Revival in a Time of Famine
By Pastor Peter Bond
‘Lost’ and ‘Regained’
John Milton (1608 – 1674), who in 1649 was invited to become Secretary for Foreign Tongues to Oliver Cromwell’s Council of State, is best remembered for his two epic poems, ‘Pradise Lost’ and ‘Paradise Regained.’
The words ‘lost’ and ‘regained’ could be said to be a commentary on the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. And as we meditate on the subject of revival, we recognise that if we are to see true revival, then something that has been ‘lost’ must at all costs be ‘regained’. Indeed, we must recognise that as in the Garden of Eden, man is held accountable for all that has been lost; so God is the only agency whereby ‘all’ can and must be regained.
I Corinthians 15:21 confirms: ‘For since by (Adam) came death, by man (the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ) came also the resurrection of the dead’. In the foreground of our thinking on revival therefore, must inevitably appear these two representative figures: the Adam of Eden's fall; and the Adam of the reconciling and redeeming grace, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church in the Epistles
“And when the day of pentecost was fully come...” So begins the explosion at the start of Acts chapter two that initiated and revealed God’s great purpose through his Church. As this stirring book unfolds, we are witness to the divinely-motivated spread and increase of the early church including much evidence of intense persecution. Of course there were conflicts within the church as well as outside it: not least those occasioned by the subverting influence of Jewish teachers, referred to repeatedly as ‘the circumcision’ (see Titus 1:10).
In the epistles of Paul we see a need both for correction as well as encouragement, set in the context of the profound theological exposition of a gospel that began, at least for one man, with the spontaneous heartfelt cry, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)
By the close of the epistles, the impression is of a church under much pressure from within and from without, (see Jude v.3); but a church still walking in victory, and still vibrant with the life and power of the One who had purchased [her] ‘with his own blood’ (Acts 20:28).
It is not perhaps until we arrive at the book of Revelation the second and third chapters that we realise something has been lost that must at all costs be regained if the seven churches which are in Asia (Revelation 1:11) are to continue as a testimony of the life that brought them into being in the first place. Those ‘churches’ are no more! They were at one time actual churches; and they remain with us in the Scriptures as typical churches. I believe that Christ's pointed epistles to those churches have much to say to all who are trusting the Lord for heaven-sent revival in this hour, remembering: that all that has been lost, has been lost because the first man Adam defected from God's perfect plan and pattern; and that all that has been regained, has been regained by the intervention of ' the last Adam' - the Lord Jesus Christ, (see I Cor.15:45). May He intervene again as the visible church declines into deeper and deeper apostasy.
The Ephesian Church
There will not be space here to consider all of the seven churches in turn; but I want to cast a glance at two of them, beginning with the Church of Ephesus as found in Revelation 2:1-7. On the surface the Lord Jesus finds much to commend in this church. He makes mention of its labour, its patience (doubtless in times of persecution) its abhorrence of sin; and not least, its bold identification and elimination of false prophets and teachers from its ranks (Revelation 2:2)
This church has evidently endured through much hardship (v 3). “Nevertheless,” continues the Lord Jesus, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” There may yet be also a tragic flaw in our spiritual life that could hinder and even finally extinguish the testimony of his presence and power in the midst of us. It is well to remember sometimes that while there may be much that is commendable in our stand for Jesus Christ in these difficult times, there may yet be also a tragic flaw in our spiritual life that could hinder and even finally extinguish the testimony of his presence and power in the midst of us. The Lord Jesus identifies such a flaw in the Ephesian church: He says, “Thou hast left thy first love”.
There is something special to our heavenly bridegroom about that first love; for this is a love that is fixed entirely upon the beloved and upon him alone. This is not a love that is easily distracted or that seeks for its fulfilment elsewhere. This is not a love that neglects or disobeys the master of its calling. This is not a love to be alternately taken up and laid aside; nor does it flourish or fade according to circumstances or the demands of her life placed upon it. After all this is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Romans 5:5). This is the love that endured the cross despising the shame and was still love when Calvary's horror was past. This is the love that cries out with the Psalmist, “my heart is fixed oh God: my heart is fixed...” (Psalm 56:7) and concurs with the Shulamite in Solomon's song 5:16 “He is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend.”
The Ephesian church had departed from such a love; and we may detect that the apparent sunshine of Christ's approbation perhaps also casts a shadow of a criticism. Has a dullness, a drabness, crept into their service? There was a time when nothing was too much trouble. The smallest opportunity of serving the Lord was a joy and a privilege to be leapt at. Gladness and Thanksgiving filled every gathering. Now in Ephesus Christian service has become something more of Labour than of love; and with it, a preoccupation with not fainting under the pressure of many demands. A leanness has come into their hearts: the thought that thus far and no farther has replaced the limitation on their willingness to ‘spend and be spent’ for the cause of Christ. After all, they are weary. There has been so much to put up with ‘Nevertheless’ (verse four) cautions the Lord Jesus...
