November 2010

Revival – an Awe-filled Time

Theme: Revival
‘Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.’ Acts 2:43
I was about to preach my second sermon ever. I had prepared for days and yet, as I sat in the pew waiting for the singing to end, I felt very inadequate and nervous. The Elder in charge of the service announced that before the Word was preached there would be an opportunity for anyone to come to the front to receive ministry. An elderly couple approached the communion rail and slowly knelt. The man explained that his wife was rapidly going blind and could no longer read the songs from the chorus book, nor could she read it off the overhead projector. The Elder and his wife laid hands on her and suddenly she asked her husband for a song book and started reading aloud from it with great excitement. Everyone was filled with awe and joy and for a while the whole congregation was abuzz. The couple went back to their seats and the Elder announced that I would now preach. What was I supposed to do? The message I had so carefully prepared seemed irrelevant and flat in the light of what had just happened, so I did the only thing I could, I cried out silently but passionately to God, “Help me Lord! What am I to do?” Into my mind came the words from Isaiah 61 that the Lord Jesus quoted when he inaugurated his ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19). So I discarded my notes, opened my Bible to that passage and preached from it with all my heart.
This was an unusual Sunday for the elderly lady, the congregation, and for me. However, in times of revival this sort of thing is common. The Holy Spirit anoints the people of God with great power and manifests in and through them in miracles, healings, and words of knowledge and wisdom. In the days of the early church people were healed when Peter walked past them and Acts 5:16 records that ‘Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.’ ALL of them were healed! O how I long for the time when this becomes the reality of the church of our day. And it surely will if God sends us revival.
In the Azusa street revival people watched awestruck as a man who had lost a leg in a farming accident miraculously received a new leg! They watched it grow before their astonished eyes. Similarly, a man whose arm had been caught in a factory machine and ripped out at the armpit miraculously grew a new arm over a period of just a few minutes! In times of revival there is no leg-straightening sleight of hand and no people with sore legs being placed in wheelchairs so they can be raised out by the ‘man of God’ before a packed audience. No angel dust or shiny new golden tooth fillings. In times of revival there is no room for pseudo-spiritual hype, psych and trickery because all that is swept aside by the genuine and unmistakable power of the Holy Spirit.
The results of these mighty works of God are not uncontrolled laughter or drunken behaviour, but glory to God and people getting saved. And those who get saved during these revival times stay on fire for God for the rest of their lives. Come O Lord and visit us with revival… please!

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Revival – Devotion to the Fellowship

Theme: Revival

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Acts 2:42[/su_note]

Have you heard someone say, “I am a Christian, but for me faith is a private thing and I don’t need to go to church”? Or perhaps you have heard, “I used to go to church but all they wanted was my money, so I don’t go to church anymore”? I hate to ask this, but have you heard yourself saying something similar?
When the Holy Spirit regenerates the human spirit He not only saves them from a life of separation from God and his family, but into a life of relationship with God and the church. We are not meant to be spiritual lone rangers; we are supposed to be members of a living organism called The Church.
A characteristic of the church of Acts was their devotion to the fellowship. They were so committed to each other that they were prepared to sell some of their possessions and give the proceeds to the church leadership for distribution to members who had little. They also loved to be in each other’s company and regularly ate together in home-based groups.
Bible Manuscript

In times of revival devotion to the fellowship increases dramatically. There is a fresh awareness of how important life together as believers really is. There is vibrancy in the meetings and an expressed joy in being together. When disciples of Jesus meet during these times the subject on everyone’s lips is not rugby, stock prices, government corruption and crime, but Jesus and his Kingdom.

