“Do you desire a revival of the current views of God?” That was the first question Richard Owen Roberts asked a group of ministry leaders at a revival conference I recently attended. I paused to consider the question. “Do any of you desire a revival of the current views of repentance?” he fired again.
I found myself wrestling with what these current views are and hoping none of them were mine. I could tell even before Pastor Roberts got into the meat of his message that what is currently pervasive in the church is not what we should be asking the Lord to revive.
Roberts is an elderly fireball of a teacher. Born in Schenectady, New York, in 1931, he has taught the Bible and pastored longer than many of us have been alive. He is unassuming when you pass him in a hall, but on a platform with the Bible open in front of him, he is a force. He preached for two hours, and it felt like 20 minutes. I’ve been unable to “get over” his challenges and rebukes. Standing before a group of Christian pastors and leaders who had gathered with the express purpose of asking God for revival, Roberts asked, “Revival of what?”
Pastor Roberts declared that our views of God in our churches today are not biblical. “God is not accepted; He is submitted to,” he preached. He said many people want a Savior, but they desire not a Lord. He charged us with presenting to people a god who saves them from the penalty of their sins while not saving them from their sin. “Faith and repentance are wed,” he said. And we want revival. “Revival of what? Would you like a revival of churches that have dropped the prayer meeting? Would you like revival of a church good at producing evil? Amos described the time we’re in now [as a] famine of the Word of God,” Roberts said.
Pastor Roberts spoke to a room of captivated individuals. Hardly anyone moved. He indicted pastors who have not taught the truth of who God is yet still asked Him to revive their meetings. Several questions of the former type set up three topics he discussed: sagacity (Don’t worry; he defined it for us.), salvation, and the heart of God. Any one of those could have been a sermon in and of itself, but Roberts presented each point with clarity, conviction, and biblical truth.
Sagacity is discernment and soundness of judgment. According to Pastor Roberts, the evangelical church lacks the wisdom of God. The fear of God produces sagacity, he taught.
Christ came to save us from our sins, not merely the penalty of our sins. “Would God save us from the penalty and leave us with the problem?” he asked. Matthew 1:21 declares certainly not! His point here was holiness. Even when you read that word – holiness – you might immediately think it’s antiquated. And that is more than likely a reflection of the condition of the church today.
The Heart of God
Israel. What of Israel? Romans 9, 10, and 11 teach us something very important about God’s chosen people. Their rejection is not final. They will be won to the Lord, and we who have received the message of salvation after them are a part of that acceptance. The Bible says they will be provoked by a jealousy of us, Gentiles who had no right to the Messiah. Romans 11:11 says, “So I ask, did they [Israel] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” Jealous? What in the current state of the church might provoke Israel to jealousy? Have we loved the beauty of holiness? Only a revival of holiness could grab the attention of those still awaiting the Messiah.
Pastor Roberts concluded with several responses:
- We must set our heart on Christ-like holiness.
- We must face the reality of our need for the sagacity of God.
- We should grow our understanding of God so much so that we tremble as Moses trembled before Him.
- Focused prayer, only focused prayer, will turn the church around.
- [When it comes to faith-based living] we are not candidates for holiness; we are chosen for holiness.
- Expect God to develop our expectations.
- There must be repentance. Repentance isn’t once done, forever accomplished. It’s daily in the life of the believer.
When we look at the condition of the world and our very own nation, aren’t we due another great awakening? The question is what are we expecting to be awakened? I don’t want a revival of watered-down faith. I don’t want a proliferation of grace that costs nothing and is worth nothing. I don’t want a revival of lively club meetings with no conversions and scarce remorse over sin.
Lord, please revive Your church. And as we return to Your Word, show us exactly how that should look.