The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Ezekiel 37 (NIV)
It would seem to me that the state of the church is such that no one would really ask this question, yet I may ask the question, do dead people know that they are dead? How can they know except someone who is alive tell them? We have dead people, zombies, if you will, on two levels of our society today. The call of God, and the mission that he left with the church, has always been the proclamation of his gospel, that the dead might hear, and hearing, they might find life. But the dead are in evidence in the empty pews in our church, and I fear, all too often, even in the pews that are filled. I ended the last discussion on revival with the question, where are the tears for the lost? I suppose the answer to that question should show the utter and complete need of the church to be revived.
I used to resist with my every fiber the proclamations of our church leaders that we were now in a post-Christian era. I think I resisted so stoutly because I had been saved in the revival of the seventies, where thousands of young people turned from drugs and the answers of a free-love culture to the living Christ, who set us free indeed. Time Magazine proclaimed the year of the evangelical, and my wife and I set about working hard to fulfill the calling of our Christ. We saw many people come to Christ during that time, and many crooked roads were made straight. The nation looked as though it might be safe for our children, and for Christians to continue to dominate our culture. In spite of my denial, enough time and changes have elapsed for even me to see the truth: the time of coming to Christ is past, and we have become a nation of dry bones.
What is to be done for us? Tozer wrote of such a time, long before our time, and before the revival of the seventies, which I sure would have brought him great delight, but what he said, I think is true of the church today. “Orthodox Christianity has fallen to its present low estate from lack of spiritual desire. Among the many who profess the Christian faith scarcely one in a thousand reveals any passionate thirst for God.”1 I look at our church, and ask, who carries the cross today? I give God thanks for the many in our church who work unceasingly with humble and godly lives, but is that not just a few compared to the many in the church? It has been my life long observation that ten percent of the church does ninety percent of the work, and such a condition continues to rot our Christian core as a nation right down to its root.
The church today reminds me of my pomegranate tree I planted the back yard. It had several years of abundant growth, and that last spring red pomegranates appeared everywhere to the delight of my daughter and my wife. But a harsh spring wind came up, and blew the tree right over, for it suffered from a crown rot, unseen to the eye, but now its break apparent to all. My wife asked me if I could make it live again, but I am not God, that I should give life to the dead bones yet again. Our church today suffers from such crown rot, and I fear the slightest wind will blow us over, exposing our state to all.
I was reading Chafer’s True Evangelism, looking for secrets on evangelism. Instead of focusing on going and telling, part of the commission, Chafer says: ”It is, then, the teaching of Scripture that the action of the mighty power of God in convicting and illuminating the unsaved is also, in a large measure, dependent upon the priestly intercession of the believer.”2 In other words, the prayers of the saint are answered by God giving salvation to others. James tells us we have not, because we ask not.
Do you have family that are not saved? Do you live around neighbors that have not been reached? Are your children’s playmates children who do not know the Lord? Yes, and yes for me, though I am too old for having children in the home. The intercession for others is the beginning work of salvation, and the saint who has not cried out to God on behalf of the lost cannot expect to reap much.
Essentially Jesus left us with one commission, and we forget the importance of that commission when we get so busy with life. Do you remember what joy entered your heart when you were first saved? I remember that time, for it was rather life-changing. The power of God seemed to touch me, and all at once I saw the multitude of times that God had been interceding for me, trying to show me of his love. Yet, I had not looked prior to that time, and it was overwhelming for me to see all of it at once.
Oh, there was so much of me that needed basic doctrine, and thankfully the church I entered did teach the basic things. I chose to follow God out of a conviction that he was right, that I had been shown the Truth, and that if I really wanted to follow the Truth, I needed to believe him. And believe him I did, he who had pursued me for so long, that now I might begin pursuing him. I knew nothing of salvation; it was several weeks before I realized God had promised me eternal life. You see, I had read Revelation and Daniel, Ezekiel and Nahum, looking for prophecy, for my friends had testified to me of the last times, and I wanted to see and understand for myself.
“Oh,” you say, “you sort of came into Christianity backwards then?”
I reply, “Yes, Backwards me. It seems like I am one to always get things mixed up. But, believing God had become my lifelong pursuit at that point.”
It was not long before I started looking at my friends and family, realizing that they did not know God. I began intercessory prayer for them all, but especially my family. One by one, I lifted them up to the Lord, and it was the third time in prayer that I got the feeling that God was going to answer. I did subsequently learn that one of my brothers had already accepted Christ, and that my mother had found Christ at a Billy Graham crusade years before. Yet, I lifted each of them up in prayer, with many tears, and simply asked God to intervene. I had the overwhelming conviction, through the Holy Spirit, that God had heard my prayer, and was indeed going to answer it. Even my father, I asked? For I knew my father had hardened his heart against spiritual things, and that it would take an act of God to get him to change. Even your father, the Spirit seemed to assure me. Joy flooded my soul, for in that instant I believed God would do as he had assured me.
Most all of my family was to come to the Lord during the next few years, but my father, obstinate to the end, refused for thirty-five years to come to the Lord. Many many times I would try to bring my Father to the throne of grace, and each time, it seemed as if God was reminding me that he had already promised to answer that prayer, and instead of praying, I would thank God for my father’s salvation. It was not until my father was on what was to become his deathbed that he at last received Christ by believing God.
Yes, we need revival! And it must start with intercessory prayer of the saints for the lost. Have you prayed for the lost in your family, taking to God your heart felt need for their souls? Most of us, I fear, get into a rut of life where we never really believe God means what he says. Polls say that even most people who claim to be Christian do not believe in Hell, much less that the world is headed that way. We do not believe our own God, and we wonder why God will not answer when we cry out!
Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry? Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die? Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand? Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you DAMNED? 3 Ravenhill puts it succinctly. Our hearts get hardened to the ways of the world, and we tend to forget that often our day is filled with companionship with those whose souls are damned, and who will probably stay that way unless God intervenes. I can think of no stronger reason to show that we need a revival. Perhaps it will start today with your coming to God and praying for the lost around you. Tozer did say that scarcely one in a thousand reveals any passionate thirst for God. Perhaps today you can show that thirst, and tomorrow may well bring change to our church.
1. A.W. Tozer (2010-06-02). The Root of The Righteous (Kindle Locations 605-606). . Kindle Edition.
2. Chafer, Lewis Sperry (2011-10-21). True Evangelism (Kindle Locations 907-909). Primedia eLaunch. Kindle Edition.
3. Ravenhill, Leonard (2004-08-01). Why Revival Tarries (p. 92). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.