Have you, like me, prayed for revival, and dreamed of people responding in droves to the gospel?
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the nation of Israel was badly in need of revival. Corruption and wickedness were rampant. Only a remnant had remained faithful. And Jesus’ ministry did not bring a revival to Israel. They crucified their Messiah and within thirty-seven years ceased to exist as a nation. If only Jesus could have come to a people who would have accepted him as Messiah when he entered Jerusalem . . . Ah, but he did. The only reason that didn’t happen was that Jesus intentionally stopped it.
“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:23–25).
This was at the start of Christ’s ministry. Three years later, he entered Jerusalem to the praise of the people, but the religious leaders resented him and arranged his crucifixion. There was a window of opportunity when he could have announced his Messianic calling and been accepted by the people, but he avoided wholesale acceptance.
This wasn’t the only time Jesus rejected multitudes ready to enthrone him. He later deliberately confused a large mass of seekers by stating doctrine in the most offensive way possible, until they rejected him as crazy, and ceased following him. He even invited his disciples to join them in leaving. (See John 6:66–67.)
Why? Reading the Gospel of John is enlightening. Jesus didn’t want people coming to him with the wrong motive (seeking miracles, political deliverance, freedom from disease, power over devils, or just a free lunch). He spoke and acted in ways that caused tentative converts to lose faith and depart. He separated the wheat from tares, even in his ministry. This created conditions that made truth and the love of God the only reasons to follow him. When other motivators surfaced, he upped the stakes so that the cost of following him outweighed whatever other benefits people might be seeking. Only those seeking truth and righteousness, and the good and faithful God, would long endure.
When people around us seem disinterested in the gospel, it is natural for us to want to get their attention somehow. We wish for God’s Spirit to manifest in a way that would make God irresistable. We assume that miracles and “outpourings of the Spirit” would draw the world to Christ. But Jesus already gave us the formula:
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32)
If the cross doesn’t get people’s attention, then nothing else will except our love for one another (John 13:35). We cannot make people love the truth. Even God cannot make people love the truth. If he could, he would. Only the beauty of holiness and forgiveness can draw men to Christ. If men love darkness rather than light, they will not come to the light, and if they are drawn to the bright lights of a Christian movement, they will not let the light displace their darkness.
Yet we ask, what can I do to draw men to Christ?
1- We can repent.
There were, in fact, revivals that happened in the Old Testament. They occurred in the midst of God’s severe judgments when the nation humbled themselves and repented (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Repent from what and to what? Repent toward God in all his goodness, trusting his word completely. Repent from indifference, bitterness, blame, and lack of justice, mercy, and faith. To repent is not a feeling; it is a change of course. Start helping the fatherless and widows. Heal the brokenhearted. Bind the wounds of the helpless. Repent of squandering your abundance on the comforts and pleasures of idleness. Invest in people. Repent of dead church orthodoxy, and worship God in spirit and truth. If the world looked at us and saw compassion and sacrifice rather than judgment and condemnation, they just might see God in a different light.
2-Walk in Hope
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:"
(1 Peter 3:15)
In a world with fast-dwindling hope, a positive attitude that God is in control will be attractive to people at the end of their rope. So we must ask: Do our lives reflect hope? Are we caught up in caring about the latest news and about the latest political thing? Do our lives reflect a hope, a joy, and peace that can’t be explained by things around us? Or are we a bunch of condemning, condescending zealots, fighting to the bitter end for our right to be comfortable in a world with the death sentence on it?
When we walk in hope, the gospel is glorified. When we don’t, what do we have to offer?
3-Love one another
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:34–35)
Christ gave one commandment to his followers: that we love one another. He said that when we do this it will cause all men to know that we are his disciples. If our desire is to glorify Christ and his gospel, to make him known, then this is where we must start. If we want the world to see cause to love him, we must love one another.
We can disagree on secondary doctrinal issues and still have love. It is easy to love believers suffering halfway around the globe. It is hard to love those that make you uncomfortable in your own church.
Do people in your community see you love fellow believers as brethren with heartfelt goodwill? Or do they see you backbiting and devouring one another? Does your behavior toward other Christians make the gospel you claim to believe in look like a blessing or a curse? Will it be glorified as a call to truth and love, or scorned as a call to hypocrisy?
Jesus’ approach to propagating the gospel may not seem as exciting as the revival we’re told to look for. In fact, it can make us downright uncomfortable. I find it sobering, but not discouraging. I know a God who has a throne of grace that we can boldly come to for help in time of need. The only question is, will we continue to blame God when there’s no revival, or will we do the work he’s called us to, and live and preach the gospel?
It won’t be easy. It will only get harder. By God’s grace I intend to do it. Won’t you join me?