A former president once said that America must have a spiritual revival. In our Crusades we see touches of genuine revival when thousands turn their lives to full-time Christian service and thousands of others make decisions for Christ. We praise God for His wonderful works.
However, I am becoming more and more convinced that we are never going to see revival across America until Christians meet certain scriptural conditions for revival. The great crowds that gather, the wonderful cooperation of churches, the unprecedented open doors for ministry–all are evidences that God is moving. But the sweeping revival that many Christians have prayed and longed for has not yet come, though there are evidences that it may be on the way.
As God looks down from heaven and sees present-day Christianity in America, He must be grieved. Thousands of Christians have left their first love; others are neither hot nor cold. As God said to the church at Laodicea, He would say to the church of America today, “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
The church in America is well organized. There seems to be no limit to funds. Church buildings are going up on every hand. We seem to have need of nothing, and yet I hear those same words burning and piercing our souls, “You … do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” The time has come to call for repentance among Christians.
The Scripture teaches that there are three kinds of people. First, there is the natural man or woman. The Bible says, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The Bible teaches us that every person born into the world is born in sin and is by nature a child of wrath. We are all separated from God and in ourselves are utterly helpless, even though this natural person often puts up a religious front and endeavors by his or her own effort to please God. Natural men or women may pray and go to church. They may be religious, but often their religion is a religion of works–of living a “good life,” of doing their best.
The Bible distinctly teaches that none of us can improve our fallen nature. We cannot, by ourselves and in ourselves and of ourselves, please God. No amount of prayer, no amount of good acts, can cause us to be acceptable in the sight of God. The natural person may be learned, able, cultured, refined and–so far as natural gifts are developed–a magnificent specimen of humanity. But the natural person, according to the Word of God, is utterly incapable of either knowing or understanding the things of God. There is only one thing natural men and women can do: repent of their sins and turn by faith to Jesus Christ.
Second, there is a group called carnal Christians. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:1, “I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.” Carnal Christians are people who continually grieve the Holy Spirit by their temper, touchiness, irritability, prayerlessness or love of self. These are signs of carnality, of spiritual babyhood. These people are living a worldly life.
Third, there are spiritual Christians. The person who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Scripture indicates, understands spiritual truth. Spiritual men or women may not have a college education, yet they may know more about God than an unregenerate professor or an unsanctified, unconsecrated theological leader. To the spiritual Christian, a whole realm of spiritual knowledge is opened up, of which the world knows nothing and the worldly Christian can only faintly imagine.
The question before us is this: How can the carnal Christian become a spiritual Christian?
There was a time, perhaps, when you were a spiritual Christian. You still had your first love; a fire burned in your heart for God. But something has happened along the way, something has disturbed your relationship with God, and you no longer know the joy, the peace and the thrill that you once knew. You do not take time to read your Bible. Your prayer times are few. Your interest in spiritual things has waned, and yet there is a great hungering after God, an aching in your soul for the joy and victory that you have seen in the lives of others. You want that joy in your soul, that thrill in your heart. You want to know the power of prayer again.
The Bible teaches that you can have glorious, daily victory. Scripture says, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Paul wrote in Romans 7:24-25, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And then he answered his own question, “I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25).
In Romans 8:2 we read, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
From the divine viewpoint, defeated Christians are abnormal. They are paralyzed members of the Body of Christ. Backsliding and carnality are not only inexcusable, they are incompatible with the normal Christian experience. They produce a regime of contradiction. Since the living Christ dwells within every one of us who has accepted Him as Savior, there is never any reason for defeat. No enemy is too powerful for Christ! Every temptation may be resisted!
If you as a Christian are overcome by the enemy, the simple explanation is that Christ has been denied His rightful position of supremacy in your heart. The dethronement of Christ will always lead to failure in spiritual warfare. It is Christ, and Christ alone, who can give you a constant, daily, victorious life.
However, the Bible teaches that every Christian has three enemies. The first enemy that we have to contend with is the world. Now “the world” means this present evil world, the great system of evil round about us. It is everything around us that has a tendency to lead us into sin. It may mean the evil people of the world, or it may mean the things of the world.
Certain elements of daily life are not sinful in themselves, but they can lead to sin if they are abused. Abuse literally means “extreme use,” and in many instances, overuse of lawful things becomes sin. Thinking about the necessities of life and taking care of one’s family is essential. But this can degenerate into anxiety, and then, as Christ reminded us, the cares of this life choke the spiritual seed in the heart (Mark 4:19). Making money is necessary for daily living. But money-making is apt to degenerate into money-loving, and then the deceitfulness of riches enters and spoils our spiritual life. The Bible admonishes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).
The second enemy of the Christian is the flesh. Paul said, “I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18). The Bible teaches that the flesh is fallen human nature. It is the corrupt principle of sin, the carnal nature that natural men and women have inherited from their fallen parents. It is the birthplace of all those ugly sins that so easily mar the Christian’s joy and hinder his or her testimony. The sins of temper, irritability, moodiness, jealousy, pride, selfishness, an unforgiving spirit, anxiety and fretfulness, harshness, complaining, criticism, lust–all of these things characterize the flesh.
The third enemy of the Christian is the devil, referred to by Paul as “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). The Bible teaches that the devil is a real person. His objective is to defeat the will of God in the world, the church and the Christian. He is the unceasing enemy of the soul. He must be met and overcome. Thank God, through the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross, this mighty enemy has been fully and finally vanquished. One day the whole world will see the full consummation of Christ’s triumph. Meanwhile, Satan is busy in the world, sometimes appearing as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and other times as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
These, then, are our three foes: the world, the flesh and the devil. The attitude of the Christian to all three of them is summed up in one word: renounce. There must be no bargaining, no compromise, no hesitation. Absolute renunciation is the only possible way for the Christian to have victory in life. If you are a Christian, there is no excuse for not having daily victory in your life by renouncing sin and, by faith, letting the Spirit of God have control of your life.
And if you are still a “natural” man or woman–if you have never known the joy and peace that Jesus gives–you can be forgiven if you will turn from your sin and by faith accept Christ as Lord and Savior. You can know the peace with God that only Christ can bring. Why not turn to Him right now?