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Category Archives: Reformation and Revival

Jonathan Edwards on the Life of a Christian

5 Things Jonathan Edwards Teaches Us about the Christian Life

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This is a guest post by Dane Ortlund. He is the author of Edwards On the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014.originally posted @http://www.crossway.org/blog/2014/08/5-things-jonathan-edwards-teaches-us-about-the-christian-life/

Jonathan Edwards for the Rest of Us

For many of us, Jonathan Edwards is a skinny white guy who never smiled, except when talking about hell. If we know anything more, it’s:

  • that he wrote a lot of really dense books

  • that he talked a lot about the glory of God

  • that he was part of the Great Awakening

  • that John Piper likes him a lot

And that’s about it.

But there are riches to be mined in Jonathan Edwards far beyond what you may have been exposed to. Reading Jonathan Edwards is not for historians and professors mainly, but for the rest of us.

Here are five things Edwards teaches us about the Christian life—your Christian life:

1. If you’re a Christian, you don’t realize how radically different and freshly empowered you now are.

When sinners repent and believe for the first time, it often feels as if nothing much has happened, and it often looks as if nothing much has happened. Our wrinkles don’t go away. Our Myers-Briggs personality profile doesn’t change. Our IQ isn’t improved. Our driver’s license photo looks the same after conversion as before, just a few years older and grayer.

Similarly, a foreigner who has just attained citizenship in their country of residence will not feel or look much different, upon receiving formal declaration of citizenship. Yet they now belong to an entirely new nation. More than this, they now have all the rights and privileges that belong to citizens of that nation.

Edwards teaches us that the quiet, seemingly innocuous change that takes place in the new birth is of eternal—even cosmic—significance. A fallen sinner has just become an invincible heir of the universe. The Holy Spirit has just taken up permanent residence in the temple of this soul. In new birth, Edwards writes, the Christian “is a new creature, he is just as if he were not the same, but were born again, created over a second time.”

For a Christian to wallow in sin and misery is for a butterfly to crawl miserably along the branch as if it were still a caterpillar.

2. Even if you’re a Christian, you don’t realize how radically fallen and blindly dysfunctional you remain.

If we understate the positive change in new birth, we also tend to understate the fallenness that remains. But Edwards knew of the strange dysfunctions that remain among all of us, including true believers. He saw it in himself.

Edwards spoke frequently, for example, of the lurking dangers of pride: “It is a sin that has, as it were, many lives. If you kill it, it will live still. If you suppress it in one shape, it rises in another. If you think it is all gone, it is there still. Like the coats of an onion, if you pull one form of it off, there is another underneath.”

We often don’t feel the weight of our sin. Why? Because of our sin. The disease is itself what prevents us from detecting the disease.

How do we get out? One answer is: read Jonathan Edwards. His sermons will do wonders to re-sharpen your blunted conscience and re-sensitize your heart to its fallenness.

3. Authentic discipleship to Jesus Christ calms and gentle-izes (not radicalizes and excites) Christians.

Edwards is famous for his hellfire sermons, but it is striking to trace the evolution of his preaching over his three decades in the pulpit. Scholars point out that the hellfire sermons were more typical of the young Edwards and gradually decreased over his career, while other themes grew increasingly strong: the beauty of Christ, the loveliness of holiness, the calmness of a justified life, the gentleness of God.

A sermon that nicely sums up the core of Edwards’ ministry is “The Spirit of the True Saints Is a Spirit of Divine Love,” based on 1 John 4:16. There we read statements like:

  • “The very nature of God is love. If it should be enquired what God is, it might be answered that he is an infinite and incomprehensible fountain of love.”

  • “He who has divine love in him has a wellspring of true happiness that he carries about in his own breast, a fountain of sweetness, a spring of the water of life. There is a pleasant calmness and serenity and brightness in the soul that accompanies the exercises of this holy affection.”

  • “God in Christ allows such little, poor creatures as you are to come to him, to love communion with him, and to maintain a communication of love with him. You may go to God and tell him how you love him and open your heart and he will accept of it.”

That, more than anything else, is the pulsating core of Edwards’ ministry. Radical godliness is not obnoxious, showy, or boisterous. It is quiet, gentle, and serene.

4. Christianity is gain, and only gain.

Toward the end of his life, Edwards was kicked out of his church by a vote of ten to one—by professing Christians, upstanding church members. This, and other trials he encountered during his life, lead me to conclude that the lofty vision of Christian living that he has left to us is not naïve idealism. He felt the pain not only of rejection, but of rejection by close friends and family members who were part of his church. And yet, having his eyes opened to present pain did not close his eyes to future glory.

Why? Because we will have God, in heaven, unfiltered, forever. Consider the following breathtaking statement:

The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or in each other, or in any thing else whatsoever that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what shall be seen of God in them.

Christians leave nothing behind when they die. All is gain.

5. Revival is not what you think it is.

When evangelicals today hear the word “revival,” we generally picture tears, loudness, animated preaching, exuberance, humiliating confession of sin, and so on. Some of these things may be present in revival, perhaps, but Edwards came to long for revival because he saw that it is not a move from the ordinary to the extraordinary so much as a move from the sub-ordinary to the ordinary. We become human again. We breathe once more.

Edwards witnessed two revivals. One was local, contained to New England, in the mid-1730s. The other, six years later, was transatlantic and became known as the Great Awakening. Edwards made the fascinating observation that, in the first revival, God’s people tended “to talk with too much of an air of lightness, and something of laughter,” whereas in the second revival “they seem to have no disposition to it, but rejoice with a more solemn, reverential, humble joy.” The first revival’s joy was real but frothy. The second revival’s joy was deeper and more calm.

Simply put, revival isn’t weird. True revival is rehumanizing. It re-centralizes not the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit so much as the ordinary fruit of the Spirit.


Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is Senior Vice President for Bible Publishing at Crossway. He is the author of several books, including Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, and serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible study series. He lives with his wife, Stacey, and their four kids in Wheaton.

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Should We Pray For Revival?

By Alvin Reid

 

When do you think the following observations were made?

  • Ministers today seem more concerned with political power in society than spiritual fervency in the church, while pop culture contributes to the moral decay among the youth.

