You may have heard of the modern “word of faith” movement. It might be the fastest growing segment of professing Christianity today. According to those of this movement, the faith possessed by Christians can and should operate like a force or power. If you have legitimate faith, according to them, then you have the potential for and should expect to have power as well. In the word of faith movement, this power or force of faith exerts itself to obtain things that you want—prosperity, position, or health. If you just believe, your faith can operate through your words with God to get anything that you want; that’s what God wants to do, and Christians should expect it. So you could change the world, especially your own world, by means of this faith, to create a healing, cause a salvation, bring about a good relationship, or to change an economic situation.
Like the Pentecostal or Charismatic “word of faith” gets these blessings and changes individual realities, the faith of revivalists obtains spiritual results by means of personal faith. I believe that both of these distortions of scriptural faith come from the same influence upon American evangelicalism, that of Charles Finney in the mid nineteenth century. The perversion of revivalism is actually an earlier error, more in line with that of Finney himself. “Word of faith” was a later development as an outcome of the revivalistic thinking.
Both revivalism and “word of faith” have a similar emphasis on the ability of man to cause his own spiritual effects by the right use of means. Both believe that faith can solve every important problem and create their own desired results. In both cases, the results make it inappropriate to question the means—the end justifies the means.
Finney believed that the faith of a Christian could and should produce a revival. In modern revivalism, a person reveals his faith by paying a price to get the power that comes from believing. If he really has faith, then he will persevere to get the power from that faith by lining himself up with enough moral guidelines to reach some threshold that initiates the spiritual blessing that God wants to give, dependent on his faith. The faith that merits revival also reveals itself in really, really wanting it, manifesting itself in praying long and hard to get it.
How does the faith of revivalism and the “word of faith” movement veer off a scriptural understanding of faith? The faith of the Bible is not a power that someone possesses to control something in his future. The faith of God’s Word accepts the reality that the Bible promises it. And we can see that future is not normally one of success and great results and health and prosperity. Faith is not an instrument that people use to acquire the future on earth that they want, but a God-given means by which men will accept the future that God has already promised them. Faith trusts God with its future.
Jesus didn’t send out the twelve with promise that they could see tremendous results if they only had faith. He sent them all over Galilee and said that they should shake the dust off their feet outside of the town or city that didn’t believe what they said. At times, many believed—that is true. But that is not some kind of paradigm that believers should take as an expectation for their future.
Genuine faith itself is the substance, not the results of that faith. What is promised for that faith? As you look through Hebrews 11 you see it to be a lot of suffering, difficulty, and rejection. You see that in Abel, who was murdered, in Noah, who was mocked and jeered before he was vindicated much later by a worldwide flood, in Abraham, who never did possess the land to which he set out on his long journey, in Moses, who gave up the Egyptian court, and then those who were tortured and saw asunder to reward their faith. They went ahead and went through their characteristically difficult times because of faith. Faith had no connection to worldly success or earthly results. They did what they did because they had placed their futures in the hands of the God they trusted. Their faith was in what God would make of their lives.
The attraction of revivalism is that it guarantees the results an individual of faith would want to receive. The allure is not its historic or biblical theology. Revivalists utilize proof texts out of context and then mainly stories of former revivals that have occurred since the inception of revivalism. They brag about special moments in the past that have come because of power from God they received by faith. No one should depend on these experiences as hope for the future. We can’t and neither are we supposed to trust anecdotal material as a basis for Christian living or decision making.
In its own way, revivalism corrupts faith as much as the word of faith movement. It redefines and misrepresents scriptural faith. Revivalism doesn’t really trust in God. Trusting in God accepts the results that God gives and is content with the outcomes from obedience to the Bible. True faith doesn’t judge based upon assembly size, reaction to a post-preaching invitation, or numbers of professions of faith. Faith brings its own built-in rewards—the indwelling Holy Spirit, the pleasure of God, forgiveness of sin, joy, peace, and contentment. These are rewards of faith in the midst of a sin-loving and God-hating world, where God promises that all they who live godly will suffer persecution.
Deviating from a biblical understanding of faith is obviously going to have an effect on the nature of the gospel. Revivalism has harmed the gospel in this way. Revivalism diverted the focus of the gospel from God and the Bible to the short-term results of believing. Scripture concentrates on God’s nature and His promises. Small alterations are enough to ruin faith and then those changes become bigger through the years, enough for damning deceptions and a broad road leading to destruction.
No one wants to be seen as faithless, and yet he knows he will if his faith doesn’t produce the required result to be seen as faithful. Men know this, so they produce the result that will merit the correct evaluation from men. They give credit in the end to the faith that they possess, but the real praise should go to the methods that they used to produce their results. They say it is faith, but it really is a unique mix of various technology, motivation, propaganda, techniques, and enthusiasm. It takes the form of various styles of music, lighting, comforts, conveniences, advertising, programs, promotions, and compromises. In many cases, the result given credit to faith isn’t a genuine result. It hasn’t been produced by the power of God because of its mixture with the man-made method or strategy.
The manifestations of the perversions of revivalism are all over evangelicalism and fundamentalism, including in the churches or organizations or people who are critical of revivalism. Non-revivalist preachers and their fans also judge their success by how big they are, calling that the “blessing of God on their ministries.” And other non-revivalist preachers crowd around those men and their churches looking for what it is the “successful pastors” have in order to imitate their methods. The sad result is that the One upon whom true faith rests doesn’t get the credit He deserves for the genuine blessing that He has produced that has nothing to do with the trappings of buildings, bucks, or books published. Many of these well-known churches are as guilty of leaning on methodological manipulation as any staunch supporter of Finney.
May we return to scriptural faith. May we seek to judge based upon biblical criteria. May we correct our belief and practice according to the Word of God.
When the Revivalist movement swept Canada and the United States, holiness and humility got a little extra face time. And, as far as that goes, we’re fine with holiness and humility getting some props. We certainly need to emphasize these things. So long, that is, as we emphasize them Biblically. And that brings up one of the glaring ironies of the Revivalist movement, still strongly promoted in some circles in our day. Because the “holiness” and “humility” preached among the Revivalists is not true holiness or humility. In fact, we might argue that they are sinful holiness, and sinful humility.
Revivalistic holiness is not Biblical holiness. It is nothing more than moralism. Moralism sets up a false standard. Rather than preaching what is right and acceptable according to the standard of God’s Word, moralism preaches what is moral according to the times. A false standard produces a false holiness, and false holiness is sinful holiness. As we have discussed previously, we must presuppose the authority of God’s Word in defining our standards of righteousness and holiness. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” Paul warns us to “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
There might not be any one man who has been more guilty of preaching the rudiments of the world and the traditions of men than Charles Grandison Finney. Finney absolutely denied the doctrine of original sin, preached that man was basically good, denied the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement, denied that Christ’s atonement paid for the sin of any man, denied that the new birth was supernatural, believed that Christ died for a purpose not for people, and preached that salvation is the result of men repudiating sin, continually repenting and staying clean, in order to keep in good standing with God. In short, Finney based his theology on logic rather than on Scripture. As a result, Finney developed standards of holiness based on moralistic values and the traditions of men, rather than presupposing the pure standard of God’s Word. Finney preached a form of Christian perfectionism that exalted the self and relied on the flesh in order to obtain holiness. This kind of holiness, the kind that is generated from the sinful flesh, can only be sinful.
But we like Finney. And Finney wanted holiness. We want holiness, so we like the holiness that Finney preached. Do you want to defend the Finney standards? Do you think that a wrong standard is better than no standard? Or perhaps you would defend Finney by saying, “at least he preached holiness.” Then perhaps you should consider this… So did the Pharisees. Finney is not the first to develop his own standards of holiness. The Pharisees, in fact, beat him to it by more than a millenium. What do you think of the kind of holiness that the Pharisees indulged in? Would you consider Pharisaical holiness to be true holiness? Christ didn’t (Matthew 23:3). To be sure, they were very tedious about keeping all of the traditions and laws that they had invented. They were expert gnat-strainers. They also excelled at heavy-burden-binding (Matthew 23:4). But they were not so scrupulous about keeping God’s law, especially the weightier matters (Matthew 23:23) like judgment, mercy, and faith. Their kind of holiness is very unholy, for it fails to observe the whole of God’s law.
The same can be said for the kind of humility — I believe our modern day apostles of revivalism call it “brokenness” — preached by the revivalists in the Finney tradition. The humility they promote mirrors the kind of humility that Paul was speaking of in Colossians 2:18. Granted, he was referring to Gnostic humility. But false humility is false, whether Gnostic, Finneyistic, or perfectionistic. In the case Paul describes in Colossians, they were worshipping angels, as if they could not go directly to the Lord but instead relied on an intermediate agency to bring their requests to God. They promoted this kind of thing in the name of “humility.” They believed that praying through angels made them more humble. But their humility was not the result of a Scriptural understanding of God. Rather, it was a “voluntary humility.” The Greek word for “voluntary” is a participle form of the word thelos, which means “will” or “desire.” It means to take delight in, to devote oneself to a thing, delighting in it. The idea is that they were humble for the sake of being humble, because they delighted in humility, rather than because they were humbled by a proper view of God. It was a gratuitious kind of humility, and they developed a fixation on humility itself as an end. This kind of humility is sinful. This kind of humility actually produces pride and makes a man more self-absorbed, because he becomes enamored with his own humility. This is the kind of “brokenness” or humility promoted amongst the modern-day Finneyists. This kind of humility strips a man of all actual humility, and instead vainly puffs him up by his own fleshly mind.
Paul said, “Let no man beguile you of your reward” in this sort of humility. The phrase “beguile you of your reward” comes from a single Greek word, katabrabeuo. The prefix kata means “against,” and brabueo means “to act as a judge or empire.” A.T. Robertson tells us that the word brabeus is used for the judge at the games, and the word brabeion is used for the prize awarded to the victor. The Gnostics warned these Colossian believers that if they did not humble themselves and seek the mediation of angels, that they would lose their reward. But Paul warns the Colossians that if in fact they followed Gnostic teaching, the Righteous Judge would strip them of their prize.
Instead, they need to hold fast the Head, which is Christ (v. 10). From the Head, all the body by joints and bands has nourishment ministered to it. By the Head, the body being knit together (v. 2), increaseth with the increase of God. Revival, holiness, and humility, contrary to what Charles Finney taught, are not natural results of human effort. Rather, they are the result of God working in us, producing in us that vital life and communion that increases us with the increase of God.
Contrary to the Fundamentals of Revivalist Preaching, revival is never the result of meritorious power with God. Obtaining new heights of holiness and new degrees of humility do not make us especially powerful with God. I believe that Charles Spurgeon was addressing the perfectionism preached by Finney when he said, in his sermon “Power with God,”
when we speak of having power with God, we must not suppose that any man can have any meritorious power with God. It has been thought, by some people, that a man can attain to a certain degree of merit, and that, then, he will receive heaven’s blessings; — if he offers a certain number of prayers, if he does this, or feels that, or suffers the other, then he will stand in high favor with God. Many are living under this delusion; and, in their way, are trying to get power with God by what they are, or do, or suffer. They think they would get power with God if they were to feel sin more, or if they were to weep more, or if they were to repent more. It is always something that they are to do, or something they are to produce in themselves, which they are to bring before God, so that, when he sees it, he will say, “Now I will have mercy upon you, and grant you the blessing you crave.” O dear friends, all this is contrary to the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ! There is far more power with God in the humble acknowledgment of sinfulness than in a boastful claim of cleanliness, — much more power in pleading that grace will forgive than in asking that justice should reward; because, when we plead our emptiness and sin, we plead the truth; but when we talk about our goodness and meritorious doings, we plead a lie; and lies can never have any power in the presence of the God of truth. O brethren and sisters, let us for ever shake off from us, as we would shake a viper from our hand, all idea that, by any goodness of ours, which even the Spirit of God might work in us, we should be able to deserve anything at God’s hands, and to claim as right anything from the justice of our Maker! 
He went on to point out the pride of those who think themselves to have obtained a higher sanctification…
Have you ever tried to go to God as a fully-sanctified man? I did so once; I had heard some of the “perfect” brethren, who are travelling to heaven by the “high level” railway, and I thought I would try their plan of praying. I went before the Lord as a consecrated and sanctified man. I knocked at the gate; I had been accustomed to gain admittance the first time I knocked; but, this time, I did not. I knocked again, and kept on knocking, though I did not feel quite easy in my conscience about what I was doing. At last, I clamoured loudly to be let in; and when they asked me who I was, I replied that I was a perfectly-consecrated and fully sanctified man; but they said that they did not know me! The fact was, they had never seen me in that character before. At last, when I felt that I must get in, and must have a hearing, I knocked again; and when the keeper of the gate asked, “Who is there?” I answered, “I am Charles Spurgeon, a poor sinner, who has no sanctification or perfection of his own to talk about, but who is trusting alone to Jesus Christ, the sinners’ Savior.” The gatekeeper said, “Oh, it is you, is it? Come in; we know you well enough, we have known you these many years, and then I went in directly. I believe that is the best way of praying, and the way to win the day. It is when you have got on your fine feathers and top-knots that the Lord will not know you; when you have taken them all off, and gone to him, as you went at the first, then you can say to him, —
“Once a sinner near despair
Sought thy mercy-seat by prayer;
Mercy heard, and set him free,
Lord, that mercy came to me;” —
“and I am that poor publican, who dared not lift so much as his eyes towards heaven, but smote upon his breast, and cried, ’God be merciful to me a sinner,’ and he went home to his house justified rather than the brother over there, who talked so proudly about the higher life, but who went home without a blessing. “Yes, my brother, you are strong when you are weak, and you are perfect when you know that you are imperfect, and you are nearest to heaven when you think you are farthest off. The less you esteem yourself, the higher is God’s esteem of you. 
Spurgeon, Charles H.: Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 52. electronic ed. Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1998 (Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons 52)
My name’s Dave.
I’ve been gone. For a while. You might call it a Rip Van Winkle summer. I took a blog nap, and I’m struggling to come out of it.
But here I am, back again. I’ve been skimming through some of what I missed these past four months since I last blogged. Looks like good stuff. Wish I could have been here for it when it happened.
But one thing’s for sure. I’m not addicted to blogging. These days, I’m a bit scared that maybe my addiction is moving the other way, like maybe I’m addicted to not blogging. We’ll see.
Anyhow, I wanted to give y’all a heads up that I’m intendin’ on being back now. The summer is over and life returns to normalcy for the moment. Who knows, maybe I’ve got some stuff stored up in the back recesses of the mind. Or not!
False doctrine and practice have been around since the garden, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the constant, growing, and innovative arguments for justifying worldliness. Satan isn’t taking a vacation from his world system. And men love the world. It is tangible, tasty, and at the tip of the fingers.
A recent and common approach sees men, who propose to hate worldliness themselves, vindicate worldly living by redefining worldliness. They make worldliness impossible to judge by anyone but God. And He will. They say it’s only on the inside. These men challenge definitions of worldliness that recognize worldly externals. No doubt everything that is worldly in someone proceeds from his heart. However, what comes out is also worldly.
The World Is on the Outside
It is called the “world” because it relates to this planet we live on. Worldliness won’t ever have anything to do with Neptune or Venus. Men become enamored with what’s on the planet. They mind earthly things. Many of the things in the world or on the world came from people from here. They made it, invented it, played it, or produced it. And most of those things are the problem for men, the competition with God for their hearts. The stuff that man generates has been affected by the curse of sin. Because of that, it isn’t all innocent and it must be judged (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Music, dress, entertainment, recreation, and even the things that we put into our body have all been trouble for mankind since the beginning. And all of it is on the outside.
Being “conformed” to this world (Romans 12:2) is external. Even being “transformed” is external. It might start on the inside, but it will show up on the outside. The word translated “conformed” in Romans 12:2 is translated “fashioning” in 1 Peter 1:14: “not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts.” ‘Lusts” are internal but “fashioning” is external. The primary verses on worldliness in the Bible are dealing with something that is external.
