April 15, 2015

Shot in the Foot

The purpose of these monthly articles is to create discussion and it is to that end that I continue. It is not sufficient to discuss a problem, there must indeed be a suggested proposal and that is all a proposal is, an idea.
 
In one of his short stories Edgar Allen Poe tells of a man who is shut in a room where the walls move slowly inward. His death is sure if some answer doesn’t arrive soon. This is actually a picture of what is happening in our society as the walls of offense and restriction move in on Biblical Christianity. One of these issues is about sodomy. In our life time this practice has moved from being criminal to permissible, to acceptable, to legal and now supported to the point that people faith are required to accept it and be silent.
 
In the market place legal action is being taken against a business that exercises freedom of religion. These believers are required to honor and give respect to something God has condemned. The penalty for exercising the freedom of speech and freedom of religion, guaranteed in our founding documents, is that the best citizens in our nation are fined and forced out of their livelihood.
 
Several states have passed laws to support religious beliefs of its citizens but in doing so they are maligned, attacked and marginalized. In these actions believers are blackmailed and discriminated against. Discrimination is the very thing that those on the left say they champion. The language used against moral citizens is filled with hate, threats and demonstrates the very essence of evil that the immoral practice typifies.
 
Who is responsible for this slide into the moral abyss and the vengeful attack on believers? This may surprise you but we are. We shot ourselves in the foot. Let me explain.
 
COMING TO YOUR CHURCH SOON
 
We began this slide by choosing to use terms that favor the enemy. Trying to be polite we began using terms that were not so offensive to those who mock God’s holiness. “Gay” doesn’t mean happy but we wanted to so nice. “Same as” didn’t carry the seriousness that God describes in Romans one and Deuteronomy but “sodomy” was such an unkind word. Then sweet talking evangelicals fell into the word trap and made something evil not so evil. Now those terms of accommodation are used, by the cowardly, out of fear of penalty.
 
Finally the term “same sex marriage” came to the surface. No thinking Biblicist should ever use such a phrase because there is no such thing. Only God gets to define marriage. Using such language only gives credibility to wickedness. Use whatever name you choose but don’t call it marriage. If you are afraid just be quiet but don’t criticize those who will stand for righteousness at any cost.
 
We are a short step from this issue reaching the door of our churches. The God of the intellectual heathen is man. Their God said “anything goes” and even churches must comply. When they demand that godly pastors perform heathen marriages, what are you going to do? If you refuse your doors will be closed just as businesses are being closed.
 
WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?
 
The problem is that we chose to be “agents of the state”. We agreed to put marriage under a humanistic authority. You can argue until you are blue in the face but you cannot find any biblical authority for the state being in charge of marriage. Your allegorical, philosophical hermeneutic will get you there but not the bible text. I explain all of this from the biblical text in my book “The Coming Conflict” on the separation of church and state.
 
You will argue “it is law” and this is one of the big problems. Many things are legal but that doesn’t make them right or moral. Making the murder of unborn children legal didn’t make it right or moral. The bible is clear, when man’s law is in direct opposition to God’s law no believer is obligated to participate in evil. If they did Moses never would have had a chance, Daniel and the three Hebrew children would have signed up and the apostles would have been silent about the gospel.
 
You will argue that the courts have ruled in favor of this evil. It is hard to help people who have little understanding of just how corrupt the judicial system is. This goes all the way to the top with a supreme court that has rewritten the founding documents of this land. Those documents were meant to protect good citizens as Paul and Peter explain they should. Now the court is punishing good and giving protection for evil. One can only wonder why this isn’t treason.
 
HERE IS A PROPOSAL
 
What is a godly pastor supposed to do? Remember we are right around the corner on this issue. In our city someone has been going from church to church asking if they would do “same as” marriages. I suggest you stop being an agent of the state. Let the couple go to the Justice of the Peace for a license. Then have a real wedding under God in the church. So when the “same as” question comes you say “sorry we don’t do state weddings, our wedding celebrations are for the believers in our church just like any other worship event”. If you don’t find an answer sit down and compute what taxes will cost you when they take that freedom away. You will be out of business in less than three years and that is what they want, your silence. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot twice.
 
