Tuesday 31st October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of what many consider to be the start of the Reformation.
Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis onto the church door in Wittenberg, going public with his call for reformation in the Church. This act may sound strange to us but it was the 16th century equivalent to posting a blog or writing a magazine article. Although at that time he had no intention of a schism from the Roman Catholic Church, Luther was lighting a fire that was to engulf Europe in turmoil, change the Church and, ultimately, change the world!
Over the last few months, because of my interest in this anniversary, I read two books and attended a conference and a special lecture concerning the Reformation. All of these stirred my heart and I found God spoke to me through them. I felt like bursting out in worship following a lecture by Prof. John Barclay at Winchester Cathedral, to my surprise! The context didn’t really allow for that but I was mightily blessed!
Through all this I have become more convinced than ever of the importance of the Bible in the lives of Christians. However, more than that I have been reminded that Christianity works most effectively, in fact only works properly, when it involves a direct personal encounter with God’s power. At its heart real Christianity is a love affair with God, it catches up the whole person, body, soul and spirit, and ruins us for anything else!
All sorts of rituals, rules, laws, studies and systems are repeatedly built into Christianity, but the real faith and real fire keeps breaking through! True biblical Christianity can only ever start with a life changing encounter with the living God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is as we encounter God’s love and grace that we find ourselves falling in love with him. It is this love, truth and power encounter that changes lives, and through changed lives can change the world!
What we call ‘Revival’ is a rekindling of that old flame, the love affair with God, in individuals and in churches. That rekindling will start a fire that may spread through a whole community or even a country. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “The inevitable and constant preliminary to Revival has always been a thirst for God.” In a sense it was a thirst for God that drove Martin Luther. He didn’t set out to reform the church or change the politics of 16th century Europe, he was just thirsty for God. He wanted to really know God, to have peace with God, to find his soul satisfied in God.
I detect in myself, and in many around me, a growing thirst for more of God. At the same time as I have been reading these books and going to these talks, I have been repeatedly listening to a CD by Jesus Culture: ‘Love has a Name’. On it there are two tracks that echo this thirst for more of God, for Revival. Again and again as I’ve listened to ‘Flood the Earth’ and ‘Fresh Outpouring’ I’ve found myself moved to pray and cry out to God – we need a fresh outpouring!
God never leaves a truly thirsty heart unsatisfied. Jesus promised: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” I believe there is a stirring in the earth, God’s Spirit is beginning to bring a holy dissatisfaction. This hunger and thirst is healthy and God wants us to express it to him. Let’s not hold back, let’s keep crying out: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!”