Ethics Evangelism Politics Theology USA

The Healing of America

Are you fed up with politics?  I’ve actually got to the stage where I am watching anything except the news.   Don’t worry!  this blog is not yet another one about the US election – except as an intro – there is something far more important to talk about.  I understand that the US elections are important and affect the whole world but the level of emotional investment and involvement, even from Christians,  is quite frankly disturbing.  The reactions have been way over the top – from fireworks in Brisbane, dancing on the streets of Philadelphia (apparently Covid is no longer a factor!), and on the other side mourning and anger as though Christ has been re-crucified.  Australian news had the headline ‘How Joe Biden will heal America and reunite the world’!      Biden himself tweeted that this was already done ! – America was now a nation healed, strengthened and united (‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like me his praise should sing!).  Incidentally, he gave an excellent speech – just right in terms of tone and content – but words are cheap – we will see what the actions are.   However the tweet that struck me most was this one:

 

 

 

Light breaks in Sydney

The idea that Joe Biden (or  Kamala Harris, Donald Trump,  or any other political leader) is the one who is bringing light into the world is as dangerous as it is absurd. Biden as Saviour of the World (which is the level that the sycophantic press have almost reached in their attempts to outdo one another in their hysteria).  When he hasn’t cured Covid, stopped climate change, united the races, dealt with poverty and ‘saved America’s middle class’ then the disappointment will be devastating for those who buy into this delusional hope.   I have no doubt that America needs healed and renewed – but that will not come through politics.  Instead we need to turn to the Word of the Lord.

 

 

Is. 58:8 ” Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”

The US has been here before.   It started off as a nation where there would be religious freedom – where it would be ‘one nation under God’.   Many times it has wandered away from that original purpose.   And many times God has turned the nation back.  It’s what we know as revival – and that is what the US needs just now.  A spiritual renewal.

In The Great Awakening (1734-43)  80% of the US population heard Whitefield preach.    The Second Great Awakening – 1800-1840, evangelicals grew from 7% to 13% of the population.   The Businessman’s Revival of 1857-58 saw 2 million converted).  There have been others as well –  including the post Second World War renewal with Billy Graham.

But what is revival? I read this today:   “In describing what happened in Jonathan Edward’s Northampton, Massachusetts church in 1734, observers said, “It pleased God…to display his free and sovereign mercy in the conversion of a great multitude of souls in a short space of time, turning them from a formal, cold, and careless profession of Christianity, to the lively exercise of every Christian grace, and the powerful practice of our holy religion.”

But what really got me thinking about this was a superb chapter in Donald Macleod’s Therefore the Truth I Speak about the revivals associated with David Dickson in Scotland in the 17th Century.  It was deeply moving, informative and indeed thrilling.   It reminded me of the great revival associated with McCheyne in 1839-1843.  Here are a number of the lessons from this chapter.

  1. Revival means many new Christians.

“Can a congregation or denomination reach a point where it is so spiritually dead that there can be no hope of reviving it?”    “In so far as revival means breathing new life into living churches, it has to mean the re-energising of congregations by the addition of large numbers of new lambs to the flock; and these new lambs are brought in, not by reviving the living but by quickening the spiritually dead”.

“In many a typical modern Scottish congregation even three sudden conversions would change the whole atmosphere.  In any congregation, anywhere, three hundred conversions would mean an almost unimaginable spiritual tonic…and for any Christian pastor there is no uplift comparable to the augmentation of his flock by the addition of large numbers of new born lambs”.   He then goes on to point out that it is not so much the revival of the existing membership that produces the new converts, but that the new converts revives the existing membership.

I was reminded of a remark I heard from Sinclair Ferguson at Crieff – “churches in Scotland have largely given up expecting to grow through conversions”.   It was very convicting for me.

“This is what we pray for when we pray for revival; fresh, young, spiritual life and love.   And this is what drives all authentic Christian ministry; the desire of saving souls and leading hundreds, if not thousands into the kingdom”

2. Revival is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the Methodologies of Men.

“One clear manifestation of this sovereignty was the Spirit’s choice of location. Anyone organising a modern evangelistic campaign would choose a university city or a great cosmopolitan hub, but God chose hamlets.  Ayr was not a great city, neither were Irvine, Stewarton, Nigg or Carloway, and neither was Northampton in New England.”