  • While marked by an increasing ethnic diversity and various religious beliefs, the nation’s established religious groups –– particularly Protestants –– demonstrate a sterile spirituality. One pastor bemoans the obsession with gambling and rudeness, while churches are attended at convenience.

  • College campuses teem with students chasing after the latest philosophies, the more unbiblical the better. The more educated a person you find, the less likely you are to discover a Christian. Meanwhile, churches are filled with people who listen to pastors preach then contradict the sermon by the way they live.

You may think these descriptions came from the blog of some concerned Christian commenting on our time. But the first one comes from Great Britain just before the preaching of John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and others who were used by God to lead a great revival there. The second comes from the American colonies prior to the First Great Awakening. The final came around 1800, with college campuses in the newly formed United States influenced by Voltaire, Rousseau, and others, at the dawn of the Second Great Awakening.

Ours is not the first generation to recognize the spiritual declension among us, or to see the need for God to awaken his church and touch our land. From the saints of the Old Testament to leaders in our time, prayer for revival has marked believers who understand the need for the Spirit surpasses our ability and intelligence.

In my own tradition of the Southern Baptist Convention, I see a growing focus on prayer for revival. New SBC president Ronnie Floyd has already led several gatherings of pastors across the nation to pray for revival. I participated in one in Atlanta with almost 400 people –– mostly pastors –– seeking the Lord. You can be sure that when revival comes, it will not just touch Southern Baptists! Revival is the work of God, not of a tradition of men. “We can define it as a period of unusual blessing and activity in the life of the Christian Church,” Lloyd-Jones observed. “Revival means awakening, stimulating the life, bringing it to the surface again.”

Five Reasons to Pray for Revival

So should we pray for revival? Let me offer five thoughts on the topic:

1. If we choose to pray for revival instead of obeying God, we should not pray for revival; we should pray a prayer of repentance.

Prayer for revival is not a bandaid cure. If we are not passionate about sharing the gospel, honoring the word, and bringing glory to God, our prayers for revival are meaningless. Note the words of Tozer: “Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late — and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.”

2. If we see revival as God’s stamp of approval on our status quo Christianity, we may not desire the answer God gives.

Past awakenings brought fundamental changes to music and methods, for instance. Both John Wesley and Whitefield struggled mightily with the idea of preaching in the fields. They were proper Oxford men, after all! But their use of such a “profane” method helped to spur a great revival. In past revivals both gospel proclamation and social ministry converged, whereas today they are too often seen as rivals. Revival separates our preferences from unchanging truth.

3. That being said, we should pray for revival, starting with our own hearts.

I know I am experiencing a fresh touch of God when I stop confessing everyone else’s sins and start with my own. Too many of us are better at expressing our opinions on social media than focusing on what the Spirit is saying to us.

4. We pray for revival because of biblical teaching.

Psalm 85:6 and Habakkuk 3:2, among others, offer us examples of revival prayer. Michael Haykin offers insight on the apostle Paul and prayer for revival. Ray Ortlund also has a fine article on biblical revival praying.

5. We pray for revival because of our study of history.

Here are only a few examples:

It is God’s will through his wonderful grace, that the prayers of his saints should be one of the great principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, it is his will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people; . . . and it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication. (Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts on Revival)

Oh! men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival: men whose faith is large enough, and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here, as in the times of former generations. (Charles Spurgeon)

When did you last hear anyone praying for revival, praying that God might open the windows of heaven and pour out his Spirit? When did you last pray for that yourself? I suggest seriously that we are neglecting this almost entirely. We are guilty of forgetting the authority of the Holy Spirit. . . . When God sends revival he can do more in a single day than in fifty years of all our organization. That is the verdict of sheer history which emerges clearly from the long story of the Church. (Martin Lloyd-Jones)

I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions. (John Wesley)

G. Campbell Morgan famously observed how a sailor has no impact on the wind. But a good sailor knows the wind, and knows how to set the sails when the wind blows. Let us study the history of revival and let us gather in what Edwards called “a humble attempt to promote explicit agreement and visible union of God’s people, in extraordinary prayer” so that we will know when the Spirit moves afresh. Then we may set our sails accordingly.

Source: Alvin Reid (www.desiringgod.org – June 18, 2014)

About the Author: Alvin Reid is Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He is the author of several books, including Firefall 2.0: How God Has Shaped History Through Revivals.

 

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Book Review on R.C. Sproul’s: Everyone’s A Theologian

A PRIMER ON THE MAJOR DOCTRINES OF THE BIBLE

Everyone's a Theologian Sproul

Book Review by David P. Craig 

This book is almost a word for word account of R.C. Sproul’s DVD teaching series entitled “Foundations: An Overview of Systematic Theology.” Having watched this video series in the past I immediately recognized the content. I’m glad this series has now been made available in book form.

R.C. is a master teacher and in this book he covers the subject of Theology in its broadest sense. Theology not only refers to the study of God, but to everything that God has revealed to us in the Bible. In sixty short, but jam-packed chapters R.C. unveils with depth and clarity a summary of what the Bible has to say about its most important themes: Theology Proper – The study of God; Anthropology and Creation – The study of man; Christology – The study of Jesus; Pneumatology – The study of the Holy Spirit; Soteriology- The study of salvation; Ecclesiology – The study of the Church; and lastly (no pun intended) – Eschatology – The study of last things.

This book is an excellent introduction to all of these subjects and the sub topics they address. As R.C. Sproul says, “Everyone, is a theologian, but either a good or bad one.” You will come away from reading this book having learned a ton of important truths that will help you become a better theologian. With profound depth, clarity, historical, and practical wisdom Sproul will delight and intrigue you in helping you grow in your journey and intimacy with God – using your head, heart, and hands for His glory and your good.

 

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Fortress for Truth: Martin Luther

By Steven J. Lawson

Martin Luther was a giant of history. Some believe he was the most significant European figure of the second millennium. He was the pioneer Reformer, the one God first used to spark a transformation of Christianity and the Western world. He was the undisputed leader of the German Reformation. In a day of ecclesiastical corruptions and apostasies, he was a valiant champion of the truth; his powerful preaching and pen helped to restore the pure gospel. More books have been written about him than any other man of history except Jesus Christ and possibly Augustine.

