The Secret of Christian Joy
© 1938 Vance
Fleming H. Revell Company : New York, NY All Rights Reserved
1. Baptists Sermons; 2. Sermons, American 20th Century; 3. Paul, the Apostle, Saint Sermons; 4. Paul, the Apostle, Saint; 5. Revivals Sermons; 6. Lost axe head (Miracle) Sermons. 7. Woman who touched Jesus Sermons; 8. Revivals.
BX6333.H345 ~ LCCN: 38033917 ~ WorldCat : 860294769 & 3868006 ~ 120p.
The Secret of Christian Joy is presently held by 85 libraries including Calvin College and Bethel Seminary
* * * * * * *
I. The Secret of Christian Joy .... 9
II. "Let God Be True" .... 17
III. "Revive Us Again" .... 24
IV. Old-Time Religion .... 31
V. "Is It Nothing to You?" .... 41
VI. "He Is Beside Himself" .... 51
VII. The Lost Axe Head .... 58
VIII. Press Through to Jesus .... 63
IX. "The Foolishness of God" .... 71
X. Learning, Living, Looking .... 83
XI. The Heavenly Vision .... 90
XII. "If Any Man Thirst" .... 97
IN this day of the making of many books one hesitates to add another volume to the number. We have been encouraged, however, by the readers of these sermon-articles as they appeared in various magazines to collect them in permanent form. So we send them forth again with the earnest desire that they may glorify Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Charleston, South Carolina
The Secret of Christian Joy
The Church suffers today from a saddening lack of old-fashioned, simple-hearted, overflowing, Christian joy. We have plenty of knowledge, plenty of enthusiasm and denominational zeal, but Christians and churches that started out in revival fires are living in the smoke, and the "amens" and "hallelujahs" have gone from most assemblies of the saints.
When one recalls that we are to rejoice in the Lord always and then looks in on the average Sunday congregation, he realizes that something has happened to us since Pentecost. We meet on the Lord's day more as though we had assembled to mourn a defeat than to celebrate a victory.
Although the New Testament centers in a cross and is bathed in the blood of martyrs and blackened by the fires of persecution, its note from beginning to end is one of triumphant joy. It begins with an angel chorus and ends with rejoicing around the throne of God. The Gospel means "good news." Our Lord's characteristic greeting was, "Be of good cheer." He gave us "three cheers": the cheer of forgiveness, "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven thee" (Matthew 9:2); the cheer of companionship, "Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid" (Mark 6:50); the cheer of victory, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). He invited us to a feast, not to a funeral. He said, "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them,"
and He intended that His joy should remain in us and that our joy should be full.
When we enter the life of the early Church, we find them eating their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God. We follow Paul from prison to prison, but his shout is, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice." Evidently emotion had not been outlawed among the saints in those days. Today the same church member who yells like a Comanche Indian at a football game sits like a wooden Indian in the house of God on Sunday. When David danced before the returning ark his wife desposed him and smitten with barrenness. Today happy Christians are frowned upon by those dismal souls who thus proclaim their spiritual barrenness. In the temple Pharisees complained because the children cried their "hosannas" around the Saviour (Matthew 21:12-16). Hilarious, child-hearted Christians have always brought down the scorn of those who measure piety by the length of the face.
Sometimes one thinks the text most suitable for a sermon to the average church congregation would be Galatians 4:15: "Where is then the blessedness you spoke of?" If we were absolutely truthful, would we not have to sing as our experience?
"Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?
What peaceful hours I then enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
This world can never fill."
In John 20:20 we read: "The were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord." Here we have the secret of Christian joy: it turns upon those two words, "then" and "when." We are glad when we see the Lord.
It does not read, "Then were the disciples glad when they saw themselves." When we see the Lord we see ourselves, but what we see is not very complimentary. Job saw the Lord and abhorred himself. Daniel saw the Lord and his comeliness was turned to corruption. Isaiah saw the Lord and cried "Woe is me!" Habakkuk saw the Lord and his body trembled and rottenness entered his bones. Saul of Tarsus fell in the dust and John fell at the feet of the Lord as on dead. Some of us do not see the Lord because we are looking at ourselves, and so doing we are never glad.
