We look around at the state of society today and say, “It didn’t used to be like this” or “I’m scared for my children and grandchildren.” But was it really much different going back a few hundred years?
I am surprised to learn in the church history books I am readying (covering the period of the 1700-1900s) that the state of Christianity in our country, at points, was not much different than it is today. The people then were in need of a spiritual awakening, a revival that would rekindle the faith and positively affect the nation. God worked a miracle in a mass number of people then, and He can do the same today.
Don’t be discouraged by the media or educational institutions, which try to suppress the voice of God, it happened back then as well. For example, in 1795 Yale University was in “…a most ungodly state. Most of the students were skeptical, and rowdies were plenty.” Alcoholism to immorality among the students was rampant as a result of turning to Enlightenment philosophy instead of grounding themselves in Judeo-Christian ethics. The new president of Yale, Timothy Dwight, understood what was happening and decided to preach a sermon attacking the cynics and deists, especially of the French variety, with biting rhetoric to try to shake people into their senses. He said:
“Contempt is the spirit and ridicule the weapon, with which Christianity has long been principally opposed. The cause which needs these weapons cannot be just; the doctrine which cannot be supported without them must be false. You will dread to become the objects of scorn, and to be wounded by the shafts of derision, you will be afraid to declare yourselves friends to a cause which has been the standing jest of so many men of wit, and which has been so often and so publically held up to a systematized contempt, to which insult is merit, and mockery fashion.” – Timothy Dwight
Dwight recognized the hyper-criticism of Christianity was unjustified. He saw how people, not wanting to be ridiculed, would forsake or hide their Christian faith so that they would be accepted by the majority (sound familiar?). And so Dwight pointed out that if a movement and its people have to resort to ridicule and name calling to suppress the Christian voice, then that movement and their technique of silencing the opposition should be questioned.
Fast-forward to our day, it is interesting that the IRS and FBI have both been involved in using delay tactics to silence certain Conservative groups while filing for non-profit tax status. Is there someone in government who feels threatened by the truth of these groups and feels then need to resort to cheating in order to silence those they oppose? What does this say about their philosophy and ethics?
Why is it Christians, especially, are targets of our media? We are labeled and cornered and belittled, especially in the college classroom by professors. What does this say about the philosophy or religion of the college professors?
Dwight made his point 220 years ago on the Yale University campus and people listened and a campus wide spiritual awakening broke out. There was confession, repentance, increased prayer, increased Bible study, and a transformation of people’s lives that was carried beyond the boundaries of that campus. If it could happen then, it can happen again today.
Revivals are cyclical: a generation turns from the church because they see dead orthodoxy; in turn people start living hypocritically; societal brokenness and problems increase; and then a person or a group of people see the brokenness and start praying and trying to turn the hearts of people back toward God.
We read about this cycle of revival in the Old Testament. We read about this even in the New Testament and church history. This cycle is what America has been going through since the Pilgrims came to our continent, we just happen to be in a downward part of the cycle. We may be pessimistic if “revival” can happen again today. I believe it can, right here in Seattle. We just need people who desire to pray and seek the Lord in how to turn hearts toward Him. Could this be you? Do you desire for a Holy Spirit fire to be lit under you, which increases your spiritual vitality and causes you to pant after God? Causes you to desire to know Him through His Word? Causes you cry out to God in worship?
We don’t need more “deeds of righteousness” to turn things around, we need a spiritual awakening of the heart, a new birth or a revived spirit in believers, which ends the downward trend of our culture.
I believe we are on the cusp of revival, but it may require a few more tragedies for our country to truly begin to seek again for His hand to touch our hearts. Will you pray with me that our country would turn? Will you commit to prayer daily for your own heart’s revival, for the hearts of our leaders at Grace Church, for the hearts of the leaders of churches in general, and for the hearts of the leaders of our country?