Posts Tagged With: revival

 
 

New Reformation or Personal Reformation

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6).

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law (Proverbs 29:18).

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 16:25).

This post concludes a two-part series. Please read part one first.

Solomon

King Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 16:25). Illustration by Paul Gustave Doré via Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Those who call for a new Reformation are correct to recognize that there are problems in the Body of Christ. God’s people are perishing due to a lack of knowledge. The problems that led Hosea to make that statement thousands of years ago linger. People choose to sin. Many of those whom God has called to lead His people are neglecting their duties. Many preachers preach what they want to believe, not what they read clearly in Scripture.

Sometimes God’s people lack knowledge because they lack education. They have not read, studied, or learned enough. There is a simple solution to that. Read your Bible daily. Study the Word in-depth. Find a church that believes and preaches the Word of God, listen to the preaching and teaching, and learn.

Sometimes, though, the ignorance is more willful. Many Christians get their theology from the wrong places. They listen to preachers who are eager to tickle itching ears (see 2 Timothy 4:3). Many will reinterpret the Bible when it goes against their biases. (In part 1, I chose the two examples of hell and homosexuality because these have been two doctrines that have been frequently trampled with faulty reinterpretation and distortion of Scripture.) Others profess to be Christians but do not seek to learn what Jesus taught. They avoid the truth entirely. They learn their doctrine from Facebook memes; they are too busy following sports, music, movies, politics, and current events to take the time to read their Bibles.

Sometimes the ignorance is simply full-blown stiff-necked rebellion. People know what the Bible says. They know what it means. But, they choose not to believe or obey it.

How can we respond? First, every one of us should search our own hearts. Where do we stand? Do we trust Jesus at face value and believe what He says, or do we try to find a way around His message?

Next, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us see what we can do to correct the situation. How can we grow in the knowledge of God and His Word? How can we grow in obedience and trust in Him? What can we do to positively influence those within our sphere of influence?

As a Christian blogger, I can make a greater commitment to include in-depth teaching in my posts. I can continue to study and grow in my knowledge of God’s Word so that my life can more clearly reflect His glory and be a greater witness. When I read something in the Bible that confronts an area of sin in my life or a way that I can grow, I can accept it by faith and stop making excuses.

Perhaps the Church does not need a New Reformation. The problems within the church are problems with human nature. New church structures will not eradicate them. Rethinking theology may actually multiply them. Each of us, as individual believers in Christ, need our own personal New Reformation. We need to daily recommit ourselves to saying “yes” to God and “no” to our own preconceived notions and preferences.

Copyright ©  2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

New Reformation or Right Teaching?

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6).

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law (Proverbs 29:18).

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 16:25).

lucas_cranach_28i29_workshop_-_martin_luther_28uffizi29

Martin Luther led a Reformation in the Church 500 years ago. Do we need a new Reformation? Picture from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Is it time for a New Reformation? From time to time, a Christian preacher or teacher (perhaps claiming the authority of an apostle or prophet) will claim that the church has grown so lukewarm or apostate that we need a new reformation. They would say that, just as the Protestant Reformation (spearheaded by Martin Luther around 1517) revitalized the church, the modern church needs radical reform. A quick Google search revealed three very different reformation movements here, here, and here. There are probably numerous others. In fact, almost every new denomination grows out of a belief that the church is lacking something substantial.

The broad variety of ideas expressed by these movements reveals the very problem that creates the call for a new Reformation. These movements contradict each other on several key points. They cannot agree on the key teachings of Christianity, the main problems in contemporary Christianity, or what a “New Reformation” church will look like. This is nothing new; we currently have at least three primary branches of Christianity: Roman Catholicism, (Eastern) Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. Within Protestantism, we have denominations that are as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. All of this arises from disagreements about doctrine, proper worship, church government, etc. Every branch of Christianity claims to know the truth, and they contradict one another.

A key element of Martin Luther’s Reformation was an emphasis on right teaching or doctrine. He believed the great error within the Christianity of his era was the way it chose tradition over Scripture. Although Luther never totally abandoned church tradition, he challenged his contemporaries to re-examine doctrine in the light of Scripture.

Every generation has its own heresies and false teachings. Modern American Christianity has a few that come to mind. Many of them stem from people’s desire to believe their feelings instead of the facts of the faith. We believe what makes us feel comfortable, or what makes it easy to claim a strong relationship with Christ without a radical change in our lives.

