Friday, December 29, 2006
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What I Long For in 2007
My latest column at Christian Week:
"Nothing changes on New Year's Day," sings Bono, lead singer of U2. Later in the same song, Bono continues, "I will begin again." Nothing changes as we start 2007, but I pray it is possible, in some ways, to begin again.
Speaking in Toronto last year, pastor and author Gordon MacDonald defined revival as bringing something back to life. We need two kinds of revival, MacDonald argued. One is big-R Revival, which is needed at crisis points five or six times within one's life. The other is small-r revival, which we need on a daily basis. I long for both kinds of revival in the coming year.
I grew up in the church. I am used to North American Christianity. Somehow I've picked up some modern ways of thinking about church which really aren't helpful and have lead me to some crisis points. I hope to continue the big-R Revival in how I think about effective ministry.
I need, for instance, to give up my longing for Christendom. Part of me still longs for the days when Christianity was dominant within Canadian culture and the Church had influence. Those days aren't coming back, but that is okay. God is more than up to the challenge.
I need to give up my reliance on techniques and pragmatism. At no stage in Christian history have we had better programs, techniques, and leadership theories. New programs and techniques come out almost daily. Despite all these techniques, the North American church is struggling at its core. The late Canadian theologian Stanley Grenz wrote that a pragmatic approach to ministry is "self-defeating, simply because it transforms the community of faith into an institution whose chief end is not the glory of God and the fulfillment of a divinely-given mandate, but survival." Real change does not come from better techniques.
I need a revival in the way that I think about the gospel. Canadian theologian J.I. Packer says,
"Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product, which, though it looks similar in enough points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in days proved itself so mighty." Recovering the gospel, and bringing our ministries back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing need, according to Packer.
I also need to deal with my pastoral ambitions. "I am convinced that personal pastoral ambition, and a pastoral ethic centered around productivity and success is brutal to our souls and destructive to the souls of the people we lead," writes one pastor, Kent Carlson. "We must become skilled at detecting the odor of personal ambition, then flee from it as if the church's future depends on it. For I believe it does."
Mostly, I need to rediscover true Biblical ministry, centered not around meeting human needs with a truncated gospel in an attempt to win people over to a human institution. Rather, it is about becoming an alternate community shaped by the Gospel, sent by God to participate in his mission to the world.
I confided to a friend recently that I don't know if I have what it takes to lead a congregation to effective ministry in a changing culture. This isn't false modesty. It is relatively easy to be a transactional leader who maintains a congregation; it is much more difficult to be a transformational leader who sees real change at the deepest levels. Nobody is able to do this on their own.
I hope to be revived on a daily basis this year so I'm reminded I don't have to lead on my own.
"I want to encourage you," a friend wrote to me recently, "that you don't have to fix anyone's problems. You just need to point them to Jesus. He does the work - you are just the vehicle that he works through." As Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing." I want to learn this and live this on a daily basis.
These are the revivals, big and small, that I long for this coming year.
Posted by Darryl on December 28, 2006 2:33 PM Permalink
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Comments (2)wilsonian :
"becoming an alternate community shaped by the Gospel, sent by God to participate in his mission to the world"
We all need that kind of revival. Bring it!
Posted by wilsonian December 28, 2006 3:38 PM
Posted on December 28, 2006 15:38 Bryan :
Darryl, I am stealing this and posting it on my blog. Good stuff man and Happy New Year!
Posted by Bryan December 29, 2006 1:58 PM
Posted on December 29, 2006 13:58
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Evangelical revival of the 18th Century
by Michael A. G. Haykin
Jonathan Edwards (2)
Jonathan Edwards was born exactly 300 years ago on 5 October 1703 at East Windsor, Connecticut, a town then far from the centres of power and influence in the transatlantic Anglophone world.
His father, Timothy Edwards (d.1758), was pastor of the town’s Congregational Church for more than 63 years. His mother, Esther, was the daughter of Solomon Stoddard (1643-1729), the powerful pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton, Massachusetts, from 1669 till his death.
Edwards received his elementary education from his father — an education that included beginning Latin at seven. He also received a thorough nurture in Puritan piety.
In Edwards’ Personal Narrative he notes of this time in his life: ‘I had a variety of concerns and exercises about my soul from my childhood; but had two more remarkable seasons of awakening… The first time was when I was a boy, some years before I went to college, at a time of a remarkable awakening in my father’s congregation…
‘I used to pray five times a day in secret, and to spend much time in religious talk with other boys; and used to meet with them to pray together … I, with some of my schoolmates joined together, and built a booth in a swamp, in a very retired spot, for a place of prayer.
