Last week we ended with a picture of division in the church. Two Christian communities that exist in the same small English Village but which maintain almost entirely separate lives in a place that numbers less than fifteen hundred people. And on any given Sunday less than one hundred people worship between them. The witness to that village is of churches that cannot get along. It reveals those who do not know how “to love one another,” as Christ loves, and it weakens – if it has not destroyed – the witness of the gospel to most who live there. How can something good come out of such a situation? Can the truth that is in Jesus come forth from that place?
Could it be that one of the most critical teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ has been forgotten by his people in that village and countless other places? He taught his disciples, on the night before he died, that their love for one another would be the witness that they belonged to him. (John 13:34,35) Indeed he said that this would show “all men,” believers and unbelievers, that they were his disciples. To prayerfully ponder the teaching of Jesus here is to be brought under conviction. Can we doubt that one of the gravest impediments to a time of new life in the church, a time of revival, may be the way the church has organized and divided itself into isolated denominations?
To begin considering this question is to come face to face with a principle reason the church is in decline in in the West. Men love their own organizations, their own institutions, their own traditions, more than they love the Word of God. They may say they believe in “one church” but they live differently. Protest my assertion though they will, their behavior proves it again and again. Any reader who disbelieves me has only to work to heal these divisions in a concrete and lasting way, locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally, to discover that change here is not currently wanted. “Leave us alone in our settled patterns please. We do not want to worship with those people,” they seem to say. Surely the Lord of the Church will raise up “new stones” before those ones will sing. Can new life spring up in such a place, and if so how?
History reveals that new life, when it comes, always springs from a new season of repentance and faith (trust) in the Word of God. There must always be a turning from error and sin to the Lord Jesus and his Word. There must always be a deep and convicting work of purifying grace. And it never comes to those who treat the Word of God casually. Such faith comes only when the power of the gospel first falls upon a man and breaks his heart. He must see that he has not served the Lord he calls his Lord, but has served a lesser god. He has worshipped at an altar that is not the altar of God.
The renewal of one such man is not the revival of the church, but it is always a precursor. The first man may be hidden from the eyes of the world, but he will influence others, and in the Lord’s perfect time a man chosen by grace will hear and turn, and a leader for a new time of revival will be revealed. A day long prayed for by the faithful will break forth.
Next Week: AD 1972 – One Time and Place