3. Revival includes Prayer

John Welsh of Ayr…prayed continually “ Lord, wilt thou not grant me Scotland!”  (Who is going to pray such a prayer for the US? Scotland? the UK?  Australia? China?  Africa,?or any country?).

William Burns “Prayer, unceasing and earnest, is that wherein the great strength of a religion lieth”

4. Revival is flexible and innovative

“Along with these labours went a refusal to be bound by caution and convention, or by the argument, “we never did that before.” if a Whitefield came along, tainted by Episcopalianism, his services were welcome. If a woman who was being counselled suddenly broke out in prayer, no one commanded her to be silent. And if God blessed another man’s spiritual field and passed yours by, you praised God, went to see for yourself, reported home and urged your congregation to their knees. “

5. Revival is Theological

“They believed these truths with all their hearts, they preached them with all their mind, and they yearned for an ever deeper understanding of them. Dare we say it? Men like Welsh and Dickson and Livingston and Edwards and Whitefield and Burns and MacDonald were theologians as well as preachers; And they preached all the theology they knew.”

This week I heard of yet another celebrity Christian leader who has fallen and has been removed from his post.  The occurrence of these events in the US (and elsewhere) is now so frequent that we are no longer surprised.  When I hear of commentators talking about ‘evangelicals’ as a political bloc I wonder if the term evangelical has become meaningless.    When I see on the one hand the hysteria and heresy of the hyped-up showmen (and women) who masquerade as Christian teachers; and on the other the cold, emotion averse teaching of much evangelicalism, I am persuaded that Macleod’s last words in the chapter are directly applicable to us.  I leave you with them.

“In other words, awakening means persuading thousands of Christians that they are not Christians at all. This is not simply a matter of theological illiteracy or Christians living in open and impenitent defiance of the Christian ethic or setting aside the whole idea of life after death or taking communion without giving it a moment’s thought,  it is much more fundamental. Many in the churches have had no experience of the emotional and affective side of the Christian life. Having never faced the truth about themselves, they have no bad conscience and no fear of divine law to fill them with grief, shame or fear . Sin,  they imagine, died with the Victorians. And conversely, they have never tasted the wonder of forgiveness, or being overwhelmed with a sense of the freshly discovered love of God, or known the peace that passes all understanding. Their hearts cannot sing, ‘I once was blind but now I see’. Above all, they know nothing of such a love for Christ as fills them with ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’ (1 Peter 1:8).

Their one great characteristic is complacency: complacency in the church itself; dead branches; lifeless members. What these need is not awakening, but resurrection [Ephesians 2:5].

Surely, then, there is nothing we can do? No, but there is something we are commanded to do. We have to proclaim, even within the walls of our own churches, ‘you must be born again, praying that God will use our human word, spoken with ‘poor, lisping, stammering tongues’, as His very own word, and cause the dry, skeletal bones to live [ Ezekiel 37: 3].

Joe Biden is not the Saviour of the World…We sing of the One who is

 

Revival, Renewal and Reformation in Lewis and Harris

Revival in the Highlands

29 comments

  1. I just added this to your last post but it is probably more relevant here. While Biden talks about reconciliation, some Democrats, including that “AOC” woman, are trying to compile a list of names of Trump staff, supporters, enablers and donors:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/trumpaccproject/status/1324794034276212736

    https://www.trumpaccountability.net

    This is just adding fuel to fire, given how divided the Americans are right now in the aftermath of the election. One step closer to a Civil War… 🙁

    1. For what it is worth, this is the other Tweet I posted on the previous article. This really scares me:

      ***
      Wahid
      @WahidSakaKhan
      ·
      12h
      CNN says Dick Cheney will be advising Biden on foreign policy.

      https://mobile.twitter.com/WahidSakaKhan/status/1325156126560804864

      ***
      It looks like we will be going straight back to the old America of imperialistic oil wars and endless bloodbaths in the Middle East. If I were Iranian, I’d be very frightened right now. Goodness knows what they will do regarding China, too, since they will undoubtedly continue to expand on Obama’s “pivot to Asia” and expand their presence here.

      1. Actually, one really heartening thing I discovered after posting those comments yesterday is that so many diehard conservatives in America now absolutely and utterly repudiate George W. Bush and everything that warmonger stood for. If you work through all of the reader comments on this deeply conservative site, there are many, many Republicans who are now saying he was one of the worst ever – if not THE worst – US president and they now feel ashamed they ever voted for him. It is easy to be wise with hindsight but at least these people have the courage and honesty to admit they made a terrible mistake.

