I was first introduced to "concentrated", non-watered down preaching of high calibre when for my 21st birthday, I received from my care-group a copy of Desiring God by John Piper. While the concept of Christian Hedonism caught my attention, Pipers close intimacy with scripture in addition to words coming from such a passionate heart left me dumbstruck. It proved to be a slow, tedious read from cover to cover with regards to my level of maturity and understanding, but, for reasons that will be apparent, much necessary.
In late 2004, I was introduced to the teaching of Ray Comfort, which initially confirmed mydiscomfort towards the humanism behind modern gospel messages which up until I heard Comforts flagship message Hells Best Kept Secret, never quite sunk in as going well with my spirit. I was fascinated by the concepts he taught regarding the spiritual purposes of the Moral Law as the means by which people got concvicted of sin, while
teaching of True and False Conversion provided a degree of counsel after the events that led up to the dissolving of my church's Australian youth outreach in which several young people suddenly fell away due to various reasons. The issues that Ray Comfort addressed were apparent within my own experiences, and I didnt want it to affect any more than what it already did.
Yet the historical basis behind Way of the Master captured both my imagination and interest. I started to read the literature of those who brought about revival throughout church history in the form of the writings of Spurgeons Lectures to My Students, Martin Luthers "Tabletalk", Charles Finneys Lectures on Revival. I also listened to recordings of twentieth century heroes such as A.W. Tozer, the late Leornard Ravenhill and David Wilkerson; mighty prophets of prayer and
intercession who despite having nostalgic views compared to their culture-savy contemporaries, stood on the shoulders of giants.
The God that these men worshipped was one who was Holy and just, a genuine person who had feelings, emotions, desires; a God who simply felt alive. On the other hand, the God of the modern gospel felt like a slave in chains; something desired for strength, durability and endurance, yet forced into captivity by the greedy and corrupt.
At first, it felt everything in life at that moment was going good. My grades at Community College where I was doing a course in Office Administration to improve my emploment opportunities post-university graduation were going well, I was getting on with the members of my Care Group; life was enjoyable.
Around August 2005, after a Sunday Church Administration meeting, I turned on my phone and in one minute had my life turned upside down: my sister, had been rushed to hospital after experience a brain haemorrhage resulting in stroke. My voicemail contained a message given at 2:00pm from my parents asking me to come home immediately. I looked at my watch and saw it was 5:15pm. From that day onward I vowed to never turn my phone off whenever I carry it, not matter who or what.
The next day I visited my sister in the intensive care ward where she was placed in induced coma. Some people from church came with me and we prayed for her recovery. My heart broke because I knew as a result of having cerebral palsy for my whole life that even if she woke up, there was no way she was going to experience life the way she did before.
The rest of the year was just depressing. Both of my parents worked full time and I was still unemployed. To make matters worse, late October, when I was hoping to have my classes over and done with, I broke my right foot on the way to church, fracturing the metatarsals. I couldnt walk, and for a month and a half, had to use a wheelchair because I lacked the balance to use crutches. To make matters worse, because of my condition,
I lack sufficient strength in my hands to push my own weight, so I had to ask people at college to push me. I was humiliated, because I grew up telling myself I will never be put into a wheelchair as long as I live. Never!
Eventually I recovered of my injury when during the Praise and Worship at a leadership camp, God miraculously healed my foot fully. However, the whole experience plus what my sister was going through left me shaken. My disdain for the modern Prosperity/Life-enhancement gospel only grew more and more. I started to express my concerns to the necessary people leaders, my mentor at the time, those of reasonable spiritual maturity and behind my back I was called divisive, narrow minded, negative, legalistic and too method based. For those willing to speak upfront, I presented by arguments based on scripture, and in response received replies that only reflected apathy, willfull ignorance and pride. I pointed out the principles, yet people replied by saying its just a method! I see no difference between the two, scriptural or otherwise.
I pointed out the need for the church to be discerning, only to be rebuffed on the grounds that its about building relationships! Our fellowships should be places where people can feel welcome without being worried about whether theyre right or wrong.
