Well, good evening to you all. It's a privilege once again to be with you here in Lurgan. Thank you to your pastor for inviting me this Tuesday night, it's a delight to be here. I must begin by a half apology - if there is such a thing - the reason for it is that I'm not speaking on the subject that was announced, if it was announced. If it wasn't, well, then we don't need to worry about it! I retract the half apology! The reason why it's a half apology is that I believe the Lord has redirected me due to the circumstances that have taken place over the weekend and in your own Craigavon area last night. I felt last evening at about half twelve, one o'clock, that I just couldn't preach on what had been already arranged. More so this morning when I woke, and even lying in bed I felt the Lord impressing upon me to bring something else to you. So I believe I have the message of the Lord tonight.
I want you to turn to two texts, the first is a very well-known one - 2 Chronicles chapter 7 and verse 14 please. Second Chronicles chapter 7 and verse 14, and if you care to turn to the second, it's found in Romans chapter 13 and verse 12. So 2 Chronicles 7:14, and Romans 13 verse 12, and the title that I'm taking for what is not a Bible study really but an exhortation, is 'A Call To Arms'. Verse 14 then of 2 Chronicles 7 - now this is God speaking, of course it's all God's word, the Bible, we know that - but these are the very spoken words of God recorded: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land". Now, I know there can be great dispensational confusion concerning a verse like this, but I feel at times that we relegate this verse to insignificance as New Testament believers because of that, wrongly so.
Turning then, please, to Romans chapter 13 verse 12 - if you didn't understand what I just said there a moment or two ago, don't worry, it doesn't matter too much. You're probably better not knowing anyway! Romans 13 verse 12: "The night is far spent", or almost gone, "the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light".
Let us pray: Father, we are here tonight around Your word, and we do give You thanks for Your holy word. Lord, we are conscious that we have, at least some of us I'm sure, a desire deep within our souls to do more than study the word. We long, O Almighty Living God, to meet with You. We long for a divine encounter, we long to know that God is here, and that we are meeting - we feel like the Psalmist who said: 'As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after Thee, O God. When shall I come and appear before the Living God?'. Lord, we want to appear before the Living God, we want to meet with You. Lord, we know that every day, if we read our Bibles - sometimes we can read our Bibles, say our prayers, and we can miss God - Lord, we don't want that to happen in this place tonight. We want to go out of this place with more than a mere increased intellectual knowledge of the Bible. O God, we want to go out different, changed, transformed, renewed, revived! So Lord, let us not waste our time, nor Yours. We pray for the enablement of the Holy Spirit of the Living God. O, we pray for an outpouring of the same Spirit upon us as a gathering of Your people, those You have called by Your name. So Lord, hear us and meet us in our need in this hour, for Christ's sake, Amen.
On Saturday night, two soldiers murdered. Last evening here in Craigavon, a police officer murdered. I'm sure, like myself, you have been following the progress of the reporting on these two tragic incidents. We have had, all day and all weekend, political reaction, we've had military reaction, religious reaction, and police reaction - but the question that is burning upon my heart tonight is: what is the reaction of the Christian? What should be the reaction of the child of God? I do hope that we haven't, in some way, just said: 'Oh, here, it's all happening again', and stick our head in the sand and hope that it will go away. I hope that we are human enough, with hearts of flesh enough, to be able to interact; and to ask ourselves the question: what have we to say? What can we do in the light of the seeming resurgence of violence which we have known for so long in our province? After all, the Lord Jesus Christ, did He not call us salt? Salt is meant to make a difference, it's meant to preserve raw meat, and we are meant to have a preserving influence on society. Salt makes you thirsty, you want a drink when you've ate something salty - and we are meant to make people thirst after God, after the Lord Jesus Christ. We're meant to be light in a dark place, a light set on a hill so that we stand out as different, shining forth in such a dark world.
