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Volume 2, Issue 8:

The Revival of True Religion

    1. When prayer ceases to be a vital part of a professing Christian's life, backsliding is present...
    2. When the quest for biblical truth ceases and one grows content with the knowledge of eternal things already acquired, there can be no mistaking the presence of backsliding...
    3. When the biblical knowledge possessed or acquired is treated as external fact and not applied inwardly, backsliding is present...
    4. When earnest thoughts about eternal things cease to be regular and gripping, it should be like a warning light to the backslider...
    5. When the services of the church lose their delights, a backslidden condition probably exists...
    6. When pointed spiritual discussions are an embarrassment, that is certain evidence of backsliding...
    7. When sports, recreation, and entertainment are a large and necessary part of your lifestyle, you may assume backsliding is in force...
    8. When sins of the body and of the mind can be indulged in without an uproar in your conscience, your backslidden condition is certain...
    9. When aspirations of Christlike holiness cease to be dominant in your life and thinking, backsliding is there...
    10. When the acquisition of money and goods becomes a dominant part of your thinking, you have a clear confirmation of backsliding...
    11. When you can mouth religious songs and words without heart, be sure backsliding is present...
    12. When you can hear the Lord's name taken in vain, spiritual concerns mocked, and eternal issues flippantly treated, and not be moved to indignation and action, you are backslidden...
    13. When you can watch degrading movies and television and read morally debilitating literature, you can be sure you have backslidden...
    14. When breaches of peace in the brotherhood are of no concern to you, that is proof of backsliding...
    15. When the slightest excuse seems sufficient to keep you from spiritual duty and opportunity, you are backslidden...
    16. When you become content with your lack of spiritual power and no longer seek repeated enduements of power from on high, you have backslidden...
    17. When you pardon your own sin and sloth by saying the Lord understands and remembers that we are dust, you may have spoken gospel truth, but you have also revealed your backslidden condition...
    18. When there is no music in your soul and no song in your heart, the silence testifies to your backsliding...
    19. When you adjust happily to the world's lifestyle, your own mirror will tell the truth of your backsliding...
    20. When injustice and human misery exist around you and you do little or nothing to relieve the suffering, be sure you are backslidden...
    21. When your church has fallen into spiritual declension and the Word of God is no longer preached there with power and you are still content, you are in a backslidden condition...
    22. When the spiritual condition of the world declines around you and you cannot perceive it, that is testimony to your backslidden stance...
    23. When you are willing to cheat your employer, backsliding is apparent...
    24. When you find yourself rich in grace and mercy and marvel at your own godlikeness, then you have fallen far in your backsliding...
    25. When your tears are dried up and the hard, cold spiritual facts of your existence cannot unleash them, see this as an awful testimony to both the hardness of your heart and the depth of your backsliding.
- Richard Owen Roberts
So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, of men and women and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday...and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law...And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, `Amen, Amen!' while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
- Nehemiah 8:2-3,6
When God arises, his enemies are scattered, that is the story of all the great revivals of history.
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Easy Chairs/Hard Words, Part 5

By Douglas Wilson

"What difference does it all make?" I asked.

