An important message to everyone!

Certainly today there is a wealth of religions and non-religions vying for our attention all with its various claims for happiness, enjoyment, fun and life.  There is, no doubt, a reason for this…we are all looking for something beyond ourselves, something more.  There just has to be, doesn’t there?  And this yearning is not easy to describe.  King Solomon said that we have eternity in our hearts.

There is one that claims to have the real answers.  THE truth.  Claims to be able to fill the holes in our lives.  Claims to be THE life.  And contrary to how the world thinks, contrary to tolerance and the ‘doesn’t matter what you believe’ philosophy claims to be THE way.

It is odd that we think that it doesn’t matter what you believe if those beliefs are the opposite of each other – and surely we want to get it right, don’t we?  They can’t ALL be right – surely there can only be one.

It was Jesus who said: John 14:6 (NKJV) — 6 …I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Jesus was not inclusive but exclusive – He says He is the ONLY way.  Not very palatable to us – but so what?!  Some medicine is not pleasant for us to take but we still take for the benefit of our health.  Either Jesus was saying something we should pay close attention to or else he got it wrong.

In another place in Scripture (the Bible) it says:

Acts 4:12 (NKJV) — 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

So, if Jesus is right…and I haven’t heard anyone prove Him wrong yet…and what we have just read here is that there is no other way except through Jesus and it says we MUST be saved…then surely we should take extreme notice.

From what do we need to be saved?  Jesus came to give us life.  Not just a plain boring life but life to the full.  So He came to save us from monotony.  But is it this that we need to be saved from?  Of course not but that is one of the benefits of coming to Jesus.  You cannot say that the Christian life is boring!

So, from what do we need to be saved? 1) From ourselves 2) From hell

From ourselves?  Well, yes!  We all like to think that we are good and on the balance of things we’re OK.  But on whose scales are we weighing ourselves?  With whom are we comparing?  With Hitler?!  With our neighbour?

Let’s find out just how good we are!  Have we ever lied?  Ever?  Have we ever stolen something?  Tell the truth now – otherwise we have just lied!  Have we ever got angry?  Have we ever lusted and wanted something that belonged to someone else that didn’t belong to us or ever can without stealing?  Hmm.  Yeah, but these are just minor things, aren’t they?  Aren’t they?  Well, all these things and others like them such a murder, such as taking the Lord’s name in vain (ever said ‘Jesus’ as a swear word), such as not worshipping any other god (including TV, money, wealth, work, etc) – all these things are called ‘sin’.  It is missing the mark – like missing the bull’s-eye on a dart board – or it is something that has been done deliberately.

Sin.

This is why we need to be saved from ourselves because there is a price to pay, a judgment given for those who sin.

We won’t want to hear it…but here goes:

Romans 6:23a (NKJV) — 23 For the wages of sin is death

Death!  That sounds a bit harsh doesn’t it – I mean we haven’t done anything THAT bad, have we?

Romans 3:23 (NKJV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

The point here is that we are all in the same boat – nothing we do can get us to a better place – God is so completely holy He cannot bear sin – and so we are all under the same judgment.  What is more God could not make it clearer:

Hebrews 9:27 (NKJV) — 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

This brings us to the other point – we need to be saved from the judgment.

Jesus says that He is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth, the ONLY life – and we can only come to God through Him.

But if we reject Him then we are going to be judged according to our deeds and according to the fact we have not accepted Jesus:

John 3:18 (NKJV) — 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

But not all is lost!  What difference did it make for Jesus to come?

Well – you know that judgment that we have to suffer – the one which says we deserve death and hell – Jesus paid the price – Jesus took our punishment upon Himself to save us.  That’s why He died an horrific death upon the cross.  We deserved to be there but He paid our fine in full.  That’s why when He was about to die He said: It is finished!

This is why the message that Christian’s bring to the world is called ‘Good News’ (Gospel).

