burning tree

“Why Revival Tarries” by Leonard Ravenhill

Introduction

Let me begin by confessing that this is not going to be an academic book review. I have very little interest in entering into a critical examination of every point at which I agree or disagree with this little gem from Leonard Ravenhill. Suffice it to say that I do have disagreements with some of his points and reasoning, but I think he would agree with me on this at least: such an examination is missing the forest for the trees. With that said, allow me to express some of my thoughts after reading “Why Revival Tarries.”

We “reformed” folk can be a little too hard-nosed at times. We are often guilty of turning our doctrine into dogma, of carrying things a bit too far. Ravenhill was not a “reformed” man, not even a Calvinist (gasp!). But do not let that dissuade you from a careful and prayerful reading of this book. The theme of this book is simple: why has revival tarried? Why do not see a great movement of God in the Western world? Ravenhill wrote this book in 1958, and for nearly 70 years the question remains: why have we not seen a revival?

Placing the Blame

The answer to Ravenhill’s question was simple, yet profound: there is a palpable lack of preachers with Holy Spirit fire. This is true even to this day. The average pulpit is commanded by men who hold many degrees, but who have no unction of the Holy Ghost. They have no message from the Lord, only messages that they learned in seminary.

Yet, we must look deeper as well. Cold preachers breed dead churches, churches with no zeal, who are neither hot nor cold, but are only lukewarm. A lukewarm church is a dead church. How many people who call themselves Christian have any experience of the soul-travail (a Ravenhill term) for the lost? How many people who fill up the pews have any experience of wrestling with God, of not letting go until he has blessed them?

In preparing for a devotional for my church’s weekly prayer meeting, I stumbled across this horrifying statistic: “A majority of those who attend Protestant church at least once a month (56%) say they pray for opportunities to tell others about Jesus at least once a week, according to a Lifeway Research study, with 23% praying for such moments daily. Yet, a similar percentage (55%) say they have not shared with someone how to become a Christian in the past six months.”

This means the majority of people who claim the name of Christ have no concern for the vast millions of men, women, and children who are going to spend an eternity of torment in the fires of hell. What does this really mean? It means that the majority of people who think they are Christians are really not Christians at all.

What We Need: Prayer for Revival

“Dear believers, listen. The world is not waiting for a new definition of the Gospel, but for a new demonstration of the power of the Gospel. In these days of acute political helplessness, moral lawlessness, and spiritual helplessness, where are the men not of doctrine, but of faith?”

Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, 32

Where are the men not of doctrine, but of faith? How this question is penetratingly relevant to our day! Men only of doctrine fill the public square. Where are the men of prayer? I’ll tell you. The pastor down in Mississippi whose name is virtually unknown by “The Reformed Club” who weeps with longing for the revival that he knows must come! The missionary whose plans keep getting ruined but still has joy because he doesn’t care where God sends him as long as God sees fit to use him!

Do I have that mind in myself? Do we have it as a church? What are you praying for? Are you praying for a more comfortable life, for the fires of affliction to be put out? Think on this: gold must be purified by fire. If the fire goes out, the gold will not be purified. If we ask God to put out the flame of affliction, are we not asking him to cease from the work of purifying us?

Soul-Travail for the Lost

Ravenhill uses a stunning illustration of how we ought to be in travail for the lost. That word “travail” means the pain that a woman experiences not only in the act of childbirth, but in the long months leading up to it. Do we have this travail over the lost, longing for the new birth to come upon them?

Put plainly, do you weep over the unrepentant sinners? Do you pray for them? I have family members on their way to eternal hell. I must confess that such a thought does not always bring tears to my eyes. But as Ravenhill said, “Is a man human at all who can say with no tears, ‘You will be eternally dying and yet never know the relief that death brings’?” (Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, 19)

Are we even really Christians if we have no experience of this kind of soul-travail? Not just for the openly rebellious, but also for the millions of people who think they are saved and yet are not. This pain only comes from real intercessory prayer. It only comes when we truly believe the Gospel. If we really believe that all who are in Christ are saved and all who are not in Christ are damned, that will necessarily set a fire in our breasts to preach Christ to every creature.

