WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Only by breaking up their hardened hearts can Christians hope to expect revival in their homes and in their nation, said Tom Elliff, chairman of the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life.
To that end, Elliff spoke to future pastors, missionaries and church leaders at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on Aug. 27, inspiring them to look to God’s Word for an example of true and heartfelt revival.
In introducing the former Southern Baptist Convention president and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., Southeastern President Paige Patterson praised Elliff as a man of rare courage and integrity, one whose leadership and devotion led Southern Baptists in 1998 to move to the cultural forefront by adding a statement on the family to its confession of faith.
Elliff will oversee the first convention-wide “Kingdom Family Rally” during the mid-June Pastors’ Conference at next year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix.
His vision, Elliff said, is to “make the church a lighthouse for people whose marriages and families have been ravaged and torn apart.”
But to be lighthouses, Christians must first experience revival in their own hearts and homes. The Bible gives a prescription for such revival in Hosea chapter 10, where Elliff pointed out the importance of breaking up the “fallow ground” of the human heart.
Elliff noted first that the passage contains an admonition to fear hardheartedness. He described symptoms of this condition as being “impervious” to the Word of God, having a life that shows no fruits of the Spirit of God, and being known “more for resistance than receptivity.”
Second, Elliff said, the passage contains a command to follow God completely, which for Christians means ridding their hearts of secret sins and bad habits. It also means forsaking outward sins and a passionless walk with Christ.
“If a man does not confess his sins, his walk with God will never get better,” Elliff counseled. “It will only get worse.”
The Scriptures also point out a choice to be faced by every Christian: Ignore sin and remain hardhearted, or confess sin and experience revival in the heart and home.
“If you choose not to break up the fallow ground of your heart, it could be your final choice in the matter,” Elliff warned. “We come to God on his terms and in his time or we don’t come at all.”
How does one break up this “fallow ground?” Elliff listed four practical steps:
— Get alone with God, because the “pathway into God’s presence is a lonely pathway” and must be traversed alone, Elliff said.
— Make a “sin list,” an account of all the ways the Spirit reveals that you have sinned against God and others.
— Claim God’s cleansing by taking that “sin list” and writing 1 John 1:9 on top of it: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
— Go apologize and confess to friends and family whom you have sinned against.
“You say, ‘What they don’t know won’t hurt them,'” Elliff said. “I say, what they don’t know is already hurting them.'”
By following the prescription of God’s Word, Christians can spark revival in their country by taking responsibility for it in their hearts and homes, Elliff said.
“I cannot tell you how much that our country needs an awakening. What you can do,” he reiterated, “is to break up the fallow ground of your heart. It’s not easy, but it is absolutely essential.”
The June 16, 2003, SBC Kingdom Family Rally, open to church staff and church members, will feature nationally known speakers on the family. See 8/8/02 BP story titled, “SBC Kingdom Family Rally joins forces with Pastors’ Conference.”