for our comforts and forget to seek provision to enable us to rise up and be Christians who are effective for Christ. We need to be single-minded and active in our endeavour to please Him. We must ask Him to supply His strength that we might reach out to the world around us and ensure we are equipped with a good understanding of the Word. Then we can tell the world about Jesus Christ and the life-changing, mind-renewing precepts in the Bible.
The solid meat of the word is not given from the pulpits. How can it be taken to the marketplace where the madding throng starves for want of knowledge. This must surely make God angry. At present I believe, God is on simmering point. However, before he reaches boiling point and demonstrates His anger and indignation towards us we need to attend to our unrighteousness, our ignorance of His Word, our apathy and lack of love.
We need to fall to our knees in true heartfelt penitence for all this and cry out to God for this nation of ours.
May it be the time will come when God’s men and women will all be on fire with earnestness and the zeal of the Lord. A time when every heart will stand up for Jesus and every arm will be strong in the conflict against the enemy and prayer meetings are truly times of refreshing born out of hearts broken and contrite before Him. Then we will be so overflowing with the Spirit of the Living God that we will rise above our greed and pour out our treasures in a multiplicity of giving in gratitude and love for Him who gave all He had so dear and precious to His Father heart – His only begotten Son.
The ideal Church will ever be in earnest endeavour, active, hopeful, full of spiritual life and joy in Jesus. In actual fact, often the Church is weak in faith, poor in effort and low in experience with a poor understanding of the Word of God.
Our earnest cries should ascend to the heavenlies:
(Psalm 85: 6) “ Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”
The psalmist was asking God to revive his people, bringing them back to spiritual life. If we have already spiritual life in our church would it not be better to have more?
There are Christians who are barely living and others who long to have “life more abundantly.”
How many professing Christians are fast asleep?
How many of those who attend church religiously each week add to the real power of the Church?
Conversely, it must not be forgotten that spiritual life, whether in the individual or in a community, is seldom, if ever, uniform. There are seasons of deviating from pursuing our faith with fervour. God recognised this truth in the words:
“My people, said the Lord, are bent to backsliding from me” (Hosea 11: 2)
The pressures of modern society, the keen competition in business, the craving for amusements and sports of every kind, the excitement of politics and the high strain at which we live impose a power and influence which may distract even the most serious and diligent of Christians, and divert minds from close contact with Jesus in their prayer closets.
Where indeed is the Christian who does not grieve within his heart, his own prevalence, to lean to conformity with the world in some way, and his lukewarmness to sharing the gospel message?
Where is the Christian who does not find within himself a decline from the spirit and power of godliness?
We become weary in our often fragile attempts to extend ourselves to others, an indifference, apathy and deadness invading it seems, our very soul.
How then is the decline to this state to be reversed. The only remedy for a season of spiritual decline is a season of spiritual revival.
Gods promise is:
“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” – when?
Must we await the end of the Great Tribulation for this to occur when God will draw men to Himself by the preaching of the 144,000 Jews, especially selected for this task in their virginal purity, and sure biblical knowledge.
May God spare us that this would not be and that He would smile upon this spiritually bankrupt nation of ours and turn many lost souls to Jesus.
Suppose we were as dead as the bones Ezekiel saw in his vision, and as separated, one from the other, as they were. Yet, in response to earnest, persevering prayer for revival Almighty God will bring every bone to his bone, clothe and bind them with flesh and sinew, and cover them with skin. He will breathe upon the still lifeless forms and they shall live; they shall live and rise up, to be a united and strong army, to do valiantly for Jesus Christ.
This would indeed be a day to rejoice – a day of life, of joy and power.
May it be that God will send such a season to the streets of our cities to the parks and offices and to our schools and shopping centres.
May it be that all people will be given an opportunity to hear the Word of the Lord and that showers of blessing will descend to here and to there: That those of us who love Jesus would not keep silent and cry out to God until His appointed time for Jesus to appear in the atmospheric heavens with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of Almighty God to catch up the Bride of Christ to Himself. (1 Thessalonians 1:4)
That this time will not be too far distant – Amen, Come,Lord Jesus.
There has been so much defective if not erroneous teaching, so much fanatical excitement, and so much hollow profession connected with some so-called “moves of the Spirit” that it is not surprising, many earnest, and sober-minded Christians have acquired a distaste for the very word “revival”.
Let us beware of rejecting the genuine gold because of its worthless counterfeit. It is only the good and the precious, that is counterfeited. Were there no true Christians, there would be no false ones and were there no real works of God’s grace there would be no imitations.
How careful also we should be lest we disregard a genuine work of grace. I weep for those I believed to be my brothers and sisters in Christ who together with me laboured in prayer for revival to come only to know the extra-biblical phenomena we have so recently witnessed.