Gospel Fire for Revival

Where is the Gospel fire? Where is the flame of the Holy Spirit in our churches today? There is only one way to get this flame rekindled in our lives: taking prayer seriously. All the doctrinal learning in the world will count for nothing without serious, painful, travailing prayer. I will close with two quotes from Ravenhill’s “Why Revival Tarries.”

“Paul calls the Holy Ghost as a witness that he could wish himself ‘accursed’ for his brethren (Rom. 9:3). Madam Guyon prayed almost an identical prayer. Brainerd and John Knox were ‘men of like passions.’ When, brother, (or where), did we ever hear such a prayer offered in a prayer meeting? We cannot have big results from our small praying. The law of prayer is the law of harvest: sow sparingly in prayer, reap sparingly; sow bountifully in prayer, reap bountifully. The trouble is we are trying to get from our efforts what we have never put into them.” (119)

“Though Communism may conquer the world (terrible and unimaginable as that might be), to the true child of God there is a greater horror — eternity for the unrepentant in an endless hell. Perhaps we should get near Patrick Henry’s language this way: ‘Is life’s span so dear and are home comforts so engrossing as to be purchased with my unfaithfulness and dry-eyed prayerlessness? At the final bar of God, shall the perishing millions accuse me of materialism coated with a few Scripture verses? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, GIVE ME REVIVAL in my soul and in my church and in my nation–or GIVE ME DEATH.'” (166)


red apples

FAQ#2: What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?

Introduction

Living in the so-called “Bible Belt,” it seems like everyone and their mother considers themselves to be Christians. Oddly, with so many “Christians” running around the country, it seems like there has never been such a time of moral degradation in the United States as today. The sad reality is that not everyone who says they are a Christian are in fact Christians. While there are many historical factors that led to this sad state of self-deception, the common denominator is a departure from the Bible and its authority. So with all this confusion about what it means to be a Christian, we need a solid, Biblical definition of the word.

A Student of the Master

The word “Christian” refers to a person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ. This was the fundamental call of the Great Commission in Matthew 28: go and make disciples. A disciple is a student, a learner. In the context of first century Judea, a disciple would, quite literally, follow in the footsteps of his teacher as the rabbi traveled. So, a Christian is one who follows in the footsteps of Jesus; in other words, a person who has devoted his or her life to conforming their life to the teachings of Jesus.

A Follower, Not a Pioneer

This leads to an important implication that we have to get right early on: Christianity is about following Jesus, not pioneering our own way. Some people consider the Bible to be nothing more than a guidebook. They think that it is a good starting place with some good precepts to follow, but that they can adjust it or disregard it as it suits their purpose. There a lot of problems with that way of thinking, but one of those problems is that it is not the attitude of a follower.

True Christianity follows Jesus; it is not about pioneering our own way. This plays out by an unending desire and quest to live a life in total conformity to all of Jesus’ teachings, not just the ones we like. The basis for this type of devotion is the fact that Christians are people who have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). This necessarily comes with the recognition that we cannot live to ourselves, but are rather slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18).

The Chief Mark of a Christian

What this means is that there are measurable, identifiable marks of a Christian. The chief mark of the disciple of Jesus is love: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn. 13:35). In fact, Paul says that love is the fulfillment of the law of God: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). Indeed, the Lord Jesus himself taught that the entire law hangs upon the two precepts of loving God and loving others.

Trees and Their Fruit

The question, then, becomes: “How can I know that I am a Christian?” Jesus tells us the answer: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). There is also a somewhat scary example that our Lord gives in the Sermon on the Mount:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Matthew 7:21-23

It’s not enough to just say or to even think that you are a Christian. Jesus said that if you love him, you will keep his commandments. Are you seeking to follow the commandments of Jesus? Look over the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: can you say that you are striving to exhibit each of those traits in your own life? Are you praying for the Holy Spirit to work in you a greater conformity to Christ?