‘My affections seemed to be lively and easily moved, and I seemed to be in my element, when engaged in religious duties.’
But this childhood spirituality, although a prognostication of his future interests, soon disappeared. In his own words, he ‘returned like a dog to his vomit, and went on in ways of sin’.
No inner peace
Meanwhile, in 1716, Edwards entered the Collegiate School of Connecticut in New Haven (later to become Yale University). Although he went on to graduate from the Collegiate School in 1720 at the head of his class academically, Edwards had neither inner peace nor saving faith.
Writing later of his life at this time, he said that it was characterised ‘by great and violent inward struggles’ regarding wicked inclinations and objections against God’s sovereignty in salvation.
It was probably in the spring of 1721 that Edwards was converted. He later said that as he was reading 1 Timothy 1:17, ‘there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before.
‘Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was; and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in Heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever…
‘From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehension and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them.
‘And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation, by free grace in him.’
It is vital, first of all, to note that Scripture was central in Edwards’ conversion. Not surprisingly, he would later maintain that Scripture needs to be central in all preaching, for the Scriptures ‘are the light by which ministers must be enlightened, and the light they are to hold forth to their hearers; and they are the fire whence their hearts and the hearts of their hearers must be enkindled’.
In the above account of his conversion, Edwards also highlights the ‘inward, sweet sense’ that gripped his soul as he meditated upon what Scripture says about God and Christ, and on their utterly free and sovereign grace in salvation.
Such biblical meditation would become central to his piety. Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803), one of his close friends and his first biographer, noted that Edwards was, ‘as far as it can be known, much on his knees in secret, and in devout reading of God’s word and meditation upon it’.
Not long after his conversion Edwards drew up what are known as the Resolutions (1722-1723) in which, at the outset of his Christian life, he committed himself to keeping a list of 70 guidelines to help him stay passionate in his pursuit of God and his glory.
Hopkins commented that these resolutions ‘may justly be considered as the foundation and plan of his whole life’.
Though young when he wrote them, they bespeak a mature understanding of genuine piety — and the way such piety should be evident in all of life, and pursued with ardour and zeal.
In Resolution 26, for example, he ‘resolved, to cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance [of salvation]’. Resolution 40, written on 7 January 1723, subjected his eating and drinking habits to scrutiny: ‘Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking’.
The final resolution, the seventieth, recognises the importance of being circumspect in all of his speech: ‘Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak’.
And in Resolution 56, Edwards admits to times of spiritual failure but was resolved ‘never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be’.
One resolution deals especially with God’s Word. Resolution 28 stated what he hoped would be a life-long characteristic of the way he approached Scripture: ‘Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same’.
The adverbs Edwards uses here — ‘steadily, constantly, and frequently’ — surely indicate his desire to steep his mind in Scripture.
What Edwards appears to be encouraging here is nothing less than saturating the heart and mind with scriptural truth and the meta-narrative of the Bible, something accomplished by the practice of biblical meditation.
This can be readily seen from a second statement, in which he describes his encounter with Scripture after his conversion. This text also makes it abundantly clear that he is not merely thinking of academic Bible study in Resolution 28.
‘I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy Scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt an harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light, exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing ravishing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading.
‘Used oftentimes to dwell long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.’
This pattern of meditation on God’s holy Word, one that was part of Edwards’ Puritan heritage, appears to have been central to his walk with God in the latter years of his life as well.
Samuel Hopkins noted that Edwards ‘had an uncommon thirst for knowledge, in the pursuit of which, he spared no cost nor pains’. He thus ‘read all the books, especially books of divinity’, that he could get hold of.
But, Hopkins emphasised, ‘he studied the Bible more than all other books, and more than most other divines do. His uncommon acquaintance with the Bible appears in his sermons, and in most of his publications; and his great pains in studying it are manifest in his manuscript notes upon it’.
To be concluded
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) Part 1
by Michael Haykin
Monday, December 25, 2006
I am about to be guilty of the last one of those things of which I’m not a big fan.
C: CHOSEN IN CHRIST- Ephesians 1:11-14:Ephesians 1:11-14: "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise of his glory."
H- HE IS OUR HOLINESS- I Corinthians 1:30:"It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."
