Reviving the Righteous Root of Anabaptism
A transcribed sermon
The burden of my heart this morning has been on my heart for a long, long time. I’m not sure if I can say how long. And it may surprise you when I give you the title of this message but I just plead with you to stay with me. It is fitting with all that God has been doing in our hearts and our lives through this week.
It’s always very interesting to me to go to the prayer meeting in the morning—I’m amazed how many times the message is prayed in the prayer meeting. This morning, blessed be God, there were so many prayer warriors in the prayer meeting that we had two prayer meetings this morning—it overflowed into the next room and then that one was full. It was interesting to hear the burden of prayer in both places speaking about the same thing this morning—that God would inflame our hearts with a vision of what He has for us, a vision of the future, a vision of souls gone astray, that God would do that.
This morning I’d like to speak on the subject: Reviving the Righteous Root of Anabaptism. Those words—“reviving the righteous root of Anabaptism”—come from a prayer meeting. We’re going to walk around Zion again this morning. We’ve walked around Zion before, we’ve walked around Zion with the Moravians and the way that they’ve lived, and we’ve been challenged by the way that they lived. We walked around Zion with the Chinese house churches and the way that they’ve lived and we were challenged by their lives. God wants us to walk around Zion so that we can be challenged by a Zion that lived before us. We want to walk about Zion this morning, looking at another righteous root that grew out of that fruit that grew out of the dry ground. Hallelujah! The root is Christ.
In the beginning of this week of meetings we considered the great value of seeking God through the good times and that was our motivation. That’s why we’ve set aside eight days to seek God, it was because we felt it was right to seek God in the good times, not to wait until we’re falling apart to then get serious and desperate with God. And so in a sense this whole week of set-apartness has been preventative maintenance. But I want to be a bit visionary here this morning at this last meeting.
It is still time to seek the Lord until He comes and rains righteousness upon us, righteousness like the righteous root of Anabaptism. May I say it that way? It’s time to seek the Lord until He comes and brings that kind of righteousness upon us. Thus a visionary message that we don’t just say, “Okay, you know, the meetings are over and we can settle down and we go back to the status quo.” No, God forbid!
As I said already, the title of the message comes from a prayer meeting. I don’t remember when it was, but I remember being in a prayer meeting and these words rose up in the prayer meeting, that God would revive the righteous root of Anabaptism, that God would restore that people to their pristine beauty, their strength, their power, their ability, their light, their shining light that they were—that God would revive that righteous root, that came by the inspiration and burden of the Holy Ghost—and since I first heard it, I’ve heard it dozens and dozens of times—“Lord, revive the righteous root of Anabaptism!” Oh, I could just as easily pray that God would revive the righteous root of Methodism this morning, by the way, if you’ve read what the early Methodists were like. But as we behold the peoples of the Anabaptist heritage, and their sincere desire to do right, and their tenacity to hold on to their history and study their history and we see what a powerful people they were, our hearts cannot but rise up and cry to God, and say, “God, do it again! Do it again, Lord!” Oh, that God would raise up tens of thousands of Anabaptists that were crying from the depths of their heart and crying out in their poverty, Lord revive the righteous root of Anabaptism! Restore us as it was in the beginning!
However, I want to quickly say that the Anabaptists can claim no beginning. I feel like we can easily get off on these things and start focusing on a movement instead of the God who created the movement. I’m telling you, that never comes out right. The Anabaptists had no beginning, for their righteous root stems back to the book of Acts and the early church in the days of Christ and the root of Jesse. That’s where their roots go back to! Christ! Only Christ—be honored, loved, exalted among the people of God! Only Christ, He is the Righteous Root springing up out of a very dry ground! Hallelujah! That’s who He is! When I think of reviving the righteous root of Anabaptism, my mind goes back to some verses in a Psalm that we read some months ago, and I want to read them again this morning and just consider them in the light of this subject and this people, this part of Zion that God may challenge us with this morning. Reading in Psalm 80:7-16: This is speaking about Israel, but I believe the verses may relate to many of the movements of God in history as surely as they relate to the movement of God among the Anabaptists. The cry of the Psalmist says:
Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
It’s a good prayer for us to pray.
Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.
Awesome words! Oh, what a beautiful picture of early Anabaptism, reaching its boughs out across all of Europe! Think of the power of a people who connected so vitally with Christ back in the 1500’s. These words stir my heart this morning as we look back on a movement of God, as we look around us and see where we are in light of where they were. These words come as a deep challenge to us this morning.
I wonder how far we have truly fallen, yet may not even know it! We may not even know it. I’d like you to turn now to Ezekiel 37:1, if we can just read there for a moment. These verses also touch my heart as I can consider this subject, and I want you to consider before we read that it’s 450 years since David and Solomon walked upon the earth. It’s 450 years since Israel was the glorious testimony that God wanted her to be. It’s 450 years later, and brothers and sisters, its over 450 years since God moved in the hearts of a few men who connected with Christ and said, “We’ll die before we compromise our Christ, our Deliverer, our Savior and our Lord. We’ll die before we compromise!” It’s over 450 years. That’s nothing for God. God can raise something out of the rubble that’s been laying in the rubble for hundreds of years! God can do it! It’s nothing for God.
