You may remember that I’ve always enjoyed the preaching of the physician from Cardiff, Wales, who ended up as pastor of Westminster Chapel in London. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones received his M.D. in 1921, and experienced a profound conversion to Christ sometime between 1921 and 1923. He was a profound thinker and a lover of God’s Word. Lloyd-Jones longed to see “a great spiritual awakening” in his day. After a series of “disappointments” that put him right where he was supposed to be (and isn’t that always the case?), he preached in London for thirty years. Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ preaching was precise, logical, and passionate. Thousands were drawn to Christ through the Westminster pulpit.
Among many dimensions of his preaching that I have admired is Lloyd-Jones’ insistence upon our need for the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. He talked about Light and heat. Word and Spirit. Logic and fire.
We all agree, at least theoretically, that dead intellectual orthodoxy is insufficient to save. Without Christ there is no hope. Without His Spirit there is no power to change a single life. Lloyd-Jones believed that the only cure for evangelical compromise (which is sure to come without this) is revival. And Lloyd-Jones understood real revival to be nothing less than a miracle sent down from God. Ian Murray in The Fight of Faith records Lloyd-Jones from 1959: “During the last seventy, to eighty years, this whole notion of a visitation, a baptism of God’s Spirit upon the Church, has gone.”
Some of us may disagree with the nuances of Lloyd-Jones’ understanding of “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” but surely we must agree that revival is a pouring down of the Spirit into the lives of Christ-followers who would be otherwise powerless and joyless in their Christian service. Talk about a cure for spiritual depression! Like Lloyd-Jones, we know there is something sorely lacking when the church becomes “barren institutionalism.”
My heart really resonates with this piercing observation from The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church by Reggie McNeal: “There is a dimension beyond planning that is critical for us to understand. We can settle for our imaginations, our plans, and our dreams. In fact, I think the North American church has done just that. We have the best churches people can plan and build. But we are desperate for God to show up and to do something that only he can get credit for.”
Specifically, how might you and I begin to pray for the glorious fruit of Spirit-drenched revival in our day? HERE’S WHAT I WOULD PROPOSE THAT WE OFFER UP AS OUR FIRST REQUEST: That we might know in all its fullness the love of God for us in our Lord Jesus Christ! I’m going to ask you to read this passage, aloud, every day for a week: Ephesians 3:14-21. Would you join me in taking up that simple but powerful challenge?
I’ll close with a story by Thomas Goodwin that’s included in Lloyd-Jones’ Joy Unspeakable, and I pray that it will bless you as you delight in Christ’s amazing love for His own (and that includes you).
“A man and his little child are walking down the road and they are walking hand in hand, and the child knows that he is the child of his father, and he knows that his father loves him, and he rejoices in that, and he is happy in it. There is no uncertainty about it all, but suddenly the father, moved by some impulse, takes hold of the child and picks him up, fondles him in his arms, kisses him, embraces him, showers his love upon him, and then he puts him down again and they go on walking together.
That is it! The child knew before that his father loved him, and he knew that he was his child. But oh! the loving embrace, this extra outpouring of love, this unusual manifestation of it – that is the kind of thing. The Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).
As the doctor-turned-preacher reminded us, we need the Holy Spirit, and to be “carried not only from doubt to belief but to certainty, to awareness of the presence and the glory of God.”