The Future of America--A Call to Revival, Part 1
The Decline of Culture
We live in a time of the decline of culture. It is a decline of such magnitude, that the only answer to the problems of our world is a vast, spiritual revival. The problem is not simply that individual people are becoming wandering, leaderless, irreverent, and uncommitted. It goes much deeper than that. The very nations of the world themselves are committed to godless policies and Christless activities. Murder, rape, pillage, and various other forms of utter dishonesty, are practiced in the name of government today. The only hope for a culture which finds itself in the midst of circumstances such as these, is spiritual revival.
Nations Rise and Fall
Let’s remind ourselves, as we think about the need for spiritual revival, that nations do rise and they do fall. I was thinking recently of the history of our world in terms of great nations that once were, and now amount to very little.
There was the nation of Babylon, of which the Prophet Daniel spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, and said, “You are this head of gold” (Daniel 2:38). Where is Babylon today? It is buried beneath the sands of Iraq. There was the Media-Persian culture, which was the culture that conquered Babylon. Where is it now? Gone. There was the Grecian-Macedonian empire, which grew under Alexander the Great. What has happened to that? Very quickly, it dissipated, and came apart.
There was the Roman culture. Rome ran the world, once upon a time. But all of those who write about ancient Rome, talk about how decadence and gross immorality entered at the highest levels. Raving homosexuals ran the country, until Rome was nibbled to death and finally conquered by the barbarians who surrounded it.
We ought not to read history as a static thing. Consider what God said concerning the Old Testament: “Now these things were our examples” (1 Corinthians 10:6). We are to search history for examples, by which to govern our lives today. Look at modern times. The Holy Roman Empire is gone. The Turks once ran the entire Middle East. What happened to France since Napoleon? And what about Spain? Spain was once a most significant nation. Now it is nearly irrelevant. Britain, that empire which used to go around the world, is virtually gone. Japan has severe problems. And even the United States of America should be looked upon with great concern by decent, culturally oriented people. America is in a state of decline. This matter of national decline is not going to be solved by clever economic theories and the rest of it. There must be a new heart, a new spiritual content, a new sense of purpose built into the life of our nation. We m! ust have spiritual revival.
We are reminded by many that America was born out of spiritual concern. The first settlers came here because they wanted individual freedom to worship God, to believe in Christ, and to be a witness for Him. That was to be guaranteed.
“Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).
The Prophet Isaiah tells us that the decline of a nation has something to do wi th wickedness and unrighteousness. It is not just the lack of military prowess. It is not just the lack of good plans for the culturenew streets, and homes, and palaces, and the rest of it. It is not a mechanical thing.
The basis of life is moral. If something comes apart morally, it is not going to be put together again, apart from a resuscitation of its moral content. That kind of rebirth can only come through spiritual revival. Therefore, we need to cry with the prophet, “revive Your work in the midst of the years” (Habakkuk 3:2). Unless we have spiritual revival, we will find ourselves in a more desperate condition tomorrow than we are in today. It will continue that way until, finally, it all comes apart.
The writers of the Bible extended a call to be right with God. They warned, “By lack of commitment to the God who made the world, and who keeps things together, you are risking the death of your nation.” They didn’t say that things would be merely inconvenient in days to come. They said, “Every one of you will die, and your nation will become a desert, unless there is a real return to God.”
No nation, however it excuses itself for what it does, can survive without God. This oncoming judgment is easy to demonstrate. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). What is it that keeps sin from taking over the world, pervading society, and destroying everything? Well, God has said: “He who now restrains will continue to restrain until He be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
There are four things that hinder the rise of evil. One is individual responsibility. You as an individual are supposed to do right until the stars fall. Secondly is marriage, ordained of God, not only for the propagation of the race, but also to maintain civil authority within society. When marriage goes by the board, this is a sign of Divine judgment. When marriage goes, it’s very difficult for anything else to hold together. Third is the family, also ordained of God. Mother, father, and children are given a perfect description in the Bible of how they are supposed to relate to one another, and what they are supposed to do. The fourth quality that keeps sin from taking over the world is civil authority. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). The ruler is to be God’s minister (Romans 13:4).
