One of my vacation authors is Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was called “The Doctor” by those who knew him. You can find out more about him at the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Trust.
Many of his sermons are gathered in collections by topic or theme. One of these, published by Crossway, is Revival. The sermons were preached in 1959, marking the 100th anniversary of the revival in 1859 that saw a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in America (The Fulton Street Revival), Wales (MLJ was Welsh), and in other parts of the world.
Here is the quote that got me right between the eyes.
“…no revival has ever been known in the history of churches which deny or ignore certain essential truths. I regard this as an astoundingly important point. You have never heard of a revival of churches, so called, which deny the cardinal, and fundamental articles of our Christian faith… That is a sheer fact of history, and surely it behoves us to face that fact.”
I had to stop my reading and just sit back in wonder. It was so obvious. In all my years of study in historical theology and church history and it was right there in front of me all the time. I had known about the rediscoveries that had characterized Reformation churches like my own denomination, but I must admit I had never pulled it into the frame of God’s work in history for so long. I had forgot to see Church history biblically and theologically. The Doctor was right. The concealing, and the neglect of certain vital truths have always been the chief characteristic of the life of the Church in every period of deadness and decline.
Do you remember the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal? The text in 1 Kings 18 tells us how Elijah “…repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down.” God’s altar had been forgotten and neglected. Elijah carefully rebuilt the altar stone by stone and later God brought down the fire.
Here’s my point to ponder. If we do indeed live in a period of deep decline in mainline denominations, how do we “repair the altar” so to speak, so that it is ready to receive the fire of the Holy Spirit in revival and renewal? We carefully clear away the rubbish and restore the stones that were thrown aside to their rightful place. The Doctor makes the same point a little later in the sermon: “…without a single exception it is the rediscovery of these cardinal doctrines that has led ultimately to revival.”
Next time I want to examine these cardinal truths that are denied or concealed.