Monday, August 26, 2013

"Reformation: The Outgrowth of Revival"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 9: "Reformation: The Outgrowth of Revival"
After eight weeks of studying revival and reformation we might be left with the impression that we are the ones who must revive ourselves. [1] If we were just more consecrated, we would be reformed. If we will really get more serious and sustain our devotional time, then God can bless us. Most importantly, if we were more obedient to God's will, then we would experience the blessings of the Spirit. The subtitle of our lesson this week, "Reformation: The Outgrowth of Revival," tends to makes us think that our revival will produce the reformation of thought and life that is so desperately needed.
Rather than speculate on what we will do with the church, let us inquire what the Lord says He will do. He is the Head of the church. Not all the demons in hell can stop what He purposes to do: He will send revival and reformation. As surely as His character is love, He will visit His people: "The times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19). [2]
He will accomplish this objective through a special message. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14). [3] As surely as day follows night, such a message will come. Repentance for the 1888-era rejection of such a message will bring a whole-hearted acceptance of its renewal.
This message will be the outpouring of the latter rain. It will bring spiritual refreshment and prepare the church for the final issue of the mark of the beast: "Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for He hath given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain. ... And I will restore to you the years that the [swarming] locust hath eaten" (Joel 2:23-25). [4]
The latter rain will be a clearer revelation of the gospel of righteousness by faith than we have yet discerned. The meaning of the Hebrew phrase in Joel 2:23 is "a teacher of righteousness," linking the latter rain to the message of righteousness by faith. [5] Here is the key truth that is almost totally overlooked today--the initial showers of the latter rain were manifested in the "most precious message" of righteousness by faith which the Lord sent to this people in 1888. [6] Further showers of the latter rain must include a recovery of that message, because Heaven's intent can never be defeated.
Is God asking you to sign on to a contract that contains a series of promises that "I will study the Bible, pray daily, share with others, serve the Lord Jesus Christ and prepare for His soon coming"? All very good things to do! But could it be possible that God is asking you to believe His promises, His covenant, rather than you making promises to Him? According to the Bible, the new covenant has always been God's unilateral promise to His people (see Gen. 12:1-3); and the old covenant has been the people's promise to God to do everything right (see Ex. 19:4-8).
The question that is stirring thousands of minds is this: what is the correct, effective way to realize all those four good things (studying the Bible "each day," praying, sharing, serving the Lord faithfully)? Not just for a week or two while the emotional adrenalin is prompting us, but forever and ever? Even after we get back into the busyness of daily work? Will the old covenant effect a lasting "revival and reformation"?
History says, No. Jehoshaphat led out in wonderful revivals and reformations, but the people still did not wholeheartedly turn to the worship of God, and the Lord destroyed the ships that the king had built. His son Jehoram rebelled against the Lord. His son Ahaziah was also evil (see 2 Chronicles 20).
King Hezekiah next was a welcome relief from the almost endless litany of rebellion against the Lord, but at the end, he too was out of harmony with God's blessed will for him, and he left the most awful legacy on the nation--gave them his son Manasseh, the most wicked king Judah ever had (Jer. 15:4). King Josiah was Hezekiah's grandson, and he was a "perfect" king, did everything exactly right, followed the Spirit of Prophecy meticulously, but ended up rejecting the living demonstration of the Spirit of Prophecy because it came to him from an unlikely source--the mouth of the King of Egypt. He died in the battle that God expressly told him not to go into, and from then on it was downhill (see 2 Chronicles 34-35).
What went wrong? Why were all those revivals and reformations so short-lived? Why are ours today? The answer: they were all based on old covenant principles. Yes, the old covenant was good; but not good enough!
What's the difference between a revival and reformation in the church that is old covenant in nature and one that is new covenant? Should we not be able to tell the difference today? Suppose the world church today experiences a grand revival and reformation that is old covenant, would that hasten the coming of Jesus, or further delay Him?
An old covenant reformation is decidedly temporary. In the case of Josiah's, the moment he was dead, his sons began leading the people back to rebellion against the Lord and the people willingly, mindlessly followed like sheep going astray. They had learned no long-lasting gospel truth under King Josiah. He had simply inherited the old covenant yoke which the nation of Israel had fastened upon themselves at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:8; Heb. 9:1).
The apostle Paul was probably the first Israelite to discern clearly the significance of their old covenant history when he said, "The law was our schoolmaster [slave-driver?] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (as Abraham was, under the new covenant; see Gal. 3:16-25).
Numerous old covenant revivals and reformations have come and gone in the world church for the past 150 years. It is King Josiah all over again. They have often been inspired by and imported from the popular ecumenical movements.
An old covenant revival and reformation is motivated by a desire to receive God's blessings. A new covenant revival and reformation is motivated by heart-thankfulness and appreciation for God's blessings already realized and received.
An old covenant revival is therefore egocentric in nature; and whatever is egocentric in motivation has to be legalistic in its origin. In contrast, a new covenant revival and reformation is based on an experience of identity with Christ that transcends fear of being lost or hope of reward (1 John 4:16-18).
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Our Sabbath school lesson leads us to this conclusion. "Why are revival and reformation things of the heart more than anything else? Why must they start individually, with each of us making a conscious choice to renew our walk with the Lord, to draw closer to Him, and to seek more earnestly than ever to do His will?" ("Discussion Questions," Revival & Reformation, p. 78).
[2] "In visions of the night, representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God's people. ... A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested before the great Day of Pentecost. ... Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest. ... The world seemed to be lightened with the heavenly influence ... there seemed to be a reformation such as we witnessed in 1844" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 126).
[3] "Amid the confusing cries, 'Lo, here is Christ! Lo, there is Christ!' will be borne a special testimony, a special message of truth appropriate for this time, which message is to be received, believed, and acted upon" ("The Closing Work," Review and Herald, Oct. 13, 1904).
[4] "I heard those clothed with the armor speak forth the truth with great power. ... All fear of their relatives was gone, and the truth alone was exalted to them. ... I asked what had made this great change. An angel answered, 'It is the latter rain, the refreshing from the presence of the Lord, the loud cry of the third angel'" (Early Writings, p. 271).
[5] See KJV margin, "the former rain moderately" "a teacher of righteousness according to righteousness" (Joel 2:23).
[6] "Some felt annoyed at this outpouring, and their own natural dispositions were manifested. They said, 'This is only excitement; it is not the Holy Spirit, not showers of the latter rain from heaven.' There were hearts full of unbelief, who did not drink in of the Spirit, but who had bitterness in their souls.
"On many occasions the Holy Spirit did work; but those who resisted the Spirit of God at Minneapolis were waiting for a chance to travel over the same ground again, because their spirit was the same. Afterward, when they had evidence heaped upon evidence, some were convicted; but those who were not softened and subdued by the Holy Spirit's working, put their own interpretation upon every manifestation of the grace of God, and they have lost much. They declared in their heart and soul and words that this manifestation of the Holy Spirit was fanaticism and delusion. They stood like a rock; the waves of mercy were flowing upon and around them, but were beaten back by their hard and wicked hearts, which resisted the Holy Spirit's working" (Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 6, pp. 19, 20).

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