“Son of man, can these bones live?” That was God’s question to Ezekiel as he looked upon a valley of human bones, which symbolized the hopelessness of the Jewish people. I wrote about spiritual awakening a couple of weeks ago, taking the “dry bones” of Ezekiel 37 as a text (you can read this in a previous post). With many praying for awakening I have given additional thought to Ezekiel’s dramatic vision and the lessons we can learn from it. So here are some additional thoughts on spiritual awakening.
First, it could be said of us that while we are dying, we are not dead. Ezekiel’s vision was of total death, annihilation, bare bones. With Jerusalem obliterated, tens of thousands dead, and the survivors in captivity, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Israel’s national identity was obliterated, utterly destroyed, never to rise again.
But that is not our situation in the American church. While the church in America is declining in numbers (as a percentage of the population) and influence (as seen by rapid cultural changes which are contrary to biblical teaching), we still have millions who love God and love their neighbors and who strive to honor Jesus Christ in their daily lives. Each week tens of millions of American Christians find spiritual satisfaction in weekly worship experiences in some 300,000+ congregations numbering from 30 to 3,000 to 10,000 worshippers.
And that could be part of our problem. Not only are we not yet dead, we’re not on spiritual life-support. We have so much money, so many people and buildings that we can live off the spiritual achievements of our forefathers for a couple of decades. Like trust-fund babies, we have inherited the structures and infrastructures built by previous generations and these can sustain us for many years. My first pastorate was a church that hadn’t baptized anyone in four years and the ten adult attenders had been there for decades. Few were spiritually birthed in that church in the 25 years previous, but the faithful few still met to sing together and “here a sermon,” and they’d been doing that for a long, long time.
Death, or impending death, evokes agony and desperation. Could it be that we have too much life left to feel desperate, and to act on that desperation with the kind of prayer and cross-bearing and total obedience necessary for God to do great things? William Carey famously said “Expect Great things from God, Attempt Great things for God.” Can we honestly say that we are attempting “great things” in total obedience to God, desperate for Him to revive us and do great things among us?
Second, while the darkness is increasing in our nation, the eyes of many believers are adjusting to the darkness and now see our darkened world as the “new normal.” Each of us has experienced a room suddenly going dark when the lights are turned off. At first you can see nothing, but your eyes quickly adjust to the darkness and you can begin to see things.
In Washington State we have recently witnessed the legalization of selling and using marijuana. Homosexual marriage is now legal as well. I live in Clark County, across the Columbia River from Portland, OR. Marriage ceremonies have surged in our county with almost all of the growth coming from homosexuals in Oregon coming to Clark County in Washington to get married. Articles in our local paper have celebrated this, as have some local religious leaders. Prolife religious organizations and businesses are currently battling our own government in the court system over the requirement to provide contraceptive drugs and abortion services to employees through company-provided health insurance benefits. These are just a few indications of growing darkness in our land. Add to this the proliferation of pornography via the internet, state-supported gambling enterprises via lotteries, increases in divorce rates, out-of-wedlock birth rates, and cohabitation before marriage, and even a child could argue that morally our nation is running from God and biblical teachings.
Some questions for churches are: are your eyes adjusting to the deeper darkness? Are pastors preaching prophetically, with love? Are we making disciples, even of our own children, and teaching them to obey “everything” that Jesus has commanded us (Matt. 28:20)? My concern is not for “the culture.” My concern is for the Church. Spiritual awakening begins with the Church, your church, you. We must shine in the darkness, not just in the church-house.
“O Lord, send us revival! Send it today!