Jesus didn’t stay dead – but came back to life after three days – defeating death in the process – now we can simply accept and trust Jesus has done it all for us – and in return He will give us eternal life.

Why did He do this?  The most famous verse in the Bible declares it best:

John 3:16 (NKJV) — 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

And:

Romans 5:8 (NKJV) — 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He didn’t wait for us to turn to Him – He initiated it all – His arms are wide open now to receive you, if you would receive Him.

We could not pay the price for our sin – our destiny was hell and deservedly so – the proof is in what Jesus has done for us – He would not have gone to so much trouble dying in such a way let alone the spiritual side of things (which was worse – He literally went through hell for us) – He would not have gone through it if there had been some other way.

Will you turn to Him?  Will you accept the free salvation bought for you?  If so – you will pass from death to life – as simple as that.  But if you will not then you are still under judgment – there is a price to pay for rejecting such a great salvation – but why reject Him?  It doesn’t make sense – Jesus is the medicine we need to take – and not the unpleasant kind either.  It is completely free – it is a gift:

Romans 6:23 (NKJV) — 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Pray now and ask Jesus into your life – as a response to His great love for you – give your life to Him.

Here is a suggested prayer to help you:

Lord Jesus, how amazing it is for you to love someone like me.  I am a sinner and I need forgiveness. I know I don’t deserve the life you are giving me.  But I believe that Jesus shed His blood and died in my place for my sin.  I believe that He rose from the dead to give me life.  You have given your life for me – I give my life to you.  Come into my life to be my Lord (to be the one in charge), Saviour and Friend.  Thank you!  And please give me your Holy Spirit to help me walk according to your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

What now?  Go to a Bible-believing Church near you (like Ely Baptist Church in Cardiff) and tell people the Good News that you are now in the family of God and have eternal life.  If you have a Bible then start to read it – perhaps reading Luke first.

Need advice?  Get in contact with me – get in contact anyway and let me know what you have done – and if you have any questions because you have not yet decided or have unanswered questions getting in the way – just ask!  But PLEASE do not leave it – the question of whether Jesus is the way, the truth and the life is the most important question of all – and there is going to be a time when it will be too late to do anything about it – be URGENT – be saved.

God bless you as you move forward in your Christian life.

Good Friday

Philippians 2:5–11 (NKJV) — 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Good Friday.  It’s all in the name.  What is so good about this day?  I suspect that we already know the answer to that question but to remind ourselves again is profitable for us.  Without Jesus going to the cross then we would all still be in sin and trouble.

Let’s see what Jesus did for us, for each of us so listen carefully.

What Jesus did was voluntary.  He chose to do this.  He humbled Himself.  At no point was this something He was forced to do.  Yes, it was the only way for us to be saved and Jesus did it willingly.

John 10:18 (NKJV) — 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV) — 2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Notice that?  For the joy set before Him.  Because He knew what the result would be He willingly went to the cross.  What was the joy? We are the joy.  We are so precious in His sight He is full of joy when we walk with Him.

His willingness led to His death.  Jesus showed us how to live but first and foremost He came to die, to be obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

When it says ‘even the death of the cross’ we need to grasp how shameful it was to both a Jewish mind and to a Roman mind.

To the Jewish mind these verses would come to mind when someone was crucified:

Deuteronomy 21:22–23 (NKJV) — 22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.

A person hanged from a tree is under God’s judgment. It was by no mistake that this was in Scripture.  Jesus came under God’s judgment.  Jesus became a curse for us so in the Divine exchange we could receive a blessing.  He paid the price for us that we should have paid.  Jesus was cursed with our curse and in turn we were blessed with His blessing as the sinless Son of God.

To a Roman mind, the concept of the death of Christ on the cross was offensive. And for the Son of God to die this way so shamefully was, in their minds, ridiculous.

