The cross in the midst of revival
Posted by appolus on February 12, 2013
You can listen to this short sermon above, which points us back to very foundations of our walk with the Lord and the work of the cross and you can also read it below. I pray that it will challenge you………….bro Frank
The cross is in the very midst of revival. Now why is the cross in the very midst of revival? If we look at what we consider to be classic revivals, in the great awakening we see Jonathan Edwards and he preaches his very famous sermon ” Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” And as a result we see people in the midst of tremendous conviction poured out by the Spirit. Now, is this the formula for revival? Must we preach about sinners in the hands of an angry God? Do we just have to repeat Jonathon Edwards sermon and we will see revival? We would just stand up and preach verbatim the words of that sermon and then we would see revival, and obviously that is not the case.
So the cross in the midst of revival. What is the cross, what does it represent? What does it mean? Why is it the central theme and focus of Christianity? Well the symbolic part of the cross was that mercy and judgement were mysteriously entwined together. Judgement for all those who reject Gods plan, and mercy for those who would embrace His Son and the sacrifice offered on Calvary, a sin offering for the world. The sins of the world, the guilt of the world would be judged on Calvary. And so we see mercy and judgment , mysteriously entwined together on the cross of Calvary. In the Hebridean revival we see men so affected by the Spirit of God poured out that they cry ” Is there mercy for me, is there mercy for me?” It was a cry from the deepest wells of mens hearts.
They found themselves undone, just as we saw in the great awakening, men in desperation because the Spirit of conviction poured forth and it left men with no doubt as to their state. This is a violent confrontation between the realities of this world, which is passing away, and the eternal world to come which has no end. One is like the shadow, and the other is the object which casts the shadow. In God, there is no shadow of turning, He is our true reality and it takes violence of Spirit for this to break through the reality of this world.
So why do I say that the cross is in the midst of revival? Well, if you look at the Hebridean revival, we see such a great emphasis on the presence of God. When people were reflecting back on that revival they spoke about the presence of God, the awareness of God, the manifest presence of God, the Spirit poured forth into the Highways and byways. And this “knowing,” that God was present was not a head knowledge. They were not articulating a theological fact that God is and was everywhere, which all men who call themselves by the name of Jesus would acknowledge.
They were talking about a tangible manifest felt presence of God that washed over them and broke through the dullness of their flesh and mind and suddenly they were aware of the presence of God and Duncan Campbell testifies that time did not exist for them when God stepped down. There was, if you like, a suspension of the every day realities of life including time itself. Such was the degree of the Spirit’s work in the lives of these people. And when God steps down like this,men can see themselves for what they are, sinners. There must be the Spirit of conviction for men to truly see this.
And so the cross is in the midst of revival. I want to return to the very first revival if you like and we shall see this Spirit of conviction. This took place as Peter speaks, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to a multitude of people. Now when Jonathon Edwards spoke to his multitudes, it is recorded that men were in the agonies of conviction, often falling to the floor and crying out to God. At pentecost we also see that the Spirit of God had been poured out. We see that it gave the Apostles such a boldness to preach the truth. Peter directly challenges the people on the cross itself. Now remember, there is possibly up to one million people in Jerusalem at this time, and not just people, pilgrims, zealots , people who have travelled great distances to be there. And this crowd had called for Jesus to be crucified, they called for His blood to be upon their heads and upon their children’s heads.
And so when we consider that context, it is all the more impressive when we hear Peter say “this One given to you by the before-determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken and by lawless hands, crucifying Him, you put Him to death;” You see brothers and sisters, the central theme of what Peter spoke off left the crowd in no doubt that they had crucified the Christ, that they, by their own actions, by their sins, put Jesus on the cross. Do we tell people today that they crucified Jesus, that their sins put Jesus on the cross?
Now this crowd could have easily torn Peter limb from limb, they could have stoned him and bludgeoned him to death right there and then and nothing would have came of it. It is obvious that to preach such a message to such a crowd meant that Peter loved not his own life unto death. By the transforming power of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Peter no longer denied Jesus to save himself, but preached Jesus with his very life on the line. When the Spirit of conviction comes, when the Spirit of God begins to burn in a mans bones, he must speak, he must speak. And so this kind of conviction affects not just the speaker but also the hearer.