You will observe, next, that our verse does not say, "Then were the disciples glad when they saw each other." Looking at other Christians is a most disappointing business. Peter always is tempted to wonder about John and needs the Lord's stern word, "What is that to you? You follow me." We read in 1 John 5:16: "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death." Our brother's sin is not a challenge to criticism but a call to prayer. When Christians begin to watch each other they do not see the Lord.
Nor were these disciples glad when they saw their circumstances. Their circumstances were not very encouraging, with the doors shut for fear of the Jews. All through the Word we find God's men grieved over circumstances, but when they see the Lord they rejoice (Psalm 41: 4-13; Lamentations 5:19-22; Micah 7:1-17). Consider Habakkuk. He was perplexed over the properity of the wicked and the sufferings of the righteous. God did not explain
this, but when Habakkuk saw the Lord he could say, "Whatever the circumstances, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Then was Habakkuk glad when he saw the Lord.
We do not even read that the disciples were glad when they saw a particular doctrine about the Lord. It is possible to know many things about the Lord without seeing Him. Believers go off at tangents and perch on favourite spokes of the wheel of truth, instead of standing at the hub. Some see only the work of the Spirit, forgetting that the Spirit testifies of Christ. Some look to the Lor'd return with an academic interest in an event rather than a joyful expectation of a Person. Others harp on the abundant or victorious life (which is simply Christ in the believer) in a fashion which often sees a life more than it sees the Lord.
In a day when false Christs are being preached it is well to notice that this Christ Who brought such joy to His disciples was a crucified Christ, bearing the marks of the Cross, "wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities." Enemies of the Cross of Christ would ridicule the Blood and cover His hands and side, but we are truly glad only when we see the crucified Lord.
But He was also a risen Lord. Christ crucified is not enough. If He did not rise, our preaching is vain, we are yet in our sins and of all men most miserable. And h ow many Christians there are who claim to be dead with Christ, but who are not living in the power of His Resurrection!
Now consider what a change our Lord wrought when He appeared. He found the disciples huddled in a room with the doors shut for fear (John 20:19). Hundreds of believers live today behind closed doors of dread and uncertainty. They are afraid of life and of death, of the devil, of criticism,
of circumstances, afraid of today and tomorrow, imprisoned in fear, doubt and worry. They need to see the Lord.
First, our Lord brought assurance: He established before the disciples the fact of His resurrection. The report of it had seemed too good to be true. Several times in the Word we read of the people believing not for joy: Jacob about Joseph (Genesis 45:26), the disciples at our Lord's appearance (Luke 24:41), and Rhoda at the deliverance of Peter (Acts 12:14). Somewhere I have read of a little tenement child, accustomed to sharing one glass of milk with several others, being given a large glass of milk in a hospital. Clutching it eagerly, the little fellow asked, "Please, nurse, how deep may I drink?" Often the good things of God seem almost too good to be true. And how wonderful is the Divine mathematics that all things are for me and yet all thing are for you! I am sure I could not divide a thousand dollars among a multitude so that each would receive a thousand dollars. But the grace of God is in no wise diminished by sharing, it is all for each!
So our Lord brings assurance, as if to say, "Yes, I am really alive, there is no mistake. And because I live, ye shall live also." If on any point you lack assurance, it is because you are not seeing the Lord. "Be not faithless, but believing."
Then He brought joy. He had promised, "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (John 16:22). This joy of the Lord is a full joy, not partial; it is a remaining joy, not a fleeting emotion that comes and goes; and no one may take it from us. That is our Lord's answer to those poor souls who are always asking, "Yes, but will it last?" We are glad when
we see the Lord, and the measure of our joy is in proportion to our faith by which we look unto Jesus. There is nothing fanciful and hit-or-miss about it. As we look unto Him we are lightened and our faces are not ashamed.
Our Lord also brought to these disciples a commission: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." The joy of the Lord is not merely for personal enjoyment, He gives to us freely that we may freely give. God gives us the joy of salvation, expecting that then we will teach transgressors His ways. After Peter was converted, he was to strengthen the brethren and feed the sheep. After we see the fair King, we should see the far country of service in His Name. Judson saw the Lord and he saw Burma. Hudson Taylor saw the Lord and he saw China. Moody saw the Lord and he saw a lost world. After Saul asked, "Who art thous, Lord?" he asked, "What wilt thou have me to do?" After the vision comes the venture. As our Lord was sent forth, so sends He us.