Luther came from hard-working stock. He was born in the little town of Eisleben, Germany, on November 10, 1483. His father, Hans, was a copper miner who eventually gained some wealth from a shared interest in mines, smelters, and other business ventures. His mother was pious but religiously superstitious. Luther was raised under the strict disciplines of the Roman Catholic Church and was groomed by his industrious father to be a successful lawyer. To this end, he pursued an education at Eisenach (1498–1501) and then at the University of Erfurt in philosophy. At the latter, he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1502 and a master of arts degree in 1505.

Luther’s life took an unexpected turn in July 1505, when he was twenty-one. He was caught in a severe thunderstorm and knocked to the ground by a nearby lightning strike. Terrified, he cried out to the Catholic patroness of miners, “Help me, St. Anna, and I will become a monk.” Luther survived the storm and made good on his dramatic vow. Two weeks later, he entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. His father was furious over Luther’s apparent wasted education, but Luther was determined to follow through on his vow.

Lost in Self-Righteousness

In the monastery, Luther was driven to find acceptance with God through works. He wrote: “I tortured myself with prayer, fasting, vigils and freezing; the frost alone might have killed me… . What else did I seek by doing this but God, who was supposed to note my strict observance of the monastic order and my austere life? I constantly walked in a dream and lived in real idolatry, for I did not believe in Christ: I regarded Him only as a severe and terrible Judge portrayed as seated on a rainbow” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 24, eds. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann [St. Louis: Concordia, 2002], 62). Elsewhere he recalled: “When I was a monk, I wearied myself greatly for almost fifteen years with the daily sacrifice, tortured myself with fastings, vigils, prayers, and other very rigorous works. I earnestly thought to acquire righteousness by my works” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 12, 273).

In 1507, Luther was ordained to the priesthood. When he celebrated his first Mass, as he held the bread and cup for the first time, he was so awestruck at the thought of transubstantiation that he almost fainted. “I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken,” he confessed. “I thought to myself, ‘Who am I that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine majesty? For I am dust and ashes and full of sin, and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God’” (Luther, cited in Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995], 238). Fear only compounded his personal struggle for acceptance with God.

In 1510, Luther was sent to Rome, where he witnessed the corruption of the Roman church. He climbed the Scala Sancta (“The Holy Stairs”), supposedly the same stairs Jesus ascended when He appeared before Pilate. According to fables, the steps had been moved from Jerusalem to Rome, and the priests claimed that God forgave sins for those who climbed the stairs on their knees. Luther did so, repeating the Lord’s Prayer, kissing each step, and seeking peace with God. But when he reached the top step, he looked back and thought, “Who knows whether this is true?” (Luther, cited in Barbara A. Somervill, Martin Luther: Father of the Reformation [Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006], 36). He felt no closer to God.

Luther received his doctor of theology degree from the University of Wittenberg in 1512 and was named professor of Bible there. Remarkably, Luther kept this teaching position for the next thirty-four years, until his death in 1546. One question consumed him: How is a sinful man made right before a holy God?

In 1517, a Dominican itinerant named John Tetzel began to sell indulgences near Wittenberg with the offer of the forgiveness of sins. This crass practice had been inaugurated during the Crusades to raise money for the church. Commoners could purchase from the church a letter that allegedly freed a dead loved one from purgatory. Rome profited enormously from this sham. In this case, the proceeds were intended to help Pope Leo X pay for a new St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

This horrible abuse enraged Luther. He determined that there must be a public debate on the matter. On October 31, 1517, he nailed a list of Ninety-five Theses regarding indulgences to the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Nailing such theses to the church door was a common practice in the scholarly debates of the time. Luther hoped to provoke calm discussion among the faculty, not a popular revolution. But a copy fell into the hands of a printer, who saw that the Ninety-five Theses were printed and spread throughout Germany and Europe in a few weeks. Luther became an overnight hero. With that, the Reformation essentially was born.

The Tower Experience

It is possible Luther was still not yet converted. In the midst of his spiritual struggles, Luther had become obsessed with Romans 1:17: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.” Luther had understood the righteousness of God to mean His active righteousness, His avenging justice by which He punishes sin. On those terms, he admitted that he hated the righteousness of God. But while sitting in the tower of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Luther meditated on this text and wrestled with its meaning. He writes:

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. (Luther’s Works, Vol. 34, 337)

The time of Luther’s conversion is debated. Some think it took place as early as 1508, but Luther himself wrote that it happened in 1519, two years after he posted his Ninety-five Theses. More important is the reality of his conversion. Luther came to realize that salvation was a gift for the guilty, not a reward for the righteous. Man is not saved by his good works but by trusting the finished work of Christ. Thus, justification by faith alone became the central tenet of the Reformation.

Attacking Papal Authority

Justification by faith alone clashed with Rome’s teaching of justification by faith and works. Thus, the pope denounced Luther for preaching “dangerous doctrines” and summoned him to Rome. When Luther refused, he was called to Leipzig in 1519 for a public debate with John Eck, a leading Catholic theologian. In this dispute, Luther affirmed that a church council could err, a point that had been made by John Wycliffe and John Hus.

Luther went on to say that the authority of the pope was a recent contrivance. Such religious superstition, he exclaimed, opposed the Council of Nicaea and church history. Worse, it contradicted Scripture. By taking this stand, Luther irritated the major nerve of Rome—papal authority.

In the summer of 1520, the pope issued a bull, an edict sealed with a bulla, or red seal. The document began by saying: “Arise, O Lord, and judge Your cause. A wild boar has invaded Your vineyard” (Pope Leo, Exsurge Domine, as cited in R.C.Sproul, The Holiness of God [Wheaton: Tyndale, 1998], 81).  With these words, the pope was referring to Luther as an unrestrained animal causing havoc. Forty-one of Luther’s teachings were deemed to be heretical, scandalous, or false.

With that, Luther had sixty days to repent or suffer excommunication. He responded by publicly burning the papal bull. This was nothing short of open defiance. Thomas Lindsay writes, “It is scarcely possible for us in the twentieth century to imagine the thrill that went through Germany, and indeed through all Europe, when the news spread that a poor monk had burnt the Pope’s Bull” (Thomas Lindsay, Martin Luther: The Man Who Started the Reformation [Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2004], 91). But though he was hailed by many, Luther was a marked man in the eyes of the church.