R-RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST IMPUTED- Romans 4:5-8-
We are NOT first made righteous, then declared righteous; we are declared righteous by grace through faith in Christ, then made righteous through sanctification!
He was made like his brothers in every way to represent us before the Living God as a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins and to be a perfect mediator representing those he loved before the Father, ever living to make intercession for them. When we are tempted, we know that Jesus can help us because he knows our weakness, our trials, the deceit and subtlety of the devil, and by his Spirit can help us to overcome in the power of His Name.
During the Reformation of the 16th century, the doctrine of justification was called the "theological article upon which the church or individual stands or falls". The revelation of justification by faith alone is the one and only gospel. As Paul says in Galatians 1:6-12, there are indeed counterfeits and other "gospels" but they are in reality no gospels at all, because they do not in reality bring good news!
M- MESSIAH-THE LAMB OF GOD-
The reason Jesus laid down his life as the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, was so that God could be just and the justifier of those who believe in Christ Jesus as Romans 3:23-26 teaches.
A- ACCOMPLISHMENT OF CHRIST IN ETERNITY AND THE APPLICATION OF HIS WORK BY THE SPIRIT-
When we believe and the Spirit unites us to Jesus Christ, we receive all the benefits of his work on our behalf: justification, adoption, sanctification, and eventually our glorification with him! (Romans 8:28-31).
And the word for that union with him is faith. The sinner comes to him, rests in him, trusts in him, is one with him, abides with him; and this is life because it never ends. The united soul abides in the Vine eternally. Weakness, sin, proneness to sin never brings separation, but only the Father's pruning, which cements the union even and ever tighter (John 15:1-8).
Paul describes the conflict in this way: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me...For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - -this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:15-20).
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Good Afternoon. I want to share a few words from John Frame's article, "The Wonder of God Over Us and With Us". It is an incredible truth that the eternal Son of God entered our world as a baby. May we praise Him forever and pray that he will send revival.
At the incarnation of Jesus, the angels stand amazed (Luke 2:14, Eph. 3:10, 1 Pet. 1:11-12). And at this event, non-Christian philosophers and religious teachers look on in bewilderment. In non-Christian systems of thought, it is impossible for ultimate reality to enter time and space. The eastern religions, as well as Plato, Aristotle, and the ancient Gnostics, all hold that the supreme being is impersonal and would lose its absoluteness if it came in contact with temporal reality. Other religions and philosophies believe that the supreme being, if it exists at all, is the temporal world itself or an aspect of it. For them, "god incarnate" could be, at most, indistinguishable from the rest of the finite world.
Only in biblical religion is there a clear affirmation of a personal God distinct from the world He has made, one who is able to come into that world without compromising Himself and without losing Himself in His creation. As incarnate, He remains fully God, and He reveals His full deity clearly to His creatures, even amid all the mysteries mentioned earlier. But this means that only in Scripture do we learn of a God who loves us so much, so wonderfully, so powerfully, that He enters time on our behalf and stands strong to win God's battle in history against Satan and sin.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. JOHN 1:14
Trinity and Incarnation belong together. The doctrine of the Trinity declares that the man Jesus is truly divine; that of the Incarnation declares that the divine Jesus is truly human. Together they proclaim the full reality of the Savior whom the New Testament sets forth, the Son who came from the Father’s side at the Father’s will to become the sinner’s substitute on the cross (Matt. 20:28; 26:36-46; John 1:29; 3:13-17; Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8).
The moment of truth regarding the doctrine of the Trinity came at the Council of Nicaea (A.D.325), when the church countered the Arian idea that Jesus was God’s first and noblest creature by affirming that he was of the same “substance” or “essence” (i.e., the same existing entity) as the Father. Thus there is one God, not two; the distinction between Father and Son is within the divine unity, and the Son is God in the same sense as the Father is. In saying that Son and Father are “of one substance,” and that the Son is “begotten” (echoing “only-begotten,” John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18, and NIV text notes) but “not made,” the Nicene Creed unequivocally recognized the deity of the man from Galilee.
A crucial event for the church’s confession of the doctrine of the Incarnation came at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D.451), when the church countered both the Nestorian idea that Jesus was two personalities—the Son of God and a man—under one skin, and the Eutychian idea that Jesus’ divinity had swallowed up his humanity. Rejecting both, the council affirmed that Jesus is one divine-human person in two natures (i.e., with two sets of capacities for experience, expression, reaction, and action); and that the two natures are united in his personal being without mixture, confusion, separation, or division; and that each nature retained its own attributes. In other words, all the qualities and powers that are in us, as well as all the qualities and powers that are in God, were, are, and ever will be really and distinguishably present in the one person of the man from Galilee. Thus the Chalcedonian formula affirms the full humanity of the Lord from heaven in categorical terms.
