Atheism and secularism are on the rise. The explosion in cable and satellite TV, along with the advent of the worldwide web, have created a plethora of entertainment options to occupy the minds of the masses, and the 2,000 year old story of a Jewish rabbi who rose from the dead just doesn’t seem relevant in our culture.
In praying along these lines four words kept coming to me – Reformation, Repentance, Restoration, and Revival. You see, the 21st century American church is worldly. It’s dominated by carnal thinking. It’s materialistic. It’s egocentric. The biblical truths regarding God’s desire to financially bless His children have been morphed into guilt-free idolatry. Christian broadcasting has gone from presenting the gospel to scripture-twisting, mammon-centered infotainment that ends up driving away both the mature believer and the unbeliever. Church scandals, both sexual and financial, have gone from rare to commonplace.
In the book of Revelation the church at Laodecia was rebuked for being lukewarm. Laodecia was a prosperous city, and the culture of the city impacted the church. Jesus said that we are salt and light. He said to occupy until He returns. The community isn’t supposed to impact the church. The church is supposed to impact the community. But in today’s America the church is absolutely saturated with American culture. Worship services resemble rock concerts, church buildings resemble shopping malls, and church people resemble the world. We’ve become caught up in our careers, our hobbies, sports, entertainment … etc. We’ve become lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Maybe we don’t love the world, but we sure have been playing footsie with it. Maybe we don’t love the world, but we love the things of the world which was also forbidden in John’s epistle.
Modern American Christianity is so incredibly egocentric that impacting our communities is usually the last thing on our minds. That didn’t happen by chance. It’s a direct result of what has been coming from our pulpits, books, DVDs, websites, radios, and TV screens. The message has gone from seeking God and fulfilling the Great Commission to seeking a better life and fulfilling our heart’s desire. It resembles pop psychology more than the gospel of Jesus Christ. How in God’s name is the church going to impact the world when we’re seeking to be like the world? How are we supposed to show the world that there’s a better world awaiting the righteous when we’re so obviously caught up in this world?
In I Cor. 3:11-13 we read “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
I’m convinced that 90% of what we see in American ministry is wood, hay, and stubble. It’s built on human effort, ambition, and ego. It’s motivated by the desire to be admired by the masses while appearing spiritual. If men could build ministries in the Apostle Paul’s day on fleshly motives, certainly it’s possible today. But the wood, hay, and stubble will be burned up, and only the precious metals of God-sanctioned ministry will endure. Psalm 127:1 says “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it”. The vast majority of highly visible ministries are following Madison Avenue marketing strategies more than they’re following the leading of the Holy Spirit. They may appear to be bringing glory to God for now, but in the end they’ll be revealed for what they truly are.
Revival won’t come until reformation occurs. We need a change of theology, and a change of priorities from the leadership of the church. We need a modern day holiness movement. I’m not talking about legalism. I’m talking about biblical sanctification. I’m talking about living lives that are so drastically different from the world that the world sits up and takes notice. I’m talking about God’s people, minister and layperson alike, getting before God and praying like never before. I’m talking about dying to the world. I’m talking about saturating our minds with God’s Word. I’m talking about a singleness of purpose as the early church displayed, where the church leaders put others in charge of daily tasks so that they could give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. (Acts 6:3,4)
We look at the Amish, the Quakers, and the Pentecostal Holiness churches and snicker because they seem so different. Well at least they’re making some effort to avoid worldliness. You might not approve of their methods but ask yourself “Is there anything sufficiently different about my life that would make others take notice?”. I’m not saying that it’s a sin to drive a car or watch a movie. I’m not talking about condemnation here. I’m talking about transformation. In order to change the world we need to change ourselves. We need to get the world system out of our minds, our hearts, and our lives. We need leaders who aren’t afraid to preach holy living. We need ministers who will preach that “You must be born again”, and that Jesus is the only way to the Father. We need preachers who will stress once again that there is a literal heaven to gain, and a literal hell to avoid. We need to hear from the pulpit that the love of money is the root of all evil, and materialism is idolatry.
Am I saying that prosperity is evil? Not at all. I believe in prosperity. In fact I graduated from Rhema Bible Training Center back in 1984. I’m all for prospering spiritually, physically, and financially. But the purpose of financial prosperity isn’t so that you can consume it upon your lusts. God doesn’t bless His children so that they can drive an expensive sports car or live in a mansion. He blesses us so that we can be a blessing to a lost and dying world, and until we begin to hear this message clearly from our leaders we’re not going to see revival.
A few years before he died Kenneth Hagin met with some of today’s best known prosperity preachers. He had just finished his book The Midas Touch – A Balanced Approach to Biblical Prosperity, and he handed them all a copy of it prior to its publication. In that book he wrote “There are a number of teachings and practices in the Church today, particularly among Charismatic groups, that can lead to misunderstandings and hurtful problems. Many times, these errors are the result of people taking a Bible verse, or part of a verse, out of context or by carrying an application too far. Sometimes there has been an overzealous attempt to make a New Testament application of some Old Testament phrase or technicality that absolutely does not apply. Taken to the extreme, these teachings can become abuses and false practices”.
He then proceeded to list a few examples of how ministers were going to extremes in their presentation of the message of prosperity, quoting these verses.
“Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure andtrouble therewith.” (Prov. 15:16)
“Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.” (Prov. 16:8)
“Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” (Prov. 28:6)
While those who were present all agreed with Brother Hagin’s comments, a few of them failed to heed his warnings and have come under considerable scrutiny and difficulty since he passed in 2003. When his words sink in and become a part of our dialogue I believe it will bring a noticeable change in tone throughout the Charismatic church.
When reformation comes it will lead to repentance. Church leaders will begin to see that we’ve bought into the deceitfulness of richness and have been following Babylon. They will get on their faces before God in repentance and call for repentance from their listeners. You can see this pattern throughout scripture.
II Chronicles 7:14 says “if My people who are called by My name will 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.” In the third chapter of Jonah we read about the prophet’s decree that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days. When the people heard that they put on sackcloth and fasted in repentance, and God spared them.
When genuine repentance comes, God’s people will be restored to fellowship with Him and with one another. The fighting will end. The only fight that Christians are told to fight is the good fight of faith. We shouldn’t be fighting with one another, and we won’t be when we put aside our egos and agendas and seek God’s face diligently. We’ll be too busy seeking truth and doing what God has instructed us to do to worry about petty issues like we have in the past. In Genesis we read about the people becoming united in building the Tower of Babel. (Gen. 11:6) In the book of Acts we read about the early church having all things in common. And in Ephesians 4:13 we read about the need for us to come into the unity of the faith.
After reformation, repentance, and restoration we will see revival. We will see the power of God in demonstration as we’ve never seen before. We’ll see gifts of the Spirit in operation like we read about in the book of Acts. God isn’t withholding His power because He is shy, or because He’s not willing to manifest it. He’s withholding it because the church is too carnal. God doesn’t change. He’s the same today as He was two thouand years ago. The problem is us. We have to change. We have to emphasize the things that are important to Him, and buying a $65 million plane or installing a gold plated bathtub aren’t high on His list of priorities. He’s still in the business of saving the lost, helping the poor, healing the sick, settings the captives free, feeding the hungry, and making disciples. When we become more focused on His agenda than ours we’ll get the results that we claim we want to see. Join with me in praying for reformation, repentance, restoration, and revival.