Records reveal that over the last few centuries the same extra-biblical phenomena has been observed where there has been a mix of voodoo, witchcraft and hypnosis. The “jerks” then created divisions just as it has done today. There was clear evidence a remnant of God’s people stood apart for the sake of the Gospel. I believe that what we have witnessed is “the falling away from the truth of the Word”. The world wide apostasy we should have been aware would occur before the Rapture of the Church
During past seasons of springtime and harvest there have been recorded many unpleasant happenings. There was the instance when Whitefield was preaching in Boston, the place was so packed that the gallery was thought to be collapsing. There was blind panic in which several persons were trampled to death. However, it would be unreasonable to blame the revival for this incident.
Nor should we be aghast at the sobbing of those who see the extent of their sin in startling clarity and prostrate themselves before a mighty and Holy God. Nor should we be accepting of those set free in the name of Jesus Christ from demonic bondage; or an exhibition of grief, even terror of those who relive an incident of child abuse as the sweet, gentle probing of the Holy Spirit reveals and heals them.
The tragedy today is that on the one hand see the extravagances of extra-biblical experience in the Pentecostal churches and it is in these churches that people have a comfortable acceptance to command demons to leave in Jesus name. Then on the other we see that for the most part Anglican and Baptist churches are so dry and dusty they live in denial of what demons can do to a person. Basically, they just do not want to disturb their boring religious endeavours. Churchgoers who attend these places would be horrified if someone stopped to pray for them and even more horrified if someone were delivered of a demon. It would not even occur to these people that persistent strange behaviour just might be the work of demons.
The greatest possible evil is deadly insensibility, better to have tears and excitement, than the sterile wastes of worldliness should not be transformed into the fruitful gardens of the Lord.
We do not despise the great river because of the sticks and straws that may float upon its surface.
However in today’s society hypnosis is advertised in Health Centres and in the yellow pages it is accepted as being satisfactory.
I am always amazed to discover how ignorant so-called Christians are of New Age practices. They simply are not aware that Yoga, hypnosis, numerology and even astrology leave a person open to demonisation. New Age teachings abound in an infinite variety of ways and its invasion into the church has to be watched by Christians who are on the alert against the wiles of the devil. It is really hard to comprehend that Pastors who have warned against involving oneself in New Age experiences because of the possibility of opening oneself up to demons have now embraced extra-biblical teachings they say are a mix of witchcraft and Christianity.
(Matthew 10: 16) Jesus says: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. There be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
There were many seasons of mellow fruitfulness under the old dispensation. We see a glimpse of such in (Exodus 34: 29.) In the old covenant between God and man when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. People could clearly see God’s presence in him because of the time he had spent with his Lord – forty days and forty nights. At first they were frightened when they felt the nearness of God and His mighty power which flowed out to the people like a river in an extra-ordinary manner. It was then man began to call upon the name of the Lord.
We may not see the great revivals of yesteryear but that should not keep the saints from earnest prayer for the lost to be saved. It is in response to heartfelt prayer that we will see our loved ones, friends and acquaintances saved.
Moses called the people together and gave them the commandments of the Lord and more particularly about the building of the tabernacle. So exuberant were they in their devotion everyone offered their gold, silver, precious jewels and fine linen and all of their possessions. So much did they contribute out of their love for God Moses had to send out a proclamation directing them to desist from bringing any more. They just longed to give because they were filled with an overflow of love and the joy of the Lord.
We have evidence of a powerful awakening in (Joshua 24: 19 – 21) all Israel were gathered at Shecham and Joshua, now old and about to die, gives them these words of farewell:
“You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God, He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, He will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after He has been good to you. But the people said to Josuha, ‘No! We will serve the Lord.’”
That day, they renewed their covenant with God. Nor were the results of this awakening short-lived, for in (Joshua 24: 31) it says Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived Him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.
The covenant that was made that day at Shechem when Joshua drew up the decrees and laws which He then recorded in the Book of the Law of God was such that the people would worship and obey the Lord, and only the Lord. The prime purpose being the nation would become a holy nation which would reach the rest of the known world.
At the conquest of Canaan God provided the means to achieve His purposes, but sadly the people lost sight of their God and became preoccupied with themselves.
Today too many have become absorbed pursing the emptiness and futility of experience and forget the motivations of our heart should be to glorify God and obey His precepts.
Joshua led his people faithfully through many disasters and they responded by faithful obedience for they answered in verse 16:
“Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!”
Then we read of a revival in the days of Elijah, when the prophet triumphed gloriously and the people, convinced and repentant, fell upon their faces crying:
(1 Kings 18: 39) “The Lord, He is the God! The Lord, He is the God!”
