Revival Studies 3. Fullness is Christ

Part 1.
Earnest Prayer
17 March 2019

Part 2.
The Spirit and Revival
17 March 2019

Part 3.
Fullness is Christ
24 March 2019


Part 4.
Beautifying the Bride
15 April 2019

Part 5.
The End of Revival
28 April 2019

.


Eph 1:15-22; 3:14-4:13

“Man is a vessel destined to be filled with God and as he is filled so he expanded and as he is expanded so he is filled.”

Bingham

“Revival is God!” …That’s what it is…God in all of his fullness.”

Richard Owen Roberts

Introduction

This series understand revival to be a more intense experience of Jesus; its characteristic phenomena of earnest prayer, deep repentance, mass conversions, signs and wonders all flow from the manifest presence of Christ. This means that revival is something God is pleased to send for Paul says, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ…. and you have been filled in him1)See Biblical References Col 1:19 ESV; Col 2:10 ESV.

When the abundance of the life of Christ is released into the Church her empty condition is filled and she expands in breadth, length, height and depth, in love to the glory of God (Eph 3:14-21 ESV).  This is God’s final purpose in Christ (Eph 1:10 ESV).

Fullness for Creation

From the beginning, the Lord commanded humanity, “ “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” ”2)See Biblical References Gen 1:28 ESV cf. 9:1 ESV. We were destined to fill the earth with the image and glory of God3)See Biblical References 1 Cor 11:7; 2 Cor 4:4. God’s plan is that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.4)See Biblical References Hab 2:14 ESV cf. Isa 11:9 ESV.

This “knowledge of glory” is interpreted by Christ as, “eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.(John 17:3 ESV). To know glory is to be gloriously glorified but sin is to “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23 ESV and be spiritually emptied and dry (Jer 2:13 ESV).

The manifest obsession of Westerners of all ages to screens cries out that we are suffering from a dreadful inner emptiness. Spiritual emptiness destroys people (Hos 4:6 ESV), but how does it impact God?

If evil has any “purpose” it is to oppose the fullness of God’s glory and cause him grief. When in the days of Noah “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.(Gen 6:11 ESV)God’s heart was filled with pain(Gen 6:6 ESV).

In God’s plan to fill the earth with his presence Israel was chosen as a repository of glory5)See Biblical References Rom 9:4 ESV cf. Isa 49:6 ESV but entered into a seemingly endless cycle of prosperity-inducing  idolatry, punished by defeat in war, leading to a consciousness of lost glory which provokes a crying out to the Lord, which leads to spiritual revival.…then it all repeats itself (Judges 2 etc.).

Isaiah went to the heart of the matter, “their land is filled with idols…. they have filled my inheritance with their abominations.6)See Biblical References Isa 2:8 ESV; Jer 16:18 ESV.

When the people of God worship blind, deaf, dumb and dead idols their spirits take on deafness and blindness7)See Biblical References Pss 115:4-8 ESV; 135:15-18 ESV; Isa 44:9 ESV. God declares, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.(Isa 42:8 ESV)

Idolatry isn’t like murder, rape, adultery, sexual abuse or any other sin, in robbing God of glory it is a directly attacks his inner being and plunges its devotees into a state of judgement, darkness and silence where the true Lord cannot be seen or heard (cf. Rom 1:22-24 ESV).

This terror can come upon a church. Jesus said to the church in Sardis, “ “You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” ” (Rev 3:1 ESV). Only a direct visitation of God can heal this dreadful condition (Hos 6:1-3 ESV). Which is why Isaiah’s vision in the temple is so emblematic of the inner workings of revival.

Isaiah receives a manifestation of  vs.1the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple” with the angelic attendants calling to one another, vs.3Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” ” (Isa 6:1, 3 ESV).

This vision of the fullness of glory shattered the priest’s frame of reference, struck him with a fear of immediate annihilation (Isa 6:5 ESV) and turned him into a prophet (Isa 6:8 ESV).

He had an instantaneous revelation of the eternal destiny of creation and that in his sinful condition he knew he could not share in its glory. Confronted with the total holiness of God his whole being is shaken so he calls out for radical inner cleansing.

