Darwin in the Aisles and Nietzsche in the Pulpit- Part 3 - Living Like Jesus
Let's look at that Lamb, Jesus. Did he grow a big church fast? Yup! He sure did when He fed the 5,000, but then He intentionally offended them with truth about Himself and brought it back down to a church of 13, and He was prepared for it to become a church of 1. He died poor by financial standards, abandoned by all but a disciple and His mom. Even when He arose from the dead, He didn't found a school or a denomination. In fact, He told His disciples not to do anything at all until they got power from God, so they were just hiding out for 10 days doing nothing but praying. Well, that is, until the Holy Spirit fell upon them and there was no way for them to go unnoticed anymore.
Or Jeremiah! His life was a resounding success! He was imprisoned, isolated and often depressed. Most of his sermons revolved around prophecy of death and destruction. Not a very solid church growth strategy.
Isaiah? He ended his life being sawn in half.
The apostle John? Well, he was the only one of the 12 apostles not to be killed, but his persecutors did try to boil him in oil and when they realized they couldn't kill him, they exiled him.
Then there's John the Baptist. I wonder what church growth strategists he consulted? He was so warm and touchy-feely in his sermons. Definitely seeker sensitive when he yelled out, "You brood of vipers!" at Pharisees as they passed by. But Jesus called him the greatest man born of a woman up until that time.
Or even John Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist church. He died worth about $30 according to revival historian Leonard Ravenhill.
Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't consult other resources on strategies to reach the lost, pray, preach and live Biblically, but what is our primary source? Who is our primary source? Are we letting Nietzsche preach to us from the pulpits of our minds and hearts that we need to be the best in the eyes of men? Is Darwin passing the plate in our churches, telling us that if we fail it means God doesn't love us or we were unfaithful stewards of His blessing? Are we still believing that the Bible isn't the truest, most important written account available to man regarding all aspects of our Christian lives in relationship to ends AND means? Or do we trust the observations of fallen, lost men above it, or even the observations of other Christians above it?
We've got to remember (and I have got to remember), that the goal of the Christian life is not greatness in the eyes of other people, but enjoying, following and fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit. We have meaning given to us by God and His love for us. That's what Jesus did for us! He gave us love though we were unlovely and seemingly worthless. He gave us true meaning though we were focused only on selfish pleasures. Because of that we don't need to be the greatest or the most successful, but we do need to learn how to give up, bask in God's affections for us, and be obedient to the voice of the One who loves us more than any man or woman could. Our goal now is to learn from how God loves us to love God first, and as an outflow of loving Him to love other people as much as we love ourselves.
And how do we do that? First, Through dying to ourselves by giving up on trying to be a success in the way so many in the world and the church define it, admitting our total insufficiency without continual reliance upon and abiding in God. Second, through spending large amounts of time studying God's word in combination with developing true, deep intimacy with God in prayer both in our private lives and in the context and accountability of Christian community. Third, through obeying what God reveals in His Word, prayer, and Christian community. If we will do that then we will see revival in our day, and far more people swept into God's Kingdom than we ever would have seen if we had trusted in our own strength, the strength of techniques and strategies, or the strength of other people.
The best way to conclude this is through providing several examples of people who are known as having lived radically for God alone and have been used by Him to change the world. Here they are:
Jonathan Edwards, famous evangelist of the First Great Awakening spent 13 hours a day in Bible study and prayer.
John Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist Church spent 4-5 hours a day in Bible study and prayer.
Martin Luther, the man God used to start the Protestant reformation spent a minimum of 3 hours each day in prayer. On a particular busy day, he was quoted as saying something like, "I have so much to do today that I cannot afford not to pray!"
Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China, woke up at 2am every day in his later years to get enough uninterrupted time to pray and study the Word before getting to the day's work.
Evan Roberts, at age 26 was used by God to lead nearly 100,000 people to Christ in 1904 in Wales, England. He prayed for as much as 7 hours every day in the months before the revival broke out. Eventually the churches in the area shut it down and Roberts went into isolation, succumbing to the judgements of many church leaders who condemned aspects of the revival.
The 1949-1951 revival in the Hebrides Islands of Scotland in which thousands were swept into God's Kingdom was preceded by 8 months of intensive prayer led by two elderly women, one of whom was blind, and a weekly men's prayer meeting that took place in a barn. This move of God was marked by a supernatural awareness of God's physical presence falling on an entire community. On one night of this revival, 700 people showed up at a church building at 11pm driven driven from their beds to go there by the Holy Spirit, all seeking how they might be saved.
Steve Hill, used by God in part to start the Pensacola/Brownsville Revival in 1995 that led to tens of thousands coming to salvation, was often thought strange in his younger years by people in his home church because of his intense commitment to prayer and fasting.
Heidi Baker, whose mission in Mozambique Africa going on today has led countless thousands to Jesus and numbers nearly 100 people miraculously raised from the dead, often prays 7 hours or more each day. Radical obedience to the guidance of the Holy Spirit combined with radical love and regularly occurring miracles mark her ministry.
And there are many more out there besides these...
But one thing they all have in common is that they all know or knew that no matter how well they preached, or how well they were or are organized, they can't save people by their own efforts. Only God can transform hearts. So while they have all worked hard to preach the Word and reach the nations, they have all worked at least equally as hard at soaking their minds in God through His Word, and soaking their hearts in God through prayer. If we want to live lives like theirs, we should see ourselves as just as weak apart from God as they saw themselves. Perhaps then we might see just how dependent we really are on His love and His presence, refusing, like Moses, to do anything unless we know we are being sent by Him in the fullness of both.