God’s fire flashed from heaven for Elijah in response to his prayers. At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed:
“O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Oh, Lord answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. (1 Kings 18: 36-38)
We may not experience so dramatic a proof of the power of God in our lives but certainly He will provide us with His strength and anoint us to accomplish all He commands us to do – we have only to ask.
We can learn much from Elijah’s life. Like most prophets he was sent to confront, not to comfort, and he brought God’s words to a king who chose to ignore what he had to say and simply because of who he was. However, he chose to work alone for God and paid for his decision with isolation and loneliness.
He teaches us by his living that when we think we are defeated we can have the victory in Jesus.
The difference between a true prophet such as Elijah is that he worked to further the purposes of God, in serving both him and his people. He owned very little if anything at all and spoke only true messages. He spoke only what God told him to say no matter how unpopular it made him.
False prophets abounded then providing people with words they wanted to hear which appealed to their sinful self-seeking nature.
Today, as with Elijah God may speak to us through the gentle and obvious, rather than the spectacular.
The miracle in Elijah’s life was his personal relationship with God where he heard Him speak in whispers.
(Jonah 3: 1) Jonah went to Nineveh, one of the most powerful cities in the then known world with a message of doom and gloom. He proclaimed: (V 4)
“Forty more days and Ninevah will be overturned.”
The voice of the stranger, preaching in the streets carried conviction and penitence into the hearts of the people of Ninevah. From the king to the beggar they turned from their evil ways and repented and God withheld his displeasure from them.
It was difficult for Jonah to see that God could love such a wicked pagan nation and so he was angry. Jonah was narrow in his view of God’s eternal purposes. Temporarily forgotten were the reasons why God had used him and that was that Jonah and his nation were to share the love of God with their Gentile neighbours.
The Lord God of Israel was not just Jonah’s God. He was God of the whole world.
We do not deserve to be forgiven by our Heavenly Father any more than our pagan neighbours. God’s forgiveness reaches out to all who would repent and believe.
The careful preparations for the Passover was a celebration as a reminder of how God delivered His people (Exodus 12: 23) The care taken in the preparations for this event demonstrates that his was not compulsive or temporary but dwelt deep within the hearts and minds of the people and came from the heart of God.
Hezekiah was a king who was dedicated to God and to the spiritual progress of the nation. He wrote many letters which were carried throughout the lands of Judah and Israel, urging everyone to seek God and calling them to submit their bodies, minds, wills and emotions to their Jehovah God. The couriers of the king travelled far and wide distributing the word of the Lord and the people scorned and ridiculed them.
Soon it came about that “a very great congregation” assembled at Jerusalem to observe the Passover, and a series of “special services” were held for two successive weeks amidst “great gladness” because of answered prayer.
One of the most remarkable revivals recorded in the Old Testament is that of which we read in the eighth chapter of Nehemiah.
For eight days all the people were gathered in the street. This was to organise their national life and attend to genealogical matters.
Ezra and his helpers read the Law of God for seven days, every day from early morning to midday – distinctly, so that the people would understand. This time was also occupied with free conversation, prayer, praise and confession of sins.
“There was very great gladness, also deep conviction, for all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” with lifting up their hands; and they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”
(11 Kings 22) Josiah was only eight years old when he became king. When he was twenty six he began a reformation which was based on God’s laws. Hilkiah the high priest had found the Book of the Law and when Josiah read the laws for himself he grieved mightily for he realised that God’s anger burned against his people for their disobedience. Josiah set about doing something about the sins of Judah and Jerusalem.
He ordered the removal of all the articles made for the worship of Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts and commanded they be burned. He did away with the pagan priests and tore down the living quarters of the male temple prostitutes which were in the temple of the Lord. He ordered shrines to be destroyed and removed horses the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. He desecrated Topheth so that no one could use it to sacrifice their sons or daughters to Molech.
When Josiah realised the mess of Judah’s religious life he did something about it.
When we know someone is really wrong it is just plain weak to sit on the fence in the hope things may change.
Josiah’s life teaches us that we must do something about it. We must rise up and be active Christians who will not sacrifice our heart-felt convictions and biblical proofs out of fear of being dis-fellowshipped, gossiped about and mocked. To do so is to dishonour God and His Word. And from what I have seen in churches gossip is always on the main menu. In fact a certain from Christian Outreach Centre told me that I would be shocked if I were to attend one of their Pastor’s meetings because “all they do is gossip about their flock” and yet he had disparaged a smart attractive, intelligent woman in the congregation from the pulpit for wearing too much make-up and jewellery and followed this up with his opinion that if she knew what her husband had been up to she would be rather different. On another occasion he declared he really disliked English people. If these were isolated cases it would not be so bad but Grace Christian Fellowship in Canberra encouraged sinners to tell the congregation about their adultery or some other sin which provided gratuitous condemnation and entertainment for some other church attendees. This was totally unnecessary and abhorrent.