        They also realise that, besides the terrible, neverending bloodshed Bush caused in the Middle East, his presidency led directly to that of Obama and the extension if the same disastrous policies.

        The whole discussion is well worth reading and gives me just a little faith in Americans again. The comments section appears at the bottom of the page but it takes a few moments to load:

        https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2020/11/george-w-bush-calls-congratulate-biden-says-election-fundamentally-fair-outcome-clear/#post-comments

    2. Speaking of the Middle East wars, I have a serious theological question, Pastor David:

      I know and accept Jesus is the only way to God, so it would seem that Muslims cannot be saved unless they convert. However, let’s consider a “typical” Muslim civilian from Iraq who has died in the 2003 war. They would have lived a miserable life under Saddam’s dictatorship, and then died after having been killed by a foreign invader. Would they then really be likely to go to Hell? It seems like a triple punishment, in this world and the next… What of all the Psalms that speak of God’s mercy on the persecuted? Could they possibly apply to people who have not come to faith in Christ? How is it that an American (or Australian) soldier who illegally invades their country and kills civilians can go to heaven if he professes Christ but the civilian they kill can not because he is of a different faith?

      These questions genuinely trouble me, Pastor, so I would really appreciate your thoughts.

      God bless you in your mission here in our country. Thanks so much.

      1. I’m sorry I’m not in a position to make these kind of judgements…God is just. He will not treat anyone unjustly. Human beings answer to him. I can’t answer hypotheticals…I don’t know the personal circumstances, far less the individuals hearts but God does. Which is why we need to communicate the Gospel…

  2. Sad to say that you’re deluded.
    Trump has just had an election victory stolen, and any thought of healing is DOA.
    The violent will steal it by force, as Jesus says….kind of.
    And you surely know you’ll not be singing in your locked church anytime soon. And Harris will ensure they don’t open again
    Trump would have at least given you four more years to prepare .
    And China unrestrained in your neck of the woods is going to get you pining for the cover that Trump has been giving you.
    Revelation 13.

  3. It is sad that so many of these comments to your article David R. missed the point. and focused on the politics.
    I thank you for your postings here on Revival. I find them very helpful. You are a tonic to our dry and thirsty souls.
    I need Revival. I, me.
    God revive me please.

    1. I have just watched a YouTube video
      Amir Tsasfati: Post Election Update
      Have a look at it before big tech takes it down.

  4. “I wonder if the term evangelical has become meaningless.”

    Indeed! I would go even further. For a long time I have wondered if the term “Christian” has become meaningless – or, at least, been greatly devalued! “Wee Mrs MacPhail, down the road would give you her last penny; she’d give you the coat of her back; she’d give you the last crust of bread in the house. She’s a real Christian!” Except that wee Mrs MacPhail – a better woman than most – knows nothing of sin, repentance, forgiveness, or salvation. Good she may be; Christian she is not.

    This is why I, almost invariably, use the term “disciple of Jesus”. It may still, in some cases, be a misnomer – but I hope that it is not as easily bandied around!

  5. Thank you David for pointing back to Jesus and the need for revival as the only way to heal a nation. I too have been trying to avoid the news, and social media; not because I am hurt by the result but the bad mouthing of everything Trump has done and the glorification of Biden as the saviour of the west is everywhere.
    Our Church message today was on this passage fromRomans 5.

    And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

    The basic message was: the only hope that will not let us down is hope in the glory of God, and in his love poured out for us.

    Thanks again for all your writing. It is a great encouragement.

  6. Thank you so much for a call for revival and restoration. Biden is not the answer nor has the country been united – now more divided than ever as odd improprieties in ballot counting are being made known (to the media unsubstantiated conspiracies). I was always said that only God can save us, but some among the Dems can destroy America. Even then, God is in control. Thank you for praying for us, as we pray for you.

  7. A word for the times, David.
    A revival (a.k.a. an awakening) would heal both the hackery-wokery delusions of pseudoliberals and the homicidal somnambulism of pseudoconservatives.

