Over the past few decades, I’ve found myself often addressing the large segment of professing Christians whose lives reflect very little validation of a genuine, saving faith. Just like Paul, I’ve challenged such professors to “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Cor. 13:5a). There is no shortage of New Testament scriptures that specifically speak about the kind of fruit that always grows from the hearts of those whom Christ has genuinely come to live within. As Paul wrote in his very next sentence to the Corinthians: “Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5b).
“Christ in you” is what true Christianity is all about. He not only died for us, but He lives for us, and He also lives in us and through us. And He doesn’t come to live inside believers just to be a spiritual hitchhiker!
Surprise! God actually wants Christians to follow traditions. Here’s the biblical proof:
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you (1 Cor. 11:2, emphasis added)
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us (2 Th. 2:15, emphasis added).
Best not to argue with the apostle Paul. He expected his converts to stand firm in the traditions he taught them. So…are you a “Christian traditionalist”?
One of the most tragic statements I’ve ever heard was spoken from the mouth of a woman who had encountered some people whom she considered odd, folks who had identified themselves as “born-again Christians.” She rolled her eyeballs as she mocked them, saying to some family members, “Watch out for those ‘born-again’ Christians! They’re out to convert you!”
What made her warning so tragic is that she had attended a Methodist church every Sunday. Not only was the founder of her denomination—John Wesley—fully persuaded almost 300 years ago of the necessity of being born again, but even more persuaded was the founder of all of Christianity—Jesus Christ—about 2,000 years ago! Jesus once said to a very religious man, a highly-respected teacher and Pharisee named Nicodemus:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3).
These words, spoken by the eternal Son of God, the Creator of the universe, the One who holds the keys to God’s Kingdom as well as to death and Hades, and before whom everyone must one day stand in judgment to give an account, would seem worthy of our consideration (Mark 1:1; Col. 1:16; Matt. 6:19; Rev. 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Acts 10:42). The only people who will enter heaven are those who were converted, and in their conversion, became like children (in some way).
You have, perhaps, heard of the “tiny house movement.” If you haven’t, a quick search on the internet for “tiny house” will yield about 55 million results. One could say that tiny houses are quite big these days.
The folks who are living in tiny houses seem to love them, elated over the benefits of simplified living. They speak of how nice it is to live in just a few hundred square feet of space and being free of debt, clutter, major maintenance and so on.
Of course, as much as those of us in the “not-so-tiny-house movement” (still the majority) might admire tiny-house enthusiasts, we can think of a few disadvantages to tiny houses. Like “you can’t have any kids,” and “it’s kind of nice to live in more than one room,” and “forget about having friends come for dinner during inclement weather,” or “can’t let visitors stay overnight.”
In any case, there are definitely “different strokes for different folks.” And although I’m an unlikely candidate for scaling down into a tiny house, I have surprised myself by scaling down into a tiny church (which meets in my not-so-tiny house).
Shunning another human being may seem like an archaic practice in our day of inclusivity and tolerance. Shunning is, however, an undeniably biblical concept. Jesus instructed His disciples:
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (Matt. 18:15-17; emphasis added).
A sure sign that someone is not truly born again is that they don’t care about others who are not born again. And a sure sign that someone doesn’t care about others who are not born again is that they do nothing to expose those who are not born again to the gospel: no personal sharing of the gospel, no supporting missionaries who are spreading the gospel, no posting of anything gospel-focused on social media, no inviting unsaved people to events where they will hear the gospel, not even any “seasoning” of conversations with unsaved people in order to drop hints of the gospel. All of that evidence points to the fact that one is not truly born again, no matter how “nice” one might be.
This claim is supported by at least three undeniable biblical truths.
The preacher in the above graphic is emblematic of so many of us who possess dreams of revival and greater fruitfulness. Because of those dreams, we’ve made honest attempts to bear fruit, yet those attempts have often failed.
The one good thing about failure, however, is that it can be a catalyst for success. Over my 40 years of vocational ministry, I’ve learned from my own failures at least one secret to spiritual success. That is this: Do not ask God to bless your work. Rather, figure out where God is already working, and join Him in His work. The blessing will already be there.
The title of this article is, of course, a play on the title of the late Leonard Ravenhill’s classic book, Why Revival Tarries, in which the famous evangelist points out what needs to change in pulpits, pews and prayer closets if the church is to ever regain its God-ordained purpose in the world.
In this article, however, I’d like to speak to the Little Leonard Ravenhills out there—whether they be faithful-yet-frustrated pastors, meeting-less evangelists, friendless Facebook preachers, or lonely out-of-church Christians—who all long to see a move of God like those that have occurred many times throughout history. They are fighting discouragement and are wondering if they will ever see such a revival before they die.
In Part 1 of this teaching, I made the claim that the early church focused on two avenues of giving, namely giving that (1) helped make disciples and (2) relieved suffering, and I elaborated on the wise application of the first of those two. In Part 2, I’d like to look more closely at some of the best ways we can use our financial resources to relieve suffering. But first, a little philosophic pondering:
When it comes to suffering, there is no shortage of those who need help. No one can debate that God allows a lot of suffering, and His reasons for doing so are sometimes a mystery to us. Yet Scripture makes it clear that God’s allowance does not alleviate us from relieving suffering when we can. On the contrary, it seems that God may allow some suffering to test our love for those who suffer—and for Him. God certainly does test free moral agents (see Ex. 16:4, 20:20; Deut. 8:16; Judg. 2:21-22, 3:1; 2 Chron. 32:31; Ps. 11:4-5; Prov. 17:3; Jer. 17:10, 20:12; Rev. 3:10).