One of the great marks of Christian spiritual maturity is this: Are we willing to accept biblical truth even if it goes against our personal preferences or biases? When we encounter a teaching we do not like or understand, what do we do? Do we say “yes” to Jesus, or “yes” to our own opinions? Do we believe that God knows what He is talking about, or do we assume that we know better?

Here are two examples. First, I wish the Bible did not mention hell. Universal salvation—the belief that everybody eventually goes to heaven—sounds much more comforting. I wish it was true. Otherwise, the belief in the annihilation of the soul (that people who do not go to heaven just disappear out of existence without any suffering) would sound nice. However, there is a problem: The Bible teaches that there is a hell. I cannot claim to be a Bible-believing Christian and reject the reality of hell. I cannot even hide behind the Old vs. New Testament dichotomy that applies to some other teachings. I can say I do not believe in stoning adulterers to death because that was in the Old Testament, but I cannot say the same about hell. Most of what the Bible teaches about hell is found in the New Testament (much from the very words of Jesus!), with very little in the Old.

A part of me wishes the Bible did not consider homosexuality a sin. I know some very kind, generous, friendly homosexuals. Some of them are better people than many of the Christians I know. If I had written the Bible, the passages against homosexuality would not be there. I am left with a choice: Do I accept what God says in His word, or do I accept what modern American culture says?

Do you say “yes” to God, or do you say “yes” to sin, the devil, the world, and your own desires? Whom do you choose? If there is a need for a New Reformation, it is because we choose not to obey and believe our Lord.

In the following post, we will look at the cause of this problem and what we can do to resolve it.

Copyright ©  2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Modern-Day Elijahs I: The Person God Calls

In a chapter title in his classic book, Why Revival Tarries, Leonard Ravenhill asked, “Where are the Elijahs of God?” The question is a slight twist on the prophet Elisha’s question, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” (2 Kings 2:14). Ravenhill observed that, although God has not changed and is still on the throne, the church fails to have a powerful impact because there are few godly men of Elijah’s character:

To the question, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” we answer, “Where He has always been‒on the throne!” But where are the Elijahs of God? We know Elijah was “a man of like passions as we are,” but alas! we are not men of like prayer as he was. One praying man stands as a majority with God! Today God is bypassing men‒not because they are too ignorant, but because they are too self-sufficient. Brethren, our abilities are our handicaps, and our talents our stumbling blocks!

Ravenhill’s question is probably more relevant now than it was in 1959, when he first posed it. God raised up Elijah at a time when Israel had drifted far from Him‒so far that it could no longer be recognized as a nation in covenant with Him. It was a nation under godless rule.

As I write this post, it has been about two months since the United States Supreme Court ruled that homosexual marriage should be allowed throughout the nation. A county clerk, who is a Christian, is in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples with her name on them. Freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by our Constitution, has been trashed in favor of a man-made right to sin. Thousands of babies continue to be slaughtered in the womb, and now we find that their body parts are sold for medical research.

Over the next few weeks, I will share a series of articles based on a Bible study series I taught when I was serving as assistant pastor. The series, inspired in part by Ravenhill’s insight, was entitled “Modern-Day Elijahs,” and was intended to challenge believers to emulate the life of Elijah. We need such men and women in 2015.

Let us begin with a brief introduction to the man, his times, and his ministry. Elijah first appears in 1 Kings 17:1:

Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

The name Elijah means “Yahweh is my God,” pointing to his complete devotion to the one true God of Israel. He lived in troubled times. Ahab was ruling as king over the northern kingdom of Israel. The previous king, Ahab’s father Omri, was an evil man who “acted more wickedly than all {the kings} who were before him” (1 Kings 16:25). It is interesting that, beginning with Omri’s reign, the northern kingdom was less frequently referred to as “Israel” and more often referred to by other names. In secular sources from those times, the nation is often called the house or land of Omri, instead of Israel.

Ahab was not much better. According to 1 Kings 16:29-31, he started by following in his father’s footsteps. Then, things became worse after his wedding. His wife Jezebel, a daughter of the king of Sidon and worshipper of the false god Baal, brought massive change to Israel. She established Baal-worship as the state religion, appointed prophets and priests to serve her deity, and executed as many prophets of Yahweh as she could (only Elijah and a few who had been hidden and protected in caves survived her reign of terror).

