Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Weeping between the porch and the altar...

I'm not really going to preach a sermon this morning, but I want to have a launching pad... Joel 1:13 "Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God."

And then to verse 17 of the next chapter, "Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"

A few years ago, Dr. Carl F. Henry, founder and editor of Christianity Today, sent out a questionnaire to what he called, "Twenty of the leading intellectual preachers in the country." And the question that he sent out was this: "What do you see for the church of Jesus Christ by the year 2000." I remember only one of the replies, it was given by Elton Trueblood, the Quaker philosopher. He said this amazing thing: "By the year 2000 the church will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant, militant paganism." I swallowed that hook, line and sinker, and woke up about 2 o'clock in the morning with mental and I think spiritual indigestion. Then I began to remind myself that Christianity was not served up to the world in a silver platter. Christianity was born in a sophisticated, totalitarian society.

The early church was walled in on one side with the mightiest military machine in history, the power of Rome. It was walled in on the other side with Greek intellectualism. It was blocked ahead by the monopoly the Jews thought they had on God. Those men who turned the world upside down had no colossal intellectual capacity. No great financial backing. No social standing. They were about the most despised men in and around Jerusalem. And yet they broke out somehow - and later it was said that they turned the world upside-down.

I think at least once a week and sometimes I think once a day, what Dr. J. B. Phillips, who gave us the Phillips New Testament, said of the first chapters of Acts: "This is the church of Jesus Christ before it became fat and out of breath by prosperity. This is the church of Jesus Christ before it became muscle bound by over organization. This is the church of Jesus Christ where they didn't gather together a group of intellectuals to study phycho-sematic medicine, they just healed the sick. This is the church of Jesus Christ where they did not say prayers, but they prayed in the Holy Ghost." There's a vast difference.

The tragedy in our colleges and seminaries right now is that we turn men out who know the word of God. - That is never going to turn the world. The question is not whether they know the Word of God. The question is: DO THEY KNOW THE GOD OF THE WORD?

Just to give a man a license to preach because he has so much academic ability is like giving a blind man a driving license. If he doesn't know God, why is he in this business?! We have to make up our minds if this Book is absolute or obsolete. It's either got the answer for our generation or forget it. We have to make up our minds that preaching is not a profession, it's a passion.

Isn't it staggering when you think that one sermon on the day of Pentecost produced 3000 people? And we had some cities yesterday where 3000 sermons were preached and nobody was saved. And it doesn't even faze us. The church used to be a lightning bolt, now it's a cruise ship. We are not marching to Zion - we are sailing there with ease. In the apostolic church it says they were all amazed - And now in our churches everybody wants to be amused. The church began in the upper room with a bunch of men agonizing, and it's ending in the supper room with a bunch of people organizing. We mistake rattle for revival, and commotion for creation, and action for unction.

We feel a little nervous these days of talking about human depravity. Well, heaven knows, there has never been as much depravity around as we have today. Look at the iniquity that was on the earth when the prophet Elijah came on the scene. The nation was in bondage to idolatry, and impurity, and infidelity, and indifference. And it's my contention this morning that this pulpit is no place for puppets. In this day in which we live it's prophets that we need.vA Jewish scholar says, "The prophet, by the very nature of his calling, is a tragic figure. He has a fierce loyalty toward God and he has a broken heart over a lost nation."

We miss the mark telling people who are morally good, and very excellent many of them, that Jesus Christ came into the world to make bad men good. He did not. That's a fringe benefit. The first argument God has with a man is not that he's bad, it's that he is DEAD in trespasses and in sin. And Christianity is the only Gospel in the world, the only message in the world, where a man's God comes and lives inside of him.Where's the brooding of the Holy Ghost these days? When revival comes the lights don't go out in the sanctuary for weeks and weeks and weeks.

You can not standardize revival. I am not thinking of a church revival; I'm thinking of a national revival. There is only one hope for America and that is that we have a Divine intervention in the nation. Forget your denomination, forget your empty seats. Let's see first of all how God grieves over the sin of the people, and after all, when you look in the Old Testament, God's argument was not with the Amalekites, and Hitites and all the other "ites". God's problem in the Old Testament was Israel. God's problem today is not communism, Mormonism, Moonism or any other "ism." God's problem is His church today. We are so worldly. A city wide crusade can cost two million dollars. Revival doesn't cost a red cent, except broken hearts. You can stage your revival; you can stage a city wide crusade; you can not stage Revival. Revival is a mysterious divine intervention. I think one of the most awesome tasks given to man was given to John Baptist, when God said, "Prepare YE the way of the Lord."

Does it drive us to despair, to know there are more people lost in this world at the moment than in any period in history. And yet we go on as though we were on the edge of the millennium instead of on the edge of judgment. I believe the key to revival is given here in Joel, "Let the priests, the ministers of God, weep between the altar and the door posts."

What we need now is a revival of holiness. A revival of character. A revival of people who are utterly selfless and prepared to lay their lives on the altar for God. No man - I don't care how colossal his intellect - No man is greater than his prayer life. To stand before men on behalf of God is one thing. To stand before God on behalf of men is something entirely different. We've urged people to tithe, haven't we? But we only mean their money. You see, we want a "revival" which is a painless Pentecost. We want something that won't disturb our status quo. It's "easy street" everywhere else, so why not here? There never has been a revival that I can trace, that hasn't been birthed back there with true, true, true intercession.

...Leonard Ravenhill (1907--1994), Christian Evangelist and Author
Most famous book, "Why Revival Tarries"


Anonymous said...

This is incredible... I was holding tears back from the start. This could not be anymore true. I hope people are taking this to heart and giving this to people you know and love in the ministery... Because this IS how God will move and we just don't have much time left!!! WOW thank You God for putting this in my path!!!

fightingfromwithin said...

A friend contacted me after reading this and was insistent on me reading it. Now I know why! This is truth being spoken and it so vital and needs to be heard by many!
God, You are awesome, and I thank You for showing me this and putting people in my life that care enough to send me a message just so I can read truth!!