1 Corinthians 1:23 (NKJV) — 23but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,

What we preach to the world is total foolishness. When we preach Christ, crucified and raised to an unbelieving world it is rejected as foolishness. To those who have experienced in a personal way Jesus Christ and Him crucified Jesus it is for us the power of God unto salvation.  And we wonder how it can be foolishness to others when it makes sense to us.  Thanks be to God that the eyes of our hearts and minds were opened.

The obedience which Christ demonstrated on the cross was not easy, it was an obedience that was hard, it cost Him something: Just read the gospel accounts leading up to His death:  He was slapped, name called, whipped, scourged, nailed by His hands and feet to a cross with thorns piercing His head, hanging in pain for 6 hours, tormented and left to die in humiliation.  And then the most haunting words of all: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

When Jesus died He took our sins and He endured the curse of God, the judgment of God for our sin, all for us, for our benefit. When Jesus died, He died so that we might know and experience the power of God unto salvation—so that we could know what we did not know before: the righteousness of God, the justification of God, the redemption of God, the forgiveness of God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and eternal life.

Now we are called to follow in His footsteps, to become like Jesus.  Who here wants to be humiliated, to suffer, to be rejected, to die?  To become like Jesus is to have no reputation or at least to have a reputation we are willing to lose.   To take up our cross is to be like Jesus willing for these things, those things that happened to Him, to happen to us.  Because nothing should get in the way of knowing Jesus and what He has done for us.  But who here is really willing to go through hell like Jesus did?

How Jesus outstrips us as a person, how more amazing that God Himself as the Supreme Son of God who deserves all glory and honour, went to die an accursed, shameful, painful death for us.

It is called Good Friday because on this day almost 2000 years ago Jesus did all things for us so that we could live.  We follow Him because we were bought with the precious blood of Jesus.  We follow Him because He loves us.  Because He loves us we love Him.

9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Are Christians lacking faith if they do not prosper or are sick or have trouble?

Today’s subject will be an eye opener.  It goes against the grain of those prosperity gospeller’s who ply their trade on God TV and elsewhere. We are told by them that only good is in store for those who are Christians.  We are told that problems simply go away because we belong to God.  We are told that there is no sickness, no pain this side of Heaven that God will not heal.  We are told that we will live abundantly in every green field and that we will have money to spare.  And if this is not the case then we are without faith.  This is a mindset that is difficult to overcome and is a very typical western view of how God should be to His children: the One who is on demand like our Sky Boxes, TiVos and Freeview boxes.  It is difficult to overcome because those who have believed these things can only feel condemned that their lives are not rosy and comfortable or instead are snug because it is all going their way and so, therefore, are of great faith.  Millions of Christians around the world think it is their right to have everything go their way.

My question is three-fold:  Do bad things happen to good people?  Is there something wrong with good people if things go pear-shaped?  When trouble comes who is at fault?

Now I have said before there is no one who is good except God – but I am addressing those who have been made righteous in God’s sight.  Do bad things happen to God’s people and is there something wrong with them if things don’t go right?

Let’s read from Scripture and see what it has to say:

Job 2:1–10; Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” 3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” 4 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” 7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. 9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Notice that Job did not sin by saying that adversity came from God.  In another translation it says: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (ESV)

So, should we only expect good from God and no bad to come our way?  Today it even sounds heretical to say that the trouble we have actually comes from God.  But this is what Job says and he did not sin by saying that – meaning he was right in his estimation even though we, unlike him, have the insight to see that Satan was the one to actually cause all the pain and hurt he suffered – but this was allowed by God.

But this is so Old Testament, right?  I mean, it can’t be the case now that we are saved by Jesus Christ, can it?

1 Peter 1:3–9; Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

James 1:2–4; My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

You can’t be serious, can you?  Peter mentions that some may have had trials but James says when you fall into trials…it seems that if we have come out of trouble and not having trouble now we are guaranteed that trouble is on the way.  Out of Jesus’ own words He says:

John 16:33b; In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

If we have no challenge and no trials it can only lead to a bland Christian life; a life that does not cause us to rely upon God.  We naturally do not seek God when things are well and comfortable.  Faith grows in the crucible of fire, of trouble and trials, where we are forced to rely upon God even when the circumstances can seem unbearable.

