Sermon preached at Penrhos College on Pentecost Sunday (Uniting Church in WA “Church Together” Event)
Today is Pentecost.
For the Jew it is the Feast of Weeks – the Wheat Harvest Festival that comes 50 days after the Passover.
For the Christian, Pentecost is the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit ten days after the Ascension of our Lord and fifty days after Easter. It is commemorated as the birthday of the Church in which God empowered the people and sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom and the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It begins the 2nd period of Ordinary Time in the church, sometimes called the Season of Mission.
On this Day, the Spirit came as “tongues of fire” that separated and came to rest on each of those gathered in the Upper Room. As they were filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
It was the first Revival of the Church as had been prophesied a long time before by the prophet Joel.
Today I want us to focus on revival because if we don’t, the church will continue to decline to nothing. We can make all the plans we like, but if we don’t have the fire of God our plans are worthless. RA Torrey once said that in this world we face either revival or revolution and a simple look at the state of the world today would suggest that revolution against God is already with us. The danger we face is that this rebellion against God will take us to places we don’t want to go …
We need to pray that God would send revival upon His Church – a return to faith in Jesus Christ, a belief in the Word of God and the upholding of Biblical values and morality.
We need to pray that God would send renewing fire again upon the church – that THE LORD WOULD SEND THE FIRE – and we need to pray that we are ready.
As we examine our text from 1 Kings 18 today – the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal – I want us to see three things: First, the enemies of revival, Second, the elements of revival and Third, the evidence of revival … Enemies, Elements and Evidence.
THE ENEMIES OF REVIVAL
There are three kinds of people who are the enemies of revival. There is the Compromiser, the Corrupt and the Confused.
Obadiah was a compromiser. He was a good man, even perhaps a believer, for the text tells us that he feared the Lord. But he was in league with Ahab – the most wicked of all of Israel’s kings. He had hidden the prophets from Ahab but here we find him looking for grass with the wicked when he should have been praying for rain with Elijah.
If you are compromising your faith in Jesus Christ then you are an enemy of revival – you are promoting the revolution!
If you cheat on your taxes, lie to your spouse, turn the poor and hungry away from your door then you are a compromiser.
If you are promoting the way of the evil one in any way then you are a compromiser and an enemy of revival.
The world looks at you going to church (like Obadiah’s hiding of the prophets in a cave) and then sees your lying and cheating ways (like Obadiah’s assistance given to Ahab) and it becomes blinded to any hope in God. Don’t compromise the way of God in the way you live your life!
The second enemy is the corrupt one – Ahab and Jezebel in our text. Ahab was the most wicked king that Israel ever had. His wife was a schemer and conniver. They had possessive spirits. Elijah said of them that they had sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. When they didn’t get what they wanted, they killed and schemed until they got it. Ahab wanted Naboth’s Vineyard and his wife set a trap for Naboth so that they could grab the land. What they wanted they took and they worshipped Baal because he was, they thought, the god of provision.
We have corruption in governments across the world.
We have corruption in businesses, we even have corruption in the church.
Corruption is the seeking of personal wealth and glory at the expense of truth and integrity. Most often this is to the detriment of the poor and those who cannot defend themselves. It denies God. It is rotten and tainted with vice and sin. We need to examine our lives – have we cheated someone, our employer perhaps. Have we taken what was not ours – plagiarised an essay, put in an exaggerated travel claim, pocketed a pen from work. Don’t do it – it compromises your integrity and waters down your word – even when you speak truth.
The third enemy of revival is found in the confused people. When Elijah gave the people the choice between God or Baal – THEY SAID NOTHING. They could not make the choice because they didn’t know the difference.
The world is full of people who are confused about God – they don’t know who God is or what God is doing. God is often simply a kindly old gentleman who gives good things to people who ask. Sometimes He is confused with the so-called gods of other religions – that they are just another way of approaching this kindly old gentleman.
BUT the worst enemy of all is always the Compromiser. God can work with corrupt government and business, He can work though confused people but when believers compromise the Word of God – God has no-one to work through !!
God needs people like Elijah (and James and John and Peter, and YOU) – people with courage and an unyielding faith in God. People who will challenge the corruption in government and business – who will challenge the wickedness of the day. And who will reveal God’s power to the confused.
Will you be that person?
The confused need a demonstration of God’s power. They need to see that Jesus is Lord through the sovereign declaration of power.
They need to see the evidence of revival – they need to see the fire fall.
