I hear a lot about revival these days. Indeed, I too long for a revival that would see droves come to Christ in repentance. However, if you look back at some of the revivals of the past—The first and second Great Awakenings, the Welsh revival, etc—you will find that often what killed them were the unBiblical emotional excesses that crept in from the fringes. These excesses lead to the sectarianism that eventually buried the revivals
In our age where discernment is quickly shrugged off as divisive, hateful or not coming from a “spirit of unity,” how long would a real revival last here? Even with the great and devout mind of Edwards the First Great Awakening quickly descended into the ridiculous. The following comes from Jonathan Edwards: A Life, by George M. Marsden.
In his letter to Robe, he provided a concise summary of what he had learned from seeing two revivals come and go. Gentleness and gentleness and genuinely self-renouncing humility were far better evidences of true saintliness than were merely intense experiences. “Many among us have been ready to think, that all high raptures are divine,” Edwards explained, “but experience plainly shows, that it is not the degree of rapture and ecstasy (although it should be to the third heavens), but the nature and kind that must determine us in their favor.” Genuine raptures would be accompanied not by a “noisy showy humility,” but rather by “deep humiliation, brokenness of heart, poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, solemnity of spirit, a trembling reverence towards God, tenderness of spirit, self-jealousy and fear, and great engagedness of heart, after holiness of life, and a readiness to esteem others better than themselves.”
What concerns me is that in old revivals the likes of Edwards fought hard against excesses, but those who call for modern revival seem to be fighting hard to produce them. From non-stop repetitive music at rallies, emotional appeals, or even the so called sign and wonders, the aim is simple. Get them excited. Get them crying. Any emotional experience is counted as the work of the Holy Spirit. But all emotional experiences are not necessarily works of the Holy Spirit. I cried at the Muppet movie on Friday. I really hope that wasn’t the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit!
Let us continue to pray for masses of people to come to know God through faith in Jesus Christ his son, but let us not equate all emotional experiences with the Holy Spirit, especially those that WE MANUFACTURE with big shows and music.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
Note: I have nothing against music or even big productions necessarily. I love worshipping my King with fellow believers. I am talking about using emotional manipulation, whether intentional or not, to create a revival. Genuine raptures, as Edwards notes, ought to be accompanied by, “deep humiliation, brokenness of heart, poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, solemnity of spirit, a trembling reverence towards God, tenderness of spirit, self-jealousy and fear, and great engagedness of heart, after holiness of life, and a readiness to esteem others better than themselves.” Let’s shoot for preaching the word faithfully and let God produce those things.
Many men, as has already been observed, are telling us that we should not seek to know Him at all; theology, we are told, is the death of religion. We do not know God, then—such seems to be the logical implication of this view—but simply feel Him. In its consistent form such a view is mysticism; religion is reduced to a sate of the soul in which the mind and the will are in abeyance. Whatever may be thought of such a religion, I cannot see that it possesses any moral quality at all; pure feeling is non-moral, and so is religion that is not founded upon theology. What makes our love for a true friend, for example, such an ennobling thing is the recognition by our mind of the character of our friend. Human affection, so beautiful in its apparent simplicity, really depends upon a treasured host of observations of the actions of our friend. So it is also in the case of our relation to God. It is because we know certain things about Him, it is because we know that He is mighty and holy and loving, that our communion with Him obtains its peculiar quality. The devout man cannot be indifferent to doctrine, in the sense in which any modern preachers would have us be indifferent, any more than he can listen with equanimity to misrepresentations of an earthly friend. Our faith in God, despite all that is said, is indissolubly connected with what we think of Him. The devout man may indeed well do without a complete systematization of his knowledge—though if he be really devout he will desire just as complete a systematization as he can possibly obtain—but some knowledge he certainly must have.
Machen’s sentiments are a good check to the anti-intellectualism so common in current American Christianity. Experience is king. Why study about God from a “dead letter” when you can feel and experience him?
Many wish to make a God from their own imagination, and then “experience” his “presence” through emotionally laden, self-focussed “worship” music rather than doing the hard work of listening to Paul’s charge to Timothy.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
Let us fight against mysticism in all it’s subtle forms, not following in the same error as the gnostics or the thousands of other heretics since. You cannot trust him who you do not know with your mind. Let us learn and cherish the beautiful doctrines of scripture, that we might better know our God and serve him as he has commanded us.
Soli Deo gloria
Okay, this post is long. I debated making this a 3 parter but I figured no one would read it on thanksgiving and I didn’t want to wait a week to wrap it up. So good luck!
