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Revival or Reformation?

Posted by appolus on February 22, 2010

It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all. A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.

No Revival without Reformation (Tozer)
Wherever Christians meet these days one word is sure to be heard constantly repeated” that word is revival. …

So strongly is the breeze blowing for revival that scarcely anyone appears to have the discernment or the courage to turn around and lean into the wind, even though the truth may easily lie in that direction. Religion has its vogues very much as do philosophy, politics and women’s fashions. Historically the major world religions have had their periods of decline and recovery, and those recoveries are bluntly called revivals by the annalists.

Let us not forget that in some lands Islam is now enjoying a revival, and the latest report from Japan indicates that after a brief eclipse following World War II Shintoism is making a remarkable come-back….

A religion, even popular Christianity, could enjoy a boom altogether divorced from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and so leave the church of the next generation worse off than it would have been if the boom had never occurred. I believe that the imperative need of the day is not simply revival, but a radical reformation that will go to the root of our moral and spiritual maladies and deal with causes rather than with consequences, with the disease rather than with symptoms.

It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all. A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.

Here are my reasons. A generation ago, as a reaction from Higher Criticism and its offspring, Modernism, there arose in Protestantism a powerful movement in defense of the historic Christian faith. This, for obvious reasons, came to be known as Fundamentalism. It was a more or less spontaneous movement without much organization, but its purpose wherever it appeared was the same: to stay ‘the rising tide of negation’ in Christian theology and to restate and defend the basic doctrines of New Testament Christianity….

 
Falls Victim to Its Virtues
 
What is generally overlooked is that Fundamentalism, as it spread throughout the various denominations and nondenominational groups, fell victim to its own virtues. The Word died in the hands of its friends. … An unofficial hierarchy decided what Christians were to believe. Not the Scriptures, but what the scribe thought the Scriptures meant became the Christian creed. Christian colleges, seminaries, Bible institutes, Bible conferences, popular Bible expositors all joined to promote the cult of textualism. The system of extreme dispensationalism which was devised, relieved the Christian of repentance, obedience and cross-carrying in any other than the most formal sense. Whole sections of the New Testament were taken from the church and disposed of after a rigid system of “dividing the Word of truth.”

All this resulted in a religious mentality inimical to the true faith of Christ. … The basic doctrines of the Bible were there, but the climate was just not favorable to the sweet fruits of the Spirit.

The whole mood was different from that of the Early Church and of the great souls who suffered and sang and worshiped in the centuries past. The doctrines were sound but something vital was missing. The tree of correct doctrine was never allowed to blossom. The voice of the turtle [dove] was rarely heard in the land”…. Faith, a mighty, vitalizing doctrine in the mouths of the apostles, became in the mouth of the scribe another thing altogether and power went from it. As the letter triumphed, the Spirit withdrew and textualism ruled supreme….

In the interest of accuracy it should be said that this was a general condition only. Certainly there were some even in those low times whose longing hearts were better theologians than their teachers were. These pressed on to a fullness and power unknown to the rest. But they were not many and the odds were too great” they could not dispel the mist that hung over the land.

The error of textualism is not doctrinal. It is far more subtle than that and much more difficult to discover, but its effects are just as deadly. Not its theological beliefs are at fault, but its assumptions.

It assumes, for instance, that if we have the word for a thing we have the thing itself. If it is in the Bible, it is in us. If we have the doctrine, we have the experience. If something was true of Paul it is of necessity true of us because we accept Paul’s epistles as divinely inspired. The Bible tells us how to be saved, but textualism goes on to make it tell us that we are saved, something which in the very nature of things it cannot do. Assurance of individual salvation is thus no more than a logical conclusion drawn from doctrinal premises, and the resultant experience wholly mental.
 