The Attack on External Worldliness
A recent primer for this novel approach to worldliness is Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, edited by C. J. Mahaney with a foreword by John Piper. Many of the chapter titles reveal the emphasis: “God, My Heart, and Media,” “God, My Heart, and Music,” “God, My Heart, and Stuff,” and “God, My Heart, and Clothes.” You can tell where the book is heading in the foreword when Piper writes: “The only way most folks know how to draw lines is with rulers. The idea that lines might come into being freely and lovingly (and firmly) as the fruit of the gospel is rare.” We get the heads up that rules are going to be a problem in a stand against worldliness. Then Mahaney adds in the first chapter (p. 29):
Some people try to define worldliness as living outside a specific set of rules or conservative standards. If you listen to music with a certain beat, dress in fashionable clothes, watch movies with a certain rating, or indulge in certain luxuries of modern society, surely you must be worldly. . . . Worldliness does not consist in outward behavior, though our actions can certainly be an evidence of worldliness within.
When this book came out, you’d think that nothing had been written about worldliness before. Actually many books have been written about worldliness through the centuries since the printing press. If you go to google books and use the advanced search mode and look only for full view books, you’ll find many books in the 19th and early 20th century that are now public domain, which talk about worldliness, many of which were sermons (consider this by J. C. Ryle, and this and this and this by Spurgeon). They weren’t afraid to talk about external issues in the days when to us there didn’t seem like much in the world that could be a problem.
We can all be thankful for a volume intending to slay internal or heart worldliness. However, circumventing the externals and painting only a partial picture of worldliness does more damage than good. It offers some leverage to deal with worldliness without depriving the worldly of the worldly things they demand. It vaccinates the adherents with a worldly, softer strain of Christianity that only inoculates them against the real thing. It sends an ambiguous warning signal across the bow while worldliness stays on board. I have to agree with Peter Masters in his recent short review of the Mahaney book, saying that it “hopelessly under-equips young believers for separation from the world.”
Others have obviously been influenced by Mahaney’s book. Blog posts began to appear everywhere that argued that worldliness is a heart matter, so the standards in churches and lines drawn are moralistic and legalistic, argued with fervent dogmatism. Of course, the point of Mahaney’s book was to deal with worldliness, not to encourage it, but the adherents caught one of his major emphases well, that is, people who obsess on externals don’t understand worldliness. “Oh good, I get to keep my music, my entertainment, my worship, etc.” Point taken. The book doesn’t do much to hinder worldliness.
But why would anyone write a book against worldliness but not be against worldliness? Worldliness is often how churches today got where they are. Worldliness is the goose that laid their golden eggs. They’ve produced worldly goslings, but they can’t very well destroy the goose. They use worldly music, encourage worldly dress, offer worldly activities, and allow for worldly amusement. It’s no wonder that they’ve got worldly people who need a book against worldliness. But you can’t slay the goose. So you go after “internal worldliness” with hopes for some kind of restraint.
However, Mahaney provides a perfect cover for the worldly person, excusing his worldly look, taste, and conduct. He says he has a scriptural basis for it and he uses the classic passage, 1 John 2:15-17. In an elaboration on v. 16, he writes:
Notice that in enlarging upon what is “in the world,” John doesn’t say, “this particular mode of dress, this way of speaking, this music, these possessions.”
Mahaney relies on the New International Version to continue with this point:
No, the essence of worldliness is in the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does.
Some of what Mahaney says is correct. The internal is important, even as James wrote in his epistle in chapter 4 concerning carnal desires over which we will fight and war.
Mahaney makes at least two errors that debilitate his presentation. First, 1 John 2:15 is far from the proof text on worldliness. What about Romans 12:2? What about worldliness as it relates to the doctrine of holiness, in setting a difference or distinction between the sacred and the profane? Second, he doesn’t hit target in dealing with 1 John 2:15-17. It reads as someone who comes to the text with a lifestyle to protect.
What about Romans 12:2?
Romans 12:1-2 is “gospel centered.” We’ve got eleven chapters of gospel presentation. What does the gospel effect? It effects acceptable, spiritual worship, the saint offering his body to God according to His will. That offering must not conform in its externals to the spirit of this age. Certainly, for that to be accomplished requires a renewing of the mind. You can’t think the same way about the world as you did when you were lost and not be conformed to it. So this isn’t “moralism,” a regular strawman of the new worldly Christianity.
We don’t have a reason to define worldliness only with 1 John 2:15-17. Those who claim to walk in the light, but love the world, are lying. Those who love the world conform to the world. Loving the world isn’t good and neither is conforming to it. You can’t say, however, that you don’t love it when you conform to it. The new approach to worldliness separates loving it from conforming to it. They’ll say they don’t. That’s part of the deniability found in ambiguous communication. They can profess that they weren’t dismissing externals really, but if you read their writing, they leave them by the wayside.
How do you conform to the kosmos, the spirit of the age, the zeitgeist? You do it with the way you talk, dude. You do it with your comfort first, shabby, disrespectful dress. You do it with your groovy music, your deco art, your fashions, your recreation, your amusement, and your entertainment. These externals smack of a philosophy originating from a system operating in opposition against God.
What about Worldliness as it Relates to the Doctrine of Holiness?
Holiness is described by more than just moral purity, but also the transcendent majesty of God. It relates to distinctions that separate us unto God from the common or the profane.
And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be. Exodus 8:23
[T]hat ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. Exodus 11:7
And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; Leviticus 10:10
Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Ezekiel 22:26
God wanted a difference put between the holy and the profane. That explains “be not conformed to this world.” It also helps us understand this verse in Zephaniah 1:8.
And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.
God will punish those who “are clothed with strange apparel.” “Strange” could be understood as worldly. The clothing itself is “strange” or “worldly,” in fitting with a profane culture. The “strange apparel” meant something—it has a philosophy that accompanied it. We see this same kind of teaching from Paul in 1 Corinthians. Paul says that an “idol is nothing” in 1 Corinthians 8:4, because “there is none other God but one.” And yet, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10: 19-21 that the idol, even though it is nothing, has a meaning to it that is devilish.
The pagan, anti-God philosophy of this world weaves its way into every part of a culture. For this reason, everything must be judged (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and that which associates itself with a humanistic or depraved way of thinking must be eschewed (1 Thessalonians 5:22). This applies to piercings, modern art, tattoos, extreme hair styles, rock, rap, and country. In other words, we are not to “[fashion ourselves] according to the former lusts in [our] ignorance: but as he which hath called [us] is holy, so be [we] holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:14-15). Every aspect of our conduct or behavior is to be distinct. In no way should our externals reflect the old unregenerate life.
Hitting or Missing on 1 John 2:15-17
1 John 2:15-17 (KJV)
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world– the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does– comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
Mahaney leaves out the first part of 1 John 2:15 in his exegesis. His description of v. 16, which isn’t completely accurately portrayed by the NIV, explains the love for the things “in the world.” But v. 15 starts with “love not the world” before it moves to “neither the things that are in the world.” The world itself is external. Mahaney argues that “the world” is only internal because that’s how it is described in v. 16. But v. 16 is explaining the things in the world, not the world itself.
The word “man” isn’t even found in the original language of v. 16 (or in the KJV). What is translated “sinful man” in the NIV is a single Greek word, the word for “flesh” (sarx). The NIV makes this “sinful man.” The Greek words translated “cravings” and “lust” in the NIV are actually the same word in the Greek New Testament (epithumia), as we can see reflected in the KJV. When you read the NIV, you’d think that there were two different words. Mahaney applies two different meanings, when they are actually both the same word. The NIV uses so much dynamic equivalence that you can’t get the true sense of 1 John 2:16 from its translation—and yet that is the translation that Mahaney chooses to use. It suits his purposes for his treatment of worldliness.
The lust and pride are a problem, but so are things in the world. We are not to “love the world.” “The world” that we’re not to love is a system that includes dress, music, entertainment, art, conduct, politics, and fashion. Satan is the prince of this current system, one that will be overthrown by Jesus Christ in the imminent future. Yes, weaving its way in this false system are the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Those are not of the Father. We are to love only that which is of the Father. Whatever smacks of the world’s philosophy, the spirit of this age, we’re not to love. We’re called upon to show discernment and say “no” to some things. Those things are on the outside.
Quietism versus Pietism
From Mahaney and Piper (and many other evangelicals) we’re to assume something gospel driven that so swings away from human effort. I believe it misrepresents the gospel and God’s grace. God’s grace teaches to deny. Grace fuels human effort. We live by faith. We don’t let go and let God. The new nature possessed by the converted will do good (Romans 7:21).
The truth is that the new definers of worldliness emphasize conduct. It’s just that it is, and ironically, the loose conduct appealing to the lust of the flesh. And they’re judging externals. They will judge your standards (which they do have) to be more strict than theirs, so you must be the legalist and the moralist. Even in writing style they work hard to make it as easy as possible to understand. Even in the dress down style of the sovereign grace ministries, something strategic is going on with their urban chic and soul patches. They are working at attracting or making comfortable a certain demographic. Something is driving all that, but it isn’t the gospel.
Perhaps it might dawn on these “gospel driven” that grace works toward using the ruler to draw the lines. It is grace working though. Old Testament Israel tested God’s grace by getting as close to evil as possible ( 1 Corinthians 10). Thinking their liberty would kick in on their behalf, these Jews in the wilderness fell because they didn’t get further away from the evil. They should have set up some safety boundaries. The real bondage was found in their attraction to worldly things. God’s grace and the gospel would have driven to distance themselves from them.
What we have here is the age-old tug of war between quietism and pietism. Quietism is a view of sanctification in which the Christian exerts the least effort possible to ensure a product from God’s working. On the other hand, there is pietism, which asserts that we must work hard and discipline ourselves to effect the favor from God that will empower the Christian life. Neither of these are true. The phantom enemy of Mahaney and his crowd is a pietism that wishes to bind his adherents in shackles of extra-scriptural regulations. Most false beliefs that would dictate their desired point of view benefit from a boogeyman to inspire irrational fear. Pietism is the boogeyman of only internal worldliness.
The grace of God that works in believers “denies ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12). As God is working in both to will and do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), true Christians are working out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). What is this “fear and trembling”? It is the fear of sinning, the distrust of human strength in the face of powerful temptations, and the terror at the thought of dishonoring God. The fear of God and his judgment seat motivated Paul to labor for Christ’s acceptance (2 Corinthians 5:11-12). When Philippians 2:13 says “to will,” the word speaks of the believer’s intent. God instills in His own the desire to please Him. He so respects God that he puts a distance between himself and the world, making no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14).
Noah and his family were “saved by water” (1 Peter 3:21). What did water save them from? The ark saved them from destruction, but the water saved them from the world. God promises to be a Father to those who come out from the world and “be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:18). Having that promise, a believer will “cleanse himself of all filthiness of the flesh, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Worldliness is more than internal. Believers will visibly and tangibly separate themselves from the world like Noah and his family did on the ark, and like God expected of Israel in the wilderness. Out of honor to God, to please Him, and with fear and trembling, they will work out their salvation. If it’s out, then it isn’t in. God put it in. Christians work it out. What God’s children work out is going to look and sound like something way different than this world system.
Almost always today evangelism efforts are judged by their effectiveness. In other words, do they work? Sometimes you’ll hear, “Door to door just doesn’t work any more.” Or, “Door to door evangelism turns people off.” Or, “We invite the lost to our church services because we have found that it is more effective.” I read often about all sorts of “effective” programs for evangelism. “We’ve got this ministry or that ministry, and we’ve found that they work.” Whether these evangelistic efforts work or not seems to be the justification for their usage. Does it matter that the “program” or the “ministry” are not in the Bible? I believe so.
I know this might sound harsh, but I don’t care about your evangelism statistics. I don’t care that a certain program that you used garnered more numbers than other means that you have used. I do care if you are obedient to the Bible in evangelism. That’s what will please God. It is living by faith when we trust what God told us to do and then do it. He gets the credit for it. When I hear about some new program, I can see the innovator getting the credit for it. And I think that following exactly what God said is most important in evangelism. God will always be the One doing the saving no matter what the innovation, but how we go about doing it will affect whether God will get the glory or not. It is for this reason that we should limit our selves and our churches to biblical evangelism methodology. God revealed the way and He gets the credit when it works.
Before I talk to you about why I believe we should do it only God’s way, I want us to consider that we can’t even judge results. God has a perspective about results that we can’t have. He sees all of time in one indivisible present. We may think that we see better results with a certain methodology because of something visible and immediate. We have no way of judging whether that will be the best for the next 500 to 1000 years. None of us should imagine that we could think of a better way than what God has proposed. And yet there seems to be non-stop innovation in the work of evangelism. I keep hearing about one new program and method after another that really makes a difference.
I might see few results in my entire lifetime, but those results may yield more results in the next generation, which then produces even more results in the next generation, and then it keeps going like that. My new method might see some short-term results and then crash in the next generation. This is where we get into trouble with a very cultural “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” philosophy. I think of Jesus in the parable of the mustard seed. He said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. A major point of this, I believe, is that the population of His kingdom builds up slow to something great. It doesn’t show immediate massive size.
What I’m proposing here is seeing your own personal stupidity. I think I’m too stupid to judge better than God. I’ll leave that judgment up to Him. I know that there are things that I can judge by the grace of God, through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Really these are things that God is still judging. Not me. I should take responsibility for judging where I am supposed to, but I don’t want to judge where I can’t possibly succeed. I’m ridiculous to do so. I want to think of myself as a methodological imbecile. God created a universe. I have, um, hmmmmm, not been very impressive. So let’s get off our high horse, folks. Get a rich understanding of how stupid you are and how smart God is. Stop depending on what you might think is keen judgment of results. You don’t have it.
The Permanence of God’s Glory
What will last is God’s glory. And that’s what He wants. He’ll produce salvations. He is the only One Who can do that. If we use His method, we’ll get exactly what He will effect. I’m fine with that, because He gets the glory and that’s why I do what I do. He’s a good God. He deserves to be glorified. I deserve zero glory, less than zero. He isn’t glorified when I do it my way, so I don’t want to do it my way. On top of the fact that I can’t judge results. I’ve got to leave all that in God’s hands.
His glory is the gold, silver, and precious stones. His glory is the laboring, that whether present or absent, I’m accepted of Him. His glory is what’s important at the judgment seat. His glory is what will last through eternity. My ideas are at the most a vapor.
What Glorifies God In Evangelism
The Bible is full of this teaching that God doesn’t want human innovation in evangelism, replete with the idea that God wants worshiped through our preaching of the gospel. We’ve obviously needed to have heard that instruction because we’ve often forgotten what He told us. We have built our own evangelistic towers of Babel. We’ve become the Thomas Edisons of evangelism. And I don’t think we’ve recognized how far we’ve gotten away from what He said.
I’m not going to focus on all of the passages on this, but some are very enlightening. I think of three right off the top of my head and I’ll deal with them in the order that they appear in my brain. The first is 1 Corinthians 1-2.
1 Corinthians 1-2
1:17 gets it started when Paul writes, “preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words.” The “wisdom of words” represents human strategy and technique. This is the gospel plus something else, the gospel along with the additions that make it work or make people like it, take some of the foolishness off of it so that it might seem a little more palatable to the lost. He moves on with this in v. 18:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.
What we should get from this is that preaching of the cross doesn’t make sense to us as a method. The world doesn’t like it. He continues in v. 19:
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
Who are these wise and prudent? They’re the ones who have have figured out that people don’t like the straight preaching of the gospel, so they choose something else or something more.
The smartypants know that “Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1:22). They’ve studied the demographic. They know how people tick. They know how to customize the gospel according to the particular characteristics of a type of lost person—the alcoholic, the drug addict, the homeless, the American, the big city person, the third world country citizen, the rich guy, the kiddies, youth, urban braniacs, etc.
Paul moves opposite of the strategic program evangelism. He continues in 1:23:
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.
And more in 1:25:
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
What people say doesn’t work is actually the wisdom of God. They don’t think it works because they don’t see something that says to them that it has worked. God says it works. That should be enough. No one should assume it hasn’t worked. The assumption should be that God has worked powerfully, because that’s what He does. The way that glorifies God doesn’t make any kind of human sense that it should work. It looks exactly like it shouldn’t work. That it does work is because it is of God.