So, what ought our reaction to be? Well, can I be personal? My immediate reaction last night, personally speaking, when I heard this latest news of this murder of a police officer, was twofold. First of all I had a deep sense that I, and we as God's people, must urgently seek God for revival. Now, I don't know whether any of you experienced that or not - but almost simultaneously to that thought, I was struck with a sense of my own sinfulness - I'll not go into the details of that, but I sin - and a great sense of my own unworthiness and impotence in this hour of need to be anything of any worth, or to make any difference. Now, I don't know whether you have ever felt those two things together. They're a strange mix, I know. But they are, I think, in microcosm where we are as the church of Jesus Christ. I think you would have to be spiritually deadened not to think or desire that we need a revival. You only need to look at the moral scene, the social, political, financial, religious, spiritual climate of our province, our island, our island nation, our continent to realise that, humanly speaking, if the church of Jesus Christ does not experience a spiritual revival, she is certainly on the way down, if not on the way out.
Now, revival history shows that genuine revival among God's people greatly affects a nation. So something happens among God's people, the church - and we ought to keep these definitions biblical, I feel - revival, you cannot revive something that wasn't already alive. The church of Jesus Christ is the only body that can be revived - but that often, and should always, have a knock-on effect to the community around, what we might call 'awakening', whereby unconverted friends, loved ones, neighbours and the community in general are ignited by this great flame of Holy Spirit fire going through the church. There is a community affect.
Edwin Orr, one of the greatest authorities on the history of revival, claims that the evangelical awakening in the 18th century - and two characters that you will know very well who were used by God in that were George Whitefield and John Wesley - Edwin Orr believes that great evangelical awakening saved Britain from the revolutionary experience that ravaged the continent of Europe at that particular time. Indeed, Wesley, the English evangelist, defeated Voltaire the French philosopher and deist. It was equally true that on the American continent, around the same period of time from approximately 1800 on, that revival spawned by God's Spirit in that nation saved the nation from the same godless French philosophy that had influenced, I believe, almost every intellectual college by the close of the 18th century.
Now, an example of how bad things were: at Princeton University a Dr Green said during this period of time that he knew of only two professing Christians among all the students of the University College. The College of William and Mary in Virginia was, and I'm quoting now, 'A hotbed of French politics and religion'. Almost certainly the period of revival that swept across America during that similar period of great awakening saved America from the tragedy of the worst elements of the French Revolution.
So revival saved the United Kingdom, revival saved the United States, but coming a little closer to home: in the 1920s here in Northern Ireland there was, politically and socially, a state of chaos. Fear and uncertainty filled the minds of the people, and the politicians - as is often the case - were at their wits end of what to do. Murder and mayhem seemed to rule Ulster, but it was the Christian church - small it may have been in the remnant that were exercised to go this way - they believed that, even amidst the hopeless darkness of the political and social scene, that there was hope in God. They sought God, and God sent a man - W.P. Nicholson. He was used to preach Christ and His cross, and thousands of people were ushered into the kingdom of Jesus Christ - and many believe that a civil war, a potential civil war in our land, was turned into a mighty spiritual revival!
Now God has done that! The great issue that faces us tonight, and in this present age as the church, is: do we believe that God can do it again? I'm not sure we do. Of course, this year, if you haven't already heard it, is the 150th anniversary of the 1859 revival. What you may not be aware of is that, as a result of that revival, there was a dramatic reduction in the crime rate in our province. The following statistics I'm going to give to you are from Dr William Gibson's history of the 1859 revival published, it's called 'The Year of Grace'. He indicates the impact and the effect that the revival had on public morals. I'm quoting now, he says: 'The number of prisoners for trial in the Quarter Sessions for County Antrim in October, 1859' - six months after the commencement of the revival - 'was exactly one half of that the previous year. At the Ballymena Quarter Sessions held in April, 1860' - after the revival had been in existence for over a year in that locality - 'there was not one single criminal case on the records' - that's staggering!
Indeed, a Coleraine magistrate declared, again I quote: 'When I look into the calendar for the last three months, I find but one new case - which is, in some respects, very unimportant - I am greatly struck at the appearance of this, so small is the number of cases. I formerly had calendars filled with charges for different nefarious practices - pocket picking and larcenies of various sorts - how is such a gratifying state of things accounted for?'. Now, listen to what he says: 'It must be from the improved state of morality of the people. I believe I am fully warranted now to say, that, to nothing else than the moral and religious movement, which commenced early last summer, can the changes be attributed'. Revival!
