THE THREE R'S OF REVIVAL AND AWAKENING
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THE THREE R'S OF REVIVAL AND AWAKENING
Writing in the preface to Cotton Mather’s History of New England, John Higginson expressed well the perspective that God’s hand was integral in the founding and settlement of America:
It hath been deservedly esteemed one of the great and wonderful works of God in this last age, that
the Lord stirred up the spirits of so many thousands of His servants … to transport themselves
… into a desert land in America … in the way of seeking first the kingdom of God for the purpose of
a fuller and better reformation of the Church of God, than it hath yet appeared in the world
(Marshall and Manuel, The Light and the Glory, 23).
Explorers, separatists, reformers, those seeking religious freedom, and countless others were drawn to the New World by the unseen hand of God. Though some may deny the hand of God in the earliest explorations of the New World, the colonization of North America, and the foundation and development of United States, an objective study reveals such is not the case. Surely, Columbus and other explorers who followed often demonstrated greedy and godless behavior, but unbiased eyes do not dismiss the duality of many of their efforts, that being to spread the cause of Christ and to bring a profit for those who financed their expeditions.
It is clear, too, that the hunger for material wealth and the crass treatment of the indigenous peoples often obscured any spiritual goals some may have entertained. Yet to say God did not draw men and women to the New World due to the ungodly behaviors of some is tantamount to saying God did not draw the Israelites out of Egypt based on the ungodly behaviors they engaged in after leaving. Clearly, God had plans for the New World. The thread of Christianity runs prominently throughout the tapestry of American history during the Colonial Period and the conception, realization, and development of the United States.
God’s plans have never required perfect human beings, though greater godliness surely increases the effectiveness of those plans (2 Tim. 2:19–21). Clearly, the realization of God’s plan for America has peaked and waned throughout its history, not based on any weakness with God but based on the imperfections of mankind. Spiritually stagnant and decadent times have been met by God bringing forth those filled with spiritual hunger who humbled themselves and prayed for the nation (2 Chr. 7:14), resulting in revival among the Christians and awakening among the lost. The veracity of that being so is evidenced by the First Great Awakening (1726–1750), the Second Great Awakening (1795–1840), and the Prayer Revival (1857–1858). The Holiness Revival that followed paved the way for Pentecostalism and assured us that sin is an anathema to the cause of Christ.
Numerous events that preceded and influenced the Azusa Street Revival of the early 1900s and many occurring during prior revivals and awakenings remind us of the need for the Church to flow in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the power which Christ promised to Christians as result of the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), power often neglected in the Church as a result of man-made teachings like cessationism, which, among other things, asserts that the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7–11) were only for the primitive Church. The Healing Revival of the 1940s and 1950s evidenced God’s continuing desire to heal, revealing that He is concerned both about man’s physical well-being and his spiritual well-being. Beginning in 1960, the Charismatic Renewal provided millions an opportunity to know and experience the power of the Holy Spirit in ways often neglected by mainline churches.
As has been true many times in the past, we now live in a time where there is spiritual stagnation in the United States, along with the obvious indicators of spiritual decline. Moral relativists, discarding or ignorant of the Bible, bombard us with an ideology that insists there are no moral absolutes that apply to all people, for all time, and in all places, often replacing those absolutes with shades of grey. The lives of well over 50 million unborn children have been terminated through abortion. We have witnessed the proliferation of same-sex marriages. Those who oppose such marriages based on the fact there is no biblical support for them are often met with intolerance and labeled bigots or homophobes. Christians face pressure to privatize their faith, an attempt to remove the practice of faith and its influence from the public arena. What was once identified as pornography is now largely accepted under the guise of “adult entertainment.”