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
I like that. Make it real hard, Lord! Very dead, very many, and very dry bones.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
That was a good answer, Ezekiel, that was a good answer.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
By the way, that’s the reason God does anything, anytime!—“And ye shall know that I am the Lord, and I will be glorified!”
So, I prophesied…
That seems a bit odd, you know, if somebody was looking on, I wonder if he thought some of those same things that we struggle with, you know, “Lord, what will everybody think if anybody sees me preaching to these dry bones in the middle of a valley? But, he knew the voice of God and he knew that if God told him to prophesy to these bones he had a good reason for it!
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
Glory! He even knew what bone to fit into which bone!
And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he [God!] unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
That’s far enough to read for this morning’s illustration. I know it’s talking about Israel; you even wonder what it all means in the end, you know. It’s prophetic, and you look out, and you can get something for your own heart. And you know that Ezekiel got something for the people in his day, but yet, you look ahead, and you say, “God, what does all that mean?” But we can still apply it to our own situation, Amen?
Days and years are nothing to God and He can raise up a glorious plant out of a very dry root in a very dry ground. Hallelujah! You know, as I was meditating upon this analogy, which came as inspiration in a prayer meeting (it’s always a joy to do that, you know, you get an inspiration from the Lord, and then you go to the Bible to search, and you find these golden nuggets hidden in there. And you realize—yes, it was the voice of God, because you see the voice of God’s Spirit and the voice of God’s Word, they are the same thing and they mesh together so beautifully) but as I was meditating upon this I realized the Bible uses two analogies that relate to this righteous root.
Number one, is the great vine we read about it in Psalm 80, and the other analogy is the analogy of the olive plant. Both of these two analogies have some interesting things in common. Consider them in light of the subject this morning. Number one, they both have deep root systems. A grape vine and an olive plant, they have deep root systems. Very deep!
Number two, they both live for many generations. I like that. In fact, as I studied it, there’s a little picture in the book I was studying. There was a picture of a grape vine—ten feet long, and ten inches thick. I wonder how long it took to grow that big! They both live for many generations.
Number three, they both have tremendous usefulness. If you’ve got a vineyard, if you’ve got an olive yard, you have a very valuable thing!
Number four, they both can die in outward appearance and revive again when proper care is given to them. In fact, you can set a forest fire, and that fire can go down through that olive yard, or that go down through that vineyard, and burn all the branches, and burn all the vine right off, flat to the ground! You go in there after that fire’s over and everything is burned up, and you start nurturing that root. That root will begin to grow again and push up branches in a vine and leaves and bear fruit and the same thing with an olive tree! They say there are olive trees that are alive that were alive in the days of Christ when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane! That’s a many-generational root. Then I found these precious verses and these precious little nuggets in Job. Turn with me to Job 14:7-9.
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
Isn’t that beautiful? Oh my, yes, it can be dead; you can look at it and say, “It’s dead!” It’s there, but there are no leaves on it. There’s no fruit on it! It’s just an old, dead, stump—it’s just lying there. There’s not even a stump there anymore! But oh, notice the scent of water coming down into those roots, all of a sudden, that thing starts growing again.
What a beautiful picture of God’s people, and the history of his pilgrim church down through the centuries. You see, the righteous root is not the righteous root of Anabaptism, it’s that righteous root which is Christ! In essence, the whole history of the pilgrim church down through the centuries is a history of people that are returning to that righteous root which is Christ, and his anointed body, which was the early church. Down through history, you see it again, and again, and again. One movement after another movement, then another movement, then another one in another part of the earth, returning, looking back to the righteous root, which root is Jesus Christ, Himself. Looking back to the beautiful plant, which grew from that righteous root and that plant, the early church, which is recorded in the book of Acts. Down through church history, they look back again and again. Every movement of God, they’re always aiming back there. Praise God that we have the opportunity to do the same in our day!
Think about the Waldensians in the 1300’s and 1400’s. They were an example of that, as were the Anabaptists in the 1500’s. Another example of it: the beautiful Moravians in the 1700’s and their 100-year-long prayer meeting, and all the things that they did; and the Methodists in the 1700’s and the 1800’s. I just recently got a little book that was sent to me about the early Methodism, and you’d be shocked at what radicals they were! The Brethren movement in England in the 1800’s was another example. The Holiness movement in the 1900’s, and we could go on and on. There are many others that are not mentioned, but all of them are seeking the spirit of primitive Christianity! That’s what it was!