And why this particular methodology of straight preaching, of just going out and proclaiming the gospel? 1:29 answers:
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
And v. 31:
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
We don’t want the glory, do we? Do we? If we don’t, then we restrain ourselves from a different methodology. Just preach the gospel. “But people will be offended.” “It will turn people off.” “It works better if you….” But whether He gets the glory matters.
Because of the doctrine that we read in 1 Corinthians 1:17-31, Paul operated in a particular fashion. He explains that in chapter two beginning with this in v. 1:
I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
Read this in vv. 4-5:
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom . . . . That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Somebody who wants God glorified in evangelism will take the same tack as Paul.
Here’s the program our church uses for evangelism—we preach the gospel. We preach it house to house and to those with whom we come in contact. We preach it to relatives, to neighbors, to co-workers, to fellow students, to children, to teens, to college students, and to the elderly. We preach it to Buddhists, to atheists, to Catholics, to Hindus, to Sikhs, to professing Christians, and to Mormons.
In Matthew 13, the sower went out to sow. We go out and sow. We preach the gospel to every creature. We don’t hide our light under a bushel. We open our mouth boldly as we ought to speak. We don’t have a program. We just preach the gospel. The world might hate us. I marvel not.
We don’t use an invitation to church philosophy. We don’t use any kind of special program for teens, for kids, for drunks, for drug addict, or for any other demographic. We just preach it. I can explain to you how that what I am describing is scriptural. I can also describe how that your program is unscriptural. I don’t think a person invited to church has a better opportunity of being saved than someone who hears the gospel at his door.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son.
“Serve” is the word latreuo. It is speaking of the worship of the priestly service, the sacrificial system, the offerings to God. The noun form is used in Romans 12:1 when the offering of your body to God is called latreia.
This verse says that our evangelism is a presentation to God as worship. The concern for an offering to God is whether God accepts it or not. Is it acceptable to God? The question isn’t whether it will work but rather will please God.
That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.
V. 16 uses the language of priestly service. Paul ministered in the sense that he acted as a priest. As the priest was to offer an acceptable offering unto God, so Paul offered up the believing Gentiles to God. Even as Aaron, the first Levitical priest, offered the Levites before the Lord (Numbers 8:13)—
And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the LORD.
—So also believer-priests living today may offer Gentile converts before the Lord that they may serve Him. God is well pleased when they’re offered up to Him, because it is His plan for this present age. Every new Gentile believer is sanctified by the Holy Spirit, indwelt by Him, made holy and acceptable to God. You see this thought in Isaiah 66:20 where people “out of all nations” are offered to God.
In v. 17 we see that Paul wants to “glory through Jesus Christ.” For Jesus to be glorified, the ministering, the offering that is Paul’s preaching of the gospel, must be acceptable to God.
The concern in evangelism is whether God will be glorified. When we take care of what is required for that to occur, we’ll get the exact results we’re supposed to get, no more or no less. More converts doesn’t justify a method. This isn’t living by faith but by sight. No one should assume that an evangelistic strategy is better because it has worked better than others.
In a question and answer time during a recent conference, John Piper commented that Mark Driscoll has a much greater opportunity to reach the people he does in Seattle than what Piper could. Why? What is it about Driscoll that would be more effective than Piper in reaching unsaved Seattle citizens? The implication was that Driscoll’s speaking style, his deco teeshirts, his grunge rock bands, and these types of customized innovations to the Seattle crowd were more prone to the use of God than what Piper would be able to offer. And this is coming from a Calvinist, who says he believes and teaches theological monergism in salvation. It is sheer pragmatism, Finneyesque new measures. Piper himself shows again and again that this is what he thinks. He would not have the same results if he hadn’t bowed to his own wisdom in evangelistic approach.
You look at the Resolved conference of John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Southern California, and you have the rock concert style theater lighting and platform, the relational dress, and the fleshly rock form of music all tailored for the youth culture. These all smack of the contextualization that defies these passages on Divine methodology.
I bring these two examples because they actually contradict what these evangelicals say that they believe. Young fundamentalists and evangelicals hover around them in part because they think that they are different than abuses in old fundamentalism. There’s hypocrisy in their condoning and acceptance.
Of course, we’ve got the promotion and marketing methodologies of modern fundamentalism, the giveaways and the gimmicks, justified by their effect. Methods don’t glorify God because they work. They glorify God because they stand in His wisdom and not that of men. God uses the supposed non-effective. He doesn’t get Jews through signs and Greeks through wisdom, children through toys and games, and adults through buildings and bribes. Music isn’t an evangelistic method. There’s no gospel music in the Bible, only gospel preaching. A Christmas concert is not an evangelistic strategy. A youth rally with pizza and big ball is not a biblical technique.
Typical comebacks are: “Scripture doesn’t say it’s wrong.” “Jesus got a crowd by healing people.” “The Lord gave food to the masses.” “Paul adjusted his message to the Athenian crowd.” “Jesus ate with sinners.”
The Bible does say the human innovations are wrong (see above). The healing of Jesus was to fulfill prophecy in order to reveal His identity. He wanted those to go away who were merely seeking after signs. Jesus didn’t keep feeding people because it wasn’t an evangelistic strategy. Paul preached the same gospel but used the truth that would pull down Athenian strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Jesus preached to sinners everywhere.
The limitations of the sufficient Word of God will free you from the bondage of evangelistic concoctions. You won’t be burdened by the pressure to find a way to succeed. You’ll find liberty in the simplicity of the gospel. Come to the methods of Scripture. God will give you rest. Above all, Jesus will be glorified. Oh praise His name!
The Hypocrisy of Contemporary “Conservative” Evangelicalism pt. 2: Dovetailing with ‘Reacquiring a Christian Counterculture, pt. 2′
Not too long ago I had written the first part of an essay entitled “Reacquiring a Christian Counterculture.” It was only part one, but we moved on to another topic here. I post-scripted it with: “I will be continuing this next week, Lord-willing. I want to talk about the way that the scriptural understanding of holiness was forsaken for pragmatic purposes. I will get into the point of reclaiming a Christian culture.” That short paragraph fit nicely with what I was writing at the end of the first of this multi-part post.
I began breaking down Romans 15:15-21 as a choice passage to expose the hypocrisy of conservative evangelicalism. I believe that fundamentalists are also hypocritical as it relates to conservative evangelicals. Someone has mentioned that in the comment section here. How so? They complain about segments of fundamentalism that are revivalistic and man-centered, and yet they seem to turn a blind eye toward the conservative evangelicals who participate in revivalism and man-centeredness. In this regard, I like the comment Art Dunham wrote:
I believe the time has come for us to be independent MEN of God and state the truth whatever the consequence to any affiliation, friendship, or Bible College.
Bravo Art. That’s what we need. We don’t need to move from one big, bad example to another big, bad example. It reminds me of the historic Baptist martyr, Balthasar Hubmaier: “Truth is immortal.”
Back to Romans 15
There are many truths to flesh out of this text in Romans 15, but the first we called to your attention was “instrumentality.” I drew your attention especially to the end of v. 17, the teaching here being that Christ is glorified or worshiped only “in those things which pertain to God.” Paul was ministering as an Old Testament priest, who presented to God his sanctified sacrifices, and he wanted these Gentile converts to be acceptable offerings to the Lord. For this to occur, all of His service must be found within the confines of those things which pertain to God. Things which pertain to men won’t fulfill the goal of glorifying Christ. They are not the instrumentality that God will bless with that result.
I think we should be able to understand how that the things that we use to accomplish the noble goals of glorifying Christ and offering up acceptable sacrifices to God must be those things which pertain to God. It is very much akin to the use of carnal weaponry to attain spiritual ends in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Paul didn’t war after the flesh. In the end, that warring wouldn’t even work. As I have read from many different sources through the years, “You will keep them with what you get them.” Carnal weapons can’t succeed in spiritual warfare.
Here’s what happens today. Hard packed, stony, and thorny hearts today don’t want the incorruptible, life-giving seed. The idea is that if we could package that seed in something that those hearts do want or love (zoom to 2:25 on the link), then we could make the seed work. The seed needs a little help. It needs music. It needs entertainment. It needs stage lights or a night club environment. It needs to look like a theater. It needs a trap set. Maybe even some tattoos. It needs syncopation and driving drum beats. It needs the enticement of some hormonally charged boy-girl interaction. It needs the license of personal expression in the hip-hop cap, soul patch, or oversized shirt. It needs stylin’. It needs “dude.” It needs the emotionalism of some rhythm induced hand-waving. It needs the hip, ghetto, graffiti font on the decaying, urban brick background. It needs youtube ads that mimic the twittering hand-held production values of the Blair Witch Project (this defines authenticity). It needs sensuality and things conforming to the world and its fashion (play numbers one and two, you’ll get enough of a sample). These are all things that hard, stony, and thorny ground might be able to relate to or with. Today we might call this missiological or contextualization, you know, just to make it sound like it is spiritual, when it isn’t. The adherents know everything they are doing and the meaning of everything they do, and yet they’ll often say that it is meaningless and can’t be judged. It smacks of the spirit of this age. It pertains to man.
Holiness Pertains to God
To comprehend this more, we should unpack the theological understanding of “those things which pertain to God.” Those things which pertain to God are holy. Holiness is not just moral purity. It is God’s majestic transcendence, His otherness, His non-contingency. Holiness is sacredness, which means it is not common or profane. It is distinct, unique to the attributes and character of God.
The Old Testament term kadesh or the adjective form, qadesh, translated “holy,” is not used just for that which pertains to God. It is used to describe, for instance, the temple prostitutes of pagan religion of strange nations (Deuteronomy 23:17). That means that those prostitutes had qualities that were unique to their gods. The root of the word means “to cut,” that is, “to separate.” Holines is related to consecration. When an item was holy, it was devoted for and only for the worship of the Lord. Items associated with pagan and defiled concepts could not be used in the worship of the Lord. Something that is holy is designated as sacred and was distinct from the profane or common.
The Christian does not look to the world to find worship forms. He looks to scripture. He sees certain qualities of this world system—sensual, carnal, of the spirit of the age, making provision for the flesh. A basic element of Israelite worship was the maintenance of an inviolable distinction between the sacred and the common. They guarded against the sacred being treated as common. While the realm of the holy was conceptually distinct from the world with its imperfections, it could nevertheless operate within the world as long as its integrity was strictly maintained.
Holiness was not and has not been just a separateness from sin. It is a maintaining of distinctions between those things consecrated to God and those that are common. The common may not be sinful, but it is not sacred. God’s name and His worship should not be treated lightly. They should not be brought into association with that characterized by earthliness. Certain aspects of the world are not redeemable as sacred. They were invented by men for men’s passions, to touch his will through the body to influence affections inordinately.
Opponents to holiness today say that worldliness is only a matter of the heart, only an attitude. They fall far short of what scripture says about worldliness. Romans 12:2 commands, “Be not conformed to this world.” “Conformed” is not internal. It is external. 1 Peter 1:14-15 reads:
14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
“Fashioning” is external.” “All manner” includes internal and external. Sure, being a friend of the world is internal (James 4:4), but the external manifestations also anger God. That’s why God said through Zephaniah (1:8):
And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.
He would punish those clothed with strange apparel. In other words, they were appearing like the world, associating themselves in their externals with pagan culture. God didn’t want them fitting in with the world. He wanted a sacred Israel. He wanted to keep a difference between the sacred and the profane.
I believe that the redefining and the dumbing down of holiness comes because of professing believers, maybe unconverted, who want to fit in with the world. They know how to do it. Almost everybody does. The philosophies of the world can be seen in dress, music, art, and more. We can know on the outside what message a particular form is communicating. We know when a man is acting effeminate. We know when a woman is acting masculine. We know a foul word. We know a term, an appearance, and a composition that carries ungodly associations. The conservative evangelicals are using these to reach their desired ends. When they succeed, they say that God was responsible. God was also responsible for giving water to Moses when he struck the rock. That end did not justify the means. And men who drank became carcasses in the wilderness.
Hollywood knows what it is doing with styles. It knows how to play something sensual or sexual. It knows how to target certain human emotions (emotionalism) and carnal passions. Conservative evangelicals imitate them. They offer their adherents the same thing as the world with some Christianity mixed in. This is called syncretism—”worshiping” God and using worldly means. It blurs the dinstinction between the sacred and the common, between God and the world, between the Divine and the worldly.
Limitation to Scriptural Parameters
To accomplish the glory of Christ and an acceptable offering to God, Paul limited himself to Scripture—he would only regulate his audience according to a Divine message (vv. 18-19). To make the Gentiles obedient,” in either “word or deed,” he would not “dare to speak” anything but that which was given Him by Christ. Those were all that were authoritative and authenticated by means of “mighty signs and wonders.”
The Bible wasn’t given to us to read between the lines. Certain actions aren’t forbidden in God’s Word. That doesn’t mean they become our means of accomplishment or a strategy for success. God gave His Word as sufficient to regulate any area of our lives. Even if our own ideas aren’t sinful, they aren’t what He said. Only what He said, when obeyed, will give glory to God.
Conservative evangelicals often expose scripture. However, they are just as guilty as revivalist fundamentalists at looking for non-scriptural techniques to influence believers toward what they believe will be salvation and spiritual growth. Even if they “worked,” they wouldn’t give glory to Christ or be acceptable to God. They would not require faith and so they couldn’t please God. Paul kept just preaching the gospel. He limited himself to the activity God endowed to fulfill His work. We must limit our means if we will glorify Christ and send up that acceptable offering to God.
Reacquiring a Christian Counterculture
We’re to be regulated by Scriptural precept and example. We’re to be distinct from the world. We should have a unique Christian culture. Culture itself isn’t amoral. Many ways that a culture expresses itself are filled with meaning. Some of those expressions may honor God and others may not. God laid out some very detailed laws to distinguish Israel from the rest of the nations on earth. He wants us to be different.
If we’re going to reacquire a Christian counterculture that separates from the world’s culture, however it is expressing itself, we must get a grasp on scriptural holiness. We must understand it, let it influence our affections above indifference, and then choose to be holy as God is holy. Our music, dress, and other cultural expressions will change. They will become distinct from the philosophies of the world and from the spirit of this age. The change will not allow us to fit into the world. The world will also know that we’re different–not just in matters of righteousness versus sinfulness, but in those of sacredness versus profanity.
A Bonus (a comment I wrote under a blog post about Peter Master’s recent article about worldliness).
In the Bible, not once is music directed to men. Never is it said to be for evangelism. Preaching is for evangelism—not music. At the most, unbelievers “see” the worship of believers (Ps 40) and fear. They don’t sway and laugh it up because it is the same stuff they’re accustomed to. As a byproduct the music can teach and admonish, but we would assume that it does so only when it is pleasing to God. And it is more than the words, because of what we see in the psalms again and again, Ps 150 for instance, and then in Col 3:16 (psallo–making melody, which is literally “to pluck on a string”).
Men talk about rich theological content. Let’s just say that we all agree with scriptural content that is befitting of the worship God shows He wants in the psalms. This can’t be an either/or—neither the music or the content justifies the other. The Word of God should regulate the words and the music. When we present it to God using a worldly, fleshly medium, this is the syncretism that Masters is talking about. And the medium truly is the message. The vehicle for conveying the message, the music, must also fit with God’s character.
What we seem to be really talking about here is whether music itself can be worldly, fleshly, make provision for the flesh, relativistic, conform to the world, or be unholy, that is, profane. The world knows what it is doing with music. The world uses certain aspects of the music to communicate all of the above that I listed earlier in this paragraph. The world talks about it in its own descriptions of its music. And we can catch the philosophy behind the music itself in the history of the music.
Jonathan Edwards described genuine Christianity as involving religious affections and not men’s passions. He distinguished the real from the counterfeit by differentiating between affections and passions. Affections differ than passions in that they start with the mind and then feed the will. Passions, on the other hand, begin with the body. Not only are passions not genuine affection but they also harm discernment. What is thought to be something spiritual is actually a feeling that has been choreographed in the flesh.