Next, our Lord brought to the disciples power: "He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive the Holy Spirit." Whatever interpretation you put upon that, there is a bequathing of power. There would be no use in giving joy if there were no power to sustain it, no use in giving a commission if there were no power to carry it through. After David prayed, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation," he was careful to add, "Uphold me with thy free spirit."
And He also gave them authority: "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." However you explain this, it is evident that great authority is here delegated. If we saw the Lord, we would speak with authority and not as the scribes. We see sermon helps and commentaries but not the Lord,
and there is no note of heavenly unction. Here many a timid Timothy will find the cure for pulpit bashfulness : "They looked unto him, and were lightened, AND THEIR FACES WERE NOT ASHAMED." Of course, there is a false courage, a brazen bravado which enters the pupit with head thrown back, like Napoleon crossing the Alps. He who sees the Lord speaks with heavenly authority, not his own.
But perhaps someone complains: "Ah, yes, I know that seeing the Lord Jesus brings all these benefits, but, alas, He does not appear now as He did then so that we actually may see Him." That is why the Holy Spirit follows this account in John 20 with the record of doubting Thomas. He knew there would be Thomases through the ages who must see to believe. Has it ever occurred to you that you and I who see Him not as the disciples saw Him have a greater blessing declared from His own lips: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed"? Though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
We are glad only when and as we see the Lord. It is according to our faith, as looking unto Jesus we see no man save Jesus only. There are many things that we see NOT YET "we see not yet all things put under him, but we see Jesus." (Hebrews 2) And one day, when we see no longer through a glass as in a riddle, we shall see Him as He is. His servants shall serve Him and shall see His face.
A minister who was failing to preach Christ found a note in the pulpit Bible one Sunday morning. It read, "Sir, we would see Jesus." Convicted, he began to hold up the Lord in his messages. Some time later he found another note in the Bible reading, "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord." (John 20:20)
It is the supreme need of the hour that believers should look away from all else, much of which may be good, and see only the Lord. Then shall we have fresh assurance and joy, we shall receive a new committions, with power and authority to carry it out. Robertson of Brighton, discouraged, once offered in prayer to resign his commission to preach. The Lord answered that what he needed was not to oresign it, but to have it re-signed with Divine power and approval.
Remember that you cannot reach the "THEN" of our text without first coming to the "WHEN." "THEN were the disciples glad WHEN they saw the Lord."
"Let God be true, but every man a liar." Romans 3:4.
IN my early Christian experience I set out to read the Bible with all the zeal of the average young believer, taking the promises at face value, believing the Scriptures as I found them, without benefit of footnotes and commentaries. I began with Genesis and was claiming the promises for myself when I encountered a Bible student from somewhere who informed me that those promises were not for me but for the Jews!
It had been evident to me in reading the Scriptures, as it must be to any prayerful student, that certain divine commitments relate particularly to Israel. But the restraint which my well-meaning friend placed upon my appropriation of spiritual truth for myself caused a sudden dampening of my ardour. Then I moved over into the New Testament and began appropriating the blessings of the Sermon on the Mount, and again I was interrupted and duly notified that all those things belonged to the Kingdom age! Next, I began in Acts and was moving along, daring to believe that I might claim some, if not all, of the powers that flowed from Pentecost, when I was again reminded that the Acts covered a transitional period and we were not to press those matters too literally!
I knew they would not let me have Revelation, since it
was concerning the future; so only the Epistles were left me. By the time I had made allowances for Greek roots and marginal references and contradictory footnotes, I came out in the same dilemma in which many Bible Christians find themselves today. I did not know which promises really were mine. I could not stand with confidence at any place in the Scriptures, lest some divider of the Word come along like a policeman to order me off private property and inform me that my verse did not mean just what it said, or that it was meant for someone else.
The outgrowth of it all has been a deep conviction that Bible Christians fit their own explanations on one hand, or their own experiences on the other. We spend much time denouncing modernism, and surely we ought to say with Paul, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel ... let him be accursed." But sometimes I am not so afraid of modernist doubt from without as I am afraid of fundamentalist unbelief from within. By fundamentalist unbelilef I mean that strange species of unbelief which loudly declares the Scriptures to be God-breathed, but immediately turns around and sets about adjusting the Bible to the limitations of our logic and our lives.