Such words, coming from the people that I loved most broke my heart even more because what it told me was that those whom I trusted, those who I confided when it came to my personal struggles were deep down more interested in winning the praises of Man rather than in pleasing God as outlined in Scripture. There were even times in the midst of the arguments that I wasnt defending biblical principles regarding evangelism and pastoral care; I was defending the sufficiency of scripture itself.
I gave warning regarding what would happen if we clung to the Wonderful Plan myth while trials and tribulations came, that people would try to run away, that there will be disappointment and distrust.
For my immediate fellowship, 2006 was its most painful season as it was just filled with hurt. Health problems, relationship breakdowns, depression, people being mentally, physically and even sexually abused by both non-believers
outside the body of christ and backslidden false converts. While this was happening, the weekly expositions came from 1 Peter, focusing mainly on
perseverance in the midst of suffering.
I just couldnt comprehend how people could still cling to the false Modern Gospel despite the circumstances and what was preached each Sunday. Why wasnt the holy Spirit that dwelled within such troubled people speaking out? There were times during the sermons on Sunday when I wanted to just jump up and shout I TOLD YOU SO!
As a leader of the Intercession ministry, I found myself having to respond upfront to prayer requests wherein I caught glimpses into peoples lives that if given the choice, I would have gladly decided to forget permanently.
But thank God, as our expositions of 1 Peter continued, people started to wakeup to the realities of true Christian living. During our Christmas Sunday, God gave me the best present when my pastor preached the nativity in context with the law. He started to go through Way of the Master's "Good Test" by asking "If someone ever told a lie-"
To which 1/3 of the 400 member congregation shouted back "a liar!"
Eventually, the exposition of 1 Peter 5 - judgment begins in the house of the Lord - came and went. The truth was declared and while there was no major outpouring or awakening, all that had to be said and done was done, and people responded properly. I sensed deep down with satisfaction that my part had been played; I couldn't do or ask for anything more.
Or so I thought...
At my church's corporate prayer meeting last Tuesday, me and a trusted sister in my immediate fellowship decided to arrive early while others were setting up the venue to just pray for some of the issues affecting the church. As we named the various issues, I felt the Holy Spirit just bring up feelings, emotions and memories of bitterness, anger, vengefulness and unforgiveness that I had been keeping buried ever since I tried to explain the dangers of the counterfeit gospel, yet were slowly causing a wedge to be created between myself and my spiritual family. My pride was trying to make me take my concerns and twist them into something that would give spoils to Satan rather than glory to God. I asked the sister to pray for me as I confessed my unforgiveness.
Usually when we talk about revival, we discuss what it is going to be like when we're in the eye of the storm found within God's holiness where sin is exposed and conviction is all but unavoidable. But has anyone seriously considered the of forgiveness between neighbors? How often do we ask God to forgive us - personal sins, sins of the church, the nations - yet choose not to seek/give forgiveness towards our brothers and sisters in Christ?
I should clarify: Genuine forgiveness is not about condoning or allowing wrongdoing as though there is no difference. It's about letting go of self-righteousness, our desire for "justice" and instead putting our trust in the Justice of God, even if it means that may not be fulfilled in this lifetime.
I pose a challenge to those that have strived to live out the truth desiring revival but have been disappointed, frustrated, wrongly accused, ostrasized and heartbroken by those who lack the same conviction: Can you forgive?
I know that there are people on this site no longer involved with the local church for what may be actual, legitimate reasons in line with scripture and have since left to begin things on their own, but I pose a challenge: Which is easier between reconciliation and retreat?
What action is more brave: walking out the door and never looking back, or gently approaching those who oppose you and saying "I don't want this to do any more damage than what is has. But I think this is an important issue that needs to be dealt with upfront because I don't want anymore people to stumble. I forgive you for the times in which things may have have been said and done that didn't need to happen. Is it possible that we could meet together sometime to talk these things through?"
Forgiveness may by no means be easy, especially within the church. But, for those who earnestly hunger for revival and awakening in this generation, examine yourself and see if one of the major hurdles may in actual fact be unforgiveness on your part.