If My People...
A STUDY GUIDE TO THE THEMES IN SECOND CHRONICLES 7:14.
FOR INDIVIUAL OR GROUP USE.
Prepared by Rev. Robert Evans OAM
For some months prior to the preparation of this Bible study booklet, the Rev. Roy McKenzie, of Gore, Southland, New Zealand, and I, had been preparing a book, the first part of which outlined the history of the main evangelical awakenings and revival movements in New Zealand.
The second, smaller part of the book outlined some of the main principles regarding the nature of these movements, and some main circumstances under which such movements occur, in various parts of the world. On reaching the end of this second section, it seemed wise to add an Appendix, including some practical suggestions which might be used by anyone who was moved with concern about the need for a revival today, either on a local or national scale. One of these suggestions was to use a study book of this kind, for personal or group study and prayer.
The purpose of this study book, therefore, is to provide some Scriptural guidance for people who want to make spiritual preparations in their own lives for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival power.
It should always be remembered, however, that there is nothing automatic about there being an outpouring of the Spirit if such preparations are made. The coming of the Spirit in this way is a gracious decision of God in answer to prayer. These answers to prayer are not like pressing a button on the front of a machine, and getting a lolly.
Possible Helpful Suggestions
(a.) It is a good idea to use this booklet in conjunction with the book about revivals in New Zealand, mentioned above. If this cannot be done, some other similar book should be read, which provides information about what the Lord has done in movements of this kind in the past, and which explains the basic spiritual principles of revivals. Some information about problems and deceptions should be learned, as a preparation, as well.
(b.) The booklet has been planned with the idea that many of those who use it will involve themselves in a group. This group is envisaged not merely as a simple discussion group, like most Bible study groups are these days, but rather as a spiritual growth group, where members will pray with, and for, each other, share their difficulties and triumphs, and confess their sins to each other. A spiritual growth group of this kind is rather similar to what a Methodist class meeting used to be like in the early history of Methodism. These groups were really the main tool used by the Holy Spirit in causing Methodism to grow so rapidly in those days, and to produce such saintly people as existed then, although there were other important factors used by God, as well. Members of such groups have to be trustworthy with the confidences that other members share, and must not gossip about what they have heard.
(c.) Each person working through these studies should keep a confidential notebook or diary about himself, or herself, containing the personal and spiritual things which are impressed upon your mind as you proceed.
Comments About These Studies
Many Bible study guides intended to be used by groups are straight-forward and simple, and do not demand answers to questions which are any harder than reading what is already written in the passage from the Bible which is being studied.
While there are a few questions like this, here and there, in these studies, the questions generally require more thought and insight into spiritual things. More maturity and depth of Christian experience is needed.
It would probably be helpful if some preparation was done in advance.
Naturally, some people and groups will find that they get more out of some parts of the study than other parts. The only suggestion I can make is to do what you can with these questions. Do not worry if some questions are not dealt with in the same deep way as other questions might be. At times, let the questions prompt you to embark upon some research in the Bible, or in the history books about revivals that you have available to consult.
Always remember that the character of God, and the work of the Kingdom of God, are subjects about which we can never learn too much, or make too much preparation. As Saint Paul said, the work we do, in the Lord, is never in vain. It always has a value for eternity. God Himself is our reward. So, never say you already know enough, or could not do better.
Once again, the purpose of this booklet is to help some of God's people make preparations for the outpouring of the Spirit in their midst. The Lord gives us far more than we can ask or think, and shows an abounding gracious generosity to sinners like ourselves, who do not deserve His kindnesses. If the Lord uses this humble effort in any way for His glorious purposes, I will be amply rewarded.
Robert Evans. Hazelbrook, New South Wales.
CHAPTER ONE: NEEDED - MORE OF THE VITALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Apostles' Creed is perhaps the earliest and most basic statement of what Christians believe. It is also one of the simplest. It contains three statements. These three statements are all about who God is.
The first statement is about the heavenly Father. It says "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;"
The second statement is about Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity.
It says: "And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead."
The third statement, which contains the rest of the Creed, is a statement about the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity.
It says: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting."
The Nicene Creed expands each of these three statements. The statement about the Holy Spirit is expanded as follows:
"And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come."
The references to the existence of the Church, and its unity; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the dead, and the final consummation, are activities that involve the work of the Holy Spirit to a supreme degree. To this end, the Holy Spirit is both Lord, and the giver of life.
These things done by the Holy Spirit are, in their fullest measure, things relating to the world to come, and which receive their fulfilment in eternity. But, by God's mercy, we can experience a foretaste of them all here, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life. This double nature of Christian experience, "now and not yet", experienced in part in this life, but fully in heaven, is given a special name by the theologians. It is called an "eschatological" aspect of the Spirit's work, based on a Greek word "eschatos", which means "last". Eschatology is the study of the last things, or of the end of the world.
This eschatological factor emphasises for us that revival, and the Christian life, can only happen by the powerful workings of the Holy Spirit. They are realities which do not belong to this earthly life, pure and simple, like breathing and eating. We can breath and eat without being Christians. But, without Christ, and without the workings of the Holy Spirit, we cannot have eternal life, or experience anything belonging to the world to come. Human efforts or merit cannot achieve anything outside of this mortal life.
Our efforts and works cannot secure our salvation. Nor can they bring God's power.
In our study of Second Chronicles 7:14, we will pay special attention to the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. This life-giving power is essential to the health of the Church. Without this power of God, we who seek to promote the work of God on earth are all as useless as dead men and women. Human power is not the right kind to achieve our ends.
This life-giving power spoken of in this verse is a power of God, which is not in our control. It is not a human power, or a human possibility. If we try to make it happen, or seek to manipulate it, to make the life of God fit into our own notions of what should occur, we will tend to work only in human power. If we imagine that there is a technique or method, or certain buttons to press, to get a desired result, we will tend to work in human power only.
But, the "life-giving" aspect goes hand in hand with the authority of the Spirit, and with the unity given by the Spirit. These are all works of the Spirit, and must all have their proper place, as the Spirit leads.
For example, we will see that the life-giving aspect of the Spirit's work, which is so essential for the health of the work of the Kingdom of God in the world, also requires us to recognise the authority of the Spirit, spoken to us mainly through the Scriptures (i.e. that the Holy Spirit is Lord), and that the Spirit gives unity to the Church.
If the Spirit's authority is sacrificed because we have allowed the message of the Scriptures to be affected too much by the impact of the modern world, or because we prefer to listen to the inner voice of the Spirit, or the inner voice of our own intelligence, then whatever "new life" we have will tend to be human, and not divine.
Or, if we sacrifice the unity of the Church which the Spirit has given, so that we can belong to a group blessed with "pure doctrine", we will tend to work only in human power. We will be orthodox, but we will have only a form of godliness, without the power thereof.
Similarly, if we sacrifice the unity of the Church which the Spirit has given, in order to protect and enhance our own Spirit-given, "Spirit-filled" holy fire, so that we can escape the drag of having to work and live with cold and dead Christians, who do not feel or believe as we do, we will tend to work only in human power, and much of the "life" that we seem to have will be carnal, and the work of the flesh.
During the studies in this booklet we will be looking in more detail at these features of the Spirit's role and work, and seeing that His authority, the unity He brings, and His life-giving power, must be valued together, or they all tend to be lost.
What Is the Life that the Holy Spirit Gives?
We can make some general comments in an effort to answer that question. We can say that this life is a different kind of life from mortal, earthly life. This life is a special gift from God. Or, we could say it is the eternal life of which Jesus spoke. Or, we could say it is the life of the world to come, or of the kingdom of God. Without question, it is a life of holiness; a life lived for and with God.
Apart from making general comments like that, we could quote appropriate verses from the Bible to indicate something about it.
First John 1:2 simply calls it "the life".
Jesus said that He was, Himself, that life. John 11:25 says "I am the resurrection and the life." John 14:6 says "I am the way, the truth and the life."
This life was also something Jesus came to give to people. John 10:10 says "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
Yet Jesus linked it quite plainly with the work of the Holy Spirit. "On the last and greatest day of the festival Jesus stood and cried aloud, 'If anyone is thirsty let him come to me; whoever believes in me, let him drink.' As Scripture says, "Streams of living water shall flow out from within him." He was speaking of the Spirit which believers in him would receive later." John 7:37 - 39.
John 6:63 says plainly "The Spirit alone gives life." The same point is made by Saint Paul. "The qualification we have comes from God; it is he who has qualified us to dispense his new covenant - a covenant expressed not in a written document, but in a spiritual bond; for the written law condemns to death, but the Spirit gives life." 2 Corinthians 3:6.
Another description comes in 2 Timothy 1:9 - 10. "It is he who brought us salvation and called us to a dedicated life, not for any merit of ours but of his own purpose and his own grace, which was granted to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but has now at length been brought fully into view by the appearance on earth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. For he has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
Many other verses of a similar character could be quoted.
Hope and Fulfilment
The Scriptures also tell us the history of how God unveiled this great plan of His, and made it into a practical reality in human history.
The period of the Mosaic Law set the picture, and defined many of the meanings, of what was to appear later. The Law tended, however, to be a matter of outward observances and ritual instead of a matter of the heart, despite the fact that so many Old Testament people loved and worshipped God deeply and sincerely. Of course, we must not make the mistake of saying that the Holy Spirit did not produce this true devotion in Old Testament times. True devotion to God can only exist as the Spirit works. There is no other way, regardless of which age it occurs in.
The major prophets, inspired by the Spirit, saw that God would inaugurate a new order of things, where obedience and worship would be internalised much more.
Ezekiel has the most famous statement of this. "I will sprinkle clean water over you, and you shall be cleansed from all that defiles you; I will cleanse you from the taint of all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit into you and make you conform to my statutes, keep my laws and live by them. You shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; you shall become my people, and I shall become your God. I will save you from all that defiles you..." (Ezek.36:25 - 29.)
The real foundation for the fulfilment of this prophecy came with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death is a sacrifice sufficient for the sins of mankind, made by a perfect priest, who was the eternal Son of God, presenting an offering of his own life-blood, once for all time - as opposed to the Old Testament sacrifices which could not really purify anyone, were presented by a sinful priest, had to be repeated regularly, and were only composed of animal sacrifices.
The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the victory over every evil and enemy, and that His sacrificial work on the cross was complete and fully effective.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit then sets the final stone in place for the new religion of the heart, soul and mind, which fulfils the old prophecy. The Spirit of God is poured out upon all mankind, so that God's gifts of grace and mercy can come upon people of all shapes, sizes, descriptions, race, language, status, ability and age.
The Spirit gives eternal life to all sorts of people, and unifies them into one Church which is the bride of Christ. This Spirit is also Lord, and has spoken to us through the Scriptures. Not only so, but the same Spirit also speaks today through these same Scriptures, to make mere words and letters into fire and life within our personal experience. The Spirit also takes mere words by human gospel preachers, and turns them into fire and life in the experiences of hearers.
But the Spirit does not follow human plans, theories or ideas. He works according to a different set of laws - the laws of the world to come. As Jesus said, "The wind blows where it wills; you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from, or where it is going. So with everyone who is born from spirit." (John 3:7.)
The Christian life consists of a life of obedience to the heavenly Father, cleansed through the blood of Christ, and lived under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures describe the Christian as a temple of the Holy Spirit. This has a meaning on the personal level, although it also means that Christians all together are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
The human spirit, on the other hand, which consists of the sum of a person's human vitalities, physical, moral and spiritual, is always active, embarking upon projects of all kinds. For a Christian, many of these things are good, although everything we do expresses the sinfulness within our basic characters, more or less, as Jesus taught us in Mark 7:21. For someone who is not converted to Christ, every action is at least partly motivated by the factor of being separated from Christ, no matter how worthy those actions may appear to be, from other points of view.
For the Christian, all the abilities and capacities of the human spirit are meant to be controlled so that they can all be fully dedicated and surrendered to God, through Christ. This involves a life of obedience to the Father, to Christ, and to the Spirit, as the Spirit speaks through the Scriptures, and as these Scriptures are made alive to us by the Spirit in our own experience.
Struggle and Conflict
Christians often do not live such a life of meekness and humility. The human spirit is not kept under such control. Our natural urges and inclinations often lead us around, and dominate us with an agenda of their own. So, the Christian's experience becomes one of crisis and conflict. A struggle takes place between the workings of our own spirit and the leadings of the Spirit of God. The human spirit is meant to be fully surrendered, with all its potential used in a manner chosen by God. It is not meant to be in charge, or to exert undue influence.
The vitality of the Holy Spirit really belongs to the world to come, as mentioned before. By God's grace we experience a foretaste of it here, and become heirs of that which is to come. We have an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and which does not fade or pass away, kept in heaven for those who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto a salvation to be revealed more fully. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love Him.
The Wesleyan doctrine of Entire Sanctification, or Christian Perfection, taught that, through waiting upon God, and through a crisis experience, the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit could be basically settled, and not be a cause of continual anguish and conflict. This was possible by faith in Jesus Christ, not by struggle or works. There have been many Christians who have found that this understanding of Christian experience met their needs, and that God met them at these points.
Many other Christians found that the experience of sanctification was much more a growth experience, or a series of minor crises, or a combination of these. They found that the conflict continued in many ways, because there remained something inside their personalities which responded positively to temptation. The "old man" did not die.
The essential point, however, is that victory is in Jesus Christ. He is the Victor. By relying upon what He has already achieved on my behalf, through His sacrifice on the cross, I am able to have a foretaste of that victory. So, it is through relying upon what Christ has already done for us that more victory is possible in the struggle.
