Here's the link to the talks at the STRANGE FIRE CONFERENCE
When Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" on July 8, 1741 to a congregation in Enfield, Connecticut, many were powerfully affected even to having visions of Hell over which they were being dangled, and this is said to have been the beginning of the Great Awakening that profoundly changed American life just before the Revolution.
Lately I've been thinking some of us could do with the experience of being dangled over the pit of Hell, and I'm including myself, most particularly myself. Speaking of "awakening," most of the Church needs to be awakened these days to a reality of our faith that few of us appreciate. This is apparent just in the condition of the world around us, the nations around us and the Church itself with its growing apostasies in all directions, plus our worldliness that can be seen in divorce statistics and such woeful things as addictions to pornography, about which I just heard an interview on Christian radio.
I hope those who do have a powerful faith are exercising it in prayer on behalf of the rest of us. Or maybe I should say I hope there is such a thing as some who have such a powerful faith.
Well, I can report that I've been praying more myself, and I'm thankful that I'm able to do it. I've also been reading a lot of Andrew Murray (Absolute Surrender, The Spirit of Christ, Experiencing the Holy Spirit), hoping his exhortations and guidance to living in the power of the Holy Spirit might bring about the awakening I know I need personally if I'm going to be of use to anybody else.
Most genuine revivals begin with a powerful sense of personal sinfulness, which is what Edwards' famous sermon brought about in that Connecticut congregation, and that's what I'm hoping my own reading and prayer will do for me too. I pray for revival for the entire Church but I'd be very happy if God would revive me personally for starters.
One thing I can report is that I'm heartily sick of myself, my so easily falling into sin, the flesh, self, worldliness, and the more I read and pray the more I feel that, which is painful of course, but has to be a good thing. There was a time when I couldn't read much of Murray, I'd just end up feeling "I can't possibly do that," (such as "absolute surrender" to God) even that I couldn't have the faith that what's impossible for me is possible with God, which he avidly preaches. But this time I'm believing it and hoping it will bear fruit.
Yes I know there is good reason not to pray or hope for revival in our time just because the Church IS in such bad shape. A W Tozer many years ago said revival could be a disaster with the Church in such a worldly condition. Leonard Ravenhill focused more on how the condition of the Church prevented us from having revival. If you go all the way back to Spurgeon you can find him preaching on how much the Church needs revival but that he'd rather have no revival at all than have a revival trumped up in the flesh or a revival aflame with "wildfire."
Wildfire, or Strange Fire, is unfortunately what we've been getting through the Charismatics for some time now. I've often avoided praying for revival because of all the counterfeit "revivals" we've seen over the last few decades, from the "Toronto Blessing" to "Brownsville" to the Todd Bentley demonic horror in Lakeland.
So I hope instead for a new Protestant Reformation, and we certainly do need that, but at the same time I yearn for the TRUE power of God to come down and transform us as a doctrinal reformation may not do. Or would do much too slowly in our desperate times.
So now I'm again praying and hoping for a real revival, but it MUST start with me, I must personally be revived as we all must who hope for revival.
The Strange Fire Conference got me moving in this direction, maybe by a circuitous route. I was convinced by it that the gifts of the Spirit that inaugurated the Church at Pentecost had ceased, and the best evidence of this to my mind is that the phenomena that are being called "the gifts" are nothing like the gifts in the New Testament Church, and most of them are outright counterfeits. But at the same time the position of Cessationism can go too far in the direction of denying the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit among His people in all times. Those who join the Charismatic movement often do so because of the yearning for the felt presence of God to power our lives and power His work through the Church. It's a legitimate desire when too much of the Church depends only on correct doctrine and DOES feel "dead" as the Charismatics always complain about it.
HOWEVER, the Charismatic movement has NOT succeeded in bringing the true power of God into the Church, but sure has brought a lot of counterfeits of Holy Spirit power instead. The true power of God would dangle us over the pit of Hell until we realize our desperate need of Christ and then come to cling to Him with a new recognition of what this Christian life is really all about. Instead, the counterfeits bring us bogus "prophecies" and bogus "tongues" and bogus "healings" and bogus "apostles" and bogus "revivals."
AND along with all the bad doctrine and the counterfeit supernatural phenomena interestingly often comes a great tendency for Church leaders and members to fall into some of the grossest kinds of sin. Such as Todd Bentley did, such as others that could be named in relation to the Prophecy movement have done. Such as I myself have done too. It's scary and depressing how sin is always right there breathing down my neck. I'm plagued by it unless I pray constantly against it.
Go hear African pastor Conrad Mbewe who preached at the Strange Fire Conference about the condition of Africa if you want to get an appreciation for the connection of false doctrine with sin. There the biggest churches preach what he says is really a version of African witchcraft mingled with Christian terminology, thanks to the preaching of the false Word-Faith gospel, and where sexual sin has become common among the PASTORS of such churches, who even take advantage of women in their congregations. Take notice: SIN is the fruit of these counterfeit "miracles" they all seek. We all too easily fall into THE FLESH, even if we are true Christians but maybe some of us should ask if we are truly Christians and I'm including myself.
But some of us ARE walking in the flesh even if we are true Christians, when we don't live in the TRUE power of God.
So this is why I'm seeking personal revival, and it's why I'm still hoping for revival for the Church at large too. We need the Holy Spirit of God to come down and dangle us all over the pit of Hell as TRUE doctrine is preached to us and the counterfeits are exposed.
Seeking God again
2 years ago