When Peter spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit , the people are convicted and are stabbed in the heart. This is no different from what we see in the great awakening. This stabbing in the heart has always been the key to revival and conversion and regeneration, it’s the cross in the midst of it all. This phrase, ” stabbed in the heart,” from Acts 2:37 is the Greek word Katanusso which means to pierce, to agitate violently, to thoroughly penetrate. Now a derivitive of this word, a less violent word is used to describe the spear that stabbed the Lord when He was on the cross. The word used there is nusso. So the Holy Spirit uses an even stronger, more violent word to describe what happens to the hearts of men when they are convicted by the Holy Spirit. The effect is so great that they cry out ” what must we do.” Or from another time ” is their mercy for me?” Or ” God forgive me a miserable sinner.” You see when the cross is in the midst of our preaching and the Spirit is poured out then men are left in no doubt as to their internal state and must decide one way or another what to do with this.
Now I would argue that this is the missing element from most of today’s preaching. There is no violent agitation, there is no penetration of hardened sin laden hearts, there is no piercing of the armor of sin that keeps a man’s heart captive. Now don’t get me wrong, there are many angry watchmen, but there is no penetration, there is no piercing of the heart. Gods people need the power of God to talk about Calvary.
This is the central theme of what Peter is preaching to that first crowd, he points the finger right at them and he tells them that they crucified the Christ, that they were the cause of His death. It is vital that men and woman know that they themselves crucified the Lord that it was their sins that put Him on the cross that they indeed stand guilty before a Holy God. But brothers and sisters it is just as vital for men and woman to know that there is mercy to be found at the cross. If we only preached about their sin and their guilt, if that was the sum total of our preaching, then we would be preachers of condemnation. There is balance in the Holy Spirit, there is balance in men of God who preach by the power of the Spirit, because remember, the cross is a mysterious combination of both judgement and mercy, it’s a mystery.
The Holy Spirit has come to magnify the Lord Jesus in our hearts and the Lord Jesus Christ is truth and the truth is that there is judgment and mercy to be found on Calvary. This is why in revivals like the Hebridein revival we hear testimony of people, by the presence of God, coming under intense conviction and unashamedly crying out ” is there mercy for me?” And the glorious truth of Calvary is that yes indeed there is mercy to be found at the cross. And so yes, the preaching of Calvary leaves a person in no doubt that they put the Lord Jesus on the cross, but they also discover something marvelous, something beautiful, something high and lifted up that there is mercy to be found at the cross of Jesus Christ. There is mercy to be found at the feet of the Lord Jesus. And it is in the discovery of this mercy, its in the discovery of this beautiful redemption by the Father Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ that men are converted, that they are thoroughly penetrated, thoroughly pierced in their hearts when they realize that they are guilty but that guilt has been washed away by the precious Blood of the lamb of God and that there is indeed mercy for me.
This is the essence of the cross in the midst of revival. This is revival preaching by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit comes down and opens up a mans heart and mind to understand that he is guilty before a Holy God and that it was his sins that put the Lord Jesus on the cross and he is rightly condemned but he does not find condemnation but he finds a saviour who had come to seek him and to save him and that there is mercy to be found at the cross, mercy to be found at the cross, it confounds the heart and mind and soul and it penetrates to the deepest part of who we are and it brings light into what was formerly darkness.
We also see the same power operating when Stephen preaches the same message. He gives a wonderful account of the history of the Jewish people. Yet it is the very last part of his message that violently penetrates the hearts of men. He tells them that God does not dwell in temples built by human hands, thus rendering their religious activities null and void, he was preaching the Gospel that Christ had come to take up residence in the human heart. And then he tells them that they murdered the Christ, they crucified the Christ, just like Peter told them, he says “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you have now been the betrayers and murderers;”
Immediately after saying that, they were tabbed in their hearts, the Holy Spirit uses the exact same phrase to describe the effect of these words and it pealed open their hearts and the darkness of who they were was exposed. Yet, unlike the 3000 who were saved, this crowd tore our brother to pieces. You see, the cross of Christ and Him crucified is the central theme of the preaching of the Gospel.