But, it helps to pay more attention to the God-centred and Christ-centred things, and to turn our attention away from those things which are causing the problems for us within our own natural make-up. Edwin Orr told a story about a group of American Indians who were discussing these matters. One brave told this parable. "I used to have a black dog which terrorised the neighbourhood. Then I bought a white dog, hoping that things would improve. The trouble now is that my two dogs are always fighting." A listener asked the perceptive question, "Which one is winning?" The brave replied, "It depends on which one I feed the most."
Being continually thankful to God, and full of praise to God, is helpful, and is an important thing in itself regardless of what good it might do to us personally.
Then, there is the verse, "And now, my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and gracious, whatever is excellent and admirable - fill all your thoughts with these things." (Philippians 4:8.)
As we study Second Chronicles 7:14, therefore, we are not looking for a revival of the human spirit. That does not need revival. And any such revival would not be a revival of real Christianity, or of the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit.
We are looking for a revival of the workings of the Holy Spirit. We are looking for His sovereign actions in the lives of a vastly increasing number of people, giving life from God. But He will also produce better unity amongst the people of God, and He will produce respect for His own authority.
As a result, all such revivals produce a widespread thirst to know God, and to know the Scriptures better. This produces a revival of personal holiness, and revival of the effects that this personal holiness has upon the surrounding society. This will, in turn, produce a great missionary and evangelistic thrust, and a desire to benefit needy people in any way possible. So....
WE WANT TO SEE A REVIVAL OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
TEN STUDIES ON SECOND CHRONICLES 7: 14
1. Read Isaiah 44:3, and discuss the meanings that this passage has for today. In what way is it a promise from God to us? What would you do in order to appropriate such a promise? Do you think God wants it to apply to you?
2. Read Zechariah 12:10, and discuss what this tells us about the Holy Spirit, and His work.
3. Read John 17:3, Ephes. 1: 4 - 7 and 20 - 21, and discuss what we learn there about the life given by the Holy Spirit.
4. Read Second Timothy 1:7. What does this tell us about the Holy Spirit, and about His work in our lives.
5. The life-giving work of the Spirit is something that only God can do. It is not a human possibility." Read Ezekiel 37:1 - 14, and note how this is reflected in the passage.
6. "The life-giving work of the Holy Spirit is not dependent upon us doing something novel or startling through which God's life can come. New things have a certain vitality of their own, but the two should not be confused." New things always become old, and revival cannot be tied to a continual search for something novel.
For example, it is not essential that something additional to, or different from, normal church activities should be organised, or the Spirit cannot revive us.
Or, new life in the churches does not depend upon the visits of high-profile preachers from overseas, although God may use such people greatly. Discuss this.
7. Read about the warfare between the flesh and the Spirit in Galatians 5. The definition of "human spirit" we used earlier applies to "the flesh" in this chapter. "The flesh", or "human nature", or the "lower nature", is the sum of any person's human vitalities, physical, moral and spiritual. Bearing this in mind, explain in your own words why such a continual warfare exists between the flesh and the Spirit.
8. Many apparently good things come from human abilities, and "human spirit". Do you think that is true? If it is true, why does Saint Paul give such a dreadful list of fruits of the lower nature? In what way is Saint Paul's statement true?
9. Perhaps it is easier to see why allowing our natural urges and inclinations to take charge of our lives can lead to adulteries, greed and a party spirit. But, how can this same thing lead to activities which are done in the name of God?
If someone said that most church activities are works of the lower nature, how would you explain what the critic meant? Then, how might you reply to the critic?
10. Many enthusiastic Christians criticise other Christians by saying they are cold or dead. What do they normally mean by this criticism? In what way is it never true to say a Christian is spiritually dead? Why might such criticism be a criticism of Christ (Acts 9:5), or of the Holy Spirit?
Read First Corinthians 13, and Luke 22:31 - 32. When we see Christians who are not as warm-hearted as we would like them to be, what should be our response?
11. Another criticism which "Spirit-filled" Christians have often directed at other Christians is to say directly, or to imply, that these other Christians are not filled with the Holy Spirit, and that therefore they are somehow second-rate.
What is meant by this criticism?
If even the weakest Christian is a "temple of the Holy Spirit", and inherits all things in Christ Jesus, and has God as his heavenly Father, how can such a person ever be second-rate, compared to any other Christian?
12. Explain what differences you might expect to see if the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the churches, and upon the community generally, in your part of the world.
13. One of the main themes in Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians is that the Galatians had begun the Christian life through faith in Christ, but that after a while they had gone back to "works" and "the law" in order to progress in the Christian Life. They had been bewitched by the human desire to do something to generate righteousness.
Explain how this problem works in a person's life. What was Paul's answer to it?
14. In what way is it a serious sin (i.e. an example of pride) to want to control or manipulate the power of God? In what ways might you be tempted to try to make it serve your purposes, or make life easier for you? In what ways might Christians do this in the face of sickness or death? In what ways might this be done in evangelistic work? Perhaps it is a good thing we cannot control God's power!!!
15. Following from the last question, perhaps you have heard people say that God's power is available to us, and that we ought to use it. We only have ourselves to blame if we are defeated, or are powerless in the face of the world's problems.
Of course, there is truth in this statement. Explain what truth it contains, and explain how it is also deeply and seriously wrong.
STUDY TWO: "IF MY PEOPLE"
"If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
1. Read chapter six of Second Chronicles. What is the situation? What worship or praise does Solomon offer? What request does he make?
2. Read all of chapter seven. Look carefully at each statement God makes, one by one (verses 12 - 22). Bearing in mind the times in which Solomon and the Israelites then lived, what would each statement have meant to the Israelites at that time?
3. To what extent do you think verse 14 would have applied to spiritual blessings, as well as to material ones?
4. Hebrews 9:24 and 10:1 describe God's workings in the Old Testament with the people of Israel as a symbol or shadow of something greater that was to come. Discuss these two verses, and choose examples from the context which are examples of what it is spoken about in the verses from Hebrews 9 and 10..
5. In the Old Testament the people of God were the nation of Israel, and in particular, the remnant of people who actually had faith in God. In a sense, God dwelt amongst His people, firstly in the pillar of cloud and of fire, and then in the tabernacle. When Jerusalem became the centre of the nation and its religion, God dwelt in the Temple.
In the New Testament, the Church is the spiritual temple for God. We have a foretaste here, but the real fulfilment is yet to come. Read First Corinthians 3:10 - 17, and Revelation 21, and discuss how these passages reflect these thoughts.
6. Reflect upon the following list of parallels, and discuss one of them in some detail.
- The throne of David as an earthly kingdom versus the eternal Kingdom of Christ.
- The O. T. sacrifices versus Christ's sacrifice once for all.
- Adam's first human race versus a second Adam starting a new race. (1 Cor. 15.)
- Israel as the people of God versus a new people of God.
- The O. T. Messianic hopes versus the Christian's hope in Christ.
- Jewish national hopes versus the glorious inheritance of the saints.
- Israel as God's bride (Hosea 1.) versus the Church as Christ's bride,.
- The Old Covenant versus the New Covenant.
6. Look at the following seven verses. Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13 and 3:22. In each case a great promise is offered to those who overcome. What are these seven promises? What is meant by the expression "if you have ears to hear, then hear!"
7. What does it mean to be an overcomer? Read First John 5:4 and Revelation 12:11.
8. Overcoming is not by our struggle and effort. It is not of works. It is by faith in Christ who has already overcome. Then comes surrender, trust and obedience. Which verses in Revelation 2 and 3 show that Christ has already overcome?
9. Explain how Revelation 3:20 is the key verse in describing how we can overcome.
10. In what way does this verse also provide a key about revival?
11. Explain in your own words how the word "If" in Second Chronicles 7:14 affects us today.
N.B. There may need to be a break for prayer several times as you work through this study, so that you can ask God actually to do in your life what you have been discussing about. Each person should reflect upon any sins there are to confess, or barriers which need to be removed from the path of the Holy Spirit working more freely in your life. It is good for group members to pray for one another, as well, one by one.
12. As we begin to prepare for the next study, we will here look at some aspects of what it means to be called "God's people".
Read Proverbs 14:34 and Matthew 5:13 - 16. In what ways are salt and light pictures which are meant to describe God's people?
13. Discuss and meditate on the concept of "a royal priesthood" from First Timothy 2:1 - 7, First Peter 2:5 and 9, and Revelation 1:6.
STUDY THREE: "CALLED BY MY NAME"
"If my people, who are called by my name......"
1. Look again at Ezekiel 36:29, and at Revelation 21:3. Then revise a little of what was shared in the previous study about the words "I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Under what circumstances did God say this would apply?
2. Read John 1:1 - 14. Discuss what this passage tells us about being part of God's family, and having the name of the Tri-une God upon us. Discuss how the rite of baptism symbolises this.
3. Adoption. Read and discuss Romans 8:14 - 17, Galatians 4:2 - 7 and Ephesians 1:4 - 5. What do they tell us about being members of God's family?
4. Read Ephesians 4:1 - 7. Explain each of the unifying factors which are common to all Christians. One body; one Spirit; one hope; one Lord; one faith; one baptism and one God and Father who is supreme. Make sure that the baptism you speak of is actually common to all Christians, and is not simply common to those who do it your way.
5. This unity given by the Spirit is very important. We are told to "spare no effort" to make fast this unity with bonds of peace. This means that the mature Christians must always resist the temptations to schism, or to cause breaches in the body of Christ. Our efforts must always be in the other direction, away from schism. To "spare no effort" means that schism must only be accepted when it happens to us through circumstances beyond our control, and about which we can do nothing.
To this end, Paul says, "Be always humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, charitable." Write down in your notebook instances where you have failed in the points raised here.
Discuss what this means for personal relationships between Christians, and between churches.
Discuss the need for this unity to be expressed at every level of the Christian life. That is, between individuals, congregations in a locality, denominations, and nationally.
What does "The communion of the Holy Spirit." mean? (Second Corinthians 13:14.) Explain how, in this verse, "communion" includes other Christians. It is not intended to be an individualistic idea, although we do have personal links with God.
6. Read Ephesians 2:10 - 22. Christ is our Peace. Discuss how this insight casts light upon the unity of the body of Christ.
7. "If we sacrifice the unity of God's people through the Spirit in our search for (a.) purity of doctrine, or (b.) purity of assembly, or (c.) for greater life-giving power, we have begun to work in the flesh." Discuss this.
8. Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples to preach the gospel to every creature. Today, this task has devolved upon us all, who take the name of Jesus upon ourselves.
This is another great unifying factor that binds Christ's Church together.
Discuss how there are many aspects to the task of serving the world, in the name of Jesus. What part do we believe God has given to us, as individuals?
9. Discuss how a widespread outpouring of the Holy Spirit would have an enormous beneficial impact on steps toward carrying out Christ's great commission to preach the gospel to every creature.
10. Discuss how the name of God is dishonoured where people do not recognise His rightful place in their lives, in society, and in their view of the universe.
Discuss how the name of God is dishonoured when sin is committed.
Discuss how the name of God is dishonoured when we, as Christians, set a poor example of empowered, effective and holy living before the world. What happens when our supposed piety is unattractive? What happens when we are not Christ-like?
11. What change does it make to your understanding of revival, and of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, when we remember that God does it for His holy name's sake.
Read Ezekiel 36:20 - 24, and reflect upon its relevance to this matter.
STUDY FOUR: If My People.....HUMBLE THEMSELVES
1. What does the average person think humility is?
2. Discuss Andrew Murray's definition of humility.
"It is not something which we bring to God, or He bestows; it is simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all."
So, according to this view, being humble involves two aspects. Firstly, humility involves realising the sublime greatness and majesty of God, and the utter dependence we have, as creatures, upon Him for our existence, and for every aspect of our continued existence every minute. Our salvation through Christ also depends on God in that the plan of salvation would not exist apart from God, nor would our personal experience of it, from beginning to end.
Secondly, humility involves simply living out every aspect of our lives in the full realisation of this total dependence. Humility means living with reality.
3. Read Philippians 2:1 - 18. This is the famous passage which speaks of the humility of Jesus. Reality for Jesus meant a full obedience to every wish of the heavenly Father. That was His place as the eternal Son of the Father. His humility is the source of our salvation, and the example for us to follow. Discuss humility in this passage, and ways in which it sets an example for us.
4. Read John 13:1 - 17. Discuss the humility of Jesus shown in this passage. Think of some other passages in the gospels which show the humble obedience of Jesus, and discuss them.
5. Read Romans 12. Comment on the different ways in which humility is reflected in the advice Saint Paul gives us here.
6. Read Second Chronicles 34. Discuss how this passage shows a humbling before God (verses 1 -13). As you look through the chapter, which actions reflect this?
7. Discuss how Second Chronicles 34 also shows a humbling before the Word of God (verses 14 - 28). Look through the chapter again, and pick out instances which reflect this.
8. Second Chronicles 34 also shows a humbling before God's people (verses 29 - 33). Discuss this aspect of the chapter. After discussing questions 6, 7 and 8, make notes about aspects of our own lives about which we need to confess sin, and need to show a much greater degree of humility.
Andrew Murray said that none of the other Christian virtues, or fruit of the Spirit, can be practiced at all without some degree of humility being involved as a foundation. What do you think of that?
9. Pride is involved in any departure from a proper humility before God and man. There are many forms of pride. Many people in the more affluent countries get satisfaction from their possessions, and want more. Read First John 2:15 - 17, and comment on the pride which is spoken about here.