The Diet of Worms: Luther’s Stand

In 1521, the young Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, summoned Luther to appear at the Diet of Worms in Worms, Germany, in order to officially recant. The renegade monk was shown his books on a table in full view. Then Luther was asked whether he would retract the teachings in the books. The next day, Luther replied with his now-famous words: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and

contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 32, 113). These defiant words became a Reformation battle cry.

Charles V condemned Luther as a heretic and placed a hefty price on his head. When Luther left Worms, he had twenty-one days for safe passage to Wittenberg before the sentence fell. While he was en route, some of his supporters, fearing for his life, kidnapped him and took him to the Wartburg Castle. There, he was hidden from public sight for eight months. During this time of confinement, Luther began his translation of the Bible into German, the language of the commoners. Through this work, Reformation flames would spread even swifter.

On March 10, 1522, Luther explained the mounting success of the Reformation in a sermon. With strong confidence in God’s Word, he declared: “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept … the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 51, 77). Luther saw that God had used him as a mouthpiece for truth. The Reformation was founded not on him and his teachings, but on the unshakeable footing of Scripture alone.

In 1525, Luther married Katherine von Bora. This amazing woman was an escaped nun committed to the Reformation cause. The two repudiated their monastic vows in order to marry. Luther was forty-two and Katie was twenty-six. Their union produced six children. Luther had an extremely happy family life, which eased the demands of his ministry.

Till the end of his life, Luther maintained a heavy workload of lecturing, preaching, teaching, writing, and debating. This work for reform came at a high physical and emotional price. Each battle extracted something from him and left him weaker. He soon became subject to illnesses. In 1537, he became so ill that his friends feared he would die. In 1541, he again became seriously ill, and this time he himself thought he would pass from this world. He recovered yet again, but he was plagued by various ailments throughout his final fourteen years. Among other illnesses, he suffered from gallstones and even lost sight in one eye.

Faithful to the End

In early 1546, Luther traveled to Eisleben, his hometown. He preached there and then traveled on to Mansfeld. Two brothers, the counts of Mansfeld, had asked him to arbitrate a family difference. Luther had the great satisfaction of seeing the two reconciled.

That evening, Luther fell ill. As the night passed, Luther’s three sons—Jonas, Martin, and Paul—and some friends watched by his side. They pressed him: “Reverend father, do you stand by Christ and the doctrine you have preached?” The Reformer gave a distinct “yes” in reply. He died in the early hours of February 18, 1546, within sight of the font where he was baptized as an infant.

Luther’s body was carried to Wittenberg as thousands of mourners lined the route and church bells tolled. Luther was buried in front of the pulpit in the Castle Church of Wittenberg, the very church where, twenty-nine years earlier, he had nailed his famous Ninety-five Theses to the door.

Upon his death, his wife, Katherine, wrote concerning his lasting influence and monumental impact upon Christendom: “For who would not be sad and afflicted at the loss of such a precious man as my dear lord was. He did great things not just for a city or a single land, but for the whole world” (Katherine Luther, cited in Martin E. Marty, Martin Luther: A Life [New York: Penguin, 2008], 188). She was right. Luther’s voice sounded throughout the European continent in his own day and has echoed around the world through the centuries since.


Source: Excerpted with edits from Pillars of Grace, © 2011 by Steven J. Lawson. Published by Reformation Trust Publishing, a division of Ligonier Ministries. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/fortress-truth-martin-luther/October 17, 2011.

 

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Is New York City on the Brink of a Great Awakening?

NY Skyline

By Joy Allmond 

20 years ago, Eric Metaxas knew practically every born again believer in Manhattan.

“It was like a spiritual ghost town,” the cultural commentator, thought leader and author recalled.

Yet, over the recent decades—particularly this last one—New York has seen a surge in evangelicalism. Some cultural experts believe the Big Apple to be on the brink of another ‘Great Awakening.’

Gregory Thornbury, president of The King’s College—the only free-standing Christian institution of higher learning in New York City—compares this rise in Christianity to the the great Wall Street revival of 1857.

“I would say there is a very special moment of spiritual renaissance happening in New York City right now,” he said.

The Roots of the Renaissance

While it may seem to onlookers that the spiritual renaissance in New York City has just started, it has roots that reach several decades deep.

In 1969, shortly before the Cymbalas came to lead The Brooklyn Tabernacle, B.J. and Sheila Weber sensed a need in the city for evangelical, like-minded businessmen to come together for encouragement and growth. So, they founded New York Fellowship. Incorporated in 1984, New York Fellowship grew beyond the meeting of businessmen and extended its reach into the city. Chaplaincy to New York City’s professional sports teams began, along with ministry to the homeless and inner city youth.

New York also had other evangelical pioneers like the late David Wilkerson, whose heart was pierced for the gang members and drug addicts of New York. He moved there in the 60’s and began Teen Challenge, a ministry that is still considered successful today.

These ministries, and others, gained momentum and flourished over the next two decades.

As the 80’s came to a close, a man considered by many to be one of the most influential pastors of our time answered a call to New York City to start a church: Tim Keller planted Redeemer Presbyterian, hailed as one of the most vital congregations in New York City.

By that time, the abortion rate in New York City had skyrocketed. Through the planting of Redeemer, a need for a crisis pregnancy center was identified. Subsequently, Midtown Pregnancy Support Center was founded. Other Redeemer members saw the need for a classical Christian school in New York City. So, the Geneva School was formed. That brought families into the city that wanted their children to attend that school.

As the year 2000 neared, New Yorkers saw more than the turn of a new century; they found ways to intellectually examine faith.

The King’s College opened its doors in a 34,000 square foot space the Empire State Building—after a short period of closure—in 1999 (the school is now located in the financial district). This placed the next generation of Christian thinkers in the hub of New York—and American—culture. Because of the placement of The King’s College, hundreds of young people are flooding the churches in the Big Apple.

In 2000, Metaxas started Socrates In the City, a monthly forum that facilitates discussion around “the bigger questions in life.” This event has seen growth over the 13 years in existence, and consistently attracts what Metaxas calls “The cultural elite.” Topics covered at these forums include: the existence of evil, the implications of science in faith, and the role of suffering.

In 2001, New Yorkers saw the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. “These events focused hearts on New York City,” said Metaxas. “This caused a lot of people to move to the city and start churches and other ministries.”