1 Peter 4:12–13,19; Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

Suffer according to the will of God.  There it is again! To re-emphasise;

Job 42:11; Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold.

suffering

Even after the trouble was over it left its mark on Job… but notice that others helped in comforting him.  We may know someone now who is going through the mill.  When they have come out the other side we need to be those who draw alongside and help where we can.  When we, ourselves, have been through the fire then we can empathise with those who also suffer…and this world is full of suffering.

Let us beware of how we respond to those in troubling times and not be judgmental and be like those whom Paul saw:

Galatians 4:13–14; You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

This just goes against the whole grain of prosperity gospeller’s preaching.  Even Paul was not well.  It would really seem that we are not promised that anything will go right for us this side of Heaven, if anything we are promised the opposite.

God does give us faith to trust Him for healing and other things and most of us have experienced such things and know others who have too but these things are not guaranteed to happen every time.  God however gives us faith to handle the different situations when they arise if we are willing to receive it – and sometimes it is for a complete miracle.

We have gained the idea in the last forty years that somehow we can demand of God our rights as Christians just like people are all the more demanding of their rights in today’s world.  But I think we are mistaken as to what those rights are.  We do have a number of rights: we have the right to become sons of God as long as we believe on Jesus, we have the right to be forgiven as long as we have forgiven others and confessed our sin – these rights come with conditions attached – and these are gifts from God through the suffering of Jesus.  We also have the right to suffer, a right that not too many Christians want to claim I expect but it comes with great rewards though not in this life.

Hear Jesus:

Mark 10:28–30; Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” 29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

We really do have it upside down; we are not gaining anything until we have left everything – which means that anything we do gain in this world will be held onto with very light hands because we realise their true worth.  And there is the bit we don’t want – persecution.

God may tell us that we shall be healed or, indeed, we have faith for healing so that is a promise to hold onto until it happens but unless this is so our faith is nothing more than presumption.  Earlier we saw that Paul was sick, we read that Job was sick, in Acts and the Epistles we discover others who were sick such as Timothy and he was advised to take medicine (rather than claim his healing – and this by Apostle Paul!).  If our great apostles needed healing and were sick from time to time are we to expect that we will live a sick-free life?

2 Corinthians 12:10; For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)

Paul is content in troubles and in whatever happens.

Perhaps we are surprised because we know

Romans 8:28; And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

And

Jeremiah 29:11; For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Both verses are absolutely true and are God’s promises to us but what do we think this good is or this future and hope?  Do we think that God’s good for us means monetary rewards?  Do we think that the future that God is giving us is a life of luxury?  Did we not hear that the things of this world are at enmity with God?  Sometimes God will bless us with these things and indeed we should be exceedingly thankful if so and to use what we have been given for God’s service.  But as said before we are to treat these things with light hands;

1 Timothy 6:17-19; Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,  19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

If we were to look up the word ‘riches’ in the Bible we would find that riches of the world are mentioned with disdain but when it refers to riches for a Christian it refers to our inheritance; to the knowledge of Jesus; to the riches we have in glory.  Not at all what the world would want to hear or our faith preachers and their adherents.   Earlier in the chapter Paul says:

1 Timothy 6:9; But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.

forgoodDo all things work for the good of those who are God’s?  Bernard Gilpin, accused of heresy before Bishop Bonner, set out for London for trial. His favorite maxim was, “All things are for the best.” On his journey, he broke his leg. “Is all for the best now?” jested a scorner. “I still believe so,” he replied.   And so it proved, for before he was able to resume his journey, Queen Mary died. And instead of going to London to be burned, he returned home in triumph.