Since in John’s gospel we are told Isaiah saw Christ’s glory (John 12:41 ESV) we can conclude that it was a revelation of God’s glory in Jesus which moved people through gospel preaching to desperately seek salvation just as Isaiah did.

When the crowds at Pentecost heard Peter, “they were cut to the heart, and said …, “Brothers, what shall we do?” ” (Acts 2:37 ESV) The shaking of the foundations of their existence left no other choice but to turn totally to Christ as Lord8)See Biblical References Acts 2:36 ESV cf. Acts 16:30 ESV.

The Fulness is Christ

John says in the introduction to his Gospel, “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace(John 1:16 ESV). And Paul this fullness in the humanity of Jesus, “in Christ all the fullness of God lives in bodily form9)See Biblical References Col 2:9 ESV cf. Col 1:19-20 ESV.

The uniqueness of the fullness of Jesus is that he never fills himself. In rebuking the Pharisees he testifies, “ “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me…” ”10)See Biblical References John 8:54 ESV cf. John 5:44 ESV.

Likewise, he is filled with the Spirit “without measure(John 3:34 ESV) because he seeks only to honour God. When the Son of God “emptied himself(Phil 2:7 ESV) and “became flesh(John 1:14 ESV) he left the glory of heaven to inhabit humanity that through sin had emptied itself of the glory of God (Rom 3:23 ESV).

Whilst the miracles and teachings of Jesus were manifestations of the fullness of God11)See Biblical References Matt 9:8 ESV; Mark 1:27 ESV; Luke 7:16 ESV etc., Christ did not come to glorify the narrow strip of space-time he occupied in his days on earth but to fill all things (Rev 5:13 ESV). This could come through his death and resurrection.

The cross takes humanity’s rejection of the glory of God is taken to its ultimate conclusion (Mark 15:34 ESV). Here Jesus is immersed in the final condition of idolaters enduring the state where there’s no habitation for God, no movement of the Spirit, where the river of God has no water12)See Biblical References Ps 65:9 ESV; John 19:28 ESV and creation is stripped of meaning, form and purpose13)See Biblical References Gen 1:2 ESV; Deut 32:10 ESV; Isa 24:10 ESV; Jer 4:23-26 ESV.

In the cross the depths of the evil powers of un-creation/anti-creation are let loose, this is a place of spiritual deadness where there is no express Lordship of God. As the original rebellion meant being cast out of Paradise, as the ongoing uprise against divine rule meant the judgement of the Flood, the plagues of Egypt, exile in Babylon, so only the cosmic judgement of the crucifixion could mean new life for all creation through resurrection. God’s ways in restoration are always patterned on the gospel.

Only an emptying out of the things of this world creates the space for fullness to the things of the world to come. Jesus’ humiliation was for exaltation, “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.(Eph 4:10 ESV).

The whole creation will be filled with the glory God gave to Jesus when vs.20when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, vs.21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named… vs.22 And he put all things under his feet(Eph 1:20-22 ESV).

In the End, all of creation will be reconstituted through the glory of the slain-and-risen Lamb (Rev 21:23 ESV) raised to a level of intimacy with God far beyond anything in the first creation. All of which will be expressed through the Church.

Fulness as Church

God vs.22put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, vs.23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.(Eph 1:22-23 ESV). Everything that Christ is, wisdom, justice, holiness, salvation (1 Cor 1:30 ESV) ….. is to fill creation through the Church.

Paul prays for the Ephesians, “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.(Eph 3:19 ESV) and teaches that this fullness comes through the gifts the ascended Christ distributes (Eph 4:8 ESV ff) and the Holy Spirit, “do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit(Eph 5:18 ESV).

Fulness is a realm of life, Paul is sure, for example, that when he comes to Rome, “I know that … I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.(Rom 15:29 ESV). The secret of this confidence lies in his sufferings.

He says to the Colossians, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of…the church(Col 1:24 ESV).

