This past week I read a sign that said, Let's put Christ back in Christmas is good, but I just wish we would put Christ back in Christian. It is true much of Christianity has lost Christ. There are so many "types" of Christians today making one wonder what it truly means to be a Christian. However, there is a concern for the spiritual health of America among some Christians who have been praying for revival. The problem is most have never experienced a revival and think evangelism and revival are the same. This could not be further from the truth. The prophet Hosea gives us an indication of what revival is all about.
Hosea 10:12 says: “Sow to yourself in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord till He comes and reign righteousness upon you.”
The Psalmist speaks about revival when he says, “Would Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee.” Psalm 85:
When we speak about revival we think of spring and fall revivals. Revivals are planned by the church board, a date is established, an evangelist and song evangelist are called, and advertising is designed to bring in the "lost". Revival has become purely mechanical and "willed" by man and not by God. Revival cannot be organized, subsidized and advertised. If we are really going to get a concept of revival we must get a vision of God’s sorrow over sin. We must get a vision of how, day by day, we offend God. As a nation, we daily offend the LORD and as a church, we offend the LORD with our weakened message of salvation.
If America is to have a change of heart it must start in the pulpit.
Joel 1:13, “Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl ye ministers of the altar, come to lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God.”2:12, 17 “Turn ye now even to Me with all your heart and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments.”, “Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach.”
Some will say not to worry about the condition of the church and country that "this too shall pass". The problem is we have fooled ourselves about the evil that exists in our country and the church; the evil today is such we have never seen before. The only thing that will change this condition is a cleansing fire from the LORD. Many talks about revival but are not willing to have the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit refine and purify them. Jesus came to bring a fire on the earth that is a consuming fire baptizing us with the Holy Ghost.
The need for revival is definite, the church is in such turmoil that there is very little difference between those in the world and those who call themselves Christians. Ministers have changed the message from the pulpit. Preachers have heeded the cry from the pew of a feel-good message. The scriptural doctrine has been forsaken and the message of Christ's plan of salvation has been ignored and many are ignorant of true repentance. If there is to be a revival in American churches, there must be a change in the message of salvation and true biblical salvation preached.
The problem we have in American churches is we have many people who are associated with the Christian faith without accepting biblical salvation. They came into the Christian faith under false pretense by making an intellectual decision to become a Christian without first being convinced they were sinners. It was during the early 1800's that the church shifted the message of repentance. We no longer preach about conviction, confession, repentance, and restitution. The message of true repentance is a negative message and does not appeal to a carnal nature. There are many in the church today professing to be Christians while living defeated lives and living with a false sense of spiritual security. They have come to an intellectual decision to become a Christian without being drawn by the Holy Spirit. The process of salvation starts with the conviction of sin. The sinner must first be convinced he is a sinner. Once convinced he must confess he is a sinner. Confession is followed by repentance and restitution for a life of sin. The elements of conviction, confession, repentance, and restitution are necessary for true biblical salvation.
Today, men are not experiencing conviction of sin, they are becoming "followers" of Christ without having their conscience roused or a sorrow for their separation from God. Men today are more concerned about their relationship with one another than a relationship with God.
The bottom line is none can come to Christ as their Savior until they are thoroughly convinced they need a Savior. No one can come to Jesus as a Savior until he realizes that he is a lost sinner and convinced he is doom without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for his sins.
Today, the world has poor concept of sin. Most individuals are morally dyslexic and cannot tell the difference between right and wrong. We have come to accept within the church the concept that sin is more on the order of error than a disregard for the commandments of God. We have taken away the shame of sin. If we are ignorant of the power of sin in our lives, we will think of it as a disorder or syndrome and never find deliverance from sin.
Paul did not want the Galatians ignorant of what the fruits of sin were, Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying’s, murders, drunkenness, reveling, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Many experience embarrassments when they are caught in the act. A guilty conscience is not conviction or remorse over sin. The philosophy of the day is to commit the act and ask forgiveness when caught-- after all Christians are required to forgive one another. This is not conviction this is "I'm sorry I got caught." True repentance is what Paul explain to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death."
When the Holy Spirit convicts us there is a deep sense of guilt, remorse, uncleanness, and ungodliness within our spirit. This feeling of guilt of sin cannot be manufactured. It is here that I will no doubt be considered a heretic by many Evangelicals and Fundamentalist. The evangelist approach to revival has contributed to the weakening of the message of Salvation by focusing on numbers rather than true conversions. Most Evangelical, Fundamentalist and Holiness Churches have an invitation system to bring men, women, and children to Christ. The congregation will sing a hymn while the preacher calls men and women to come to the front to make a public confession to "accept Christ". Salvation is offered with the decision to allow Jesus into their hearts. This custom has no foundation in biblical practice and circumvents the work of the Holy Spirit.
The "old fashion altar call" was unheard of until Charles Finney used it around 1830. Finney developed the modern evangelistic methods of forcing a decision to get results. The process was later used by Dwight L. Moody, Peter Cartwright, Sam Jones, R. A. Torrey, Billy Sunday, Bob Jones, Gipsy Smith, Mordecai Ham, John R. Rice, Billy Graham, and many evangelists today all used the method with impressive success. The invitation system had come to stay.
Today, the "old fashion altar call" has replaced the Holy Spirit as the first step to salvation to a forced decision. Jesus told his disciples, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:" John 16:7 We are not called to save people or force them to make a decision, but rather to be a witness of what Jesus Christ has done in our life. Our pleading, begging and singing sinners to kneel at an altar may not bring salvation to the lost sinner but it will bring a weakness to the church. They must first be convinced by the HOLY SPIRIT they are sinners, not by the fear of hell, the imminent return of Jesus Christ, or the emotional appeal of Almost Persuaded sung for a one-half hour, but by a godly sorrow for their actions against a holy God.
It is conviction that causes one to realize that he or she is separated from being in a right relationship with God. Unless a sinner repents, he will stand condemned before God and lost forever. Luke 13:5 "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Before there can be true repentance, a sinner must have an understanding and acknowledgment that he is guilty of sin accompanied by a godly sorrow. Conviction of sin brings a man to an awareness of this hopeless, helpless condition. The guilt of sin was laid upon the sinner by the Holy Spirit-conviction, to the point he sought forgiveness of his sins so that he could find peace within his soul.
If America is to have a revival with true repentance and turning from our wicked ways, the message from the pulpits must be a message of biblical salvation. The message must speak to the lost condition of man and his separation from God. The sinner must be convinced and convicted of his lost and sinful condition by the call of the Holy Spirit and the church must be convicted of her wickedness and repent and turn again to the LORD.