What is happening to these qualities that God has instituted to keep society together? What about individual responsibility? In fact, we are teaching people with the theory of evolution to say, “I am just an animal, like the animals of the field. So what I do is just the product of natural selection, rather than my own individual, responsible choice.” Let me tell you something: the loss of individual responsibility could by itself cause the ruin of society. Never say, “I am not responsible.” You are responsible.
What’s happening to the family? Well, young people don’t relate to their parents any more. In fact, it is commonly agreed by sociologists, that the average adult couple is afraid of their children, because their children rule over them. Isaiah Chapter 3 tells us that one of the signs of the dissolution of a culture is that children and women rule (Isaiah 3:12).
Then, what about civil authority? The loss of prestige by the government is not just a sociological phenomenon. It has a very real impact. It means that pretty soon, lawless streets will become the order of the day. What other possible result could there be, when our culture decays to the point that it cannot enforce any kind of decency upon people? When government and its responsibility goes by the boards, then you have nothing by way of good sinews with which to hold society together.
So, when the things that God has ordained for the preservation of society begin to disappear, it is a sign of oncoming judgment. It may be done away with immediately simply by an invading army that comes in and takes it over. You and I have seen too many tragic illustrations in our time of a weak nation overwhelmed by a slightly more powerful one, with millions dying. Is that an illustration of the great wars soon to take place? Let me suggest that it is. We are moving into a time in which we are seeing signs of Divine judgment. In what direction shall we go?
A Call to Repentance
In answer to that question, we have a word that appears again and again in Holy Scripture. In the Old Testament, the prophets announced to the people of Israel, “Repent, and you will be right with God once again.” When Jesus stepped onto the scene, during the days of His earthly ministry, He announced to Israel: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The Apostle Paul said that he preached “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). So, may we suggest that the key to revival is for each one of us to respond affirmatively to a call to repentance. We need to have a new day, in which expositors of the Word of God stand in pulpits, and say, “You are wrong, because you have a false idea of God, of Christ, of the way of salvation. You need to repent.”
Think about that word “repentance” for just a moment. The word used in Scripture is “metanoia.” “Meta” is a “change”; “noia” means “the mind.” So “metanoia” in its original sense means “a change of mind.” “You need to change your mind about reality” is what the Bible says to a wicked and adulterous generation. But the warning I would like to lift is, that when many people talk about repentance, they mean a great emotional thing. They mean people who are sorry about the past, and feel bad about it. They mean people who will turn their lives into another direction.
These things do have their place under certain circumstances, but that’s not what repentance means! A lot of people have cried about things, but they have not changed their minds. A lot of people have said, “I’m going to do differently,” but the mind is still the same.
I would like to call for a more profound kind of repentance than is popularly understood by the use of this word. It doesn’t mean to pay back, or to do penance, which is what the English word means. It means, “you must have a fundamental change of mind concerning what life is all about.” When Paul said, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21), he put it well.
Who is God? God is that holy and absolutely impeccable Individual who presides above the universe. He’s the One whose holiness must not be offended. We should fear the Lord, the Bible says, and that word “fear” means “fear.” We should be terribly afraid of what God in His perfect holiness might do, if we persist in living lives of offense towards Him. When one changes his mind about God, he realizes that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that He has sent His Son, so that we, by faith in Him, might have everlasting life.
When we change our mind about God, we should also repent, that is, change our mind, about ourselves. When a person has sinned, he is in a state of being out of fellowship with God. He is living a life that is an offense to his Heavenly Father. If he doesn’t change his mind about this, he will go on in sin. A person needs to repent about what he is, and what he has been. With a change of mind, coupled with forgiveness from God, he can move on in stately victory from there.
National repentance is also called for in Scripture. God spoke to Israel and said, “Repent. Change your mind. Come back to the place where you used to live and walk with God. Your mind has given you over to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, the worship of pagan idols, and adultery. You’ve got to change how you understand life, or there is no hope for you.” God said that to the nation of Israel, but He said it to the other nations of the world as well. Quite a number of times in the Old Testament, He addressed all the nations. Every nation in the world, not just Israel, is under an obligation to do the will of the God who stands behind it all. The fact is, that in our present world, most of the nations of the world have given themselves over to the worship of some false religion, some pagan god, some invented deity that doesn’t even exist.
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