 
Shepherds Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min
 
A communication service of Shepherds Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherds Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the email address- shepherdstaff2@juno.com

April 6, 2015

The Obstacle

Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.  And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.  And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.  After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.  And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.  Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”
(Mark 16:9-14)

Dr. Rick Flanders
Verse nine of the sixteenth chapter of the book of Mark begins a very important passage of scripture, although strangely and sadly questioned by critics.  Taking a look at the end of Mark in the newer Bibles will show the Christian reader just how seriously this section is questioned, although an examination of the evidence in favor of it will demonstrate just how groundless the criticism really is.  And the ending of Mark focuses in a profound way upon the solution to the world’s problems, and also on the obstacle to the fulfilling of that solution.  It is indeed a very important passage.

Notice the recurring theme in verses 9 through 14.  Our Lord “was risen” from the dead on Easter Sunday, and several witnesses to this fact came to His followers with the news.  First we read of Mary Magdalene, the one to whom “he appeared first” (verses 9 and 10), who “went and told them that had been with him.”  The account of her experience is given fully in John 20.  But “when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, [they] believed not” (verse 11).  They wouldn’t believe her.

Then we read about “two of them” to whom He also appeared “as they walked, and went into the country.”  This story is told in more detail in Luke 24.  When “they went and told it” to the rest of His followers, they wouldn’t believe them.  “Neither believed they them” (verses 12-13).

Then we come to verse 14, where we are told that Jesus appeared to the apostles “as they sat at meat,” and it is recorded that He “upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”  The theme of verses 9 through 14 is the unbelief of the believers.  When the Lord arose, and witnesses came to the rest of His followers, they consistently refused to believe.  And the risen Christ rebuked them for their inexcusable lack of faith.

Ironically the factor that has left the critics in the dark about this very passage is their unbelief.  It is their doubt and resulting unwillingness to take at face value the promise of Jesus in Mark 13:31 that “my words shall not pass away” that have prejudiced some against the last twelve verses of Mark.  They conjecture that because a few old manuscripts unexpectedly end the book with verse 8, the original parchments on which Mark wrote the book must have been damaged with the last page torn and the ending lost.  One of the arguments they use for this theory is that the wording of the passage they criticize is supposedly dissimilar to the language of the rest of the book of Mark.  But they are wrong about this.  A phrase that connects this passage with the rest of the book is found in verse 14, where we read that Jesus “upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart.”  Belief and unbelief are recurring themes of Mark, and he alone among the writers of the first four books of the New Testament, which record the words and works of Jesus Christ, connects unbelief with hardness of heart.  Hardness of heart is presented as causing grief in Jesus in chapter 3 in the account of the healing of the withered hand.  Neither Matthew nor Luke (who also record this story) mentions the hardness of the hearts.  In Mark 6, Jesus came back to Nazareth and failed to receive a prophet’s honor from His hometown acquaintances and relatives.  Consequently, He “could there do no mighty work” and “marveled because of their unbelief.”  Later in the chapter He has to deal with the unbelief of His own disciples, and it is attributed to the fact that “their heart was hardened.”  In Mark 8, the Lord’s warning against “the leaven of the Pharisees” is not understood by His disciples, and He attributes their confusion to unbelief caused by hardened hearts.  “Have ye your heart yet hardened?” (verse 17).  Unbelief attributed to hardness of heart is a distinct characteristic of the record we find in the book of Mark, and it is found all the way to the end.  The evidence for the integrity of the book as it has been handed down to us in the vast majority of copies is conclusive.  It is only the unbelief of the critics that blinds their minds to it, and prejudices their judgment of the final verses.  And it is unbelief that is the obstacle which prevents the fulfillment of our Lord’s plan to deliver mankind.  It is unbelief in believers, as described in Mark 9:24 in the words of a man who cried, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”  Unbelief is the obstacle, and it will be faith exercised by His followers that will be the key to their accomplishing the task He gave them!

The rest of the passage (and of the book) also has a clear theme.  Verse 15, of course, records the Great Commission:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Then He makes some promises.  The promise in verse 16 is to the person “that believeth.”  Verses 17 and 18 promise certain “signs” to “them that believe.”  Then verses 19 and 20 state that these were among the final statements our Lord made to His disciples before going back to heaven, and before they began the work of evangelizing the world.  We can summarize the message of this passage by saying that verses 9 through 14 rebuke unbelief in Christians, while verses 15 through 20 commend belief or faith exercised by them.  If we are to carry out our Lord’s plan for the world, we must learn to exercise faith in Him, to believe.

