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The gospel is the deep thing!

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The old and the new

Please do check out my newer blog (linked with my name) which has the most recent posts on:  http://benleney.wordpress.com/

‘God desires to visit his people with revival rather than judgment.’  Wesley Duewel.  “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire?  Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.”  God is saying; you are betrothed to me!  One day there will be the most glorious wedding day that there ever has been!  And yet you forget me!

This morning I preached on John 9 and the account of the man who Jesus sought out to heal and then to save.  You might want to read the story before continuing.  http://www.youversion.com/bible/nkjv/john/9/1

This passage shows us that Jesus is the Light of the World.  But also that we are called to be the light of the world now!  Check out Matt 5:14 if you’re not sure about that.  Now that He has ascended, we are here to be the light of the world.  Also, even more astonishingly, we are called to be sons of God just as He is the son of God.  He had to work the works of the Father, as it says in John 9:4.  And while it is day, while there is the opportunity, we need to do that too.  So many encounters in the gospels are one-off – he wasn’t passing that way again.  The heart of the Father is to bring light, and to bring healing, and to bring salvation.  To open blind eyes.

What stops us from opening blind eyes?  Jesus was holy.  We have to be holy too.  We have to remember that every sin we commit helped nail him to the Cross.  Do you think the Father didn’t grieve when Jesus was dying on that cross?  Sure, he delights in us every time we run to Him, every time we cry out.  But he also weeps when we turn from him, when we tolerate and even cherish sin in our lives.  ‘Sin is not just bad.  It neutralizes our good intentions’.  Don’t allow it house-room.  If you have God’s will spoken over your life, but you have sin in your life, the sin will win.  Sin NEVER does it what it says on the tin.  It is always a disappointment, always a scam.  The devil delights to see the sons and daughters of God tangled up in sin.

We are called to work the works of the Father just like Jesus.  Notice if you read how the man who had his eyes opened was not even a Christian, had not even met Jesus yet, but he was defending him, and witnessing to the Pharisees: “Do you want to be his disciples too?  How come you don’t know him, when he opened my eyes!”

New Christians have a childlike, a simple faith.  That’s why we need to spend lots of time around them!  We are called to be a mission church, and we should be geared up to relate to sinners.  Read this account of Wigglesworth, the Bradford plumber, an uneducated and at one point inarticulate man, who healed another man born blind:

This man stayed behind in Wigglesworth’s healing service in Switzerland in the 1920’s.  He refused to leave until he could see: “because of the Word preached in the afternoon, he was not going home until he could see.  If ever I have seen joy, it is when I have a lot of people who will not be satisfied until they get all that they have come for.  With great joy, I anointed him and laid hands on his eyes.  Immediately, God restored his vision.  It was very strange how the man reacted.  There were some electric lights.  First he counted them; then he counted us.  Oh, the ecstatic pleasure that this man experienced every moment because of his sight!  It made us all feel like weeping and dancing and shouting.  Then he pulled out his watch and said that for years he had been feeling the raised figures on the watch in order to tell the time.  But now, he could look at it and tell us the time.  Then looking as if he had just awakened from some deep sleep, or some long, strange dream, he realised that he had never seen the faces of his mother and father.  He went to the door and rushed out.  That night, he was the first person to arrive at the meeting.  All the people knew him as the blind man and I had to give him a long time to talk about his new sight.”  p.146Wigglesworth, The Complete Story.

When Jesus comes as the Son of God, extraordinary things happen.  We should expect this all the time.  He will answer our prayers.  But we have to pray them!  There is a real urgency in this gospel account; Jesus wanted to get on and do the works of the Father.  So do we.  We cannot hold back.  We need to lose our English reserve.  Perhaps you are thinking: “I want to be of use for the Lord.  But I have too many problems.”  God starts with our problems.  Time and again when you read accounts of revival, the breakthrough comes when people are able to admit their problems.  When they turn their outward prayers that have been focused on the need in the world, on the need in their hearts and say: “Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?”  That’s where he started with this man born blind.  “our problems do not impede his movement, they invite his movement.”  Invite God, without doubting, to move in your life and he will move.  He has promised it.