The Incarnation, this mysterious miracle at the heart of historic Christianity, is central in the New Testament witness. That Jews should ever have come to such a belief is amazing. Eight of the nine New Testament writers, like Jesus’ original disciples, were Jews, drilled in the Jewish axiom that there is only one God and that no human is divine. They all teach, however, that Jesus is God’s Messiah, the Spirit-anointed son of David promised in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa. 11:1-5; Christos, “Christ,” is Greek for Messiah). They all present him in a threefold role as teacher, sin-bearer, and ruler—prophet, priest, and king. And in other words, they all insist that Jesus the Messiah should be personally worshiped and trusted—which is to say that he is God no less than he is man. Observe how the four most masterful New Testament theologians (John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and Peter) speak to this.
John’s Gospel frames its eyewitness narratives (John 1:14; 19:35; 21:24) with the declarations of its prologue (1:1-18): that Jesus is the eternal divine Logos (Word), agent of Creation and source of all life and light (vv. 1-5, 9), who through becoming “flesh” was revealed as Son of God and source of grace and truth, indeed as “God the only begotten” (vv. 14, 18; NIV text notes). The Gospel is punctuated with “I am” statements that have special significance because I am (Greek: ego eimi) was used to render God’s name in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14; whenever John reports Jesus as saying ego eimi, a claim to deity is implicit. Examples of this are John 8:28, 58, and the seven declarations of his grace as (a) the Bread of Life, giving spiritual food (6:35, 48, 51); (b) the Light of the World, banishing darkness (8:12; 9:5); (c) the gate for the sheep, giving access to God (10:7, 9); (d) the Good Shepherd, protecting from peril (10:11, 14); (e) the Resurrection and Life, overcoming our death (11:25); (f) the Way, Truth, and Life, guiding to fellowship with the Father (14:6); (g) the true Vine, nurturing for fruitfulness (15:1, 5). Climactically, Thomas worships Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (20:28). Jesus then pronounces a blessing on all who share Thomas’s faith and John urges his readers to join their number (20:29-31).
Paul quotes from what seems to be a hymn that declares Jesus’ personal deity (Phil. 2:6); states that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9; cf. 1:19); hails Jesus the Son as the Father’s image and as his agent in creating and upholding everything (Col. 1:15-17); declares him to be “Lord” (a title of kingship, with divine overtones), to whom one must pray for salvation according to the injunction to call on Yahweh in Joel 2:32 (Rom. 10:9-13); calls him “God over all” (Rom. 9:5) and “God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); and prays to him personally (2 Cor. 12:8-9), looking to him as a source of divine grace (2 Cor. 13:14). The testimony is explicit: faith in Jesus’ deity is basic to Paul’s theology and religion.
The writer to the Hebrews, purporting to expound the perfection of Christ’s high priesthood, starts by declaring the full deity and consequent unique dignity of the Son of God (Heb. 1:3, 6, 8-12), whose full humanity he then celebrates in chapter 2. The perfection, and indeed the very possibility, of the high priesthood that he describes Christ as fulfilling depends on the conjunction of an endless, unfailing divine life with a full human experience of temptation, pressure, and pain (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:14-5:2; 7:13-28; 12:2-3).
Not less significant is Peter’s use of Isaiah 8:12-13 (1 Pet. 3:14). He cites the Greek (Septuagint) version, urging the churches not to fear what others fear but to set apart the Lord as holy. But where the Septuagint text of Isaiah says, “Set apart the Lord himself,” Peter writes, “Set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Pet. 3:15). Peter would give the adoring fear due to the Almighty to Jesus of Nazareth, his Master and Lord.
The New Testament forbids worship of angels (Col. 2:18; Rev. 22:8-9) but commands worship of Jesus and focuses consistently on the divine-human Savior and Lord as the proper object of faith, hope, and love here and now. Religion that lacks these emphases is not Christianity. Let there be no mistake about that!
