Revival - Clearing Out the Rubbish from the Wells - (Genesis 26:17-18).
Following on from yesterdays post looking at a number of quotes and thoughts on revival, I have been thinking quite deeply about HOW to properly prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit - should He be gracious enough to come.
Before I get into that, we learnt some quite shocking news (but kind of exciting) when we were at Church of Christ the King, Brighton on Sunday. Kate Simmonds (the beautiful, amazingly talented, powerful worship leader) will be leaving the UK to go to Australia to join Peter Brookes in the church planting initiative there. The part of me that still struggles with mobilising and pioneering and change was devastated, but the increasing part in me that is getting my head round mobility and pioneering was thrilled. How awesome! That Kate could quite easily stay put at CCK, but the values of Newfrontiers are imbedded in her and her husband so deeply that they hear the call of God and have to go. All that to say, that her final concert/worship event will be on the 21st May at CCK. We're going to be there! I think it's going to be quite an event!
Preparing for Revival.
My use of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones isn't in any way intended to be a takeoff of "MLJ Mondays" or any other days. I just wanted to make that clear! It's just that with revival burning heavy on my heart - there is no greater hero of the faith who passionately believed in and prayed for revival than the Doctor. So ... during his mighty series on 'Revival', Doctor Lloyd-Jones addressed the text from Genesis 26:17-18 which concerns Issac having to "dig again the wells of Abraham ... for the Philistines had stopped them".
When you read a powerful comment from Terry Virgo saying (regarding the Brighton Leaders Conference): "We, therefore, come full of anticipation of outstanding Bible teaching and the potential for glorious encounters with the Holy Spirit’s power" - the word that sticks out to me is "potential". The Holy Spirit may come. But He may not! The thought that He MAY come thrills me beyond belief. The thought that He MAY not terrifies me. What is the point of gathering if He doesn't come? Yes, we may have a "good" conference but as I quoted yesterday, Dr Lloyd-Jones said: "We were never meant to be content with a little!". Good just isn't enough!
What then do we do? Do we sit back and passively submit to His divine sovereignity? Or is there something we can do to prepare ourselves in the faith that He will come and fulfill His promises? Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones argued that there IS something we can do. We can clear our the rubbish of the Philistines from the wells of our fathers so that the water can flow again - fresh and clear! One of the major sources of rubbish that the Doctor identified was what he called: Dead Orthodoxy.
"We come now to another step in this matter of hindrances to revival, a step which, alas, again we have of necessity to consider. I cannot think of a better description of this than the term 'dead orthodoxy' and I suppose that the history of the Church throughout the centuries indicates quite clearly that this, of all dangers, is perhaps the greatest danger".
"It is an appalling thought but it is nevertheless true that there is such a thing as dead orthodoxy".
"Let us then analyse what we mean by this ... what are the manifestations of this condition? First of all I would suggest that we look at it more or less in general, as an attitude, as a general condition. And I think that the word that sums up this condition most perfectly is the word 'contentment'. I hesitate to use the word 'smugness' but perhaps we could put the two together and say a 'smug contentment'".
"Now by that expression I mean something like this: it is the condition of people who believe the truth and know that they believe the truth. There is no question about that. You question them, you catechise them and you will find that they are correct and orthodox. There is no fault to be found with their creed or their belief. But there is this element of contentment about it because they not only believe these things but are satisfied with themselves - self-satisfied".
"They are the people who believe the truth, over and against the others who do not believe the truth and who are not orthodox; the liberals, the people who used to be called modernists. Now of course it is right to be orthodox, and the unorthodox are wrong, but the way in which we look at ourselves can be so terribly sad. It can ruin even the correctness of our belief if this element of smugness comes in, this feeling of contentment and of satisfaction".
"Another way in which this attitude manifests itself is that the main concern is of course, defensiveness. Seeing that we are right, as we certainly are, the only thing we have to do, is to defend our position. So you will find that an individual, or a church that is guilty of this state, spends most of the time purely on the defensive ... Defending the position you see".
"Now I believe that this is a very serious and important matter and if I were asked to give an opinion on the state of evangelicalism for about the last eighty years, I would say that this has been its greatest characteristic. It has withdrawn itself, as it were and has erected some kind of iron curtain or protective mechanism and most of the energy has been given to defence, to apologetics".
"And it is so pathetic to notice the way in which almost anything is clutched at and used".
"But next to this, I must put, of necessity, a dislike of being searched and of being disturbed. The teaching must always be general I say. It must always be remote".
"And therefore I come finally to this point. There is nothing vital in the religion and worship of such people. They expect nothing and they get nothing and nothing happens to them. They go to God's house, not with the idea of meeting with God, not with the idea of waiting on Him, it never crosses their minds or enters into their hearts that something might happen in a service".
"But the idea that God may suddenly visit His people and descend upon them, the whole thrill of being in the Presence of God and sensing His nearness and His power never even enters their imaginations. The whole thing is formal, it is this smug contentment".
"We must examine ourselves. Do we go to God's house expecting something to happen? Or do we go to just listen to another sermon and to sing our hymns and to meet with each other? How often does this vital idea enter our minds that we are in the Presence of the living God, that the Holy Spirit is in the Church, that we may feel the touch of His power?".
"Is there not this appalling danger that we are just content because we have correct beliefs? And we have lost the life, the vital thing, the power, the thing that really makes worship worship, which is in Spirit and in truth".
"But let us look at it from a slightly different angle. The second characteristic of this dead orthodoxy is a dislike of enthusiasm. Now this is a most important subject. If you like it in more biblical terms, I could put it like this: it is to be guilty of quenching the Spirit. Dislike of enthusiasm is to quench the Spirit".
"Quench not the Spirit. What does this mean? Now some people in the Church are very clear about that first one, that everything be done decently and in order. Why, they are experts on it. The trouble is they are so clear on it, that they are guilty of quenching the Spirit. In their reaction from the false, they have gone to another position that is equally false".
"The question is, are we giving the Holy Spirit an opportunity? Are we so tied down by our programmes that He is excluded? Why this formality? Why this tying down of everything? What if the Spirit should suddenly come? I do commend this matter to you very seriously".
"This is not a plea for emotionalism which I have denounced, it is a plea for emotion. God save us from becoming so afraid of the false that we quench the Spirit of God and become so respectable and so pseudo-intellectual that the Spirit of God is kept back, and we go on in our dryness and aridity and in our comparative futility and helplessness and uselessness. Oh let us consider these two great propositions of the New Testament. Let everything be done decently and in order - certainly".
"But in the name of God, quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesyings, and let us come to God's house in freedom, ever expecting the power to descend upon us and to have an experience of God and of Christ that will melt us and move us and break us and make us forget ourselves".