Many of us, if we are honest, can say, “I've been there”. Perhaps dear saint of God you are there. You still desire to serve God, and to continue standing for history. You want nothing of the modern, perverted gospel; but you have grown weary; you feel isolated and alone. The effort of simply going on at times can be almost overwhelming. “NEVERTHELESS...”
I have sensed in myself that the Lord is calling His people back to their first love, to that joyous almost reckless delight in his service, to the first flush of new birth; and to a personal revival in the midst of this strange climate of iniquity and apostasy that prevails in our land, and threatens to choke the life out of Christians, ministers and churches. Let us all give fresh ear to what the Spirit is saying unto the churches; and seek him for the grace to regain our first love and with it a touch of much-needed personal revival!
The church of the Laodiceans
The case however of the Church of the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:14) is quite different. But notice that for both Ephesus and Laodicea, the pathway to revival is identical: Repentance. (Rev.3:19 and 2:5)
Repentance can only follow on the heels of acknowledgement and confession. If we do not first acknowledge, and then confess, that we have fallen from a position once held by faith in Jesus Christ (Rev.2:5) then we see no need for repentance as far as we are concerned, all is well; and, thereby, we choose to remain wilfully blind to the tragic flaw that threatens our spiritual life. Such an attitude is the very antithesis of revival; and is regrettably a position held by many in the professing church today.
At a point even further from true revival stand the many thousands in our Western world who actually believe that the pantomimic parody of Pentecost so prevalent here and in America IS revival! - IS the blessing of God! and a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit!
In this category we find the church of the Laodiceans; the People's Church, user-friendly and carefully designed to keep its many adherents blessed and happy, however, the ‘faithful and true witness,’ (Revelation 3:14) looks upon such a body as anything but faithful and true. The Church of the Laodiceans mixes freely with the world enjoying its pastimes and pleasures, even promoting these things in its forms of worship. The lying apostles so rigorously detested and excluded from the Church of Ephesus find themselves welcomed and revered at Laodicea. Unbiblical teaching and practice is overlooked in favour of the manifestations and so-called miracles displayed along with the personal magnetism of celebrity preachers. None dare contradict or oppose them! Even when horrible and unholy lifestyles and associations are uncovered, they continue; in time restored to their former glory and pre-eminence. Physical and material blessings are claimed in abundance; there would seem to be a shout in the camp - very attractive in the context of a society increasingly sustained by antidepressants, holistic counselling, and psychology!
“Nevertheless...” The contrast in Revelation 3:17 could not be greater. The bold claims of this church are countered by the rapier thrust of the Mighty Counsellor himself. Far from having need of nothing, the Lord Jesus declares them to be 'wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked' - a sobering sequence of epithets only the faithful revival-seeking saint of God would wish to hear in that day or in this
Here it we must. For even following such a damning verdict on the real spiritual condition of that seventh church the promises of Jesus Christ on the ground of repentance are indeed glorious. To rule and to reign with him is freely offered ‘to him that overcometh’ (Revelation 3:21); the conditions of that promise being given in the previous verse, verse 20.
Dear friends, if His knock goes unheeded and if His voice is not heard then no door will ever be opened; no intimacy of fellowship with him will ever be regained and no revival will ensue. That which has been lost will remain lost, smothered beneath the welter of alternatives and lookalikes currently available in the marketplace of religion
A final resolve
Paul exhorted Timothy in II Timothy 4:2 ‘Preach the word.’ Shall we not hear it and obey it? ‘Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which will come upon all the world...’ Thus the Lord comforts the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:10
Dear saint of God, let us set ourselves to recapture that first love. In addition by reference only to the sword of the Spirit let us prove or test all things holding fast to that which is good (namely that which is in accordance with Word of God) I Thessalonians 5:21 and let us together take fresh courage to stand firm in this hour of deception and disillusionment; to keep, at all costs, the word of his patience then and only then will the measure of God's reviving power that still remains to be poured out, come upon us, as we continue faithfully to occupy until he comes. Amen.
Pastor Peter Bond
The Lighthouse Christian Fellowship in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England.
Brother Peter Bond has been an itinerent Preacher and Evangelist for some years and more recently Pastor of a new work in Burnham-on-Sea. His heart burns to see again in England what was accomplished through the traveling ministry of John Wesley and a host of other Methodist preachers in the 18th century.
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