A post-September 11 New York City would see the emergence of many new churches, such as Journey in 2002, Trinity Grace in 2006, and Hillsong NYC in 2011—representing a wide variety of theological and worship styles. More parachurch organizations, like Q, have popped up. Founded by Gabe Lyons in 2007, Q exists to help church and cultural leaders engage the Gospel in public life.

“Now, there are so many churches in town, I don’t know the names of all of them. I know that the Lord is in all of this,” said Metaxas. “I am convinced we are on the verge of some kind of faith renaissance in New York City that will blow a lot of minds.”

The Gospel and Secularism in NYC

Thornbury believes that even amid the influx of different churches and ministries, the Church in New York City shows solidarity.

“Benjamin Franklin said at the second continental congress, ‘We must all hang together, or we must all hang separately.’ This can be applied to Christian solidarity,” said Thornbury. “This is what I think is happening now, among Christians in New York City. There’s this sense that we are all in this together.”

In a world where Christian sects are often divided, even in the modern American evangelical church, Thornbury and Metaxas agree that Christians in New York have no choice but to be unified in the secular setting.

“Being a Christian in New York City is tougher than being a Christian in most other cities in the U.S.,” explained Metaxas, of the social implications of discipleship. “It costs us more here, and so we dispense of the nonessentials (denominational traditions, religious language, etc.). “

Thornbury sees the challenge as an advantage: “Because we live in a more secular culture than most of the country, being a Christian ups the ante a bit for us. I think what a lot of people would perceive to be a downside of doing ministry in New York City is actually a positive.”

Evangelizing New York: Lessons From the Early Church

Perhaps it is easy to forget that the early church took root in a primarily secular culture. That is where Thornbury sees some parallels between the current day Church in New York City and the early Church, citing that Paul and the other apostles spent a majority of their time investing in the metropolitan areas.

“Colossae was a small, insignificant city. Paul wrote them a letter, but he never visited them. He spent his time in the leading centers: Ephesus and Corinth. And, he had an agenda to go to other big cities, like Rome and Jerusalem,” he explained.

“So, I think it is the playbook of the New Testament to focus on metropolitan areas, but I do think it is important to ‘stay in your lane’ and continue to be faithful where they are.”

The Rules of Engagement

To be an effective promoter of the gospel, Metaxas believes that cultural engagement is crucial—especially in New York City. Socrates In the City is one way he is working to achieve that.

“We, as Christians, need to earn intellectual respectability so that we can have a seat at the table during crucial conversations. At Socrates In the City, we’re not pushing anything, we are just there to talk about the big questions,” he explained.

“Jesus is truth, so we talk about truth. We’re just trusting that this will lead people to Him—whether it is a leap at the time, or a millimeter at a time. Most of the people who attend Socrates In the city—the cultural elites—are one of the unreached people groups.”

Thornbury believes that New York Christians should take their cultural engagement cues from Daniel. But, this will require a measure of grace, he said.

“Daniel was given a position of influence because of his overall posture toward the king. He was not seen as antagonistic toward his government, even though he may have disagreed with much of the king’s policy,” Thornbury explained. “He was was faithful, but he was also positive, upbeat and engaged.”

What’s Next for NYC?

While much has been accomplished spiritually in New York City, there is still much to be done. Even still, patience and prayer are required, according to Metaxas:

“New Yorkers have to see things from a long term point of view. This ‘renaissance’ isn’t happening overnight, so we have to continue to prepare the ground for friendship evangelism. And friendships take time.”

Since New York City is a center of influence in terms of media and entertainment, Metaxas also asserts that a spiritual change inside of New York would have a ripple effect outside of New York: “If we could see changes in places like New York and Los Angeles, we could see changes across the whole country.”

As someone shaping the next generation of believers, Thornbury is eager to see young Christians continuing the work in New York City: “I see the Church in New York City becoming a prophetic witness that seeks the welfare of the community. I also envision more young believers relocating here, doing a work in the city, and having a heart for metropolis.”

He continued, “Historians will be able to tell us a generation from now whether or not—technically speaking—this era in New York City fits what missiologists and sociologists would call a ‘revival.’ But, it’s clear that God is on the move here.”

Joy Allmond is a web writer for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and a freelance writer. She lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband, two teenage stepsons and two dogs. Follow her on Twitter @joyallmond.

Publication date: November 19, 2013

Source: http://www.religiontoday.com/columnists/guest-commentary/is-new-york-city-on-the-brink-of-a-great-awakening.html

 
 

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Steven J. Lawson on The Great Significance of Preaching the Word

“Preach the Word”

Bounty Bible image

by 

Every season of reformation and every hour of spiritual awakening has been ushered in by a recovery of biblical preaching. This cause and effect is timeless and inseparable. J.H. Merle D’Aubigné, noted Reformation historian, writes, “The only true reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God.” That is to say, as the pulpit goes, so goes the church.

Such was the case in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers were raised up by God to lead this era. At the forefront, it was their recovery of expository preaching that helped launch this religious movement that turned Europe and, eventually, Western civilization upside down. With sola Scriptura as their battle cry, a new generation of biblical preachers restored the pulpit to its former glory and revived apostolic Christianity.

The same was true in the golden era of the puritans in the seventeenth century. A recovery of biblical preaching spread like wildfire through the dry religion of Scotland and England. A resurgence of authentic Christianity came as an army of biblical expositors — John Owen, Jeremiah Burroughs, Samuel Rutherford, and others — marched upon the British Empire with an open Bible and uplifted voice. In its wake, the monarchy was shaken and history was altered.

The eighteenth century witnessed exactly the same. The Bible-saturated preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Tennents thundered through the early colonies. The Atlantic seaboard was electrified with the proclamation of the gospel, and New England was taken by storm. The Word was preached, souls were saved, and the kingdom expanded.

The fact is, the restoration of biblical preaching has always been the leading factor in any revival of genuine Christianity. Philip Schaff writes, “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.” That is to say, every great revival in the church has been ushered in by a return to expository preaching.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preacher of Westminster Chapel London, stated, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.” If the doctor’s diagnosis is correct, and this writer believes it is, then a return to true preaching — biblical preaching, expository preaching — is the greatest need in this critical hour. If a reformation is to come to the church, it must begin in the pulpit.