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German transformed Germany spiritually.
Today, it is the reading of the Bible and the exposition of its truths by men and women on fire for God that will convict us of our sin and transform our nation for Jesus.
In the new covenant between God and man we discover powerful revivals. Today as we walk in the dispensation of grace by the outworking of God’s Holy Spirit we see that Christianity was birthed in revival.
(Matthew 11: 12) Demonstrates that there was tremendous opposition levelled at the followers’ of Jesus.
This passage speaks to us of our desperate need to seek God to provide us with a faith that does not waver in the face of opposition, and courage to diligently walk along the way with endurance.
What awakenings under the preaching of John and Jesus, of James and his brother John, of Peter and Paul, of Silas and Barnabas!
In the book of Acts, empowered by the Holy Spirit, a small band of men courageously carried the message of the gospel and demonstrated the love of God in the market place, the synagogues, homes, streets and hilltops. They travelled along dusty desert roads and wherever they went lives were changed by the Living Word.
The events of history from then on were injected with a new and urgent vibrancy – the life and work of the Holy Spirit of God.
How wonderful must have been the baptism of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, when three thousand were converted under the preaching of one sermon! Those days, most assuredly, were the days of heaven upon this earth. Converts were added daily to the church. They came, sometimes by a few and sometimes by their thousands and a “great grace was upon them all.” They believed that the purpose in the crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah, His burial and bodily resurrection that they too would live with Him forever.
What communion with God they had in those days! What precious and glorious joy they had in the Holy Spirit, and what tender sympathy with one another this engendered. The rich gave of their abundance to the poor and the poor gave all that they had to be shared. The believers abounded in prayers and good works. The Church was on fire with earnestness and Christians were Christians indeed. They believed what they professed and they knew what they spoke; they testified what they had seen; and filled with a life that was irrepressible they went forward with an energy that even the iron fist of Rome could not conquer.
In those times there were no honorary members in the Church. Every disciple of the Lord felt that the Lord’s commands were addressed specifically to him and wherever he moved, whether it be in Caesar’s household, or like Lydia, in the pursuit of commerce, the glad tidings of great joy were spread.
Nor indeed was the preaching confined to a special place for they went from house to house, to the river-side and to the dusty street corner, to the market traders ploying their wares, and to the jostling throng grabbing and searching for a good buy.
Now please note doctrine must not be made from one historical event. Doctrine is made by sound interpretation and confirmed by Scriptural truth running through the whole of Scripture. Just because people sold all their possessions then does not mean that today we need to sell our homes, give all our possessions to the poor and live on the streets. There sure are some Christians who have a direct command from the Lord to go to Iraq or Africa and they may even be required to die there as martyrs but this is not for every Christian.
History tells us of the rapid and far-reaching results of the early Church. Missionaries, empowered with such a love for Jesus that they crossed the vast deserts and penetrated to the remote recesses of uncivilised countries.
Sadly, in prosperity, the Church forgot God. Her faith became diluted and corrupt. The flame that was so bright flickered and all but died, as her love grew cold. Her alliance with the world under Constantine followed (AD 306-337). The nature of the Church had changed and entered into apostasy.
It became a political machine in the shape and form of imperial Rome. It forgot all about the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Darkness covered the earth for a time until the light was restored. The Church was redeemed by wonderful revivals that followed the preaching of the Word of God by such men as John Huss (1369-1415) a Rector of the University of Prague, Bohemia. A student of John Wycliff, he became a fearless preacher; attacking the vices of the clergy and the corruptions of the church. With a fiery passion, he condemned the worship of saints, the sale of indulgences and exalted the Scriptures above the ordinances of the church.
For his love of Jesus, he was burned alive at the stake, and his followers rooted out and destroyed by the Pope.
Then apart from Wycliff there was Luther, Calvin, John Knox and a great host of reformers and martyrs. They all had errors and mistakes as we all do today but they were men whose hearts were ablaze for the Lord and to proclaim Him who died for mankind.
It is evident then that there is enough to show that revivals, instead of being something to be dreaded, or regarded with suspicion, constitute an important factor in the divine economy in carrying on the work of grace in the world.
He who indiscriminately condemns revivals is really challenging the ways of the Almighty and fighting against God.