Do you submit yourself to the authority of the Bible? Not just in some areas, but in every aspect of your life. The true Christian does not say, “I know what the Bible says about such-and-such an issue, but….” The true Christian says, “Whatever the Bible tells me, that will I live by.”

How to Be A Christian

Perhaps someone reading this may realize that they are not really a Christian after all, even though they thought they were. The good news is this: it’s not too late! We are not promised tomorrow, but God, in his goodness, has given you today. Today is the day of salvation! Repent of your sin and trust in the finished work of Jesus. Live your life as a living sacrifice for the glory of God by obeying the commands of Jesus (Rom. 12:1-2).


brown sand love text on seashore

Love Things Nothing Worth

Introduction

The title of this post comes from one of my favorite poems, Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 72; in that poem, Shakespeare laments the fact that his loved one will have to make up lies about him after his death to make him seem worthy of being loved. Over the past week, I have been preparing a sermon from 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love chapter.” Unfortunately, common usage relegates this text to weddings and marriages. In reality, this chapter is primarily concerned with showing the superiority of Christian love to spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:31). But in this article, I would like to briefly consider a point that may get lost in translation: the value of love’s object.

Origins and Translations

In 1 Corinthians 13, the word that is translated as “love” in modern translations is the Greek word agape. This word is virtually unheard of outside of the New Testament, with a few exceptions in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This word refers specifically to Christian love; in other words, this love is unlike anything else in the natural human experience. Though modern translations use the word “love,” if you use the King James Version (as I do), you’ll notice that it uses the word “charity.” Rather than simply being an archaic usage, there is an excellent reason why the King James Version translators used that word, and we should as well.

The Meaning of Charity

Though now days we associate “charity” only with giving money to the poor, this word has a rich origin that sheds light on the Biblical definition of love. The word “charity” comes from the Latin word caritas, which means something that is dear, or costly, or that has a high price. This origin tells us something that may surprise you about Biblical love, something that makes it unique among human experience.

The Value of Charity’s Object

The point behind the use of the word “charity” is to show us that love, Christian love, places a high value on its object. So the question then becomes, what is the object of Christian love? The text of 1 Corinthians 13 is dealing specifically with love for other people. This is the second great commandment: love our neighbor as ourselves. Like children seeking to escape responsibility, we then ask, “Who is my neighbor?” Thankfully, Jesus answers this question for us.

First, our neighbor includes other Christians. In John 13:34-35, Jesus told his disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Second, our neighbor includes people who are not Christians. In Matthew 5:44, the Lord Jesus said this: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

So essentially, our neighbor includes every human being. There are only two types of people in the world: the Christian and the non-Christian. And we are to love all of them. And this love places a high price upon the good of all men, even at a high cost to ourselves. We are not only to love our wives (though we should) or the Christians that we disagree with (though we must), but we are also to love those who are our worst enemies.

The Root of Charity

But this love is not humanistic. Humanism is the idea that life is all about human beings, that people are inherently good and therefore have worth. But the Bible tells a different story. The Biblical record is that human beings are sinful, wicked down to the core, and deserve only judgment and condemnation. So, Christian love cannot be humanistic; it cannot be rooted in mankind. Rather, Christian love is rooted in God’s love toward us.

In Romans 5:8, we read these remarkable words: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Do you see what Paul is saying? While we were yet his enemies, rebels against his lordship, God demonstrated his love toward us in his own Son Jesus Christ.

Christian love, then, is dying to ourselves. It is placing the good of others (even our worst enemies) above ourselves. It is imitating the love of God shed abroad in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). Is your life marked by this kind of love? Can your worst enemy say of you, “So-and-so loves me?” If not, ask the Lord to forgive you for not loving your neighbor as yourself, and ask for grace to strive to manifest the love of God in your own life.


bright bulb close up conceptual

FAQ #1: How Do You Know God Exists?

Introduction

This is, perhaps, the most frequent of the frequently asked questions. Indeed, the whole crux of Christianity hinges on this point. If we cannot be certain about the existence of God, then the Christian religion really falls flat on its face. In this age of skepticism and doubt, I can assure you with full confidence that the God of the Bible does indeed exist; and even more, that he has spoken to us in no uncertain terms. The question then arises, “How can you be certain that God exists?” Some of you may find my answer surprising.