10. Many people also show intellectual pride, although few of us would admit it. It is always easier to recognise it in others. Intellectual pride shows up in any feeling of satisfaction we might have that we know a subject reasonably well, compared to what we think someone else knows. Human knowledge in total is microscopic compared with God's knowledge and wisdom. Write down the subjects about which we are more likely to imagine that we know more than others. Write down the subjects about which we are more likely to criticise others for their ignorance.
Think of the many times you have criticised others. These criticisms usually imply that you think you know better than the other person what they should have done. Write down as many of these occasions as you can think of, and confess your lack of humility and love in making these criticisms.
11. Spiritual pride is the worst form of pride. It is seen in every instance when we have tended to look down on someone else's lower degree of spiritual life. All that we have comes from God, so any Christian growth that we are proud of is not our own anyway. What do you have to confess here?
When you have criticised other Christians, you have often been guilty of criticising the Holy Spirit, and imagining that you knew better than He did. The other person has to answer to God for what he has done, not you. Write down all those occasions, also, and confess them as sins.
At other times, you have complained about things that have happened to you, or some difficulty through which God has led you. Grumbling against God was a very serious sin in the Bible. Write down those occasions, also, and confess them.
12. Read Matthew 16:24 - 28. What is self-denial? How essential is it in the Christian life? What application might this have to each of us today?
13. We have already mentioned the important statement in the creed which says that the Holy Spirit is the Lord.
After reading the following notes, discuss - How do we discover what we should do in obeying the Holy Spirit?
Protestant theology takes the view that this authority of the Spirit impacts upon us through the Scriptures. This is because the Spirit has inspired the books which have been included in the Bible.
It is the fact that God inspired the Scriptures which is important. So, do not try to defend any special theory about how God did this work of inspiration. There is no need for any such theories. They do far more harm than good.
But the Scriptures have no ability to impart life, on their own account. The Spirit must then take and use the Scriptures in our personal experiences. The Word has been spoken by God, but it has also to be planted in our hearts by the Spirit.
Because of the wide range of possibilities in human character, and the limitations of human understanding, problems easily arise about what people believe the Bible is saying to us.
(a.) Calvin equated the authority of the Spirit with the authority of the Scriptures as a whole. Any passage in the Bible had to be interpreted and understood in the light of all the other passages. The authority does not apply simply to the gospel message. It applies to all of the contents of the Bible. Luther, on the other hand, saw different parts of the Bible as variable in value. Some parts of the Bible perhaps ought not to have been included. So, a selection process could take place as to which parts of the contents would be taken more seriously than others.
For two hundred years, and even more, much rigidity existed in both camps. The followers of both Luther and Calvin tended to demand strict adherence to certain credal statements. Many other groups developed, as the years passed. The strictness and rigidity with which beliefs were stated, at times, prompted bitter disputes, persecution, imprisonments and warfare. Widespread tolerance within the body of Christ was not common. So, authority was being based in certain well-defined doctrinal positions, and, at times, these opinions were backed up with various forms of force. In these circumstances, unity could easily be lost, as well as freedom of conscience.
For example, some people have identified the authoritative voice of the Spirit with the system of doctrine expressed in one or other of the creedal statements or Confessions. This approach has appealed to many Christians. But, why should the doctrine be of more value than other parts of the contents of the Bible? Also, the doctrine in the Bible does not really look like a proper, single, logical system. So, placing this heavy emphasis on doctrine tends to put the authority of the Spirit on a narrow basis. Individuals will vary about details of interpretation and understanding of a doctrine, and even disagree over aspects of basic beliefs. This approach to the authority of the Spirit tends to degenerate into an authority, without life (vitality) or unity. As some people say - "orthodox, but dead" - plus often being arrogant and unloving into the bargain.
(b.) Schleiermacher tried to overcome this problem by identifying the authoritative voice of the Spirit with those parts of the message of the Bible which could be experienced personally. So, he looked for authority within vitality. This approach appealed to many, but it led to a much greater degree of subjectivity than had been the case before, and therefore was open to all kinds of strange and wonderful variations, without much of a way of knowing which was right or wrong. Liberal and Modernist types of theology have arisen out of it. The result: - no authority, no unity, and soon, no life.
Perhaps there will never be unity of opinion about the contents of the Bible, arising from the fact that human knowledge is so limited, anyway. On this earth, we will never know enough to get a proper agreement about what it says with authority.
(c.) But, the important point really is, that the authority of the Spirit has somehow to be spoken to us, and impressed upon us, by the Spirit, Himself, mainly as He speaks to us through the Scriptures. The vitality or life certainly has to come from the Spirit, and so must the unity. It must all be a result of His workings, and we must be careful not to rely too much upon human capacities to achieve it.
(d.) So, when we come to the Bible, we must firstly pray that the Spirit will teach us what He wants us to learn from our readings. The basic attitude should be one of prayer.
After that, we must be careful how we understand the passage. It is a mistake, loaded with many potential dangers, if we let our imagination run wild. We must ask carefully what the writer intended to say at that time, and what the first reader for whom the document was initially intended would have understood from what was written. That provides the basic meaning of any passage in the Bible.
After that, we can ask if there are any secondary meanings. For example, some of the passages which were seen in the New Testament as being Messianic prophecies had a different primary meaning when they were first written.
For the more studious, it can be enormously enlightening to study the history of how a Biblical passage or idea has been understood through the centuries. This can show that a view which may be currently popular is not nearly such a good idea as it may seem to us at the time.
But, the basic factor is to listen to the Spirit speaking to us through the passage itself, and to pray continually that God will save us from being mistaken, asking that we will learn another insight into God's great truth from His Word. What we learn will never be more than just one gleam from the brilliance of a many-sided diamond.
(e.) Through the many aspects of the workings of the Holy Spirit, He seeks to produce His own unity, vitality and authority in the Church.
We need great wisdom in learning to recognise the unity and the vitality of the Spirit's work. We need to respond positively to His authority, with proper meekness and humility, recognising our natural foolishness, blindness and limited knowledge, and being painfully aware of how many mistakes we make in hearing His voice..
14. What does the multiplication of denominations in modern Protestant and Pentecostal circles tell us about our ability to hear the Spirit?
15. Reflect again on Second Chronicles 7:14, and, in the light of what we have learned about humility, write down what you each must do to practice a better degree of humility. Ask the group to pray for you in doing these things. How can you carry out what is require in Second Chronicles 7:14?
STUDY FIVE: If My People... PRAY
At the end of the last study, it was mentioned that PRAYER was more fitting, more suitable, more effective, more appropriate, more important, than intellectual analysis in learning what the Spirit is saying to us.
This does not mean that we should not think. After all, the great command tells us to love God with all of our mind. It merely means that we should not make our thinking about the issue into the main thing that we rely upon in finding out the truth.
The famous verses from the old King James Version are so well known to many Christians. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
More recent translations express it in slightly different words. The New English Bible says, "Put all your trust in the Lord and do not rely on your own understanding. Think of him in all your ways, and he will smooth your path." (Proverbs 3:5 - 6.)
People who are most conscientious about obeying God, and hearing His voice instead of their own, need to pray continually that God will save us from making a mistake, and save us from relying too prematurely upon the present state of our limited wisdom.
Another promise from the Scriptures which is valuable for many believers is that if any of us lack wisdom we should ask God for it, and it will be given. (James 1:5.)
This attitude is very important, especially when we come to pray. This is because we do not know how to pray as we ought. In many instances, we do not know God's will about the matter which concerns us. So, we must approach God, freely admitting the limits of our knowledge, and not pretending that we know something, only to find that later events will prove we knew nothing at all.
Prayer Opens the Storehouses of Heaven
1. Read First Samuel, chapter seven. What circumstances lay behind the ministry of Samuel in this chapter? Describe the turning to the Lord. How would you describe the revival amongst the Israelites on this occasion? What role did prayer play in it?
2. Read Second Chronicles, chapter twenty. Describe in your own words the role of prayer in this story, and of relying upon the promises of God. What were the benefits achieved by people turning to God?
3. Read Second Chronicles 16:9. What was meant by saying that the Israelites should have had a heart perfect toward God, in this passage? What does this mean for us? How would God have shown himself strong on their behalf? What might this promise mean if related to praying for spiritual revival of the work of God, and amongst God's people?
4. Read Psalm 85. What promises about spiritual revival come from this passage?
5. Read Psalm 119:126. What might it mean as a prayer for revival?
6. Read Malachi 3:10. What does it mean for us to "bring all the tithes into the storehouse" in this passage? What application might it have for us? What does God promise as His response?
7. Chapters 14 and 15 of John's Gospel really need to be studied as an enlarged unit.
Pick out the promises being offered to encourage those who pray. Discuss them, one by one, and reflect upon their application to our normal prayer life. Then reflect upon their application to the matter of praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
8. John 16:7 - 11 describes what would happen when the Holy Spirit comes. These verses should govern much of the content of our prayers for revival? Is this what you have asked for when you prayed for revival? If not, what were you praying for?
9. Read John 17. Jesus prayed very specifically that His people should be one, as the Father and the Son are one. This unity is the will of God. How and when is it to be fulfilled? Philippians 2:2 is only one of a number of verses where Saint Paul urged the believers to be of one mind in following Christ. Look up the other instances, and discuss them. How important is this unity, as a matter for our prayers, and earnest efforts, that this unity should be reflected in all that we do?
10. In what way is Acts, chapter one, a pattern that we should follow in praying for revival? What traps are there for the unwary?
11. Read Acts, chapter two. Bearing in mind that there is often variation in details of events in different revivals, but that this chapter is the general guide as to what might be expected, what would you expect to see in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in your area? Which features, if any, would you not expect to see, and why?
12. Praise is always a good way to pray for revival, or for any other matter. What would you praise God about in praying for revival?
13. Read Psalm 78:1 - 8. What instructions does this passage give us about our response to the great acts of God?
14. In what ways is Psalm 24 a manual of instruction on praying for revival?
15. Read Isaiah 44:1 - 8 and Isaiah 58:8 - 12. In each case, reflect upon these verses as both promises of revival, and as instructions for our preparation.
Reflection Time. Are you any closer than you were before to knowing what God wants you to do about praying for revival?
STUDY SIX: If My People... SEEK MY FACE
The key thought behind this section of the verse relates to the degree of earnestness and intensity with which one prays to God, and the way one is willing to carry out all of the implications of a total dependence upon God. It is not a simple repetition of the call to prayer. It reflects the thought in Jeremiah 29:12 - 13. "You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart."
Another verse reflecting the same thought is seen in an older rendering of James 5:16. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Kaiser points out that "Seeking God involves: (1) voluntarily and wholeheartedly turning to God, (2) an inner attitude of devotion to serve Him, (3) a decision to turn away from all evil, (4) a decision to fulfil His will, and (5) a commitment to go to Him in fervent prayer. Furthermore, it is the chief means of averting evil (Amos 5:4, 14), the evidence of true humility (Zeph.2:3), and the basis for sensing the presence of God (Hosea 5:15). All true repentance, communion with God, service for Him, prayer to Him, and spiritual growth in Him revolves around truly seeking the Lord." (Kaiser. page 82.)
1. It is always a severe test of our desire to see God glorified through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in times and ways of His own choice, for us to ask ourselves whether we seek God for this blessing with all our heart. Do not simply answer "Yes" or "No" to this point. Let each person stop and think of the many times when we have known that we should seek God with all our heart for the manifest sense of His presence in our midst, but we have not sought God so thoroughly. Perhaps we have not sought God at all.
This should include prayer of humble confession of sin in respect to those times when we have not done what we should have done, followed by cleansing and asking for the help of Christ in our personal reformation at this point.
2. Kaiser refers to the prophet Amos, to show that seeking God should be the foundation of all our efforts to avert evil. (a.) Look up the reference in Amos, chapter five, and discuss its application to ourselves.
(b.) Here, we must think of the many times when, in our desire to avert sin in our personal lives, we have relied on other resources to achieve the end.
(c.) On many occasions we have groaned and complained about the developing evils in our society. However, this has not caused us to call out to God in the sense of seeking Him with all our heart for God's solution to these evils, as our initial and main response.
Groaning and protesting, and even getting involved in political or group action, is always easier than praying, and conveys the appearance of actually doing something. While "doing something" has its place, God has a far greater ability to be victorious over evil. Then our actions, at His leading, may be more useful. What do you think of that comment?
3. Read through, and summarise, the story of King Asa's seeking after God in Second Chronicles 14 through to 16.
(a.) Note especially the role of "seeking God" in the passage.
(b.) What benefits came as a result?
(c.) Note especially the features of spiritual revival in this story.
(d.) To what extent, and in what ways do the features "without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without God's law" characterise our own society, today?
4. Read Second Chronicles, chapter 20. Jehoshaphat was at times easily led by evil men into bad situations, and at other times his prayers seemed self-righteous and selfish, but he had a real love for God.
(a.) Discuss the role of special prayer in this story, and what happened as a result.
(b.) Verses 7 - 11 tell us about God's readiness to keep promises He has made. Discuss what these promises are, and how they were fulfilled. Share parts of your own personal experience relating to how God has fulfilled His promises for you. Then discuss what promises you believe God has made which relate to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit here.
(c.) Discuss the place of praise and public worship in verses 18 - 30.
5. Read Luke 18: 1 - 8. How important is perseverence in prayer in obtaining God's blessing? Illustrate cases of answered prayer you have heard about where perseverance was not necessary, and other cases where it was necessary. In what ways is a love of ease a great barrier in the life of intercessory prayer?
