Revive The Fire!
If you've been a Christian for some time and recognise that your passion for Jesus and the things of the Spirit has dimmed, we recommend you re-examine yourself and your lifestyle. The following article is designed to help you do exactly that. So be prepared to be honest in your heart with yourself and with God as you read on, otherwise this exercise will be a waste of time.
Revive The Fire!
from the Christian Classic "How to Experience Revival" by Rev Charles G Finney (This text is a modernised English version of the original, updated by Brian Johnson)
"Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you" - Hosea 10:12
The Jews were a nation of farmers and the scriptures often turn for illustrations to their occupations, scenes in which farmers and shepherds were commonplace. The prophet Hosea describes the Jews as a nation of backsliders. He accuses them of idolatry and threatens them with God's judgement. In this talk I will deal with the issue of revival. There are two elements of revival: revival within the Christian church and revival of ungodly unbelievers. In this chapter I address solely the question of revival in the Church. Fallow ground is ground which has once been tilled, but which now lies waste, needing to be broken up before it is suitable to receive the grain.
What do we mean by breaking up the fallow ground? To break up the fallow ground is to break up your heart, to prepare your life afresh to bear fruit in God's kingdom. In the bible, the word "ground" is often used as an analogy for the human heart and mind, and the word "seed" to mean the Word of God. To break up your fallow ground means therefore to prepare your heart to receive God's word. Sometimes your heart becomes hardened and blocked up, consequently it is unable to bear any fruit in your Christian life. It therefore needs preparation and cleaning up to make it fit again for God's purposes. It is this softening and preparation of the heart afresh that the prophet calls breaking up the fallow ground.
How is the fallow ground to be broken up?It is not achieved by "feelings". People make the mistake of thinking that, by feelings alone, they can make headway in their spiritual life. But this is not how the mind works in this area. No-one can bring about such an attitude of mind, merely by trying to arouse their feelings. You must begin by looking at your heart. Many people never pay attention to their heart and never know whether they are growing in their spiritual life or are backsliding. Therefore, if you are serious about your Christian life, you need to take time to examine the state of your heart. Don't be in a hurry about this - to begin set aside a date and a time when you will be free from interruption. When you get to that situation, examine thoroughly the state of your heart and see where you are. Are you walking with God every day or with the Devil? Are you under the dominion of Satan or the Lord Jesus Christ? To find the answer to these questions, you must set to work to consider your sins. You must examine yourself in all honesty. And by this I don't mean look within and examine the state of your feelings. Consideration of your sins requires careful and unhurried self-examination.
Self-examination means looking at your life, considering your actions, reviewing the past and learning its true character. Look back over your past history since becoming a Christian. Take each of your individual sins one by one and look at them. I don't mean that you should glance at your past Christian life, see that it's full of sins, and then go to God making a sort of overall general confession and ask for his forgiveness. That's not the way. You must take them up one by one. Get hold of a pen and paper and as each sin comes to mind write it down. Go over them as carefully as a businessman goes over his accounts. Whenever a sin comes to mind, write it on the list. General confession of sin is just not good enough. Your sins were committed one by one and they should be reviewed and repented of one by one. Now make a start, as an act of your will, and begin with what are commonly known as Sins of Omission.
Take this sin and write down under that heading all the instances you can remember where you have received blessings from God for which you've never expressed gratitude. How many cases can you remember? Some remarkable provision, some wonderful turn of events that saved you from a disaster. Write down the instances of God's goodness when your were in sin, before your conversion, for which you have never been thankful enough. Think also of the numerous blessings you've received since. Go on your knees and confess them one by one to God and ask forgiveness. Once you begin the process, other sins will begin to come to your mind. Write these down. Go over this list several times and see how many blessings and mercies you have received from God for which you have never thanked him.
Lack of love for God
Think how upset and shocked you'd be if you discovered your wife and children had lost their love for you; if you saw their hearts, minds and time being taken up with love for someone else! You'd no doubt be consumed with jealousy. Now remember that God calls himself a jealous God. So, have you given your attention to other loves and grossly offended Him?
Neglect of the Bible
Make a note of how your reading of the Bible has been infrequent, unenjoyable and downright careless; to the extent that you have read whole chapters and then forgotten what you've read. If so, it is no wonder that your life goes on in a joyless way and your Christianity is a miserable failure.
Recall the instances where you have virtually charged the God of truth with lying, by not believing his specific promises and statements. God has promised to give the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him. Now, have you believed this? Have you expected Him to answer? Have you not in fact said in your heart, when you prayed for the Holy Spirit: "I don't actually believe that I'll receive" If you haven't believed or expected to receive the blessing which God has expressly promised, you have charged Him with lying.
