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.

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.