Essentials in Religious Awakening

This article, reproduced by permission of the Bap­tist Watchman-Examiner, may profitably be read by every Seventh-day Adventist worker. Here is a frank declaration that is worthy of thoughtful study. There is increasing concern among the spiritually alert in various denominations today. We may well ponder our own relationship to these principles—EDITOR.

Bv VANCE HAVNER

It is not likely that the next great move­ment of God's Spirit, if and when it comes, will begin with any major church body offi­cially. That has not been the history of such awakenings. We read that when the water was turned into wine at Cana, the governor and the notables were not aware of what was going on, "but the servants which drew the water knew." God's miraculous movings are usually hidden from the "wise and prudent" and revealed first to "babes" who humbly obey the Lord's com­mand. We are fond of having prominent politi­cians address our religious conclaves, some­times to our embarrassment later, but a holy stir at the other end of the scale among com­mon people might be frowned upon as out of order. We are entirely too wise and prudent in all our pompous gatherings. Besides, a revival would upset the schedule and some committees would not get to report.

But if God does open the heavens and come down, some conditions must be met and some consequences will follow. There will have to be repentance, confession, and even restitution. Of course, repentance is politely referred to occa­sionally, but a genuine breaking up of our hearts would so level our pride in big numbers, impressive statistics, and glowing reports that, in the interest of the status quo, it would hardly be tolerated. Great awakenings of the past have put churches on their faces from top officials down, but such an experience is awfully humil­iating. We cannot have revival and save our faces—and who wants to lose face?

Such a moving from heaven would give the Holy Spirit the place He deserves in our thought and life. Dr. Mullins wrote: "It is a strange and very significant fact that Christians for nearly two thousand years have so generally neglected the New Testament teaching as to the Holy Spirit. . . . The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is so interwoven and intertwined with the whole of the Old and New Testaments that it is one of the strangest oversights that Chris­tians should have neglected it so long."

No wonder that extremists have run away with perversions of this blessed doctrine. The deeper Christian life, call it what you will, has become the happy hunting ground for sects and isms galore. Even the best of saints have spent entirely too much time debating the baptism, the filling, and so on. Well, whatever it is, most of us do not have it.

We used to sing, "All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One come down." And all is still vain—"unless the Spirit." Gehazi goes about today at Elisha's orders and with Elisha's staff, but although he goes through the prescribed motions, "there is neither voice nor hearing." Missionaries tell us that chimpanzees some­times imitate them by building heaps of wood and arranging the kindling for a fire—but they do not know how to produce the fire. The church has her wood in excellent order today. We have been struck with the wonderful ar­rangement. The system is perfect, except—we have no fire.

Consistent Christian Living

A real awakening in our great church bodies would issue in consistent Christian living, sep­aration from the world and unto God. God's people must not only humble themselves and pray; they must turn from their wicked ways. But you cannot get many "amens" on that. "The Lord knoweth them that are His"—that part of the verse is acceptable to all, but if you would be popular among church members, do not bear down on the rest of it, "Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

While the saints argue over the latter portion of the sixth chapter of Second Corinthians and debate whether it means coming out from apos­tate ecclesiastical setups or separation from pagan worldliness, the challenge remains. God expects His people to have done with all idols, to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to expose them. It is not enough for denominations to pass resolu­tions decrying the use of tobacco, for instance, if the members go right on smoking. It does little good for faithful ministers to deplore the menace of the movies—an institution which has long since passed from the field of mere amusement and has become a cult of paganism —it does little good for a faithful minister to turn the light on such unfruitful works of dark­ness if his congregation and many of his fellow ministers go right on attending them. When are we going to stop walking in the steps of those of old who "feared the Lord and served their own gods ?"

Finally, a true awakening would restore the second coming of Christ to its place in our hearts alg.d make us lovers of His appearing. No amount of exegetical sleight of hand can ob­scure the fact that the early Christians not only were ready but also expectant. Such expectancy is not to be found among most of our church members, and when the matter is mentioned, one does not catch fhe notes of loving anticipa­tion. It is fashionable to appear very erudite and say that the New Testament Christians were mistaken. Others dispose of it by saying, "All that matters is to be ready." But that is not all that matters. The early believers, I re­peat, were not only living right, but were look­ing up.

When our Lord was on earth, He said, "I will build My church," "I will send the Spirit," "I will come again." We have waxed eloquent on the first pronouncement. We have affirmed the second. But on the third we have managed only a low whisper, if indeed we have spoken at all. We have excused ourselves on the ground that the issue is controversial, but that excuse has not kept us from being vociferous on bap­tism or sanctification or other debated themes.

We do not know when nor where the light­ning will strike nor the fire fall, but we affirm that when we meet divine conditions we shall manifest divine consequences. We feel that there is a preliminary stirring today among God's people in all the churches. We hope that the American craze for organization will not smother it under vice-presidents, quotas, and budgets. It will not likely come stamped with the imprimatur of an earthly headquarters, but we welcome it if it comes approved from above. —Watchman-Examiner, April 15, 1948.

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Bv VANCE HAVNER

September 1948

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