Additionally, Jesus clearly stated in John 14:6 that “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Yet religious pluralists would have us believe all religions lead to God and proclaim Christians arrogant for believing and embracing Jesus’ words that state otherwise. Relating this to the US Constitution, those whose mission is to alter or thwart the intent and purpose of this document have long been noted. The Roe v. Wade (1973) decision on abortion, based on what many Constitutional scholars tell us was very faulty reasoning, is one example. Changing interpretations of the First Amendment is another. Originally intended to assure religious freedom by limiting the government’s authority, the First Amendment has, by changing interpretations instead, been used to greatly curtail Christianity’s influence. In such a climate, the maligning of Christians is often acceptable. In many ways contributing to this caustic climate, untold numbers of Christians willingly ignore their personal beliefs by supporting and voting for candidates whose beliefs and policies stand in stark opposition to the Bible. With such voters, economic issues often consistently trump biblical or moral ones.
Proliferating and enhancing this spiritual decline are revisionist historians of the sort who seek to eliminate, ignore, or undermine the facts related to Christianity’s role in the foundation of the United States. To ignore the facts that relate how Christianity, its clergy, and a Christian worldview influenced the culture, including the laws and practices of this nation, its colonization, founding, and development, stands not as viable history but as history manipulated. Sadly, many among us, by embracing the assertions of revisionist historians, like the history they embrace, are manipulated. Such manipulation has in many ways exacerbated the spiritual decline of this nation.
As noted before, times of spiritual decline are not new to the history of Christianity in this nation. They are not unique to the history of Christianity in general. Spiritual decline in Europe influenced many to come to the New World in order to implement Christian reform and seek religious freedom (i.e., separatists in England). Spiritual decline in this nation has spurred Christians to prayer on more than one occasion. That being so, rather than viewing spiritual decline as the death knell of Christianity, we instead should view it as impetus for action. In times of spiritual decline, it is imperative that we Christians humble ourselves and seek God for revival and awakening—yet not revival and awakening without clear goals. The spiritual change we hunger for and seek, like that sought by so many in the past, must concentrate upon The Three R’s of Revival and Awakening: Refocusing, Reforming, and Restoring.
Our humbling ourselves before God, praying, seeking His face, and turning from iniquity will result in God “healing our land,” effecting revival among believers, and awakening among the lost (2 Chr. 7:14). As said, necessarily permeating and integral to the process of “healing our land” are The Three R’s of Revival and Awakening. The first R is Refocusing. Refocusing speaks of laying aside all weights and sin that hinder us, placing our undivided attention upon God (Heb. 12:1–2), and praying. The second R, which stands for Reforming, is imperative as we must alter or discard teachings and practices that help to create or enhance spiritual stagnation or hinder the lost from experiencing conversion (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15). The last R is Restoring, the process whereby individual believers and the Church are returned to a place of spiritual health and vigor and the lost are reconciled to God (John 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:23; 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Pet. 3:18).
Humbling ourselves before God and turning from iniquity, as stated, will result in our land being healed. But healthy Christianity knows no national boundaries. The stagnancy of the spiritual climate in the United States is also noted in other lands that were at one time bastions of the Christian faith, most notably Europe. Our prayers and actions, rather than being merely self-serving, should also be that which stimulates Christians in other lands to prayer and action. Not stopping there, may our prayers and actions also include what have not traditionally been Christian nations. May we do so in order that God’s desire that all men come to know the truth, resulting in their not perishing but coming to repentance is further realized (2 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Seeing our prayers and actions come to fruition both nationally and beyond, we will know the blessing of God using us to accomplish His plans and purposes. We will understand the nourishment of the joint participation with God that Jesus spoke of in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” We will one day experience the finishing of that work when He presents to Himself the Church, “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle of any such thing,” but one “holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).
To read further, you will have to buy The Three R's of Revival and Awakening from Xulon Press. The Three R's covers the founding and development of America; how a biblical worldview was integral to that founding and development; the history of revivals/awakenings in the United States; the three R's or characteristics found in those revivals/awakenings (Refocusing, Reforming, and Restoring); and how current conditions in our nation speak to the necessity of revival/awakening in our era, that which is based on The Three R's.