James 4:1-4 (ESV)
These four verses offer a plethora of topics to discuss. I think I'm going to focus on just a line or two. “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Some of you just about stopped reading because you thought “Oh no, another Vending Machine Jesus message.” Keep reading though. This one's about revival.
A couple of days ago, a good friend of mine updated his status at Facebook. My friend “is grieved in my spirit...we need revival.” I can't agree more. A Southern Baptist evangelist recently wrote an article that suggested that the lack of revival in America is attributable to churches not bringing in traveling evangelists. Leonard Ravenhill wrote books like “Why Revival Tarries” to explain why we are not seeing a sweeping move of God across this country...and this was written 40 or 50 years ago. To a man, the entirety of American Christianity will tell you that we need revival. If we all agree that we need it, why don't we see it?
There's several reasons, I believe. First, I don't think most Christians are actually praying for revival. That's Mr. Ravenhill's stance. I don't watch much of the TV preachers or the ones on radio but I can't think of the last time I heard one of them preach on either evangelism or revival, let alone tell people to pray for it. I hear requests to give more because the ministry is facing hard times. I hear about praying for the election. I hear about praying to receive that car, house, job, functional savior that will make you life perfect and show God's favor to you.
I also think that the average American Christian has no idea what revival is. I'm not talking about my friend here, just the average church goer in this country. When I do hear someone talking about revival from the pulpit, it almost always seems to involve politics. We need revival so folks will vote the right way next time. We need revival so that gay marriage doesn't get legalized. We need revival so that young girls quit wearing short skirts. We need revival so our taxes will get lowered. We need revival so that God will be pleased and the stock market will go back up and gas will come down to stay.
When we do ask God to pour out His Spirit and bring revival, if we aren't seeking political change, we're looking for a personal renewing. Many people's idea of revival is their church getting excited about Jesus again. It usually involves a traveling preacher stopping in for a few days, preaching some really well delivered and exciting sermons, collecting the offering and leaving. Sometimes it involves someone reading a new book and getting excited. Maybe it's stumbling across an Emerging leader or someone offering different ideas from what their church has been doing for 50 years. Sometimes it is a new “outpouring” of the Spirit. We abandon all Biblical discernment and chase after signs, wonders and miracles. Sure, more often than not that involves manifestations of things long considered to be demonic possession or of men pretending to pee on the church walls, but hey..it feels good. It is also ALWAYS temporary. Take the Lakeland circus this summer or the Airport Vineyard thing a decade ago.
The last dramatic revival on this continent took place over a hundred years ago during the Third Great Awakening. Maybe not since the Second. Not even the Jesus people movement of the 60's and 70's or the Charismatic Renewal of the 80's came close. In fact, I would argue that the Charismatic Renewal is exactly the type of revival we want from God; one that blesses us. We seek revival not to spread the word of God and warn the lost to flee from the wrath to come into the arms of Jesus. No, we seek revival so we can feel better, consuming it for our own pleasure. We have sought material gain and labeled it as Godly while trying to criminalize the lost while calling it “family values”.
Can you even imagine a mainstream preacher preaching a sermon like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” now days? Less than 2% of believers have shared their faith with someone in the last year. Of that 2% how many offered God's Plan for a better life instead of warning them that apart from Jesus they are headed to Hell? Is it any wonder we don't see people coming to Christ in the thousands? Does it surprise you that the gifts of the spirit seem to be manifesting less and less? Ask your self when was the last time you saw a true, immediate healing? Mine was in 1994 or 1995 on my knee. Sure, prophesy is still around but it all seems to be political or “encouraging” words. When was the last time you or someone else “read someone's mail”? The gifts of the Spirit are there to give credence to the claims of the Gospel. The power shows that Christianity is not just another man made religion. If we aren't seeing the gifts, is it because we aren't preaching the Gospel.
We have not revival because we ask not. When we do ask, we don't want to share we just want a bless-me club and call it revival. We have to go OUTSIDE of the Church walls if we ever hope to see revival.