We don’t know what we have missed by the fact trouble has come our way…it maybe a worse calamity would have come our way us. Just because things don’t seem to be going well does not mean that things could have not have been worse or we escaped temptation that would have ensnared us.  God uses the things that happen for his purposes.  God sees the whole picture whereas we are like fish in a goldfish bowl only aware of our own situation – and even then we are not truly aware.

God does promise all things for good but it may not be what accountants call ‘tangible assets’.  Tangible assets are those that you can value with money and can touch with our hands: things like cars or computers or money. Most often, though, the good we receive is an intangible asset – something that is hard to put a value on because these are assets you cannot actually put your hands on.  These intangible assets are

Galatians 5:22–23; …the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

These intangible assets become evident to everyone even if one is poor or sick or homeless or jobless or friendless or possessionless.  But the greatest riches we shall enjoy will be once we cross over the Jordan, so to speak.  The Bible makes it clear we should be encouraging each other about the fact Jesus is coming back.  Why encourage?  Because this world has mainly troubles…and when He comes back He will set everything right…He will give us a reward and riches that nothing can corrupt but above all we will be with Him forever.

2 Corinthians 4:17; For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

When bad comes our way we are not to demand our rights but seek God and allow Him to do His work in us, so that the end result is a greater trust in Him with an even greater reward.  It maybe that God will give healing or wealth among other things but maybe he won’t. We can say:

“I know that God has a purpose in this. I know that God will bring me through this. I know that God is a good and loving Father and that He is doing a good and eternal work in my life.” (Charles Stanley)

Through it all God never leaves us or forsakes us.  Like the footprints poem He carries us.  He is with us through thick and thin.  Remember that story of Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace?  Who was there in the fire with them? (see Daniel 3:1-30)

I will end with this poem by Walter Knight who it would seem knows something of trials and pains:

vice

Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length,

Pressed so intensely it seems beyond strength;

Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,

Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll;

Pressure by foes, and pressure by friends,

Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends,

Pressed into loving the staff and the rod;

Pressed into knowing no helper but God;

Pressed into liberty where nothing clings,

Pressed into faith for impossible things;

Pressed into living a life in the Lord,

Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured!

All quotations from the Bible are NKJV unless otherwise stated.

Revival – Can we have it again?

RevivalRevival – Is it possible in the UK (and elsewhere)?

Matthew 17:14–21 (NKJV) 14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

“I am profoundly convinced that the greatest need in the world today is revival in the Church of God. Yet Alas! the whole idea of revival seems to have become strange to so many good Christian people. There are some who even seem to resent the very idea, and actually speak and write against it. Such an attitude is due to both a serious misunderstanding of the Scriptures, and to a woeful ignorance of the history of the Church. Anything therefore that can instruct God’s people in this matter is very welcome.”[1]

Today I want to talk about revival.  Today in the UK and especially in Wales there is a move away from the Church and to personal religion or spirituality that is not the religion of Jesus or revealed in the Bible.  It looks like all hope is lost for our present generation.   It could be that we don’t actually realise what is going on but there is a battle for the hearts and minds of the people and the Church is not winning but rather is compromising God’s truth so that we can be more palatable to the people of the world.

But according to Acts 1:8 (NKJV) and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  We have the uncompromising truth that is the Gospel.

Right on our doorstep as a Church homes directly around the Church and the whole estate, village or town – our Jerusalem, in our Country – our Judea and Samaria.  That is not a small number let alone the fact we have the ability to reach 536,600,000 English speaking people on the internet – which is our ends of the world – and, of course, any other language that we know – so what are we using the internet for?  We have a massive mission field – for what are we using Facebook, twitter, blogs, Pininterest, Google+ and the rest for?  Are these gateways into the lives of others being used for our own entertainment alone or do we look for ways to be Christ in the world? We don’t need to travel anywhere for we have the world on our laptop and mobile devices.  We are called witnesses to Jesus – it is a mammoth task – but with God on our side the tide of godlessness even in our nation can be turned.