In his day, the prophet Amos warned of an approaching famine, a deadly drought that would cover the land. But not an absence of mere food or water, for this scarcity would be far more fatal. It would be a famine for hearing God’s Word (Amos 8:11). Surely, the church today finds itself in such similar days of shortage. Tragically, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, doctrine with drama, theology with theatrics, and preaching with performances. What is so desperately needed today is for pastors to return to their highest calling — the divine summons to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1–2).

What is expository preaching? The Genevan reformer John Calvin explained, “Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.” In other words, God is unusually present, by His Spirit, in the preaching of His Word. Such preaching starts in a biblical text, stays in it, and shows its God-intended meaning in a life-changing fashion.

This was the final charge of Paul to young Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Such preaching necessitates declaring the full counsel of God in Scripture. The entire written Word must be expounded. No truth should be left untaught, no sin unexposed, no grace unoffered, no promise undelivered.

A heaven-sent revival will only come when Scripture is enthroned once again in the pulpit. There must be the clarion declaration of the Bible, the kind of preaching that gives a clear explanation of a biblical text with compelling application, exhortation, and appeal.

Every preacher must confine himself to the truths of Scripture. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. The man of God has nothing to say apart from the Bible. He must not parade his personal opinions in the pulpit. Nor may he expound worldly philosophies. The preacher is limited to one task — preach the Word.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “I would rather speak five words out of this book than 50,000 words of the philosophers. If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons.” This remains the crying need of the hour.

May a new generation of strong men step forward and speak up, and may they do so loud and clear. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church.

Article above from the January 1, 2010 issue of © Tabletalk magazine

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About the Author:

Steve Lawson pointing

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is the Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, having served as a pastor in Arkansas and Alabama for the past twenty-nine years. He is a graduate of Texas Tech University (B.B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and Reformed Theological Seminary (D. Min.).

The focus of Dr. Lawson’s ministry is the verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word. The overflow of this study and preaching has led to his authoring fifteen books, including In It to Win It, The Kind of Preaching God Blesses,  & The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards. His other recent books include The Gospel Focus of Charles SpurgeonThe Expository Genius of John Calvin, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther,  Foundations of Grace 1400 BC-AD 100, volume one of a multi-volume series & Pillars of Grace AD 100 – 1564, also, three volumes in the Holman Old Testament Commentary Series, Job, Psalms Volume I (Psalms 1-75), and Volume II (Psalms 76-150).

He has contributed to John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, work celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. He is the Series Editor for A Long Line of Godly Men Profile, a series of biographies of noted Christian leaders.

Dr. Lawson has also authored Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call to Expository PreachingMade In Our ImageAbsolutely SureThe LegacyWhen All Hell Breaks Loose, and Faith Under Fire. His books have been translated into various languages around the world, including Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Albanian, Korean, Dutch, and the Indonesian language.

He has contributed several articles to Bibliotheca Sacra, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, The Faith and Mission, Decision Magazine, and Discipleship Magazine, among other journals and magazines.

Dr. Lawson’s pulpit ministry takes him around the world, preaching in such places as Russia, the Ukraine, Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy and many conferences in the United States, including The Shepherd’s Conference and the Resolved Conference at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, the Ligonier National and Pastor’s Conference, and the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology.

He is president of New Reformation, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today. He serves on the Executive Board of The Master’s Seminary and College and is a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries and a Visiting Professor at the Ligonier Academy, teaching Expository Preaching and Evangelism and Missions in the Doctor of Ministry program. Dr. Lawson taught in the Distinguished Scholars Lecture Series at The Master’s Seminary, lecturing in 2004 on “Expository Preaching of the Psalms.” He also serves on the Advisory Council for Samara Preachers’ Institute & Theological Seminary, Samara, Russia.

Steve and his wife Anne have three sons, Andrew, James, and John, and a daughter, Grace Anne.

 

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An Interview with Author Richard F. Lovelace on Revival

An Interview with Author Richard Lovelace & Christian Book Distributors (CBD)

RAAWOL Lovelace

“Revival is an infusion of new spiritual life imparted by the Holy Spirit to existing parts of Christ’s body.”
-Richard Lovelace

Richard F. Lovelace (Th. D., Princeton), professor emeritus of church history at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is the author of Homosexuality and the Church,The American Pietism of Cotton Mather, and Dynamics of Spiritual Life. He has written numerous articles and has recently written Renewal as A Way of life.

Richard F. Lovelace


The following comments were made by Richard Lovelace in an interview with Christianbook.com on August 26th 1999. 

CBD: Could you describe yourself, your background, your hobbies and interests?

Lovelace:  Ok. This is sort of a first!  I am 68 years old.  I am a graduate of Yale College with a BA in philosophy, as well as a Graduate of Westminster Seminary and of Princeton Theological Seminary. I am emeritus professor of Church History at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, a writer, and still teaching.  I am married [and have] three children.

I have a great interest in music. I was a classical DJ for a year on Boston’s WBAQ before we moved, and I would still be doing that if there were a place to.  I am an avid fisherman.  My son has converted me to fly fishing trout!

CBD: Could you describe the overall premise of your book The Dynamics of Spiritual life, as well as your current book Renewal as a Way of Life ?

Lovelace: Certainly.  I would encourage people to read the second book as well, which can be downloaded on the web athttp://www.overit.com/lovelace/lovelacebooks/index.html I wroteThe Dynamics of Spiritual Life, published in 1978, because I wanted to set forth what I call the unified field theory of Christian Spirituality that would make use of insights particularly on the Reformation, the Puritans, the Great Awakening movements, catholic spirituality, and other areas.  It is a very catholic book.  It really endeavors to reach out everywhere to come upon Biblical principles of spirituality. It is a book on what is called spiritual theology or the historical theology of Christian experience. I started out my own Christian life absorbed in a Christian community which was an offshoot tracing back to the Welsh Revival—the overcomer conference in England. The name of the group was Peniel, it’s still in existence, and I am still working in it.  It has devoted itself to the production of pastoral theology, and practical theology of the Christian life. It was there that I got interested in the subject of spiritual awakening, revival, and renewal in the Church.  The Dynamics of Spiritual life book attempts to set forth both a Biblical portrayal of individual spiritual life, but it also attempts to deal with the great movements of spiritual awakening, because in my opinion these things are related. You can pursue individual spiritual growth but inevitably you will come up with the realization that there is a corporate aspect to this. Christians grow as they are immersed in currents of spiritual life that are larger than individual or local congregations for instance.