This is a second premise scriptural argument. It is akin to applying Eph 4:29, which commands believers not to have corrupt communication proceed out of their mouth. Based on some of the comments I’ve read here, certain foul language could not be wrong, because the English words aren’t found in the Bible. This, I believe, is part of the attack on truth part of postmodernism. We can ascertain truth in the real world. We can judge corrupt words. We too can judge when music conforms to the world, fashions itself after our former lusts. We can know when it is that passions are being manipulated by music, that it isn’t joy, but a fleshly feeling that impersonates happiness. It is actually fleshly self gratification.
Much, much more could be said about the relationship of externals and internals in the matter of worldliness. The four books by David Wells could be referred to for those who would want to understand. Evangelicals seem not to recognize the danger of accepting the means pagan culture expresses itself. We blaspheme a holy God, profaning His name, by associating it with these worldly, fleshly forms.
Many young fundamentalists vocalize their hatred for the errors of fundamentalism, especially concentrating on Jack Hyles, bad preaching, shallow evangelism, political bullying, and standards pushed with little to no exegetical basis. They also decry the excesses and abuses of revivalistic practices. Of course, at the top they spew venom against the exclusive use of the King James Version. They are angry and they’re not going to put up with it anymore.
One repercussion of the above mentioned items is the pendulum swing over to the “conservative evangelicals” by these young or youngish fundamentalists. Certain evangelicals provide a perfect shelter for runaway fundamentalists. They provide an almost perfect checklist for youngfundamentalist-matchmade.com. And the fundamentalist will defend his new asylum with the fervor of a revivalist.
Why the Loyalty to “Conservative Evangelicals”?
I believe that much of the new loyalty to these evangelicals is fueled by the fundamentalist seminaries. The seminary professors there aren’t as critical of the evangelicals as they are of fundamentalism. They see, I believe, violations of their own principles or at least preferences to a much greater degree among fundamentalists than they do among the so-called conservative evangelicals. They feel more comfortable with evangelicals than they do fundamentalists. You catch this mood by the way these fundamentalist professors and presidents talk about these evangelicals and the great respectfulness they talk to them.
By the way, what conservative evangelical, who young fundamentalists love, has a small church? Interesting. They are drawn to those with earthly success. Success isn’t justified by numbers, right? That’s one thing we hate, right? The numbers game. But they like the guys that got big. How did they get big? What did they do to get that way? This is all tell-tale in what is happening within this movement.
There is now underway a movement toward giving a new label to conservative evangelicals. They’re now paleofundamentalists. They are fundamentalists of the old stripe of fundamentalism, who fought mainly for the fundamentals, and we’re talking now 75 to 100 years ago. These historic fundamentalists supposedly remained indifferent to anything that fell below a major doctrine (the fundamentals). And I’m just reporting what I’m reading.
The feelings of the refugees from fundamentalism also are stirred by the published authorship of the conservative evangelicals. They pump out books. The fundamentalist fugitives read and study their books in seminary classes. They then think: “if we are so impressed with their books, then why is it that we don’t just join them.” The lists of recommended reading are almost entirely evangelical—hardly anything of fundamentalism. I recognize fundamentalists haven’t written much, but it’s still an elephant in the fundamentalist seminary class room.
Disapproval of “Conservative Evangelicals”
Very little critical is said of the conservative evangelicals. Only recently has any popular evangelical been the target of any fundamentalist denunciation—the one guy is Mark Driscoll. Driscoll had been constantly beloved in fundamentalist writings, only with minor disclaimer for potential future deniability. John MacArthur and Phil Johnson granted permission to fundamentalists to join the opprobrium of Driscoll. He had broken MacArthur’s and Johnson’s rules of decorum, so everyone was now welcome to start shelling Driscoll with them. MacArthur and Driscoll started pummeling Driscoll a few months ago and now it is open season on Driscoll. Even John Piper has come out in vintage Piperesque fashion to talk about the good spanking he was going to give Driscoll while they remained in fellowship together. (I believe that this is an example of how evangelicals separate. They write essays and make statements.)
I would like to begin to illustrate to you the hypocrisy of this crowd of people, the conservative evangelicals. Beyond Driscoll, the fundamentalists can’t seem to see the hypocrisy. That is a kind of hypocrisy in itself. There’s also the hypocrisy of seeing all the foibles in most of fundamentalism with very little about evangelicalism. But before I start exposing this problem, I’d like to expose some Scripture that applies to the problem. I want us to think together about a segment of Romans 15.
Here’s the text so you won’t need to look it up:
15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, 16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. 17 I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. 18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, 19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: 21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
I recognize that with a passage of scripture like this in an essay, there’s a tendency for your eyes to avert the passage and go to what I’m saying about it, even evangelicals and young fundamentalists who are reading. Let’s make sure to read through the text. I mean, you want to, right? At least to check me out, to see if I’m treating the text correctly?
The “grace of God” had a certain effect on Paul (v. 15). And we see in v. 16 that the grace was available to him to minister the gospel of God to the Gentiles, and not just in any way. The grace of God worked toward the result of these Gentiles being an acceptable offering up to God. And then he goes to elaborate on that in the next few verses.
This is what the young fundamentalists miss about the conservative evangelicals. The conservative evangelicals like to talk about the grace of God, but they are as guilty as the Hyles’ people and the revivalists at manipulation in order to get their results. The reason they’re big is not the grace of God. The grace of God operates in a different way than what we see with them. If it is the grace of God, then it will look like what we see Paul describe in Romans 15. What does characterize a work of God?
In v. 17, Paul says that Jesus is glorified “in those things which pertain to God.” The instrument of the glory of Jesus Christ is something that is God. Paul wanted a result that he could give God as an offering (v. 16). The second “ministering” in v. 16 is a word that applies to the sacrificial service of the priest, speaking of priestly offerings. The word “sanctified” is a form of the word “holy.”
Jesus is glorified in a work, when it pertains to God. Works that don’t pertain to God, but pertain to human techniques and strategies, these are by nature unholy. They’re profane or common—they don’t pertain to God. The work produces sacredness in its adherents because it is sacred itself.
We see constant man-made, worldly techniques in the work of John Piper. A recent Calvinist publication reveals this with a review by Peter Masters (you’ve got to read this whole article), the pastor of Spurgeon’s church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle:
The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book – large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine.
We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands, ‘Christian’ hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction) uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture.
Masters does more than report what is happening, when he diagnoses:
Indeed, a far better quality Calvinism still flourishes in very many churches, where souls are won and lives sanctified, and where Truth and practice are both under the rule of Scripture. Such churches have no sympathy at all with reporter Collin Hansen’s worldly-worship variety, who seek to build churches using exactly the same entertainment methods as most charismatics and the Arminian Calvary Chapel movement.
The new Calvinists constantly extol the Puritans, but they do not want to worship or live as they did. One of the vaunted new conferences is called Resolved, after Jonathan Edwards’ famous youthful Resolutions (seventy searching undertakings). But the culture of this conference would unquestionably have met with the outright condemnation of that great theologian.
Masters doesn’t leave it alone to Piper. He goes after another fundamentalist icon, John MacArthur, with this further criticism:
Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff, gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)
I’ve been talking about this for awhile, engendering hatred from younger and even older fundamentalists. They don’t want to hear it. Their guy exposits well. He doesn’t use the King James Version. They show a high degree of shallowness and an almost complete lack of discernment in their evaluation of Piper and MacArthur. They might listen now that Masters has said something, but they have been extolling them despite these things and have pushed Piper and MacArthur. It will come across as disingenuous now—Johnny come lately. Jesus is not glorified.
Piper and MacArthur like to connect themselves to the Puritans, but they are so far away from much of what the Puritans wrote. They work in those things which “pertain to men,” that “pertain to sinful culture,” that “pertain to worldliness.” It doesn’t produce something different than the world. It produces a more conservative version of the world, but not something separate. Piper and MacArthur neither preach separation. They don’t practice separation. They don’t produce separatists, that is, they don’t produce sanctification through the Spirit.
If you read Johnson carefully over at his blog Pyromaniacs, you will hear him say that how good men are in the pulpit, speaking of their communication skills and ability to connect through their speech, being what yields success. It’s blatant revivalism. The other Pyromaniacs glory in their rock music and their knowledge of contemporary culture. They don’t like the degree that Driscoll gets to, but they do movie reviews and often quote rock music lyrics from godless pagans who hate God. Much more could be said and be given in example, but Jesus is glorified with things that pertain to God. Those things do not pertain to God.
Pastor Peter Masters doesn’t even leave out Together for the Gospel, when he writes:
A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every -error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked. These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.
True Calvinism and worldliness are opposites. Preparation of heart is needed if we would search the wonders and plumb the depths of sovereign grace.
We have to have Peter Masters write these things because fundamentalists won’t. You don’t hear Kevin Bauder or Dave Doran or anyone of the separatist fundamentalists. When you do hear a few men saying things in their midst, small church pastors, they are savaged. It’s a sad time when the things which pertain to man are acceptable to us, especially since they aren’t approved by God.
Extra: Others, including myself, have been saying the same thing as Masters for awhile. We see Peter Masters’ review article is linked at Scott Aniol’s Religious Affections and then at SharperIron. I’m interested in hearing how they’ll react with someone saying exactly what myself and others of the supposed lunatic fringe have been saying. Maybe it will be “right” now. I’m pointing out the political nature of fundamentalism—in so many cases it isn’t WHAT is being said, but WHO is saying it. Truth is truth.
Extra #2: Phil Johnson gave Greg Linscott a quote over at SharperIron in response to Peter Masters’ article. Here’s my take on Phil’s comment. He starts with introductory words of respect for Peter Masters. By the time he’s done, writing on and on, the words of respect are lost. His comment, in my opinion, is condescending to Masters. I noticed two other aspects. First, he makes reference to Greg Linscott’s note to him and says he agrees that NO ONE is saying the things that Masters is saying (which, of course, means that he has a private interpretation of matters—anyone can see he is saying this—this is where he starts tearing apart Masters’ article, while feigning that he isn’t). Second, the respect he does have for Masters is based on his success, his numbers, that the auditorium is full. Here are the exact words:
[H]e took a historic but nearly-dead congregation and shepherded it through a season of growth and fruitful evangelism, so that it is now full every Sunday, I think he is entitled to speak his mind on the worship issue.
This smacks of new measure Finneyism. It is a perfect example of what I’ve talked about regarding these evangelicals. They talk against revivalism, but they deal like revivalists.
(to be continued)
I want to remind anyone reading that I’m writing about the side effects of revivalism, not revival. Anyone who hasn’t perceived that, with all due respect, isn’t reading very closely. We can diagnose genuine revival, contrary to someone’s comment on part one. We use the Bible. The point a commenter made was that my post assumed that we wouldn’t know if a real revival occurred or not. No, my post opposed revivalism. You can know when an occurrence or activity is revivalism, because it is something not regulated by scripture. We are to make these types of evaluations. Paul did (1 Corinthians 2). Jesus did (Matthew 7:13-29), and you could say that John did (1 John) and James did (James). In the same fashion, we can know based upon the Bible whether we have seen revival too.
I hear justification for revivalism today according to the same old arguments used by its inventors. Men see results and they choose to attribute it to some kind of parallel with what they read in Acts. They prayed and saw what they thought were good results mixed with bad. The problem with revivalism is that more occurs than just prayer. If men prayed in faith, they would assume that they had done all they could do to prepare for revival. Prayer assumes that we’re helpless and we must wait on God. Revivalism assumes in practice that God needs a little help. He needs our techniques and strategies and marketing and emotionalism and choreography, in addition to prayer. The Bible isn’t enough either—we’ve got to add our stories and histrionics.
The philosophy of concocting man-made and extra-scriptural activities intended to initiate a burst of salvation decisions is revivalism. On the other hand, revival is a surge of genuine conversions disconnected from choreographed human efforts. Revivalism plans revivals. We can’t plan revivals. We obey God. We live by faith. Sometimes revivals occur. God gives them.
In this two part series, I am listing and explaining some of the side-effects of revivalism. These negative consequences demonstrate revivalism and debunk it.
Inordinate Human Ingenuity (cont’)
Bible reading and prayer can contribute to the sanctification of the believer. They also manifest that sanctification. However, these two disciplines are not sanctification. A revivalist Christian, who wants God’s blessing on his life, might think that a habit of Bible reading and prayer will align him sufficiently with God to generate a revival. This isn’t true.
A revivalist might not need to know what he read in his chapters. The Bible, he’s been told, is a supernatural book, and it will do something to you irregardless of understanding the meaning of the words. You let it speak to you. You pray for it to give you the message you need. That may not be what it is saying, but still “the Holy Spirit was able to use it in your life.” This isn’t true either.
The revivalist might think that God will reward him according to the number of hours of “soulwinning” he does. It could relate to how many verses he memorizes. He might commit hundreds to memory, and again, not know what they mean, but those English words bouncing around in his head, seeing that they are the same ones found in his King James Bible, will leave a spiritual effect in their wake. And this also isn’t true.
None of the above is said to discourage prayer, Bible reading, evangelism, and Bible memorization. All of these can be wonderful spiritual disciplines with their rightful spirit, understanding, and emphasis. They could be a means to an end. They might be part of the end in itself. But not necessarily.
Iain Murray in Revival and Revivalism writes (p. 201):
Revival is not something that men can plan or command as they will; the revivals in the Northeast, which occurred over a period of thirty years, followed no pattern or sequence . . . but why these were years of great harvest, rather than others no one can explain. It was certainly not because of ‘protracted meetings’ (special evangelistic services), for they were unknown in Connecticut before 1931.
David Benedict in Fifty Years Among the Baptists writes (p. 326):
The revival ministers, as they were called, soon became very popular; they were sent for from far and near, and in many cases very large additions were made to our churches under their ministrations.
The itinerant preacher, who travels from church to church, for a week of meetings, was not an office formed by scripture. It isn’t the “evangelist” found three times in the New Testament. Knowing what we see about Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8) in Acts 8, that office was more of a church planter, someone who evangelized a community with the possibility in time of an assembly gathering.
Today what is commonly known as “the evangelist” seems to be an invented office.
Many, if not most, programs in local churches are the fruit of revivalism. The operation of a church in the New Testament reads very simple. We should assume that this is how God wants us to operate, since the Bible is sufficient. Many inventions have come out of this movement to aid God through our new measures. Some have taken other legitimate aspects of church worship to manipulate men. The revival song, what once was a part of praise directed to God, now takes on the task of enducing men to a saving feeling. This has been taken to new heights with contemporary Christian music.
Recently popular evangelical pastor John Piper was asked what he thought about the coarse pulpit speech of Mark Driscoll. As a part of his answer, he excused Driscoll by saying:
These are weird people comin’ to his church . . . look at this . . . they wouldn’t come to hear me for anything. They wouldn’t go to my church, but they’ll go to his church. I’m cuttin’ him a lot of slack because of the mission. It’s kind of a both/and for me. You don’t need to go as far as you’ve gone sometime with your language, but I understand what you’re doing missiologically there and I have a lot of sympathy for, because I like to see those people saved.
John Piper calls himself a seven-point Calvinist. He’s the hero all over of professing young evangelical Calvinists. And yet you get this kind of revivalistic language in which missions has become so dependent on us. You see the conclusion here. Mark Driscoll does things in the way of course language and other strategies, completely detached from scripture and the Holy Spirit, that make him effective at seeing people saved. John Piper believes this. And in this case it is the worldliness of Mark Driscoll that he says is causing it.
This understanding of Piper is no different than Jack Hyles or other well-known revivalist fundamentalists through the years. Perhaps the gimmicks of Driscoll, congratulated by Piper, are more appreciated by the younger evangelical and fundamentalist of the day. These same would say that they despise revivalism. They just choose a different brand of it. Iain Murray writes (p. 412):
Whenever wrong methods are popularised, on the basis of a weak or erroneous theology, the work of God is marred and confused. Dependence on men, whoever they are, or upon means, is ultimately the opposite of biblical religion.
