Today many things are being done that are just and right, but often there is a misplaced emphasis. Some important things are being left undone. We need to pay strict attention to our commitment to Christ. In the message to the Church at Ephesus, a number of compliments were made. But the letter, recorded in Revelation 2:1-7, concluded by saying, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee . . . ” There were some corrections that needed to be made. The writer called on the Church to repent and get right with God. In Matthew 23:23, we find Jesus talking to the Pharisees like this: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ye ought to have done, and not leave the other undone.”
Years ago, the older brethren warned about “a trend.” They would say something like this: “The day will come when we’ll have a religion that’s void of the Spirit of God. It will be a form of godliness without the power thereof.” They talked about a false type of Christianity that wouldn’t exalt Christ. They said it really couldn’t be called Christianity because Christ would not have His proper place. They talked about the day that would come when people would be given a false security concerning salvation and the forgiveness of sins, but never really come face to face with genuine repentance. I believe that day has arrived, and along with it have come a lot of other things with a misplaced emphasis. We need to have an understanding of where we stand in regard to these various teachings.
1. Evangelism Without Revival
Evangelism is the proclamation of the Gospel for the purpose of winning the lost to Jesus Christ. This is an important work for believers to be engaged in. However, revival is a fresh work of the Spirit of God among those who have already accepted Christ as their personal Savior. It brings them to a confession of their sins and a closer relationship with God. There comes a renewed dedication and zeal for service.
The lost should be won through believers who themselves have first come before God and have been renewed in spirit and who have a warm relationship with Him. Today, we put forth a lot of effort at evangelism. But there are so many loose ends that people have come to the place where they can make some kind of simple declaration of accepting Jesus Christ and then float out into society alone. There is often no more follow-up. Many times they have not been associated with a group of Bible-believing Christians. So we need more emphasis on revival.
Think of David’s prayer in Psalm 51, when he prays: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” He prays further: “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” And then note the thirteenth verse: “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” Even in congregations where the Gospel is preached, there are those who are not as dedicated as they ought to be, and who have become involved in sin, and have attempted to cover it rather than confess it. This holds back the moving of the Spirit of God. We are challenged to first seek revival in our own lives as David sought it; confess our sins, be open before God, and ask Him to forgive and to restore and to renew us. When we Christians do that in all sincerity, there’ll be a moving of God’s Spirit among us that perhaps we have not enjoyed in a long time. God’s method is still spelled out in 2 Chronicles 7:14; Once His people, which are called by His name, are willing to humble themselves, and confess their sins, turn from their wicked ways, and seek God’s face, then He’s going to pour out His Spirit. And we cannot afford to be without God’s Spirit.
2. Conversion Without Repentance
Old-fashioned preaching of genuine repentance is becoming a lost note in the pulpits of our day. We talk about being converted; we talk about accepting Christ, but there’s too little emphasis put on repentance for sin. Certainly eternal life is a gift of God. There’s nothing that you can do to earn it. There’s nothing you can do to deserve it. But repentance is one of the prerequisites of obtaining eternal life as a gift from God. God does not bestow His gracious gift of eternal life into an individual until that person has genuinely repented of his sins. The hymnwriter has said, “Could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow. All for sin could not atone. Thou must save, and Thou alone.” Have we made it too easy for people to superficially accept Christ without facing the fact of sin? Do they feel no real deep need in their lives?
We are healing slightly the hurts of this generation. We’re trying to treat a patient that doesn’t really understand or believe that he’s sick. And I think we’ve come to the day that we ought to call sin sin! We should teach that unrepented sin separates us from God whether our name is on the church roll or whether it’s not. You remember how we used to sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me”? Do you know why we could sing it with such fervor and appreciation? It’s because we knew something about the verse that says, “T’was grace that taught my heart to fear.” There’s no fear of God in the eyes of many people today. Many times the preacher in the pulpit doesn’t make sin black enough and the consequences of sin severe enough. It’s necessary for us to understand that we must repent of sin. When you talk to many folks about Jesus Christ, they reply something like Pharaoh of old and say, “Who is the Lord, that I need to pay any attention to Him? I’m getting along just fine without Him.” The Scripture teaches us that repentance is necessary. By sidestepping repentance, we are losing many blessings.
There is a certain amount of godly sorrow that is associated with one that repents. Not every conversion must be accompanied by great bitterness and a flood of tears, but we have gone to the other extreme. We’ve minimized sin to the extent that there is no sorrow. Hence, folks join churches dry-eyed, heads erect, with hardened hearts, unbroken wills, stiff necks, and proud looks. Many folks bring their sins right along with them and have never repented of them. This all stems from the modern attitude that we have toward sin, judgment, and Hell. Repentance and godly sorrow are a rather lost note.
3. Dedication Without Separation
Today, much is made over dedication. Certainly we ought to dedicate our meeting places to God. We should do it sincerely and honestly and live up to the commitments made in the hour of dedication. But while there’s nothing wrong with dedication, we say too little about separation. There’s no real dedication unless there is separation; separation from the world, and separation unto God. Apart from that, speaking of dedication is a waste of time. We use Romans 12:1 to invite men and women and boys and girls to present their bodies a living sacrifice. But while we are emphasizing presenting your bodies a living sacrifice wholly and acceptable unto God, we dare not overlook the next verse, which says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
The Bible teaches: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” The Bible teaches us to turn to God from idols, and to turn from vanities to the Living God. It teaches that whosoever will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God. The latter part of the sixth chapter of Second Corinthians teaches separation from the world when it says that we are to come out from among them and touch not the unclean thing, and then tells us how we need to separate ourselves. The Bible teaches that we should have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. The Christian soldier is not to entangle himself with the affairs of this life.