The plan for the world laid out by the Lord Jesus is that everybody on earth hears from His followers the Gospel of His grace and salvation.  Men are given the responsibility to decide for themselves whether or not to receive and believe the Gospel, but it is His program that all of them hear it.  Obviously, this program is failing in our day.  The reason is our unbelief.  It is not God’s fault that the mission of Christ is not known to the sinners He came to save.  It is our fault for not believing Him.

Not believing what?  First, it is unbelief concerning the Gospel that stands in the way of fulfilling the plan.  This is where our Lord begins in his recommendation of faith.  Look at His words recorded in verses 15 and 16.  The one who hears the Gospel, believes and is baptized “shall be saved.”  On the other hand, the one “that believeth not shall be damned.”  Notice that it is the Gospel that is the key to saving the world.  The word “gospel” means good news, and the Gospel is news about something that God has done for us.  It is historical.  It informs us about something that has happened.  The Gospel is not a church to join, or rules to keep, or just a creed to recite.  It is news about what God did to rescue the world from its sin and misery.  The God Who created and rules the universe does not stand aloof somewhere in space, cold and unresponsive to our plight.  He did something about it, two thousand years ago.  The fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians spells out the Gospel as the news “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again according to the scriptures.”  On the cross and at the empty tomb God’s Son, the Savior of the world, remedied the damage and undid the consequences of Adam’s sin, and all of man’s problems were solved potentially by what He did.  The Gospel of Christ is the solution to the problems of every man (“every creature”) in the world, and we must believe that.  But do we?

Believing or not believing in the work of Christ spells either salvation or damnation for sinners who must all face judgment for their sins.  This is clear in verse 16.  Those who hear but won’t believe will be damned.  But the verse also says that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”  Now baptism is not required for deliverance from eternal damnation.  Those who use this verse to argue that it is do not see or refuse to admit that it does not deal with the case of somebody who believes but is not baptized.  It deals with the one who does not believe, and says he will be damned.  The question of what happens to the true believer in Christ that for some reason doesn’t get baptized (such as those mentioned in Luke 23:39-43, John 12:42, and John 19:38-39) is not handled here (although faith in Christ for eternal salvation is presented as the only requirement in passages such as John 3:16, John 3:36, John 6:47, Acts 16:31, and Romans 5:1).  However there is another kind or level of being saved mentioned in verse 16.  There is a salvation from eternal damnation, and there is also salvation from a worthless life.  Read about this second kind, also wrought through Christ and His cross, in Matthew 16:24-25, Acts 2:38-40, Romans 6:1-14, and Galatians 2:19-20.  The one who goes “all the way” through surrender to God, baptism and what it symbolizes, and the living of a victorious Christian life is saved from the domination of sin in his life, and lives this way by faith.  The Gospel offers us both deliverance from the penalty of sin, and from the power of sin, and its deliverance is accessed by faith.  It is unbelief that prevents the victory and holy living.  It is unbelief that is the obstacle to a consistent, credible, and powerful Christian life.

Next the passage says that we must also believe in the power of God.  Read again verses 17 and 18.  Those who have read the book of Acts recognize that these “signs” are matters of fact and history, and not matters of doctrine and practice.  The promise does not justify Pentecostalism or snake-handling.  But it does describe the response of faith to the challenges of evangelizing the world.  The apostles did these things, not to show off, but to meet the challenges of language barriers, devil-possession, and life-threatening danger.  When they faced the problem of language when a great opportunity for evangelism presented itself on the day of Pentecost, the band of believers did not shrink back and say “we can’t.”  They went forward in faith.  When Paul was bit by a poisonous snake, he did not assume that he was going to die.  He trusted God and kept on doing his duty.  God may not do the exact things for us that He did for His servants in the book of Acts, but our responses to challenges must be borne of faith rather than unbelief.  Even the possibility of evangelizing the world is questioned today by people who are oddly called “believers.”  And yet the Great Commission itself implies the promise that it can be fulfilled!  Read again verse 15.  He said “all the world” and “every creature” and He said it to the men who stood before Him, “Go ye.”  Did He mean that they in the power of God could evangelize the world in their lifetimes?  Obviously, this is what He was saying.  And it is what He is saying to us!  So we must respond by faith!  We must believe that it can be done.