The far reaching influence of a mighty outpouring of the Spirit upon mankind where there are sighs and groans and shedding of penitential tears is so desperately needed at this time in our world. I fear that in the mind of our all-knowing God it may be too late for the Rapture may well be nigh and the doors closing. Surely this thought must provide the impetus for us to call out to God in desperation for the souls of our loved ones and others still without the Kingdom.
In the days when Bruce preached with such power at Edinburgh the house of God became a place of weeping.
There is the memorable day in the history of Scottish Presbyterianism (Monday, June 21, 1630) when John Livingstone, only twenty-seven years of age, took his stand on a tombstone in the churchyard at the Kirk of Shotts, and preached amid a heavy shower of rain. The Spirit of God came down with such power that nearly five hundred souls were converted in one day?
Nor did the good work cease on that day. It was, it is said:
“The sowing of a seed through Clydesdale, so that many of the most eminent Christians in that country could date either their conversion or some remarkable confirmation from it.”
Again in 1638 refreshing showers of divine influence were poured on many congregations, so that Livingstone said:
“In all my lifetime, excepting at the Kirk of Shotts, I never saw such motions from the Spirit of God. I have seen more than a thousand persons all at once lifting up their hands and tears falling down from their eyes.”
There were the great spiritual awakenings which occurred in 1742 at Cambusland and Kilsyth, at Campsie and Calder, and in all the regions round about. Saints were quickened, sinners were converted and God was glorified.
In 1771, under the preaching of Whitefield, the mighty power of God was seen in many places, particularly, at a place called Lundie, five miles north of Dundee. Scarcely had the preacher begun when the divine presence was felt.
“Never,” adds his fellow traveller, “did I see such weeping in any congregation.”
We read of an extensive awakening at Moulin in 1800, at Arran in 1813, at Skye in 1814 and at Lewes in 1834.
Under these gracious outpourings many a barren spot became fruitful, many a sorrowing heart was made glad and many a wilderness home blossomed as the rose.
In 1839, while Reverend WC Burns, afterward the famous Chinese missionary, was preaching the gospel at Kilsyth, the Spirit of God was poured out on the people.
“They were,” says one, “overwhelmed with a flood of commingled sorrow and joy, so that frequently the voice of the preacher was drowned in the sobs and cries of the penitents.”
The power of the Lord’s Spirit became so mighty upon their souls as to carry all before it, like a rushing mighty wind of Pentecost.
The movement soon spread to Dundee, where a glorious work was accomplished chiefly through the instrumentality of Reverend R.M.McCheyne.
There is much in the biography of this minister of Christ from which every Christian worker, and especially every gospel preacher, may learn useful lessons.
“He had a strong intellect and a loving heart, but, more than all, a soul living in close communion with his God. Herein lay his effectiveness. There is no rhetoric so persuasive, no logic so powerful as the earnestness of a man who lives near to God.”
We want eloquent sermons that please the ear, but it is the sermons that fall upon the heart of men as the seed from the Kingdom of Heaven, that will germinate and bring forth fruit. Sermons that are steeped in prayer and preached to those whose spirits have been softened in their prayer closets with Jesus.
In returning to the revival at Dundee, McCheyne tells us that there were thirty-nine prayer meetings held weekly in connection with his congregation and that five of these were conducted and attended entirely by children. Within three months not less than six to seven hundred came to talk to him about the condition of their souls. He says:
“I have observed at times an awful and breathless stillness pervading the assembly, each hearer bent forward in the posture of rapt attention….. Again at times I have heard a half-suppressed sigh arising from many a heart, and have seen many bathed in tears. At other times I have heard loud sobbing in many parts of the church, while an awfully solemn sense of the divine presence of God pervaded the whole audience…. I have seen persons so overcome that they could not walk or stand alone. I have known cases in which believers have been similarly affected through the fullness of their joy.”
The outpouring of the Spirit at this time reached the fisherman of Scotland a class usually found to be very hardened against the operations of the Spirit.
It is recorded that out of the crews of two boats numbering fifty men, forty-two came to Christ, and on many a fishing boat, earnest prayers were offered and “the sweet melodies of David’s psalms might often be heard mingled with harmonies of the ocean.”
At this time many thousands were added to the Lord’s kingdom.
Perhaps the greatest revival that blessed the Scottish churches since the days of John Knox was that under the American evangelists Moody and Sankey in the latter part of 1873 and the beginning of 1874. The record of history provides evidence that this was one long-continued miracle of grace.
It is said that no building could withstand the multitudes that came to hear Moody preach the gospel and Sankey to sing the gospel.
At an open air meeting in Glasgow the policemen estimated the number present as 50,000 persons.
In a place with a population of no more than twenty-five hundred as many as fourteen hundred persons would come together for prayer.
