Another pastor remarked to me last week that we would see true, great revival when there is a new manifestation of “signs, wonders and miracles” in the church. I use the term “again” because another pastor in another state said the same thing to me recently. The first time I agreed that such a display of the power of God would illustrate His love and His power, resulting in many people receiving salvation.
After much thought and reflection, I now have a somewhat different perspective. It is not that we don’t desperately need the power of God in the church bringing transformation into people’s lives. As researcher George Barna said at the recent Evangelical Press Association/Associated Church Press Convention, “The enemy of America today is not Iraq. It is not Afghanistan or communism. It is not Somalian pirates. It’s the moral degradation and spiritual complacency of Americans.”
It is as if the American church has become nearly helpless in stopping the spread of this cancer – even enabling it – while the antidote is as close as the Bible, a history book, a mirror and most importantly, God Himself. The apostle Paul clearly contrasted that the source of “moral reformation” as we might call it begins with a simple “fruit check” from Galatians 5:19-24:
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. …”
“The flesh” refers to our basic sin nature that, according to universal Christian doctrine, enslaves each and every person to be producers of that “fruit” apart from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Does the above list sound like 2009 United States, or are we more like the following?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Colonial pastor and First Great Awakening leader Jonathan Edwards recounted in “Narrative of Surprising Conversions”:
“And then it was, in the latter part of December, that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to … work amongst us. There were, very suddenly, one after another, five or six persons who were, to all appearance, savingly converted, and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner.
Particularly I was surprised with the relation of a young woman … she gave an account of was a glorious work of God’s infinite power and sovereign grace, and that God had given her a new heart, truly broken and sanctified. …
… so that in the spring and summer following, Anno 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God.
It never was so full of love, nor so full of joy. … There were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on the account of salvation’s being brought unto them, parents rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands.
If the Spirit of God is the source of the good fruits in lives and therefore of a nation, it follows that the absence of the fruits equals an absence of Him. This would apply even among those who sit in a church pew on Sunday, possibly even teach a Sunday school class, even preach from a pulpit.
It is obvious that a spiritual/moral/cultural/political reformation is desperately needed. However, we are so busy fighting symptoms that we are overlooking root causes. The ominous abandonment of sound principles of fiscal policy, foreign policy and domestic policy by the current Congress and administration were made possible by the moral decay Barna references long before it became a reality.
As William Penn stated to Russian Czar Peter the Great, “If thou wouldst rule well, thou must rule for God, and to do that, thou must be ruled by Him. … Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.” Goodbye God, hello tyrants.
It gets even worse. We chose the tyrants.
Oh sure, we didn’t all choose them, and we cannot discount God’s sovereign hand at work. However, it was not first our vote that elevated the tyrants from White House down to city hall. It was the fruits of our flesh as a people that defies the God Who created us, loves us and has given His spirit and His truth to live by.
I have absolute certainty that God has in the past, does in the present and will in the future exhibit supernatural power in miraculous ways. In my humble opinion, the most dynamic “signs, wonders and miracles” that will transform this nation will be seen when those who are called by His name let the world see the shining light of changed lives walking in the fruits of the Spirit.
Choosing godly leaders was and is a mandate of the church, is a critical part of our role as “light of the world” and “salt of the earth” and, finally, is a basic expression of our love of God and love for our neighbor. It exhibits the power of God delegated to His people over part of His creation to manage for His purpose.
We must indeed “fight city hall” at every level of our government, but let’s first turn the light back on and get out the salt – starting as always in our pulpits.