“We all have our dreams, aspirations and ambitions. But has it ever struck you that the only glory you can ever bring to God is to do His will, in His way, in His time, by His strength? I can’t give God glory by doing your job. You can’t give Him glory by finishing my assignment. Neither one of us can glorify God by doing Billy Graham’s duty.
There is no greater glory you can bring to God than finishing the work He has called you to. I can only glorify God by knowing and completing His individual will for my life. Along that path we each will face resistance and suffer attack. If you are contemplating backing off, giving in or jumping ship, consider this—its not just self-protection you are considering, you are attempting to rob God of the glory due His name.” (p.143, Revival in the Rubble)
“Revival is a process; it does not just happen. From the human vantage point it may appear to descend suddenly from heaven without prior notice. Yet behind these surprising encounters with God there lies a runway He has been building in order to launch this new move of His Spirit. History reveals that where God has visited His people with genuine revival there are discernible preparations He has made.” (Revival in the Rubble, p.35)
“Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains down righteousness upon you.” —Hosea 10:12
It’s time. It’s about time. It’s high time. It’s past time. “… it is time to seek the Lord.”
That is what Hosea told the people of Israel in His day.
Its not that they weren’t religious. Oh, they were. It’s not that they weren’t in attendance at religious services. They had that down pat. They prayed, offered sacrifices, observed the festivals and kept the commandments. They had this religion-thing down.
But, said the prophet, “… it is time to seek the Lord.”
“What do you mean?,” we might ask, as I’m sure they did as well. “I thought we were seeking the Lord! We’re doing everything we’ve been told to do!”
How? The command was simple: “Break up your fallow ground.”
Fallow ground is unplowed ground. It is ground that has been made hard by a long winter of neglect. It is ground hardened by cold, dark days of inattentiveness, packed solid by ice, snow and wind. It has been beat into a pavement-hard path by much traffic. The patter of feet, simply by traveling this way repeatedly, have rendered it incapable of producing or sustaining life. Fallow ground is hard, impenetrable, firm and confirmed in its ways.
What makes for fallow ground in my heart or in the heart of a church? Many things, but among them would be pride, presumption, past, preferences, prejudice, tradition, and opinion.
These must be turned over. The ground must be exposed. We must do more than scratch the surface, the spade must be plunged into the heart of the earth. The blade of the plow has to cut deep. It is frightening. It is painful. Most avoid it for those very reasons.
But it is full of hope! The sun is beginning to rise higher in the sky as winter passes and spring hastens. The ground having been turned and the soil having been exposed is embraced by the warmth of the sun and its life-giving rays. This is hope. There may yet be life! Life again. Life renewed. Revival.
How does one “turn over” this fallow ground? Again, the forms may be numerous. But surely it would include the sharp edge of tools such as repentance, confession of sin (to God and one another), brokenness, tears, remorse, contrition, restitution, and specific acts of humbling self before God and others.
When these things happen it might seem to be such a fresh move of God that we will want to just stay there. But we do well to remember that this would only be the beginning. This breaking up of the fallow ground only readies the soil for the seed of the Word to be planted (“He comes”). It only prepares the soil for the waters to come (“till righteousness rains down on you”). All this is so that the soil of our hearts might again bring forth life.
There is more. More than this. It can be better than this.
We must realize, “It is time to seek the Lord.”
It is time. It is about time. It is high time. It is past time. The time has come … to seek the Lord. Even at the cost of breaking up our fallow ground.
What is the relationship between revival and rich theology? Between a fresh, heaven-sent outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit and doctrinal purity and precision? Between living faith and sound doctrine? Between spiritual experience and Biblical truth?
Some seem to consider the two as polar opposites, working one against the other. If you try to bring the similarly charged ends of two magnets together and if the magnetic charge is not too great, you can intentionally hold the two together. But the moment you release your grip or let your attention wander they spin away from one another in opposite directions, repelled one from the other.
But is this a necessary relationship when it comes to revival and theology? Is this God’s doing? Is this God’s intention? Or is this something we’ve freighted both revival and theology with, something neither was designed to carry?
Paul repeatedly, especially in his later letters, makes a plea for “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1), “sound teaching” (1 Tim. 1:10), and “sound words” (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13).
By speaking of “the faithful word” (Tit. 1:9a) the Apostle underscores that fidelity is something essential to the nature of this “word.” But fidelity to what? Paul’s words imply a standing body of recognized truth which calls for loyalty and love, for allegiance and affection.
The trajectory of such logic is precisely correct for Paul says that “the faithful word” is “in accordance with” something he refers to simply as “the teaching” (1:9b). The literal word order of the Greek text is “the according-to-the-teaching faithful word.” The “word” under consideration is the one which jibes with what Paul and the other Apostles have taught (and is given to us by God in the pages of the New Testament). This differentiates it from the content of the false teachers (vv.10-16). Its conformity to the apostolic teaching is what makes this “the faithful word.” It is “faithful” in that it is in conformity to the apostolic teaching. But the adjective “faithful” is also qualifies “word.” Thus “the word” is qualified twice—this is not just any word, but the “faithful” one and that which distinguishes it as “faithful” is that it is “in accordance with the teaching.”
But this all sounds so, what shall we say, bookish? Dead? Sterile? So un-alive!
But this is a false echo, for “sound doctrine,” says Paul, is something that we are to be “nourished ” on (1 Tim. 4:6). That is to say, “sound doctrine” gives life! So revival and theology are not polar opposites after all! Indeed, the word translated “nourished” comes from the realm of parenthood and education. It is what parents strive to achieve in their children and what educators aim to produce in their pupils. They see a better future toward which they long to send their child or pupil, so they nourish them in the truth that will guide them to that future.
Revival will never be achieved by dotting our doctrinal i’s and cross our theological t’s. Church history, if nothing else, has taught us this. Scripture itself holds before us the persnickety Pharisees of Jesus’ day as an example of the deadness of such a pursuit. We cannot defineour way into a movement of the Spirit. Let us be clear on this point.
But, with equal energy let us affirm that neither will we be revived by abandoning the diligent, collective, corporate pursuit of truth. Good, solid, Scriptural theology is not an ideal which would be nice to arrive at, but which is pragmatically impossible. As I argue vigorously in Revival in the Rubble, the Bible makes clear that genuine revival is always marked by a return to God’s Word with a ravenous hunger to know what He has said. Church history, I believe, will bear this out as well.
What we seek is truth to which our experience must bow andtruth from which our experience must arise.
“Let us lay hold upon Him and plead with Him to vindicate His own truth . . . that the church may be revived and masses of people may be saved.” –D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Revival: An Historical and Theological Survey, p.23)