CBD: Could you give a definition of what you think revival is, and what it would be distinguished by?

Lovelace: As used by all the historians of revivals, it means an infusion of new spiritual life imparted by the Holy Spirit to existing parts of Christ’s body.  In other words, it happens to a church or community that has already been brought into spiritual life in the past in which that life is ebbing or is at a low ebb.  These are also simply communities that are in covenant with God. I would say that God’s covenant embraces over the generations groups of persons moving through history in what are called denominations. So that in the Presbyterian or Baptist churches for example, you have a collection of people whose grandparents were vital Christians, and God is faithful to his covenant and will strike again and again [to ignite revival] in those lines.

In my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church, we were born half-dead in America.  People with a somewhat dead orthodoxy came over and a powerful movement of Revival through the Log Collegemen (people trained in William Tennent’s in New Jersey) carried the message of not just having orthodox beliefs, but also being born again, and having the vital presence of the Holy Spirit. That divided the Presbyterian Church for 17 years, but it also was a powerful movement of multiplying Christians and the church reunited and that was the first great Awakening from about the 1730’s and 1740’s.  There was another powerful movement again in the congregational and Presbyterian Church’s called the Second Great Awakening from about 1795 to roughly 1838. You see splits occur again and again in revival periods. Yet, I don’t see this to be an evidence of revival nor an end goal. This is a very counter theory to the idea that you become more and more revived the more you split. I don’t see that in history although everything that splits is still on the board, still operating.  If you take a great movement such as the Anglican Communion, there are still streams of life pouring into it, especially from Africa.  You could do this with a local congregational history too. If you could go back to a local congregation that started in 1745, which would be in the middle of the First Great Awakening, you would find that it went though periods of decline in renewal.

CBD: In your book you see great prospects for either Christian Revival or anti-Christian movements. How important is Revival in terms of the outcome?

Lovelace : This depends on what is called your eschatology.  Whether you are pre mill, post mill, a mill, or don’t even know what mill is.  But during the 18th and 19th century it didn’t matter what you were, pre-mill or post-mill or a-mill, everybody expected a triumphant increase.  Just think of the Hymn “Jesus Shall Reign from Shore to Shore.”  That is a declaration of war on the powers of darkness. That is according to Psalm 72 that the gospel will spread to the ends of the earth.  Jesus says  “the gospel will be preached in every nation and then will come the end.  Generally, during the 18 th and 19th centuries people believed that there would be increasing degeneracy as the end drew near, ultimately seen in the coming of many Anti-Christs and then the Anti-Christ.  But also, they believed that there would be great outpourings of the Holy Spirit as Joel predicts and simply on the basis of Acts 2; that as Christians pray, they will be equipped and enabled to move out and advance the kingdom. The great historical example of that was the early Church in the first four centuries. They really did not expect that they would conquer the Roman Empire.  God didn’t let on that they were going to do it either.  Nevertheless, it occurred. Christianity became so powerful a force that the people at the top had to change.  We see that happen over and over again in History. We have seen this bring a quiet infusion of life in the Church that has brought about at least nominal Christianity to a lot of places. Right now, we are sitting here looking at I don’t now how much of the planet under the veil of Islam, the Moslems, that’s where I would expect Spiritual Awakening to spread to. If you are going to say that the Gospel is preached to every nation, I would say a powerful lot of Web site, internet, or radio and TV communication would have to take place in the Moslem area. Also there is China, in which one recent figure said that 28,000 Christians are being made there everyday. If you project that for a decade or so, it will mean a very powerful spread of the gospel there.

CBD: What specifically is your eschatology and your current view of the prospects for Revival?

Lovelace: Here is my eschatology basically.  It is a quote from a conference held in 1801.  “The world is coming to either Christ or to Beelzebub, and the parties are arming on both sides.”  In other words, what is seen as a decline in American culture, is just an extremely obnoxious upsurge of the Beelzebub party so to speak, which is much smaller than it appears at times.  What happens in such an upsurge is usually that the people of God began to call out to God in prayer for a revival.  That is what is happening today.  The most exciting things going on today are with David Bryant’s prayer ministry, and other things related to the prayer movements that are bubbling up everywhere on the planet.  There are huge numbers of these that are now interlocked by the Web.  This is also seen in Bill Bright’s movements of fasting and prayer for revival.  The Bryant people are trying to get a praying area called a lighthouse for every one of those nine digit zip codes in America.  This is human methodology, but it reflects a tremendous upsurge in a burden for revival.  I would say where you see this kind of fireplace being built there is going to be a fire.  There already is a fire.

CBD: A current modern day revival is documented in Jim Cymbala’s book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. The striking note of his account is the dominant role of prayer in the church ministry of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  How is revival linked to the prayer ministry?

Yes, also you have areas of this planet in which simultaneously horrific disasters are occurring, in Africa particularly where the AIDS virus is just ravaging the continent, but also there is every evidence of very, very deep spirituality and growing Christian influence there.  In all of this, one of the things to bear in mind for today is Jonathan Edwards prediction which was that just as the printing press was a catalyst for the Reformation, so new methods of communication and travel  would be used by the Holy Spirit in a great outpouring.

CBD: That’s fascinating!

Lovelace: What we are dealing with today on the Internet is this: it is changing everything.  It is changing business, it is changing the economy, and what happening there is literally a big footrace between the “Beelzebub forces,” and the “Christian forces.”  The question is, how much good stuff can we get out there on the Internet because of course it is accessible all over the planet. Everybody speaks English.  They have to in order to do business.   In addition to this, one can easily translate languages- for example I have this $99 program that translates Swahili web sites!

CBD: In your work you speak of Jonathan Edwards, Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.  Among those, where do you see the Church going?

Lovelace: Jonathan Edwards said a work of the Holy Spirit will have a strong renewed interest and emphasis on Jesus Christ. It will renew faithful reading of Scripture.  It will damage the Kingdom of darkness.  It will lead to a rebuilding of strong Orthodox theology, and it will generate love towards God and man.  He later revised those to some degree in his treatise on the Religious Affections. Basically, there was a strong emphasis through Evangelicals on solid Biblical study and orthodox Reformation theology.  Evangelicals have not been so strong on experience.  They tend to be rationalistic at times.