6. Read Psalm 42: 1 - 3. Discuss how this prayer is related to personal revival. Then discuss how such a thirst for God to be revealed amongst those who abuse the believer, saying "Where is your God?" is a way to seek God's face for revival through the society.
7. Hallesby likened prayer for revival to the business of mining. In between times of revival, the believer needs to pray for others to be convicted and converted just like a miner has to drill holes into a rock face, in order to place charges of dynamite. The subsequent revival is like setting off the explosions. Anyone can set off explosions, but, unless the hard work of drilling has been done first, the explosions will be little more than a fireworks display. "It takes trained workers to do the boring. Anyone can light a fuse."
(a.) Discuss how this picture helps to explain the superficiality of much evangelistic work.
(b.) Why do you think so little emphasis is placed upon such praying in times when spiritual life seems to be at a low ebb, and when the spirit of revival is not so evident in a country?
(c.) Mounting evangelistic campaigns, and having special meetings, can be exciting. Why do people like the exciting aspects of Christian work without making enough of the harder preparations?
8. Charles Finney placed much emphasis on what he called "the spirit of prayer." By this he meant that the Holy Spirit can lead a person to pray for a certain object by creating an intense yearning within the person's mind for that blessing.
The Spirit, of course, usually uses our own natural thought processes in this way, and creates this desire or burden over matters which greatly exercise our minds.
Believers can, however, quench the Spirit by not fostering thoughts and prayerful attitudes in which we seek blessings from God which He desires to give. We allow our minds to wander. We get side-tracked over many things of less importance which take up our time. We do not foster the concern which we already possess over matters relating to the Kingdom of God. What sins do we have to confess to God at this point?
It might be a good idea, at this point, to read the little chapter near the end of this booklet, on the Spirit of Prayer, if you have not done so already.
Read Romans 8: 26 - 28. Discuss how the Spirit helps our inabilities in prayer, as mentioned in these verses. Read also Isaiah 66: 7 - 8; Romans 9: 1 -3, and Romans 10:1. Some have thought that this work of the Spirit applies to, or includes, intercessory praying in unknown tongues, but do not be sidetracked by this issue, as the verse says clearly that the groanings cannot be uttered.
9. Read Isaiah 62: 6 - 7, and Ezekiel 22: 30 - 31. What pictures do these passages give of the work of prayer that we are called to do today?
10. Discuss these quotations from Hallesby.
(a.) "A neighbourhood or a community may, for instance, lack a good leader. Instead of complaining about the poor leaders we do have, we should pray for the gift of leadership which is needed." What sins of our's does this highlight? What can we do?
(b.) "In another community, they may have a capable leader, but lack local gifts of grace for the preaching of the Word. We should again consider the words of Jesus: "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." What does this quotation highlight for us?
(c.) "We complain often that we have so many spiritually unqualified ministers. It is comparatively easy to complain. What we really should complain about most is ourselves and our own slothfulness in prayer." The task of deciding who will become the ministers of the church is largely left to the young candidates themselves deciding that they will apply to be trained as ministers. Provided they can pass the exams, have reasonable personalities, and can speak in public, they will be accepted. All believers should have a say in the matter, however, ON THEIR KNEES. "Reflect for a moment, and you will see what it would mean to our church and our people. Hundreds, thousands of ministers, faithful ministers, believing ministers, ministers filled to overflowing with zeal for souls! Ministers sent by God, scattered throughout the whole country!
Some smile disdainfully, others sigh disconsolately at such a thought. Perhaps it would be best for us all to ponder anew the words of Jesus: "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." "Nothing shall be impossible unto you." Can you recognise your work in prayer here?
(d.) "We should on bended knee pray for the evangelists who go about and preach the Word of God. However, we neglect this work of prayer, too. The result is that we have evangelists who never should travel about and preach. They are not sent by God, but by men. At the same time we have farmers, fishermen, craftsmen and business men who have been chosen by God to be preachers, but whom He cannot send forth into the great harvest, because we do not pray forth these gifts of grace." What do you think of that?
11. Discuss the view that the best training in the life of prayer does not come from books so much as it comes from actually praying, much, and with an open Bible.
12. Discuss the view that there are no quick fixes in learning to pray, or in growing in the life of holiness. The only applicable university course is in the university of hard knocks.
Make some notes in your private note book of the main ways in which your prayer life is not adequate to fulfil the task of "Seeking God's Face" for revival.
Share some of these with the group, and spend some time praying for one another for the help of God's Spirit to overcome these problem areas of your spiritual life.
Ask for the Holy Spirit, who is also the Spirit of Grace and of Supplications - the Spirit of Prayer - to help you to seek God's face, as Second Chronicles 7:14 indicates.
As a group, discuss how you can, together, seek God's face for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all Christians in your area, and upon all aspects of the community.
Next time you meet, there should be a review of what progress, or failures, or both, you have each experienced in this area of your spiritual life.
Remember, again, that what you share, and what others share with you, must be treated with full confidentiality. You should pray for the other group members, with respect to the matters you have discussed, but you must not talk about these matters at all to anyone else outside the group.
STUDY SEVEN: If My People... TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS
As we approach this part of our study, use your personal notebook, and make a confidential list of any details about which the Holy Spirit convicts you, or about which you are uncertain.
1. Read Genesis 35: 1 - 15. What sins have been committed, and what part does repentance play, in this story?
2. Read Exodus 32 and 33.
(a.) Describe the sins of the Israelites, and the recent great works of God.
(b.) How does Moses purify the people?
(c.) In what way does the sacrifice in this story foreshadow the real cleansing throught the blood of Jesus?
(d.) The vision of God experienced by Moses gives a marvellous insight into the holiness of God, and the majesty of God. Discuss both of these features.
3. Read Isaiah 6. Discuss what it was which made Isaiah confess his sinfulness, and that of his people.
4. Read again the parts of the story of Asa which relate to awareness of the sinfulness of the Israelites, and their repentance. (2 Chronicles 14 - 16.) What are the features of this repentance? How much of a national experience was it, do you think?
5. Have another look at 2 Chronicles 20, and discuss the various aspects and degrees of repentance which were involved in this story.
6. Psalm 51 is often called the penitential psalm. Read the psalm. How deep-seated is sin in the character of the psalm-writer? Can you recognise this deep-seated nature of sin in your own life? What pictures of cleansing are used here? What things will he do as an expression of appreciation at being forgiven?
7. Read Jeremiah 17: 9 - 10. What factors make the heart or character of people so bad as the prophet says here? Some of these features are mentioned in the chapter, but there are many others. What are some of them?
8. Jeremiah 2:13 points to two sins of the Israelites just before so many of them went into the Captivity in Babylon. Secular Western society of our own day commits both of these sins on a massive scale. Naturally, this means that the individuals within this society are also guilty of these sins.
(a.) Discuss ways in which this is true.
(b.) You and I are both part of this society, along with many other Christians. We live according to this pattern in many ways, even if we may not really want to. Try to reflect upon some of the ways that this society forces us into its mould, and makes us live according to its ungodly pattern. Discuss how it might be possible to turn from these sins.
9. Read Daniel 9. This is a prayer of confession of the past sins of the nation, which had led to the judgments of God, and the Captivity. Daniel prayed this prayer because he saw that the time had come, according to the prophecy in Jeremiah, that God would restore the fortunes of Jerusalem.
After reading and discussing the details of this prayer, each member of the group shouold compose a similar prayer, but relating to your own present-day society.
After you have each done this, share what you have written, and assemble from the contributions of the group a longer and more substantial prayer of confession about your society. Write it, as Daniel did, as your own confession, as part of the society.
You can write this prayer, not in the light of Jeremiah's prophecy, but in the light of the promises of God, in Second Chronicles 7:14.
10. Read the following parts of the Book of Joel, and discuss the questions.
- The Priests. Joel 1:13 - 14. What was the repentance related to?
- The People. Joel 2: 16 - 17. What features are involved here, and why?
- Joel 2: 21 - 23. God must be trusted to do the great things. Today, we rely much more on human effort, planning and organisation, education, and other such resources.
- Joel 2: 28 - 29. The Spirit's work is essential.
11. Read the following parts of Amos, and comment on the points listed here.
- Amos 2. Here is a list of notable sins. What are they?
- Amos 4. The Israelites refused to repent. How often were they called to repent?
- Amos 5. Prosperity and the treatment of the poor.
- A call to repentance followed in Amos 5: 14 - 15. What would happen if it was not heeded?
12. The story of Jonah gives us four reasons why revival was postponed. Discuss how these reasons applied in Jonah's day, and how they apply to us.
- Disobediance to God postpones revival.
- Unconfessed sin hinders revival.
- Failure to make restitution keeps churches from seeing revival.
- An unforgiving spirit stands in the way.
13. Read Matthew, chapter 7. This is a famous part of the sermon on the mount. The whole of this sermon (chapters 5 - 7) provide many tests for us, about which repentance may be necessary.
- Note down as many sins as you can recognise listed in chapter seven.
- How serious a problem in the modern world of today is the possibility of being rejected at the end, after saying "Lord, Lord", and performing miracles, and casting out demons in His name? How might this happen to you?
14. Read First Corinthians 3: 1 - 3. Discuss the marks of a carnal Christian. These marks are protracted spiritual infancy, jealousy, strife and factions, and acting like ordinary unsaved people. What repentance do you need to make here?
15. Read Galatians 5: 19 - 23, and Mark 7:21.
- Discuss the various sins on this list as an expression of what arises from the heart and character of people.
- Read also John 15: 1 - 17, and discuss how the fruit of the Spirit arises within us. Make lists in your notebook of the times when you ought to have shown one or other of the fruit of the Spirit, but did not. Have this list ready for the reflection time.
16. Read Ephesians 4: 25 - 32, and Colossians 3: 5 - 9. Discuss and compare these two lists, and note any sins you have to confess.
17. Then read Colossians 3 again, this time from verse one to verse seventeen, listing the qualities of the new man in Christ. Make notes about the positive qualities that you need to pray that God will develop into your personality.
(a.) This is the time to look at your note book, and view it as a prayer list. In silent prayer, confess to God everything that you have noted as matters needing to be confessed to God. Do not do it all in one simple sentence, but one item at a time.
(b.) Confess to the group members any matters which you sense should be confessed in that way. James 5:16 shows us that there can be much benefit in confessing sins more widely than just to God alone. But a sin should be confessed to the group especially if it has affected the group. If the sin is private, it may only need to be confessed to God. If some other person is involved in the sin, then the confession may need to be made to that person, as well.
(c.) Share with the group some of the matters about which you are uncertain. See if they can help you to resolve the problem.
(d.) Remember, again, that everything shared in the group is strictly confidential. If you have gossipped to anyone else about a matter confidential to the group, then you have a serious sin to confess to the group.
(e.) Group members should pray for each other - prayers for forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of Christ, and for the help of the Spirit to produce His fruit.
(f.) Each week, group members should report on what progress is being made in overcoming the sins mentioned, with the help of Christ. The group should be thankful to God for progress, and should pray repeatedly over failures.
STUDY EIGHT: THEN WILL I HEAR FROM HEAVEN
This section of the verse marks the beginning of the promise from God. The first part of the verse seems to be very dark and threatening. But, without the first part, there cannot be the second part.
Imagine a patient with a nasty boil who goes to see a surgeon. It is the surgeon's task to clean out the infection, and make the patient better. The whole area around the site of the operation has to be cleaned up first, and a number of other preparations have to be made. Then it is possible for the surgeon to lance the boil, and to get rid of the mass of pus in the infected part of the patient's body. That is the way to health.
In the spiritual world it is the same. When there is need of revival in the church, or when the great convicting powers of the Holy Spirit are needed abroad in the community in order to bring people to Christ, a healing process has to take place first in the lives of God's people through whom God wishes to bring this blessing.
Those of you who have studied this book, so far, are people whom God may choose to use in revival. If your heart-searching has been sincere up to this point, it is likely that a number of blessings from God have already come to you. Remember there is nothing automatic about it. God deals with us all differently, and in His own sovereign way.
Our experience of God is a growing personal relationship. It is NOT like putting a coin in a machine, and pressing a button.
1. God's promises to His people are generous commitments on God's part. God is the One Who knows what He has in mind for us. It is not our place to choose which of God's promises we would like to see fulfilled for us. Nor is it our place to decide what those promises mean, or how and when they will be fulfilled.
God will choose which promises He wants us to experience the blessings of, at this point in our experience of Him. He will also choose what these promises mean, and how and when they will be fulfilled. So, we must listen carefully to God, and continually ask Him to give us wisdom, and save us from being mistaken about what He is promising us. We are so apt to come to wrong conclusions, and jump ahead of God, that we are always in need of His help, in this way.
Discuss in your group what makes you think that God is leading you to have an especial interest in THIS promise, from Second Chronicles 7:14, and that He will soon fulfil His word. Be very candid and honest about the degree of certainty you have in this matter. Overstating the grounds of your expectations is not being honest.
2. There are many statements in the Bible showing that God always keeps His Word. Share some of these statements from the Bible, and discuss what you think they mean.
3. Read Mark 11: 12 - 25. This is the famous passage upon which many people base their ideas about "the prayer of faith", although there are other passages which are easier and more helpful to use.
The reason why this passage has become the main battleground on this subject is because Charles Finney discusses this passage in his treatment of the prayer of faith in his "Lectures on Revivals", published many years ago now.
Finney said that it does not make sense to expect people to believe that they are going to receive some particular thing when they pray for it, unless they have a good reason to expect their prayers to be answered exactly as they asked. If people are honest, they normally do not have such a reason. So the command of Jesus, when we ask, to believe that we will receive exactly what we ask for, seems strange, and very difficult to put into practice.