The Reverend C.H. Spurgeon says of this work:
“The gracious visitation which has come upon Edinburgh is such as was probably never known before within the memory of man. The whole place seems to be moved from end to end. When we hear of many thousands coming together on week days to quite ordinary meetings and crying, “What must I do to be saved? There is, we are persuaded, the hand of God in the matter.”74.
Speaking of the work, a Doctor Bonar says:
“In all my life I never preached to such an audience. The vast multitude bowed under the simple preaching of the gospel, and without any excitement were melted into tears of penitence and the children of God to tears of joy. The presence of God pervaded the very air and was felt everywhere.”75.
Upward of three thousand persons were added to the various churches of Edinburgh alone as the result of this great awakening.
However, let us guard against dangerous error. There is an association of ideas in our minds when we speak of revival: a series of crowded meetings, fervent preaching, much emotional singing, many conversions, many anxious inquirers and much excitement. But there may be much that is outward and demonstrative, and yet no true revival.
It is no evidence that a man can fly because a tornado lifts him up and hurls him across the street. It is no evidence that a man is converted because a tremendous physical excitement lifts him for a moment out of the pit of his bad habits, blows the mud off him and that he screams, shouts or laughs convulsively.
On the other hand, there may be a true revival where the Spirit of God comes down like the dew, gently, silently, imparting life, beauty and vigour; where God is heard, not in the thunder and the storm, but in the still small voice; where the convicted sinner takes each step deliberately. Now perceiving it to be a token of his obedience to God, and the recreated hearts come into the Church quietly and beautifully as buds and blossoms to a tree.
Wherever saints are being quickened and sinners converted to Jesus Christ, we should gratefully recognise the work of the Holy Spirit. The ideal condition of the church is, without a doubt, where each member is so moved by the Spirit of Christ, so filled with all the fullness of God, that revival without the changing influence of the Holy Spirit upon people, would be impossible.
It is special to observe “the old communion seasons” described as being in the Presbyterian Church as “days of hallowed influences.”
It is said:
“Who that has enjoyed them can ever forget those sweetly solemn sacramental occasions? Then the Lord made a feast of fat things, and the King sat at his table, and the spikenard sent forth the smell thereof; then believers sat under his shadow and found his fruit sweet to their taste.
He brought them to his banqueting house, and his banner over them was love. It was no unusual thing for persons to come thirty or forty miles to attend “the communion”. And so great was the concourse of hearers on these occasions that it was frequently found necessary to have two separate assemblies, one in the church and the other in some grove nearby. The season lasted for five days, beginning with a Thursday.
There were two or three services each day, and in a large and scattered country congregation, there would be, each evening, from five to ten prayer meetings in private houses, in different parts of the congregation.”
The Christian’s Life is a Journey toward Heaven
Where today are we drifting?
There are breakers ahead!
Is not our society dying at the top – that is, in its young men, in its young people? May the Lord quicken his Church before it is too late!
Some of these young people are the fruit of Christian parents; they have grown up under the influence of a Christian home and yet, they have turned their backs on the Church.
There are those lost in the hopelessness of a sub-culture that we do not comprehend. Millions of them rushing forward into life’s solemn responsibilities apparently without a single thought of Jesus, His saving grace and the love tears he pours out upon His threshing and agonising world. This indifference, this calamitous lostness, should cause us alarm.
Thousands, especially in our cities, scarcely ever enter a place of worship, and few are, or ever, will be it seems, engaged in active Christian work.
I have me so many young people who have been in Sunday-school then, as they grow to adulthood or to the responsibilities of being a parent they drift off from any contact with the Church.
Many who remain in our Churches, appearing to be moral and respectable, are in essence, worldly and spiritually indifferent.
What may be the causes of religious indifference on the part of so many of the young people?
The vigorous and aggressive scepticism of the day; the speculative and materialistic spirit of the age, false views of liberty and sexual freedom leading only to bondage. The popular amusements of society, and the excesses connected with them. The extensive reading of trashy, sensational literature; the evil, negative words poured into sensitive minds; excessive violence depicted on videos and the like contribute towards encouraging the devil in his wicked works, making havoc in the hearts and minds of the young.
What about our own worldliness, our own selfishness, the unkindness, jealousy, cruelty, and judgment upon our fellow man when we are called as Christians to love one another?
I know that this is causing the young to question and to make comment about the nastiness of gossip and slanderous comment, often unfounded, by one adult Christian of another. What division, what lack of trusting, what hurt and pain and disillusionment this creates.
All this other Christians say, because “we are stones that when rubbed together rub the rough edges off”. What utter nonsense. The unpalatable truth is this is thoroughly ungodly, nasty, destructive behaviour that keeps the devil happy.
