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HolinessGod's Plan for Fullness of Life
By Henry Blackaby
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2003 Henry Blackaby
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Loss of the Fear of God
It is the people of God who can truly shape a nation. Many look to great leaders or powerful governments to shape a nation. But most likely, leaders and governments will not restore a nation once it is on the downward slide. While leaders and governments can influence a nation, there is no group of people who can determine the coming years of a nation like God's people.
As go the people of God, so goes the redemption of the world. God is therefore working mightily in His own. We are closer to either revival or judgment than we have ever been. There is not an alternative to these two. Either God's people return to God with all of their hearts, or God will judge our nation. We do not have to guess how that judgment will look or how thorough it will be. The Bible indicates how thoroughly God judges His people. Any nation that forgets God as a corporate people comes under the judgment of God. When God judged Israel, the Northern Kingdom, He completely wiped them out. When God judged Judah, the Southern Kingdom, He destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and put the people in bondage for seventy years. God also took the people in Jesus' day and scattered them so thoroughly that they did not get back together for more than nineteen hundred years, just as Jesus predicted.
If we look at the history of God's dealings with His people it ought to cause us to tremble. But it is the loss of the fear of God that characterizes God's people in America today.
In 1987 there was a conference on prayer and spiritual awakening in North Carolina. The keynote speaker, Dr. J. Edwin Orr, spoke on April 21. His message was Revival Is Like Judgment Day. That was the last message he ever preached. The next day he passed away and went to meet his Lord whom he had served so faithfully. That message has stayed on my heart. The topic of that sermon is very consistent with the Scripture—revival is like judgment day.
But many of us are not thinking about judgment; we are thinking about revival. We seem to have redefined revival in our day as something different from the Scripture's definition of revival. We seem to have consistently changed the definition to the way we want it to be. We have changed God to our own image. We have changed worship, youth work, and family life to what we want. We have changed, for application in our own lives, nearly every commandment of God. We continue to break all of the Ten Commandments. If I were to take you through what the Scripture says about the Sabbath day, you would see that God's people have utterly desecrated it—that is, if you take the Scripture as the guideline for how to act on the Sabbath day. But as long as everyone does what is right in his own eyes and it is not different from anyone else, we assume, as long as God does not judge us, that things are okay. But they are not. There is an incredible heart cry for revival. I think it is a God-created cry. I think it is a cry to God such as, Oh, God, revive us again so that Your people may rejoice in You! I want you to understand the nature of what God is doing.
I assume as you consider this message that you do have a heart cry for revival. But understand that our nation, our churches, and our family lives need a deep personal encounter with God. We need to be reoriented back to God at every level of life. That heart cry in your life is real and personal, but your involvement in the ways of God does not come simply because you listen to a message. It comes from a deep personal and corporate processing. When you hear the Word of God, it begins immediately a process in you to understand and respond to what God is saying. When you come face to face with God and He says something through His Word, you immediately begin to find that you must respond, If this is what God says, then this is what I must do.
Blessing or Curse
Remember when the priests were cleaning the temple in Josiah's day and they found the Scriptures? The Scripture says, "Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes" (2 Kings 22:11).
Do you remember when the priests took those Scriptures and began to read them in the presence of the king? You can find the entire story in 2 Kings 22 and 23. Suddenly the king realized for the first time what the standard had been all along and that God is not mocked. Whatever a people sow, they will reap. The king was no longer ignorant of what that would look like, because now the covenant was being read as to what God would do if the people followed and practiced what God said. Then in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 23, the covenant listed all God asked them to do. The first part of the covenant was very positive.
The negative side of the covenant began with Deuteronomy 28:15. God said that if they did not follow what He told them, He would reverse all their blessings as a covenant people of God—chosen, encountered, instructed, and separated by Him. God then preserved in Deuteronomy 28:15–68 the awful things that would happen to a people of God if they refused to follow Him. Verse fifteen is the powerful beginning of those words:
But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you. Deuteronomy 28:15
When Josiah heard that he trembled. The Spirit of God that was upon him to function as king caused his heart to be pierced. He immediately began to weep and tear his clothes. He put on sackcloth and ashes and called for the people to repent. Josiah took seriously that what God said, He meant. He knew there were no favorites and no exceptions. He realized they were standing on the utter edge of destruction.
The problem was they had set the Scriptures over in a place where they were no longer being noticed. They were covered with debris. All the time the Scriptures were being ignored, the judgment was progressing. They were closer to God's judgment because they had lost their standard. They had lost any standard for behavior. So they would sit and discuss what they thought was acceptable to God. But it did not matter what they thought, it was what God had said that was important. Everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes, moving steadfastly toward the utter judgment of God. Judgment was coming as sure as God was there. Josiah wisely understood it. He immediately adjusted his life to God. The king called all the spiritual leaders together quickly to bring the people together and corporately repent (2 Kings 22:11–23:3).
God listened to Josiah's heart and sent word to him:
"Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you," says the Lord. "Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place." 2 Kings 22:19–20
What happens when you come up against the Word of God? Do you tremble when God speaks? Isaiah 66:2 says, "But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word." When was the last time you were confronted by God in His Word and literally shook like a leaf?
Fear of God/Fear of Sin
I made a phone call recently to a significant leader of an organization, who told me, "Henry, I am so grateful that you called. You have no idea the importance of this phone call." I had made a covenant with him to call him on a regular basis because his position of leadership was very influential. When I asked him what was happening in his life, he said, "Never in my life have I ever been so utterly terrified. For God's reasons alone God began to deal with sin in my life. God has brought up things that I have not thought about for years and years. He has brought up things from my youth that I have never dealt with in my life—things that have affected my marriage and my assignment. God was relentless for three weeks bringing to mind what He sees as sin and how serious it is with Him. I came to the place a few days ago where I cried out to God and asked why God was doing this to me. God said to me, 'Because you have lost the fear of Me I am doing this.'"
