A revival of religion is the only possible thing that can wipe away the reproach which covers the Church, and restore religion to the place it ought to have in the estimation of the public. Without a revival, this reproach will cover the Church more and more, until it is overwhelmed with universal contempt. You may do anything else you please, and you
may change the aspects of society in some respects, but you will do no real good; you only make it worse without a revival of religion. You may go and build a splendid new house of worship, and line your seats with damask, put up a costly pulpit, and get a magnificent organ, and everything of that kind, to make a show and dash, and in that way you may procure a sort of respect for religion among the wicked, but it does no good in reality. It rather does hurt. It misleads them as to the real nature of religion; and so far from converting them, it carries them farther away from salvation. Look wherever they have surrounded the altar of Christianity with splendor, and you will find that the impression produced is contrary to the true nature of religion.
How much closer to the mark could he get? He was writing in the 1840’s, but it sure sounds like a description of the church in 2007. We have people working diligently to change society; we have people building huge church buildings; the church has scorn heaped on it by society. And the whole time we “do no real good” rather we “only make it worse” because we are trying to do it our way instead of God’s way.
The first place a revival has an effect is the church. How many of us are willing to admit that we have been cherishing “little” sins in our heart? How many of us are willing to admit that we have been comparing ourselves to those around us, assuming that God grades on a curve? We forget that we serve a holy God who demands (and imparts) holiness of heart, not just behavior according to a set of rules on a checklist.
There is a reason that II Chronicles 7:14 starts with “my people who are called by my name” are called to “humble themselves…turn from their wicked ways.” This was addressed to God’s people then, and it is still addressed to God’s people today. Romans 2:24 says, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” It was true in Paul’s day, it is only too true today. But, it doesn’t have to be! Romans goes on to say in chapter 8 that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.” It is available to us by faith; we need only believe it and live in it.
Revive your church, O Lord! Forgive our complacency; renew our love; fire our passion for you; may we experientially know the truth that we are dead to the world, but alive in Christ.