So lets look at THE ELEMENTS OF REVIVAL
First, Solidarity – the Altar
Elijah summoned the people – “Come here to me.” And all the people came together, to repair the altar. You cannot have revival until you have UNITY –God’s people need to be of one mind with one focus and one intention. When you read the early documents which led to the formation of the Uniting Church, this was IT. It was a call to unity of purpose focussed on Christ and empowered by the Spirit of God. I am not sure that we really have that anymore – our attention is all over the place, pulling this way and that. It is time to come together to repair the altar of the Lord – to get our focus right again.
Next, Separation – having come to the altar of God they dug a trench to separate it from the altar of Baal.
You cannot yoke together the clean and the unclean. This is compromise – the enemy of revival!
Within many of our lifetimes, preachers spoke out against card games, liquor, dancing and television … it seems like a joke today but they would argue that in giving ground to these things we will eventually allow government-promoted gambling, and that there would be widespread drug abuse, public strip clubs, prostitution and pornography. And we condone it by our silence.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that this is where we are today. And we are paying the price because it would appear that God has withdrawn a distance from us – God and sin cannot cohabit, they cannot be in the same room together.
If we want revival – for God to come near to us again, our faith in our saviour as redeemer of sin and the giver of life should be firmly established in everything we do. We need to separate ourselves from sin – not just, as we seem to have done – by compartmentalising our lives into parts that are holy and parts which we would have difficulty in explaining to God. In everything we do, in every aspect of our life –in public, in church and in private we should ask ourselves, “How would Jesus react to this?”
Third, Sacrifice – taking the risk with God
It seemed a strange thing for Elijah to do – to pour water over the wood intended to burn the sacrifice but if God is limited by wet wood then He is not God, and Elijah wanted to show this to the people.
If we want revival, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God, we need to know whom it is that we believe.
We need to take risks with our faith – that’s what trusting God means.
If I have everything sorted out before I take any steps I am simply trusting in my own ability to plan my life – I have no trust or dependency on God.
My prayers must never be just words mouthed into the air which sound right to other people –instead they need to be earnest appeals to the God whom we believe can do anything –from multiplying bread to raising the dead.
Fourth, Supplication – Prayer for God’s glory!
The word “supplication” in the context of prayer often relates to God’s ability to “supply” that for which we ask. We sometimes call it Intercession.
But this is not prayer for self. “Help me, O God, I am in trouble” or for others “Help them, Lord, they are in trouble” BUT rather it is an appeal for the revelation of God’s glory –the manifestation of the divine in the ordinary. “Lord reveal Yourself as the God of Israel. BRING REVIVAL. Announce Life. SEND YOUR FIRE!!!”
And so we come to THE EVIDENCE OF REVIVAL
The Fire Fell on Elijah’s altar!!!
The Fire that comes from God consumes the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil and the water. When God’s fire falls it consumes the dross and the dirt of our lives. It burns up all our excuses until our substitute sacrifices of selfishness are no longer there.
Do you understand what this means? It means that God’s fire burns away our masks and our play-acting costumes. It means that we stand before God without defence. Suddenly we are aware of the depth of our sin as we stand in the holy presence of God.
The Lord requires obedience NOT sacrifice.
When His fire falls it consumes everything that is not obedient to His Word.
And it is the Fire that convicts. When God’s fire falls, people are overcome.
George Finney was preaching in a little town outside New York once on the judgement of Sodom. As he preached the people fell to their knees sobbing and crying out for forgiveness.
“I could not have cut them down faster with a two-edged sword,” he said later.
Eventually only one man was left standing in the pews. “Who are you,” asked Finney.
“My name is Lot,” said the man, “and this town’s name is Sodom, It is the most evil town in New Jersey.”
When God’s fire falls we will know it. We will feel His fierce fire burn our hearts. We will know that the Spirit is pointing out our sin, and the fire of embarrassment before God will burn in our spirit. We will fall to our knees confessing our sin and crying out for forgiveness.
And then, it is the Fire that converts.
When God’s fire fell that day on Mount Carmel the confused people were no longer in doubt. No more did they waver between two opinions. Elijah didn’t have to make any altar calls … They spontaneously cried out, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!”
Let me summarise, the world today is confused. Even in the church people are confused. They don’t know who God is, or where to find God and the Church is often just an institution “doing the stuff” instead of creating opportunity for people to enter into a relationship with God.
There is compromise and corruption everywhere. Jesus said that before the end there would be war and rumours of war, famines and earthquakes, people will turn from their faith, false prophets will appear and there will be much wickedness everywhere.
He said, and I am not making this up, you can read about it in Matthew 24 or even in the today’s news … He said that the love of most will grow cold.
It is happening today.
The church is almost irrelevant. It seems that only the Remnant remains – and you are that Remnant.
We need revival like never before.
Not for our sake, but for Christ’s sake. For the sake of all those He loves and for whom He died. Pray for revival!!
Pray – LORD, SEND YOUR FIRE!!!!