Finney said that we must bear in mind the role played by the Holy Spirit in leading us, and teaching us what we ought to pray for. Then we can, at times, know in advance what God wishes to give to us, and then we can expect to have our prayers answered in exactly the way that we ask. Finney sets out, in his "Lectures", some of the ways in which we can, at times, recognise the Spirit's leading in this regard, although it must be added that we also have many other experiences which do not fit into this pattern.
The greatest difficulty in recent years, however, has often been in a different direction. Many times people have felt an urge, or had an impression, of some sort, or have decided that they liked the look of some verse in the Bible, and have concluded that the Spirit was leading them by those means to pray for some thing in particular that they wanted. Quite a few such people have then made public statements in advance about what they believed God was going to do. They have prophesied about coming revivals, have stopped taking medicines, and have thrown away their crutches, only to find that things did not turn out as they expected. In the end, their prayers were not answered in the way they had convinced themselves the answers would come. I have even known of instances where people have been convinced that a deceased loved one would rise from the dead on the third day, and have put off funeral arrangements, on the basis of this kind of prayer, only to find, in the end, that no resurrection took place.
This kind of thing is an abuse of Scriptural truth. It is rather like the kind of thing you expect from the cults who predict the date of the end of the world.
There are ways in which the Spirit can teach us what to pray for, according to the will of God. In that way, Mark 11 has come to have a blessed meaning for many people. But, many people are also prone to make mistakes, and to believe that their own ideas and feelings have come from God. So, great care needs to be taken in all these matters, and we continually need God's wisdom, so that we do not dishonour Him by our mistakes. Similarly, we can destroy people's faith in God. They can see our foolish behaviour, and easily conclude that the existence of a God who keeps His promises is an illusion.
Discuss how this passage from Mark 11 relates to our praying for revival.
Read also First John 5: 14 - 15, and discuss its application to this matter.
4. The phrase "I will hear from heaven" emphasises for us that the answer is going to come from God, and is not something within the range of human possibilities. This is a fact we noted in a previous chapter, and is true despite the fact that God may use some of our own efforts to bring about the answer that we seek.
One of the most obvious features in the history of modern revivals is the evolution which has taken place over this matter, and it is one of the most glaring reasons why major revivals have been missing from so many of the mainline Protestant denominations in the "advanced" Western countries for most of the Twentieth Century.
(a.) From the time of the Moravian revival in 1727 until about 1835, when most of the Protestant denominations became aware of their loss of spiritual power, their first recourse was to make special times of prayer for a new effusion of the Spirit of God.
As Dr J. Edwin Orr has pointed out, in his extensive historical writings about these matters, the major great awakenings during this period were all preceded by major, trans-denominational calls to prayer. Around 1790, this effort was called the "concert of prayer", and nearly all of the denominations took part in it. Their official bodies made the calls, and many of the people took part in the prayer meetings.
Soon, God answered their prayers. Revivals began to appear in many places, and this continued for some years. Church growth, evangelism, social work and missionary enterprise all received a great boost as a result.
(b.) Since about 1860, the emphasis changed, although the seeds of it had been visible earlier. The balance changed, so that organisation of special outreach efforts was the major concern, and prayer became a servant of these major enterprises.
This produced a situation where mass evangelism was king, although people in many places still called it "having revival meetings". The actual amount of real revival in these situations varied a good deal, and the increasing tendency was that the degree of real revival declined, until there was none left. The prayer aspect served the purpose of trying to make the evangelistic outreach as successsful as possible. Some of the people would still pray that real revival would come through the evangelistic effort, but the desire for revival was clearly a secondary concern. Dependence upon God, and letting God be God, were also secondary concerns.
(c.) Another aspect of the modern evolution of these things has been that, now, in the last part of the Twentieth Century, we are very keen to educate well, and to develop people who can be resource persons for others. We are also very keen to organise well. These aspects are very good, of course, as far as they go. These factors, however, have in fact become the things we rely upon most. We rely upon God hardly at all. This is clearly seen in the fact that the prayer aspect has now almost totally disappeared out of the agenda of the average church, or plays such a minor role, that it is now virtually irrelevant. Examine the minute books of any church business meeting, at any level, from parish to synod, and you will see a cursory use of prayer in the church's work, demonstrating that the prayer aspect no longer really matters.
(d.) The key to revival, on the other hand, is prayer, first, second and third. The other factors come fourth, fifth and sixth. This is because in revival God is God. Our place of true humility has to be practiced, and this is displayed in the paramount position which the prayer meeting plays in such work. Revival comes from God, Who hears in heaven. There is no other source.
Read Philippians 4: 6 - 7. How could this principle of "everything in prayer" be put into practice in the various spiritual activities you are involved in?
5. (a.) Another aspect in this same area of thought is seen in Saint Paul's prayer, recorded in Ephesians 1: 15 - 23. The power which produces revival, and which gives spiritual life to any Christian, is the same power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
It is the power of the Kingdom of God. It is the power of the world to come. It is the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the power of Almighty God, for Whom nothing is difficult.
(b.) Also we need to remember Who has authority in all these matters. It is Jesus Christ the Lord. Matthew 28:18 tells us that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Therefore we are to go and preach the gospel to every creature.
Discuss the ways in which these two factors relate to the work of revival, and of spreading the gospel around the world.
6. Read Ezekiel 36: 22 - 38, and Ephesians 3. These passages tell us a basic motive that God has in doing things. Especially this applies to outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Discuss how this motive needs to guide and control our praying, and our whole outlook on this subject.
7. Features of God's character which undergird His kindness in giving the Holy Spirit to do this work are God's goodness, and God's graciousness to undeserving sinners.
A. W. Tozer describes God's goodness as "that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men." He describes God's grace as "the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving." Refer to Psalm 73:1, Titus 3: 3 - 8 and John 1: 10 - 18. Add other relevant verses.
Discuss how these two features of God's character are important in the foundation for our faith that God will pour out His Spirit upon us, in answer to our prayers.
(a.) Let the group have a time of revision, and see how the members are getting on as a result of the repentance time in the last few studies. Pray about sins which have been newly recognised since the last meeting. Pray also about points where members need more strength to overcome problems, in the name of Jesus.
(b.) Have a prayer time of praise, for God's great power and total ultimate authority.
Remember also to celebrate His grace and goodness.
STUDY NINE: I WILL FORGIVE THEIR SINS
These are the real words of the Gospel. Here is the grace of the Lord toward people who did not deserve to be treated kindly.
This message of forgiveness went with the people of Israel right through the Old Testament times, until the Lord told the prophet Jeremiah not to pray for the people because judgment was certainly coming. The time for grace was past. Again and again various prophets called the people back to God. At times, there were revivals of vital religion, but the decline continued overall. At last, the day of grace was over, but, even then there was a gracious promise of good days in the distant future.
In the New Covenant, which has been sealed with the blood of Jesus, there are even richer promises. There are everlasting, bottomless supplies of grace in Jesus, far richer than any sinner needs, and sufficient for everyone together.
1. Discuss what is said about cleansing in Psalm 32, Psalm 51, Isaiah 1: 17 - 18, and First John 1:7 - 10. On what basis is forgiveness possible in the New Testament?
2. In the Old Testament there were certain sins which were not catered for in the ceremonial rituals of forgiveness and cleansing. What were some of these? What is the case in the New Testament?
3. When the New Testament says that salvation is "not of works", and "not by keeping the law", we have to be very careful that we do not add anything that we do to what Christ has already done for us. Yet it is necessary for us to rely upon Christ's sacrifice. Discuss how, in one way, our faith is necessary, ("without faith it is impossible to please God") yet, in another way, our faith is not necessary at all. Indeed, any contribution by us is a hindrance to our salvation. (It is all of grace. Christ has done it all. All to Him we owe.)
4. The New Testament holds before us a life-style in which we are cleansed in the present tense, and are to be presented perfect in Christ before God's heavenly throne.
But the first installment of this heavenly perfection is to be experienced here on earth. We are called to be holy, because God is holy. God works sanctification in us, through daily, weekly and monthly progressive experiences, and sometimes through crisis experiences of various kinds. Share some of your recent personal experiences wherein God has been seeking to purify your life from sin.
5. Holiness in the Christian life, as a present experience, operates in three basic ways which can be listed under three words - (a.) positional (position), (b.) critical (crisis) and (c.) progressive (steady growth).
(a.) When a person becomes a Christian, they are set apart as belonging to Christ. They are "in Christ Jesus", as the New Testament describes so many times. See, for example, Second Corinthians 5:17. Locate some of the times when the phrase "in Christ Jesus" is used in the epistles, and discuss what is meant in each case.
(b.) At times, the Holy Spirit can bring us into a crisis experience. This crisis may have as its "crunch point" one of many different possible issues. In some cases, new power for service is wanted, or we have a desire for a more general revival. But, some of these relate to our growth in holiness. For example, the day of Pentecost experience in Acts 2 was, in part, a baptism experience giving the disciples a great new courage to witness boldly for Christ. In that way it was a crisis leading to growth in holiness.
Share with the group a crisis experience in your growth in holiness, if you can.
The old Methodist doctrine of "entire sanctification" was based in this kind of experience, and emphasised it greatly. It was also a feature of "second blessing" teaching throughout the more recent so-called "Holiness" movement, a hundred years ago.
(c.) Steady growth in holiness is the path before us all. Mark Peter's words. "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Second Peter 3:18.)
6. Read Galatians 5:22.
(a.) Let each person in the group share with the person next to them which of the fruit of the Spirit they see to be most evident in that other person's life, and then thank God for the person, and the fruit.
(b.) Choose one of the fruit of the Spirit, and explain to the group something about the life of the Christian who best exemplifies that fruit, so far as you know. Make sure that when you pray you do not allow yourself to think about any negative qualities in the person you have in mind.
7. Our initial experience of salvation is by faith in Christ. It is a matter of relying upon what Christ has done for us through His death on the cross. In a similar way, every new step in the Christian life must be taken through faith in Christ, and not by relying upon our efforts or will-power. Surrender everything to Christ. Determine to obey Him fully, and then let Him produce the fruit in your life.
Read John 15: 1 - 17, and then discuss the following quotation from Andrew Murray.
"Have you ever noticed the difference in the Christian life between work and fruit? A machine can do work: only life can bear fruit. A law can compel work: only love can spontaneously bring forth fruit. Work implies effort and labour: the essential idea of fruit is that it is the silent natural restful produce of our inner life. The gardener may labour to give his apple tree the digging and manuring, the watering and the pruning it needs; he can do nothing to produce the apple: the tree bears its own fruit."
Fruit for God is not produced so much by law or conscience, dilligence or zeal, feeling or enthusiasm, planning, education or organisation. Yet God uses all these things. These things tend to produce human effort and fleshly fruit. The fruit that God seeks is the natural, restful result which flows from the Spirit's operation within us.
8. Read through First Coringthians 13, especially verses one through to seven.
(a.) Discuss the very basic importance of Christian love, as emphasised for us in verses one to three. Discuss the illustrations and pictures Paul uses in these verses to impress us with the point he wishes to make about love.
(b.) Take each phrase of verses four to seven. Deal thoroughly with one phrase at a time, before going on to the next one. In each case:-
- Discuss how God has treated you in love, in the way described;
- Discuss what obeying that phrase would mean in your personal life;
- Confess your many failures;
- Thank God for His cleansing;
- Pray for yourself, and for each other, for God to make each of you into glowing examples of love, in the way described in that phrase.
9. Read Matthew 7: 1 - 5, Ephesians 4: 2 - 3, and Philippians 2: 2 - 3.
Discuss what these verses mean, and their combined application to us.
- Share with the group some of your recent failures.
- Confess directly and personally to any members of the group if you have ever acted toward any of them against the meaning of these verses. This should be done publicly, in the presence of the rest of the group.
- Make a full confess to God of all examples of your sinful deeds, privately.
- Thank God for His cleansing, and patience with you.
- Pray for yourself, and for each other, so that you may each become distinct examples of Christian meekness and humility, and of gentleness, unity of mind and purpose, and self-control, in the way you speak about others.
- Pray that this same attitude will govern all your actions in all your daily actions, and especially in all you do in seeking to bring others to Christ.
10. Have a brief review of what transpired in the last study. What has happened since in your progress in holiness? Where have you failed? Pray for each other over each of these points. Remember, again, that what you hear shared in the group is strictly confidential. If you have gossipped, or spoken out of turn, about anything from previous meetings, confessit, and ask forgiveness from the group.
11. When you meet next time, be ready to report on any progress, or failures, in any of the matters you have discussed and shared from questions eight and nine.
STUDY TEN: ...AND HEAL THEIR LAND
In Old Testament times, all of life was seen as religious in character. Consequently, material prosperity as well as quality spiritual devotion and obedience were all seen as the result of God's blessing. Deficiencies in any of these areas would be seen as a sign of God's displeasure. Examples of this are given in the parts of Second Chronicles, chapter seven, which surround verse fourteen.
In our secular society, today, we do not normally look upon floods and fires, and other natural disasters, as evidence of Divine displeasure, but as normal, natural aspects of life which do not imply anything about God's judgment.
1. Discuss the examples of material blessing that are mentioned in 2 Chronicles 7, which flow from the promise in verse fourteen. Find other similar promises from other parts of the Old Testament, and discuss them.
2. Look through the accounts of revivals in the Old Testament which we have looked at already in previous studies. Pick out the material blessings which flowed from the revival. What were the main spiritual blessings, renewing relationship with God, in each case?
