B. Motives for Seeking Revival
a. First motive: for God’s sake
5. Meditate on the suffering of God
Some people mistakenly think that God doesn’t have any emotions. There is a doctrine called Divine Impassibility. But this is not the same as impassivity (without emotions). Impassibility means God does have emotions but he is not subject to surprise or fear or mood changes. When Scripture describes God as angry, laughing or repenting, it is using human language about him and should not be taken literally. But he does experience love, joy, compassion, mercy and wrath. God‘s emotions are not reactions. We cannot change his mood. If we could it would mean that he was not sovereign. He is “the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). The Lord says through Malachi: “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (3:16). So when God enters into suffering or grief (and the Bible says he does) it is by his own deliberate decision. (If you want more on this subject see below what one theologian has written [i]. Also see “Does God have feelings?”on my Christian Teaching website).
By way of illustration, I don’t necessarily feel sympathy and upset for some sufferers who are not close to me but I can choose to do so. God chooses to be grieved.
Paul says in Eph 4:30 “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” He is talking about human sin grieving the Spirit. The Bible says Israel grieved God by their rebellion (Psa 78:40; Isa 63:10; Ezk 6:9). Isaiah also says of Israel “In all their distress he too was distressed” (Isa 63:10). This attitude was manifested in Jesus, who, as the incarnate son of God, was open to being upset by what happened to him “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes”(Luke 19:41-42). This surely reveals the heart of God over human sin.
It is easy not to take seriously the Godward aspect of our sins. Yes, we might say a confession in church or in private but that doesn’t necessarily go deep enough. We can, in practice, think of our sins being almost entirely against other people and not of the fact that they are all offences against God and grieve the Spirit. If we are not careful we can ignore our accountability to God and presume upon God’s forgiveness. The main problem with unbelievers is ignoring the Lord. But, to some extent, we can fall into the same error. We must remember that although a sin may clearly be against another person it also grieves the Spirit of God.
My sin grieves the Lord and contributed to the pain of Jesus on the cross. The NIV comments: “Man’s sin is God’s sorrow.”
God has done so much in his infinite love for mankind only to be ignored. How ungrateful! How utterly sinful! How much it grieves the Lord. As one Anglican prayer puts it “We have wounded your love.”
Of course, we must be sympathetic to other people. But the Lord also wants us to be God-orientated, God-centred and primarily focussing on how God is responding to human affairs.
On the other hand, it is legitimate to think our prayer, worship and obedience is a comfort to him. What a motive for prayer and worship! We can bring grief to the Holy Spirit by disobedience but bring pleasure (and comfort) to him by our lives and obedience. What a privilege!
God who is love chooses to be grieved by many human beings not loving him and by the fact that this means they are currently on their way to Hell. Just imagine his grief when millions ignore him. Why does he care? Because he is love. So if I want to be godly I too must be deeply grieved at his grief and at the causes of his grief.
The grieving of the Spirit and the pain God chooses to feel at human sin is the primary motive for prayer for Revival. There is no more important consideration. We must pray that God will glorify his name and reduce his grief by bringing many to repentance and faith through Revival.
The Lord is awesomely majestic and glorious but most people ignore him.
The Lord is utterly pure and holy but most people ignore him.
The Lord is so loving he is love and loves all humans but most people ignore him.
The Lord made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross, experiencing Hell for every human being but most people ignore him.
The Lord longs to show his kindness, forgiveness, protection to everyone but most people ignore him.
The Lord longs to share his eternal life with everyone but most people ignore him.
How all this wounds his love!
The ultimate deep tragedy is that the infinite, eternal love of God is so unrequited. It is unrequited by billions of human beings and can be partially unrequited by millions of Christians. That is heartbreaking. That is beyond sadness. How we need revival!
A PRAYER ABOUT “WOUNDING GOD’S LOVE”
You are ignored. Your name is taken in vain. Your existence is denied. Your laws and loving provisions are ignored and rejected. Your word is ignored or disobeyed. Your love is spurned.
The church is sometimes pathetic, hypocritical or unbiblical. Many Christians don’t listen or pray to you very much, if at all.
You are grieved. Pour out your Spirit in revival to remedy that.
[i] Jim Packer writes: ―This means, not that God is impassive and unfeeling (a frequent misunderstanding), but that no created beings can inflict pain, suffering and distress on him at their own will. In so far as God enters into suffering and grief (which Scripture’s many anthropopathisms, plus the fact of the cross, show that he does), it is by his own deliberate decision; he is never his creatures’ hapless victim. The Christian mainstream has construed impassibility as meaning not that God is a stranger to joy and delight, but rather that his joy is permanent, clouded by no involuntary pain.
He writes elsewhere that impassibility is ―not impassivity, unconcern, and impersonal detachment in face of the creation; not insensitivity and indifference to the distresses of a fallen world; not inability or unwillingness to empathize with human pain and grief; but simply that God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us, for his are foreknown, willed and chosen by himself, and are not involuntary surprises forced on him from outside, apart from his own decision, in the way that ours regularly are.