But many are giving up, coming back from the mission field, refusing to venture out on ambitious evangelistic efforts, backing off for lack of finances, contenting themselves with failure, and doing what they do under the dark cloud of unbelief.  Unbelief is the great obstacle to New Testament Christianity, and to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

The commission Christians received from the Lord is to be fulfilled in the same way that Israel was to fulfill their divine commission to conquer the land of Canaan.  They were to do it by faith.  The odds were certainly against them, but they would succeed by divine intervention and supernatural power as long as they marched on by faith.  It is in this way that we are to evangelize the whole world.  The odds are clearly against us, in the purely natural and human assessment of our situation, but we were never expected to fulfill the Great Commission without supernatural help.  The Holy Ghost was given so that we would have “power” to be witnesses for Christ to the ends of the earth.  And we have power when we move by faith.  A great man encouraged his co-workers to go forward on their knees.  The days of doing the work of God by natural means ought certainly to have ended.  We have seen so much failure.  Let us confess to Jesus the sin of our unbelief, and decide to believe every word of the Bible, and to anchor our lives and our work on its trustworthiness.

Mark 16:19-20 teaches us that we must also believe in partnership with God.  “They went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them.”  How often did the Lord Jesus speak of us working in partnership with Him!  We are to take His yoke and do the work in partnership with Him (Matthew 11:29-30).  We are to bear fruit by abiding in Him (John 15:5).  We are laborers together with Him (First Corinthians 3:6-9).  He said that as we obeyed the commission, He would be with us always (Matthew 28:19-20).  Don’t you think that if we partnered with God we could succeed in evangelizing the multitudes, winning men to Christ, planting New Testament churches, sending missionaries to the uttermost part of the earth, and evangelizing the whole world?  But we must believe in His offers to be our Senior Partner, to fill us with the Spirit, to go with us to places we have never been because our unbelief held us back.  Belief will be the key, as unbelief has been the obstacle.


Dr. Rick Flanders

April 5, 2015

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ


The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the LORD out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.



And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my LORD, and I know not where they have laid him.

And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.


Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the LORD, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD.

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.


The Gospel of John Chapter 20

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April 2, 2015

The Sacrificial Death of Jesus Christ


Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.


Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.


Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.


There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.


The Gospel of John 19:1-42



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March 27, 2015

A Night in the ER

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.  Cleanse your hands; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.  Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
(James 4:8-10)

Dr. Rick Flanders
“Revive” is a term used in the Old Testament to describe the work of God by which He brings His people back to the place spiritually where He can bless them.  The prayer, “Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6—note also Habakkuk 3:2), assumes that the people of God have gone away from Him through disobedience and that they must be brought back.  Now the word “revive” is translated here and in thirteen other places in the Old Testament from the root word for “life,” and it means to bring back to life, or health.  The word “quicken” used eleven times in Psalm 119 is translated from the same Hebrew word and has the same meaning as “revive.” 

The word “revive” is often used in the emergency room at the hospital.  This fact is instructive because a revival among God’s people (believers in Jesus Christ now in the New Testament age, as the nation of Israel was in Old Testament times) is very much like the reviving of a patient in the “e. r.”  Somebody is brought in who needs help.  He can’t help himself.  He is not breathing right or at all, his color is bad, he is unable to walk and get around, he may be experiencing pain, and he is obviously not well.  So the attendants must revive him.  He must be brought back to normal health and vitality.  And there are two important factors in the revival process.

VITAL SIGNS

First, the medical technicians must check his “vital signs.”  These are measurements of bodily functions which can be compared with accepted standards of health.  They check heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and blood readings.  When these numbers are determined, the cause of the difficulties may be more evident as they are compared with numbers that science has determined represent the normal rate or level in a healthy body.  Before you can revive somebody, you must know what “health” looks like.  And health or illness is described in terms of the numbers generated by monitoring devices.   If the patient’s heart-rate is too high, work must be done to bring it down.  If his blood-pressure is too low, the nurses and technicians will try to raise it.  At least some treatment would be administered to the patient so that improvement would be brought about in the vital signs.  The first step in reviving a person is finding out how to determine when he is well.  Vital signs set the norm that is to be achieved.