Ephesians 6 makes it clear that we are in a war against Satan and his host of demons.  Our fight is not against other human beings.  Ephesians 6:12 says: (NKJV) 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

And Satan has bound the many.  The war is being done in the Spiritual Realm.  Binding the strong man, that is the devil, to get to his people to make them children of the living God.  How can this be done except by prayer and fasting?

Sleeping angelIn September 2011, my wife, Irena, and I were in Macedonia and we went to Church – and to be honest I was not expecting to hear much of the message as my Macedonian is pretty rusty now (I was formally a missionary in Macedonia) – but I asked God to help me understand anyway.  But before the preaching a man was invited up who was an American, and he said that we should be praying for revival in Macedonia – and then he went on to say that he had a woman friend who had visited the Church that Evan Roberts, the 1904 Welsh Revivalist, was at – and whilst she was there – and this is what the man said – so I cannot vouch for the credibility – she had a vision of a sleeping angel – and she asked God why is the angel sleeping – and God told her that the angel is sleeping because no one is praying for revival.

My friends, I do not know if the story is true or not – but that man could not have known that there was someone there from a Welsh Church in the congregation – so I took it as a word from God regardless.  Even if it were not a direct word from Heaven it is plain that Scripture indicates that this is how we will see a change in our nation.

In the passage that heads this page there are two things that had to be done for the demon to leave were prayer and fasting.  We are in a battle – but it is not with people – but with spiritual powers at work in their lives.  Unless we return to prayer, unless we use the spiritual disciplines at our disposal in God’s economy then we will not see a change; we will never see our nation return back to God.  The effect of the Welsh Revival of 1904 was worldwide and it kept the nation on track so that through the great wars we were trusting God for the outcome.  Revival not only affects people spiritually but socially.  When the Gospel is preached the heart of human beings are changed irrevocably and when it happens on a large scale nations can be changed as a result.

And friends we have such a great responsibility.  We don’t have revival because we have stopped caring for the lives of our fellow countryman.  We forget so easily that each person will have to give an account to God.  We forget that, like Tozer said, ‘we hold onto the tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly (and this) has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions’.  This deadly opiate is the apathy we have as a result of thinking that there is only a Heaven and no Hell.

Habakkuk in his very short book of 3 chapters that takes about 10 minutes to read prays for justice to come in Judah.  So he is told by God that judgment is coming in the form of the Chaldeans.  Habakkuk now realises what God’s justice looks like and he doesn’t like it because it is all too terrifying.  So, then Habakkuk prays for mercy for the people rather than justice because he understands the judgment that is to come.

Revival has come in the past when old truths from Scripture have been recovered and preached.  Today the doctrine of hell is one of those teachings that has suffered a great deal probably because of the abuse it had centuries ago – so the pendulum swung away – but now the pendulum has to swing back to recover the truth that if for the people of God whom the Lord judges it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God then what will it be for the godless of this age?  Jesus Himself said that it would be better to cut off our hand or foot than to go there.

How come we are not like Habakkuk crying out for mercy, praying and fasting on behalf of our friends, family and countrymen:  Revive us, O God.  If we realise that God’s judgment and anger will be poured out upon the world that does not believe in Jesus then we are going to pray-ers and those who fast because we would not wish what will happen upon our worst enemy for even 5 minutes.

God wants all people to know Him and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  But His people, as the angel, are asleep and getting on with their own thing and have become too comfortable.  But the promise of Scripture stands: 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) 14 ‘if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’ What a promise!