In my local church we have fifty per cent of our people in cell groups. This means that half of the people who regularly attend our Sunday services are also part of a small group that meets weekly. When I compare this statistic to other churches I sometimes feel a little smug – “Fifty per cent is pretty good!” I think to myself. But, of course, it isn’t really because half of the folk are not being properly pastored and they are not being adequately bonded into the church body. The first church met together every day, and in times of revival a similar phenomenon occurs. People are so enthusiastic about what God is doing among them that they don’t want to miss anything. In addition, they are so delighted at what God is doing in their fellow believers that they deeply desire to spend as much time possible with them.
So then, some pointed questions: Are you a devoted member of a local church? Do you actively seek out as much fellowship as you can with your fellow believers? Be encouraged – revival is coming, and this will change!
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Revival – Devotion to Communion with God

Theme: Revival

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Acts 2:42[/su_note]

I was brought up in a traditional Christian home. I attended Sunday school every week and once a month I accompanied my parents to take communion in the main sanctuary of the church building. The wooden pews were arranged facing the front of the building which was dominated by a large raised pulpit and an impressively solid rectangular communion table. Both of these were set apart from the people attending the service by a communion rail. The internal architecture sent out some strong messages. Message One: preaching is important; especially the robed man who ascended the pulpit stairs to reign above the congregation at least three meters above contradiction. Message Two: the ‘body and blood’ of the Lord Jesus is available on a sort of holy altar and may only be approached by the same robed gentleman. Message Three: “Stay at a distance, my child; your place is ‘that side’ of the communion rail.”

It is very sad that the means of grace that Jesus left with us to remember Him by has become, in so many churches, not so much a means of grace as a means of religious observance. The communion table that is supposed to remind us of the Last Supper looks like an altar of sacrifice and the man officiating looks more like a high priest than a loving pastor.
LA Times, 1906
Equally sad is how prayer has been denigrated from a means of communicating with God, to either a religious ritual or a supposed release of power. In many churches the minister says, “Let us pray” and then he, and he alone, proceeds to run through a formal litany of thanksgiving, intercession, and petition. When he is finished the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer with horrible speed and mindlessness. And how many times have we all heard the mantra ‘there is power in prayer’, as if praying releases some impersonal energy to our advantage. There is power in God, and when we speak to God, he hears us, and sometimes he responds with a release of Holy Spirit power – but there is no power in prayer itself!
The Lord’s Table, Eucharist, or whatever your denomination calls it, is meant to be a means of communing with God. Prayer is meant to be a means of communing with God. Through both means we speak to our Heavenly Father, we tell him how we feel about him and about our circumstances. We confess things to him and we share with him our hearts – we commune with him.

In times of revival prayer plays a major role. Before revival comes people start to pray, earnestly and regularly, asking God to come in power. During revival prayer often is the catalyst for bringing people to salvation. In the revivals in both China and India the services consisted mainly of corporate prayer and during those times people got healed and people got saved.
Now, of course, I have to end by asking some questions. What is your prayer life like – are you devoted to communion with God? Does prayer characterise your church? What role does it play in the gathered congregational life of your church?

I have to confess that in my church we are still failing in this regard but I am encouraged by the fact that more and more people are coming to the early morning prayer meetings. I am also encouraged, in a perverse sort of way, with how the Holy Spirit is chastising me in this area of my life.

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Revival – Devotion to The Word

Theme: Revival

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Acts 2:42
As a young boy I had to sit through Sunday sermons about morals, politics, fundraising and the like, but I can’t remember any about Jesus. As an adult I have also had to endure similar sermons. I remember one in particular where the preacher, a doctor of theology no less, opened his address with the words, “I have just finished reading a book on golf that contains many lessons for us as religious people.” Then followed the gospel according to Arnold Palmer! But in times of true revival there is none of this ‘Word-less’ trivia. Instead there is a return to, among other things, ‘Word-based’ preaching.
Is Jesus the central message from your pulpit?

Revival, in essence, is when God brings His church back to what she was at first. The Church of Acts chapter two was the first and archetypal church. The characteristics and dynamics of this church are therefore those we would expect to see in any genuine revival in church history or today.