The Wesleyan quadrilateral, which is like a baseball diamond, has Scripture as its home plate.  The first base is tradition.  The second base is reason, and the third base is experience. According to Albert Outler in John Wesley, you had to run around that diamond and keep coming back to Scripture.  So, it starts with Scripture, followed by tradition, which is orthodox theology. Then reason, that is applying things to what we know now, and experience—that’s the impact of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Finally, you come back to Scripture.

Evangelicals are very strong on Scripture, tradition, and reason. Charismatics and Pentecostals have been real strong on experience, to some degree also on Scripture. They have not been at all involved deeply in tradition, and sometimes don’t make enough use of reason. But what I see coming is a balance of all of this.  My hope is that we will not have glossolalic and non-glossolalic communities all absolutely isolated from one another, but that we will have communities in which the nine gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 are displayed. Evangelicals could use some of these, words of knowledge, words of wisdom.  I see more of a vanilla-fudge mixture coming in the future, where you can’t tell the Charismatics from the Evangelicals. You have a lot people in the Roman Catholic Church who can’t tell what they are either, but when they talk you listen.

What I am expecting is a stronger emphasis on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but also a renewed Christology. This is where the battle lines are being drawn in the mainline denominations now.  There are these skirmishes over homosexuality and sexuality in general, but the real skirmish is over the deity and salvific work of Christ, and also over Scripture. All of those things, you are going to see the screen come into better focus if God continues to give us a reviving work.

Incidentally, I wrote an article which so far has not been published, in which I analyze the last forty years and I consider that a low key but real revival has taken place during this time. That has especially proceeded from the work of the likes of Billy Graham, Bill Bright, and Intervarsity for example.  There’s been a lot of proliferation of real Christians during this time.  Christians may currently be partially disarmed or unarmed for Christian warfare, but if they tensed up the society would feel the brunt of this.

CBD :  If Christians were to “tense up”, react, and take their stand, what kind of responses would you suggest should take place?

Lovelace:  Well, historically the Second Awakening was the high water mark of cultural impact of Protestantism.  In that awakening decades of evangelistic growth was the basis of what ever occurred.  Out of that came home and foreign missions as a first level or phase.

¨ The first phase of response is seen in the great missions movement and great number of Evangelicals who fill pulpits in America. This is evident in the Presbyterian movement, which has been colonized with people from Gordon-Conwell and Fuller Seminary.

¨ The second phase is the production of edifying literature, some of which is not so edifying, but Christian writings could totally absorb the New York Times book review all the time.

¨ Thirdly, there is an educational movement.  This is occurring all over the place, especially as it is seen in the homeschooling movement.  This is also evident in the proliferation of lower level Christian schools.  We haven’t yet created major Christian Universities, but I really like what Regent University has done.  We have colonized the Notre Dame department.  This is amazing!  They are all Evangelicals there. If you are going to see this whole society revived the way it was in the first fifty years of the 19th century (1800-1850), you are going to have to have a massive educational revival.  Because if you are going to find one toxic drip that has been dripping into us, it is our school systems.

¨ Fourthly, great solid crusades against moral depravity must take place.  We have had a couple of groups take a whack at this, but they often appear to be the Republican party at prayer, which is not a broad enough base.

¨ The fifth phase would be great crusades for social justice, where a mass of born again Catholics, Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals, get mad at some things that are wrong. I have a list of things that are really bad in this country, from campaign finance reform to the gun situation, from our education, to a whole bunch of other stuff. The generation of righteous indignation in the 19th century abolished slavery. .  We are not doing well with this. Probably because our leaders have been told that you can’t manage social reform, you just have to evangelize. Maybe that was right for a while. But when you get enough Christians that are alive and they get mad about something like abortion, or other deformities on the scene. They are probably going to start praying about it and there are going to be changes.

Some people have said that the anti-abortion crusade is the equivalent of the anti-slavery crusade. The evangelicals in England whipped out slavery essentially. Other issues in need of attention would be the low level of health care in this country. There are so many poor people who don’t have it. That’s an atrocity. What are we going to do? Let all the humanists in Sweden beat us on this?  So, I do see those five phases that we might expect or aim at.

CBD:  What additional thoughts have you contributed to The Dynamics of Spiritual Life in your recent book Renewal as a Way of Life?

Lovelace: The one thing I did do in Renewal, is to develop more a theology of renewal based on the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Christ. I tried to make it kingdom centered prayer and renewal.  Recently, I was out in Holland Michigan, the land of what is sometimes called “frozen chosen,” and I discovered that they weren’t all frozen. There were people translating Abraham Kuyper and Herman Baavinck.  I read some Kuyper and I was amazed at the spiritual vitality of Kuyper. It was like reading Andrew Murray or Mrs. Penn Lewis.  There was a real strong sense of spiritual conflict and the Holy Spirit’s operation in history.  Kuyper has a very positive attitude towards culture, event the French revolution which is a black beast for him had elements in the revolution which to him reflected elements of the resurrection.  We would not have what we have in the Western world had it not been for Christ’s resurrection.

Kuyper went to Keswick, a great spiritual growth center in England.  He was spiritually hungry and said that got fed there, but there are a couple of places there that are not running on all cylinders.  One of them is that they have become somewhat introverted in their spirituality, and they don’t realize the necessity to conquer in the realm of ideas.  The famous statement that he made was that “there isn’t a square inch of territory in this planet in which Jesus Christ is not Lord now.”  He says that we have got to be able to out think the forces that are broadcasting material inimical to Christ. So, firstly we have to get our minds filled with the spirit, and secondly, Kuyper said, we cannot surrender any areas of our society to the forces of darkness without putting up a fight in prayer.  Kuyper started up a newspaper, a University, a Political part, and he is elected premier of Holland for decades.  It is a case study of what happens when there is a real spirit filled renewal in a local area.  What happens, as Phillip Schaff and Alexis de Tocqueville in the 19th century said when they came to America.  “This is amazing! There are no established churches, but Christianity in all these denominations, they hand together enough to make Christianity rule the roost.  Back in 1850 we ran the store in this country.  I hope to see at least a movement in that direction in the next century.

CBD: Thank you for sharing these comments with us.

 
 

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