This helps to repel the young from the bosom of the Church, driving them to seek enjoyment and satisfaction in the world, where people are often more solicitous, more loving and caring and more sensitive to pain, reaching out to their own who know nothing else except emptiness and tears.
Would we trace this deplorable evil to its source we must look beyond the tendencies and temptations of our time; we must look beyond the imperfections of Church members which are probably no greater than in any former age of the Church; we must look to the home.
“Out of our families,” says Luther, “nations are spun.”
The character of the Church as well as the nation is determined in the home. This then is where the strongest impressions are made, and an education gained which schools can never supply.
It is within the long dependence of children upon their parents for the supply of their every need, that God most assuredly teaches us how sacred is the trust that lies in the gentle arms of a mother and the father’s protective care.
The young lamb, the little nestling, soon learn to fend for themselves, but the tiny infant ever-growing in body and mind, a delicate, sensitive and precious being, a gift from God, needs to be nourished and grounded in God’s word by parents who are properly schooled in God’s precepts. Oh, that we may bring our children up in the love of Jesus and awe for God’s glory.
Parents must carry God’s principles and put them into daily practice. The home-life of the Christian should be evidence of the power and value of our faith. By deeds of kindness, by gentle words, by loving looks, by a loving Spirit, and when and wherever necessary by Christian admonition and correction we must exhibit to our children the truth of Jesus Christ.
Nothing can compensate for the loss of parental example and instruction. I know this, because I didn’t do it.
I had five children and all my worldly effort could never compensate that Jesus was not central to the life of our home.
I found Jesus when I was forty-three. Alas, too late for tender impressions to be made within the hearts and upon the lives of my children.
However, I know the infinite value, and power, that lies within the pages of the word of God, for, from the moment I became a Christian, I ear-bashed my grown up children with Bible passages for every circumstance.
My own sin was exposed in all its violence and evil and the truth of the word was used to clarify its reality.
The outworking of God’s Holy Spirit will in His timing transform my grown-up children. By faith I must believe my God to be at work in His garden. Praise his wonderful name!
God speaks to us from –
Deuteronomy 6: 6-9) “These commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
In coming into the church, I see so many who are unaware of the desperate need to ensure their children are brought up as the “King’s kids.” So many parents who are forced to live as I did, as if money-making were everything, and Christianity only a thing of custom and church attendance.
Today, our children are left at home or to wander, sometimes only God knows where. Mums today, are often left with no option but to work, as well as Dad. Our children see and feel all this sad situation and instinctively reason:
If there were any great importance in “religion” (as people in the world always address Christianity) if God and Christ and heaven and hell were what we are told by pastors and ministers, our mothers and fathers would tell us all about them too.
How can our parents be real Christians they reason otherwise our parents’ behaviour would be totally different?
Or they may consider that as the only thing their parents do for Jesus is to go to Church for an hour or so on Sunday, why should we be so concerned?
Is it so surprising then, under such influences, so many young people soon come to regard Christianity as a joke and all public confession of it with a positive aversion?
So many are living as if God were a myth, heaven a dream and eternity a nothing!
How must we deal with this terrible blight in today’s society?
If anyone should say that to endeavour to arouse people from their slumber or apathy is presumptuous, I reply, for as long as there is a God of infinite power, wisdom and love and who pours out His grace from His heaven upon this struggling mass of humanity, then so must we stand up for Jesus in the bright hope that some will see and hear.
Oh, dear Jesus let it be that from every pulpit and platform in the land, preachers would speak out with courage and faithfulness the gospel in power and truth; calling parents and us all to repentance for our sin, and warning the young of involvement with worldly pursuits.
Let Christian example and fervent prayer be accompanied by faithful instruction that we may know the Excellency of Christ Jesus (Revelation 5: 5,6) God’s Sovereignty over our lives (Romans 9: 18) and live with a God-confidence that our Christian life is but a journey towards Heaven. (Hebrews 11: 13 & 14)
Edward Payson was born at Rindge, New Hampshire, July 26, 1783, and died at Portland on October 22, 1827.
His life apparently one of much physical suffering and occasional mental despondency.
Nonetheless, it seems that he had a “most joyous confidence in Jesus Christ as his personal and ever-present Saviour.”
His life speaks of his love towards his Saviour and for the souls of men. This was an all-absorbing passion.
His preaching was characterised by extraordinary pathos and solemnity, but the most remarkable thing about him was his prayers. These were just the outpourings of a soul filled with a glowing, ardent, overpowering affection for Christ.