Every human respond to Jesus, whether they consciously choose to or not.  It is never too soon, if you are blind, to be given sight!  It’s never too soon, if you are sick, to be made well.  It’s also never too soon to be forgiven; you don’t know what you’re missing!  You cannot possibly yield your heart to Jesus too soon.  Remember, Jesus comes to bring revival or judgment.  He comes to seek and save the lost; but just as a bright light casts a darker shadow, so those who are in darkness are now in a deeper darkness if they have not turned to him.  John 3:19 “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Let’s just read the end of the account again: “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and when he found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  He replied, Who is he, sir?  Tell, me, that I may believe in Him.”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him; it is he who is speaking to you.”  He said, “I believe, Lord.”  And he prostrated himself before him.”

Before, the man had  only heard the voice of Jesus as he was putting the mud on his eyes and sending him to wash.  When Jesus sought him out, he worshipped Him and saw Him as Lord.  The man moves in the space of a few hours, through the miraculous power of God, from seeing Jesus merely as a man, to a prophet, to ‘sent from God’, and finally to Lord.  Have you made that progression.  Are your eyes fully opened to Jesus as God?

I wonder if you feel that you have only heard faintly of Jesus, and what he might be like?  It does not compare with ‘seeing’ him.  Job was an upright man, who walked with integrity if ever a man did.  But when God came down and Job saw him, he changed his tune:   Job 42:6-7: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You, therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  This is where we begin before Him, and this is where revival starts and judgment is averted.

1) Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself. Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress. The contented soul is a
stagnant soul.

2) Set your face like a flint toward a sweeping transformation of your life.  Timid experiments are tagged for failure before they start. We must throw our whole soul into our desire for God.

3) Put yourself in the way of blessing. It’s a mistake to expect God’s help to come as a windfall apart from conditions known and met.  To desire revival, and at the same time to neglect prayer and devotion, is to wish one way and walk another.

4) Do a thorough job of repenting. Hasty repentance means a shallow spiritual experience. Let godly sorrow do her healing work. It is our wretched habit of toleration of sin that keeps us in our half-dead condition.

5) Make restitution wherever possible. If you owe a debt pay it. If you have quarrelled with anyone, go as far as you can to achieve reconciliation. As fully as possible, make the crooked straight.

6) Bring your life into accord with the Sermon on the Mount and other such New Testament Scriptures as are designed to instruct in the way of righteousness. An honest man with an open Bible and a pad and pencil is sure to find out what’s wrong with him quickly.

7) Be serious minded. The people of the world used to go to the movies to escape serious thinking about God and religion. There must be a radical change in  your habits, or there will not be any permanent improvement in your interior life.

8) Deliberately narrow your interests. Too many projects use up time and energy without bringing us nearer to God.  The mansions of the heart will become larger when the doors are thrown open to Christ and closed against the world and sin.

9) Begin to witness. Find something to do for God, and your fellowman. Make yourself available. Do anything you are asked to do.

Learn to obey.

10) Have faith in God. Begin to expect. Look up toward the throne. All heaven is on your side. God will not disappoint you.

These suggestions constitute a formula for personal revival. When personal revival is experienced, there is no knowing how far it may spread. The Church is in desperate need of a spiritual resurrection and it can only come through the revived individual.

I have been praying through this formula occasionally; the only way such formulas work is if you take them seriously and give them time.  I love the way that at the start the resolves are deep and affecting the will, and as you move towards the end the instructions become very simple, easy, and short.  If our heart is prepared and willing, obedience is not difficult.  It is getting self out of the way that takes the time.  Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you, to increase, ask for some of Him, ask for more of Him, ask for all of Him and none of you.  As John Piper tells us, we should “invest in the blue-chip, high yield, divinely insured securities of heaven.  A life devoted to material comforts and thrills is like throwing money down a rathole.  But a life invested in the labour of love yields dividends of joy unsurpassed and unending.”  Next time I’m planning to put some notes and ideas from my sermon on Sunday down here.

I don’t have much time tonight but I’m heartened that people have been reading and I feel a burning in my spirit today – hey, this morning we had a word from Ezekiel chapter 1 that chariots of fire are being sent out on the earth by the Lord, and that they only go where the spirit goes, and they go straight to where the spirit is going without turning, and also the throne of God is being released into the earth as well.  I almost felt that Azusa Street was taking off this morning in church as I felt God’s presence; I’m excited.

I listened to John Piper, an old sermon of his, 2009, what is the recession for.  Worth listening to because his voice shakes you up more than words on the page.  A good example of a thundering sermon of his where the noise is the sound of grace, and the cry of the heart of God.