    You are right to point out that churches are revived first and foremost by the addition of the newly-converted rather than by the restoration of lapsed believers. Furthermore, revivals tend to be visited upon denominations where the Christianity has been reduced right down to a distant memory or a mere memorial rather than upon privilege-claiming evangelicals who are at ease in Zion.

    You are also right to flag up this dissonance about what it means to be an evangelical. The temptation to appropriate the name of Jesus for political gain is the temptation to preach a different gospel. The woes of those who are not engaged are far less deadly than the anathemas attracted by those who preach a false way of salvation.

    Yours,
    John/.

  8. Pastor David, I doubt you remember my family sitting in the pews at St. Peter’s in Dundee. But, as I read your ‘Wee Flea’ regarding the US election which I count a travesty, I appreciated your move to the discussion of Scottish evangelism.

    As a young US Navy sailor, I found myself in in Scotland, eventually spending almost four and one half years attached to RAF Edzell. Having grown up in a church-going home, I had listened to and enjoyed all the Bible stories, but that’s what they were to me, stories. I hadn’t attended regular worship services since leaving home for college and the Navy.

    Scotland’s history confronted me with people like Patrick Hamilton, George Wishart and countless others who willingly sacrificed their lives for a faith I personally knew nothing of. Many times their stories were told in stones I could feel and touch. John Howie in his ‘The Scots Worthies’ a copy of which I picked up at the Dens Road Market, challenged me further and my mind turned toward the reality of a faith for which people would willingly make such sacrifices.

    My enlistment in the Navy concluded, our little family moved to my home in Oklahoma, but reminders of the faith I had seen such vivid evidence of in Scotland kindled a desire to know more and soon led my wife and I to trust Christ as Lord and Savior.

    Reading Dr. Weirsbe’s ‘Giant Steps’ introduced me to Robert Murray McCheyne and that brings me, my Dundee born wife and now extended family, full circle to St Pete’s. Our Dundee born daughter, her husband and five children are now resident in Balmullo and are part of the fellowship of the Free Church that meets in St. Andrews.

    Scotland, in its stories in word and stone, in its own interesting and unique way, evangelized me and worked a great change in our lives.

    Please continue in prayer for our country.

  9. I believe there are many interceding for a move of God in Scotland and the rest of the UK and further afield too.
    I read this a few days ago in Isaiah 62:6,7. You who call upon the Lord, give yourself no rest, and give him no rest, until he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.
    It sounds a bit presumptuous to petition the Lord in such fashion, but I am extending it to include the New Jerusalem of which we are all a part and praying daily for a breakthrough!

    1. Yes – within the very limited scope of her view I’m sure it is….but what a desperately narrow and sad view of the world…also dangerous and delusional…

  10. Maybe I have limited scope as well then, but I feel the removal of Donald Trump and the Christian message he aligned with (from Paula White to Norman Vincent Peale) is a break in the clouds.
    Yet it is only a break, and is not the ‘sun breaking forth’ as was the coming of the Son of Man. Biden will also have dubious ‘faith messages’ I am sure, but as I said above, the doctrines of wealth accumulation of Trump was something I found dangerous and delusional.
    I also sense that Sturgeon was not hailing Biden as ‘the light of the world’ as per biblical prophecy and fulfilment.
    Whilst I agree that Biden ‘hasn’t cured Covid, stopped climate change, united the races, dealt with poverty and ‘saved America’s middle class’, neither has Jesus, and in respect of ‘racial harmony and eradication of poverty’ he (church) has been working on those for the last 2000 years.

    1. I don’t compare Biden to Jesus – and I don’t accuse Psalm 72 of being false and Jesus as having failed! Biden has extremely dubious ‘faith’ messages. He too shares in the doctrine of wealth accumulation – his support of the big corporates and Wall St is clear . How do you think he is a multi-millionaire having spent all his life in public service? He has used political power to gain personal wealth (Trump used personal wealth to gain political power and then used it for personal wealth!). The Ukraine scandal is bad enough – but the China one is worse. To hail Biden as somehow different from Trump, on this subject, doesn’t fit with the facts.

      You are also right about Sturgeon. She has no concept of biblical prophecy and fulfillment. Her worldview is very narrow and confined. And also delusional. She genuinely thinks that she and other ‘progressives’ can genuinely heal the world and succeed where you argue Christ has failed! Such utopianism is delusional and dangerous.

