The Need for Revival (3)
Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When God brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad. Psalm 53.6
People are created for seeking God. Paul says this is the reason God separated humankind into nations, with borders, polities, cultures, and social systems of many kinds (Acts 17.26, 27). It is built into the human soul to aspire beyond the confines of body, time, and space, and to connect with Him in Whose image we have all been created.
As if to emphasize the importance of this as the fulfillment of our humanity, Scripture repeatedly commands people to seek the Lord (cf. Deut. 4.29; 1 Chron. 16.10, 11; 22.19; 2 Chron. 14.4; 15.12; Ps. 105.3; etc.). The problem with people who are in rebellion against God, and who prefer the lie to Him and His truth, is that their seeking mechanisms have all been compromised. Their minds are beclouded in the darkness of unbelief, and their hearts are hardened against the true and proper goal of all seeking. Under such circumstances, people don’t stop seeking, they simply turn to other things and pursue them, in the vain belief that idols of their own imagining will bring the peace and joy in their souls which only God can provide (cf. Rom. 1.18ff.).
Given that, as our psalmist confirms (cf. also Rom. 3.11), people in the unbelieving world are not seeking the Lord, it begs the question as to why churches have gone to such extraordinary lengths over the past generation to attract a category of people who, apparently, don’t exist? Why have we jettisoned so much our traditions and heritage – of singing, confessing our faith, worship, disciple-making, and so forth – in the vain belief that by accommodating to the spirit of the age, “seekers” will find their way to us and be saved? God says, “There are none who seek Me; all have turned aside.” But we say, “We don’t think so. We think seekers are out there, and we’re going to do everything we can think of to draw them to our churches.”
Doesn’t that seem a little hubristic?
And what about us? Jesus commands us to seek the Kingdom and righteousness of God as the defining priority and all-pervading motif of our lives (Matt. 6.33). But do we even know what that entails? Do we believe that we have received the Kingdom, and that we are called to work in its power to see it come in greater fullness on earth, as it is in heaven (Dan. 7.18; 1 Cor. 4.20; Matt. 6.10)? Are we seeking Christ and His Kingdom, that we might be entirely consumed as living sacrifices for Him (Rom. 12.1, 2)? Or do we go to our churches because we’re seeking Jesus to do something for us?
The Church captive
In Psalm 53, David envisioned the people of God captive to the rebellious, lie-filled world. The salvation that God had invested in His people was bottled up within them, as they hunkered down behind the walls of their city, hoping not to be overwhelmed by the rising tide of lies and rebellion all around.
This is an apt way of thinking about the state of the Church in our day. Many observers insist that the Church has fallen captive to the spirit of the naturalism and narcissism of our day, that we have become ensnared in the tar babies of materialism and entertainment, and that we have exchanged our birthright as sons and daughters of the living God in the belief that we can have Christ and all this world’s goods and fun as well. That stuff about dying to yourself and taking up your cross? That’s not for us; or, if it is for us, we can define it so that it sounds like a great, non-risky adventure of fun and feeling good.
We don’t realize that the unbelieving world, to employ a contemporary colloquialism, is having our lunch – eating us like bread, as David put it (v. 4). The unbelieving world is content, for now, to have us pursue our faith as a private matter, keeping our commitments to the Lord within the parameters of space and time defined by our participation in church. But let us seem like we intend to bring Jesus and His rule into the culture, the workplace, or the schools, and the howls of protest rise like ravenous wolves, backing most of us down to the relative comfort of the four walls of our church. Or let us talk about Him freely, confidently, continuously in any place other than our Bible study group, and they will call out trigger warnings, accuse us of hate crimes, invoke the separation of church and state, and otherwise not so politely tell us to shut up.
And we seem all too ready to comply with their demands.
We have become captive to the culture and its agenda, and the way we practice our faith is being shaped more by the temper of the times than the teaching of God’s Word. We may not like being told that we have become a Church captive, but it is what we need to hear above all. David spoke these words to the people of God in his day, and he left them for us – twice in the book of psalms (Ps. 14) – to urge us to be on guard against such a condition befalling us as well.
And the only way out of this is by recovering our calling as seekers of the Lord.
Praying Psalm 53 for revival
Psalm 53 insists that our adjustments, accommodations, gimmicks, projects, and programs aimed at attracting “seekers”, are a waste of time. The unbelieving world wants only to devour us, not to join us. As we shall see in Psalms 74 and 79, the ways of the world have so leached the Church of its unique vitality, that what we are and how we practice our faith today would hardly be recognizable to previous generations of the faithful.
Let Psalm 53 reveal our true condition and our true need: We are a people captive to the world, and we need God to bring us out of this captivity, to fill us with the joy and gladness that can only be found in Him, and to revive and renew us, so that “the salvation of Israel” would come roaring forth from our churches once again, in words of truth and deeds of sacrificial love.
Pray this psalm in an attitude of self-examination, asking the Lord to show you any ways you have become captive to the world. Pray for your church, and all the churches in your community, that God might bring His Spirit of conviction and repentance to the entire Body of Christ, and that He might quicken His saving power within us again, and give us His Spirit in power to make us true and courageous witnesses for Jesus Christ (Acts 1.8).
The salvation of God will only come roaring out of His Church again when His people have been delivered from their captivity. Our programs and projects won’t make this happen. Only God can free us and revive us, and we must seek Him according to His Word, so great is our need for revival today.
1. Why do we keep insisting that the world is chock full of seekers, when God says none are seeking Him?
2. Why did Jesus insist that seeking His Kingdom and righteousness must be our defining priority and all-pervading motif in life?
3. Do you agree that the Church today is captive to the spirit of the times, rather than the Spirit of Christ? Explain.
Next steps – Transformation: Spend the next few days praying Psalm 53 at various times during the day.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.