Jesus fills up his Body through the weakness of its servants in whom his power is “made perfect(2 Cor 12:9 ESV). Our Spirit-led sufferings in Christ create space for the fullness of God (Phil 3:10 ESV) so that degree by degree we become one with the fullness of the glory filling all creation (2 Cor 3:18 ESV). Such fulness propels believers to move out to fill all creation with the glory of Christ. Missionary expansion is the natural state of the Church living in the fullness of God.

When the Church sacrifices what God asks of her in any given context, e.g. in prayer, finances, confession, praise…martyrdom, a time of fullness always arrives and the Holy Spirit is outpoured (Acts 2:1 KJV). What is it then that is blocking the manifestation of the fullness of Christ amongst us today?

Blocks to fullness

When we glory in flesh other than the crucified risen humanity of the Son of God we are idolaters and come under the judgement of God. The Lord is shaking the foundations of the Western Church to topple all our idolatrous dispositions.

This came home with particular sharpness this week when a local Catholic priest, described as a “rock star” capable of assembling up to 3,000 people at his Christmas masses was found dead, by apparent suicide, in the wake of a sex abuse allegations.

That many are in shock and disbelief is natural, but when past parishioners use this sort of language of a man, “His unconditional love and acceptance of everyone, his support when any of us were confused or hurting was limitless,” this is the language of worship reserved for God alone.

No wonder (cf. Cardinal Pell), Christ is shaking Catholicism to its foundations. And when its local archbishop referred to a “diminishment of numbers and of influence” in the wake of the abuse scandals he, with most others, seemed to sidestep the reality that we are dealing with the purifying judgements of God.

The Lord is working to break down to the ground the centuries-old self-importance of Western Christianity.

I am reminded of how scandalous the fall of Bill Hybels, the father of the seeker-sensitive evangelicalism, has been for the Church in America and that our own previous archbishop is under an internal investigation for his conduct as a bishop, and maybe “defrocked”.

An unspiritual ailing church always looks for help from “the arm of flesh” rather than from the Spirit of God14)See Biblical References 2 Chron 32:8 ESV; Jer 17:5 ESV. When Kay Goldsworthy came out of the robing room on the day of her installation as archbishop spontaneous applause broke out. I could not believe it!

Martyrs and confessors perished with “Glory to God alone” on their lips but the contemporary Church seems not to understand what these words mean.

Everywhere there’s evidence of believers not living in the fullness of God but trying to fill their emptiness with the things of this world. All addictions are signs of emptiness, not just substance abuse and pornography but things as commonplace as travel, TV and food.

If you don’t have the comfort of the Holy Spirit filling your life (Acts 9:31 ESV) you will turn to other sources of comfort. The mood music, from Hillsong to St Georges Cathedral, filling our churches is a substitute for the fullness of a holy God15)See Biblical References Isa 6:3 ESV; Rev 4:8 ESV. The well-being lifestyle message inundating Western Christianity is a sign that the people of God are not living in the fullness and the glory of Christ.

Conclusion

The Church is in the midst of a war waged against God filling creation and on every front, our part of the Body of Christ is losing.

You can’t plug the absence of the presence of the glory of God with human programmes.

Jesus died and rose to take us out of our tiny selves into the fullness of God (Col 2:9-10 ESV).

Revival is all about the intensity of the glory of God, with its mass conversions, miracles repentances, healings and so on, being a prophetic sign of the reality that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.16)See Biblical References Hab 2:14 ESVcf. Isa 11:9 ESV.

Existential emptiness, “the dark night of the soul”, is a dreadful state of being but if the Lord plunges us into this way of the cross he will surely fill us with the power which raised him from the dead.