One almost unanimous characteristic of revivalism has been inaccurate assessment of results. Murray again comments (p. 215):
[T]hese leaders were against treating anyone as a convert simply on profession of faith. Beecher’s warning against ‘the hasty recognition of persons as converted upon their own judgment, without interrogation or evidence’, was echoed by all his brethren.
The revivalists are often anxious to quote post meeting successes as proof of the genuineness of the experience. In the same audio of Piper above in his answer about the methods of Driscoll, he mentions the “four hundred” whom Driscoll had “baptized” on Easter Sunday as reason for admiration. For Hyles, it may have been his 3,000 “new converts” on a Pentecost Sunday.
What is ironic about many of the false results of revivalists is that the methods produce the results and the results validate the method. This is a destructive circular reasoning that circumvents the Word of God as the authority for faith and practice. Ignoring the Bible leaves solely human evaluation, which falls short as a means of discernment (John 17:17).
Because revivalism depends so much on man’s methods and inducements, he gets the credit no matter how much he might protest it. This is in part why Paul said what he said in 1 Corinthians 2. We see the purpose of keeping man out of God’s work in v. 5:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
God doesn’t want the results of His work to be understandable, we see that in the last several verses of 1 Corinthians 1:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
God doesn’t choose things that seem to men like they will work. God chooses to use what looks like it would never work. It does work, not because of man’s cleverness, but because of the power of God.
Genuine Christians will be concerned when God isn’t glorified by what they do. They won’t fight to defend their own turf and reputations. They want something real. In the end, what we produce will produce a lot of us, yet telling people that it is God producing something of God. We’ve got to be scriptural, transparent, and honest about this. When we follow God’s ways, the world will despise it, but God will be pleased and praised.
You sit down with the doctor and he talks to you about a new medication. It will get rid of your skin irritation. However, it will cause migraine headaches, blurred vision, and severe stomach cramps. I think I’d take the skin irritation.
The lure of revivalism is amazing short term, tangible results. Churches have experienced a burst of conversions that overflowed their seating capacity. Sometimes they have had those events and then saw nothing like it ever again. Some haven’t ever seen it, but they’ve read about it. Who wouldn’t want it if it were available?
Revivalism doesn’t advertise its peripheral effects. However, it has several. We’ve already talked about whether revivalism is even revival. That’s bad enough, but then the side effects.
Iain Murray in Revival and Revivalism writes (pp. 163-164):
From attitudes of indifference, or of cold religious formality, many are suddenly brought by the hearing of the truth to a concern and distress so strong that it may even be accompanied by temporary physical collapse. The phenomenon of hearers falling prostrate during a service or crying out in anguish is not uncommon at the outset of revivals. . . . A revival is, by its very nature, bound to be attended by emotional excitement. But the course of a revival, together with its purity and abiding fruit, is directly related to the manner in which such excitement is handled by its leaders. Once the idea gains acceptance that the degree of the Spirit’s work is to be measured by the strength of emotion, or that physical effects of any kind are proofs of God’s action, then what is rightly called fanaticism is bound to follow.
Murray talks about revivalism in Kentucky during what is called “the Second Great Awakening” (p. 177):
We have considered the general detrimental effects which accompanied the awakening in the churches of Kentucky, and noted how these effects gained strength on account of the low level of biblical instruction that was prevalent. Ideas popularized by the spirit of the age were too strong to be counteracted by preachers who were too few in number, or inadequately prepared for a situation of such an extraordinary character.
Murray mentions the “detrimental effects which accompanied” something that was known as a revival. I have my own observations about the harmful side effects of revivalism. I believe that a common assumption today is that these effects are seen almost entirely within a certain branch of fundamentalism. I see revivalism in evangelicalism — including what is considered conservative evangelicalism.
People probably have their idea of who is sanctimonious—anyone with stronger standards than they. I support church-wide application of biblical principles. However, I have noticed a rigidity, tightness, or edginess that often characterizes revivalists. So much is dependent on their getting everything aligned correctly for revival that they obsess over administrative minutiae. Often from top to bottom, revivalists feel a guilt for holding back revival. The Achan in the camp must be found and dealt with harshly.
Much of the Christian life is external. We must obey God in our body, which is His. Externals have gotten a bad rap especially recently. However, because “revival” in revivalism so hinges on a certain performance by us, a wrong emphasis is placed on the externals, resulting in a kind of hyper-externalism.
Young people in hyper-externalism learn how to perform in order to fit the required appearance. They know how not-to-get-in-trouble. They know what it takes to be a good boy and girl. They train themselves to conform to the rules. The strong one could actually be the weak one in this system. The “strong one” may not develop at all in his love for God and scripture. He may just be the one who knows how to toe the line better than others. He knows how someone becomes considered good.
It’s not that internals are ignored completely with revivalists. It’s a matter of not following the emphasis of scripture, which starts on the inside and works its way out. Since so much depends on us in revivalism, keeping everyone in line becomes the challenge, rather than developing the internal convictions and the affections for God. Keeping standards high is seen as the means by which other revival-receivers have obtained their coveted experience. The standards are seen as a means to get God’s blessing.
There are two extremes to externalism. One moves the way of better-than-thou rule keeping. The other travels the road of “I’ve got more freedom than you do.” I call it left wing legalism. It’s probably akin to the Samaritan religion. The left winged legalist focuses on externals as much as the right winger, just in taking about every possible liberty that he can with almost no limitation. And he talks about his liberty all the time, reminding people how free he is by mentioning the movies he went to, his favorite rock band, his latest micro-brew, and the beauty of his goatee and mustache. This guy may be someone who was once a right winger and now he’s proud to be a left winger. He changed uniforms, but he’s still on the same team.
Rituals are not the sole domain of revivalists, but ritualism is a side effect of revivalism. I call it a “punching the time-clock” mentality. We must perform as Christians. Actions are important. However, we are not to be performance based. In revivalism, you’ve got to jump through a certain number of hoops to get the blessing of God. God holds us to the demands of a certain degree and quantity of performance, withholding His special working until we reach the tipping point.
Many revivalists just give up on attempting to fulfill all the criteria required to get God’s special favor. The bar seems to keep getting moved or God has entrusted only a few deserving ones with the special endowment of His power. Once they see that they’ll never find the pebble under the shell, they give up on the inside and start painting on their Christian life. You could call it “paint by numbers” Christianity. They become faithful to the ritual of being a Christian, playing the game, going through the motions. They assume it’s their duty. Lost is joy and love.
Inordinate Human Ingenuity
I read a lot of explanations from evangelicals on their music. They betray their revivalism in what they say. Here’s a typical statement of someone who wants to leave fundamentalism and go to evangelicalism because he doesn’t see enough emotionalism in the “worship”:
While worship can certainly be “overdone” and focused purely on emotions in more contemporary services, Fundamentalism goes to the other extreme. There needs to be balance here and, unfortunately, I’ve attended exactly 2 services in any Fundamentalist church that managed to strike this balance. . . . We are careful to ensure that the emotions are not engaged during the song service because we believe emotional engagement is wrong….unless of course it’s time for the invitation. The command to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (these address the will, emotion, and intellect) doesn’t seem to apply in the church service. We want to engage the will and intellect, but the emotions need to be put down. You will never see hands raised in worship in an IFB church (unless there is an “outsider” visiting), nor will you see anything other than dry eyes at any point during the “worship” service. The church service tends to be a very regimented, dry, rote, obligatory occasion.
What I find very interesting is the emphasis on externals and emotionalism as signs of genuineness. Notice the quote from Murray above, the last part in which he says:
Once the idea gains acceptance that the degree of the Spirit’s work is to be measured by the strength of emotion, or that physical effects of any kind are proofs of God’s action, then what is rightly called fanaticism is bound to follow.
For those who embrace such beliefs will suppose that any check on emotion or on physical phenomena is tantamount to opposing the Holy Spirit.
Later he writes (p. 209):
And in their [wise pastors] view, to lay importance on outward signs of conviction, such as tears, was a sure way to confuse the natural with the spiritual. They also knew that if displays of emotion were allowed to go unchecked in large congregations then, by a principle of natural sympathy, others would soon be affected. The consequent heightened emotion, far from advancing a true revival, could well bring it to an end.
One of the problems with the contemporary “worship” is that it choreographs the emotions with the music. This was a characteristic that Edwards dealt with in his Treatise on Religious Affections. He showed how that scriptural affection starts with the mind, not the body. The latter could be called passions, which is not the quality of the love for God. The mind feeds the affections, which results in an act of the will. Obviously Edwards didn’t have a problem with affection. He criticized the manipulation of it which occurs today with the productions of contemporary Christian music. The problem is not the emotions, but how it is that the emotions are influenced. Targeting them is an act of the flesh.
The nature of contemporary music, which is fitting of the culture from which it was spawned, is emotional. It is intended to make people feel something. This should help you understand the existential nature of this spirituality. It isn’t spiritual worship, which is what scripture requires. It is a feeling that makes someone think he is being spiritual. Because the feeling exists, it must be the spirit. But the feeling was produced by the music. It didn’t come through the mind, but through the body, the flesh. And if it is being sent to God, consideration of making us feel something should be the furthest thing from our mind and will. This is what corrupts the worship to the extent that it is false worship.
I’ve talked about revival being “to be made alive,” so that when revival is occurring, sinners are being converted. Preachers were not satisfied with only the preached Word as a basis for conversion. They wanted more numbers, so they began enacting certain measures that they found worked at seeing more professions of faith. New means were invented to ensure that those hearing would make a decision. The purpose was to get a physical response, either by walking to the front, to an anxious room, or by joining in a scripted prayer. Murray talks about the argument that was used by preachers at the time of the so-called “Second Great Awakening”:
If only some souls are saved by the use of these new measures, we ought thankfully to own their power, and give them our countenance. Conversion is so important that if any cases prove genuine is that not enough to justify the method?
(to be continued)
In the late 1960s, early 1970s, mega churches exploded with growth in California. Popular evangelical pastor and author John MacArthur talks about it in an interview with Albert Mohler:
I can trace certain trends and a visible process over the past twenty-two years. When I first came to this church as pastor, I started to preach this way and people flooded the place. It was an interesting time. It was just after the publication of The Living Bible — for what it is worth — and that certainly gave people a fresh insight into Scripture. Then came the New American Standard Version, the “Jesus Movement,” Calvary Chapel, and the intensive interest in personal Bible study. People came to church carrying Bibles with covers featuring a dove and a cross, and all that. Christian bookstores and publishers began to flourish. Maranatha Music hit — and Christian music exploded. I really think that one hundred years from now the 1970s and the early 1980s will look like a revival — and that period really was.
MacArthur elsewhere says that the Jesus Movement was a primary cause for the phenomenal growth of his church:
We kind of caught the wave of that, the tail end of the Jesus Movement. There were new Bible translations, that was huge. People were beginning to understand the Bible in new ways. There was just a wave, I think, at that time when I came that the Lord sort of allowed us to catch that I think a real moving of the Holy Spirit in a special way.
Churches in southern California became huge at this period of time, filling up with the proselytes of the Jesus movement. Like so many other fads that start in California, those churches in turn had a huge impact on the church all over the United States through their radio ministries with now well-known names in addition to MacArthur—Chuck Swindoll, Chuck Smith, and Greg Laurie—among many others. These churches took on a flavor that was admired and mimicked all over the country before there was a Hybels, Osteen, or Rick Warren.
This was the beginnings, even by testimony of those who were part of it, of something that still today has a major influence in Christianity, evangelicalism, and fundamentalism. The leadership that pioneered this direction and style made decisions about how they would function that continue to affect churches all over the world. They were uniquely non-denominational, choosing to forego the typical church brands that repulsed the spirit of that era’s seekers. They made plain choices in their evaluation of cultural issues that clearly impact the belief and practice of churches today.
Was that place and period truly subject to God-given revival? Does what occurred represent what we would see as revival according to a scriptural understanding? Did the leadership make decisions befitting of a movement of God among men? Or was this a bevy of deceit that has since caused more problems than good?
What Kind of Movement Was It?
The Jesus Movement was born out of the sixties counterculture. Young people, distrustful of authority, attempted to find fulfillment in an anti-establishment attitude and behavior that characterized the war protesters. Disenchanted with the status quo, they became hippies. The Jesus Movement contrasted with established churches both in style and substance, keeping many of the mannerisms and appearance of the hippies yet tweaking the content of the message. The hippie culture infiltrated and then changed churches into its image.
Sally Thomas in First Things, The Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life characterizes the start of the Jesus Movement in an article entitled “Grooving on Jesus”:
There’s no denying that, in many places, have it your way was an effective formula. Witness the nondenominational Calvary Chapel phenomenon. In 1968, Pastor Chuck Smith, encouraged by other conservative evangelical California pastors, recruited a youth pastor, the groovily named Lonnie Frisbee, from the Christian-coffeehouse counterculture as a “hippie liaison” to draw in the unchurched. The results were electrifying. Traditional hymn-sandwich services gave way to an effusively emotive worship atmosphere more like the quasi-religious atmosphere of a Grateful Dead concert.
The Calvary Chapel was a struggling congregation of less than thirty until Lonnie Frisbee started bringing hippies to the meetings. Thomas explains what happened:
Hundreds of shaggy young people clutching Bibles in zippered leather cases turned up for Wednesday-night Bible study with Frisbees. The church outgrew its space, outgrew it again, and ultimately multiplied into a network of churches, its own freestanding denomination.
Rock music itself had already swept the nation through its collection of noncomformists and malcontents. The Jesus movement was the beginnings of Christian rock. It began when some hippie and street musicians of the late 1960s and early 1970s converted to this brand of Christianity. They continued to play the same style of music they had played previously, but began to write lyrics with a quasi-Christian message. Many music groups developed out of this, and some became leaders within the Jesus movement, rockers like Larry Norman, Keith Green, and others.
The same Chuck Smith founded the first Christian rock label when he launched Maranatha Music as an outlet for the Jesus music bands performing at Calvary worship services. It was here where the whole contemporary Christian music industry got its start as well as the new viewpoint that the music itself was amoral. The new innovation was that only the words communicated any moral content. The only ones still who hold this deceived position are those who like and support Christian rock, country, rap, rhythm and blues, and even grunge.
The churches that saw amazing numeric growth were those receptive of the hippie lifestyle, not expecting it to change. The Jesus movement was a trojan horse to wheel the world into the church. There were several keys for contextualizing God to this worldly crowd: non-denominationalism (an anti-establishment move), toleration, come-as-you-are dress, modern language translations, long hair on men, pants on women, the world’s music, and little application of scripture to the culture (dismissive of worldliness).
John MacArthur calls this time period of the Jesus Movement a genuine revival. This is when his church saw amazing numeric success. You see pictures of MacArthur in those days on his book covers wearing long hair. This is when, more than ever, you would hear the accusations of “legalism” and calls for grace. It was obvious in the counterculture hippie movement that the long hair was rebellion. If you moved that direction with your hair, you were making a statement that contradicted God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 11:14. Although MacArthur’s hair wasn’t as long as Lonnie Frisbee‘s, it was a clear signal to hippies that he wasn’t a part of the establishment.
A later contribution as a polemic for worldliness and the new view of grace to vindicate the worldly practices of this Southern California “laid-back” style was Chuck Swindoll’s 1990 book, fittingly named Grace Awakening. The Jesus Movement was a Grace Awakening in the opinion of the participants. Here are some of the statements by Swindoll that typify the defense necessary subsequent to lowering the barriers to the world:
[It is a] freedom from the demands of other people, from all the shoulds and oughts of the general public.
I can be me—fully and freely. It is a freedom to know Him in an independent and personal way.
It means I’m free to choose righteousness or disobedience.
At one point in the book, inspired by an “awakening of grace,” Swindoll asked why it is that we couldn’t visualize God in a pair of bermuda shorts.