We preach, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and forget that at the same place it says, “Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” The Bible says they that name the Name of Christ should depart from iniquity. Much is said about visitation. We have our visitation plans and programs, but we forget that at the same place it says that we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. I’m talking about misplaced emphasis on dedication and too little emphasis on separation. For the fear of pharisaism, we have stayed away from teaching separation. What has happened? In many places we’ve wound up with a church full of worldliness.
There can be an outward show, a false humility, that’s on the outside, and not a humble heart on the inside. It is possible to have a proud heart under a humble cloak. Such people go to church, they read their Bibles, they’ll make prayers in public, they’ll give of their money. But such people, unless they repent of this kind of attitude and behavior, will be lost. And there are others that seem to enjoy seeing just how close they can live to the world and still be identified with the church.
I’m asking that we have dedication, but that we also have separation. The Lord made it plain that the world hated Him and that it will hate us also. And when the world doesn’t hate us, perhaps we’re living too much like it.
4. Service Without the Spirit
In our day, there’s an appalling ignorance of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. As a consequence, we are witnessing much activity that reminds us of Samson of old when he rose up and shook himself and wist not that the Lord had departed from him. It’s not what is done for God that really counts, it’s what’s done by Him or with Him. It isn’t as important that we work for God as it is that we work with God. And that’s important. We get to the place many times where we are too self-sufficient. We feel we don’t need to rely on the Spirit. We have our plans, we have our programs, we have our pep rallies, we have our personalities. We have the program, and we have the machinery, but many times we don’t have enough power to operate it. Too often we’re trying to operate it on our own strength and by our own ability.
God’s work must be done by God’s people and it must be done in God’s way. He still says it’s not by might, or by power, but by His Spirit. And when He uses that term, “power,” I’m sure He’s referring to the kind of power that we generate and the self-sufficiency that we boast of many times, and yet lack a real sense of need for the Spirit of God.
5. Sacrifice Without Obedience
Much is heard today about sacrifice. And there’s room for us to improve in that area. We could give better of our material means ofttimes than we do. But to emphasize giving without obedience is a mistake. The Bible says that to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken is better than the fat of rams. We have our projects. We want our people to give. We ask them to sacrifice time. We ask them to sacrifice talents. We ask them to sacrifice of their means. But we fail to teach our people as forcefully and as strongly as we ought that it’s so important to be obedient to God. You can sacrifice the best that you have. You can even sacrifice all that you have. And if you do it without obedience and without love in your heart, you’ve become nothing but a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol. This kind of sacrifice profits you nothing. So we need to think about being obedient to God.
We have come to a time that you can take the Bible, and open it, and read it in the presence of people and they just kind of shrug their shoulders. After you shut the Book and leave, they remain the same kinds of persons, disobeying the simple, plain-stated commands of the Word of God as they always did.
6. Preparation Without Anticipation
Our Lord is going to return unto them that look for Him. Certainly that’s important and necessary. We can’t bypass that. And the only preparation that’s sufficient for that particular hour is to accept the Lord Jesus Christ into your life. But there’s a necessity of the people of God to express some expectance; some joy over the fact that the Lord is soon to return. If the people of God would express true joy about the return of the Lord, it would be something that would attract an unbelieving world. But we’re so quiet and close-mouthed. We act as though nothing is going to happen and nobody’s going to come. We’re prepared and so here we sit, waiting for Him to return. We have come to a day that there is preaching about establishing the kingdom, but we fail to preach about the return of the King!
The Christians of the New Testament looked for Jesus’ return with anticipation. They weren’t only looking for something to happen, they were looking for someone to come. That makes a difference! Sometimes it seems we are looking more for what’s going to happen than for the One who’s going to come. Many a person’s heart is failing him for fear because he’s looking after the things that are going to come, yet he is not ready. But we who have named the Name of Jesus Christ ought to be looking for Him to come! We look for the One who will be the center of the sequence of events once that trumpet sounds and the voice of the Archangel is heard.
There’s a big difference between standing in a train station expecting a train to come at a certain time, and being in that station and waiting for someone that you love with all your heart who’s going to be on that train. You see, when the train rolls in, and all you’re looking for is the train, you’ll know what the engine is like, and how many wheels there are. You’ll know how many windows there are, whether the smoke is black, how many cars are on it, and everything else. But if you’re waiting for a person with whom you’ve fallen in love, you forget about all the details of the train, because you’re waiting for the person to step off. Today, I’m waiting for a Person and I trust that you are, too.
In this modern social gospel of making the world better, I fail to find that warm-hearted longing for Christ’s return. Think about the God-blessed evangelists and missionaries of the past and of the New Testament examples. These believers lived soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. They were looking with anticipation for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. And they prayed, “Even so, come (quickly), Lord Jesus.”
We ought to pray for revival to begin in our own lives. Evangelism will pick up and our zeal will be more fervent. The results will be greater after revival has it’s proper place. We need to repent of our sins and turn to God. We ought to walk separate from the world with a life that’s dedicated to God and be willing to make sacrifice, yet be obedient to the Word of God as we have it before us. We ought to fall in love with Jesus Christ so much that we can hardly wait till He comes again!
How is it with you today? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? Is your life right with God? Are you ready and looking for the return of the King?