On the very day I began to pen this column for the Pathway, I learned about the grave affront to religious liberty by the Administration. Later in the day, I learned about the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to overturn the marriage sanctity amendment that was overwhelmingly adopted in California. And then to top it all off, one of our female Supreme Court justices made it known that she prefers the South African Constitution over the U. S. Constitution.
My thoughts are, “Have we lost our senses? Do the social engineers believe they have collected enough moxie that they can now make government rule our consciences and convictions?”
There is a solution. It is not found with government or economic strategies. It starts with God’s people. In my latest book, “Revive us, O Lord” (AuxanoPress, 2012), I wrote in the introduction that my heart yearns for the refreshing winds of revival to move across the landscape of American churches.
I asked myself repeatedly, “Are we, am I, desperate enough to seek the face of God above all else. Am I willing to be brutally honest about the condition of my heart?”
An interesting thing about the God of the Bible is that He doesn’t grade people on the curve. We are either clean before Him or we aren’t. We are either filled with the Spirit or we aren’t. There isn’t really a “good enuf” category of acceptability before God. He knows the deep recesses of our hearts.
What happens when the searchlight of the Holy Spirit begins to explore the motives and behavioral patterns of our lives? What’s going on in the deep crevices of our lives has a way of showing up in our every day living.
Pastors, do we preach to appease the listeners or to expound on what God says is so? Would our teaching be classified as pandering to the emotional needs of people instead of exposing the people to truth? Do we speak so people will give us accolades to meet our emotional needs? Such preaching may produce larger attendance but does it produce greater godliness? If we genuinely want revival, there are some people who will be hostile to what the man of God says from the Word of God.
Have we mastered the art of euphemism to such an extent that we attempt to explain away sin? Sin that nailed Christ to the cross is too often rationalized as a disease, emotional distress or a by-product of our heritage. Would we dare preach with the anointing of the Spirit and call out sins of prejudice, hatred, envy, greed and adultery, even if it cost us our “jobs?”
Have our churches forgotten that godly pastors are not hired? They are called and the church affirms the call. But what will you say when there are certain people in the congregation who are ready to vote you out or to make your life miserable unless you capitulate to their perspective? Will you continue to humbly share the Word and graciously call for repentance and faith instead of cowering to the voices of those who want to control God and His man?
There cannot be a fresh wind of revival until the preacher has taken his identity to the altar and repented of fearing man more than he fears God. “Search me, O God. Have I lost my courage? Do I impede revival by my timidity?”
There cannot be an awakening that transforms our families and our communities without the people of God acknowledging, “if I regard iniquity in my heart, He will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18) But “if I confess my sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
One impediment to the moving of God’s Spirit has to do with resisting the examination of the Holy Spirit in every venue of our lives. When we study the historical records of events from other movements of God, we know that revival or spiritual awakening cannot occur without the examination of the Holy Spirit. When the Lord offers us the fresh wind of His Spirit, would we actually be willing to settle for the mere dregs of religiosity?
Back in seminary days, the late Dr. C. L. Culpepper told this story to a group of hungry hearts. He said that during the Shantung Revival of China that missionaries Bertha Smith and Marie Munson stood at the only exit from the room where the evangelical missionaries held their annual retreat. As the missionaries filed out, these two women would ask, “Are you filled with the Spirit? Are your sins confessed up to date?”
Dr. C. L. Culpepper reported that the ladies would make him so angry. That is, until he was quickened by his need of dealing with the unconfessed sins in his own life. Once the Holy Spirit was granted access to the secret, unconfessed places in his heart then a movement of God’s Spirit burst forth in his own life, in the lives of his missionary colleagues and in the province of China.
Can we be the people of God with confidence and authority when there are secret sins in our personal lives? Is there the fear of being “found out?” Does the enemy condemn because of a secret closet of sinful behavior (I John 3:21-22)?
The solution to what ails our culture begins with us. We, the church, must understand that such a movement starts with us, not them. So what will we do? Will we examine ourselves and pursue the Lord with open, transparent hearts? Will we run to the altar and prostrate ourselves before Him and not leave until He grants us a renewed vision for the life we call ours?
O Lord give us the bitter tears of repentance.