This is true revival and it has no limits.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 17th March 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

17th March 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Col 1:19 ESV; Col 2:10 ESV
2. See Biblical References Gen 1:28 ESV cf. 9:1 ESV
3. See Biblical References 1 Cor 11:7; 2 Cor 4:4
4. See Biblical References Hab 2:14 ESV cf. Isa 11:9 ESV
5. See Biblical References Rom 9:4 ESV cf. Isa 49:6 ESV
6. See Biblical References Isa 2:8 ESV; Jer 16:18 ESV
7. See Biblical References Pss 115:4-8 ESV; 135:15-18 ESV; Isa 44:9 ESV
8. See Biblical References Acts 2:36 ESV cf. Acts 16:30 ESV
9. See Biblical References Col 2:9 ESV cf. Col 1:19-20 ESV
10. See Biblical References John 8:54 ESV cf. John 5:44 ESV
11. See Biblical References Matt 9:8 ESV; Mark 1:27 ESV; Luke 7:16 ESV etc.
12. See Biblical References Ps 65:9 ESV; John 19:28 ESV
13. See Biblical References Gen 1:2 ESV; Deut 32:10 ESV; Isa 24:10 ESV; Jer 4:23-26 ESV
14. See Biblical References 2 Chron 32:8 ESV; Jer 17:5 ESV
15. See Biblical References Isa 6:3 ESV; Rev 4:8 ESV
16. See Biblical References Hab 2:14 ESVcf. Isa 11:9 ESV

Revival Studies 1. Earnest Prayer

Part 1.
Earnest Prayer
17 March 2019

Part 2.
The Spirit and Revival
17 March 2019

Part 3.
Fullness is Christ
24 March 2019


Part 4.
Beautifying the Bride
15 April 2019

Part 5.
The End of Revival
28 April 2019

.


Acts 2:1-11; Luke 22:39-46

 

“a movement of the Holy Spirit bringing about a revival of New Testament Christianity in the Church of Christ and its related community”

J Edwin Orr

“a renewal of God’s people to do God’s work to fulfil God’s plan.”

Geoffrey Bingham
SOME HISTORY

Engagement with studying the fire of revival began in my early Christian experience, perhaps ignited by the teaching of Geoffrey Bingham in Adelaide, who had several revivals in Pakistan.

I still have notes from a sermon he preached at Adelaide University (17.6.74) titled, “The Revival we Need”.

It was stimulated by my reading of Jonathan Edwards’ classics, “Religious Affections” and “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God”. It was later fuelled by hearing perhaps the most famous student of Western revivals, J Edwin Orr, preaching at Ridley Theological College Melbourne (c.1980).

The challenging topic of Prayer and Revival presented at a conference in Adelaide 1985 by Paul Yonggi Cho which led me to deep repentance about my prayerlessness. Some subsequent some unusual acts of God in one of my ministry placements in Victoria kept an interest awake.

When I came to Perth to take up ministry in 1988, I was still a young fired up the preacher. The first 4 sermons I preached here were on prayer, by the fourth week the numbers in the congregation had doubled, and when I gave an “altar call” following my sermon on Prayer and Revival, half the congregation came forward. This confirmed my amazingly conceited conviction that I could “start a revival”, an ambition I held for quite a long time.

Over recent years I have been more likely to teach on the disorder that would result if God moved in the power of the Spirit.

Revival without reformation is a recipe for chaos. Whilst most people today think of revival in terms of a mere intensification of our present Christian experience, more miracles, healings, conversions, deeper love and so on, we must consider a genuine biblical revival to involve a restoration of the form of the Church found in the New Testament.

Anything fewer collapses in power struggles, false teaching, immorality and splintering. If the fish which the Lord sends into his net is not to escape through its many tears, extraordinary prayer and unity are to be expected as a preparation for a spiritual awakening.

This caution came to me from hearing a Pentecostal preacher in Mar del Plata Argentina in 1995. After a move of God involving the famous evangelist Carlos Annacondia, 10% of the population turned to Christ (40,000), but after some time only 1,000 remained in the churches. There were “too many holes in the net.”

My thinking and praying about revival was unexpectedly, and cautiously, reignited when I laid hands on a brother a few weeks ago and as I prayed “saw” what happened to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

I saw the heavenly wind and the fiery tongues entering into all the believers. Meditating on this insight I wrote a prophetic article called “Firestorm”. It ended with a challenge for a remnant to gather and pray for the wind and fire of God restoring new creation life in the Church.