Spiritual revival also gravitates to norms.  What was to be normal and healthy spiritually for the Israelite nation under the “old covenant” is summed up in the book of Deuteronomy.  Chapters 27 and 28 indicate that when the people are obedient to the Law of Moses and faithful to Jehovah as the only true God, certain physical and material blessings will come their way.  But when they become disobedient or unfaithful to the Lord, their blessings would be turned into curses.  If and when they turn back to God with all their heart, he will forgive them and turn the curses back to blessings (chapters 29-30).  These were the Old Testament standards of spiritual health, and the vital signs of revival.

Believers since the coming of Christ have been living under the “new covenant.”  This arrangement was predicted in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, and is expounded as the “new covenant” in Hebrews 8 through 10.  But the blessings and conditions of “new covenant” living are explained by the Lord Jesus Himself in the Upper Room Discourse, recorded in John 13 through 17.  Here we find the vital signs of New Testament Christianity.  Look for them as you study this long section of the book of John, which is the record of a talk Jesus gave to His disciples the night before He died.  He let them know that He was going away, but that His departure would inaugurate the New Testament Age, which would be very good for His people (John 14:1-27; John 16:5-15).  This era (the one in which we now live) would be characterized by His absence (at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us), His presence (in the Person of the Holy Spirit living within us as our Comforter), and by His imminent return for us.  There would be many phenomenal blessings for committed followers of His under these arrangements.  And we will experience them all when we “abide” in Him (John 15:1-16).  When we fail to abide in Christ, we wither; when we abide in Him, we prosper.  In this important passage of scripture, we can see the blessings Jesus taught us to expect under the new covenant:

1.     Amazing and direct answers to prayer (John 14:12-14; 15:16; and 16:23-24).
2.     Divine help in keeping the Lord’s commandments (John 14:15-17).
3.     Manifestations of the divine presence (John 14:18-23).
4.     Illumination of truth (John 14:24-26; and 16:12-14).
5.     Supernatural peace (John 14:27; 15:11; and 16:33).
6.     Spiritual success and reproduction (John 15:1-16).
7.     His love and His joy (John 15:9-11; and 16:20-22).

We also find several more characteristics of the healthy Christian life:

1.     Love and ministry to one another.
2.     Cleansing from our sins by the Lord.
3.     Purpose for our trials.
4.     Persecution.

And we can see all of these in the book of Acts, which records what actually happened with the Christians when Jesus went back to heaven.  They were healthy, as the vital signs indicated.  When our Christian lives reflect these blessings, we are healthy.  When they lack these things, something is wrong.  We are ill spiritually and in need of revival.

It is apparent from the books of John and Acts that most believers in our day need reviving, as do the great majority of churches.  The issue now is how we can be brought out of our sad condition.  And the Bible tells us exactly and plainly how this is done.

RESUSCITATION

James 4:1-10 is one of the clearest revival passages in the New Testament, and it reflects the principles of every Old Testament revival passage directed to the nation of Israel.  Revivals in all ages are based upon the same principles; only the results differ, based on what covenant is in force.  The principles of James 4 give Christians the promise that when we follow them, God “shall lift you up” (see verse 10).  We are guaranteed spiritual resuscitation if we will do certain things. 

Remember that revival in the New Testament is about restoring the abundant life described in John 13 through 17.  It is only indirectly about closing saloons, changing society, reducing crime, and seeing vast numbers of conversions.  We make a mistake if we try to define revival from history.  By one historical definition of the term, a revival is the advancement of religion at a certain period in a certain place.  This is the result of a widespread revival, in the Biblical sense.  When Christians live the abundant life, they see prayers answered, live lives worthy of their Lord, and win many to Jesus.  But the revival (Biblically speaking) happens in their own hearts before anything happens in the world around them.  Remember what Jesus said in John 7:37-39 about the effect of believers being filled with the Holy Spirit!  The Spirit gushes out from their innermost selves and touches the multitude around them.  We know that the revived believers of the first century were accused of turning “the world upside down” (Acts 17:1-7).  Revival is the spiritual resuscitation of Christians.