You can’t explain a true revival outside of the gospel. When measures are adopted to produce results, you have revivalism. The Jesus Movement was very careful to adapt its methods to the tastes of the hippy culture. They liked rock music. Rock music was a new method to gather and excite a crowd. They labeled and relabeled their churches with names not packed with the theological dogma of denominationalism.
When you hear MacArthur talk about that time period that fueled the numerical growth of his church, you read of the key conditions that must be met for God to work in a tremendous way: new translations of scripture and even the paraphrase, the Living Bible, use of contemporary Christian music, and verse-by-verse teaching.
David Wells writes in No Place for Truth, speaking of fundamentalism and evangelicalism (p. 129):
Strong, authoritarian preachers emerged whose very demeanor banished doubt on sight. The stronghold of faith was thus made invincible. . . .Fundamentalism was a walled city; evangelicalism is a city. Fundamentalism always had an air of embattlement about it, of being an island in a sea of unremitting hostility. Evangelicalism has reacted against this sense of psychological isolation. It has lowered the barricades. It is open to the world.
Chuck Smith, MacArthur, and many others used the verse by verse expository type of teaching. Smith would sit on a stool in front of a microphone before a sea of hippies and work his way through the text. Certainly whatever good that did occur could result from the Bible they did get. However, what was missing was strong, authoritarian preachers, who wouldn’t lower the barrier for the world, who by their very demeanor would banish doubt on sight.
Like Finney’s Second Great Awakening, the numerical success is the main evidence for the revival. Iain Murray writes in Revival and Revivalism (p. 283):
Numbers seen to be responding were claimed as more than sufficient evidence for the rightness of the changes in practice and teaching. If the argument for the new measures had been based upon the testimony of Scripture or the witness of church history, the likelihood of the propaganda succeeding would have been small, but these were not the grounds on which the case for the new measures was based. The proof urged for them was much simpler: people had only to look at what could be seen across the country.
Finney himself wrote in his Memoirs (p. 83):
I used to say to ministers, whenever they contended with me . . . Show me the fruits of your ministry. . . . Much fault has been found with measures which had been preeminently and continually blessed by God for the promotion of revivals.
For the numerical success, the cooperation with Lonnie Frisbee, hippies, and rock bands was a necessary measure for continuing revival for Chuck Smith. Then numerical success validated the new measures. This was the way to revival that others had missed and became necessary to continue. Then, like Finney, new theological explanations must be developed that would authenticate the fellowship with the world. John MacArthur said this about that time at his church:
[I]t doubled about every two years for the first ten, just kept doubling and it went from three hundred, to six hundred, to twelve hundred. Obviously our growth has slowed down eventually. But in those early years it was amazing growth. We were doing something that was fresh, expositing the Scripture, there was a new hunger for that. We kind of caught the wave of that, the tail end of the Jesus Movement.
In his break-down of revivalism, Murray writes (p. 22):
Revival are not brought about by the fulfillment of ‘conditions’ any more than conversion of a single individual is secured by any series of human actions.
I believe that the Jesus Movement and Finney’s revival were both authored by human measures uniquely adapted to their time. Murray explains it this way (p. 298):
[A]ll christian rightly want to see success, and the new measures seemed to offer that possibility in a way not known before. . . . [T]he introduction of the new measures in a time of real revival gave weight to the claim that their ‘successes’ were due to divine blessing. . . [T]he illusion was ultimately accepted because the alleged successes received far more publicity than did the evidence of harm done to the life of the churches.
The Jesus movement was a revival in the tradition of the Second Great Awakening. It wasn’t. However, the numerical successes have influenced thousands of pastors and churches to follow the style of the Southern California mega-churches. If there is a new wave today, it is the manner of Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, or in another way, that of Mark Driscoll and those imitating him.
Lonnie Frisbee, as much as anyone, ignited the Calvary Chapel phenomena. He sat cross-legged in the front lawn of a local public school, wearing a long robe, beard, and shoulder length hair, the identical circumstance at which Greg Laurie made a profession of faith. Lonnie Frisbee died of a AIDS, a long time closet homosexual. Frisbee not only led in the beginning of the spread of the Calvary Chapel, but also the Vineyard churches.
Recently Phil Johnson, a right hand man of John MacArthur, has written a lengthy series against contextualization, coming from Acts 17. In a comment on vv. 16-18, he writes:
What’s crucial to notice here, first of all, is Paul’s relationship to the culture. He doesn’t try to assimilate. He doesn’t embrace the culture and look for ways to shape the gospel to suit it. He is repulsed by it.
As part of the Jesus movement, the churches of Southern California embraced the culture and did try to assimilate, including Johnson’s own Grace Community Church.
A new type of Jesus movement is exploding all over the country, perhaps best represented by Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill in the Seattle, WA area. They have embraced the grunge culture of Seattle. Driscoll’s presentation, the design of the building, the dress, and activity are like the world where Mars Hill exists. John MacArthur wrote about it in an article he entitled, “Grunge Christianity: Counterculture’s Death-Spiral and the Vulgarization of the Gospel”:
You have no doubt heard the arguments: We need to take the message out of the bottle. We can’t minister effectively if we don’t speak the language of contemporary counterculture. If we don’t vernacularize the gospel, contextualize the church, and reimagine Christanity for each succeeding generation, how can we possibly reach young people? Above all else, we have got to stay in step with the times.
Those arguments have been stressed to the point that many evangelicals now seem to think unstylishness is just about the worst imaginable threat to the expansion of the gospel and the influence of the church. They don’t really care if they are worldly. They just don’t want to be thought uncool.
We could turn the clock back to the early seventies and say the same thing about MacArthur’s compromise with the Jesus Movement. We could even look today at the youth conference of his church, called Resolved, that dresses up the room to fit the vernacular of secular culture, to make the preachers “cool” with the young people. What I see Driscoll doing is operating with the same strategy as the Jesus Movement and Lonnie Frisbee, except with the world having gotten that much worse and his targeting the Seattle grunge culture.
Even John Piper, whose churches have followed the Jesus Movement pattern of rock music, is rethinking this now. He was in a recent Q & A along with D. A. Carson, and he was asked, “What are some of the biggest issues you think the church and evangelical scholars will need to deal with in the next twenty years?” As part of his answer he said:
Whether the ethos of the explosion of contemporary worship music and worship forms (i.e., chummy rock music) can sustain the gravitas of the glory of God over the long haul.
How could he be questioning the gravitas of rock music? That’s a done and settled case, isn’t it? Piper knows in his heart that the rock music is a self-gratifying sell-out to the world. He said it in a very understated way, but you can still catch his thinking on it.
One of the tragic casualties of the Jesus Movement and its offspring is spiritual discernment. People see numbers and they assume it must be God. They have a feeling and it must be the Holy Spirit. They want to see something spectacular and so they produce it. And then the methods are copied with very little evaluation. Later they defend it by calling it grace, so grace becomes a casualty as well. Many evangelicals and fundamentalists who decry the revivalism of Finney latch on to the revivalist children of the Jesus movement.
Holiness is more than moral purity. It is separation from that which is common and profane. God in His unique and supreme attributes retains a majestic separation far above His creation. He desires a difference be put between the sacred and the profane. As He is holy, He calls on His own to be holy as well (1 Peter 1:14-16). The angels hovering about His throne repeat “holy, holy, holy.” He says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). The Jesus Movement was not compatible with holiness or separation, but that wasn’t a problem for its adherents, as long as they could catch its wave.
The Jesus Movement birthed modern day non-denominational evangelicalism, it’s music, methods, and mega-churches. It made worldliness the norm for the church. It spawned even worse paganism in churches for today. It concocted the entire Christian music industry with its Dove awards and entertainers. It encouraged an all-time low for reverence in the house of God. It watered down grace. It demeaned Christianity. As much as or more than anything that Finney did, it profaned the holiness of God. It contaminated and perverted true worship of God. It produced a wicked generation that seeks after signs.
“Where is Revival Needed?”
Here is the sermon that someone referred to in the comments.
So, where else is revival needed?
Text: Proverbs 29:18
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
- What is Revival? Back to Life!
- No Vision, People Perish, Need Revival
- When we’re sick, we go to the doctor and he examines us, we expect him to address the areas that are ailing us.
- Not healthy areas
- Not cosmetic problems – Jeremiah 6:14
- Real healing (treatment) for real problems
- We need the treatment where we have the problem
- If it is not treated, it could kill us
- So,,, where is revival needed?
Interpretation & Explanation
- Example of Scripture
- Genesis 15:1 – After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
- Numbers 12:6 – And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
- 1 Samuel 3:1 – And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision.
- 1 Samuel 3:15 – And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision.
- 2 Samuel 7:17 – According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.
- 2 Chronicles 15:3 – Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.
- 2 Chronicles 32:32 – Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.
- Isaiah 1:1 – The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
- Isaiah 29:11 – And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:
- Jeremiah 14:14 – Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of naught, and the deceit of their heart.
- Jeremiah 23:16 – Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
- Lamentations 2:9 – Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD.
- Ezekiel 7:26 – Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumor shall be upon rumor; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.
- Ezekiel 12:22-24, 27 – Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision. For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel. (27) Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off.
- Ezekiel 13:7 – Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken?
- Amos 8:12 – And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.
- Obadiah 1:1 – The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumor from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle.
- Nahum 1:1 – The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
- Habakkuk 2:2-3 – And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
- Zechariah 13:4 – And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:
- Proverbs 29:18 – Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
- The Word of the Lord
- Parallel nature of poetry
- When there was no written word, spoken by the man of God
- Ezra 9:8-9 – And now for a little space grace hath been showed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.
- Psalms 85:6 – Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?
- Psalms 138:7 – Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.
- Isaiah 57:15 – For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
- Hosea 6:2 - After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.
- Hosea 14:7 – They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
- Habakkuk 3:2 – O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.
- If individuals can grow, cannot “groups” also grow?
o Family sins – when family practice is not in accordance with the Scripture
o Church sins
o Cultural sins
o National sins
- Not always sin, could be lack of growth
- Made up of individuals (“he that keepeth”)
- Are made naked
- Exodus 32:25
- Are lawless
- Judges 17:6; 21:25 – In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
- Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
- Proverbs 21:2 – Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
- Are idle, or play
- Exodus 32:25
- Are scattered
- Are destroyed
- Are made naked
- Psalm 19:11
- The Word of God
- Happy – blessed
- This is the place of perishing
- This is where the revival is needed
- Where there is no Word of God
- Where is the Word of God not applied to our lives?
- The Bible speaks to every area of our lives,
- Not just spiritual areas
- All areas – “all ground is sacred; every bush is burning”
- Not psychology – we study the word to see what man is like, not man; God’s instructions are not made “willy-nilly”
- Not pragmatism – lots of things “work,” not all are biblical or God-honoring
o Contemporary worship services
o Question is what are we working toward
- Not big business methodology – businessmen in our church cannot impose business methods on the church; they must study the Bible to see how the church (and their business) should work
- The message to the church
- Individual application
- How will we live when Christ rules the earth?
- Workplace (vocation)
- Corporate application
- Family application
- Individual application
o Celebrating the Lord’s Day
- How will we live when Christ rules the earth?
o The Bride of Christ – the church
- Ephesians 5:19
- Matthew 18:15-20
- Church order
- Acts 6:2-4
- Church work
- Eccl. 5:2; Matthew 6:6-13
- Public prayer
- “Owning the curse”
- Judicial problems
- Women in combat
- Our lives, private, public, and corporate must be governed by and aligned with the Word of God
- This is something that must come from our study of Scripture
- From biblical teaching (spoken, written)
- From Bible study
- From godly communion, fellowship
- As we seek revival, let us seek to draw nearer to God and His standards individually, yes, but also as families and as a church
John Angell James in 1861 in his Discourses Addressed to the Churches (pp. 544-545, 551) wrote:
I do not desire, I do not advise a bustling, artificial effort to get up a revival, nor the construction of any man-devised machinery . . . I want God’s work, not man’s . . . I want no revivalist preachers (emphasis mine).
For a long time, men have distinguished between revival and revivalism. Iain Murray in his Revival and Revivalism (1994, p. xix) differentiated between the two. He said that revival was “the phenomenon of authentic spiritual awakening which is the work of the living God, ” while revivalism was “religious excitements, deliberately organized to secure converts.” A few sentences later he writes:
[O]rthodox Christianity at an earlier date protested that revival and revivalism — far from being of the same genus — are actually opposed.
Earlier (p. xviii) Murray distinguished between the two this way:
[I]t was not until the last forty years of the nineteenth century that a new view of revival came generally to displace the old . . . . Seasons of revival became ‘revival meetings’. Instead of being ‘surprising’ they might now be even announced in advance, and whereas no one in the previous century had known of ways to secure a revival, a system was now popularised by ‘revivalists’ which came near to guaranteeing results.
So why did “revivalism” become confused with revival? Bernard A. Weisberger and William G. McLoughlin wrote about this perversion in two books in the late 1950s: Weisberger’s They Gathered at the River: The Story of the Great Revivalists and Their Impact upon Religion in America (1958) and McLoughlin’s Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy Graham (1959). Both of these men said that revivalist supporters wrote a fraudulent history that misrepresented the orthodox understanding of revival. McLoughlin wrote in his preface: “History has not dealt fairly with American revivals.” Weisberger wrote:
There are numerous histories of revivals in the United States written by devout ministers or worshippers in the evangelical denominations. They are, almost with exception, useless as history.
Based on this understanding, what is most often referred to as the First Great Awakening in the American colonies of the early to mid 18th century was an example of a revival. On the other hand, most of what is labeled revival in what was termed the Second Great Awakening was actually only revivalism. In the decades following the First Great Awakening, American preachers stated their opposition to what was merely emotional, contrived, or manipulated. Murray writes (p. xx):
They foresaw the danger of revivalism long before it became a respected part of evangelicalism, and they would have had no problem agreeing with the criticism which has since discredited it.
Much false practice and perhaps even questionable offices were contrived from the revivalism that intended to reproduce what had occurred in the First Great Awakening, including revival meetings and those who lead them. Before the revivalists and the revision of the doctrine and even history of revival, no orthodox saint would have thought that he could “schedule” a revival.
The Biblical Usage of the Term “Revival”
Many might be surprised to hear that the English term “revival” does not appear once in the King James Version of the Bible. Eight times you have the word “revive” (Nehemiah 4:2; Psalm 85:6; Psalm 138:7; Isaiah 57:15 (2), Hosea 6:2; 14:7; Habakkuk 3:2), twice “reviving” (Ezra 9:8, 9), and six times “revived” (Genesis 45:27; Judges 15:19; 1 Kings 17:22; 2 Kings 13:21; Romans 7:9; 14:9). You’ll notice that all of these instances, except for two, are in the Old Testament—Romans 7:9 and 14:9 use the word “revived.” Twelve out of the fourteen Old Testament usages are the same Hebrew word. Only the two references in Ezra, translated “reviving,” are different Hebrew words.
The English statistics are a little misleading in lieu of a grammatical, historical interpretation of Scripture. Our goal is to understand terms as the people would have understood them in that day. “Revive” might be found eight times in the King James, but forms of the Hebrew word, chayah (pronounced khaw-yaw), are found 390 times. It simply means “to have life.” The first time that a form of chayah appears is in Genesis 1:24 and it is translated “living” as in “living creatures.” Abraham used this Hebrew word in Genesis 12:12, when he said:
This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
There the form of chayah is translated “alive.” It is obvious that Abraham means “physically alive.” Let’s consider the twelve references of chayah in the Old Testament, translated some form of “revive.”
Nehemiah 4:2 uses chayah and there it is obviously being used metaphorically, because it is used to explain the rocks of Jerusalem being rebuilt up a wall. It is used in a kind of mocking way to try to show the impossibility of the walls being rebuilt.
Psalm 85:6 is perhaps the classic passage in the Bible used to teach revival. It says: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Psalm 85 is a post-exilic psalm composed after the return from captivity in Babylon. Israel had been returned from exile, but she had not yet been restored back to her former condition. She is praying to God that she would be.
In Psalm 138:7, David is praying that God would keep him alive (chayah) in the midst of troubles.
