July 15: Revive Us Again. Psalm 85
In Psalm 85, those who are languishing in the faith, struggling with sin, or overwhelmed by life, will find hope. The hope found here is rooted in a God who is faithful to restore and revive his people to a deep and profound joy in their salvation. All God's people face periods of struggle and trial in their Christian faith. But the psalmist gives us words to pray that God would restore us so that we might rejoice in him. It is to God that we turn for help in renewing spiritual vitality and health to this people that we might again enjoy the peace that we have with God, the salvation which is near at hand, and lives marked by righteousness. Consider your own spiritual health: do you desire a greater delight in God and a clearer view of Jesus? Let us seek God in prayer so that he will speak peace to us.
“Dear fellow secular Americans, I know that you are concerned about the “Religious Right” and their influence in America. You are worried that they possess too much power, and that if they are successful, they will make America into some kind of neo-theocratic state in which religious beliefs stymie the advance of personal moral freedoms in areas such as abortion, religious pluralism, and the normalization of homosexuality in the culture. But fear not, for on the basis of my studies, I have found that while evangelicals claim to believe in absolute truth and an authoritative Bible which governs all of life, they do not live like they say they believe. They say they believe the Bible is the Word of God, but somehow, strangely, the Bible always says what satisfies their personal psychological and emotional needs. They say they worship an awesome God, but their deity is not one to be feared, because He is pretty much nonjudgmental, always quick to point out your good qualities, and will take whatever He can get in terms of your commitment to Him.”
“In every aspect of the religious life, American faith has met American culture–and American culture has triumphed. Whether or not the faithful ever were a people apart, they are so no longer; . . . Talk of hell, damnation, and even sin has been replaced by a nonjudgmental language of understanding and empathy. . . . far from living in a world elsewhere, the faithful in the United States are remarkably like everyone else.”
“A true sense of the divine excellency of the things revealed in the Word of God.” One of the effects of this encounter will be a delight in the glory of God. The convert “does not merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart...there is a sense of the loveliness of God’s holiness.”
“How do seasons of revival come? One set of answers comes from Charles Finney, who turned revivals into a "science." Finney insisted that any group could have a revival any time or place, as long as they applied the right methods in the right way. Finney's distortions, I think, led to much of the weakness in modern evangelicalism today, as has been well argued by Michael Horton over the years. Especially under Finney's influence, revivalism undermined the more traditional way of doing Christian formation. That traditional way of Christian growth was gradual – whole family catechetical instruction – and church-centric. Revivalism under Finney, however, shifted the emphasis to seasons of crisis. Preaching became less oriented to long-term teaching and more directed to stirring up the affections of the heart toward decision. Not surprisingly, these emphases demoted the importance of the church in general and of careful, sound doctrine and put all the weight on an individual's personal, subjective experience. And this is one of the reasons (though not the only reason) that we have the highly individualistic, consumerist evangelicalism of today.”
Speak to your own spiritual vitality - are you growing in delight over God's grace, or are you languishing in the Christian faith?
Give specific examples of how God has moved with mercy in your life in the past? Do his past mercies engender greater confidence that he will complete his work in you? Why or why not?
If you were to measure your own spiritual growth by the amount of prayer you engage in, what would you conclude?
What are the fruits in the life of a Christian that indicate that God has revived the soul?