3. Our "western" societies today are secular, partly to cater for the harmonious existence within the society of a wide variety of religious opinions, and partly because the track record of religious groups having political power is not good. Discuss these advantages which exist because society is secular, and any others you can think of..
On the other hand, secularism is philosophically bankrupt. It does not support any serious ethical theories. Also, no basic (religious) principles for living can be taught in a secular system of education. So, the world-view which tends to prevail in a secular society is like a tree with no roots.
Historically, democracy exists because of the belief that all people are equal before God. This reason cannot be upheld in a secular society. Secular democracy exists, therefore, only because people agree that it should, and for no deeper reason. Discuss these deep and serious disadvantages which flow from secularism, and others that you can think of.
To what extent do you think society should be religious?
4. To what extent can "new birth" experiences in many people transform society? What effects can widespread practice of the fruit of the Spirit have in a society?
5. Historically, the great awakenings and revivals have produced many social and moral reformations. Most Protestant missionary work has started, and gained its main effectiveness from revivals, in the sending countries, and in the mission fields. Discuss how missionary work might be affected if another great revival prevailed today.
6. (a.) Make a list of the aspects in your community which need to be transformed, in a manner which might be achieved through a powerful evangelical revival.
For example, the list might include, greater spiritual maturity and zeal amongst the Christians; for God to raise up talented evangelists; Christian influences in government, party politics, the practice of the law, law enforcement, in the teaching profession, in the education syllabi, in academic circles, scientific research, medical practice, national economics, business practice, art and literature, proper care for the aged, care of the poor and hungry, concern for the needs of other less privileged nations, care for refugees, international relations, the military machine, the arms industry, strength in family life, trade unionism, respect for Christian human rights, food producton and management, concern for the environment. Truthfulness, honesty, godliness and love are needed everywhere.
(b.) Each subject list above, and many others not listed here, can be developed substantially, and into many details.
For example, a list dealing with greater spiritual maturity and effectiveness, we might enlarge the list to include matters such as praying for - widespread appearance of awe at the presence of God; deep awareness of God's holiness causing people to tremble because of their sins, contrition and deep conviction of sin; widespread repentance and restitution; a great thirst for God and His Word; widespread recognition of the authority of the Bible; a new depth of praise for God; vast numbers of conversions; thorough regeneration; raising up many empowered pastors; many gifted evangelists; the spread of the gospel to every tribe and language; raising up saintly Christians in every area of society; the widespread influence of Christian world-views.
(c.) Turn these lists into a prayer list. The group should spend time using several of these lists. Another possibility which ought to be seriously considered is to set aside special times for prayer and intercession, using many of the lists as prayer lists.
7. Read again First Timothy 2: 1 - 7. Read also Matthew 7: 7 - 11.
Discuss how these verses encourage us to bring all the needs of our world before God, and to embark upon projects in intercession such as those referred to above.
8. Discuss the width of the great commission in Matthew 28: 18 - 20. We are to win people everywhere for Christ, baptise them, and teach all people everywhere all of the things which Christ has taught to us. This provides us with a magnificent goal to work toward, regardless of how much might have been achieved, so far.
9. Review various aspects of the practice of holiness arising from previous studies where progress needs to be reported, and thanks given, or where failures need to be confessed, and prayed about encouragingly.
The Spirit of Prayer
The following stories provide instances of the spirit of prayer undergirding a revival movement and evangelistic effort. No doubt an enormous number of such instances could be provided, but these instances have become classic stories in the annals of revival history in modern times.
Following from comments made in study six, it should be mentioned again that some Pentecostal or Charismatic friends will take the view that the spirit of prayer, as described in these stories, should best be seen as examples of praying in tongues.
It is true that the Holy Spirit might use praying in tongues as an avenue of expression for the burden involved in this spirit of prayer, but in evangelical experience this is not normally the case.
If a person is in the habit of praying in tongues, and uses that as an avenue of expressing concern, great care needs to be taken that one is not being misled in some way. The only test of whether a spirit of prayer comes from the Spirit of God resides in the answer to the prayer which ultimately follows. A person praying in tongues might not really know what he or she is praying about, or, indeed, if they are praying at all. What they are doing may be purely psychological, or may be prompted by evil powers.
It is essential that the person through whom the Spirit is praying, with groanings which cannot be uttered, should know what it is that the praying is about, and what would constitute an answer to their prayers. For this reason, praying in one's own language, as much as possible, should be recommended. In this way a test of the spirits is possible. The spirit of prayer also serves as a guide whereby we can know the will of God, because the Spirit prays according to God's will.
It should also be clearly understood that the people involved in these stories did not experience speaking or praying in tongues, and would energetically have rejected any such thought.
(a.) The first example is taken, in this present form, from R. A. Torrey's little classic "How to Pray." The original sources of the information, however, are autobiographies by Robert Blair and John Livingstone, and Andrew Stewart's eye-witness account in "The History of the Church in Ireland Since the Scots were Naturalised." The movement became known as the Six-Mile-Water revival, from the part of Ireland where it originated.
"In the early part of the seventeenth century there was a great religious awakening in Ulster, Ireland. The lands of the rebel chiefs which had been forfeited to the British crown, were settled up by a class of colonists who for the most part were governed by a spirit of wild adventure. Real piety was rare. Seven ministers, five from Scotland and two from England, settled in that country, the earliest arrivals being in 1613. Of one of these ministers named Blair it is recorded by a contemporary, "He spent many days and nights in prayer, alone and with others, and was vouchsafed great intimacy with God." Mr. James Glendenning, a man of very meager natural gifts, was a man similarly minded as regards prayer. The work began under this man Glendenning. The historian of the time says, "He was a man who never would have been chosen by a wise assembly of ministers, nor sent to begin a reformation in this land. Yet this was the Lord's choice to begin with him the admirable work of God which I mention on purpose that all may see how the glory is only the Lord's in making a holy nation in this profane land, and that it was 'not by might, nor by power, nor by man's wisdom, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.' In his preaching at Oldstone, multitudes of hearers felt in great anxiety and terror of conscience. They looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned, and cried out, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?' They were stricken into a swoon by the power of His Word. A dozen in one day were carried out of doors as dead. These were not women, but some of the boldest spirits in the neighbourhood; 'some who had formerly feared not with their swords to put a whole market town into a fray.' Concerning one of them, the historian writes, 'I have heard one of them, then a mighty strong man, now a mighty Christian, say that his end in coming into church was to consult with his companions how to work some mischief.'
This work spread throughout the whole country. By the year 1626 a monthly concert of prayer was held in Antrim. The work spread beyond the bounds of Down and Antrim to the churches of the neighbouring counties. So great became the religious interest that Christians would come thirty or forty miles to the communions, and continue from the time they came (probably several days) till they returned without wearying or making use of sleep. Many of them neither ate nor drank, and yet some of them professed that they went away most fresh and vigorous, their souls so filled with the sense of God.'" This revival changed the whole character of northern Ireland.
(b.) Charles G. Finney's "Autobiography", his "Lectures on Revivals of Religion", and several other minor writings, provide many great examples of the spirit of prayer, which undergirded the early revivals in western New York state in the 1820's.
Perhaps the most colourful personality he speaks of was "father" Daniel Nash, who appears in Finney's early story on several occasions. More information about Nash appears in the Rosell and Dupuis edition of Finney's Memoirs. One footnote says:- "Nash's remarkable exploits in prayer became legendary, and he had many imitators, especially among the young converts. But he was also strongly condemned as being fanatical. He was largely responsible for popularizing the "Prayer of Faith," which became an essential feature of the New Measures revivals." (page 72.)
"At this place (Le Ray) I again saw father Nash, the man who prayed with his eyes open at the meeting of presbytery when I was licensed. After he was there at presbytery he was taken with inflamed eyes, and for several weeks he was shut up in a dark room. He could neither read nor write, and gave himself almost entirely to prayer, as I learned. He had a terrible overhauling in his whole Christian experience; and as soon as he was able to see with a double black veil before his face, he sallied forth to labour for souls. When he came to Evans' Mills he was full of the power of prayer. He was another man altogether from what he had been at any former period of his Christian life. I found that he had "a praying list", as he called it, of the names of persons whom he made subjects of prayer, and sometimes many times a day. And praying with him, and hearing him pray in meeting, I found that his gift of prayer was wonderful, and his faith almost miraculous. There was a man by the name of Dresser, who kept a low tavern in a corner of the village, whose house was the resort of all the opposers of the revival. The bar-room was a place of blasphemy; and he was himself a most profane, ungodly, abusive man. He went railing about the streets respecting the revival, and would take particular pains to swear and blaspheme if he saw a Christian, for the sake of hurting his feelings. One of the young converts lived almost across the way from him; and he told me that he meant to sell and move out of that neighbourhood, because every time he was out of doors and Dresser saw him, he would come out and swear, and curse, and say everything he could to wound his feelings. He had not, I think, been to any of our meetings. Of course, he was ignorant of the great truths of religion, and despised the whole Christian enterprize. Father Nash heard us speak of this Mr. Dresser as "a hard case;" and immediately put his name upon his praying list. He remained in town a day or two, and went on his way; having a view to another field of labour. Not many days subsequent to this, as we were holding an evening meeting with a very crowded house, who should come in but this notorious Dresser? His entrance created a considerable movement and excitement in the congregation. People feared that he had come in to make a disturbance. The fear and abhorrence of him had become very general among Christians, I believe; so that when he came in some of the people got up and retired. I knew his countenance, and kept my eye upon him. I very soon became satisfied that he had not come in to oppose, and that he was in great anguish of mind. He sat and writhed upon his seat, and was very uneasy. He soon arose, tremblingly - for he trembled from head to foot - asked if he might say a few words. I told him that he might. He then proceeded to make one of the most heart-broken confessions that I almost ever heard. His confession seemed to cover the whole ground, - of his treatment of God, and of his treatment of Christians, and of the revival, and of everything good. This thoroughly broke up the fallow ground in many hearts. It was the most powerful means that could have been used, just then, to give an impetus to the work. Dresser soon came out and professed a hope, abolished all the revelry and profanity of his bar-room; and from that time, as long as I stayed there, and I know not how much longer, they held a prayer meeting in his bar-room every night."
(c.) A widespread revival movement commenced in Rochester, in western New York state, in the autumn of 1830, through Finney's ministry, and spread to many places, far and near. Tens of thousands of conversions resulted. Since 1799, scores of revivals had taken place throughout the eastern and southern U.S.A. Central and western New York and Vermont had seen many localised outbreaks. This Rochester revival helped to provide a culmination to them all. (It was for some years after 1830 that unwise practices were adopted by some evangelists, arrogance and extreme criticism tended to replace love and graciousness, doctrinal content in evangelism became shallow, enthusiasm tended to get out of hand, and several cults arose, in this area, producing a backlash in many against prolonged evangelistic campaigns. Western New York became known as the "Burned-over District.")
"I have not said much as yet of the spirit of prayer that prevailed in this revival, which I must not omit to mention. When I was on my way to Rochester, as we passed through a village about thirty miles east of Rochester, a brother minister whom I knew seeing me on board the canal boat, jumped on to have a little conversation with me, intending to ride but a little way and jump off and return. He however became so interested in conversation, and upon finding where I was going he made up his mind to keep on and go with me to Rochester; and he did so. He almost immediately fell under great conviction, and the work was very deep with him. We had been there but a few days when this minister became so convicted that he could not help weeping aloud at one time as he passed along the street. The Lord gave him a powerful spirit of prayer, and his heart was broken. As he and I prayed much together, I was struck by his faith in regard to what the Lord was going to do there. I recollect he would say, "Lord, I do not know how it is, but I seem to know that thou art going to do a great work in this city." The Spirit of prayer was poured out powerfully, so much so that some persons stayed away from the public services to pray, being unable to restrain their feelings under preaching.
And here I must introduce the name of a man, whom I shall have occasion to mention frequently, Mr. Abel Clary. He was the son of a very excellent man, and an elder of the church where I was converted. He was converted in the same revival in which I was. He had been licensed to preach; but his spirit of prayer was such, he was so burdened with the souls of men, that he was not able to preach much, his whole time and strength being given to prayer. The burden of his soul would frequently be so great that he was unable to stand, and he would writhe and groan in agony in a most wonderful manner. I was well acquainted with him, and knew something of the wonderful spirit of prayer that was upon him. He was a very silent man, as almost all are who have that powerful spirit of prayer. The first I knew of his being at Rochester, a gentleman who lived about a mile west of the city called on me one day, and asked me if I knew a Mr. Abel Clary, a minister. I told him that I did know him well. "Well, said he, "he is at my house, and has been there for so long a time," - I forget how long, but nearly from the first of my being in Rochester. Says he, "I don't know what to think of him." I said, "I have not seen him at any of our meetings." "No," he replied, "he cannot go to meetings, he says. He prays nearly all the time, day and night," said he, "and in such an agony of mind that I do not know what to make of it. Sometimes he cannot even stand on his knees, but will lie prostrate on the floor and groan; and then throw himself upon the bed and roll from side to side, and groan and pray in a manner that quite astonishes me." I inquired what he said. He replied, "He does not say much. He cannot go to meeting he says, but his whole time is given to prayer." I said to the brother, "I understand it; please sit still. It will all come out right; he will surely prevail." I knew at the time a considerable number of men who were exercised in the same way. A Deacon Pond of Camden, Oneida County; a Deacon Truman, of Rodman, Jefferson County; a Deacon Baker of Adams in the same county; this Mr. Clary, and many others among the men, and a large number of women, partook of the same Spirit, and spent a great part of their time in prayer. Brother, or as we called him, Father Nash, a minister who in several of my fields of labour came to me and aided me, was another of those men that had such a powerful spirit of prevailing prayer. This Mr. Clary continued in Rochester as long as I did, and did not leave it until after I had left. He never, that I could learn, appeared in public, but gave himself wholly to prayer.