First, we endeavour to adjust the Scriptures to our own explanations. Mythology tells us of the bed of Procrustes. If a man was too short, he was stretched until he would fit the bed. If he was too long, his legs were chopped off until he would fit it. Do we not first decide what we are going to believe about the Bible, then size and sort the Scriptures, stretch them out or lop them off to fit the Procrustean beds of our private systems of interpretation? We come across a promise that glitters like a diamond on velvet. But we
dare not accept it as it stands until we get down several books to find what this man and that one thinks it means.
After God called him, Paul conferred not with flesh and blood (Galatians 1:16). But when God speaks to us, we do confer first with flesh and blood; we consult the authorities! And by the time we have paid tribute at all the tollgates of private interpretation and have looked at the Scriptures through the spectacles of a dozen disagreeing expositors, we come out with "loads of learned lumber in our heads," but unable to build from it all any worthy structure. Instead of asking, "What saith the Scripture?" we ask, "What say the scholars about the Scripture?" We are like one who would miss the sentiment of a love letter through studying its syntax.
Besides, if the Bible were so puzzling that one could not know it until the scholars explained it, what would become of the common people who could not go to schools nor buy heavy sets of commentaries?
"I have a life with Christ to live;
But, ere I live it, must I wait
Till learning can clear answer give
To this and that book's date?
"I have a life with Christ to live,
A death with Christ to die;
And must I wait till science give
All doubts a clear reply?"
No! And neither should we fall into the grievous error of missing what the Bible says by forever tying to pour it into this and that mould of private explanation.
On the other hand, we err in adjusting the Scriptures to fit the limitations of our own experiences. We look at a
glowing promise or declaration, then we look around at what we call "facts," and if the facts do not seem to bear out the Scriptures, we make the Scriptures fit the facts instead of demanding that the facts rise to the level of the Scriptures.
We whittle down the Scriptures to fit experience. We read that "whosoever is born of God sinneth not." Then we look around and say: "But yonder is a born-again believer who is living in sin," and thus we seek to adjust the Bible to experience. We read that the prayer of faith shall heal the sick. But we know somebody who was sick and prayed in faith, yet died. The facts do not seem to bear out the Scriptures, and we adjust the Book to the Procrustean bed of our pitiful experience. We dare not believe God's own bold words; we run them through a process to match our miserable faith or lack of faith and we are as guilty of denaturing the Scriptures as modernism ever dared to be.
We must believe what God said because God said it, not because logic or life seems to verify it. To be sure, the Bible is both reasonable and livable, but first of all it is so simply because God said so, and God's saying so makes it so. We must accept that or else go blundering along half-doubting, trying to mix the wisdom of man with "the foolishness of God" (1 Corinthians 1:25). God has spoken and that settles it: "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Romans 3:4). To doubt God and believe human explanation and experience is to make God a liar. If anybody has lied, man has lied. If there is any doubt on any point, give God the benefit of the doubt. If circumstances seem to contradict what God has said, let God be true and circumstances be liars. If scholars doubt what God has written, let God be true and let scholars be liars. If feelings do not seem to confirm the Word,
let God be true and let feelings be liars. If we do not live up to what God has said, let God be true and let us be the liars.
"He hath said ... so that we may boldly say," and whatever contradicts Him is of the devil who is a liar and the father of lies. When Satan entered human life, he took the form of a serpent and his question was, "Yea, hath God said ...?" When the Saviour came to earth, He took the form of a servant, and His answer in life and teaching was, "Yea, God hath said."
God has said: "There is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Men say that there is a difference and that sin is only arrested development, immaturity, biological growing pains. Whom shall we believe? "Let God be true, but every man a liar."
God has said: "Christ die for our sins according to the scriptures"; "was raised again for our justification"; "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Men say that other ways are just as good. Modern Naamans claim that Abana and Pharpar are as good as Jordan. They do not like the Gospel of No Other Name. "Let God be true, but every man a liar."
God says: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Men believe in a sentimental God Who would wink at man's wickedness, and they forget that while God is love, He is also a consuming Fire. "Let God be true, but every man a liar."