Rose-Colored Glasses

Historically, theologians and philosophers sought to answer that question with appeals to reason. So, we have such arguments as the ontological argument: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Then there is the teleological argument (the argument from design): just like a person who picks up a watch from the ground knows that it must have a designer, so too we look at the world and must come to the conclusion of a Designer.

Well, I must say from the outset that, all things being equal, the human mind could (and really must) reason its way to the God of the Bible. We were created in the image of God, and our reason is part of that created image. The problem is that we are born with rose-colored glasses. Except instead of brightening the world around us, these glasses darken it. This is what theologians call the noetic effect of sin.

The Blind Leading the Blind

This noetic effect means that our sin nature distorts our ability to think about God properly in our fallen state. All of us are born into a fallen state because we are born in Adam (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 47-48). So by default, we cannot think about God rightly in our natural state. This necessarily means that we need God to reveal himself to us if we are to know him, and to know him rightly. This leads me to the part of the answer that may surprise you: certainty of knowledge must come from outside ourselves. In other words, in order for me to be certain that God exists, I need something that is outside of myself, an external source of information.

God Exists, Certainly

With that said, I know that God exists because he has revealed himself through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Now, when I say that, I know that the immediate objection that comes into some people’s minds is that it is a subjective definition. So, let me take a minute to explain how that statements is not subjective. For those of you who may not be crusty old philosophers like me, something that is subjective is founded upon the subject.

Remember your grade school English lessons? The basic elements of a sentence are a subject, a verb, and an object. So, something that is subjective is something that varies from person to person. A perfect example of this is your favorite color. You and I can have two different favorite colors, because that is a subjective truth. The truth of “favorite color” varies from person to person because its truth is founded on the subject (the person viewing the color) rather than the object (the color itself).

So, the existence of God, and the certainty of his existence, is not subjective precisely because it requires revelation (knowledge) that comes from outside of us. This means that the knowledge of God is objective. God does not exist because I believe he exists. He exists whether I believe he does or not because he exists outside of myself. Well, “how do you know that?” Because he has spoken. Remember, I am certain that God exists because he has revealed himself in the Bible, his Word. So, the reason why I know that God exists whether you think he does or not is because he is a personal Being who has spoken.

There Can Be Only One

Of course, the nature (fallen) objection would be: “how do you know the other guy’s god(s) do not exist?” That is an excellent question, for which I have two answers. First, because the God of the Bible has revealed himself as supreme, sovereign, unique. There can be no other gods like him, because there is no being like Him. Second, I know that the gods that other men worship (which includes themselves) are nothing more than idols. The human heart loves to make idols, so in the fallen state men will worship everything other than the God of the Bible. Why? Because the God of the Bible is our Creator, and since he is our Creator, he is by default our Judge. He determines whether we meet up to our created standard or not.

Men naturally hate that fact, and so rebel against it. Human beings also hate anything that does not let them boast in themselves. So when fallen men hear the message of the Bible, that our hope lies in God and God alone, they naturally hate it. It requires the supernatural revelation of the Holy Spirit for men to not hate it (John 3). So, when people love the God of the Bible and his message to us, then it is a demonstration that he has worked in their hearts.

Conclusion

Do you know what every false religion in the world has in common? It is human beings trying to justify themselves. Every system in the world except for Biblical Christianity tells us that we have to make ourselves right with God. But Biblical Christianity says that there is only one way to get right with God: through the person and work of another, Jesus Christ.

See, the whole point of this short article is to show that I have no warrant for bragging. I did not arrive at some secret knowledge that only a select few can obtain. My God bought me at a price, delivered me from bondage to sin, and set me free in Christ. The same offer that was extended to me is offered to you as well. Repent of your sin, and trust in the work of Jesus Christ, and you too will be set free from sin. The promise is that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Will you call upon him today? Feel free to reach out via the Contact Page if you would like to hear more, or if you just need someone to talk with.