Tuesday, May 02, 2006

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".


Sheila said...

Excellent thoughts. An interesting fact - I was devouring Ravenhill books at the age of 15! Hmmmm...wonder where the ever-present hunger for "more" came from? I'd say it was sown deeply into my heart at 12 and 13, when I saw with my own eyes the slow DEcrease of the movement of the Spirit, after watching healing and deliverance take place almost daily in the church. Then, reading Ravenhill at 15 was no help at all in making that ache for "more" just go away.

I call those times when heaven and earth converge, and God meets with His people, I call them "holy Kodak moments". Here in the US, a "kodak moment" is a completely unexpected surprise, when something wonderful and precious happens, and dad or mom RUN for the camera.

But you have to survive and thrive in the hum-drum every dayness of life, if you are to experience those Kodak moments that make it all worth the "having done all to stand".

It is no different in things of the Spirit. We see in Scripture all of human history until a few years A.D., condensed as it were into a book. It would lead us to think that the spectacular was as common as rain or dust. Not so. Even in Scripture, there were generations of silence. God was silent. Then He spoke again, by and through the Son.

Anyhow. We have many gatherings in Harvest Church when the worship is lousy (it goes with the pioneering territory) and sometimes even my husband's preaching seems dry. (ACK! I'd say "Don't tell him!" but he'd admit to it.) The temptation is to just stay home....even quit. The temptation is to go somewhere else....to go to a church where the human abilities of the worship leaders and speakers are so advanced, so professional, so gifted, that they can approximate the presence of God...or at least what I perceive His presence to be like, when I put God in my little experiential box.

But I don't stay home. I don't leave and go elsewhere. I never know when a "Kodak moment from God" will visit our people right there at Harvest. We've tasted of this many times - but not every day or every week.

Heaven HAS come down, and glory HAS filled us before. And since I never know when I'll be surprised by joy again, I'm reluctant to miss a thing.

Where two or three are gathered together, He is there. He either spoke the truth or He lied when He said that.

Again..*sigh* I teeter on the razor edges of never being satisfied, never being "smugly content" as today's word said....but at the same time, dwelling in the land and cultivating faithfulness and being happy to do so. Those two verbs, "dwell" and "cultivate" are not filled with melodrama.

And so I dwell, and so I cultivate, and so I do it all with an eye to the skies, praying to see a cloud the size of a nail-scarred hand....

jul said...

Strangely, this post is along the lines of something I tried to say in a comment a few posts back after I read the "contract" from TFG. It was a long comment but it didn't work so I figured I would leave well enough alone. Suffice it to say that I perceived (whether rightly or not I don't know) some "smug contentedness" to be at work there. It seems very self-satisfied indeed to stand on a stage and sign a paper in front of a bunch of people that agree with you.
It's funny but just last night we had friends over and we were having a discussion about tradition, liturgical churches, building, icons, and things of that nature. I naturally rebel against any of these not expressly commanded in Scripture (such as baptism or communion) and was not able to explain why at first. But as we continued to disagree, I realized that what I hate is the idea that we would rather come up with more rituals and 'aids' in worship that call on God to rend the heavens and come down. We don't believe he'll actually do that, so we refine our service, try new things , add technnology or whatever we can do to make church enjoyable without God's presence. In essence, we provide substitutes for true experiences with the Spirit. It doesn't seem to occur to us that the real problem is not within our control at all. We NEED God. We don't need anything else, and nothing else can make up for the fact that he's not with us in power, if he's not. So why do we try? Wouldn't it be a better use of our time and energy to pray? I'm not trying to say that we don't do things well and we can't use things to help people worship, but in the end, if the Spirit falls on us , will we even notice the flowers up front? When we are finally caught up in the amazing holiness of God will we care if the band makes a mistake?
Can you tell I've read Ravenhill a bit myself Sheila? Sometimes he's a bit too hard on the church I think ( as I can be), but he certainly makes some good points on the priority of prayer over everything else the church does.

Sheila said...

Oh Jul...to use a Ravenhill tool (alliteration), "A prayerless church is a pitiful, puny, picky, poor, proud, poker-faced place, where no one presses into God, and thus, nothing profound or praiseworthy presents." Yes, would that He rend the heavens and come down!

Don said...

Wonderful, ladies.

It reminds me that in 1997-98, when the Spirit visited Baltimore's Rock City Church in amazing power, many people removed their shoes and worshipped in socks or stockings -- holes and all. No one cared about anything except the sweet presence of God in His house, and how we could linger in that presence as long as possible.

One night, an elderly black women came from somewhere, knelt in front of me and asked permission to "wash" my feet. She carefully took off my shoes and wiped my feet with a towel, tears in her eyes the whole time. I was so undone I almost cried out, "get away from me, I'm a sinful man!" All I could do was thank her, hug her, and ask God to continue blessing her.