There were a good many cases in Rochester in which people were exercised with this spirit of agonizing travail of soul. I have said that the moral aspect of things was greatly changed by this revival. It was a young city, full of thrift and enterprize, and full of sin. The inhabitants were intelligent and enterprizing in the highest degree; but as the revival swept through the town and converted the great mass of the most influential people both male and female, the change in the order, sobriety, and morality of the city was wonderful.
At a subsequent period, which I shall mention in its place, I was conversing with a lawyer who was converted at this revival of which I have been speaking, and who soon after had been made district attorney of the city, the same that some call prosecuting attorney. His business was to superintend the prosecution of criminals. From his position he was made thoroughly acquainted with the history of crime in that city. In speaking of the revival in which he was converted, he said to me many years afterwards; "I have been examining the records of the criminal courts, and I find this striking fact, that whereas our city has increased since that revival three-fold, there is not one third as many prosecutions for crime as there had been up to that time.
"Thus crime," he says, "has decreased two-thirds, and the population has increased two-thirds." "This is," he said, "the most wonderful influence that that revival had had upon the community." Indeed by the power of that revival public sentiment has been molded. The public affairs of the city have been, in a great measure in the hands of Christian men. The great weight of character has been on the side of Christ, and their public business had been conducted accordingly."
(d.) Protestant missionary work in Korea began in 1886, with the advent of both Presbyterian and Methodist work. Through the Twentieth Century, Korea could almost be called a "land of revivals", having experienced a number of them, including some under very adverse circumstances, involving extensive persecution and much hardship. The number of Korean Christian martyrs has been very considerable.
The revival movement which set the tone for the future, more than any of the others, occurred in 1907. A prayer movement led up to the actual outpouring of the Spirit. Both Presbyterian and Methodist accounts of this remarkable revival were published.
A Presbyterian history of Korean missions, published in 1934, includes the following.
"Many of the younger missionaries wish they could have been in Korea when this revival broke out. The older missionaries look back on it with a feeling of awe as the most blessed experience of their lives.
The beginnings of the revival can be traced back to 1903 when two women missionaries in Wonsan, one of the M. E. Church (Methodist Episcopal), on a visit from China, and one of the Canadian Presbyterian Church, were led to meet together often and pray for a revival among the missionaries. They were led to propose that the missionaries in Wonsan get together for Bible study and prayer."
Several gatherings of this kind occurred over the next year or so, which helped prepare for what followed. One of these involved the visit of Fredrick Franson, leader of the Scandinavian Mission, for a week in Wonsan, including teaching on praying for revival. Franson was in Korea beginning October, 1903, or soon after.
"That summer the Bible Conference for missionaries in Wonsan was attended with blessed results. The Rev. R. A. Hardie, of the M. E. South Mission, was one of the leaders. He was burdened with a realisation of failure in his country work in Kang-wun province. Both before the missionaries, and later before the Koreans, he confessed to pride, hardness of heart, and lack of faith. The result was an outpouring of the Spirit upon the missionaries and the Korean Christians in Wonsan.
News of this reached Pyengyang and the missionaries there invited Dr. Hardie to come and lead them in a series of meetings in August, 1906. They studied together the First Epistle of John. They realised that they and the Korean Church needed a baptism of the Spirit and agreed to pray for a blessing on the coming winter Bible Class in Pyengyang. (scheduled for January, 1907).
This meeting in Pyengyang was followed by the Annual Meeting of the Mission in Seoul in September, 1906. The Rev. Howard Agnew Johnston, D.D., from America was present and addressed the missionaries. He also addressed the Korean Christians and told them of the blessings the Christians in India and Wales had received. The Mission drew up a resolution of appreciation of Dr. Johnston's visit and sent it to the Board of Foreign Missions, stating that "His addresses to missionaries have been used of the Spirit to quicken the soul and life of the hearers, stirring them up to greater love and more earnest prayer..... His addresses to the Koreans also have been most helpful and his visit will not soon be forgotten."
In Pyengyang during the "big" Men's Bible Class in January 1907, the missionaries in the station held a series of noon prayer meetings. The Rev. Graham Lee said, "Those noon meetings were a very Bethel to us." Not only the missionaries but hundreds of Korean Christians in Pyengyang had been spending an hour a day in prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (in addition to their normal prayers).
The Class that year was largely attended. In the evening meetings fifteen hundred were present. During the first days, the desire of the missionaries and of the Korean Church leaders for a special blessing was not realised......On the following Sunday evening, although the attendance was large and the leaders expectant, nothing happened. The meeting was dead, and as Pastor Kil of the Central Church, where the meetings were held, reported afterwards, "the air was 'whing' with nothingness."
On Monday, the missionaries in their noon meeting were especially earnest in beseeching God for the outpouring of His Spirit. At the Monday evening meeting, (January 14, 1907), after a short sermon, the Rev. Graham Lee was asked to take over. When he asked that two or three lead in prayer, a score or more started to pray. Whereupon Mr. Lee said: "If you want to pray like that, all pray," and the great audience, each one as led by the Spirit, broke out in audible prayer. The effect was like the "falling of many waters." To continue in Mr. Lee's words written that night after the meeting: "Man after man would rise, confess his sins, break down and weep and then throw himself to the floor and beat the floor with his fists in an agony of conviction......Sometimes after a confession, the whole audience would break out in audible prayer and the effect of that audience in audible rpayer was something indescribable. Again after another confession, they would break out in uncontrollable weeping. And so the meeting went on till 2 a.m. with confession and weeping and praying."
On Tuesday the noon prayer meeting of the missionaries was in the nature of a thanksgiving service. They also prayed especially for an elder, Mr. Kim, whom they knew had a grievance against Mr. Kang who had confessed the night before. In the Tuesday evening meeting, the scenes of the night before were repeated in intensified form. Mr. Kim confessed that he had not only hated Mr. Kang but had been hating one of the missionaries. In the Tuesday evening meeting, the missionaries became alarmed and consulted together as to what they could do to bring the audience under control. Finally Mr. Lee started a hymn and quiet was restored. The Rev. W. N. Blair gives an account of that which followed: "Then began a meeting the like of which I had never seen before, nor wish to see again unless in God's sight it is absolutely necessary. Every sin a human being can commit was confessed that night. Pale and trembling with emotion, in agony of mind and body, guilty souls standing in the white light of that judgment, saw themselves as God saw them. Their sins rose up in all their vileness till shame and grief and self-loathing took complete possession; pride was driven out; the face of man was forgotten. Looking up to heaven to Jesus whom they had betrayed, they smote themselves and cried out with bitter wailing, "Lord! Lord! Cast us not off forever." Everything else was forgotten. Nothing else mattered. The scorn of men, the penalty of the law, even death itself, seemed of small consequence if only God forgave. We may have our theories of the desirability or undesirability of public confession of sin. I have had mine. But I know now that when the Spirit of God falls on guilty souls, there will be confession, and no power on earth can stop it."
The manifestations in the Pyengyang meeting were repeated in meetings all over the country. Stolen property and money were returned. Christians went from house to house confessing their sins to those whom they had wronged. A Chinese merchant was astonished to have a Christian return a large sum of money which had been unjustly obtained years before conversion. When the Pyengyang Bible Class finished on Sunday, Pastor Kil was the preacher. In his dramatic way, he had himself tied up with ropes and in his preaching frantically broke loose to illustrate how the sinner should break away from sin.
When the Union Christian College and Academy opened again in February, 1907, there was a revival at once among the students.....One of the teachers, the Rev. A. L. Becker of the M. E. Mission, testified that: "About nine-tenths of the students were deeply stirred.... A large number became evangelists....carrying revival fires not only to the city and nearby country churches, but as far as Chemulpo and Kongju." (half the length of the country).
Missionaries and leaders returned to their stations throughout the country, and the revival spread everywhere where the Christian witness was being upheld. Jonathan Goforth, and two Chinese elders, carried the message of the revival, and a good deal of its impact, to churches in Manchuria, and to many parts of China. Many missionaries, in Korea and elsewhere, were concerned about the quality of the effects of the revival, because of its very strong emotional aspect. But, the long term results of the revival were such that their fears proved almost entirely without foundation. The churches grew rapidly, and were prepared for the fires of persecution which came shortly, during the Japanese occupation of Korea, and through the conflict with Communism, in which vast quantities of Korean blood were shed."
Further Reading on the Subject
The chapters on prayer in Charles G. Finney's "Lectures on Revivals" have been thought by many to be the basic sources on this subject. Of course, the subject is as old as the Bible. Finney's personal experience in prayer, however, and the impact upon him of men like "father" Nash, led him to the view that the world could be conquered for God by means of what he called "the Prevailing Prayer Meeting."
This vision was that such prayer meetings should not simply be ordinary meetings for prayer, but meetings where those present would set themselves before God to prevail in prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in such a determined way as not to be denied, and would persist until the answer came.
In one sense, this plan to win vast multitudes for Christ, and to change the world, by means of prevailing prayer, is a great Biblical vision, which should engross us all.
On the other hand, when human hands become involved, the prevailing prayer meeting becomes simply another human tool, another human method, driven too much by fleshly considerations, human organisation and effort. The Spirit, on the other hand, is like the wind, blowing where He wills, and Whose work is, often, only able to be seen after the event. So, it is a method which only works when the Spirit of God is in total control, and when the Spirit inspires and leads the praying. It is almost the case that good spiritual results flow in inverse proportion to the amount of human initiative that goes before it.
Nevertheless, some wonderful books exist to help us understand this subject, and help us to co-operate with the Spirit of prayer. In reading these books, we should allow the Spirit to burden our hearts with the needs of the world, and of individuals, leading us primarily through the Scriptures, and not so much through less inspired writings.
Some of these books are:-
- E. M. Bounds. "Power Through Prayer.", "Purpose in Prayer." (there are five other similar titles.)
- D. L. Moody. "Prevailing Prayer."
- A. T. Pierson. "George Muller of Bristol."
- Andrew Murray. "The Ministry of Intercession.", "With Christ in the School of Prayer."
- Dick Eastman. "The Hour that Changes the World."
- R. A Torrey. "How to Pray."
Such intercessory prayer, however, needs to take place in the context of prayerful reading of the Scriptures, continual pursuit of personal holiness, devotion to Christ, and praise and thanksgiving to God in everything. The glory and praise of God is the only, ultimate goal.
Comment on the Doctrine of the Trinity
Christian theology generally, and Evangelical theology in particular, is avowedly Trinitarian. It is based squarely on the doctrine of the Trinity, as a very basic feature of our knowledge of the nature of God, arising from the New Testament.
It is not our purpose here to state much about the doctrine, or to defend it from attack.
(a.) Let it be said simply that the Old Testament clearly teaches that there is only one God. This belief came straight through into the New Testament, and was believed by Jesus and the disciples, and all the other New Testament writers.
(b.) However, the disciples had to cope with Jesus' claim to be the only begotten Son of God, and therefore to be equal in quality of being with the Father. The miracles Jesus performed in His own Name, and His sacrifice of Himself for the sins of mankind, re-inforced this belief. Yet He prayed to the Father, and was clearly numerically different from the Father.
(c.) After Pentecost, their experience of the Holy Spirit, Who was sent from both the Father and the Son, also showed the New Testament writers that the Spirit was numerically different from both Jesus and the Father, and yet did everything that God did.
Thus, the New Testament writers did not see anything incongruous, or blasphemous, in baptising people in the (one) Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Church, in its first few centuries, had to deal with a number of heresies. Some heresies said that God was one, but acted in three modes. Others said there were three Gods. Others said that the Father was God, and the Son and the Spirit were not God in the same way. Eventually, all these views were rejected as being not fully consistent with the experience and writings of the New Testament.
After several centuries, the doctrine of the Trinity was finally stated, being expressed in terms of philosophical concepts which were in use at that time, but are not in use now. It states that God is One. Radical monotheism was re-affirmed. Yet we experience Him as Father, Son and Spirit, and these three are separate persons, and are not to be confused or limited.
A key feature behind this doctrine is that God has the power to do whatever He wants to do, or that comes within the scope of His nature or purposes. No doubt much of the problem is in our limited ability to understand things which are beyond us. But, God is able to work as He chooses. The evidence in the New Testament is that God is doing things in this trinitarian form.
Those who deny the doctrine of the Trinity must beware lest they limit God by saying that God cannot exist in this trinitarian way, or do as He desires.
What Happens to the Doctrine in Normal Practice?
The trinitarian nature of Christian theology, however, does not always receive the proper emphasis that it ought to have. As a result, the theology which is used in practical experience by ordinary people, and in evangelism, can be more unitarian than it ought to be, or can become garbled.
For example, down through the centuries, popular Catholic belief has at times appeared to be that the trinity consisted of Father, Son and Mary. In much practice, however, Catholic theology has tended to be based on Father, Son and Holy Church.
Protestant theology has produced its own forms of distortion. An over-emphasis on the role of the Father has produced Unitarianism, which has been rejected by most others as a heresy. A heresy, it should be remembered, is a truth magnified out of proportion, so that other truths are lost.