There is the story of one who enjoyed his ministry for seven years and who writes:
“It was my custom to close my eyes when he began to pray, and it was always a letting down, a sort of rude fall, to open them again when he had concluded and find myself still on the earth. His prayers always took my spirit into the immediate presence of Christ, amid the glories of the spiritual world; and to look around again on this familiar and comparatively misty earth was almost painful.”
His ruling passion was strong in his death.
“The Celestial City,” he said: “Is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its breezes fan me, its odors are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ear, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give me permission.
The Son of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as he approaches, and now he fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun, exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze on this excessive brightness.”
Among his last words were the following:-
“The battle is fought! the battle’s fought! and the victory is won! the victory is won for ever. I am going to bathe in an ocean of purity and benevolence and happiness to all eternity.”
A few of Payson’s texts are as follows:-
(Daniel 5: 27) “Men tried and found defective.”
(Job 22: 5) “Our sins infinite in number and enormity.”
(1 Thessalonians 5: 23) “Amiable instincts not holiness.”
(2 Corinthians 5: 10) “The Final Judgment.”
(Matthew 23: 33) “The Difficulty of Escaping the Damnation of Hell.”
(Jeremiah 22: 24) “Punishment of the Impenitent Inevitable and Justifiable.”
( John 6: 37) “Christ rejects none that come to him.”
(Genesis 15: 16) “Why the Wicked are spared for a Season.”
(Jonah 1: 6) “The Sleeper awakened.”
( Mark 10: 14) “How little Children are prevented from coming to Christ.”
Do we not need a true Revival urgently?
Where indeed is the congregation whose members are as holy, as earnest, as
prayerful and as aggressive as they should be for Jesus?
We have a Name that is above all Names to live for and we are spiritually bankrupt.
Do not the vast majority of Christians live far below Kingdom lives on this earth? Are we not satisfied with mere glimpses of the pardon of Christ for our many sins and satisfied with mere crumbs from the table?
Oh, that we would know the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ among the congregation. Oh that we would know that holy angels were gathered about us and Jesus was listening to the preaching of the Holy Word of God and sense His delight in being there. Would not the Spirit of all truth carry the Word with wings of fire to the hearts of the people, arousing the careless and convicting the unconverted?
Then would it be that people would be drawn in to hear that there is indeed a heaven above and a hell below. Dying sinners seeking comfort and forgiveness and a living and loving Saviour to speak with them, to touch their hardened, hurting hearts with the Spirit of God’s love, calling them to flee from his Father’s eternal wrath and fall upon their knees to seek eternal life.
We need to hear preaching as though men should never preach again and as a dying man to dying men.
If we want God to do a great work for us we need not only seek to fill our hearts with His love but to cleanse and wash our hearts and minds.
Whatever of pride or envy, or anger or evil-speaking, or covetousness or jealousy, or slothfulness we find ourselves in, we must be willing to give these up forever.
How grieved the Holy Spirit must be with us and little wonder the Lord will not hold fellowship with us for we have become as dry as dust.
When we attend to these things the Spring rains will fall and the sweet tender blessing of knowing the nearness of God’s Holy Spirit will be made manifest.
When God promises to give to Jesus Christ the heathen for his heritage, he promises it in answer to prayer. When Elijah prayed; the nation was reformed; when Hezekiah prayed; the people were healed; when the disciples prayed; Pentecost appeared; when John Wesley and his companions prayed; England was revived; when John Knox prayed; Scotland was refreshed; when Luther prayed; the papacy was shaken.
The lives of the these powerful preachers of centuries ago stand today as a testimony to the fact that whole nights of prayer were succeeded by whole days of soul-winning.
To your knees then you Christians! Plead until the windows rattle, until the clouds part and the rains fall, plead until the soft, sweet blessings flow.
Earnest prayer and faithful preaching – this is the mix that will save souls.
How could it be that a farmer would seek God to provide a harvest of wheat, without first ploughing the hardened ground and sowing quality seed?
We must refuse to be barren trees in the vineyard of the Lord or dried up withering members of the body of Christ, unwatered and unfed by a diluted word provided to pander to our senses.
We may plant and water, but we must never forget to give God all the glory. Without the Spirit of our God the plans of men will be useless and go astray. We will be as lamps without oil, ships without a rudder or coals without fire. We may plant and water, but the increase comes from God.
74. Whitney. Harold J. Can Scotland do it again? the moving Scottish story. Pub date 1983
- Spiros Zodhiates.The Pursuit of Happiness. AMG Publishers-Chattanooga, TN
I wish to thank the following authors whose work has assisted me in the writing of this book:-
* Goff J. P. Fields White Unto Harvest. Discloses Charles Parham involvement with the Azusa Street Revival and how Seymour, a black psychic and occultist turned preacher was used in Azusa Street by Charles Parham and the excesses which accompanied his arrival.