God says: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice"; "come out from among them, and be ye separate." Men do not choose the highway of holiness; they would mix light
with darkness and join Christ with Belial. But God has spoken, and he that belileveth hath no part with an infidel. "Let God be true, but every man a liar."
God says: "Be filled with the Spirit." Men have dodged and denied the Bible doctrine of a definite enduement of power for service. They have been willing to miss a blessing rather than give up a prejudice. Painted fire has supplanted Pentecostal fire, and Samson, fresh from the lap of Delilah, shakes himself and knows not that the Spirit has departed from him. But it is not by might nor power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts: "Let God be true, but every man a liar."
God has said that Jesus shall return in the same manner as He went away. Scoffers ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?" Hypocrites read the face of the sky but cannot discern the signs of the times. Belshazzar drinks before his lords in ungodly revelry while astrologers and soothsayers guess at the meaning of the handwriting on the wall. We live in the Saturday evening of the age; the mystery of lawlessness heads up toward its awful climax; the night of apostasy darkens; the sky is lurid with the flames of approaching judgment. Jesus is coming! "Let God be true, but every man a liar."
So, no matter which way we look, the issue is this: Are we to believe whatw God has said or the testimony of man? In Matthew 22:29, our Lord said: "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." We err because instead of knowing the Scriptures on the one hand we substitute explanations: and instead of God's power we substitute our experiences. And what can be more pathetic than to spend a lifetime expounding the supernatural without ever have experienced the supernatural, contending for
the miracles of yesterday, yet practically denying the possibility of miracles today!
After all, the Word of God yields its deepest secrets not to scholarly analysis but to simple faith that dares to "let God be true, but every man a liar." After the wise and prudent, even among the orthodox, have argued at length over this verse and that, God raises up some nonentity who dares to believe God's bold, brave words, and puts all the rest of us to shame. Few of us ever stand with all our weight on the Word of God. We pretend to, but in a crisis we usually make some concession to human weakness, and the Word does not profit us as it might, being mixed with unbelief in us who hear it.
In the thick of an engagement someone cried to the captain: "The flag is far ahead, and the regiment has fallen 'way behind the colours. Shall we bring the flag back to the regiment?"
The captain shouted back: "No! Bring the regiment up to the flag!"
We Bible Christians have fallen far behind our colours. Shall we bring the Scriptures back to us, trim them to suit our unbelief? Let us rather catch up with the Scriptures, both in our explanations and our experiences! "Let God be true, but every man a liar."
"Revive Us Again"
"Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?" Psalm 85:6
THE greatest need of America is an old-fashioned, heaven-born, God-sent revival. Throughout the history of the Church, when clouds have hung lowest, when siin has seemed blackest and faith has been weakest, there have always been a faithful few who have not sold out to the devil nor bowed the knee to Baal, who have feared the Lord and thought upon His Name and have not forsaken the assembling of themselves together. These have besought the Lord to revive His work in the midst of the years, and in the midst of the fears and tears, and in wrath to remember mercy. God has always answered such supplication, filling each heart with His love, rekindling each soul with Fire from above.
Certainly it is h igh time that we prayed once more: "Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?" America has been a land of revivals. It was conceived in revival. Its foundations were laid by men who came out of the Puritan and Pietist revivals in England and on the Continent. In those early days, when hardship gave way to prosperity and men drifted away from God, the faithful few besought heaven and God sent the Great Awakening through the terrific preaching of Jonathan Edwards and the
seraphic evangelism of George Whitefield. Spirituality flourished, the churches filled, and there was a preacher for every two thousand of our three million people.
But along came the French and Indian wars and the Revolution and brought the usual spiritual setback. Infidelity raised its head: Bolingbroke poisoned England; Voltaire corrupted France. Thomas Paine spread the deadly virus in America, until, as it has been said, "Our people had discovered that there could be a church without a pope, a land without a king and were on the point of deciding that there could be a world without a God." But, once again, the godly remnant prayed; God's people humbled themselves, and sought His face and turned from their wicked ways, and God heard from heaven, forgave their sin and healed their land. He answered with the Great Revival of 1800; shook Yale with Timothy Dwight; raised up Asbury and McKendree and James McGready, the Baptists in Kentucky, Peter Cartwright and the Methodist camp meetings. He followed it with wave after wave under Nettleton, Knapp and Finney.