Evangelical theology pays great attention to Jesus Christ. Evangelists, in the modern evangelical tradition, call upon people to "accept Christ." People are not normally called upon to accept God, or to accept the Father, or the Holy Spirit, or the trinity, or all three. It is easy for this emphasis to become a unitarianism of the Son, without intending to be heretical.
Pentecostal teaching often makes much of Christ, but, on many occasions, Pentecostals and Charismatics have placed so much emphasis on the Spirit that there has tended to be a unitarianism of the Spirit. Pentecostal theology is often a theology based around the believer's experience of the Spirit. It has tended to be a theology based on personal experience more than upon the Scriptures.
A better balance can flow from a better knowledge of the Bible than the ordinary Christian usually possesses, or from a more substantial education in theology. Even many preachers are not as alert, or as wise, as they ought to be, in theological matters. They do not realise the lack of balance that they are generating by their teaching.
Ignorance of the Bible, of theology itself, and of its many changes, as time has passed, is a continual problem, which preachers especially should struggle to remedy.
Balance in "If My People"
In a book such as this present one, which has placed a very great emphasis on desiring a deeper and wider experience of the vitality of the Holy Spirit, it is easy to get things out of proportion, as well, and to over-emphasise the role of the Spirit.
Actually, the main themes in this book can all be discussed in terms of the work of the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit. The reason why they have been discussed in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit is because that is the kind of emphasis we find in the New Testament.
(a.) For example, the subject of repentance, "new life from God", and both personal and national revival, can be dealt with in terms of knowing the heavenly Father better.
This can be seen in any of the passages about revival in the Old Testament that we have looked at. Genesis 35, First Samuel 7, First Kings 18, Second Chronicles chapters 14 -16, 20, 30 and 34, Nehemiah 8, Haggai 1, as well as in passages from any of the major prophets, and some of the minor ones.
New Testament passages which reflect this emphasis on the Father's work include such verses as Luke 11:13, and John 15 speaks of the role of the Father as gardener. There are many other passages which fit into this framework of thought.
(b.) However, John 15 is also a great passage for emphasising repentance, revival, and these other subjects, as a work of the Son. The picture of Jesus as the true vine is a very powerful one. We are mere branches, who can do nothing on our own account.
All of the pictures used in the Bible to illustrate who Jesus is, and what He does, lend their weight to this emphasis. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Jesus is the Light of the World, the Atoning Lamb, and is made unto us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption. Jesus is Judge and King. All the possibilities of the Kingdom of God depend upon the power over evil arising from the crucifixion and resurrection. A thorough study of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the light of the Old Testament sacrifices, show the essential position that Jesus holds in the whole scheme of things. Jesus is the key to revival. The presence of Jesus is revival.
(c.) The value of looking at repentance and revival in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit, and that such a view of things is both Scriptural, and legitimate, has, I hope, been abundantly clear to everyone who has worked through this study book.
Revival comes to us through the decision and grace of the heavenly Father, through the intercession and cleansing power of Jesus Christ, the Son, who is the true vine, and by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Revival is a deeper working of, and a new awareness of, the presence and power of the Tri-une God, bringing repentance, salvation, holiness, and new life to sinners. It transforms us personally, and brings greater unity and purity to our worship, and our society.
1. Discuss how distortion of the gospel message, and of personal faith, can come from placing a wrong emphasis on any one person of the Trinity of God.
2. Discuss how revival, and the related subjects can be understood in terms of
- The Father,
- The Son,
- The Spirit.
3. If a better balance is possible by combining these insights about God, and His work, discuss how we could better do this in our present situation.
"Study to Show Yourself Approved unto God." (2 Timothy 2:15.)
During the Methodist Revival movement in England through the Eighteenth Century, the percentage of people in the whole country who could not read was much higher than it is today.
(a.) When a person was converted, and joined the Class Meeting, that person was expected to learn to read, and for one reason only - so he or she could read the Bible, and grow spiritually as a result. The early Methodists knew that inability to read the Bible was a serious handicap to the spiritual life.
There were some instances where older people were miraculously given the power to read the Bible, without ever having formally learned.
But, for most of the population of those who joined a Class Meeting, they had either to teach themselves to read, or they went to one of the early Sunday Schools, which existed to teach ordinary people, young and old, to read, so that they could read the Bible. The Bible would often be used as the textbook to learn from. The school was held on Sunday, because the people worked six days a week, and it was their only opportunity to learn to read.
Today, most people in so-called "Western" countries can read. The literacy rate is quite high. But many Christians still do not read or study the Bible much. This is often due to a lack of desire to know the Word of God, and is a sign of spiritual deadness.
Anybody who is concerned about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit should have a deep thirst to know what God says. That is the only way we can be obedient to Him. If we do not know what He desires, how can we obey Him? Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."
So, the first way in which every Christian should study to show themselves approved unto God is to study the Bible extensively. This involves reading, learning and inwardly digesting. It involves praying about what we read, before, during and after. It involves learning the Bible by heart, memorising as much of it as we can, so that we can know it better.
(b.) John Wesley also knew how valuable it was for any Christian to have a solid taste for good reading.
He used to read very widely himself.
And he made rules for his circuit preachers and evangelists. One rule was that they should divide each day between eight hours of study and prayer, eight hours for other work, and eight hours for meals and sleep. While this rule was impractical in many cases, it helped produce Methodist preachers who were well educated, despite the fact that they often had little formal education, and generally could not attend a university.
In order to encourage this good reading, by preachers and people, Wesley re-published an entire library of the Christian spiritual classics, especially for the Methodists. Also, within the first one hundred years of Methodism, the practice developed that the spiritual leaders either published their journals, or good spiritual biographies were soon written about their lives. In this way, a rich heritage was passed on to the people who were still developing spiritually. These biographies still have great spiritual profit and wealth for anyone who takes advantage of them.
Another rule which Bishop Francis Asbury imposed upon all the early Methodist circuit riders in the United States was that they all had to carry books in their saddle bags, and sell them everywhere they went.
Not only was personal spiritual growth promoted by this means, but the wider issue of the work of the Kingdom of God throughout the world, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, became matters of wide interest, and also matters about which many Christians came to have a good knowledge.
(c.) Today, when someone shows an interest in the subject of revivals and evangelical awakenings, and the evangelical transformation of society, there is no doubt that a strong desire to benefit from good and wide reading should follow naturally, and for the same reasons as we saw above.
It should be obvious that history is a great place to learn more about the wonderful works of God, to learn also about the vagaries and different aspects of human nature, and to prepare ourselves to be better involved in the work of God.
If anyone professes to think that such movements of the Holy Spirit are of great importance for the Kingdom of God on earth, and for our own societies, it is natural that such a person should learn as much as possible about them. If anyone will not learn what they can about the subject, the depth of their interest in that subject should be questioned.
As a positive statement, it is important that, by learning as much as we can about these workings of the Spirit, the general fund of wisdom amongst Christians about these movements can be improved. We can better co-operate with what the Spirit is doing in the world. We can better take part in God's will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
If the opportunity arises, we are better qualified to exercise leadership in that area.
As a negative statement, if we do not learn from the past, we will be condemned to make the same mistakes again. We may even do worse. We also will fail to be responsible Christians. Because of our ignorance of God's mighty works we will not do as well for God as we might have done.
Why should such subjects be studied?
For anyone who knows the Bible, this question ought not need to be asked, or answered. But, a number of reasons quickly arise.
The great commandment tells us that we should love God with our MIND, and not simply with our heart, soul and strength. So, someone who does not dilligently study the Scriptures, and the great works of God, and has not developed a taste for good and wide reading, is not being sympathetic toward living out this commandment. It represents a failure to love God, and a failure in our love for others because we do not have a wide enough desire to bring God's blessings to mankind.
Elsewhere in the Bible, vital interest in knowing the great works of God is commanded. (Psalm 78:1 - 8.). The reasons behind this command are not simply so that we can appreciate God ourselves, glorify Him, and profit thereby, but so that we can recount the great works of God to the coming generations, so that they also will trust in God, and not forget what He has done.
Just within the history of modern revivals, very few things can stir a deeper thirst for God to come into our midst in His power and glory than to hear accounts of what God has done in the past. This fact is simply a matter of record. If you were suddenly asked to speak about God great deeds, through the outpouring of the Spirit, what could you say?
A Wise Tradition of Revivals Needed in Each Country
Mistakes of many kind are made by people used by the Holy Spirit in times of revival.
God's human workers are not always wise in what they do. Revivals always are a mixture of flesh and spirit, Divine and human, purity and sin.
We always need more wisdom than what we already have. Many parts of the Scriptures encourage us to ask for, and pursue wisdom.
Each country needs to have Christian workers who are wise in their understanding of the workings of the Holy Spirit. Not only is experience of God and His works needed in learning to be wise, but the best analysis of the subject, by the best available minds, can make such a wonderful contribution to our abilities to be useful to God.
The Scriptural call, therefore, comes to us very forcibly, with respect to the effusions of the Holy Spirit, for us to STUDY, to show ourselves approved unto God; a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
One book written by the present author, and which is highly recommended for anyone wishing to pursue matters mentioned in this chapter is "Fire >From Heaven." The subtitle shows more clearly what it is about. It is " Description and Analysis of the Revivals in the "burned-Over District of New York, 1800 - 1840, and Spiritual Deceptions." Printed and bound copies are available from the author for cost and postage, or the book can be freely downloaded from this website.
Suggestions In Studying Revivals
Every interested person should carefully peruse the range of books concerning revivals which are currently available in the bookshops. Buy some of them which look interesting and helpful, and start to build your own little library on the subject.
Encourage your church to have some books on revivals in the church library, to encourage others to begin work on the subject, and to improve the range of books available to yourself.
If you live near a university, theological seminary library or major public library, you may be able to access the subject in those libraries. If so, you will almost certainly find some relevant books which will surprise you. You will probably find some of them express views that you have not met before, and, if you approach this in the right frame of mind, you will find it a great growth experience.
Even books expressing views with which you disagree violently should be able to teach us something. If you cannot learn something from a book about some aspect of revival, perhaps you have uncovered an aspect of yourself where growth is needed. A well-stocked library can be a great place for growth in wisdom.
In pursuit of this end, the present author has prepared other basic study materials on wide-ranging aspects of the subject, and these are available at very modest cost. They may also be freely downloaded from this website.
Subjects available are:-
- revivals in the Bible.
- the nature of revival movements,
- revivals as a transformer of society,
- the history and impact of the great awakenings,
- the history of modern revivals,
- important lessons which can be learned from this history,
- revivals and the missionary enterprise,
- overall literature about revivals, and library possibilities,
- what literature is currently available about revivals,
- theological issues involved,
- psychological issues.
- Deceptions and Practical Problems in Revivals.
- Lateral Thinking about Revivals.
(a.) The Bible verses quoted have been free renderings of Bible passages by the author, and can be compared with any normal translation.
(b.) The following books have been referred to in the ten studies:-
Baker. Ernest., "The Revivals of the Bible."
Belfast. Ambassador Productions. 1988. (First published 1906.)
Finney. Charles G., "Lectures on Revivals." N.Y. Revell. No Date.
(Many editions are available, including less satisfactory abbreviated versions.)
Hallesby. O., "Prayer." London. Inter Varsity Fellowship. 1948.
(Some other editions are also available.)
Hendry. George S., "The Holy Spirit in Christian Theology."
London. S.C.M. Press. 1965. (An excellent theological introduction to many of the issues raised in this booklet.)
Kaiser. Walter C., "Quest for Renewal." Personal Revival in the Old Testament.
Chicago. Moody Press. 1986.
Murray. Andrew., "Humility." The Beauty of Holiness.
London. James Nisbet & Co. No Date. (Many editions available.)
Murray. Andrew., "The True Vine." Meditations for the month on John 15:1 - 16.
Chicago. Moody Press. No Date. (Many editions available.)
Orr. J. Edwin., "My All - His All."
Wheaton, Illinois. International Awakening Press. 1989.
(An expanded version of "Full Surrender", published posthumously. Excellent.)
Wight. Fred. H., "If My People." Repentance and Revival.
Butler, Indiana. The Higley Press. 1959.
(c.) Helpful reference material.
Oropeza. B. J., "A Time to Laugh." The Holy Laughter Phenomenon Examined.
Guidelines for distinguishing genuine renewal from human phenomena.
Peabody, Mass. Hendrickson Publishers. 1995. (a balanced assessment.)
Orr. J. Edwin., "The Flaming Tongue." The Impact of Twentieth Century Revivals.
Chicago. Moody Press. 1973. (And many other similar books by Dr. Orr.)
(d.) Books referred to in the four chapters:-
Bailie W. D., "The Six Mile Water Revival of 1625."
Belfast. Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland. 1976.
Methodist Episcopal Church. "The Religious Awakening of Korea."
An Account of the Revival in the Korean Churches in 1907.
New York. Board of Foreign Missions. M. E. Church. 1908.
Rhodes. Harry A., "History of the Korea Mission. Presbyterian Church. U.S.A. 1884 - 1934. Seoul, Korea. The Chosen Mission Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
Rosell G. M. and R.A.G.Dupuis. (editors) "The Memoirs of Charles G. Finney."
The Complete Restored Text. An annotated critical edition.
Grand Rapids, Michigan. Academie Books (Zondervan). 1989.
Stewart. Andrew., "The History of the Church in Ireland Since the Scots were Naturalised." (A fragment included in Patrick Adair. "A True Narrative of the Rise and Progress of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. 1623 - 1670.")
Belfast. C. Aitchison. 1866.
Torrey. R. A., "How to Pray."
Chicago. Moody Press. no date.
(Many editions available.)