We’ve got to get motivated because at the moment the Church is sleeping and sleep walking others into the judgement of God.  What does the Scripture say? ‘Wake up, O sleeper and rise from the dead.’ (Eph 5.14)

Perhaps it is time to take seriously time with God, praising Him, praying to Him making our petitions known to Him, praying for the Church, for our estates, villages, towns and for Wales, etc, and then listening to Him and reading what He has to say in His Word – perhaps getting up earlier or staying up later to make sure we do.  Is this really a hardship or a sacrifice?  Jesus made a point quite often of going apart, getting up early, and praying.  But I will speak about what real sacrifice is: That was Jesus dying on a cross drinking in the last dregs of the wine of God’s wrath so that we who so deserve hell could be free – and not only us but He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  How should we or how can we repay such kindness?

fasting

We don’t hear much about fasting these days but sometimes we have to be as Jesus when He said John 4:34 (NKJV)34 “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work’ in reply to the fact he had not yet eaten.  He simply had God’s work to do and that took precedence over food.  In fact, his own mother and brothers thought he was mad that he did not stop to eat at times because he was so involved in God’s work.

What about fasting, proper fasting, from food, for a period of time, say, for a day?  Fasting is not about twisting the arm of God, no! It so that we can pray more effectively and be more open spiritually to God.  But it is a lost art to the majority of Christians today…but Jesus assumed that we would pray and fast as a matter of course for He says: When you fast and pray do not do it in public…Jesus simply believed that we will.

For you have need of endurance, says Hebrews 10.26, so that after doing the will of God we may receive the promise.  Prayer is where we love God with the heart and mind, and fasting is about loving Him with our bodies too.

There is something else about revival – and that is identifying ourselves with those of the world:  Realising that we are all sinners, there is none that are good.  We read of Moses, of Isaiah, of Daniel, of Nehemiah and others praying this kind of prayer.

prayer handsMoses prayed in Exodus 34:9 (NKJV) 9 Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”

Daniel 9:4–5 (NKJV) 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.

Surely we want to see revival – in praying these prayers we are identifying with and interceding for the sake of our fellow humans as well as ourselves.  Do we not also pray in the Lord’s Prayer: forgive us OUR trespasses?  There are intercessors among us to stand in the breach.  Jesus intercedes for us; will we intercede for our neighbours?  How else will we see revival?

There is something I have not yet mentioned that will make all the difference: God’s power.  I read the latter part of Acts 1.8 earlier but here is the rest of it:  Acts 1:8 (NKJV) 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We can apply the words of Jesus to us as His people: Luke 4:18–19 (NKJV) 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Only God’s power can overcome the obstacles of reaching people for Jesus.  Unless we watch, fast, pray, awake out of our slumber we will lose another generation to the devil and it will be even harder again to reach the generation that follows.  What we need is the power of the Holy Spirit and the only way we are going to get there is through spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting.  We have to implore God to pour out His Spirit upon us as with the early Church and in revivals we have only ever heard about.

We are completely reliant upon God’s power and leading.  Again, we are not self-reliant but God-reliant.  The strong man, the devil, has power over the lives of people in this town but we are overcomers for we are a people of God’s power.  We have the power of Him who raised Jesus up from the dead living in us.  We have Jesus in us. And so we need to be a people of prayer, of fasting and of witnessing.

There is something that can get in the way of all this as we see in the demon passage we read – in verse 20:  Unbelief is the hindrance for God’s power to work.

So it is time to move back and to return to the Bible: Romans 10:17 (NKJV) 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

So, our faith, our belief, is in the God who speaks today.  We have a faith that is based upon reliable evidence.  In our witnessing we can, in the power of God’s Spirit, preach Jesus knowing that God will work in the hearts of our hearers.  If we have faith as small as a mustard seed God will meet us the rest of the way and we shall see His power at work.

We need to build the foundations in our lives especially spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, Scripture and witnessing.

Revival will come, by God’s grace, if we awake, if we turn to God and seek His face for the sake of the people of around our Churches and beyond.  Will we join God in this momentous task – will we be co-workers with Him to seek and save the lost?  Let us commit ourselves to this task and to pray and fast for God’s mercy to be poured out: Habakkuk 3:2 (NKJV) O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.

What will we do?  Who will take up the challenge of calling together God’s people to pray that God will move again in such a way?



[1] Christian History Magazine-Issue 23: Spiritual Awakenings in North America. 1989. Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute.