This is the first of two articles that will discuss revival and spiritual awakening. In this article distinctions will be made between revival and spiritual awakening. Additionally, we will discuss the need for revival in the church. Article Two will discuss Spiritual Awakening, and the Plan of Salvation.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)–“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.”
John 6:44 (NKJV)–“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Written by Milton J. and Pamela K. Orgeron
Revival and spiritual awakening. . .words used commonly but often misunderstood. In conversations, we often hear the two concepts “revival” and “spiritual awakening” used synonymous. Do they really mean the same? If not, what is the difference between revival and spiritual awakening? Simply stated, the biggest difference is in the population that each concept applies to: Revival applies to the church, professing believers in Jesus Christ; spiritual awakening applies to the lost, those persons who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Let’s begin this two-part series by exploring the concept of revival deeper. First, growing up Pam always thought of revival as a series of church meetings where lost people get saved. This was a false belief, because a lost person, an unbeliever, cannot be revived to experience something they never had (Salvation). It wasn’t until later as a young adult that Pam learned differently. At that point, she heard a former pastor preach about how 2 Chronicles 7:14 is the “prescription” for revival. What does that mean? Note how the verse is a conditional if/then statement. Let’s break down the verse into two groups (if/then) of smaller elements. The following applies to the “if” clause:
- First, who is the verse written about? “My people who are called by My name” was written to Jews and certainly also applies to Christians. “My Name” is Yahweh, the LORD.
- “Humble themselves“, what does this mean? What is humility? Searching the Bible (NASB) for the word “humble” turns up 82 references. Taken in their context, they describe a humble person or one who humbles themselves as recognizing that another is greater, even much greater, than themselves. The one whose greatness most commands humility from us is, of course, God Himself, and it is He to whom most of the passages refer. To humble ourselves before the Lord also implies a recognition of our dependence on Him for all the things of life.
- “Pray and seek My face” Prayer itself is to seek the face of God – to know Him in relationship far deeper than we can have with our most intimate and trusted human friends or even a spouse. God is always more than ready to respond to our seeking Him. In fact He is always seeking us first, as the good shepherd sought the one sheep who had strayed from the other ninety-nine sheep. This is yet another appeal from God, in which He will reward richly all who seek Him.
- “Turn from their wicked ways” refers to repentance. What is repentance? Literally to “repent” in Scripture means to turn around, to do a U-turn. Even in driving, once we realize we have taken a wrong turn, the first step is to turn around and retrace our steps backward to the point we got off track. This is a clear repudiation of the misconception that once we are “saved” by reciting a formula or walking the aisle to the altar or saying the “Sinner’s Prayer” that we can sin all we want. That is a heresy, antinomianism, if you want the fancy technical word. Paul wrote much about this. If we are born again, or saved, we should live differently than we did before.
Romans 6:1-2 – “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?“
Now let’s look at the “then” statement, the results of what happens when believers, some backslidden, humble themselves, pray, and repent:
1. Who does “I” refer to? This verse is spoken by God, coming to Solomon at night after the Temple was finished and consecrated to the worship of the Lord and as the place where His Shekinah glory would dwell. The LORD God is speaking in the entire passage.
2. “Hear from Heaven” Trying to make oneself heard in this fast-paced, media-saturated world can seem as hopeless as a whisper in a hurricane. But God hears us whenever we turn our hearts to Him and truly hunger for His Word. God hears us from Heaven because He is always listening.
Isaiah 65:24 (NKJV) — “It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
Psalm 34:15 (NKJV) — “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.”
Daniel 9:23 (NKJV) — At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:
3. “Forgive their sin The passage does not mention what the sin might be, but in the Old Testament God sent the judgments in the passage – drought, crop-devouring locusts, or pestilence (v. 13) – upon Israel when they strayed from Him to worship idols, which He warns them against in v. 19. Remember when Jesus healed the paralytic let down in front of Him through a hole in the roof of Peter’s house, Jesus’ actual words at first were, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5) before commanding him to “get up, pick up your pallet, and go home”.
4. “Heal their land” As mentioned directly above, God often sent trouble such as drought, pestilence, locust swarms, or subjugation to pagan nations around them, on the entire land of Israel when they strayed from God to worship the idols of those nations. He promises to heal the land of Israel after striking it when the people repent and turn back to Him.
What evidence is there that revival is needed in the church? Last week in our blog, Pam discussed the the problem of immodest apparel in professing Christians that suggests the need for revival. What other factors point to the need for revival? I have always heard that the biggest sins in the church are gluttony, gossip, and worry.