From: Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs
Monday, December 18, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The second condition is also vitally important. God has not placed Himself under obligation to honor the requests of worldly, carnal or disobedient Christians. He hears and answers the prayers only of those who walk in His way.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Have a great day. Bryan
"While the prevailing wisdom says that born-again Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to divorce, that may not give the whole picture. Sociologist Brad Wilcox says that when church attendance is taken into the discussion, it isn't even close. Churchgoers - whether they are evangelicals, mainline Christians, or Roman Catholics - are far more likely not to get divorced than those who don't attend church."
- Source: Interview with Brad Wilcox in Christianity Today (October, 2006)
Friday, December 08, 2006
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Good Morning! Back in 1986, Don Whitney wrote the following article on the need of revival in the church. He sees parallels between the state of the church prior to the Second Great Awakening and today...
REVIVAL WAS THE CHURCH'S ONLY HOPE
By Don Whitney
"How many thousands . . . never saw, much less read, or ever heard a chapter of the Bible! How many Ten thousands who never were baptized or heard a Sermon! And thrice Ten thousand, who never heard of the name of Christ, save in Curses . . . ! Lamentable! Lamentable is the situation of these people."
Such was an Episcopal preacher's description of the spiritual conditions in the Carolinas prior to the Second Great Awakening. The same words could have been applied to the religious scene in most of America.
A terrible declension of Christianity followed the War of Independence. The outer ripples of the First Great Awakening were still seen as late as the 1770s when as much as 40 to 50 percent of the population attended church. But by the 1790s only 5 to 10 percent of the adult population were church members. Revival historian J. Edwin Orr wrote:
The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians met in general assembly to deplore the ungodliness of the country. The Congregationalists were strongest in New England. [And yet the] Rev. Samuel Shepherd, pastor of a typical church in Lennox, Massachusetts, said in sixteen years he had not taken one young person into the fellowship. . . . The Lutherans were so languishing they discussed uniting with the Episcopalians, who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning. He had confirmed no one for so long, he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment. The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to Bishop Madison of Virginia and said, 'The church is too far gone ever to be redeemed.'
Orr further notes that for the first time in American history, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Out of five million citizens, 300,000 were drunkards, and increased sexual immorality multiplied the numbers of illegitimate births and sexual transmitted diseases. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence. Dueling, wrote Daniel Dorchester a century later, "had become a great national sin. With the exception of a small section of the Union, the whole land was deeply stained with blood."
The overall situation seemed so hopeless that a friend wrote to George Washington in 1796, near the end of his two terms as president, "Our affairs seem to lead to some crisis, some revolution; something that I can not foresee or conjecture. I am more uneasy than during the war." Washington replied, "Your sentiment . . . accords with mine. What will be is beyond my foresight."
Five major factors contributed to the decline. First, the effect of the war itself. The independence movement had not been a unanimous one. The Revolutionary War was not a unified American effort, but a civil war where at least a third of the population was loyal to the crown perhaps another third undecided. The Christians in the colonies were divided over this issue as well and this affected the unity of local churches for years. The war also left many congregations without ministers. After sacrificing much for the sake of liberty, young soldiers returning home often found the insipid message and passionless mission of their formalistic, tradition-encrusted local church irrelevant by comparison. A young Timothy Dwight, who would become one of the leaders of the coming awakening, complained that "seven years of war had unhinged the principles, morality, and the religion of the country more than could have been done by a peace of forty years." 
Second, the impact of Tom Paine and rationalistic Deism. Paine was an American patriot and advocate of the French revolution. Few books in our history have been as popular (in terms of the percentage of the population who bought them) as his pair, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason. He ridiculed Biblical Christianity and turned many to a reason-exalting Deism. Referring to the Bible, Paine scoffed, "It would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the word of God." To the Deist, God was distant and uninvolved in the world. Christianity was stripped of the supernatural and presented primarily as a moral code. Although the Deism of men like Paine and Thomas Jefferson flourished only briefly at the end of the eighteenth century, its influence was profound. Most Americans had never heard the divine origin of the Scriptures questioned, and they were unable to answer even the simplest objections.
The third cause of deterioration in the religious fabric was French infidelity. America's alliance with France during the War of Independence opened the gates for a flood of infidelity in the new nation. Whereas Deism typically showed reverence for God, those infected with the philosophies of Voltaire and Rousseau were invariably atheists. This French secularism was especially persuasive among the educated. "In 1783," illustrates Dorchester, "a revival occurred in Yale College, which swelled the membership of the college church larger than it had been before; but twelve years later the college was wholly pervaded with French infidelity, and only four or five students were professedly pious." "Princeton fared no better," adds Orr, "there being one year no more than two students who professed religion." Around the country, "infidel clubs abounded, with their usual accompaniment of sex orgies--so that the national existence was itself seriously jeopardized, thought some."