Neglect of Prayer
Think of the times when you have neglected private prayer and formal prayer meetings. Or of the times you have prayed in a way that grieved God more than if you hadn't prayed at all.
Lack of Love towards Non-Christians
When you consider your unbelieving friends and relatives, recall how little compassion you've felt for them. You have stood by and watched them heading towards Hell, and it seems as if you didn't care if they did go. How many days have there been, when you've failed to have their Christless eternity on your heart? If your soul is not agonised for such people, why are you such a hypocrite as to pretend to be a Christian?
Lack of Self-Denial and Concern for the Poor
Think how much you have spent on enjoying the luxuries of life. Do you ever deny yourself and go without, in order that the poor and suffering might receive instead?
Neglect of Family Duties
Think of how you have lived within your family. How have you prayed and what example have you been? What direct efforts do you regularly make for your family's spiritual welfare? What duties have you neglected?
Neglect of Your Spiritual Walk
Think how often you have turned a blind eye to your own conduct in the world. How often have you compromised your integrity with a careless word or action in society? How have such actions grieved a holy God?
Neglect of Watching over Your Brothers and Sisters
How often have you abdicated your responsibility to watch over them before the Lord? How little do you know or care about their souls? And yet as a Christian you are commanded by the Bible to watch over them. What have you done to familiarise yourself with their spiritual state? Go over the list and whenever you recall such neglect, write it down. How many times have you seen other Christians growing cold in their walk with Christ and have not spoken to them about it? You have seen them falling into sin and have let them go on. And yet you pretend to love them: what a hypocrite! Would you stand by and let your wife or children be disgraced and do nothing about it? No, you would not. What do you think of yourself, then; you pretend to love Christians and to love Christ and yet you still say nothing to them?
Neglect of Self-Denial
Many professing Christians are prepared to do almost anything in pursuit of their faith, provided it doesn't require self-denial on their part. They're simply not willing to deny themselves any inconvenience or accept any discomfort for the sake of serving Jesus. Nor will they suffer any criticism for the name of Christ. In the same vein, they won't deny themselves the luxuries of life, thereby diverting resources for evangelistic purposes to save a world from Hell. These people are so far removed from understanding that self-denial is a condition of discipleship, that they do not know what self-denial is. People like this are in real spiritual danger! Often, those who do give generously only give of their surplus wealth. Perhaps the poor widow who put in her mite exercised more self-denial than they have in giving thousands.
FROM THESE I NOW TURN TO SINS OF COMMISSION
What has been the state of your heart towards your wordly possessions? Have you looked at them as being really yours - as if you had the right to dispose of them as your own, according to your own will? If you have, write that down. Have you loved possessions, and tried to get more than you need, to satisfy your greed? Have you accumulated riches for your family? In each case you have sinned and must repent.
Think back over all the instances you can remember when you've noticed pride in your attitudes and thoughts. Vanity is a particular form of pride. How many times have you been concerned about your dress and your appearance? How many times have you spent more time preparing yourself before Church than you have in preparing your heart to worship God? You have gone caring more about how you appeared to others than how your soul appeared in the sight of a heart-searching God. You have, in fact, set yourself up to be worshipped by them, rather than prepared to worship God yourself. You tried to divide the worship of God's house, to draw off the attention of the people to look at your lovely appearance. It is no use pretending now that you don't care about having people look at you. Be honest about it. Would you take that time and effort to look good if every person in the congregation were blind?
Recall the times where you have been envious of those you reckon have more than you, whether in terms of abilities, looks or wealth. Has it annoyed you when these people have been the subject of praise? You have preferred to hear them criticised when they have failed in something. Again, be honest with yourself. If you have harboured this spirit from Hell, repent deeply before God.
A Critical Spirit
Bring to mind instances when you've taken a critical attitude towards others, in a way that was devoid of Christian love and charity. Think not only of your attitude of mind, but also of the times when you've said and done things to others with a bitter spirit. Don't miss out those times when you failed to put the best interpretation on any ambiguous conduct you observed in others.
This covers the times you have spoken behind people's backs of the faults, real or supposed, of your minister, members of your Church and others, without good reason. This is slander. You don't need to lie to be guilty of slander; to tell the truth with the intent to hurt another person is slander.
