Friday, September 30, 2011

Revival: The Work of God

I am not a Methodist, but I must confess that John Wesley’s life and work in the Spirit had transformed society. Charles White, professor of Christian Thought and History at Spring Arbor University, writes:

• The Methodists made such an impact on their nation that in 1962 historian Elie Halevy theorized that the Wesleyan revival created England’s middle class and saved England from the kind of bloody revolution that crippled France. Other historians, building on his work, go further to suggest that God used Methodism to show all the oppressed peoples of the world that feeding their souls on the heavenly bread of the lordship of Christ is the path to providing the daily bread their bodies also need. (Mission Frontiers, Sept-Oct 2011, 6)

• Coming to Christ through the Methodist movement changed the loves of a million people in Britain and North American in the eighteenth century….most of these people and their children moved from the desperation of hand-to mouth poverty to the security of middle-class life as they made Christ their Lord and experienced the impact of His power on their economic lives. As these people moved up the social ladder, they began to influence the political life of their nation. They helped to transform Britain from an eighteenth-century kleptocracy – where the powerful fueled their lives of indulgence by exploiting the poor into a nineteenth century democracy – which abolished slavery and used its empire to enrich the lives of every subject of the crown. (9)

Before this glorious movement of the Spirit, England had been in turmoil. White explains:

• The police were also overwhelmed by the fighting and killing of the mob. The law executed people for 169 capital crimes, but the regular march to the gallows did nothing to make the streets safe at night. Sexual immorality was common at all levels of society, and the nation was overwhelmed with illegitimate children. (7)

What about this revival made the difference? Wesley formed people into small groups where they would confess their sins and pledge to follow Christ in everything! Are we ready to take up our cross? Instead, it seems that we are more interested in congregating to learn various feel-good, mystical-contemplative techniques in order to experience or hear from God. Meanwhile, it seems that our God is far more interested in a broken and contrite spirit:

• Isaiah 57:15 "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

• Isaiah 66:2 "But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

• Psalm 34:17-18 “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”

True revival is always accompanied by confession and repentance. Here’s how one person described the impact of the revival in Wales (1904):

• Judges were presented with white gloves: they had no cases to try. No rapes, no robberies, no murders, no burglaries, no embezzlements, nothing. The District Consuls held emergency meetings to discuss what to do with the police, now that they were unemployed. Drunkenness was cut in half. The illegitimate birth rate dropped 44 percent in two counties within a year of the beginning of the revival. (The Rebirth of America, The Arthur S, DeMoss Foundation, 64)

Well, what has happened to Methodism? Decker and Whiteman identify two institutional factors. In the latter part of the 19th century,

• It was officially decided that membership in a small group would no longer be required for church membership…Secondly, an emphasis on formal seminary education supplanted the previous grass-roots process by which leadership was largely developed…[This] fomented a greater professionalization of the clergy.

This has been tragic. I’ve been told that all of the Methodist seminaries, with the exception of Asbury, have gone apostate. It therefore became almost impossible for the church to remain spiritually alive when its head was spiritually dead.

What does this mean for the church today? We must cry out to our Savior for revival, confessing our sins and looking to Him as our only hope!

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