Pastor Spenser took a sip of his coffee, and answered the question with a question. "What kind of difference do you mean? For the individual Christian, or for the Church, or both?"
"Well, I first came to visit you because the difference it makes to me was obvious. The doctrine I held before did little more than torment me. I was constantly in fear over the possibility of losing my salvation."
"But I have friends who hold to those same doctrines with enthusiastic cheerfulness. Are these teachings something which I needed to hear for my Christian life, but which are not necessary for the Church at large?"
Pastor Spenser nodded. "I see what you are asking. Even if all this is true, is it something the Church needs to believe? Is the Church hindered in her work if these doctrines are neglected or rejected?"
"Right. If some Christians seem to get along just fine without it, why can't the Church as a whole?"
"Because ideas have consequences, and because the Church is made up of individuals."
"OK. Explain."
"Ideas have consequences, not because each individual is consistent, but because groups of people are consistent over time."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Let's take a clear example from outside the faith. Have you ever known an atheist who was a decent, law-abiding citizen?"
I nodded. "Yes."
"Now was he being consistent with the basic premises of his worldview?"
I laughed, "No. And we had many discussions about it. He treated me with respect, but given his worldview, I was nothing more than a mass of protoplasm."
Pastor Spenser continued. "Now my point is this. Individual atheists can frequently be inconsistent like this. Atheistic societies never are."
"Never are inconsistent, you mean?"
"Right. Over time, the beliefs of individuals will be consistently applied by the group, even if many of the individuals who brought this about did not apply them."
"Apply this to the Church, then."
"The basic issue we have been discussing all these weeks has been the difference between man-centered religion, and God-centered religion."
"I follow that."
"Now, have you ever known any Christian whose beliefs, or doctrines, were what we have been calling `man-centered,' but whose life was clearly God-centered?"
I nodded again. "Yes."
"And we would call that inconsistent?"
"And if you wind up changing churches, you will very quickly encounter Christians whose doctrines are `God-centered,' but whose life is man-centered. This is also inconsistent."
"Well, this brings us back to my first question. If this is the case, what difference does it all make?"
"It is quite simple. The Church, being an assembly of people, will eventually live in a manner consistent with her doctrine. If the doctrine is man-centered, then there will come a time when the lifestyle, morals, ceremonies, teaching, etc. are also man-centered."
"So even though an individual is inconsistent with his false doctrine, the Church at large will eventually be consistent with it."
"Correct. This explains why certain beliefs can be held by pious Christians, while those same beliefs go on to corrupt and defile the piety of the Church."
"Can you give me an example from church history?"
"Certainly. Consider revival. What does that term mean?"
I grinned. "A week of nightly meetings?"
"That is what it has come to mean. Arrange for a speaker, print the flyers, gather the troops, and work up a revival. From start to finish, it is the work of man."
"What did revival mean before?"
"It referred to a time when the sovereign Holy Spirit moved in a congregation in such a way as to reveal the glory of Jesus Christ. From start to finish, it was the work of God."
"What is a true revival like?"
I was surprised to see Pastor Spenser's eyes well up. "I don't know," he said. "All the knowledge of true revival today is second-hand - through books. The last healthy revival was in the mid-nineteenth century."
"What happened?"
"Revival, which is a gift of God, was, through theological confusion, turned into a work of man. The result is revivalism, not revival."
"What is the difference?"
"Well, there are two kinds of revivalism. One is where a denomination has a long tradition of having these meetings, everyone is used to it, they go and listen, and then go home. It is little more than a religious seminar. And, as seminars go, some of them might be worthwhile."
"And the other?"
"The other is the result of taking the whole idea of revival more seriously. The people expect fireworks, so they see to it there are fireworks. It is nothing more than religious enthusiasm and fanaticism."
"But weren't some of the great revival preachers of the past - men you respect - accused of religious fanaticism too?"
"They certainly were. And if God is merciful to us and sends true revival again, the charges of fanaticism will be heard again."
"I know. Couldn't a Christian make the point that the whole distinction between revival and revivalism is a false one, and that all such events are fanatical to some degree or another?"
Pastor Spenser nodded. "It is a legitimate concern. First, can we agree that there is such a thing as true fanaticism?"
"Sure. I don't believe anyone would disagree there. Religious fanatics have always been around."
"Now, the next question is this: Does the Bible teach anything which, if applied, would result in the one applying it to be accused of fanaticism?"
I smiled. "You tell me."
"How about 1 Peter 1:8? `Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.' Or Ephesians 3:17-19? `...that you...may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.' I don't know. A little extreme, don't you think?"
I sat for a moment, thinking. Pastor Spenser spoke again.
"Christians get used to such passages. There it is, safe on the page. But there is no way for a Christian to be filled with inexpressible joy without it affecting his demeanor and behavior. And when it does, he will be accused of fanaticism. Many Christians, in their concern over religious fanaticism, have gotten rid of not only the fanaticism, but also the religion."
"So what are the characteristics of true revival, over against revivalism?"
"We have been talking about God-centeredness versus man-centeredness. The distinction follows us into our discussion of the criteria by which everything is to be evaluated; teaching and lifestyle, or, put another way, doctrine and morals."
"OK. Let's start with doctrine."
"In a true revival, doctrine is the emphasis, and the doctrine is God-centered. In revivalism, because man is the center, feelings are emphasized. In revival, truth overwhelms the mind, resulting in an emotional response - inexpressible joy. In revivalism, the emotions are excited directly, and any number of teachings, true or false, can do that."
"What about morality?"
"In a true revival, the change in the moral behavior of those blessed is significant and lasting. With revivalism, very little is done to teach the people to restrain their passions. In fact, because the `revival' encourages a lack of restraint in the church, it is not long before a lack of restraint is evident elsewhere, usually in the area of sexual morality."
"Are you saying that in order to have a true revival, a belief in God's exhaustive sovereignty is necessary?"
"But didn't men like Charles Finney deny this particular truth? And wasn't he part of the revivals of the nineteenth century?"
"Yes, he did deny it, and he was certainly a participant in `revivals.' But he was one of those who effectively introduced the man-centered doctrines and practices which were the death of true revivals in this country."
"You know," I said, "I thought I had gotten used to the strange things you say from time to time. But this takes the cake! I have some friends who are really into revival, and they read books by Finney all the time."
Pastor Spenser was shaking his head. "I know, I know. It is ironic. When Christians periodically despair of the current state of the church, and come to think, correctly, that the only thing which will help us is revival, they then turn to one of the men who was a major part of the problem."
"So how would you summarize all this?"
"I would say that God is over all, and through all, and in all. Anyone who denies this, in any measure, is a hindrance to true heaven-sent revival."