  11. I’m always intrigued by claims in the media that somebody who is on the left-wing of politics will always reunite a country and heal its divisions while anybody on the right-wing of politics automatically causes division.

  12. Thanks for this David.

    I often read your writings and listen to your podcast and I’m grateful for the way you boldly, yet graciously, speak the truth on a whole range of issues.

    I would, if I may, like to ask you a pastoral question related to a quote in your post:

    “Many in the churches have had no experience of the emotional and affective side of the Christian life”
    “And conversely, they have never tasted the wonder of forgiveness, or being overwhelmed with a sense of the freshly discovered love of God, or known the peace that passes all understanding. Their hearts cannot sing, ‘I once was blind but now I see’. Above all, they know nothing of such a love for Christ as fills them with ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’”

    I have struggled with the issue of assurance of salvation for about 13 years. I sometimes don’t think I am a Christian because I don’t experience particular emotions or affections in regard to God. There are various “tests” that some posit to help with the question (e.g. those that appear to be found in 1 John), but I don’t tend to fair too well on those either.

    I have before noted that many of the revivalists of old (Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards etc.) spoke in the way outlined in the quote above, insisting that their hearers were not saved until they had an experiential encounter with God. It is such preaching that causes me to doubt my salvation, yet I cry out to Jesus for forgiveness, grace and salvation often, and have done for the last 13 years. I am not ignorant of the call of the gospel either, and I’m all too aware if the demands of discipleship and that Jesus commands our total surrender. That said, I have not experienced the “love of Christ filling me” or “joy unspeakable”. Has God abandoned me, or should I still press on with simple faith, devoid of feeling?

    Would you have any words of counsel to someone like myself?

    Thank you

    Mark

    1. Thanks Mark, – the quote is from Donald Macleod. The question here is one of balance. Some people would argue that you have to feel it in order to know you are saved. Others react against that and say no you just have to think it. I would suggest that there is a middle way between the emotionalism and rationalism of these. We are saved if we believe and trust in Christ. We do not have assurance if we do not feel it. Believing and trusting is leaning upon and acting upon. Faith without works is dead. I think that the Puritans (and Macleod) do a great job in balancing this (have a look at Sinclair Ferguson’s the Whole Christ as well – or Sibbes The Bruised Reed)… To me its a bit like a husband saying that he does not feel he loves his wife. I would say that it would be better to have the feeling but if he does not have it – it does not mean that he is not married or that he does not have the obligation to love his wife. Its the same with Christ. A felt Christ is best – but an intellectual apprehension of, and trust of, Christ is better than no Christ at all…

      1. Thanks David

        I have read both The Whole Christ andd The Bruised Reed, though you reminding me of them has prompted me to check them out again as it’s been a while since I read them.

        Mark

  13. You know what David – it must be frustrating for you to know all this stuff but not see it work out in practice in the institutional church. I have had the privilege of not being brought up in a Christian home but in a culture where Christianity had an influence more so than the culture I am in now.

    It might explain the differences we have expressed with regards to Steve Aisthorpes “Invisible Church” which in principle is not dissimilar to Martin Luthers approach.

    The “church” is as real with us having a communication here centred on Christ as anywhere else with a gathering centred on Christ. To limit this to a gathering on a Sunday morning in a building is to put God in a box which is far to small form him to fit in.

    What happened when Jesus preached in the synagogue about a prophet being without honour among his own people? They tried the throw him off a cliff! And I seem to remember with a particular religious institution, someone turning over tables there and driving people out.

    It’s always been this way and if you are a leader in and institutional church then you will to a greater or lesser degree be restricting God. Human institutions do that. It’s rubbish and to say it’s rubbish to anyone institutionalised results in the taking of offence.

    So if you want to be authentic there’s nothing new under the sun – you will be a prophet without honour. Better to go out where faith will be found in surprising places and in awe of that than be stifled and amazed by how little faith there is in places that present themselves to be of faith.

    God is graceful, if any institutional church decides it doesn’t want God there then he is a gentleman, he will leave the building and in effect say “OK have it your way”. His presence will be removed and what you will see will be acts of the flesh presented in religious terms rather than fruits of the Spirit.

    1. Steve Aisthorpe is a million miles away from Martin Luther! It is not true that it is always the case that if you are a leader in an institutional church (is there any other kind?)…that you are necessarily restricting God. Apart from that I agree with your comments!

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