Elijah rises up in these dark days. The Bible tells us little about his background: It tells us he is a settler of Gilead, which was a region populated by members of three Israelite tribes: Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh. We do not know if he was a member of any of these three tribes: while the word “Tishbite” may refer to his ancestral clan or his hometown, some scholars suggest it may mean “stranger.” If that is the case, Elijah could have been a non-Israelite who had converted to faith in Yahweh.

However, none of this is certain. Scripture is not too concerned about Elijah’s background or ancestry. It is concerned about his zealous faith in God. As Ravenhill said, “One praying man stands as a majority with God,” and Elijah was that one man! Because he knew the one true God and had spent time with him, he could say with certainty that he would say when it would rain. Even though Baal may have been viewed as a nature deity who controlled the rain and agriculture, Elijah would be so bold as to say he knew when the one true God would act.

Such are the people who God is looking for in America in 2015. He is looking for men who will stand before Him, not bowing to the false gods of American culture. Although Baal worshippers may have bowed before idols made of wood, gold, or silver, Americans often bow before other gods: our political elite, money, economic power-brokers, entertainers and other celebrities, false religions (atheism, New Age, watered-down versions of Christianity), media, etc. God is looking for committed believers who will stand before Him in prayer, instead of kneeling to our culture’s false gods for brainwashing.

The man who stands before God can stand against anything that the flesh, the world, or the devil may throw at him. We will see how God provides for and protects those who answer His call in our next study.

NOTE: Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
This post copyright © 2015 by Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.
Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

National Transformation

English: I took photo with Canon camera.

Image via Wikipedia

“[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV).

Over the next eight-and-a-half months, presidential candidates will bombard us with propaganda, trying to persuade voters that a particular candidate is the solution to America’s problems. Barack Obama, who promised “hope” and “change” during the 2008 campaign, will try to convince us that his policies are working. (The Bible and my bank balance both beg to differ.) Over the next few months, a field of Republican challengers will insist that they offer the hope and change we need now to undo recent damage to our nation.

While I hope we get the best man for the job, I must be realistic: Our nation’s problems are so severe that a four-year presidential term will not solve them, and the American people are too impatient to wait for the repairs. Our federal debt is over $15 trillion, which means the average American’s share of that debt is $50,000. That debt will not be paid off in the foreseeable future. Add in economic hardship for millions of families and a steady moral decay, and it is obvious that even the best President will not solve our problems.

Many Christians have looked at the passage at the top of this post as the solution to our problems. It is, but we have to understand the passage and act on it. Posting it on a car’s bumper sticker, so your unfriendly neighborhood tailgater gets the message, is not the solution. We must use it as a pattern for revival. That will begin with personal renewal, then renewal within the church, before we can hope for revival in our nation.

Before revival can come, and before we can see our culture take a turn towards God’s ways, God’s people have to repent. As many studies by the Barna Group have revealed over the years, there is not a substantial difference between the lifestyles of Christians and unbelievers. Divorce, pornography, and a host of other sins are almost as prevalent in the church as in the rest of American culture. We have to confess our sins and turn from our wicked ways.

The prophet Daniel gave a good pattern for revival prayer in Daniel 9:3-10. Daniel prayed for himself and his people. In his days, his people were both the people of God and his nation. Today, this would involve praying for two different groups: the Body of Christ (our local congregations, denomination, and the church universal), and for our nation. First Peter 4:17 reminds us that judgment begins with the household of God.

I believe that God is calling for intercessors who will pray for renewal in a sort of four-stage process:
  1. Confession and repentance from our sins. The Barna Group has noticed four common barriers to spiritual transformation: lack of commitment, unwillingness to fully repent, confusing activity for growth, and failure to engage in genuine, accountable community. Before we can point our fingers at the folks in Washington, DC or our state capitals and blame them for our nation’s woes, we need to search our hearts and ask God to show us how we contribute to the problem.
  2. Confession on behalf of the church, for the sins that are prevalent there. We should pray for our own local congregations, then our own denomination and/or church tradition, and for the Body of Christ at large.
  3. Confession on behalf of our society, for its sins.
  4. Prayer for revival and renewal within the church, which will result in a transformation of society.

Prayer for our nation has to begin with repentance within the Body of Christ. God will not eradicate abortion, restore the dignity of biblical marriage and family, or otherwise heal our land, just because a good conservative Republican gets elected President in 2012. While we would love such an easy solution, it is not God’s approach. He works through His church, when His children seek to be salt and light to a darkened world.

Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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