Revolt from Mental Tyranny
The human mind can endure textualism just so long, before it seeds a way of escape…. The result over the last twenty years has been a religious debauch hardly equaled since Israel worshipped the golden calf. Of us Bible Christians it may truthfully be said that we ‘sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.’ The separating line between the Church and the world has been all but obliterated.
Aside from a few of the gross sins, the sins of the unregenerate world are now approved by a shocking number of professedly “born-again’ Christians, and copied eagerly. Young Christians take as their models the rankest kind of worldlings and try to be as much like them as possible. Religious leaders have adopted the techniques of the advertisers; boasting, bating and shameless exaggerating are now carried on as a normal procedure in church work.The moral climate is not that of the New Testament, but that of Hollywood….
The holy faith of our fathers has in many places been made a form of entertainment, and the appalling thing is that all this has been fed down to the masses from the top.
That note of protest which began with the New Testament and which was always heard loudest went the Church was most powerful has been successfully silenced. The radical element in testimony and life that once made Christians hated by the world is missing from present-day evangelism.
Christians where once revolutionists– moral, not political — but we have lost our revolutionary character. It is no longer either dangerous or costly to be a Christian…. Grace has become… cheap. We are busy these days proving to the world that they can have all the benefits of the Gospel without any of the inconvenience to their customary way of life. It’s ‘all this and heaven too.’…
For this reason it is useless for… believers to spend long hours begging God to send revival. Unless we intend to reform, we may as well not pray. Unless praying men have the insight and faith to amend their whole way of life to conform to the New Testament patters, there can be no true revival….
 
Sometime praying is not only useless, it is wrong. Here is an example : Israel had been defeated at Ai, and “Joshua rent his clothes and fell to the earth upon his face before the Ark of the Lord until eventide, he and the elders of Israel and put dust upon their heads.” According to modern philosophy of revival this was the thing to do and , if continued long enough should certainly have persuaded God and brought the blessing. But ” the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up: wherefore liest thou upon thy face? Israel hath sinned and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them….Up, sanctify the people and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel. There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until you take away the accursed thing from among you.”
 
We must haver a reformation within the Church. To beg for a flood of blessing to come upon a backslidden and disobedient Church is to waste time and effort. A new wave of religious interest will do no more than add numbers to the churches that have no intention to own the Lordship of Jesus and come under obedience to His commandments. God is not interested in increasing church attendance unless those who attend amend their ways and begin to live holy lives,
 
Once the Lord, through the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah said a word that should settle this thing forever : To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord : I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts: and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When you come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto me: the new moon and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with : it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting…Wash you, make you clean: put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes: cease to do evil, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow……If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.”
 
Prayer for revival will prevail when it is accompanied by radical amendment of life : not before. All night prayer meetings that are not preceded by practical repentance may actually be displeasing to God. “To obey is better than sacrifice.
 
We must return to New Testament Christianity, not in creed only but in complete manner of life as well. Separation, obedience, humility, simplicity, gravity, self-control, modesty, cross-bearing: these all must again be made a living part of the total Christian concept and be carried out in everyday conduct. We must cleanse the Temple of the hucksters and the money-changers and come fully under the authority of our risen Lord once more. And this applies to this writer as well as to everyone that names the name of Jesus. Then we can pray with confidence and expect true revival to follow. (Keys to the Deeper life, Tozer A.W)

9 Responses to “Revival or Reformation?”

  1. Chrystal said

    I was having a discussion along these lines with a friend just yesterday. We have a trend of running here and there after signs and miracles, calling them “revivals” or outpourings, and too often forget that even the antichrist will come forth with signs and wonders. We need to seek the God of the signs, not the signs themselves. Jesus performed many miracles in His ministry out of the compassion of His heart, but His message was always the same: “repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” I firmly believe that any purported outpouring of Holy Spirit that is devoid of the “radical lifestyle change” greatly misses the mark. Wes Hall says it this way: we measure the encounter by the changed lifestyle.

    Bless you!