The Great Revival lasted until 1842. Then properity set in again. Many thgouth the Golden Age had arrived. But, instead, came the Great Panic in 1857: banks failed, businesses closed their doors, railroads went into bankruptcy, everything came to a standstill. Once again, God had His pinch of salt in the earth. Believers prayed, "Revive us again," and, in answer, the Fulton Street prayer meetings set off a wave of prayer meetings all over the country that crossed the ocean and swept multitudes into the Kingdom of God. But war followed upon the heels of revival, and the blood of brothers flowed across the Mason and Dixon's Line; the Civil War debauched and demoralized the
country, but the Lord heard His people again and raised up Dwight L. Moody. He defeated the devil with the Pentecostal power poured upon this rugged shoe salesman from Boston and followed His victory with Torrey and Chapman and Sunday. Then came another avalance of blood and tears in 1914. Once again, the land has been corrupted and has had a moral and spiritual setback. BUT THIS TIME THERE HAS BEEN NO REVIVAL. The same conditions prevail today on a larger and worse scale than existed before the Great Revival. Then France had corrupted the world with atheism; today it is Russia. Then it was Hume and Voltaire and Tom Paine; today it is a motley mob of would-be intellectuals who follow in their train, not nearly as brilliant but a numerous aggregation of fools who rush in where angels fear to tread. Once again, the land has had a taste of prosperity and, as usual, has gone crazy. We live in a steam-heated, warm-bath era, more interested in the Here and Now than in preparing for the By and By. Instead of fleeing the City of Destruction, we are out to clean it up.
Surely today, the faithful few need to plead with the prayer of our forefathers, "Wilt thou not revive us again?" But, alas, little interest is shown by the Church in the need or possibility of revival. Since the World War, evangelism has become more and more unpopular. Prayer meetings have been supplanted by pep meetings. The social Gospel, religious education and training in Kingdom work have become the watchwords of the denominations. Revivals have fallen into disrepute, partly because of erratic, moneygrabbing evangelists, but more because the Church is now trying to do by professionalism and propaganda what once she did by power and prayer and the preaching of Christ crucified.
Broadly speaking, the professing Church is divided into three groups: the Modernists, who have exhanged substance for shadow, preaching a denatured Gospel with the supernatural extracted, spraying iwth the rose water of a false optimism an ungodly world, vainly calling the righteous to repentance; the Denominationalists, who too often have forgotten the Person in zeal over a Program, lost in an ocean of statistics, born in revival fires, but now living in smoke; the Fundamentalists, most of whom are doctrinally sound, but many of who are so busy castigating the leaven of the Sadducees that they themselves are smitten with the leaven of the Pharisees. Only a real revival can meet such a situation.
Will we have another revival? Yes, if the Lord tarries, and provided we meet the conditions. There is nothing accidental, hit-or-miss, magical about revivals. We have all the elements of revival in the words of the Psalmist, "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?"
First, we have the Revival Prayer, for the verse is a supplication. A revival is a work of God, it cannot be stirred up by efforts of the flesh. It is not by might nor by power but by His Spirit. Church experts have planned dozens of ways to break up the Rip van Winkle slumbers of the saints and breathe into Sardis the breath of life. We have heard the slogan, "Every pastor his own evangelist." There have been house-to-house evangelism and Sunday-school evangelism, and many other diverse kinds of evangelism have been planned and practiced. Bernard Shaw said, "Americans have the best filing systems in the world, but no American can ever find a letter!" So we have the best plans for revival in the world but no revival!
Here, as elsewhere, "you can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed." Our prayer must be, "Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old" (Lamentations 5:21). We are never truly turned to God until God turns us. It is His supernatural work, but the fact that men have prayed for revival and received it proves that God will turn His people in answer to fervent, effectual prayer.