Unitarianism was a fourth reason for the nation's erosion. Denying the Deity of Christ and drifting toward humanism, Unitarians gained control of many strategic Congregational churches during the years between the war and the turn of the century and split the denomination irreparably. A fifth and often overlooked factor was the westward expansion of the population. So rapidly had easterners left their homes that by 1800 nearly a million people had made their way west. This dramatic population shift not only weakened many churches in the east, it also intensified the irreligious climate of the west. The pioneer areas were often lawless and violent. In The Great Awakeners, Keith Hardman observes that "In many towns of considerable size, no place of worship could be found, and religious services had never been held. Therefore, several hundred thousand people were beyond the reaches of the gospel."
Spiritual apathy, irreverence, skepticism, infidelity, atheism, immorality, illegitimacy, sexually transmitted diseases, drunkenness, dueling, robbery, rejection of Scripture, heresy, lawlessness, violence, and general godlessness characterized America in the last quarter of the 1700s. Was it really so bad, or has the situation been overstated for the sake of effect? Iain Murray admits that "The decline of Christian influence before a revival has sometimes been exaggerated in order to emphasize the scale of the subsequent transformation." However, in this case it is clear that "The Second Great Awakening in America requires no such distortion of history in order to justify its title." Nothing less than a sovereign act by an omnipotent God could effectively deal with the situation. Revival was the church's only hope.
And revival was what God sent. A spark that He kindled in the 1790s burst into flame in the early 1800s as the Second Great Awakening, both in the apathetic, skeptical east and the lawless, godless west. The preaching of the Law of God awakened people's consciences, laid upon them an unrelenting conviction of sin, and terrified them with the realities of judgment and eternal punishment. Such preaching, followed by the application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, resulted in the conversion of hundreds of thousands in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The wind of God's Spirit blew almost everywhere. New congregations began dotting the churchless western landscape. Bible-preaching churches back east were filled again. Christians hungered for the teaching of God's Word. Holy living became their passion. They delighted in prayer meetings and worship services.
It had been half-a-century since America had seen the Lord work so mightily. But He had not forgotten His people. He returned in great power and filled His once-degraded church with His glory.
1. "The Return of the Spirit," Christian History, Issue 23, 24.
2. Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 163.
3. J. Edwin Orr, "The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening," Spirit of Revival, March 1995, 30.
4. Daniel Dorchester, Christianity in the United States (New York: Hunt and Eaton, 1889), 342.
5. J. Edwin Orr, The Light of the Nations (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963), 17.
6. Mark Noll, et al., eds. Christianity in America:A Handbook (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 162.
7. Quoted in "The Return of the Spirit," Christian History, Issue 23, 27.
8. Dorchester, 287.
9. Orr, 17.
10. Orr, 17.
11. Keith J. Hardman, The Spiritual Awakeners. (Chicago: Moody, 1983), 131.
12. Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 116.
This article first appeared in Revival Commentary 1, no. 2 (Fall 1996): 5-7.
Copyright © 1996 Donald S. Whitney.
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Good Morning. Below is Charles Spurgeon's daily devotion for today. Praise the Lord that we are safe in His hands. Have a great day. Bryan
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Faith's Check Book, Daily Entry
C. H. Spurgeon
High Places of Defense
He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. (Isaiah 33:16)
The man to whom God has given grace to be of blameless life dwells in perfect security.
He dwells on high, above the world, Out of gunshot of the enemy, and near to heaven. He has high aims and motives, and he finds high comforts and company. He rejoices in the mountains of eternal love, wherein he has his abode.
He is defended by munitions of stupendous rock. The firmest things in the universe are the promises and purposes of the unchanging God, and these are the safeguard of the obedient believer.
He is provided for by this great promise: "Bread shall be given him." As the enemy cannot climb the fort, nor break down the rampart, so the fortress cannot be captured by siege and famine. The Lord, who rained manna in the wilderness, will keep His people in good store even when they are surrounded by those who would starve them.
But what if water should fail? That cannot be. "His waters shall be sure." There is a never-failing well within the impregnable fortress. The Lord sees that nothing is wanting. None can touch the citizen of the true Zion. However fierce the enemy, the Lord will preserve His chosen.