Yesterday in part 1 I wrote about the softening of the gospel that often happens when we witness. Today I want to look at an example of evangelizing from the New Testament and some things we can glean from it. But first, a story. Read More…
Nice title, right?
You probably started reading this thinking it would be a call for evangelistic methods that are more loving and gentle. Methods that aren’t so abrasive. After all, we certainly don’t want to be like those nutty street preachers. Well, this is actually just the opposite. Read More…
One of the things I love about video is that it is able to capture the flow of time visually. Actually, that might just be a definition of video. Either way, it is awesome in that respect and totally unique from any other medium.
As I have been reading through The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven J. Lawson it has caused me to reflect on my usage of time and the shortness of my days. As a young man, Edwards made a list of 70 resolutions that he wanted to live his life by. These resolutions are the subject of Lawson’s book. Many of them focus on time. The shortness of it, and the proper investment of it. His ninth resolution strikes me as especially interesting.
Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
Throughout the short course of my life death has dogged my thoughts. From the death of my father at a young age to my bout with the darkness of depression in high school, my thoughts have often been on death. But not in the way Edwards pondered it. He purposely determined to consider the brevity of his life and live his life accordingly. Such is wisdom.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
My mind was on these things as I watched this video take advantage of the mediums chronological capabilities. This is a time lapse of the sky over the course of 360 seperate days, all playing simultaneously. Incredible! Terrifying.
So many days summarized. It’s frightening and convicting. What will I have to show for my life when I meet the One who made that sky?
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, Hebrews 9:27
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:12
Sobering thought. Such thoughts should remind us of two things: the joy of the gospel; that if we are in Christ we are no longer under the wrath of the divine judge, and that we must continue to run the race. I’m still here. It’s not over yet.
Water break’s over. Time to get the feet back on that track. There’s still a prize to be won.
Have you ever thought about it? If God is sovereign and everything He wills will come to pass, why should we pray? Even though I know that the Bible teaches that I ought to pray AND that God is sovereign, I often find myself using this apparent paradox as an excuse to not pray rather than praying in simple obedient faith.
While there are many excellent and nuanced answers to this question, I find this analogy by Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960) to be particularly helpful.
“We will suppose the case of a man who loves violin music. He has the means to buy for himself a very fine violin, and he also purchases the very best radio obtainable. He builds up a library of the great musical scores, so that he is able to take any piece that is announced on the radio, put it on his music stand, and play along with the orchestra. The announcer says that Mr. Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra are going to play Beethoven’s seventh symphony. The man in his home puts that symphony on his stand and tunes his violin with what he hears coming from the orchestra. The music that comes from the radio we might call foreordained. Ormandy is going to follow the score just as Beethoven wrote it. The man in his living room starts to scratch away at the first violin part. He misses beats, he loses his place and finds it again, he breaks a string, and stops to fix it. The music goes on and on. He finds his place again and plays on after his fashion to the end of the symphony. The announcer names the next work that is to be played and the fiddler puts that number on his rack. Day after week after month after year, he finds pleasure in scraping his fiddle along with the violins of the great orchestras. Their music is determined in advance. What he must do is to learn to play in their tempo, in their key, and to follow the score as it has been written in advance. If he decides that he wants to play Yankee Doodle when the orchestra is in the midst of a Brahm’s number, there’s going to be dissonance and discord in the man’s house but not in the Academy of Music. After some years of this the man may be a rather creditable violin player and may have learned to submit himself utterly to the scores that are written and follow the grogram as played. Harmony and joy come from the submission and cooperation.
So it is with the plan of God. It is rolling toward us, unfolding day by day, as He has planned it before the foundation of the world. There are those who fight against it and who must ultimately be cast into outer darkness because He will not have in His heaven those who proudly resist Him. This cannot be tolerated any more than the authorities would permit a man to bring his own violin into the Academy of Music and start to play Shostakovish when the program called for Bach. The score of God’s plan is set forth in the Bible. In the measure that I learn it, submit myself to it, and seek to live in accordance with all that is therein set forth, I shall find myself in joy and in harmony with God and His plans. If I set myself to fight against it, or disagree with that which comes forth, there can be no peace in my heart and life. If in my heart I seek to play a tune that is not the melody the Lord has for me, there can be nothing but dissonance. Prayer is learning to play the tune that the eternal plan of God calls for and to do that which is in harmony with the will of the Eternal Composer and the Author of all that is true harmony in life and living.”
What about you, what excuses keep you from prayer?