Isaiah 57:15 is the verse that gives the closest idea to what we would understand as modern day revival. It reads:
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Here we read of spiritual and heart revival. God by His grace will bring spiritual life to the person’s heart who is contrite and humble about his condition. This sounds like it is talking about salvation. A person will be quickened if he repents of his sin and turns to God for deliverance.
Hosea 6:2 speaks of the restoration of Israel. It might seem like forever to her, but God would bring her back to life very soon, the quickness of which is communicated by the few number of days this is said that it would be occurring. Hosea 14:7 is talking about the millennial kingdom resurrection of Israel.
In Habakkuk 3:2, the severity of God’s judgment brought fear to the prophet. In the midst of the punishment, Habakkuk asks for mercy. He pleads with God in essence to crank back up His saving work, to repeat the kind of activity that God had done for Israel before in order to deliver her.
In a root way, “revive” mean “to make alive.” The strongest New Testament equivalent is “to quicken.” Even looking at the Old Testament “revive” passages in a spiritual way, they seem to be speaking more about salvation than they do some kind of renewing work with believers. A revival is when someone who is dead spiritually is quickened, something like what we see in Ephesians 2:1, 5:
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. . . . Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).
If there is a revival in the New Testament, it is what we see in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. That day three thousand people were made alive. They were all Jews. It is even said to be a fulfillment of Joel 2 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:16). What happened in Acts 2 pre-fulfilled what will occur with the nation Israel before Christ sets up His kingdom on the earth. The dry bones of Ezekiel will be quickened and returned to the land.
Everyone who is saved is revived. Someone dead in sin is made alive at salvation. An already saved person doesn’t need reviving because he is already alive and will continue alive forever. A revival then would perhaps be a time when through preaching the gospel several are saved in a short period of time. It occurs because the Spirit of God is convicting, believers are obedient to the Holy Spirit with bold preaching, the seed falls on good ground, and much fruit is produced. There is no other explanation, especially a human one, for why this might occur, except for this scriptural one. The New Testament doesn’t even use the word “revive,” so there is little to no emphasis on this as a recurring event.
Contrasting Ideas about Revival
I’m not trying to undo any historic opinion about revival. Jonathan Edwards’ book, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, was prompted by the Great Awakening. Edwards did not believe that the Great Awakening was either all truth or all error, but a mixture of the two, and that this is normal. He wrote the book to address the question, “How do we discern between that which is genuine and that which is counterfeit?” Most agree that a revival occurred during Edwards’ life, and he was concerned that there was enough false to write a book on it.
What we call revivals have transpired. A whole lot of people have been made alive at a particular point in time. The biggest part of the argument about revivals, however, I believe centers on the Calvinism versus Arminianism issue. It also relates to covenant theology and dispensationalism. Let me break it down for you.
Some might call this Pelagian as it applies to Charles Finney. This is where we get a lot of human-centered problems that are criticized by Iain Murray in Revival and Revivalism, which he calls “revivalism.” It is also about manipulating the conditions to make things happen like we want. I don’t believe in revivalism as defined historically, which was the invention of Arminianism. I also believe that this is major problem in fundamentalism today. There are a lot of difficulties here that I will deal with in a separate article later.
This is where I have found that I have a problem with Iain Murray, and, therefore, anyone who agrees with him. I believe that his and others’ fundamental problem with Finney and perhaps to a lesser extent, any revivalists, relates mainly to his Calvinism. Murray shows strong agreement with Samuel Davies and his meaning of revival. What is that? Murray writes concerning early American preacher, and short-time president of Princeton, Samuel Davies (pp. 21-22):
In speaking of the meaning of revival it is also essential to note that what Davies and his brethren believed about revival was not something separate from, or additional to, their main beliefs; it was, rather, a necessary consequence. Such is man’s state of sin that he cannot be saved without the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration, and the faith that results from it, are the gifts of God. Therefore, wherever conversions are multiplied, the cause is to be found not in men, nor in favourable conditions, but in the abundant influences of the Spirit of God that alone make the testimony of the church effective. No other explanation of revival is in harmony with the truths that are ‘the essence of the Christian scheme — the utter depravity of man, the sovereignly-free grace of Jehovah . . . . There is a sovereignty in all God’s activity of his people. Revivals are not brought about by the fulfillment of ‘conditions’ any more than the conversion of a single individual is secured by any means of human actions. The ‘special seasons of mercy’ are determined in heaven.
Calvinists define revival according to their five points with a special emphasis in this case on unconditional election. The opposition to revivalism for a Calvinist galvanizes around the non-Calvinism of revivalism. For an event to be called a revival, man can’t be involved. Murray writes (p. 21):
[T]here are times when the Spirit is given in exceptional measure and that such times may come suddenly, even when deadness is general in the church and indifference to biblical religion prevails in society at large.
I believe this no-condition belief clashes with what we read in Scripture. The one passage in Scripture above that treats the concept of revival more than any other, Isaiah 57:15, says that God revives the spirit and heart of the humble and contrite ones. The verse specifically says that conditions of humility and contriteness precede revival. That clashes with a Calvnist view of revival.
A few times Jesus explained why the seed would not penetrate the soil, the gospel would not be received by a human heart. In Matthew 13 He said that the ground was either thorny, stony, or hard. All of those are conditions. Jesus says that those conditions relate to the result of fruit bearing. In Luke 13, when asked why only few would be saved, Jesus said that men must strive to enter in at the strait gate. That reads like a condition. Of course, the Calvinist may say, “You don’t understand Calvinism. We don’t mean no conditions.” Well, you can’t have it both ways. When you say no conditions, then the explanation from Jesus should be no conditions. Here and several other places, we see conditions.
Much of the explanation for revival among the early American Calvinists takes in their covenant theology, especially seeing Israel as the church in Old Testament prophetic passages. Murray refers to a sermon by Davies (p. 21):
There are eras, said Davies, when only a large communication or outpouring of the Spirit can ‘produce a public general reformation’. Thus, preaching on ‘The Happy Effects of the Pouring Out of the Spirit’ from Isaiah 32:13-19, he argued that ‘the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the great and only remedy for a ruined country — the only effectual preventative of national calamities and desolation, and the only sure cause of a lasting and well-established peace’.
This type of interpretation of the Old Testament, that does not differentiate between the church and Israel, also affects interpretation of the Gospels and Acts. Murray writes (p. 19):
It is through Christ as mediator and head of his body that the Spirit continues to be communicated to the church and that his ‘actual influence’ is known.
At that point, Murray then writes this in a footnote (p. 19):
Bishop Moule wrote: ‘We are not to think of the “giving” of the Spirit as of an isolated deposit of what, once given, is now locally in possession. The first “gift” is, as it were, the first point in a series of actions, of which each one may be expressed also as a gift.’ Were it not for this truth, prayer for the Spirit (Luke 11:13) would be meaningless.
You can see how the covenant theology affects the interpretation of Luke 11:13 where Christ mentions praying for the Spirit. Jesus had not yet sent the Holy Spirit, so the apostles’ asking for the Holy Spirit was a legitimate prayer within the will of God like our praying for the kingdom to come. However, once the Holy Spirit came, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost at the moment of our justification. All believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit simultaneous with salvation. The way Murray explains it, we should keep expecting more and more outpourings of the Holy Spirit (pp. 19-20):
Thus, although the Spirit was initially bestowed on the church by Christ at Pentecost, his influences are not uniform and unchanging; there are variations in the measure in which he continues to be given. In the book of Acts tiems of quickened spiritual prosperity and growth in the church are traced to new and larger measures of the influence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31-33; 11:15-16; 13:52-14:1), and so, through Christian history, the church has been raised to new energy and success by ‘remarkable communications of the Spirit of God . . . at special seasons of mercy’.
Speaking of these non-revivalist Calvinists, he continues:
For these men the words ‘effusion’, ‘baptism’, and ‘outpouring of the Spirit’ were synonymous in meaning with ‘revival of religion’. . . . Thomas Murphy wrote, it was ‘the baptism of the Holy Ghost which caused the infant Church [in America] to become animated by the most fervent piety’. . . . [R]evival consists in a larger giving of God’s Spirit for the making known of Christ’s glory.
I have to admit that I had thought ignorantly that the Keswick movement of the nineteenth century invented the second blessing theology. It is obvious that many at least eighteenth century Calvinists believed in a second blessing, a baptism of the Spirit subsequent to salvation that was accompanied by significant external, tangible consequences.
A Literal, Grammatical-Historical Interpretation of Scripture
I would use the word dispensational, but it really is the conviction of a literal interpretation of Scripture, of course, taking into consideration figures of speech. This literal hermeneutic separates the institution of Israel from the institution of the church. The two are separate entities in the Bible. The outpouring of the Spirit on Israel hasn’t happened yet. We can’t take those promises to Israel in the Old Testament and relate them to an ongoing occurrence in the church.
The revival of the New Testament age isn’t a recurring outpouring of the Spirit. The normal body life of the church has included large numbers of conversions in a very short period of time. In the New Testament we saw it only in the church of Jerusalem in the first nine or ten chapters of Acts. Since then we have had certain periods where churches have seen the same, but that doesn’t mean that any obedient church isn’t revived. This is where I find myself at times agreeing with Murray, when he writes (pp. xx, 22):
This school of preachers held that the Holy Spirit has appointed means to be used for the advancement of the gospel, pre-eminently the teaching of the Word of God accompanied by earnest prayer. . . . They believed that strict adherence to Scripture is the only guard against what may be wrongly claimed as the work of God’s Spirit.
When Do We See Revival?
I believe it is wrong-headed to look at the regular obedience to the Word of God in the local church as something less than revival. This is where the no-condition explanation for many new converts, I’m convinced, falls short. A major contributing factor is the conditions being ripe for revival. Very often people turn to God when they are broken by tough external circumstances. A revived state that is just an obedient Christian life in a local church may lack the pizzazz required to be called revival.
You have revival if you have a church that loves the Lord and regularly and boldly proclaims the gospel throughout the community and beyond. Those are life endowing activities. Do we always want more to be saved? Yes. But we don’t pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to surprise us with a sudden burst of new conversions. We keep praying scriptural prayers and continue in obedience to the Great Commission and we have revival. Revival shouldn’t be measured by the numbers but by the spiritual state of the church—boldness in evangelism, husbands loving wives, wives submitting to husbands, children obeying parents, fruit of the Spirit, and the body of Christ manifested through the mutual spiritual giftedness of its people. We must be content that this is revival too.
Here are some questions that I have thought about for a long time. These are related to the present topic and are mostly asked to help get us to be thinking about revival in more that just one way. My premise is that the question of revival could be applied to churches corporately. If that is true, the following questions come to mind.
- How does a church “get right with God”?
- How does a church “please God”?
- How does a church “grow in grace”?
- How does a church start a “new beginning of obedience”?
Wouldn’t it be more than just individual actions?
I don’t suppose that we could discuss revival without discussing Charles Finney. His name is the most closely associated with revival of any name in the last two hundred years. Whether we like it or not, his influence still permeates Baptist Fundamentalism. He left his mark on us. One of our commenters has listed out Finney’s “new measures.” Whether these things were “new” or not, the practical things that Finney promoted for churches to do are still with us. In fact, I would point out that more than a couple things on that list would get a church in hot water if they stopped doing them. Finney’s new measures have become the standards in Independent Baptist Churches.
If we take Finney’s definition of revival as a stand-alone definition, we would probably find ourselves in agreement with most of it, at least in principle. No doubt we would find a few points to qualify and perhaps to differ with, but for the most part, we would find little to disagree with. Finney defined revival in five points, which I reproduce for you here:
It presupposes that the Church is sunk down in a backslidden state, and a revival consists in the return of the Church from her backslidings, and in the conversion of sinners.
- A revival always includes conviction of sin on the part of the Church. Backslidden professors cannot wake up and begin right away in the service of God, without deep searchings of heart. The fountains of sin need to be broken up. In a true revival, Christians are always brought under such conviction; they see their sins in such a light that often they find it impossible to maintain a hope of their acceptance with God. It does not always go to that extent, but there are always, in a genuine revival, deep convictions of sin, and often cases of abandoning all hope.
- Backslidden Christians will be brought to repentance. A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God. Just as in the case of a converted sinner, the first step is a deep repentance, a breaking down of heart, a getting down into the dust before God, with deep humility, and a forsaking of sin.
- Christians will have their faith renewed. While they are in their backslidden state they are blind to the state of sinners. Their hearts are hard as marble. The truths of the Bible appear like a dream. They admit it to be true; their conscience and their judgment assent to it; but their faith does not see it standing out in bold relief, in all the burning realities of eternity. But when they enter into a revival, they no longer see “men as trees, walking,” but they see things in that strong light which will renew the love of God in their hearts. This will lead them to labour zealously to bring others to Him. They will feel grieved that others do not love God, when they love Him so much. And they will set themselves feelingly to persuade their neighbours to give Him their hearts. So their love to men will be renewed. They will be filled with a tender and burning love for souls. They will have a longing desire for the salvation of the whole world. They will be in an agaony for individuals whom they want to have saved – their friends, relations, enemies. They will not only be urging them to give their hearts to God, but they will carry them to God in the arms of faith, and with strong crying and tears beseech God to have mercy on them, and save their souls from endless burnings.
- A revival breaks the power of the world and of sin over Christians. It brings them to such vantage-ground that they get a fresh impulse towards heaven; they have a new foretaste of heaven, and new desires after union with God; thus the charm of the world is broken, and the power of sin overcome.
- When the Churches are thus awakened and reformed, the reformation and salvation of sinners will follow. Their hearts will be broken down and changed. Very often the most abandoned profligates are among the subjects. Harlots, and drunkards, and infidels, and all sorts of abandoned characters, are awakened and converted. The worst of human beings are softened and reclaimed, and made to appear as lovely specimens of the beauty of holiness.
Can we agree with the tenor of the definition given here? Perhaps, if we consider it all by itself, and out of context with the rest of Finney’s teaching. But in context, we cannot agree with Finney’s view of what a revival is. Our first reason? In the section before Finney’s definition of revival, he explains what a revival is not. And in that section, Finney says that a revival is not a miracle. “A miracle” he says “has been generally defined to be a Divine interference, setting aside, or suspending, the laws of nature. A revival is not a miracle in this sense.”
In fact, Finney denies that revival is God’s work altogether. In his second point, Finney says, “There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else.” In fact, Finney denies that salvation changes anything about a man at all.
“When mankind become religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth. They only exert powers which they had before, in a different way, and use them for the glory of God.”
Finney continues. “A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means – as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means.” In other words, revival is entirely a work of man, and not a work of God in any way whatsoever.
Now, Finney does hedge a little on that. Even Finney recognized that his denial of Divine intervention might be a little strong. And so he interjects in the next paragraph, “But means will not produce a revival, we all know, without the blessing of God. No more will grain, when it is sown, produce a crop without the blessing of God.” So, Finney believes that revival is entirely the work of man, and that God simply gives a little shove to start your sled down the big sled hill. “A revival is as naturally a result of the use of the appropriate means as a crop is of the use of its appropriate means.”
Finney attempted to combat the hyper-Calvinism of his day, a hyper-Calvinism that taught people to do nothing for God, to preach the gospel to no man, and to make no effort for revival whatsoever, but rather to wait for God to do what He would when He would. Thomas Ross has rightly pointed out that Finney attempted to combat their Hyper-Calvinism with his very own brand of Pelagianism. A perfect illustration of this comes in the following illustration…
Suppose a man were to go and preach this doctrine among farmers, regarding their sowing of grain. Let him tell them that God is a Sovereign, and will give them a crop only when it pleases Him, and that for them to plough, and plant, and labour, as if they expected to raise a crop, is very wrong, that it amounts to taking the work out of the hands of God, that it is an interference with His Sovereignty, and that there is no connection between the means and the result on which they can depend. Suppose the farmers should believe such a doctrine? Why, they would starve the world to death.