When you do not fear God, you will not fear sin. There is a direct relationship between a high view of God and a high view of sin. A low view of God brings a low view of sin. When there is no fear of God, there is no fear of sin. It is amazing to me the number of people who can sin grievously against the Word of God. In the Old Testament, they would have been put to death for many things people do today. In the New Testament, God says it is far more serious than it was in the Old Testament. It amazes me how so many people somehow believe that as long as they do not feel that something is bad, that it is not bad—as long as they can feel okay about it, they can continue to do it. As long as God does not deal with them immediately, it must be okay. We are moving closer to an absolute confrontation with a God who makes no exceptions.
This man I had called said, "Henry, I want you to know that only in the last three weeks has God put on my heart an understanding of why we do not see revival. We do not see the hand of God moving on the people of God because we have lost the fear of God."
Later, I was in another state talking with a large group of people. Some people came up to talk with me after the meeting, and they told me what was happening in their church. They said that the church had taken a vote for a building program. The constitution of the church stated they must have a 75 percent vote to proceed. They had a 72 percent vote. They said the pastor had thrown a fit and began to berate them. He took 100 of the people and moved less than a mile down the street and was looking for a building to start another church.
When I heard that, I began to tremble. The Scripture shows that you cannot touch the body of Christ without God dealing with you severely (Acts 5:1–5).
I have listened to story after story of people who have been through church splits all over this nation. The people involved do not have a fear of God at all! They tend to comment that at least they started another church. They did not start a church—they started a religious club! God did not have anything to do with the split. The Spirit of God is never involved in a church split. Never! He is the author of unity. God's people can explain it away all they want so that they feel good about it. But when you have a church split, you cancel your right to preach the gospel of reconciliation. That church just demonstrated that the God who reconciles to Himself cannot reconcile this group of His own. What message does that give to the world? The tragedy is that there is no fear of God.
I discovered from my thirty years of pastoring that God does His work of judgment on the children. That next generation usually has nothing to do with the people of God. They marry into godless homes, they divorce, their grandchildren are hurting, and everything falls apart. Some say God did not judge them. You do not understand—He just did! God said the hearts of your children will be turned away from Him—they will not follow in His ways.
Marilynn and I have prayed from the moment our first child was born, Oh, God, keep us holy, for the sake of our children. Keep us walking with You. Keep us a part of the building of the people of God so that our children will want to serve You also.
My heart cry is for me and the people of God around me to come back to God's Word and let Him tell us what the standard really is.
Returning to God
The term revive means "to return the life to." Lost people cannot be revived because they never had life in the first place. They first have to be saved—awakened to their lost condition. Revival is exclusively what God does to His people. When the life of God has gone from the people of God and we are content to live without the manifest presence of God—content week after week without any evidence of the presence and power of God—then we need to be revived. We need for the life of God to come back to us.
I want to give you a word picture of what it is like when the presence of God falls on His people. Have you ever been in the midst of anything like this, or is this what you have imagined from the Scripture that revival would be like?
"Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the Lord of hosts.
"But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire And like launderers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.
"Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the Lord, As in the days of old, As in former years. And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me," Says the Lord of hosts.
I was aware of a situation not long ago in which it was discovered that a pastor had rented motel rooms for a particular woman. Nobody had known about it! But it really was not true that no one knew. God was there when the pastor signed his name! When God deals with him, He will come as a witness against him. That should cause us to tremble! Things we have long hidden from the eyes of others were not done in secret from God. In revival, God shows up as a witness against us.
If you lose the fear of God, there is nothing to restrain you. Many do not believe God sees them and do not believe He is aware of the condition of their hearts. They think that if He sees them and does not stop them, that it is okay. But He does see you and may not stop you, and it is not okay. If the Word of God says it is sin, then it is sin.
"For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," Says the Lord of hosts. "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?'"
Malachi 3:6–7 NKJV
When we hear a message that calls us to return to the Lord, God's people consistently say, Well, wherein do I need to return? I am a Christian. I have been born again. I was baptized. I am a leader in the church. I am going to heaven when I die. What do you mean, "return to God"?
If there is any area where God's people are disoriented, it is in this matter of repentance. If we were to talk in very serious terms about repentance, many would bow their heads and pray, Oh, God, if there is any lost person here, I pray that they will hear this word and repent. But God is shouting at His people saying, It is not the lost who need to repent—it is God's people who need to repent! We are the ones who have moved away from the Lord.
So with a compassionate heart, a deeply concerned heart, God came and told the prophet Malachi to say to His people that the God whom they had been seeking would suddenly come to His temple (Mal. 3:1). When He comes in our day, no one will be able to speak except God. When God is through speaking, you will know how He sees what you have done.
Chapter TwoLooking at Sin from God's Perspective
God is calling His people to return to Him and be a highway of holiness over which He can come to the lost world. But before we can become a highway of holiness, we must understand the issues of sin. In order to understand sin, we must see our sin from God's perspective. We must build our relationship with God in such a way that our lives can be a highway over which God reaches the rest of our nation in a great revival among God's people, and in a sweeping spiritual awakening in the hearts and lives of those who do not know Him.
Excerpted from Holiness by Henry Blackaby Copyright © 2003 by Henry Blackaby. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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