Seek the Lord While He May Be FoundFebruary 17, 2023 Drawing Near
Over the last ten days, reports of spiritual awakening on the Asbury University campus, a small Christian college in Wilmore, Kentucky, have made their way around the world. Asbury University held a regularly scheduled chapel service on Wednesday, February 8 which has continued to the writing of this post. Reports have also been given about similar events on other college campuses.
During a call to a confession of sins in the February 8th chapel service, at least one hundred people fell to their knees and bowed at the altar. Students, professors, and many who have traveled to Asbury give testimony that the gathering is marked by worship, confession of sins, repentance, and many turning to faith in Jesus Christ. To this, I say, “Amen!” Is this not what many pastors and Christians pray for?
Yes, we are called to be discerning and biblical. Yes, there is always danger for bizarre and distracting behavior in events like Asbury. Noted. However, with few exceptions (e.g., someone threw money on the stage to help a poor student) the reports are encouraging and do not seem to be aberrant or weird behavior (e.g., barking like dogs and uncontrollable laughter). We should pray for those who lead this movement that the Holy Spirit would guide them with wisdom and the truth of God’s word. We should also pray that genuine revival would sweep this land bearing fruit of the gospel, the fruit of lives changed by Christ and submitted to His word, the fruit that remains (John 15:1-16).
My friend, David Cranford, wrote this week, “Shootings on one college campus but revival on another campus. Oh God, may the latter overtake the former! Revive us O Lord!”
I don’t think there is a week that passes in the gathering of FBCG that we don’t pray for a spiritual awakening where eyes and hearts are opened to the wonder of the gospel. My prayer for revival in my life and in my church, as well as through this nation and to the nations, was captured in the Epilogue of my recent book, Life on the Altar. I post it here and trust it will encourage us to seek the Lord with all our hearts.
From Life on the Altar:
In July 2021, I happened to be in Enfield, Connecticut, on a ministry assignment. My hotel was less than five miles from a stone marker along Highway 5 which marked the location of the meeting house of the First Church of Christ. At that location, on July 8, 1741, Jonathan Edwards preached to his congregation perhaps the most popular sermon in American history, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” This sermon was a catalyst for the First Great Awakening which swept through North America and impacted other parts of the world with a ripple effect to this generation.
As I stood in front of that stone with a fellow pastor, Russ Copeland, we prayed for God to move in our generation, specifically for there to be an awakening to hear the gospel and for God’s Word to run rapidly to needy hearts (2 Thess. 3:1). The spiritual needs are overwhelming. Believers must put off religious gimmicks and church games!
The prophet Jeremiah confronted the false messages of his day: “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11). We need a move of God upon the church, but that won’t come through more strategies or superficial remedies. We need to humble ourselves before God and live in the obedience of faith before a world that chafes under His reign. We need to live Life on the Altar, presenting ourselves to God in humble obedience (Rom. 12:1-2).
As I conclude writing this book, the summer of 2021 has come to an end. This time of year serves as a reminder to me of our need to be right with God. When each August comes, I am reminded of another statement found in Jeremiah: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jer. 8:20). These words were spoken by the people in a moment of anguish. It was a proverb expressing that their God-given opportunity to repent was now over. It was a statement of despair and loss.
Throughout their history, Israel’s greatest enemies were not the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Assyrians, or the Babylonians. Israel’s greatest enemies were the false prophets who stood in the gates and told the people what they wanted to hear. However, Jeremiah was not cut from that cloth of duplicity. By contrast, Jeremiah’s preaching was a ‘downer’ for the hard-hearted nation of Judah. When Jeremiah confronted the sins of his people, he was persecuted. When he called the nation to repent, he was brought into the crosshair of their distain and abuse.
Jeremiah’s singular message to repent and return to the Lord was grating on the nerves of many. I mean, really, how many times do you need to hear about your sins? How many times do you need to hear that you must repent and turn to the Lord? But faithful prophets don’t custom craft their messages to please the people.
In Jeremiah’s case, he preached for forty years with little response. Based on the numbers, he would never have been invited to be a speaker at an evangelism conference, and yet his fifty-two-chapter prophecy is encased in the canon of Scripture as a timeless example of pastoral perseverance.
He was a weeping prophet with a voice box committed to Yahweh and a heart to see the healing of his nation. But that healing would not come. Jeremiah would witness the Babylonian captivity in all its horror. Reading Lamentations records Israel’s defeat as nothing short of brutal. And yet, even in the agony of sin’s consequences, Jeremiah would declare,
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I will hope in him.” ~Lamentations 3:22–24
This hope would find its fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ and is alive and powerful even to this moment. Jesus would begin his earthly ministry with the same message Jeremiah preached: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
There is an urgency in the Scripture that calls us to put aside the mind-numbing distractions that fill our lives, and to be still and know that He is God (Psa. 46:10). We are admonished to examine ourselves spiritually to see if we are in Christ (2 Cor. 13:5). We are told not to boast about tomorrow because we do not know what a day will bring forth (Prov. 27:1). Things will not always be as they are. Today is a day of grace and refuge for the weary, and sin’s relief is found in the person of Jesus Christ.
However, there will be a time when the opportunity is gone and many will say to their great loss, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation.
My hope for us in this journey has been to hear the call of God to present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. This is the rightful response to Jesus’ saving work. This relationship with God through faith in Christ is not to be lived in isolation: for Altar Life naturally leads to life in a local church. With all its flaws and shortcomings, the local church is the incubator God designed for our growth, nurture, and service. Through a local body, we join others in making Christ known to future generations as well as to the nations. After all, this was Christ’s final word to His followers. May we also press forward in joy and in song, singing:
Since Grace is the source of the life that is mine—
And faith is a gift from on high—
I’ll boast in my Savior, all merit decline,
And glorify God ’til I die. (James M. Boice)