Just such results would follow on the Church being persuaded that promoting religion is somehow so mysteriously a subject of Divine Sovereignty, that there is no natural connection between the means and the end. In fact, what are the results? Why, generation after generation has gone to hell, while the Church has been dreaming and waiting for God to save them without the use of the means. It has been the devil’s most successful means of destroying souls! The connection is as clear in religion as it is when the farmer sows his grain.
On the one hand, we have the very wrong-headed and un-Biblical teachings of hyper-Calvinists, who waited for God to act sovereignly without ever doing anything. These are the theologians who don’t change light bulbs, because if God wanted them changed, He would change them Himself. In fairness, it should be pointed out that this view of God is not shared even among many Calvinists. Our earliest missionaries, men like William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton, were all Calvinists. Charles Spurgeon was a Calvinist. Was there a more zealous gospel preacher than him? So, this kind of hyper-Calvinism is not truly representative of Calvinism as a whole. But it is representative of much of the Calvinism of Finney’s day. Why is that? Well, because Calvinism clearly leans in that direction. And, men being what they are, tend to mix their sin in with their theology, whatever side of the teeter-totter that might be, and then spoil it. Men want to be lazy and disobedient. And so much the better if they can blame it on God, or rationalize it with high-sounding words about God’s sovereignty.
But Finney’s response was to confront this hyper-Calvinism with a full blown Pelagianism. In Logic, we learn about the relationship between statements that is called “contrariety.” Not to be confused with contradiction, contrariety is the sort of answer that, when confronted with a statement like “God saves everybody” replies, “Nuh-uh… God doesn’t save anyone.” In the relationship of contrariety, both cannot be right, but both can be wrong. Both Finney and the hyper-Calvinists can’t be right. But they can both be wrong. And Finney’s response to the hyper-Calvinists is as wrong as they are. The hyper-C’s say that God does all of revival and man does nothing. Finney replies that man does all of revival, and God does nothing.
The Psalmist prayed, “Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee.” Revival is the work of God. It is a miracle. When the farmer sows a thousand seeds, God works a thousand miracles… he performs a thousand resurrections. But not always. There are times when the seed is sown, but the rain does not come or the locusts devour or the birds snatch the seed, and a famine comes. We must always be seeking a revival. But we can’t put it on the calendar. God must send a revival, or we will not have one.
We have had enough of the man-made forms of revival. Whether it takes ten years or ten decades, we want the next one to come from God. Man-made revivals are like man-made ham. Spit it out, and wait for the real thing.
In his day, probably no one was more well known for exhorting professing Christians to pray for power than the late Jack Hyles, the long time pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana and father-in-law of the present pastor there, Jack Schaap. He influenced thousands of men toward this practice. He wrote this in his book, The Fulness of the Spirit:
We prayed from 1:00 until 2:00; from 2:00 until 3:00; from 3:00 until 4:00; from 4:00 until 5:00 and sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning the sweet power of God settled upon us, and I knew that God had given me some fresh power, some fresh oil, as spoken of by the Psalmist in Psalm 92:10, “But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.”
Hyles said that prayer was the means of getting this power. He explained:
The question immediately comes: How may this power be obtained? Of course, there are obvious steps such as separation from the world, faithfulness to the cause of Christ, hours of studying the Word, obedience to the commands of God and to the will God, etc., but the main thing is for a Christian to be so sincere that he pays the price in agonizing and pleading and tarrying, begging God for His power. Notice Luke 11:5-13, “And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, saying unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” The word “importunity” in verse 8 means “much begging.”
Because prayer was the means Hyles believed was how to get the power that was a necessity for success, he reported:
On my desk I see the words, “Pray for power.” Behind my desk I see the words, “Pray for power.” In the Bible that is in my lap I see the words, “Pray for power.” On the mirror where I shave I see the words, “Pray for power.” On the door leading from my office into the hallway I see the words, “Pray for power.” Hundreds of times a day I plead with God for His power. Then, of course, there are seasons of prayer when I go alone with God to plead for the power of God.
What else is Hyles’ basis for this? He didn’t invent the subject, even as he argued:
I read about John Wesley, who at three o’clock in the morning on October 3, 1738, after having prayed with a number of preachers for most of the night was filled with the Holy Spirit. His ministry was never the same. I read about George Fox, who went alone for two weeks begging for the power of God, and how his life was transformed. I read about Peter Cartwright, who had been filled with the Holy Spirit and mighty power came upon him. I read of George Whitefield, who on June 20, 1736, was ordained to preach. As he knelt at the altar, Bishop Benson laid his hands on the young preacher and George Whitefield knew then and there that he was filled with the Holy Spirit! I read about George Muller, who was filled with the Holy Spirit the first time he ever saw Christians on their knees in prayer. I read how Billy Sunday used to preach every sermon with his Bible open to Isaac 61:1 and how the Spirit of God came on him. My heart began to burn from within! “Was this for me as well as for them? Was that power that Moody had and Wesley had and Whitefield had and Billy Sunday had available for little Jack Hyles, a poor country preacher in east Texas?”
Hyles sought the same experience for himself. According to him, he got it.
I began to walk in the woods at night. Night after night I would walk and cry and pray an beg for power. My heart was hungry. I got a Cruden’s Concordance and looked up the terms, “Holy Ghost,” “Spirit of the Lord,” “Spirit of God,” etc. I looked up every Scripture in the Bible that had to do with the Holy Spirit. I read in Judges 6:34 that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and in Judges 14;6 how the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson and in 1 Samuel 11:6 how the Spirit of God came upon Saul. I read in 1 Samuel 16:13 how the Spirit of the Lord came upon David. I read in Acts 9:17 where Paul was filled with the Holy Ghost and in Luke 4:1 where Jesus was full of the Holy Ghost. My heart burned! I needed something. I needed the blessed power of God. I needed the fulness of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t understand all the Scriptures. I read in Luke 3:16 the words, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” I read in Acts 1:4 the mention of the “promise of the Father.” In Luke 24:49 I found the words, “be endued with power from on high.” In Acts 1:8, I found the words, “after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” In Acts 2:17, I learned of the “pouring out of the Spirit” and in Ephesians 5:18, I found the term, “filled with the Spirit.”
I was not seeking sinless perfection nor was I trying to name what I wanted God to give me. I had no desire to speak in tongues nor did I even desire to have some kind of an experience. I just wanted God to work in the hearts of the people while I preached and witnessed. Could it be for me? Yes, it was for Samson, for Gideon, for Torrey, for Moody, for Billy Sunday, for Jonathan Edwards, for Muller, for Whitefield, for George Fox, for Christmas Evans, for Savonarola, for Peter Cartwright, for John Rice, for Bob Jones, for Lee Roberson, but was it for me? I was just a country preacher. I can recall how my eyes fastened on Isaiah 40:31 and Acts 2:4 and Acts 4:31. I was hungry!
“I must have results. I must have power.” I can recall saying to God, “I’m not going to be a normal preacher. I’m not going to be a powerless preacher.”
Night after night I would walk through the pine thickets of east Texas, up and down the sand hills, begging God for His power. If you had driven down Highway 43 outside Marshall, Texas, on the way to Henderson, Texas, in the wee hours of the morning, you could have heard me praying, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” and begging God to give me power.
I was losing weight. I couldn’t eat. What I did eat came back up! My family was worried about me. My deacons got together and said to me, “Pastor, you’ve got to take care of yourself. You are going to get bad sick.”
Then came May 12, 1950. All night I prayed! Just about sunrise I fell to my face in some pine needles and told God I would pay the price, whatever it was, for the power of God! I did not know what I was saying. I did not know what that meant.
In less than four hours, my phone rang in our little country parsonage. The operator said that it was a long distance call for Reverend Jack Hyles. She put the call through and a voice said, “This is Mr. Smith. I work with your dad. Reverend Hyles, your dad just dropped dead with a heart attack.” I put the phone down. I could not believe what I had heard. . . . On May 13, 1950, Mother’s Day afternoon, we had a little service in the chapel. We then followed the hearse about 50 miles south to a little cemetery on the northeast corner of Italy, Texas, where two of my little sisters were buried. Down near the creek was a hole in the ground. They lowered my daddy’s body in the grave. Not long after, I returned to that grave and fell on my face and told God I was not going to be a powerless preacher any more and that I was not going to leave that grave until something happened to me. I don’t know how long I stayed. It may have been hours; it may have been days. I lost all consciousness and awareness of time. I did not become sinlessly perfect nor did I talk in another language nor was I completely sanctified, but my ministry was transformed!
Hyles regularly told the story of begging on his father’s grave. What I noticed was that the details of the story often changed, especially how long he stayed at the grave. I would have a couple of questions about the power that Jack Hyles claimed to have received from God.
- Why didn’t the power work toward the raising of his son, Dave Hyles? How did it selectively affect one area, how big his church got, but it circumvented where the power should have been having the greatest impact, on his son? When Jack Hyles was disqualified from the office of the pastor, why didn’t the power take him the direction that the Bible takes disqualified pastors?
- If someone has that kind of power, why do they also need gimmicks in order to get people to church? Wouldn’t the power be a greater force for persuasion than a small toy or candy? And then in the end, God would be glorified, because it was His power and not a gimmick, wouldn’t He?
Those are just two sets of questions that commonly come to my mind when I think about the power of Jack Hyles. The Bible reveals the real manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life. We can be satisfied with those. The late John R. Rice, who had a lot of impact on Jack Hyles, in We Can Have Revival Now! talked of the same experience:
Charles G. Finney would frequently feel some lack of power and blessing and would set apart a day of fasting and prayer “for a new baptism of the Holy Ghost,” as he was wont to say. Moody sought God unceasingly for two years, until he was mightily endued with power. Dr. R.A. Torrey started the prayer meeting in Moody Church in Chicago and there prayed for two years that God would send a great revival. Then suddenly a committee from Australia came and sought out Torrey, the Bible teacher who had never been much thought of as an evangelist, and Torrey began the mighty campaigns in Australia that led him finally around the world, with hundreds of thousands of souls saved under his great ministry. Torrey learned to pray, so he learned to have revivals.
Hyles and Rice and that branch of fundamentalism are not alone in talking about this practice. In his article, “Philosophy of Evangelism,” the more recent Mark Herbster writes:
[The evangelist] must pray for power and liberty in his preaching. The evangelist must have this grace from God alone. He cannot and will not be able to carry on within his own strength and power. He must be filled with Holy Spirit fire.
You will find some of these same thoughts in some unlikely sources. The late D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
The prayer for power is always in evidence in the history of the Church prior to revival.
Robert L. Thomas comments:
[Paul] climaxes his own prayer in [Ephesians] 1:15-23 by pleading God’s power for believers. In 3:14-21, he commences his intercession with prayer for power. He seeks power from God, for “power belongs to God” (Ps. 62:11). . . . Such power from the God of power comes to prayer to Him.
DOES THE BIBLE TEACH CHRISTIANS TO PRAY FOR GOD’S POWER?
No. Scripture doesn’t teach us anywhere to pray for God’s power. I can understand people wanting a kind of power that can do the things that these men covet. I believe it is akin to a generation of people that seeks after signs. Of course, we know what Jesus said about that generation. This teaching, which isn’t in the Bible, comes from three sources: poor exegesis of the Scripture, personal experiences, and historical anecdotes. Certain scriptural truths clear this up.
We Already Have All of God’s Power the Moment We Are Justified
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3
God’s divine power has given us believers “all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” Do you think that we need anything else to live the Christian life? The Greek begins the sentence with “all things.” That’s even the emphasis. We’ve got everything we need for our entire life in the way of any and every resource we need right when we’re justified. “Hath given” is a perfect passive participle in the Greek. The perfect tense expresses that all those things that we’ve been given can’t be taken away. They are ongoing for the believer.
God has also given us every spiritual blessing that there is. Do we need more spiritual blessing than every spiritual blessing? What are we saying to God when He says we have every spiritual blessing, but we come to Him in prayer as if we haven’t been given that. One of the passages quoted in support for praying for power was Ephesians 1:15-23. The pertinent section (vv. 17-19) reads:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.
This was used by Robert Thomas from Master’s Seminary to back up a point to pray for power. The prayer is for a spirit of wisdom and knowledge, so that your understanding is enlightened so that you will “know” what is the exceeding greatness of his power. The prayer is not for power. It prays for a kind of knowledge that would know the power that a Christian already possesses. “Know” there is experiential knowledge. Paul prays that the Ephesians believers will experience the power that they already have. Our problem is not that we lack in power. We have that. Our problem is that we forget that we already have it so that we don’t use it.
The Holy Spirit is God, so He possesses all the power of the universe. The Holy Spirit moved upon the face of the waters in Genesis 1:2 and created energy—gravitational force, electromagnetic force, and nuclear force. The Holy Spirit indwells all believers.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Romans 8:9-11
We don’t need to pray for power because we already have the power. The prayer for power is actually a lack of faith. We need to access the power we already possess. We experience the power by yielding to the Holy Spirit. We don’t need power. We need yieldedness. I feel sorry for people who are praying for power. They feel like spiritual have-nots and they don’t have to.
Let me illustrate. Fred gives you all his money, a million dollars. You need ten dollars. You don’t use the million that you already have. Instead, you ask Fred, who has given you all of his dollars, to give you the ten. It is absurd. It questions the sufficiency of God’s provision at your justification. It is not a prayer in God’s will.
Some may ask and rightly so, “Well, if these famous men prayed for power and they didn’t actually get anything out of that prayer, then why is it that they saw so many great things happen?” This is where biblical discernment comes in. I’m not responsible to explain everything that happens. I’ve got to judge based on what God’s Word says. Lots of false beliefs look like they’re working. One amazing blessing about this particular branch of false doctrine is that now we have some history to see where a lot of these results ended. We get the gift of hindsight to see that the extra-scriptural and unscriptural behavior didn’t have long-lasting results in many cases. It even often hatched monstrosities.
Yes, many times the consequences do last and good things turn out. God is a good God. He will bless despite us. That doesn’t justify unbiblical beliefs and activity.
The Holy Spirit Was Poured Out in the Book of Acts and Will Be Again Just Once in the Future
We don’t pray for the Holy Spirit because He’s already here. We don’t pray for the Holy Spirit’s power because the Holy Spirit is God. He already has unlimited power. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which was prophesied by John the Baptist, was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. For the next outpouring of the Holy Spirit to occur, He will have to leave, which He will (2 Thessalonians 2:7). The Holy Spirit will be outpoured one more time, when He comes to indwell Jews saved in the tribulation period (Joel 2:28-29).
The reason the apostles were praying for the Holy Spirit in Luke 24:49 and taught to pray for Him in Luke 11:13 was because He hadn’t come yet. Something similar is Jesus’ teaching that we should pray for His kingdom to come. When we get into the kingdom, we won’t be praying to get into it anymore. Even so, since we already received the Holy Spirit, we don’t need another outpouring of Him. Saved Jews in God’s tribulation will get the second outpouring. That is not for believers today who have already received the Holy Spirit the first time.
When you read Hyles’ teaching above from his book on the fulness of the Spirit, you see that he strung together a whole lot of verses from all over without context or explanation to come to the conclusion that he wanted people to make. Usually he proceeded to stories from there and that was where Hyles real authority came from. People were knocked over by his personal examples. If you heard him enough times, you started to discern that parts to the stories would change and contradict.
If you pay attention to the verses and even look up their contexts, you would see that Hyles isn’t careful to differentiate between “filling” and “baptism.” This is a common error for the revivalist. The two do not mean the same thing. Jesus had the disciples praying for the baptism of the Spirit. In Luke 24:49 He instructed them to do so, that is, stay in Jerusalem and pray for that particular event or experience. However, once the Holy Spirit had come, they were to be filled with the Spirit. The baptism was an event. The filling is ongoing.
I hear people pray for Holy Spirit filling. I believe that many of them do so because they are mixing those two words around. We don’t pray for baptism of the Spirit because that’s already over. They prayed for that and then it was answered. Filling isn’t something we pray for. We are filled with the Spirit by yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s control. Then we are filled. When I hear someone praying for Holy Spirit filling, I believe he is confused about his responsibility. God commands us to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), so it isn’t something we pray for. We just yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and He will fill us. He wants to do that.