Gluttony refers to having food as an idol. According to Bowers (2015), as cited by Pam in her book Food as an Idol: Finding Freedom from Disordered Eating (ABC’s Ministries, 2017, p. xix), gluttony is “food worship displayed in both excessive eating and in Pharisaical avoidance.” (Bowers, p. 76) Is gluttony, or in other words, disordered eating, really a problem in the church? Consider the following excerpt from the chapter entitled “Disordered Eating in the Church” taken from Food as an Idol.
One might expect Christians in churches to be among the healthiest groups of people in the world. This is not the case according to research (Moritz, 2013; Premier Life, 2014). Moritz reported, “Recent studies show that Christians are not portraying a good testimony of honoring God with their bodies.” (p. 1) One study by the Pawtucket Heart Health Program, as cited by Moritz, found church attenders are more apt than non-attenders “to be 20 percent overweight and have higher cholesterol and blood pressure numbers.” (p. 2) Another study conducted by Matthew J. Feinstein (Northwestern University Medical Center), as reported by Moritz, found 50 percent of young persons who attend church at least once weekly are more apt to be obese as they reach middle age than those persons who attend church less. According to Premier Life, a part of Premier Christian Media Trust, a charity registered in England and Wales,
Research carried out at events and conferences found that 90% of church members knew someone who was suffering with an eating disorder. 70% of them knew someone in their own church. The majority said that their church was not able to offer sufferers, or their families, any help or support in their battle toward recovery. (¶ 1)
Not only are Christians in general not setting good examples to others, but pastors too are not doing well in this area, according to Moritz (2013). He reported,
A national survey of more than 2,500 religious leaders conducted in 2002 by the Pulpit & Pew research project on pastoral leadership based at Duke Divinity School found that 76 percent of clergy were either overweight or obese, compared with 61 percent of the general population. (pp. 4-5)
Arterburn and Mintle (2004) reported how gluttony is rarely addressed in churches today. “In fact, some of the best Christian speakers have never resolved their own food issues, so they do not address them with followers. . . . They scream an unspoken message that food is the one acceptable addiction in the church.” (pp. 2-3)
In 1 Timothy 3:2 pastors are instructed to be blameless, without reproach. “However, they seem to think that obesity is exempt from the list of sins. Pastors and Christians have become apathetic in this area, and the worst offenders in this health crisis.” (Moritz, p. 16) What’s wrong with this picture? How could this have happened?
New Life Ministries (2017) reported, “[I]f we can apply God’s light to the dark places of our soul, we will remove the need to eat in excess as a defective means to find comfort and relief.” (¶ 2) Orgeron believes this cannot happen unless we are willing to dig out the roots to disordered eating in the church. (Orgeron, 2017, pp. 242=243)
Do Christians really gossip? According to information in an article entitled “Two Reasons Why Christians Gossip“, written by Dave Burchett, an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker,
Gossip is a huge problem in the church and sometimes gossip is very stealthy. Satan has a slick marketing trick that he sells to Christians. We don’t call gossip by it’s name. We like to call gossip by euphemisms like “sharing our concerns” or “venting to a brother or sister.” We gossip when we divulge unnecessary details in prayer requests as if God needs to be brought up to speed on the entire situation. We like to think we are in the clear if we know that the information is true and we are simply being “honest” and “telling it like it is”. But Frank Clark correctly stated that “gossip needn’t be false to be evil – there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.” (¶ 7)
What about worry in the church? I recall one of my grandmothers, a devout Christian, saying more than once, “Anybody who says they don’t worry, never did love anybody.” I understand the point she was trying to make to me. However, I find no truth in the statement taken at face value.
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus spoke against worry. Examples of verses that offer a remedy for worrying include:
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV): 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV): 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Worry is a common temptation to all Christians. For some Christians, worry is a habit. For others, worry can be rooted in a chemical imbalance in the brain, such as an anxiety disorder. I won’t be covering this issue in detail. That’s a topic for another blog. However, I do want to point out, as Michael Kelley wrote in an article entitled “3 Reasons Why Your Worry Problem Might Be a Worship Problem“:
there is a significant difference between someone who finds themselves being anxious, and someone who has a diagnosable condition of anxiety. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing, and can and should be used in cases of the latter. But even if we find ourselves in this kind of condition whereby we need the aid of medication to help with our anxiety, there is still a spiritual component to anxiety that should be analyzed. (¶ 2)
Are there other indicators of need for revival in the church? What about the cases of sexual abuse reported in the church by professing Christians? “Langberg (2001a, 2001b), reported the tendency for churches and society is to want to hide sexual abuse, often criticizing the victim for exposing the sin rather than the sin itself. Langberg stipulated this covering up is contrary to God’s call to expose and confess sin.” (Orgeron, 2016, p. 93)
Another indicator of the need for revival in the church is the failure of many churches to bring more people to saving faith. The early church was so obviously different from the pagan society and even the largely corrupt Judaism that surrounded it that it attracted large numbers of new converts, so much that it was called “the spreading flame”. Precious few sparks of that flame seem to remain in the church, and the wet wood of the increasingly secular world has in many places confined that flame to the buildings of shrinking churches.