    • appolus said

      Yes Chrystal, always look for the change. To come into the awesome presence of the Living God, when God steps down into a life or when one is swept up into the throne room of God then that one is changed forever, ruined for this life , never the same again. Just one moment in the awesome presence of God and we know that this is our eternal place , this is our eternity, to dwell in the presence of the Almight God. Gifts and signs and wonders pale in comparison to His presence. Signs and wonders were seen prior to Penetecost when they went out by two’s. Yet the Lord bids them to tarry and be endued with power from on High. We see a very different Peter emerge from the upper room than the one that entered. All fear is gone, now boldly witnessing to an angry crowd that could have easily ripped him apart, yet now he no longer cared. Filled with the Holy Spirit he boldly declared the Gospel. Oh that men would desire this gift, the power to speak words that penetrate the hardest of hearts, stabbed in the heart indeed, with words of power spoken by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit…………Frank

  2. David said

    Thank you for sharing this brother. Definitely a blessing. I really appreciate this statement at the beginning;

    “It assumes, for instance, that if we have the word for a thing we have the thing itself. If it is in the Bible, it is in us. If we have the doctrine, we have the experience. If something was true of Paul it is of necessity true of us because we accept Paul’s epistles as divinely inspired. The Bible tells us how to be saved, but textualism goes on to make it tell us that we are saved, something which in the very nature of things it cannot do. Assurance of individual salvation is thus no more than a logical conclusion drawn from doctrinal premises, and the resultant experience wholly mental.”

    That is, unfortunately the hallmark of most of the church in America. He also states the following;

    “The error of textualism is not doctrinal. It is far more subtle than that and much more difficult to discover, but its effects are just as deadly. Not its theological beliefs are at fault, but its assumptions.”

    It is indeed subtle in the way that it weaves into the teaching BUT, the fruit of it is always clear, lives that are not righteous and believers that are not seeking to live righteous lives.

    Interestingly he uses the word reformation as the change that needs to occur and I have thought about this quite a bit lately and I just don’t have peace stopping there as I believe it really needs to come to full repentance. I understand that Tozer does state that as well however the two terms seem very different to me. May just be semantics though. 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing.

    • appolus said

      Hi David, I think it may be semantics 🙂 Reformation, to me is the stongest of words that would include repentance. Textualism is the great malady of the age. If one reads the first three chapters of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship,” one would see him saying the exact same thing. Its almost impossible for people to get it though, it just shows you the power of words and how the true meaning can fall between the cracks of our understanding. The difference between knowing the word of God, believing it, confessing it, and knowing Jesus Himself is as far as the east is from the west………..Frank

  3. interesting thoughts.

    • appolus said

      Tozer is always thought provoking 🙂 Yet we see many of the “giants,” of the faith saying the same thing in times past. Thanks for dropping by Greg……….Frank

  4. cindyinsd said

    We have become worshipers of the word rather than of the Word. Jesus said “The letter kills; it is the Spirit that gives life.” Once upon a time I would parse every word as though the Bible was some sort of legal document rather than a communication from my best friend. We need to discern the intent and what God is saying to us rather than dryly, clerically picking apart each word. It’s even more silly for most of us to do this, as most of us aren’t scholars of ancient Greek, Hebrew & Aramaic.

    When we read the word, we need to ask the Word to interpret for us through the Holy Spirit, who gives life. Then it will mean what He intended it to mean. And we will see that the scriptures are all pointing to Jesus rather than to themselves.

    Great post, Frank–and Thanks!

    Love, Cindy

    • appolus said

      Hi Cindy, I could not agree more. I have a post on site called “Bibliocentric or Christocentric,” which talks about the same issue. I think it was also Tozer who said that it was silly to worship the description rather than Christ Himself. To me the Bible is like the Lord’s diary. Its facinating to read someone’s diary, its even more facinating to read someone very close to us’s diary. I would love it if my wife had a diary and I could read it and get insight into her inner being, but if I ever had to choose between reading her diary and spending time with her, I would chose spending time with her every time. It is awesome that we can do both with the word of God and the Word Himself…….Frank

  5. jim said

    About time.The lord was speaking to me about writing Andrew Strom about this this morning, when I thought I would check out the Scots and see what God was saying to Frank.The lord told Demos Shakarian ? of full Gospel business men it should be “small, local, and led by the Spirit”. Three. Where is the Presence, Power, and persecution? Is this what we are looking for? Btw, Are you aware of the church in Indianapolis? Allathisfeet.

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