We have felt in our souls, not that we may have revival, but that we must have it. We must draw near to the angel and wrestle afresh with this determination, that we will not let him go unless he should bless us.
- Charles Spurgeon
Salvation shall spread through all the tribes and ranks of mankind, as the lightening from heaven in a few moments would communicate a living flame through ten thousand lamps and torches placed in a proper situation and neighborhood. Thus a nation shall be born in a day when our Redeemer please, and his faithful and obedient subjects shall become as numerous as the spires of grass in a meadow newly mown, and refreshed with the showers of heaven.
- Isaac Watts & John Guyse
Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?
- Psalm 85:6
It is no accident that the popular liberal and progressive theologies are also humanistic, for here again is a basic Pelagian tendency. In consequence, preaching is persuasion, not teaching, and often degenerates into scolding. Men can turn by their own ability and they won't! In some of the worst forms of preaching Christ is reduced to the level of a beggar pleading pathetically to get into a man's house. By losing sight of Christ's power to reveal himself to whomsoever he will (Matt. 11:27) and of sinners' inability and spiritual impotence, the true nature of the free offers of the Gospel is destroyed...More serious still is the effect upon revivals of religion. In the time of Jonathan Edwards, a revival was regarded as a supernatural and miraculous work of the sovereign Holy Spirit, to be prayed down from heaven. By the time Finney's lectures had leavened their way into the Church, revival had become something for man to promote and work up...Finney began in revival and ended with organized "revivalism." He began in revival and he ended up with modern evangelism. For the most part the Church has continued in that line ever since. Today one reads in American literature: "Don't have your revival until you have seen our colour posters." Or, more dramatically: "Revivals arranged, results guaranteed; terms moderate!"...The absence of revival from God is a matter of grief. Is it true that so long as we continue to rely on man we continue to grieve the Spirit and hinder the return of revival?"
- Clive Taylor
Therefore I not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe...
- Ephesians 1:15a,16-19a
While God was so remarkably present amongst us by his Spirit, there was no book so delightful as the Bible; especially the Book of Psalms, the Prophecy of Isaiah, and the New Testament.
- Jonathan Edwards
They do not believe in an outpouring of the Spirit of God, in spite of the history of the Church. They do not seem to want it, God have mercy upon them. At ease in Zion, with Zion as she is, and the world as it is.
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Revive us, again, fill each heart with
    Thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire
    from above.
Hallelujah, Thine the glory! Hallelujah, Amen!
Hallelujah, Thine the glory! Revive us again!

Credenda/Agenda is sent free of charge to all who would like to receive a copy. It is a publication of Canon Press, which is the literature ministry of Community Evangelical Fellowship, located at 110 Baker Street, Moscow, Idaho, 83843; (208) 882-2034, or 1-800-488-2034; Douglas Wilson, editor. If you would like information about our other publications, please contact us.

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