In the 18th century Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were the principal leaders of something called the Great Awakening. The Holy Spirit moved with might and power in the American colonies with thousands coming to an assurance of their salvation and many more finding their faith strengthened and renewed. In the early 20th century there was another great revival in Wales. And there are many more we could name. These mighty works occur when the Church of Jesus Christ has fallen into a spiritual stagnation, a time when we go through the motions but we don’t live the faith. Friends, the Body of Christ in this country is now in just such a state.
Many people share my view of the situation, some are even trying to do something about it. But few are doing the things that have led to widespread revivals in the past. Too many believe that marketing techniques and entertainment oriented worship services will make the Church grow, and if it grows it will necessarily be revived. But revival is not about crowds. Revival is not about how we make people feel for an hour on Sunday morning. Revival is not about any of things the people who are focused on church growth are doing. Revival is about changing lives.
God used Jonathan Edwards, a thorough going 5 point Calvinist, to lead the Great Awakening in New England by preaching both Law and Gospel in their purity. It wasn’t through gimmicks and meeting the “felt needs” of the public that there was such a mighty movement of the Spirit there. No, friends, it was the proper preaching of the full counsel of God.
I told my confirmation class last week that if they ever hear someone get into a pulpit and preach, but omit the proclamation of the Gospel, they may have heard a good talk, but they did not hear a proper sermon. The job of a preacher in the pulpit is not to tell people how to make their marriages better or raise their kids better or any number of other good things that might be said. Such things belong in a Bible study, not a sermon. The sermon is the public proclamation of the Good News that sinners like us don’t have to go to hell because Christ Himself bore the punishment for their sins on the Cross at Calvary.
When people hear the pure Gospel and the Holy Spirit changes their hearts, that’s when lives are changed. That’s when renewal appears in a spiritually sluggish church. We don’t need gimmicks, we need the Gospel.
It’s time for a sleeping church to wake up. It’s time for pastors to return to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for us. It’s time, friends, time to rise and shine.
Well, it’s been quite some time since I last posted and I have every intention of being better about this work, but who knows how well I’ll do. Anyway ….
My wife and I went to see the new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. It’s an interesting place to visit and you can easily spend an entire day there. Some of it is first rate, some is less so for a person who already knows a lot about the topic, and some is, well, vaguely irritating. I was especially turned off by a section quoting the deist Thomas Jefferson and the Unitarian John Adams about the importance of the Bible. But, all in all, it’s a trip worth doing.
I was most taken by a display of the first editions of Tyndale’s New Testament, the Coverdale Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishop’s Bible and the King James Version. As an English speaking Christian there is a kind of thrill in thinking about the people who actually held those books in their hands and read God’s Word in their own language.
One of the troubling things about the visit was the amount of security they feel is necessary. There are guards stationed inside and outside the building. Metal detectors, of course, and some of the most interesting bag check machines I’ve ever seen were also present. I’ve been told that there were threats made against the museum while it was being built. Satan’s minions are ever active in this world and evidently this privately built 6 story museum just off Capitol Hill is deemed by our enemy to be dangerous to his plans.
My wife commented to me that any other book that had as much impact on the world as the Bible would be required reading in every school. And she’s absolutely correct. The Word of God comes off the pages with power and with effect. Nothing is so threatening to our debased and evil national culture as God’s Word found in Scripture. Nothing speaks Truth with such authority as Scripture. Nothing is more precious to those who have God’s Word than it is. And nothing has changed the world as much as the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for us.
It is impossible to imagine Western Civilization without the Bible. Many of the common phrases used in conversation are the result of translation decisions made by men like Wycliffe and Tyndale. Slavery was abolished because of Christianity. Women received equal rights because of Christianity. Music and visual arts have been profoundly affected by Christianity. The first hospitals were inspired by the proclamation of the Gospel. Public education was started so men and women could read the Bible.
I could go on, but you get the idea. So if you have the opportunity to get to Washington, take the time to visit this museum. It could inspire you to open the book it celebrates a little more often.