About a month ago I was reading an article in the Prepare the Way magazine; which in some ways resembles old fashioned revival teaching, with articles by Andrew Murray, A.B. Simpson, A.W. Tozer, David Wilkerson and the like.

The article was titled, “The lost agony for souls.” 

It starts with a quote from the great 18th-century revival preacher, George Whitefield, “O Lord, give me souls or take my soul…there is a passion for souls, a depth of burden for men, care for the flock of God that defies words and sighs and tears.”

Then the early missionary to the Native Americans, David Brainerd, “no amount of brilliant stirring eloquence can atone for the absence of a deep, impassioned sympathetic love of human souls.”

Then followed a description of scenes from the Welsh revival, “the air became very heavy with sighs, tears, and groans…as if their hearts must break beneath the strain.” Other accounts speak of the ministry of Charles Finney, the Hebrides revival and so on in terms of recovering the “lost agony”.

“It appears that we have lost the power to weep, to wrestle, to plead, and to agonise over lost souls.” Evangelistic campaigns come and go but the cities are seemingly as lost as ever.

After reading this article I had to go out and pray. And I had very little to say.  There’s no way I can ever return to the sort of revivalist activism that possessed me as a young man. Where to from here?

Introduction

At the same time, I was in my “stunned state” about revival I believe the Lord was drawing my attention to the subject of “earnest prayer” and to do some teaching on prayer and revival from an embarrassingly different perspective from my past efforts. From a genuinely Christ-centred perspective.

I concluded last week’s sermon by saying, “Whenever God powerfully moves the Church to self-examination it is astonished at its self-centredness and turns to the Lord in urgent prayer. This makes self-examination the first step in revival and the catapult to extraordinary prayer. True self-examination involves a sharing in what Jesus saw of the depths of our fallen humanity in the cross and a sharing in the delivering power of his resurrection.

A foundational theology of revival isn’t based on ebbs and flows in the spirituality of the Church but will attempt to testify to what happens in the Church as the Spirit grants to us more intense participation in the “revival” of Christ’s own humanity from suffering and death into resurrection. This means the substance of the extraordinary prayer that precedes revivals is sourced in the prayer life of Jesus. This leads us to Christ’s prayers in Gethsemane.

The Praying of Jesus

The description of Christ’s praying in Luke is especially intense. “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.(Luke 22:43-44 ESV).

Many early Greek manuscripts omit these verses. Scribes would have been motivated to remove this text as embarrassing because Roman critics argued it showed Jesus lost his composure in the face of death, something a true hero or god could never do. 

If we accept these verses as authentic, they give us insight into the extreme limit of Christ’s humanity. (Perhaps second only to the cry of dereliction, Mark 15:34 ESV.)

Matthew and Mark record Jesus in Gethsemane sharing with his disciples, “my soul is sorrowful to the point of death1)See Biblical References Matt 26:38 ESV; Mar 14:34 ESV. Believing that he could die in the Garden Jesus is moved to an “earnestness” prayer beyond our fathoming.

Usually at this point I would focus on Jesus recoiling (Luke 22:42 ESV) with horror at drinking the cup of divine wrath2)See Biblical References Ps 75:8 ESV; Isa 51:17, 22 ESV; Jer 25:15-28 ESV; Ezek 23:31-34 ESV, the judgement of the cross  which would separate him from his Father. But in the plan of salvation, there is another element at play.

In Luke (Luke 22:40 ESV) Jesus and the disciples have entered into a time of “testing” (Luke 22:3, 31 ESV) where the devil assaults the purposes of God with special ferocity because it his “hour and the power of darkness/ the time when the power of darkness reigns.3)See Biblical References cf. Luke 4:13 ESV; Luke 8:12-13 ESV; Luke 22:53 ESV; John 14:30 ESV. It is the devil’s “opportune time” (Luke 4:13 ESV), a time appointed by God when he is permitted to attack Jesus and the disciples with exceptional power.

If we take the humanity of Jesus and the intensity of his prayers, “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” seriously, we must suppose that without supernatural angelic assistance he could not have persevered (cf. Dan 10).