A prominent Roman Catholic magistrate in County Down affirmed that the wholesome moral results produced throughout the community were due to the religious movement, and expressed his wish - these are his words - 'that it would extend over the whole country, and influence society to its lowest depths'. That is what revival does! Isaiah could say: 'Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, and come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence'. He's picturing almost that the heavens are severed and riven, and it's as if God steps out of heaven and puts His divine footprint on earth!
Robert Murray M'Cheyne reported of Dundee in 1839 that the revival 'spread a sweet influence over the place'. Another could say when revival hit a vicinity that 'God was everywhere'. Now friends, I ask you this evening: is that not what we need? Is that not what you desire and long for? Now we must thank God tonight for the 1859 revival, but can I say to you sincerely from the depths of my heart: that a new revival in our province would be different, markedly different from the 1859 revival. Sometimes I fear that when we reminisce, whether it's 1859 or the 1920s that I mentioned with Nicholson, or in more recent years when we have known times of blessing, it is a mistake to expect God to repeat Himself. Indeed, I think it's wrong to want God to repeat Himself - God is not going to reverse time and put us into the past to revive us, He doesn't have to do that. It may well be that God, as He is wont to do, will do a new thing for a new generation.
I wonder have you considered that? You need to. Here is the reason why - and I need to as well - because revival often upsets some in the church, because it's new. In fact, I don't think there has ever been a revival in biblical history, nor church history, that has not been opposed - and often it is opposed by those who feel they are most biblically literate. We need to be sure that we do not fight against God, whatever God is doing at present, or whatever God will do - but one thing is certain, and I hope you agree with me, we need God to do something! Do we not? But if we want Him to do something, we also have to face the fact that there's something for us to do. Judgement must begin at the house of God, and therefore we are responsible to look into ourselves. Now, of course, there's an element of God's sovereignty in giving revival and breathing the breath of His Spirit upon us - but I'm a firm believer that we are meant to set our sails and wait for the breath of the Spirit. It is personal revival, individually, that any of us can have at any time at the foot of the cross, that will effect corporate revival, ultimately, in the future.
Now please don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I'm not saying this evening that the conditions of this world are the church's fault - that clearly cannot be the case. You look at Scripture, the church went through dastardly, diabolical persecutions in their freshest age in the Acts of the Apostles. It wasn't the church's fault that the Roman emperors were so pagan and godless, and hated Christianity so much. Equally, I'm not saying tonight that the problems we've known in our troubles in Ireland and Northern Ireland are the church's fault - but what I am saying, as I've said from my very introduction, is that we need to wake up to the fact as a church that we do have an influence! We should have an influence for good and for God! So I'm asking: what influence have we had in the past - let's leave it there, whatever conclusions we come to - but what influence do we have now?
I want to suggest to you that the events of the past weekend, and I do hope that you always look at things through spiritual glasses, is a wake-up call to the church. Some politicians have said we are staring into the abyss, we're on a knife edge, this is a watershed in Irish politics etc, etc. That could be blown out of proportion, and I don't want to do that tonight - but what I am saying is: are you concerned, believer? Do you have a prophet's heart? Do you know the prophet, he had a heart pulled in two directions: one was toward God, the other was toward the people - that's why he was so often in a dilemma. What I want to bring to you this evening is a call to arms, spiritual arms. You see, the word of God says that we are soldiers, spiritual soldiers.
Turn with me, please, to 1 Timothy 1 verse 18: 'This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare' - a spiritual soldier! Then chapter 6 of the same book, verse 12, Timothy is exhorted by Paul: 'Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses'. We are meant to be spiritual soldiers! Now, yes, we're not fighting for a victory - as it so often is said, and rightly so - we are fighting from the victory and in the victory, but we are fighting nonetheless! Does that reflect our experience as Christians? Are you in a fight, a spiritual fight now? We are meant to be spiritual soldiers, we are in - the New Testament says - a spiritual battle.