In revival, flowers, suits, shoes, pretty songs -- nothing matters except the presence of God and the work He does in our hearts. He's *all* that matters, and in revival we wonder at His mercy that allows us to live so long, blind to that truth.

Luke Wood said...

Ahh I was wondering when this would be announced!

You know when a leader talks hypothetically about situation and you just can't resist the temptation to try and "decode" what they're saying? Well, in June that's what my Dad did when Terry came to Winchester to speak. He called me (I hadn't been there) and said "Kate Simmonds is moving to Australia". Naturally I was astounded. But it emerged that Terry hadn't actually said that, it was just him assuming things from subtle hints in what was said.

So a few months ago I was speaking to a friend who's Dad is an elder at CCK and said "So when's Kate moving to the other side of the world then?" She was shocked at the thought, so I began to think my Dad had been wrong.

But then when I visited CCK I found that the team Kate and Miles had been leading had been passed on to aother couple. This got me thinking again... was my Dad right after all? Now we know he was!

It's amazing though how long these things take... this happened almost a year ago now. I totally agree about the excitement of being a people on the move, but even for a particularly mobile group of Christians, we don't tend to move fast! Maybe in a few decades time we will be in a place to make quick moves for God...

Anonymous said...

I am so undone by these quotes from the Doctor. Oh God save us from smug contentment!! And defensiveness!

Dr S A J Burgess

Baxter's Boy said...

Yep that's a good point Luke! I didn't realise it had been a year in the happening. Mind you I am guilty more than anyone of resisting change as long as I can. I KNOW that I've got to leave Bristol, and I think I know where I'm meant to be going ... but I "just" have to get my loans sorted and paid off, and I "just" have to get financially secure, and I "just" have to do this and do that, and don't I sound like some disciples in the New Testament that heard the call of Jesus Christ?!?!

I guess then Jesus' reply to me would be; "Let the loans bury their own loans - you come follow Me"?!!?

I thought about T4G too Jul, but I wonder if smug contentment can creep into charismatic circles all too easily? We see ourselves as "the people of the Spirit" and think we have a franchise on Him. Yet when we compare our experience of Him to these Old Testament saints, we are NOTHING!! That's why reading of these books and church history is so vital. Until thousands of non-believers are pouring into my church, I don't want to get smug about ANYTHING!

Ollie said...

I want to focus on this final quote of this so powerful piece of writing. Where Dr L-Jones is talking about coming to ANY meeting whatsoever and having no expectation of the Spirit descending in power!!

This reminded me of a quote that Dan included from Terry Virgo many months ago where he said that he NEVER wanted to come again to a meeting where He was not present!!

Could we really be that ruthless with ourselves and our churches? Or do we so easily settle, as Dan said, for a "good" meeting. Or a "good" conference? Or a "good" word? Do we dare come to the mid-week prayer meetings and intercede before God like Moses did, saying "GOD WE ARE NOTHING WITHOUT YOU!! OUR MEETINGS ARE WORTHLESS WITHOUT YOU!! OUR WORSHIP IS RUBBISH IF YOU ARE NOT PRESENT!!".

Sorry ... got shouting there! ;)

Actually I'm not sorry. This stuff has been forgotten and it needs to be re-remembered. Dan, I can't wait to hear how the all-nighter prayer meeting at CCK goes. We need a report! And Luke too, in Sheffield. Soak the nation in prayer!

Luke Wood said...

How exciting about you leaving Bristol, Dan! It sounds from what you've shared on your blog that this will be a real cut-off point with the past, and a fresh "moving-into" time of blessing .... I hope it is anyway!

How I love times of transition... as a kid we moved around quite a lot (something I thank God for, as each time we moved my parents were prompted to join a new type of church - in the end we worked our way from dead church to alive church!). But that means that now I'm constantly restless! Hopefully I am still able to commit to things in a Godly way, but my ears and eyes are always open looking for the next thing! I love transition! If it's done well, that is. Transition handled badly can be very painful.

So anyway, I hope that this will be such a positive time for for as you make your decision! I too was wrestling with a similar decision over Easter and spent a significant amount of time praying and seeking guidance from wise people. And God has been so faithful in directing me. Though it's a year off, I can't wait until my next time of transition! I hope and pray it's a successful and fruitful period in your life.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks so much!! That's what makes being part of Newfrontiers so awesome ... that you get to meet people like yourself who are for you, and encouraging you first and foremost and aren't; "Ooh but what about ...".

Thanks - that has really given me a boost! :D

James B said...

Spot on Ollie. Couldn't agree more! Yes Dan, I couldn't agree more with Luke. I got a real buzz when I read about you moving on from Bristol. This is so awesome! God's saying; "You've been round this mountain long enough". It hasn't been a pleasant mountain at all from what you have shared, but He is on the move and has got good things for you. Keep us posted!