The writer to Hebrews describes Christ’s Gethsemane experience like this, vs.7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. vs.8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Heb 5:7-8 ESV)

It is vital we ask what exactly was it that moved Jesus to such extraordinary prayer. I believe the key to such insight is the language of sonship used in Hebrews and underlying Christ’s unique prayer language, “ “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.” ”4)See Biblical References Mark 14:36 ESVcf. “ “My Father(Matt 26:39 ESV).

In the New Testament sonship is consistently associated with light5)See Biblical References Luke 16:8 ESV; John 12:36 ESV; Eph 5:8 ESV; 1 Thess 5:5 ESVcf. 1 John 1:7 ESV. It is as the Son of God that Jesus is “the light of the world6)See Biblical References John 1:9 ESV; John 3:19 ESV; John 9:5 ESV; John 12:46 ESV in opposition to all darkness7)See Biblical References John 1:5; 3:20 ESV.

Because he is the enemy of God and a false father (John 8:44 ESV), Satan is the author of this world’s darkness8)See Biblical References Acts 26:18 ESV; 2 Cor 4:3-4 ESV and totally opposed to the light of Christ.

The conflict between the devil and Jesus is at the level of their deepest natures. Despite this, Jesus’ obedience to his Father’s will in Gethsemane means he must accept what Satan wills for his life. He knows submission to the Father will lead him to suffer the experience of Father-abandonment on the cross.

As the tide of darkness flows over Jesus in the Garden every element of his being recoils in anguish and all he can do is pray more earnestly. In the ultimate paradox, he is being led by the eternal Spirit (Heb 9:14 ESV) into the “outer darkness” where the will of God will be unknowable because there is no light in the Lord (Eph 5:8 ESV).

The lordship of God” will be concealed “under the lordship of evil and evil men.” (Barth); no wonder Gethsemane is saturated in cries, groans, tears, wails etc.

Revival prayer is an extraordinary share in the saving intercession of Christ whose light triumphed over darkness in Gethsemane and on the cross9)See Biblical References John 1:4-5 ESV cf. Acts 26:18 ESV; 2 Tim 1:10 ESV.

Releasing Earnest Prayer in the Church

Some of the language used about Christ’s praying in Gethsemane reappears in Acts.  Just after King Herod killed James, Peter was arrested with the same fate in mind, “but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church(Acts 12:5 ESV).

Much the same intense character of interceding comes across when Paul describes Epaphras as “always struggling/wrestling on your behalf in his prayers(Col 4:12 ESV).

These are life and death struggles to bind the strong man, Satan, and bring down his strongholds10)See Biblical References Mark 3:27 ESV; 2 Cor 10:4 ESV. It is this praying which is a sign of revival.

Remember this type of earnest prayer by Nehemiah, “As soon as I heard these words (broken down state of the walls of Jerusalem) I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.(Neh 1:4 ESV). And the boldness of the psalmist, “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!(Ps 44:23 ESV).

Why are the characteristics of revival praying, such as heaven-sent persistence, zeal, energy, endurance and tenacity, so rare in the Church today?

Let me try to answer this at a number of levels. Firstly, in terms of the sovereign will of God.

“It is very apparent from the word of God, that he is wont often to try the faith and patience of his people, when crying to him for some great and important mercy, by withholding the mercy sought, for a season; and not only so, but at first to cause an increase of dark appearances. And yet he, without fail, at last, succeeds those who continue instant in prayer, with all perseverance, and will not let him go except he blesses.”

Jonathan Edwards said

In the ever-darkening state of our nation and Church in Australia it is not God’s will to quickly answer the prayers of his people11)See Biblical References Ps 6:3 ESV; Ps 13:1-2 ESV; Ps 69:3 ESV etc..

I was visiting someone recently who was in a state of shock when his 4-year-old came to him after 3 weeks of pre-school and asked, “Can someone have two daddies?” Tasmania is well on the way to having sex on birth certificates optional. Laws in some states (Victoria, Queensland) give latitude for late-term abortions and sex-selection.

Given such intensifying moral and spiritual madness, why isn’t the Lord answering our prayers?

