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Revival? What is missing?

Guest editorial

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Many Christians today are praying for revival, and that is good. But something else is needed.

Throughout history, revival occurred with the faithful preaching of righteousness, sin, and judgment. Elijah, faced with 450 prophets of Baal, challenged the people in black and white terms: ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him: but if Baal is God, follow him’ (1 Kings 18:21).

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The prophets to Israel and Judah detailed the people’s sins and called on them to repent.

John the Baptist called sin what it was—sin—and lost his head for it. He called the Pharisees and Sadducees a ‘generation of vipers’ (Matthew 3:7). It was hardly ‘seeker-sensitive’ preaching. Note that John was not an arrogant man; he was not worthy to untie the sandals of Jesus, he said (Luke 3:16), but he preached with authority.

When Paul came before governor Felix, who had the power over Paul’s immediate fate, Paul spoke boldly about ‘righteousness … and judgment to come,’ and Felix ‘trembled’ (Acts 24).

Central to all biblical preaching is sin and judgment. Why? Because the sinner needs to know he is in trouble before he is likely to have any interest in being saved. Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon was titled, ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God.’ Wesley, Whitefield, Finney and Moody all emphasized that their listeners had broken God’s Law, were guilty before the Righteous Judge of heaven and earth, and deserving of His wrath. These great revivalists knew that the Good News of God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ would not make much sense unless people understood the ‘Bad News,’ the full impact of their lost condition in Adam, and would cry out to God for mercy.

In Finney’s day, over 90% of those counseled for salvation persevered. Today it is apparently less than 5%. Why?

In today’s evolutionized world, unlike the world of the revivalists, most no longer believe in Creation and the Fall, as recorded in Genesis. So there is no longer any basis for understanding the meaning of sin, namely rebellion against our Creator. So sin has been variously re-defined—loss of self-esteem, or left-over aggression from our animal ancestors. So, when evangelists try preaching about sin, instead of having people call to God for mercy, they get a confused, even hostile response.

So evangelists have tended to minimize talk of sin and judgment, offering instead happiness here and now, rather than rescue from eternal damnation.

If an air hostess offers you a parachute ‘because it will give you a more comfortable ride,’ you will soon take the parachute off because it is uncomfortable, and what’s more, the other passengers are laughing at you! However, if the hostess says, ‘Put on this parachute, this plane is going to crash soon and you will need this to save your life,’ you will not care that it is uncomfortable, or that others laugh, you will keep it on.

When Peter preached about sin and repentance to believing Jews (Acts 2), his audience already understood the vital foundational truths of Genesis—God made us, He owns us, we are all fallen in Adam, and have transgressed against His holy, perfect standard. When Paul also preached sin and repentance to the pagans in Athens (Acts 17), he had to first lay the logical foundation of creation for his message, so that it would make sense.

Today we are ploughing even harder ground than Paul was—not only do people not know about the vital Genesis background to the Gospel, they are actively taught a contradictory view.

So not only do we need to restore faithful preaching about sin and judgment, we need to understand how to defend and proclaim the truth of Genesis, in order that the Gospel message might make sense. This is what Creation magazine is all about. This is God’s world, He owns me and I am accountable to Him for how I live. He has given laws which I have flouted and I deserve punishment. I am a sinner in need of salvation. Thank you Lord Jesus, for taking the penalty for my sin that I might have eternal life!