I began to share my heart on some of this in our Sunday night prayer meeting this past weekend, in a message entitled “What’s wrong with the gospel” (Part 1).
When you consider the days we are living in, and look into the Scriptures for light to understand the times, several facts are self-evident. I am not claiming any prophetic authority for these things; they are my observations.
1. America is under the judgment of God.
I am not referring to the outcome of the recent election here at all. Time will reveal whether the new government is a blessing or curse to the people. Our role as Christians, according to Romans chapter 13, is (1) to accept that God, Who is sovereign, has superintended the appointments, and (2) to submit to their laws and leadership in all matters that do not require us to break the higher law of God. (3) We must continually pray for the President, and all others in office, in order that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:2)
Some of President-elect Obama’s policies are clearly anti-Christian. His willingness to condone the continuing wholesale slaughter of the unborn through a Freedom of Choice Act (which he is on record stating he will sign as his first order of business in office), and his enthusiastic support of same-sex marriage legislation are just two of the most blatant examples. For Christians these are not political issues that we can be divided on in good conscience. These are moral issues that we must be united on because we are bound by the plain teaching of God’s Word and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
But let us be clear. Barack Obama is NOT the instigator of these blights; he himself is the product of a morally decayed society that has been headed down this road for some years. I am not at all convinced that his opponent would have offered any godlier leadership (although his policies on the two issues above would have been more palatable for Christians). John McCain is also the product of a society morally adrift. His personal life sadly bears the marks of that.
The politics aside, though, there are clear evidences of God’s judgment against America. The present financial crisis is just a part of it – the result of years of greed and covetousness. Some have pointed to the recent increase in natural disasters, which quite possibly are the hand of God. To scoff at that possibility, as I’ve heard church leaders in this country doing, shows an ignorance of Biblical teaching.
But in the end, how do we know the judgment of God is already here? Because we are seeing flagrant immoral perversions not only commonplace now, but celebrated and boasted about. What the Bible calls “vile affections”, men and women leaving natural relations and “burning in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error.” (Romans 1:27) Disease will not stop, or even slow, them in their pursuit of sin.
Christians talk about how God will have to judge America because of immorality, but actually Romans chapter 1 makes it very clear that these things we are seeing ARE the judgment of God already! It is clear evidence that God has “given the society over” to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28). The end result is “unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.” (Romans 1:31).
Do you think we’re not already there? Turn on the evening news tonight and see for yourself.
But then, secondly, there is (if you can imagine it) an even WORSE predicament:
2. The American CHURCH is under the judgment of God.
(Please note: I am using the term “the American church”, but having lived in both Britain and Australia also, I know that I could just as easily use the term “the Western church”. The problems are not restricted to the USA, although she has been the source of much of the rot.)
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)
Amos prophesied to the Northern Kingdom of Judah just about 30 years before they were carried off into captivity. It is a warning that because the people continued to reject God, they were about to face His hand of judgment. The captivity they would endure, with all its deprivations, would be terrible, but the greater loss would be the ensuing silence from Heaven. A “famine of THE WORD OF GOD”.
Israel had experienced this in her history before. Leading up to the days of the prophet Samuel, “the word of the Lord was rare” (1 Samuel 3:1). There was a lack of true spokesmen for God. We know there were those who held the office of priests, and presumably there were those that claimed to be prophets, but something was terribly wrong with the ministry of God’s word.
Such seasons of spiritual famine are God’s judgment on His people when they ignore His word and live carelessly.
The American church for some years has been experiencing a famine of the word, and the scandalous fact is that we have not even realized it! Our Christian bookstores are jammed with countless resources, our television and radio airwaves are flooded with preaching and teaching, all with the grand result that our people have never been more spiritually malnourished and STARVING for the word of God. If you want evidence of that fact, just look at how easily false teaching is swallowed today. Every novel idea, no matter how banal or heretical, is welcomed with audience “oohs” and “aahs”. What is that but proof of spiritual malnourishment? Listen to the word of God: “To a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” (Proverbs 27:7).
The most terrible result of this famine of the word that we have been enduring is that we have, in large part, lost the very core of our Christian truth – the gospel itself. We have mangled it until it has degenerated into “come to Jesus and He’ll give you a better life”. The law of God, sin, judgment, hell, repentance, and holiness are all out of vogue, and the result is a half-gospel that is robbed of its power to save.
But this is where there is great hope.
3. When God has chastised His people in the past it has been for the purpose of ultimately delivering them.
Whenever the church has experienced the grace of God in revival, it has followed on the heels of spiritual dearth and declension. The history of awakenings shows that, in the providence of God, it is always allowed to become darkest just before His dawn.
Some Biblical examples of this principle:
(1) Romans 8:20 says that, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;” Here is the big picture of human history. God has cursed the very ground of this world, allowing the ravages of sin to run their course, for the ultimate purpose of redemption.
(2) In the Old Testament we read about God allowing Israel to be carried off into exile, not because He was finished with them, but for their discipline so that He might yet bring them back and fulfill His purposes through them.
(3) God works by this principle right down to individual persons. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the immoral member, and told them to “deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 5:5). The church’s discipline, even to the point of excommunication, was designed in the hope of ultimately seeing the sinner humbled and restored. (And evidently he was – 2 Corinthians 2:6-8).
The point I would make is that God’s judgment on the Church in America is not the signal that He has determined to cast us away, but rather that He is disciplining us for our restoration. When we recover our desperation for Him, the light will flood in again for our revival.
Which brings us to the moment at hand.
4. A largely unnoticed reformation is underway in the Church.
I realize there are several groups that have made a claim like this in recent years. The so-called “Emergent Church Movement” talk about a revolution, but what they are preaching (regurgitated liberalism) simply does not have the power to revolutionize anything. Thankfully!
Before he died, revivalist Leonard Ravenhill said in a radio interview that he was quite sure there would be another revival in America. He believed that there would be no superstars at the helm of it, but rather that it would come about through local churches, in answer to fervent prayer, and in the normal course of pastoral preaching. (He referenced the ministry of Jonathan Edwards and other New England ministers of the Great Awakening as a model of this.)
God is raising up a corps of faithful gospel preachers in this land. Paul Washer, in his recent sermon “Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church in America” said,
“There is a great awakening going on in this country. And not only in this country, but in Europe where I have been, and in South America, and in many other places, I see young men going back to the rock from which we were cut. They are reading Spurgeon, and Whitefield; they’re still listening to Ravenhill and Martyn Lloyd Jones and Tozer and Wesley. And it’s a great, incredible movement! Just because popular media and Christianity Today haven’t discovered what’s going on, I want you to know that I would never have dreamed fifteen years ago that I would see the awakening that I’m seeing.”
This reformation must be a movement back to God’s truth at all costs. The true gospel delivered unto us once for all time by the apostles.
The signs of the return of Jesus are all about us; there cannot be any question about it any longer. I see two things on the horizon: HOSTILITY and HARVEST. I expect things are going to get so much harder – and at the same time, so much more wonderful for true followers of Jesus Christ. Let the Word of God loose in the power of the Spirit, and it will bring about a purifying of God’s people. False converts / lukewarm Christians will either fall away OR GET SAVED AND ON FIRE.
Are you ready? We must every day expect the return of our Lord Jesus, and He is coming for a spotless bride. To that end, and for His glory alone … Viva la reformacion!