So we can see that there is great violence involved in the preaching of the Gospel, whether it is men’s hearts being stabbed and violently agitated or whether it’s a physicaly violents result against the preacher because of the preaching of the cross, there is violence in this world and in the spiritual realm in the midst of the cross. Men of God all down through the centuries have suffered such great physical violence because they had the willingness and the power to stand and preach the truth with great Spiritual violence. They violently agitated men and the principalities and powers in the heavenlies, they greatly disrupted the settled order of things, and thus was great physical violence poured out upon them. We live in relative peace and comfort now in the West because we do not disrupt the settled order of things.
Our lives, our witness, is no great threat to the enemy, there is no offence in our sharing because we are not sharing by the power of the Holy Spirit and revelation of the cross. The cross is indeed an offence to those that are perishing and if preached by the power of God it can be no less than that. Matt 11:12 says.And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven is taken by violence, and the violent take it by force.” There is a violence in the preaching of the cross, it is designed to violently agitate the heart and mind, to thoroughly penetrate the hard hearts of men. The plough has to cut through the unplowed field and disrupt the settled order of things in order to plant the seed.
The kingdom of heaven is taken by violence brothers and sisters. We have spoken about that violence in regard to salvation and the preaching of the cross, yet the walk of the saints is no less violent. There must be a passion and a zeal in us and a great desire to enter in. As many mature saints know, salvation is not a one time deal, no not at all, its not a “ step forward and sign on the dotted line then go and live any way you please,” no not at all, it’s a walk and its a walk along the narrow path. Jesus tells us in Luke 13:24 that we must “Strive to enter in at the narrow gate. For I say to you, many will seek to enter in and shall not be able.”
So the Lord tells us that we have to strive. Now that word in the Greek is ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee , it means to to struggle, literally (to compete for a prize), figuratively (to contend with an adversary), or generally (to endeavor to accomplish something): – fight, to labor fervently, to strive. Now brothers and sisters, those of you who have been on the road for a while will know of the struggle.. Not to attain salvation, but to walk the narrow path. You will be assaulted from without and from within. The Kingdom of heaven was never intended to be for the faint of heart or the luke-warm.
And so the walk of the cross from beginning to end, is a violent thing. There must be preaching of sin, but not from a bunch of angry young watchmen just running around wanting to see everyone one killed and the world condemned, no no no, this is not the Gospel. Let me be so bold as to suggest that this is the work of Satan, for he is the only entity that wants to see this world condemned. Again, if we go back to the cross we can see just how much God loved the world which is why there is mercy to found at the cross. Yet to truly preach this, one must have a revelation of Calvary, not even just a revelation but an illumination. You cannot share the truths of Calvary without the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, you have to have a revelation of Calvary in your hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. To only know about Calvary from what you have read of in the Scriptural accounts will give you a two-dimensional understanding and view of just what Calvary means. In order to understand Calvary, you must have a revelation of the passion of Christ. In order to have any true spiritual concept of the cross and the price paid, one needs illumination, illumination by the Spirit. Once you are captured and captivated by what actually transpired on Calvary, you will take that captivation and speak by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit because it came by illumination.
If we simply had head knowledge of Calvary what we would see is more movies like the Passion, which showed all the bloody reality of Calvary but could show us nothing of the struggle of Gethsemane, could show us nothing of the anguish and hell that would be faced on the cross in the spiritual realm, the hell of sepration from His Father that the Lord would suffer, the horrendous suffering of God the Father who had to watch His Son tortured and rejected and then had to turn away. We have turned this into theological information but have lost the passion and the reality of the message of the cross. We must search our hearts brothers and sisters and cry out for this revelation, this illumination.