  • He intends for this recession to expose hidden sin and so bring us to repentance and      cleansing.
  • He intends to wake us up to the constant and desperate condition of the developing world where there is always and only recession of the worst kind.
  • He intends to relocate the roots of our joy in his grace rather than in our goods, in his mercy rather than our money, in his worth rather than our wealth.
  • He intends to advance his saving mission in the world—the spread of the gospel and the growth of his      church—precisely at a time when human resources are least able to support it. This is how he guards his glory.
  • He intends for the church to care for its hurting members and to grow in the gift of love.

These are the five points that Piper unpacks in his preach, but he also says that when human resources are low God always moves, for example:

  • He promises the heir when Abraham and Sarah are too old to have children.
  • He splits the Red Sea when Israel is hopelessly trapped by Pharaoh’s army.
  • He gives manna when there is no food in the wilderness.
  • He stops the Jordan River when it’s time to take the land.
  • When a city stands in the way, he makes the walls fall down.
  • When the Midianites were as many as the sand of the sea, God whittled Gideon’s army down to 300 so      God would get the glory for the victory.
  • When Goliath defies the armies of the Lord, God sends a boy with a sling and five stones.
  • When the Son of God is to come into the world, God calls a virgin to conceive.
  • And when the mighty devil himself is to be defeated, a Lamb goes to the slaughter.

Think about each one of those for a moment.  But the most powerful moment in the sermon for me was when he said that if there is one Christian in need and you’re another Christian, you give to that person, because THAT’S WHAT THE CHURCH IS FOR.  It’s what we are!  Are we a church or are we a club?  If we’re a church, God will move out heart, and we will give out of our poverty, and release a liberality of joy.  I am stirred up about this.  Help me God to make it count, like the widow’s mite.  Might it hurt, Lord.  Then it’s beautiful and it’s for Your glory.

 

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/what-is-the-recession-for

Continue reading

Nice little article here and could be a good blog:  http://iamtransparent.tv/blog/?p=1116

Headlines of revival

As promised, some of the quotations with which Wallis heads up his ‘The Day of Thy Power’ chapters.

‘Persons are very ready to be suspicious of what they have not felt themselves.  It is to be feared many good men have been guilty of this error….These persons that thus make their own experience their rule of judgment, instead of bowing to the wisdom of God, and yielding to His Word as an infallible rule, are guilty of casting a great reflection upon the understanding of the Most High.’ Jonathan Edwards

‘God hath had it much on His heart, from all eternity, to glorify His dear and only begotten Son; and there are some special seasons that He appoints to that end, wherein He comes forth with omnipotent power to fulfil His promise and oath to Him: and these times are times of remarkable pouring out of His Spirit, to advance His kingdom; such a day is the day of His power.’ Jonathan Edwards

‘Vastly more was wrapt up in the descent of the Holy Spirit than the church has yet experienced, or than the world has yet seen; and the Spirit Himself thus reveals that while the Christian centuries are “the last days”, and Pentecost began the wonder, we today, standing in the last of the last, are on the edge of a second and more tremendous upheaval of the Holy Spirit….So in linking up ourselves with myriads of Christians throughout the globe in praying for world-revival, world-evangelism and the world-return of our blessed Lord, we are praying for solid coming facts, and therefore know that we are praying according to the will of God; we are praying for that in which we may have sudden and glorious part; and we are praying for the world the biggest blessing it will ever have on this side of the great White Throne.’ D.M. Panton

‘The quiet conversion of one sinner after another, under the ordinary ministry of the gospel must always be regarded with feelings of satisfaction and gratitude…; but a periodical manifestation of the simultaneous conversion of thousands is also to be desired, because of its adaptation to afford a visible and impressive demonstration that God has made that same Jesus who was rejected and crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ William Reid

‘The antecedents, accompaniments, and results of revivals are always substantially the same as in the case of Pentecost.’ Charles Finney