Two things may be lacking in these churches. One is that many Christians have adopted a circle-the-wagons bunker mentality (to thoroughly mix metaphors), so busy defending themselves against the modern world and against other denominations considered rivals or heretics that they have forgotten Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34, repeated 3 more times by Jesus at the Last Supper!). And the world notices when we do not love one another. Who wants to join a group that bites and devours each other? A convert to Christianity from paganism in the 2nd century, Tertullian echoed Jesus’ commandment, as cited by J. Warren Smith in an article entitled “See how these Christians love one another“.
His [referring to Tertullian} treatises To the Gentiles and Apology directly attacked pagan beliefs and practices as superstitious and immoral, and argued that the Christian life as taught in Scripture and practiced in the church was morally superior. He imagined pagans looking at Christians and saying, “Look . . . how they love one another (for they themselves [pagans] hate one another); and how they are ready to die for each other (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).” (Smith, 2013, on the offensive, ¶ 4)
The second often-missing ingredient is a weak or nonexistent personal relationship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ in some or many church members. And the world sees that Presence or the lack of it in us as well. This results in a lack of zeal to bring people to Jesus, in a life indistinguishable from the life of unbelievers in the world, and caving to the world’s pressure to conform. No one who met the LORD before the Incarnation or met Jesus in His earthly walk or with the eyes of the spirit since His ascension was ever the same after, or could go on with their life untouched and unchanged. Isaiah cried “Woe is me!… I am a man of unclean lips… and I have seen the LORD!” (Isaiah 6:5-7) The LORD cleansed Isaiah’s lips and heart and sent him as a prophet to his rebellious people. Peter and John were considered uneducated fishermen by the Pharisees, but when they courageously stood their ground and insisted on continuing to preach the gospel in the street, the Pharisees could not help but “recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Now, 2,000+ years after His ascension, we meet Jesus in the Word, in the Gospels, when we submit to the word from God which will not return to Him empty, without accomplishing what He desires (Isaiah 55:10-11), which is your holiness and salvation, the word that “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword,… able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12), including our hearts now. Lack of personal Bible reading and study by each individual Christian is in many cases the root cause of not knowing Jesus, with a resulting lack of Holy Spirit power and His power to draw all men to Himself through us and the church. Thus, the need for spiritual awakening in the world and the church!
Arterburn, S. & Mintle, L. (2004, 2011). Lose it for life: The total solution—spiritual, emotional, physical—for permanent weight loss. Nashville: Integrity.
Bowers, J. (2015). Gluttony. In M. Segal (Ed.), Killjoys: The seven deadly sins (pp. 73-84). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.
Langberg, D. (Writer), & American Association of Christian Counselor (Director). (2001a). Sexual abuse/rape/sexual assault [Videotape Lecture]. In Light Learning Institute (Producer), Healthy sexuality. Forest, VA: Director.
Langberg, D. (Writer), & American Association of Christian Counselor (Director). (2001b). Sexual harassment/boundary violations [Videotape Lecture]. In Light Learning Institute (Producer), Healthy sexuality. Forest, VA: Director.
Moritz, G. J. (2013). Creating and sustaining a health and wellness ministry within the local church (Doctoral Dissertation, Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary, 2013). Retrieved May 28, 2017 from http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1689&context=doctoral
Orgeron (aka, Owens), P. K. (2017). Food as an Idol: Finding Freedom from Disordered Eating. Nashville, TN: ABC’s Ministries.
Orgeron (aka, Owens), P. K. (2016). We Survived Sexual Abuse! You Can Too! Nashville, TN: ABC’s Ministries.
Premier Life. (2014). The church and eating disorders. Retrieved May 29, 2017 from https://www.premierlife.org.uk/Health/Mental-Health/Eating-Disorders/The-Church-and-eating-disorders