Next, we have the Revival People, the people who are to be revived: "Wilt thou not revive US again: that THY PEOPLE may rejoice in thee?" A revival is God's work among God's people and we shall have revival when God's people pay the price. When born-again believers stop petty bickerings over nonessentials and go to their knees in old-fashioned, beseeching prayer we shall have revival. When Christians wear out more carpets around family altars than around dressing tables we shall have revival. When fathers stay home from the club, and mothers from bridge, and the children from the dance, and the car is left in the garage long enough to cool, and the radio is shut off long enough to tune in on God, we shall have revival. When Jacob buries his false gods under the oaks at Shechem, and Achan's wedge of gold is laid out before the Lord, we shall have revival. When preachers seek fresh anointing of Pentecostal fire, cut out pulpit essays and preach from the Bible with the power of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, we shall have revival. When churches quite trying to hold together by picnics and programs and get back from one discord to "one accord" and from the supper room to the Upper Room, we shall have revival. When backslidden Christians seek the lost joy of salvation, the upholding of
God's free Spirit, then transgressors shall be taught God's ways and sinners shall be converted.
There must be conviction of sin in the Church, confession of sin by the Church, conversion from the self-life to the Christ-life, for only when we are converted can we strengthen the brethren. There must be absolute surrender to God's will, fresh filling of the Spirit and a new walk in holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. I do not know what form the next revival will take, but I do know that it will require an unusual charge of Divine Dynamite to blast out the smug complacency of this generation. Perhaps God may raise up another Finney, some human firebrand upon whom the mantle of the prophets has fallen, who shall come forth from the solitude, bringing a flaming message saturated with Power; who shall preach sin and redemption, judgment and repentance, those grand old themes of another day, when men did not play at preaching and sinners fell from their seats before the mighty two-edged Sword!
AGAIN, we have in our verse the REVIVAL PRODUCT Joy: "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people MAY REJOICE in thee?" Habakkuk prayed, "O Lord revive thy work in the midst of the years," and ended his book rejoicing in the God of his salvation. Revival brings rejoicing. When Christians pass from sentence prayers to learn prevailing supplication; when God's people go back to Bethel and dwell there; when God's people go back to Bethel and dwell there; when the Bible becomes more important than bridge, and the house of God more attractive than the theatre, rejoicing is sure to follow. If ever God's people needed to rejoice, it is today. The amens and hallelujahs have gone from most churches. There has been substituted in some the artificial enthusiasm of human "pep," more suitable to a football game a fake and counterfeit joy
by which dying churches try to whistle their way past the graveyard. Sunday morning dignity, in other places, has supplanted supernatural delight, the sasintly have given way to the sanctimonious. We cannot really sing, "Hallelujah, Thine the glory" until first we have truly sung, "Revive us again." ONly oreal revival can restore lost joy. It is said that in 1799, if one passed through the Northwest, he could hear on every side only swearing and obscenity, the songs of drunkards, the blasphemy of infidels in every village and hamlet. But in 1801 one could hear on every hand the Gospel being preached to multitudes, songs of praise to God all along the highways, prayers in the woods and groves. The Great Revival had come! If this land is to be spared wreck and ruin, there must be another such visitation of God among His people: a visitation in revival.
Notice finally, in our verse the Revival Purpose rejoicing in the Lord: "Wilt thou not revive us again: that they people may rejoice IN THEE?" Not that God's people may rejoice in their big preacher or their great church, nor even in additions to their church; not that they may rejoice in denominational pride, nor in the report they sent to headquarters, nor even in how many demons were cast out. God is the One Object of our rejoicing. Any revival that does not center in the Lord, that does not exalt and magnify Him, that does not draw Christians to know the Lord Jesus Christ better and sinners to receive Him is a false revival. When our expectation is from Him, our joy will be in Him. And any revival that finds its climax anywhere but at His feet is not a Scriptural revival.
God help us to get low in the dust and pray like our forefathers, "Wilt thouo not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?"
From the modern much-ado-about-nothing I often escape along the lanes of memory to the little country church of boyhood days. In reverie I sit once more beside my father in the amen corner during the midsummer "big meeting." They sing, "Amazing Grace" and "Brethren, We Have Met to Worship" and other songs which modern mortals are too proud to sing. There is an "experience meeting," where tears are shed and amens uttered, for emotion has not yet been outlawed in religion. There is a powerful sermon, perhaps long and loud; but if the preacher does not have the elegance of Apollos, he does have the conviction of Aquila; there are no dainty references to Spinoza and Schopenhauer, with a dash of Emerson and an epigram from Epictetus; God is Almighty, Jesus died for us, sin is black, judgment certain, eternity long, and we have souls to save that is the message.
We sing, "Come
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