It is not uncommon today to hear evangelicals talk about a need for revival in the church and the society. In fact, this was a common theme from the pulpit I sat under for several years in my old church. We want a fresh outpouring of God’s spirit to the hearts of believers and nonbelievers, in our communities, across our nation, so that people will be caught on fire for the message of the gospel, lives will be transformed in their manner of walk, and, what I think is the driving force of most people’s call for revival, our culture will look less like pagans and more like Paul. These are all good goals to be pursuing (though the last one may be a little questionable), but no matter what we try it doesn’t seem to be happening. Why is this?
Well, first and foremost, as a firm believer in the sovereignty of God, I know that it is God’s purpose, for whatever greater reason he intends, that revival has not hit our land recently. That said, I do believe a call for revival is biblical, and, if it accords with his will, is one that God will answer. We’ve seen it in the past, the Great Awakening of the 1700′s with Edwards and Whitefield, the Haystack Revival of 1806. It is something that happens, something that God does, and I’m sure is something he is pleased to do.
However, there is one major difference between what the culture in which we are calling for revival now and the periods in which revival occurred hundreds of years ago. Here’s what Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says it is:
I feel increasingly, that as we examine this truly, we shall see that the kind of problem facing us is altogether deeper and more desperate than that which has confronted the Christian Church for many a long century. For the problem for us is not apathy, it is not a mere lack of concern and lack of interest. It is something much more profound. It seems to me to be a complete unawareness, even a denial of the spiritual altogether. [Revival, p.13]
The good doctor tells us that the problem is not simply one of an apathetic society who has just wearied of seeking God and fulfilling their religious duties, as was the case with previous times of revival, but instead the sickness we are facing now is that people have grown unaware of God, unaccustomed to his presence and glory.
One way I commonly hear this talked about is a loss of our Christian background or memory. In generations past there was at least an echo of God in the consciences of the people in Western society. Even if they didn’t worship God their self or attend church services, there was still an understanding that God was there, if only absent to some individuals. Yet now we have a culture in which people have lost that understanding. God is, at best, some form of pagan arranger of the heavens or disassociated overseer, but more likely just a figment of one’s imagination that is not worthy to be believed in with our contemporary sensibilities. God is not missing in our lives, God is not even there. Though he has made himself visible to all men (Romans 1.18 ) we have long since suppressed him and moved on with ourselves, none the poorer.
As well, because God has become so impotent, those who do want to still hang on to this relic of our past all too often want to revamp him so he is a more attractive deity to believe in. Just today I was reading a blog post in which a “recovering evangelical” stated that they now refer to God as “Father Mother God” because it helped to broaden them from their sexist views of Christianity. So, what they assessed (or assumed) was a problem, the non-egalitarian nature of Christianity, they fixed by inventing a way of thinking of God which is illumined by Americanized feminist earth worship. They took a good point, God is not gendered, and used that to wipe away what the Bible has to say about the proper relationship between males and females in the church and in marriage. But since this is a “God” of their own creation and there is no true God present collectively in the memories of their culture, no one is offended by this perversion of the biblical picture.
Our culture needs to know God again. We have forgotten him and so either have happily moved on alone or have reformed him in the image of our own likings, neither of which is acceptable. If we truly desire for revival in our land then we must address this issue. We must stand firm in who God is, what he has said to us in Scripture, and how he calls us to live. The Social Gospel, Free Grace theology, and the other creations of our modern religious confusion must be torn down so that the eyes they blind may see clearly God’s glorious grace.
But more than anything, we must reign in this ourselves. We must be devoted to knowing God as he has revealed himself to us and must be unswerving in our commitment to driving out the unbelief by prayer and fasting (Mark 9.29).
To God be the glory!