Turn with me to Ephesians 6, please, and verse 12: 'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood', this is not a physical battle, a national battle, it's not a political, nor a cultural, nor religious battle, 'but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places'. We are wrestling, or at least meant to be, with the demonic diabolical forces that are behind the scenes of all that we see on the political and historical stage. We are meant to be engaged in a spiritual battle and, as Peter said, therefore we are to 'Be sober, be vigilant; because our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour'.
Believer, are you a spiritual soldier in a spiritual battle? Come with me again, we are to use spiritual weapons - 2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 4. Paul says in parenthesis: '(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal', they are not fleshly, they are not physical, that's what that means, 'but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)'. Spiritual weapons are the weapons that we are to wield as spiritual soldiers in spiritual battles. Now, I know what I'm about to say is controversial, but I have to say it: our Lord Jesus Christ did not engage in politics. Now, I know He spoke to political issues, and we ought to as well from a Biblical standpoint, but He did clearly reiterate: 'My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from here'.
The disciples did not engage in politics. That's interesting, isn't it? Did they miss a trick? There was a political scene in their day. Paul the apostle didn't use politics either, he said his citizenship was a heavenly citizenship. Peter himself also said that he was a pilgrim and a stranger in this earth. None of the apostles nor the disciples put their tent pegs too deep in this earth. Now, of course, I know the New Testament teaches that we are responsible to obey the government, and we have a right to use the judicial process, as Paul the apostle even did himself. But the Bible does not say that the answer to this society's problems is in becoming part of the system and fighting the same way as everyone else fights! No, no, no.
We are not to own this system that the Bible calls 'the world', which John says 'lies in the lap of the wicked one'. So politics, whilst it might have measured success for a period, and democracy might be the best of a bad bunch as far as human beings are concerned, politics will always only be a Band-Aid covering a cancer. Politics does not get to the core of the problem, the only thing that can get to the core of man's problems anywhere is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is the power of God unto salvation - to the Jew and to the Greek.
So, the weapons of our warfare are not political, but they are spiritual. We are exhorted by our Lord to seek first the kingdom of God. Spiritual soldiers, in a spiritual battle, with spiritual weapons - but come with me to Ephesians 6 please, because God has given to us a spiritual armour. Now I'm not going to read this whole passage, but verse 10 is very important: 'Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might' - our strength comes from the Lord, this armoury comes from the Lord. There's that verse 12 that we read, what we wrestle against, and in verse 11 we are exhorted to: 'Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles', that word means 'schemes' or 'trickery', 'of the evil one'.
Now, from these pieces of armour, we can glean quite important information. You see that we are exhorted in verse 17 to put on a helmet of salvation. Now right away God's word is telling us that the battle we are engaged in is a battle for the mind, that is the field on which the devil wants to gain a victory - and if he can gain a victory in our minds, he will get the whole man. So we are to put on what we are in Christ on our heads, the helmet of salvation. We're also told to put on a breastplate of righteousness, verse 14. If the helmet is to protect in the battle for the mind, the breastplate is the battle for the heart, to keep the fiery darts away from the internal organs - the seat of man's affections. We so often can be mentally attacked by the devil, and emotionally - it often starts in the mind and then travels down to the emotions, and it's not long before it actually manifests itself, then, in the will. It affects what we do, what we say.
The helmet for the mind, a breastplate for the heart, and then there is a belt of truth. A belt of truth around the waist, verse 14 - girt about the waist. Now that belt is holding everything together, and it is truth. It is girding the whole man and the whole armour. There is not only a battle for the mind, a battle for the emotions, today there is a battle for the truth - truth that will possess men and women. Also we see that the Christian soldier is exhorted in verse 15 to put on his feet gospel shoes of peace, prepared to preach the Gospel and take the good news wherever God sends. So there's a battle for men's minds, for men's hearts, for the truth that will bind men, and there is a battle for the souls of men and women - are you in that battle, believer?
That is what the battle is for, but the other items of armour give us an indication as to how the battle is fought. It is fought by faith. We are told: 'Above all', verse 16, to take 'the shield of faith'. Now that could mean covering all the rest of the armour, but it seems to be also an indication of the importance: we must have faith in God. Without faith it is impossible to please God. We cited at the beginning of our meditation the fact that sometimes we don't believe that God can do this again! It is the shield of faith that will quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. Have faith in God.
