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God’s correction & man’s contriteness are foundational to revival, Elliff s

WAKE FOREST, N.C (BP)–Describing revival as a Christian’s daily renewal through prayer and meditation on God’s Word, Tom Elliff said any other method is short- lived and doomed for failure.
“Most of us, in our minds, think of revival as something that happens in a relatively short period of time and then has continuing impact over a space of many, many years,” the former Southern Baptist Convention president said during the sixth annual Sandy Creek Week Revival on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., Oct. 13-15.
Seventeen professions of faith were made during the week, including 14 decisions for Christ Oct. 13 during the “Youth Night” emphasis. Southeastern’s annual revival is named after a church near Greensboro, N.C., where revival broke out in the mid-1700s under the preaching of Shubal Stearns. That revival spawned the founding of more than 40 churches in North and South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.
Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., said when Christians become inconsistent in their prayer life and relinquish their hold on the Word of God through their devotional life, spiritual death is not far behind.
“You don’t come to God on your terms and in your time,” he said. “You come to God on his terms and in his time, or you don’t come at all.”
It takes a conscious effort to harden your heart, Elliff said, and when that happens there is a “cumulative effect.” Saying “no” to God becomes easier and easier.
A hardened heart could mean that a Christian’s “greatest days of service” and “greatest sense of God’s presence” is in the past, Elliff warned.
Describing time as “a nonrenewable resource,” Elliff said God desires that Christians be responsible stewards of their time, lifestyle and money. “Can you find anywhere in the Bible where it says it is better to respond tomorrow rather than today?” Elliff asked.
Addressing Christians who have a stale relationship with God, Elliff reminded the Binkley Chapel audience that hard work is not the solution to intimacy with God. “Pretty soon, this wonderful ministerial Tower of Pisa you have erected will begin to lean precipitously, and you begin to sense you are drifting away from God,” he said.
Preaching from Psalm 23, Elliff compared the believer who has drifted away from God’s will as a “cast sheep.” A cast sheep, Elliff said, is most vulnerable at the point where it has the most potential. Heavy with valuable fleece, a cast sheep becomes susceptible to rolling over on its back and dying because it is unable to get back up again on its own.
Just as the shepherd has to shear the fleece from the sheep to allow it to get back on its feet, sometimes God has to strip away selfish desires — the things Christians think are so important that they place them before God, Elliff said.
“There are dangers in the desires of your life,” he said. Sheep left to their own will die, and people, like sheep, have a tendency toward complacency and carelessness. This sense of complacency results in God’s people taking God’s blessings for granted, Elliff said. “It is not that we wake up one morning and say that we want to run away from God.”
Like the shepherd who breaks the leg of the cast sheep and then carries the sheep in his arms close to his heart, Elliff said God sometimes has to break the pride of his children before they will return to him.
Christians also must have their ear bent toward God’s heartbeat, the Bible, Elliff continued. “No longer is [the Bible] the tool of the trade — it becomes your life.
“The shepherd [restricts] so the sheep will produce again,” Elliff said, adding success, position or titles may be stripped away before God can use his people. “Sometimes restoration takes a long time,” he said. “Remember that’s a broken leg and naked sheep.”
Preaching from Matthew 26, Elliff vividly described the physical agony that Jesus endured — beatings, humiliation and the crucifixion, all as payment for forgiveness of mankind’s sin. He then compared Christ’s physical pain with the inner anguish he endured while carrying the guilt of everyone’s sin. “Think of the worst sin you can ever recall committing … now multiply that times every sin you have committed, or are committing, or will commit and [then] multiply that times [the history of mankind] and put that in one man’s heart.”
Before accepting Christ’s forgiveness, Elliff said, Christians must practice forgiveness. “You cannot live the faith life and be unforgiving simultaneously. If in your heart there is any [lack of forgiveness], you are living in sin and not pleasing to God, you do need revival. When you won’t forgive, you may think you’re hurting somebody else; no, you’re hurting you. And on top of that, you’re displacing your relationship with God so he can’t help you with your hurt.
“To forgive someone means that you exercise your volition, your will — it means that you choose to consider that individual or those individuals no longer indebted to you. It is a singular, deliberate act of your will. When you forgive, God will restore your usefulness.”
Dozens of people responded to an invitation during the Oct. 15 morning service to renew their relationship with God. People crowded around the altar and knelt down on their knees in prayer. Others prayed on their knees in the aisles and throughout the chapel staying well after the end of the service.

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  • Greg Carpenter