In James 4, the great disease among the churches was worldliness, with strife and prayerlessness and unanswered prayers as symptoms (verses 1 through 4).  This “friendship of the world” makes the Spirit within them jealous (verse 5).  They were supposed to love Him rather than the world (see First John 2:15-17, and compare it to this passage), but now they love the world in an adulterous affair by adopting the wicked philosophy of life that defines “the world” as evil.  The only cure for worldliness is the grace of God, accessed by humility (verse 6).  The scriptural principle upon which we can base our confidence that humbling ourselves before Him will bring grace from the Lord is “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”  This is a principle taught and illustrated throughout the Bible, and notably over and over again in the Second Book of Chronicles, in which we find another revival promise that is based on humility (7:14).  Human pride is the great obstacle to divine favor.  He is always offended by it.  But it is also true that God always gives grace when a man humbles himself (see startling illustrations of this in First Kings 21:25-29 and Second Chronicles 33).  Therefore the first step in getting revived by God is to humble ourselves before Him.

This humbling takes the form of submitting to God, according to verse 7.  Submitting to God is letting Him have His way about the issues that have come between oneself and Him.  Notice the change in resistance from verse 6 to verse 7.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.  Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

A man moves from being proud and having God resisting him to being humble, getting grace, and finding himself successfully resisting the devil.  And it happens when he lets the Lord have His way (“Submit yourselves”). 

This new humility leads to a deliberate effort to seek God.  It is as if the backslider (carnal Christian) lost God somewhere and is setting out to find him.  So often God has said, “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13—see also passages such as Deuteronomy 4:29 and Second Chronicles 15:2, where the same promise is made).  This is a revival promise, and is the same promise that the Lord made through the Apostle James.

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.  Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.  Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
(Verses 8 through 10)

God is the Great Reviver of His people and He always brings them back to life and health when they humble themselves and seek His face.  When we truly seek to find the God of the Bible, Who is holy, we will always turn from our sins, ask for cleansing, and purify our divided hearts.  When God’s people do this, they will be revived.  Of course this is the promise God made to Solomon for Israel that we find in Second Chronicles 7:14.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Now I must testify that I have seen this happen many times.  Revival involves two participants: God and man.  God has already made clear His intentions and desires.  When His wayward people finally admit their error and humbly seek His face, He always comes and revives them.  The two unite in heart and mind, and the believer goes on to live in unity with the will of the Ruler of the universe.  In John 15, Jesus calls this revived way of living abiding in Him.  Read His description and explanation of it in verses 5 through 11 of the chapter.  Whenever the people to whom I have brought the revival message have been willing to humble themselves and seek God’s face for the revival they need, it has come.  As in James 4, the reviving often or usually has come with weeping and mourning, but the humbling brings God’s very presence into the room.  I have seen a week of meetings change markedly, and a church changed in a lasting way as a result of a prayer meeting after a revival service when the divine conditions were met.  I have seen it again and again.  It is not revival preaching alone that brings a true revival, but a response in the people of genuine humility that gets them on their knees to seek the Lord.  This does bring revival.

The world is in need of seeing again the followers of Jesus Christ living the life of victory and joy and peace and power that He died and rose again to give us.  Christians in this sense are the hope of the world and certainly the light of the world.  But we are not there yet.  We need to spend a night in the e.r.  If our churches each had a revival night, there could me many remarkable changes achieved.  Let the truth about New Testament Christianity be preached, and let the people be urged to seek the Lord for that level of living in a prayer meeting that involves honest humility and earnest supplication.  And may our God revive us so that He can impact the world through His people again.


Dr. Rick Flanders

Previous Articles by Dr. Flanders include:
Books and articles have been written on the subject, and some of them leave people confused and unsettled. The debate in some arenas has done more harm than it has done good. Certainly we will be helped if we can discern clear facts about repentance from the Bible. And there are several which are both clear and even undeniable. Consider these:
Understanding Carl McIntire: Important Insights Into Our Present World
Both liberal and conservative churchmen found McIntire’s message and methods disturbing.  The “new evangelical” element rising in the conservative churches joined the liberal leaders of the mainline churches in denouncing, castigating, and even ridiculing him.  But now, with the passage of time, we can get a better perspective on the man and on what he was telling us, and he doesn’t look as crazy as he did to some back in his heyday.
When a pastor changes the church music to the popular “contemporary” style he should consider the seriousness of the decision he is making and ponder in the light of scriptural principle if he is making a mistake.  The error in such a change may be found in at least four missteps he is taking.