It's not only a battle fought by faith, but it's a battle fought by the Bible - for we are to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. You can see it there in verse 17. Now please notice that in the original Greek rendering here, the word that is used for 'word of God' is not 'logos' from John 1 verse 1 and following, but it is the Greek word 'rema', which means 'the spoken word of God', 'the uttered word of God'. We are meant to be speaking, proclaiming, testifying God's word. Now we're not to do it arrogantly, as often we do. We shouldn't be doing it angrily, as sometimes it comes across - but nevertheless: have we backed into our corner, and shut our mouths? In the face of moral, liberal, theological, political persecution, we have silenced!
It's a battle that is fought by faith, fought by the Bible, and last but definitely not least: fought by prayer. Verse 18: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints'. Now please note that this is the seventh piece of armour - yes, it's a piece of armour. John Bunyan called it 'All-Prayer'. Number 7 being the number of completeness and perfection in the word of God - and what this is showing us is that we could go arrayed in all the panoply of God into the battle, but if we do not have prayer we are powerless! We're impotent! For prayer is the soldier's communication with HQ, prayer is what effectively brings God onto the battlefield!
That is why Paul exhorted Timothy in 1 Timothy 2 verses 1 and 2: 'I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority' - why? - 'that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty'. Believer, do these pieces of armour, do they reflect our lives presently? How we live? How we engage? How we exist as soldiers, spiritual soldiers of Christ, in a spiritual battle, using spiritual weapons, with spiritual armour on? I fear, and I'm speaking to my own heart, that I as a spiritual soldier I am not fully realising the power of prayer. Are you? A friend of mine, Trevor Knight, wrote - I suppose it's a poem in a way, but it doesn't rhyme - about prayer. It goes like this:
'Abraham prayed and Lot was spared;
Isaac prayed and Rebekah conceived;
Jacob prayed and Esau was pacified;
Job prayed and trials were ended;
Moses prayed and Amalek was defeated;
Joshua prayed and sin was found out;
Samson prayed and strength was regained;
Hannah prayed and Samuel was born;
David prayed and sin was cleansed;
Solomon prayed and wisdom was given;
Elijah prayed and fire descended;
He prayed again and showers fell;
Hezekiah prayed and invaders withdrew;
Jonah prayed and was given another chance;
Daniel prayed and lions were muzzled;
Nehemiah prayed and a king listened;
Peter prayed and was saved from drowning;
A publican prayed and went home justified;
A thief prayed and went to Paradise;
Paul prayed and sight was restored;
Stephen prayed and saw the Lord;
Cornelius prayed and was told what to do;
John prayed and gained a vision of the future'.
My friend continues going through all of church history, and it's too long to recite to you tonight, about men of God like Whitefield and Wesley and Luther, who prayed. He ends the whole poem with these words: 'More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of'. Yet people say: 'Well, it's a terrible situation at the moment in my life', or, 'in the province. Well, all we can do is pray' - no! Everything we can do is pray!
Have we given up on prayer? Och, I know you pray. Montgomery, I think it is, puts it: 'I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray?'. Romans 13 and verse 12 says we must dress for battle - you can turn to it if you wish. We turned to it at the beginning, 'The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light'. We must dress for battle, put on the Lord Jesus Christ - I believe if you study all the items in the armour of God, you will find out that each of them actually represents the word of God itself and, of course, the word of God is the manifestation of the incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus. We are to put Him on by faith!
To be a Christian soldier demands entire consecration. Second Timothy chapter 2 verse 4: 'No man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier'. Now, you know what happens: in times of prosperity, apparent peace, it's easy for the soldier to let his guard down, to go off the offensive, to even retract on the defensive. Now I'm talking of the spiritual battle now: 'Peace, peace', when there is no peace - there will never be peace for us down here on earth in the spiritual realm. Our rest is not yet, we have not reached our heavenly home. We can see it time without number in illustration for us in the Old Testament, that when Israel prospered - you know what happened, don't you? They forgot God! You only need to go to the period of the Judges when there was no king in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes. We see this cycle of the Judges period - the people when they were in their ease, wealth and economy was good, the crops were bumper, and they forgot God. God sent a chastisement upon them, and then they cried out to God and God sent a deliverer, and they delivered them. There was an apparent repentance, and then they went back to their sin when things got good again.
