It is not likely that the next great movement of God's Spirit will begin with any major church body. That has not been the history of such awakenings. We read that when the water was turned into wine at Cana, the governor and the notables were not aware of what was going on, "but the servants which drew the water knew." God's miraculous movings are usually hidden from the "wise and prudent" and revealed first to "babes" who humbly obey the Lord's command. We are fond of having prominent politicians address our religions conclaves, sometimes to our embarrassment later, but a holy stir at the other end of the scale among common people might be frowned upon as out of order. We are entirely too wise and prudent in our pompous gatherings. Besides, a revival would upset the schedule, and some committees and would not have enough time to report.
But if God does open the heavens and come down, some conditions must be met and some consequences will follow. There will have to be repentance, confession, and even restitution. Of course, repentance is politely referred to occasionally, but a genuine breaking up of our hearts would so level our pride in big numbers, impressive statistics, and glowing reports that, in the interest of the status quo, it would hardly be tolerated. Great awakenings of the past have put churches on their faces from top officials down, but such an experience is awfully humiliating. We cannot have revival and save faces and who wants to lose face?
Such a moving from heaven would give the Holy Spirit the place He deserves in our thought and lives. Dr. Mullins wrote: "It is a strange and very significant fact that Christians for nearly two thousand years have so generally neglected the New Testament teaching as to the Holy Spirit.... The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is so interwoven and intertwined with the whole of the Old and New Testament that it is one of the strangest oversights that Christians should have neglected it so long."
No wonder extremists have run away with perversions of this blessed doctrine. The deeper Christian life has become the happy hunting ground for sects and -isms galore. Even the best of saints have spent entirely too much time debating baptism, the filling, and so on. Well, whatever it is, most of us do not have it.
We used to sing, "All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One come down." And all is still vain─unless the Spirit. Gehazi goes about today at Elisha's orders and with Elisha's staff, but although he goes through the prescribed motions, "there is neither voice nor hearing." Missionaries tell us that chimpanzees sometimes imitate them by building heaps of wood and arranging the kindling for a fire─but they do not know how to produce the fire. The church has her wood in excellent order today. We have been struck with the wonderful arrangement. The system is perfect, except─we have no fire.
CONSISTENT CHRISTIAN LIVING
A real awakening in our great church bodies would issue in consistent Christian living, separation from the world and unto God. God's people must not only humble themselves and pray; they must turn from their wicked ways. But you cannot get many "amens" on that. "The Lord knoweth them that are His" ─that part of the verse is acceptable to all, but if you would be popular among church members, do not bear down on the rest of it, "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
While the sainted argue over the latter portion of the sixth chapter of Second Corinthians and debate whether it means coming out from apostate ecclesiastical setups or separation from pagan worldliness, the challenge remains. God expects His people to abandon all idols, to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to expose them. It is not enough for denominations to pass resolutions decrying the use of tobacco, for instance, if the members go right on smoking. It does little good for faithful ministers to deplore the menace of the movies an institution which has long since passed from the field of mere amusement and has become a cult of paganism─if the congregation, church officers, and ministers continue to attend them. When are we going to stop walking in the steps of those of old who "feared the Lord and served their own gods?"
Finally, a true awakening would restore the second coming of Christ to its place in our hearts and make us lovers of His appearing. No amount of exegetical sleight of hand can obscure the fact that the early Christians not only were ready but also expectant. Such expectancy is not to be found among most of our church members, and when the matter is mentioned, one does not catch the notes of loving anticipation. It is fashionable to appear very erudite and say that the New Testament Christians were mistaken. Others dispose of it by saying, "All that matters is to be ready." But that is not all that matters. The early believers, I repeat, were not only living right but were looking up.
When our Lord was on earth, He said, "I will build My church," "I will send the Spirit," "I will come again." We have waxed eloquent on the first pronouncement. We have affirmed the second. But on the third we have managed only a low whisper, if indeed we have spoken at all. We have excused ourselves on the ground that the issue is controversial, but that excuse has not kept us from being vociferous on baptism or sanctification or other debated themes.
We do not know when or where the lightning will strike or the fire fall, but we affirm that when we meet divine conditions we shall manifest divine consequences. We feel that there is a preliminary stirring today among God's people in all the churches. We hope that the Adventist craze for organization will not smother it under rules, quotas, and budgets. It will not come stamped with the imprint of an earthly headquarters, but we must welcome it if it comes approved from above.
This article was reproduced by permission of the Baptist Watchman-Examiner, and may profitably be read by every elder.─Editor