‘The waiting on of young and older people at the close of each meeting, and the anxious asking of so many ‘what to do’; the lively singing of the praises of God, which every visitor remarks; the complete desuetude of swearing and of foolish talking in our streets; the order and solemnity at all hours prevailing; the voice of praise and prayer almost in every house; the cessation of the tumults of the people; the consignment to the flames of volumes of infidelity and impurity; the coming together for divine worship of such a multitude of our population day after day; the large catalogue of new intending communicants giving in their names, and conversing in the most interesting manner on the most important subjects; not a few of the old careless sinners and frozen formalists awakened and made alive to God; the conversion of several poor colliers, who have come to me and given a most satisfactory account of their change of mind and heart – are truly wonderful proofs of a most surprising and delightful revival.  The public-houses, the coal-pits, the harvest reaping fields, the weaving loomsteads, the recesses of our glens, and the sequestered haughs around, all may be called to witness that there is a mighty change in this place for the better.’  An observer of the Kilsyth revival, 1839

Being daring in prayer

Hear what Arthur Wallis had to say on being daring in prayer:

We can imagine the feelings of someone with exceptional power and ability, who is compelled to stand by inactive and watch another struggle in weakness and incompetence to fulfil some task that he could willingly do for him in an instant.  It must be torture indeed to possess extraordinary powers and not be given the opportunity to exercise them.  How often do we keep the Almighty standing by in silent inactivity, with all the power of the universe in His hands, yearning to intervene, to demonstrate His power and reveal His glory; while we toy with spiritual things, earthbound in our thinking, working and praying!  Well might the Lord say of us: “oh that My people would hearken unto Me. …I should soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries”… A daring faith does not stagger at the promises of God; a daring faith can open the windows of heaven for revival; a daring faith delights the heart of God.

My pastor this morning added a warning to counter this sense of daring; sometimes Christians can pray for things that are way beyond their capability and anointing.  There is a difference in praying a prayer that is in the Almighty’s arena to respond to; “Turn the heart of my brother to yield to Your Lordship, Jesus”, and in praying a prayer that somehow seems to rely on our authority: “In Jesus’ name, storm, be still!”  Yes, the Lord had that kind of authority.  Yes, he has given all authority to us in His name.  But ONLY to glorify God.

I am re-reading Wallis’ fabulous ‘In the Day of Thy Power’.  I cannot think of another book on revival that is so winsomely, earnestly and richly written.  I keep on stumbling over excerpts from wonderful revivals within it.  I may include in the next blogpost some of the revival quotations that head the chapters up.  In the meantime can I add a link to ‘The Herald of His Coming’ here:  http://www.heraldofhiscoming.com/other/home.htm.  Here you will find a stirring back-catalogue of mostly brief, but all hard-hitting, exhortations to revival, to prayer, to service for His glory.

‘I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.’

Going back to school!

It might have been the title that put me off getting round to reading this book – for a long time Andrew Murray has been a worthy but uninviting writer for me.  But recently he has opened up new vistas: his book on the power of Pentecost (YES it’s an RHP classic!) was very exciting, and this book, ‘With Christ in the School of Prayer’, drips wisdom on every page.

Until I started reading it, I thought that E.M. Bounds and Richard Foster between them had got prayer sewn up (er, who can ever do that?!).  But Murray is full of power and insight into what prayer is all about.  I quote:

‘Most churches think their members gather simply to take care of and edify each other.  They don’t know that God rules the world by the prayers of his saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, and that through prayer the Church on earth has access to the powers of the heavenly world.’

Don’t think that this is a manual for the advanced.  This starts at the beginning, and talks about how Jesus prayed.  But I need to start there personally.  Jesus’ disciples saw him praying and then said: “Teach me how to pray”.  Murray tells us not to think how little we have to give to God, but how much He wants to give us.  He also tells us that if we ask and get no answer, it is because we have not learned to pray properly.  There is a simple faith in his writing, just like Torrey, that is inspiring.  He laments that there are so few Christians who know definite direct answer to prayer as the rule of their daily life.

We pray to God because he is our Father, because we are commanded to, and because in doing so we please Him.  Not only has the Holy Spirit equipped us to pray, but Christ prays on our behalf and in our best prayers interceeds through us.  Murray urges that: ‘Our true aim must not be to work a great deal and pray just enough to keep the work right.  We should pray a great deal and then work enough for the power and blessing obtained in prayer to find its way through us to men.’

I confess I’ve not finished this book yet.  I’ve slowed right down reading it because it’s so rich.  And I always struggle spending time reading books on prayer, when I should be doing it!  Yet they fire me up, and remind me of what can be achieved.  This is in no way a self-glorifying book, but rather a serious work for those who long to give of their very best in their two-way conversations with the Almighty.

A basic handbook modelled on how Jesus prayed