Ruth is a great illustration of that, the book, during that Judges period. A little family, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion - and they go to Moab, and they disobey God! What do you mean? They were told, we read it at the beginning of our meeting, 2 Chronicles 7:14 - 'If there's a famine in the land it's a sign of My displeasure, My chastisement. If my people, which are called by my name, humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I heal their land'. He didn't tell them to go and find another land! He told them to fall at His feet, and to cry out: 'Lord, what's wrong? What's happening?'. They were told to stay where they were, and ask: 'Lord, what are You saying?' - do you do that? 'Lord, what are You saying? Lord, what are You doing?'. You see, this was a wake-up call!
Are you living as a soldier? Or are you AWOL, 'Absent WithOut Leave'? There are plenty of wounded soldiers - they need a whole different ministry altogether, but it's there for them. I haven't got time to go into this, but there are wonderful promises of ultimate triumph over the wicked forces of darkness. Luke 10 and verse 19: 'Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you'. There are promises over the severest afflictions: 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us'. There is the assurance of victory over worldly attractions: 'For whosoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith'. There is ultimate victory promised over the satanic powers: 'They overcame him', Satan, 'by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony'. The victory is secure, it's promised!
How have you received the call to arms? Recently I think the whole world has been reminded of Martin Luther King Jr at the inauguration of President Obama. Of course he was charged as being an extremist in the civil rights movement. Irrespective of what you think about him, or what his beliefs were, or some of his actions, he said an awful lot of very true statements. When accused of being an extremist, this was his reply: 'Was not Jesus an extremist for love - 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you'. Was not Amos an extremist for justice - 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream'. Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel - 'I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus'. Was not Martin Luther an extremist - 'Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God'. And John Bunyan - 'I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience'. And Abraham Lincoln - 'This nation cannot survive half slave and half free''.
Listen to what he says: 'The question is not whether we will be extremists but what kind of extremist we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?'. Then he delivered a powerful call to the church which rings as true today as it did 40 years ago, and he said: 'There was a time when the church was very powerful - in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was', listen carefully, 'not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society'. Let me repeat that: 'The church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society'. 'But the judgment of God is upon the church', he said of his day, 'as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century'.
On 20 August 1963 King stood before the Lincoln Memorial and give his most memorable speech - you know it - he said: 'I have a dream that one day the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character'. Now listen, whether you agree with his politics or religious convictions, he had a great dream - did he not? Whether we agree with the ecumenical movement, and clearly we do not, their dream is sincere: they desire to unite a divided humanity - but the greatest tragedy of all is, they don't know how to do it! The greater tragedy is: we do! But are we doing it?
Go home and read Ephesians chapter 2 to see what God's dream is. Paul says it is: 'One new man', a new people of God free from enmity, united in Christ. Listen: that is the only answer for Ulster! It is the only answer for Ireland! It is the only answer for the world! But we all need to ask of ourselves:
'Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?'.
This is God's message: a call to spiritual arms, to spiritual soldiers, in a spiritual battle, with spiritual weapons, wearing spiritual armoury - with assured victory and triumph in Christ - and with the only answer this world needs and can get in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us pray.
Father, what can we say? We receive with our ears what You have said but, O, that all of us might embrace it with our hearts - whatever that means to each of us. Lord, help us not to ape the world socially, politically, even religiously - but help us to follow Your agenda. We remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He watched what the Father was doing, and He did it. Lord, help us to see what You are doing, help us to do Your will and not lean on our own understanding. But O God, we cry for a mighty revival here in our province; O God, that people would be united in Christ, not under the banner of denominations and religious systems, but under the name of Christ Jesus and Him crucified. O Father, this is what we need - some think it's romantic, some think it's idealistic - Lord, it is what You have shown us in Your word can be done: the Jew and the Greek, most vehemently opposed, were united in Christ! Lord, do it in our land, do it in this island, do something in our hearts - for, O God, we need it!
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Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Lurgan Baptist Church in Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording entitled "A Call To Arms" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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