So often in churches up and down the land Christians cry out for gifts, for healings for knowledge for prophecy for so many things, when was the last time you heard a brother or a sister cry out to God to give them a deeper understanding of Calvary? When was the last time you cried out brothers and sisters and asked the Lord your Father in heaven if He would share some of that burden with you. Please don’t kill me in the process Lord but give me a deeper revelation of the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And also the sacrifice of our heavenly Father so that we may more effectively share the good news that not only is there judgment to be found at Calvary but that there is mercy to be found at the cross.
Isaiah 53 says that the Lord was despised and rejected by men, that he was a man of sorrows, that He knew grief intimately, that He was wounded and bruised and many stripes were laid upon Him all for our sakes. It tells us that our Lord was led as a Lamb to the slaughter and was killed. It also tells us that it pleased God to bruise Him. Oh brothers and sisters how often have I heard that one sentence mis-used in a two dimensional way. Just the reading of this one sentence tells us nothing of God the Father’s burden.
Now if I could shine even the tiniest light, a mere fraction of the burden of our Heavnly Father I would tell you that at the age of 2 my son was burned over 60% of his body by third degree burns. How many know that it is easier to suffer pain yourself than to watch a loved one suffer ? How many know that there is a unique agony watching a child of your own suffering and dying? Just ask any parent who has lived though the process. It’s a hell on earth. Every day for weeks my son had to have bandages removed and with the removal of these bandages skin would come with it and he would scream. He would be taken and forcibly held down in salt baths which would cause him to scream out in agony.
In Scotland they would have one of the parents hold him down, the horror of it all but killed me. Yet in order for the saving of his life I gladly held him down, it pleased me to do whatever it took, but don’t mistake that word gladly, don’t mistake for one second the word pleased. Yes, whatever it takes, yes indeed because of great love, but such horrendous agony in the process. Now brothers and sisters this is a mere illustration which falls so woefully short of the agony of our Father in heaven. We will never know how much it cost our heavenly Father to watch His Son suffer and die, to allow His Son to die for you and me. It was not until years later, some years after I became a Christian that the Lord opened up my own mind and heart, using that illustration as an illumination of just a small part of His own burden of the cross.
You see there is a direct correlation between the revelation and the illumination of the passion of Calvary to the depth of your walk and the passion with which you share the Gospel. This is why the cross is the very center of revival. This is why the cross is at the very center of our need for revival. For if we live in a cross-less generation then there can be no power. It’s the cross of Christ and the narrow walk that the enemy fears more than anything. The Kingdom of heaven is taken by force. Without the preaching of Calvary and the cross there can be no power. We cannot preach the cross unless we have had a revelation of it ourselves and been changed by it ourselves.
There is none amongst us who cannot benefit from a deeper revelation of the passion of the Calvary and we will never know the true depths of Calvary outside of the baptism of the Holy Spirit like Peter at Pentecost. In fact it is what is desperately needed, a passionate remnant church, who understands what it means to suffer and has a willingness to not only to suffer but to enter into the sufferings of the Lord. And when we walk in this kind of revelation, then we will walk with the power to violently agitate and penetrate the hearts of men. This walk brothers and sisters, this walk is something to be treasured. It is something to be sought after. Something to strive after. Something worth struggling for, something worth suffering for, something worth living for and praise the Lord our God in heaven, something worth dying for.
1.In order to truly live in the next world we must learn to die in this world, we must learn to pick up our cross and die daily to the flesh.
2. In order to rule and reign with Christ in the world to come, we must learn to be a servant of all in this present world.
3. In order to know the heights of His glory, we must be willing to plunge into the depths of His sufferings.
4. In order to take the high road to heaven above, we must be willing to navigate the low narrow path here on this earth. To enter in and stay on this narrow path is to die daily and be servants of all and walk the via del arosa to Calvary and beyond.
Let us cry out, brothers and sisters, for the Lord to give us a deeper revelation of who He is and what He did for us.To give us a new and fresh revelation of the passion, of the sacrifice of Calvary itself that we ourselves may be able and willing to share with others what the Lord has done for them and that they too might find mercy at the cross.