The first Christians were a devoted people, constantly and diligently focused on three key issues. The first mentioned in the Acts account is, ‘the apostles’ teaching’. At that time the fledgling church had only the Old Testament as their written revelation of and from God. The Gospels had not been written and Paul had not even appeared on the scene. But they had the personal testimonies of a group of men who had followed Jesus for over three years. These men had heard what He had taught and they had observed what He had done. One of them, John, identified Jesus as the living Word of God and later wrote that ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14)  What Luke refers to in Acts as the ‘apostles’ teaching’ was surely the faithful repetition of what Jesus had said and done. From the start the early Christians were devoted to Jesus and His words.

Historical revivals have some common themes and one of these is a return to Christ-centred expository preaching and teaching. A precursor to revival and a characteristic of revival itself is a devotion to Jesus and the Bible – the Living Word and the Written Word. Gone are the topical sermons that are in most cases little more than an entertaining exposure of whatever is in the preacher’s head and heart. Gone are the moralistic homilies and the crowd-pleasing promises of health, wealth and all that glitters. Instead, there is the faithful and persistent exposure of what Jesus said and did, who Jesus is, and what characterises Him and the life He portrays.

Take the Christocentric test – is Jesus the central message from your pulpit? Do the majority of messages faithfully explain what the Bible presents as the way of God in Christ Jesus? If not, then it’s time to pray for a return of this vital dynamic of revival – devotion to the Word of God.

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Revival – The Need

Evan Roberts, founder of the Welsh Revival
‘Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?  Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.’ Psalm 85:6-7
Many years ago I went to Bradenton, Florida to spend time with the principal of a small private seminary. While I was there he invited me to come to a ‘revival’ that a local church was holding. The idea was that any church can create a revival by doing some things in a certain order. This was a foreign idea to me but I later learned that it stemmed from Charles Finney, a key figure in the Second Great Awakening in North America during the late eighteen hundreds. He taught that revivals followed along predictable lines and could be brought about by skilled revivalists.
My understanding of revival is very different to the Finney model. Historic revivals do teach us that certain things, such as prayer, precede revival, but prayer does not create a revival. The Holy Spirit stirs the hearts of a small number of people to pray for revival but when it comes, revival is entirely a sovereign act of God. It comes suddenly and with unmistakable divine power. Whole areas are saturated with the presence of God and great numbers of people turn to the Lord in repentance.
Moriah Chapel, Wales

History is replete with wonderful Christian revivals, and their names live on through the centuries; The Great Awakening, Azusa Street, The Welsh Revival, The Hebrides Revival, Indian Revival, Chinese Revival, Korean Revival, Philippians Revival, South African Revival, and so on. And from each of those revivals we remember the names of the key leaders; Evan Roberts, Campbell Morgan, Wesley, Whitfield, Seymour, John G Lake and many more. Each account tells of how God swept into a community and turned it from sin and apathy to glory!

Sadly, most of the recent ‘moves of God’ that have been hailed as revivals are just cheap spiritual forgeries. We have become accustomed to claims of gold teeth, silver dust, bizarre antics, and the reports of tens of thousands ‘saved’ through superficial altar-calls and simplistic parroted prayers. Would we recognise a true revival in our day? Yet the very abundance of the false is a strong indicator that we need the true – come Holy Spirit and revive your church again!
Revival in Australia – early 20th century

Revival is a ‘returning to life’ of a church or wider church community. It is not a reward for faithful ministry, but a remedy for apathy and dead religiosity. God comes to the aid of His struggling people when we have grown cold and ineffective, materialistic and religious. He comes with power and glory. Holy Spirit revival comes with repentance, confession, prayer, and new birth. It also comes with mighty works of healing and supernatural manifestations of the power of God.

In the next few posts I am going to touch on some of the characteristics of a true Holy Spirit revival. Won’t you search your heart right now and ask, ‘Do we need revival at this time?’ Then ask the harder question, ‘Do I want revival?’

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.