The prayers of many Christians are muted and confused because they are deeply deluded about the ways of the Lord.

I remember when Donna came back from a prayer meeting a few years ago and said the consensus amongst the intercessors was that God would never allow same-sex marriage in Australia.

Those women were not in touch with the wisdom of God in allowing the kingdom of evil to flood our culture12)See Biblical References Dan 7:21 ESV; Rev 11:7 ESV; Rev 13:7 ESV.

It should be obvious by now that all the efforts of Christian lobby groups, all our think tanks, worldview institutes, centres for theological education, conferences, singing megachurches and so on are futile to hold back the tide of wickedness without a manifestation of the power of God.

We are missing a living revelation into the means by which the Lord of heaven and earth brings about foundational transformation in the Church and through it, eventually, the surrounding culture. This is conformity to the cross and resurrection of Christ.

Much of the Old Testament, e.g. Judges 2, is a cycle of blessing and prosperity (Deut 8) followed by idolatry and immorality, followed by God handing his people over to their enemies followed by them calling out to the Lord in their distress followed by a miraculous deliverance.

Then the cycle repeats itself. Exile and restoration are woven into the fabric of the biblical story because it is the means by which God gets all the glory and vindicates his own holy name13)See Biblical References Ezek 36 ESV; Ezek 39:25-29 ESV. Humiliation precedes exaltation according to the pattern of the redemption which is in Christ.

There is something drastically missing in our churches. There’s lots of grief in the hearts of Christian parents about the lost state of their children, sorrow in marriages about their deadness to true intimacy, anguish amongst real shepherds concerning the bruised and battered state of the sheep (Ezek 34:11-16 ESV), but very few seem to be in touch with the anguish of God.

It is his glory that is being lost in all the spheres of life. Surely today we are in the latter time “days of Noah(Matt 24:37 ESV ff.) when the wickedness was so dark on the earth that “God’s heart was filled with pain(Gen 6:6 ESV).

Surely this is what’s happening before our eyes in Gethsemane, wherein Jesus God’s beating heart is exposed (cf. John 1:18 ESV) in prayer.

In Christ’s vicarious humanity exposing itself to the anguish of the Father in prayer, the Lord is moved in the Spirit to act to save the world. to put this another way, God moves himself to save the world through the prayers of Jesus. Voluntary self-sacrifice through prayer releases divine power to heal all thing.

Prayer as Sacrifice

When Paul exhorts, vs.1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…vs.3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour,(1 Tim 2:1, 3 ESV), we are once again in the realm of earnest prayer as of first importance to the life of God’s people.

When Paul says such prayer is “acceptable” to God he uses a word found only here in the New Testament but used in various places in the Old Testament for acceptable sacrifices14)See Biblical References Lev 1:3, 4 ESV; Lev 17:4 ESV; Lev 22:20-21 ESV LXX.

Such prayer does what is good and right in God’s presence15)See Biblical References Deut 6:18 ESV; Deut 12:25, 28 ESV; Deut 13:19 ESV; Deut 21:9 ESV LXX)) and immerses his people in the divine favour.

As Noah pleasured the Lord with burnt sacrifices and turned away the wrath of God (Gen 8:21-22 ESV), as the sacrifices on the altar burned day and night in the temple, and as fire fell from heaven upon its altar signifying divine acceptance16)See Biblical References Lev 6:8 ESV; Lev 9:24 ESV; 2 Chron 7:1 ESV, so the wind of the eternal Spirit came on the praying believers at Pentecost((See Biblical References Acts 1:14 ESV; Acts 2:1-4 ESV bringing the life of a new creation in Christ.

Fire on the altar of our hearts on earth is answered (Charles Wesley “O Thou Who Camest from Above”) by fire from heaven (see also Acts 4:24, 31 ESV).

Prayer is as central to God and his relationship to his people in the new covenant as a sacrifice was in the old, for it puts us in touch with the death, and resurrection, of Jesus the saving Lamb of God (John 1:29 ESV).