Take note of what lying is. It is any kind of intended deception. If the deception is unintended it is not lying. But if you intend to make an impression contrary to the naked truth, you lie. Put down all the lies that you remember. Don't call them by any other name, like "white lies". God calls them LIES and charges you with LYING, and so you'd better own up to the truth. Lies are perpetrated every day in business, and in social activities, by words, looks and actions designed to make an impression on others for selfish reasons that are contrary to the truth!
Write down all the occasions when you've taken home as "perks of the job" items belonging to your employer. That was theft. Bring to mind also the number of times you've made copies of friends' audio tapes, CDs, videos/DVDs. If these were copyright, as they usually are, then you are guilty of theft here too. God calls you to get rid of them.
In relation to God, write down the occasions when you have prayed for things you didn't really want. The rule of thumb in this is that, after you had finished praying, you couldn't recall the subjects of your prayers. Also, how many times have you confessed sins you had no real intention of giving up?
Think of the many occasions you have mis-spent your time, wastings the hours God gave you to serve Him and save souls. Think of the times you have mis-applied your talents and mental abilities. And what of the money you have spent on entertaining your fleshly desires and on things you did not need. Recall its misuse on things that didn't contribute to your health, comfort or usefulness. Perhaps some of God's money has been abused on cigarettes or an excess of alcohol.
Perhaps you have abused your wife, your children, your family, and your employees or work colleagues. Write it all down.
Hindering Others From Being Useful
Perhaps you have weakened their influence by insinuations against them. You have not only robbed God of your own talents, but tied the hands of someone else. Perhaps you have taken their time needlessly; perhaps you have destroyed Christian confidence in them. By doing this you have played into the hands of Satan, not only proving your own lazyness but also preventing others from working. If you've committed an offence against an individual and that individual is accessible to you, go and confess it immediately and get it out of the way. If the person is not easily reachable, sit down and write them a letter confessing how you've damaged them. If you have defrauded anybody, pay them back, with interest.
Go to work on all of this NOW. Don't put it off! If you put it off it will only make matters worse. Confess to God the sins you have committed against God and to man the sins committed against man. Do not try to get off the hook by inventing excuses. In breaking up your fallow ground you must remove every obstruction. Even if small matters are left unattended, you will wonder why your Christian walk still remains powerless. It will be because your proud and carnal mind has covered up something that God wants you to confess and remove. Break up ALL the ground and turn it over. Don't balk at the apparent size of the problem - drive the plough deep so that the ground will be fit to receive the seed and bear fruit "an hundredfold".
When you have gone over your whole history THOROUGHLY in this way, go over it a second time with the same serious approach. You'll find that some things you put down the first time will suggest other sins of which you've been guilty, perhaps related to them. Then go over it a third time, and you'll remember other things connected with these. Unless you review your sins in this way, considering them one by one, you will have no proper idea of their true extent. You should go over the list as seriously as if you were preparing yourself for The Final Judgement.
As you review your list of sins, resolve to have a complete change of heart for the future.Whenever you find anything wrong in future, deal with it at once. With God's help, you'll not sin in that area any more. Examination of yourself will be useless unless you change the attitude of your heart and future behaviour. If you find, as you carry out this review of your sins, that you experience no change in your relationship with Christ, it is likely that you've not been faithful and thorough in examining your sins. You cant expect God to work a miracle to enable you to break up your fallow ground. It has to be done by an effort of the will on your part. You'll discover, as you progress, that you cant look at your sins for long without experiencing deep feelings about them in relation to God.
You will never have the Spirit of God dwelling in you until you have dealt with this whole question of personal sin and spread out your sins before God. Allow time for a deep work of repentance and full confession, and you will have as much of the spirit of prayer as you can bear. The reason why so few Christians know anything about the spirit of prayer is because they never take the pains to examine themselves properly, and so never know what it is to have their hearts all broken up in this way.
The reason why so much preaching is wasted is because Church members will not break up their fallow ground. A preacher can wear himself out, and do very little good, when there are so many "stony-ground" hearers, who have never had their fallow ground broken up.
Christians cannot expect to see God at work in their lives just because they go about trying to evangelise non-Christians. They must get their fallow ground broken up. You may get some sort of temporary enthusiasm without this breaking up, but it won't last. More importantly, it won't have any effect on unbelievers unless your heart is broken up.
And now, finally, will you break up your fallow ground? Will you set your will to the job I've outlined and persevere until you're thoroughly awake? If you don't, I can go no further with you in your hardened state. If you don't set about this work immediately, I'll simply take it for granted that you've no intention of being revived, that you've abandoned your minister and intend him to carry on the battle alone. If you don't do this, I charge you with having forsaken Christ, with refusing to repent and with having forsaken your first love.
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