CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

“Normal” Christianity

Mar 2, 1998

A radical thought came to me recently. It happened as I was reading a biography of Charles Wesley, and was blessed by the exciting accounts of how God used him to bring revival to England and the rest of the world. His dedication to God, and that of his colleagues, like brother John, and George Whitefield, led to what is known as the Great Awakening. This mighty move of God impacted millions during the late 18th century and beyond.

As I reflected on this time of renewal and refreshing from God, and as I thought of other great revivals that broke out in history, it occurred to me that this was “normal” Christianity. All the rest of Christian history had been abnormal or subnormal Christianity. What took place during the Great Awakening, and the Second Great Awakening, and the other great revivals, was nothing more than authentic Christianity, the kind we read about in the book of Acts. This thought continued to grab me. Revivals, awakenings and the Christian explosion as described in the book of Acts are what God wants from his people – this is authentic, normal Christianity. The nominal, watered-down and anemic activity that passes for Christianity today in most places is actually abnormal, unauthentic Christianity. What God wants from each of us is such dedication and commitment, as was evidenced in the lives of the Wesley’s, Whitfield, Finney, Edwards, Moody, Sunday, et. al., that we too see the powerful, dynamic move of God’s spirit in the church and in the world.

And why not? Why shouldn’t we be seeing souls saved, churches growing in size and authority, and societies turned upside down by the power of the gospel? Why shouldn’t the extraordinary activities recorded in times of revival and awakening be the normal activity of Christians and of the churches? Why not?

And why shouldn’t our lives be so on fire for God and the extension of his kingdom, that if the Lord tarries, and the church history books are written one hundred years from now, that our names are recorded there? Is there any reason why we can’t be the Wesleys and Finneys of our generation? This has nothing to do with pride or ego, but if we were living such lives as the early disciples lived, we would make such an impact on our churches and our communities, that not only future church history books, but future secular history books as well, would have to record our names and activities.

This is not as far fetched as might seem. After all, when you study the great awakenings and revivals of history, you quickly discover that God used ordinary men and women – people just like you and me. They were not people with halos and wings. They were ordinary sinners, saved by grace, just like us. Consider the First Great Awakening for example. When the Wesleys and Whitefield were quite young, they were students at Oxford. Little would they know that years later the whole world would be transformed because of their lives of faith. They simply did what they knew was right: they met together, encouraged each other, prayed together and talked about spiritual matters. Nothing too earth shaking there. They simply got into some godly habits. They would rise at 4 am and spend an hour with the Lord. Then they would come together for a time of prayer, fellowship and encouragement. At nighttime they would each make diary entries, examining their day’s activities to see if it was well spent. They were known as the “Holy Club”. They were mocked by fellow students, and referred to as “Bible Bigots”, “Sacramentarians” and “Methodists”. But for these men, these activities were simply their Christian duty.

And because of their commitment, they ended up changing the world. Is there any reason why we can’t do the same?

So the next time you are in a prayer meeting with just a handful of people, remember that many past revivals began with just a handful of people. Faithfulness and commitment is the key. For those of you who have been praying many years for revival to break forth, be encouraged. Your prayers are not in vain. Revival will break forth. As the prophet Hosea said around 2700 years ago, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)

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