Conclusion and Application

Amy Carmichael, famous for her work in rescuing young temple prostitutes in India, describes a time when her community (Dohnavur) was “Overwhelmed with the sudden realisation of the inner force of things” and a “hurricane of prayer continued for over four hours”. One of her girls gives what I think is the most profound way of describing a revival. It was “the day Jesus came to Dohnavur”.

Contrary to our contemporary focus on signs, wonders and preaching, Jesus knew that only self-sacrifice carried out through the presence of God in prevailing prayer could deliver bound humanity from the power of the evil one. This must be our mind too (1 Cor 2:16 ESV).

As a first step, we must accept that God is sovereign over our own personal situation and the state of the churches and nation.

If we don’t accept this we will inevitably trust in our own efforts, especially as they harness the gifts of God and depend on talent, expertise and effort. I see this most conspicuously, though hardly exclusively, amongst thriving Pentecostal congregations.

In his classic on revival, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, written in 1979, Richard Lovelace commented, “Pentecostals are perhaps the truest representatives of the Evangelical tradition [of prayer and renewal] in the twentieth century.”

This is certainly no longer true of Western Pentecostalism whose numbers have exploded but whose spiritual depth has plummeted.

We must confess that the prayerlessness of us all reveals that in our hearts we don’t accept the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty”.

And so we need to petition the Lord for an outpouring of the Spirit who so mightily worked salvation through the prayers of Jesus, especially in Gethsemane and on the cross (cf. Zech 12:10 ESV).

Finally, we need to ask the Lord that if we have no inner burden for a supernatural move of God that he gives us one.

If we do have such a burden, we should get on with praying and the more we pray the more the Spirit will be given to us for more prayer until finally, in God’s time, a great spiritual awakening will come.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 17th March 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

17th March 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Matt 26:38 ESV; Mar 14:34 ESV
2. See Biblical References Ps 75:8 ESV; Isa 51:17, 22 ESV; Jer 25:15-28 ESV; Ezek 23:31-34 ESV
3. See Biblical References cf. Luke 4:13 ESV; Luke 8:12-13 ESV; Luke 22:53 ESV; John 14:30 ESV
4. See Biblical References Mark 14:36 ESVcf.
5. See Biblical References Luke 16:8 ESV; John 12:36 ESV; Eph 5:8 ESV; 1 Thess 5:5 ESVcf. 1 John 1:7 ESV
6. See Biblical References John 1:9 ESV; John 3:19 ESV; John 9:5 ESV; John 12:46 ESV
7. See Biblical References John 1:5; 3:20 ESV
8. See Biblical References Acts 26:18 ESV; 2 Cor 4:3-4 ESV
9. See Biblical References John 1:4-5 ESV cf. Acts 26:18 ESV; 2 Tim 1:10 ESV
10. See Biblical References Mark 3:27 ESV; 2 Cor 10:4 ESV
11. See Biblical References Ps 6:3 ESV; Ps 13:1-2 ESV; Ps 69:3 ESV etc.
12. See Biblical References Dan 7:21 ESV; Rev 11:7 ESV; Rev 13:7 ESV
13. See Biblical References Ezek 36 ESV; Ezek 39:25-29 ESV
14. See Biblical References Lev 1:3, 4 ESV; Lev 17:4 ESV; Lev 22:20-21 ESV LXX
15. See Biblical References Deut 6:18 ESV; Deut 12:25, 28 ESV; Deut 13:19 ESV; Deut 21:9 ESV LXX)) and immerses his people in the divine favour.

As Noah pleasured the Lord with burnt sacrifices and turned away the wrath of God (Gen 8:21-22 ESV), as the sacrifices on the altar burned day and night in the temple, and as fire fell from heaven upon its altar signifying divine acceptance((See Biblical References Lev 6:8 ESV; Lev 9:24 ESV; 2 Chron 7:1 ESV

16. See Biblical References Lev 6:8 ESV; Lev 9:24 ESV; 2 Chron 7:1 ESV, so the wind of the eternal Spirit came on the praying believers at Pentecost((See Biblical References Acts 1:14 ESV; Acts 2:1-4 ESV