Many of us that are familiar with reading about past revivals and movements of the Holy Spirit in America wonder why we do not see a revival in our dark day. A lot is attributed to our moral decline as a nation and turning our backs on God. The chaotic situation in America’s government and the greed of Wall Street get much attention. But could it be that part of the blame falls on the church itself? We may not be able to change what takes place outside the church, but we can take responsibility for what takes place in the church.
I love to read the writings of men of God from the past that are considered Generals of the Christian Faith. Many of these men were used by God to bring about great movements during their life time. One man that I was particularly moved by his writings said two things that stand out as incredible statements. First, “If at anytime I were to seek man’s favor or earthly power, I would lose favor with God and would not have faith.” Second, “God has never yet allowed any human being to be applauded for doing the Lord’s work.”
It all boils down to the fact that we have lost the fear of God in most of our churches in this country. It takes place when there is a misuse of the pulpit along with the platform and altar it rests upon. It takes place when men applaud men from the pulpit. One moment the name of Jesus Christ is being lifted up from a pulpit and the next moment from the same pulpit a man is being applauded for the work he has done for the Lord. Great Christian men from the past only lifted up the name of Jesus from the pulpit. They would never dream of speaking of the great Christian accomplishments of any fellow man. God will not share His glory with anyone. Jesus says in John 5:44, “For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.”
This does not mean that we are not to respect and recognize people and appreciate the things they have done. The proper rendering of 1 Thessalonians 5:13 is: “Count them very highly in love for their works sake.” Or as the Message says, “Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!” Paul uses the word salute in Romans chapter 16 which simply means to greet. But there is a time and a place for everything. The pulpit is a sacred place in the church that should only be reserved for the glorifying of the Lord.
One of the great chapters of the Old Testament is Exodus 20. It takes place not long after the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt and were being formed into a nation. Verses 1-17 contain the Ten Commandments where the first four are how to revere God. Verses 18-21 show the fear of God. Verses 22-26 describe the proper use of altars.
When we move to the New Testament and are at the beginning of the formation of the church in Acts 5, we see in verses 1-10 how the Lord dealt with Ananias and Sapphira, then in verse 11 how a great godly fear gripped the whole church.
Whether the pulpit is a soapbox on a street corner or an expensive podium in an elaborate cathedral, it is an attitude of awe that must be maintained by the person standing at it. Nehemiah 8:4-5 states, “ Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood. And Ezra opened the book of the law in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” Another example is the awesomeness of how the high priest had to approach the holy of holies once a year. This attitude must be maintained into this present age. It is true that the Lord has gone from residing amongst the people in the OT, to abiding within the individuals in the NT. But the Lord Himself has not changed nor should our attitude of worship. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
Even if you do not believe in what I have written, I challenge any church to the following. Declare a fast of not lifting up any human beings from the pulpit. Preach Jesus Christ and Him alone. Magnify Him even before the preaching begins. Then see what the Lord will do. I especially challenge any churches that preach ‘A Better You’ gospel. Stop putting a band-aid on the cancer. Or, as Jesus would say, “Stop whitewashing.” Numbers and finances are irrelevant. A dress down attitude crept into the church the last couple of decades and unfortunately it also brought in the attitude that Jesus is your buddy rather than the sovereign Lord of the Universe. This was great for the development of mega-churches, but we are left with powerless churches.
I remember the days where people wore their Sunday finest, where the congregation stood at the reading of scripture, and where the church leadership shed tears before the service around the platform. This was not to be legalistic, but to create an atmosphere that people were entering a holy place. This reverence was then maintained throughout the whole service.
Churches did not need to be locked up years ago because Americans respected the sanctity of the church. Oh how far we have slid. Some churches are locked up so tight that not even the congregants are privy. No wonder why there is a push for the church to lose its tax exempt status.
The solutions to these problems may not be simple, but the first step is. We need an Acts 5:11 (great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things) experience in America. We need a trembling in our bones. People need to sense our awe of the God who created us and will be our judge. The greatest form of worship a person can give the Lord is not singing repetitious songs written by someone else that get our heart fluttering. No, the greatest form of worship is simply speaking out the greatness of God and His attributes and telling Him what He means to you.
As I finished writing the above, I asked the Lord, “Is this too hard of a message to share? Please help me to know whether to publish it or not.” No sooner did I request this, that I got the answer in the mail. Gary Wilkerson, son of the late David Wilkerson, wrote in the January 2012 World Challenge Pulpit Series newsletter: “America is, in many places, suffering a famine of the Word of God. My heart breaks over the church’s tolerance of easy believism and watered-down pabulum, and the trivializing of the weighty matters of a holy and glorious God. I take the proclamation of the gospel as a holy trust—whether preaching it to my church or sharing it with you in written form. The Pulpit that God has provided to this ministry was not given to tickle ears, to entertain while the world is in throes of horrific suffering, to put ourselves at ease while the lost go without hearing the gospel. This platform for proclaiming Jesus was not given to make money, to build offices and staff or to make much of ourselves. It was given to us so that we might contend for the faith—that we might cry out in the wilderness, and call God’s faithful into a radical, unflinching, passionate zeal for the fullness of Christ Jesus. It is my ambition to faithfully bring to you, as God enables, a fresh revelation of Jesus and His marvelous, wonderful, magnificent beauty.”