Around Easter my mind often drifts back to all of the annual ‘Revival Services’ I attended when I was growing up. Every year they began the revival with the Easter service. Often with the: “I'm-not-going-to-tell-you-once-a-year-church-goers-the-Gospel-because-you-don't-come-often-enough-to-deserve-to-hear-it-and-instead-I'll-tell-you-how-worldly-you-are” sermon (which I could honestly rant about for hours). The preacher would continue like that for weeks of nightly services, all designed to squeeze the holiness out of you.
Now, if you didn't grow up ‘fundamentalist' as I did, you've probably never attended one of those humdingers. You may be wondering, "Why on earth would someone go to one of these?" The reason is "Burn Out" or the "lessening desire for God and the things of God" which is always a huge concern in that culture.
To stave off this most unholy of conditions, we had ‘Revival Service' after ‘Revival Service' where we thought, "Maybe this time we will come into the service with enough prayer and meditation, and a clear docket of confessed sins. And just maybe, God will respond by lighting that fire in our hearts once again." We hoped that with enough white knuckled obedience, if we showed up to service after service, night after night, for weeks on end, that God might take the hint and turn up the heat a bit in our hearts.
Sadly, after each annual revival period, full to the brim of particularly convicting sermons about all matters of personal holiness, and the ever-present crowd favorite the: “all-your-neighbors-are-going-to-burn-in-hell-because-you-are-a-terrible-evangelist” sermon, we found ourselves more exhausted than when we went in.
But instead of examining why we were more burned out than usual, we chalked it up to not doing enough prayer preparation or having too much unconfessed sin in the congregation. Oh well. I guess we will have to try again next year. Either that, or we would try to enter some mode of self-denial. We would think we finally had it together and were officially the most on fire Christian around. All those sinners who tried to ruin ‘revival’ with all their sin, they failed to pull me down because I totally love God and trust Him with everything! Success! And it pains me to admit that I am guilty of both extremes.
But that was then, and this is now, and I have encountered the Theology of the Cross. "Burn Out" used to be a condition I thought was always worth fretting over. Thankfully it is no longer on my mind. And it's not because I care less about holiness or because I've become more accepting of sin. It's not even because I finally have my act together (if only). To be honest, I care more about holiness now, and I see my sin everywhere. But my heart has rest and peace, unlike anything I have ever experienced.
After years of a constant state of inhalation, leaving my lungs bursting, I am finally able to exhale. Why? To put it succinctly: “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -Hebrews 12:3
O’ the wonder of that first relaxed sigh. Ah yes. "Gospel"—there you are. O’ how I've missed your warm embrace. Take my chains, these burdens I wasn't meant to carry, and set me free.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I'm found.
Was blind, but now I see.