In the days of Anabaptism those first few men there gave their lives in short order of time. It was those men who rose up and said, “Let’s return to the root! Let’s go all the way back! Let’s do it the way Jesus did it, let’s go back to Christ! We don’t want a new religion!” It wasn’t enough to know about justification by faith. They set their sights on everything that Jesus bought and paid for! A return to the spirit of primitive Christianity! Brothers and sisters, now it’s our turn! It’s 2004. It’s not 1300, it’s not 1400, it’s not 1500, it’s 2004, and you and me are alive and well on planet Earth. How far will we return? That’s the question.
You know, we’re pretty hard on the Protestants sometimes, you know, we’re pretty critical of them, they didn’t go far enough, they didn’t go as far as the Anabaptists did, they decided to compromise, they weren’t willing to pay the price, they didn’t go as far as the Anabaptists did, we’re pretty hard on them, aren’t we? How far will we return? Let’s not throw any stones at them. How far will we return? What are we willing to face? What will we go through to return to the spirit of primitive Christianity? That’s a good question, isn’t it? Let’s look at that righteous root a bit here this morning.
The Anabaptist movement was in its prime for thirty years. If you study the history, it’s kind of sad from 1555 on. But for thirty years, I don’t know if there have ever been a people like them, besides the early church! For thirty years, from 1525 from 1555, and during that time, God planted a vine whose branches reached all over Europe. Tens of thousands of converts were baptized upon their confession of the true faith that was in Jesus Christ. Tens of thousands of them! That makes what’s happening around here look pretty small doesn’t it? We get a convert every now and then. Tens of thousands were baptized upon their confession. Thousands of them were martyred for their uncompromising stand for Christ and the truth. Total commitment was clear—be baptized, and die! Be baptized, and go to prison! Be baptized, and lose all you have! Be baptized in the name of Christ, and lose all your living! Be baptized in the name of Christ, and lose your home, and live in the forests and in caves for the rest of your days. Who wants to be baptized like that this morning? Be baptized, and go baptize others, and risk your life doing it!
It’s very interesting to me, you know, it was a people movement. The early Anabaptist movement was a people movement. It was the fullness of time. Europe was ripe. Europe was ready, those people had been sitting there in darkness long enough, and all of a sudden, they got a Bible. The printing press was invented, and they got Bibles in there hands, and they were so sick and tired of being sick and tired, and they were so sick and tired of being empty, and having nothing on the inside, and all of a sudden, here comes somebody, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of the grace of God, and the people just started responding en masse.
Some of these men baptized two to three thousand converts in a year, many of them! This thing was happening so fast; the records state that churches sprung up spontaneously like mushrooms everywhere. Have you ever seen mushrooms? I mean, try to get this one, and this one pops up, and get this one out of the way, and another one pops up, and that’s exactly the way that it was! It was the focus of time. It was beautiful! That holy olive plant prospered exceedingly from her holy anointing oil that flowed out to inflame lights that shined all over Europe for 30 years! Europe never saw anything like these people! They never heard anybody speak like these people! They never saw such simplicity like these people and they never saw courage like these people. Nothing would stop them.
Young men were commissioned to go and preach the gospel everywhere. You get born again, changed by the power of God, baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and you’re five months in a little congregation and the preacher calls you forward and commissions you along with one other young man and says, Go! We’ve got to wait twenty years to say go, or ten! But for these men it was six months and, “Go!” You know why? Because the fields were white already unto harvest and we can’t wait ten years to grow up! And they went. And many of those young men were unmarried! I don’t think they should have been married for the situation they were in. Many of them only lasted six months! They died—they were martyred in six months! Six months! And if one died, another one picked up the mantle and kept right on going, and churches popped up spontaneously like mushrooms all over the place. Hallelujah! Do it again, Lord! Some lived only six months, others rotted for years and finally died in a prison somewhere, worshipping God. With joy they did this.
Oh, this root, it was a righteous root; it was a powerful root, this root of Anabaptism. Every man and woman was an evangelist and a prophet. They spoke forth the mind and the will of God in the power of the Spirit of God, and people were touched and challenged and stirred and converted everywhere! Think about it! In the hardest circumstances that you could imagine, people were getting born again everywhere—you couldn’t keep up with them!
Think about it—maybe you’re one of those seekers, you know—and you’re hiding in the shadows at an early Anabaptist baptism. You’re hiding in the shadows and you’re watching it and you see the baptism, and that’s beautiful, and all that’s great, and you heard the sermon, and you saw the people getting baptized, and right in the middle of a baptism, the authorities bust in the middle of the place and grab the one that was just baptized and beat him over the head until their head swells up and drag him off into a wagon and throw him in prison! Now that’s quite an invitation to Christianity!
You would think they would have a hard time finding a convert after that! But the Spirit of God was so mighty upon those people and the Spirit of God was moving in such a mighty way that it didn’t matter if he saw that. In fact, that just made the seeker clearly know that it’s all or nothing. Oh, we could use some of that again, brethren! All or nothing! The commitment was clear, praise God! They went everywhere proclaiming the kingdom of God is at hand. The persecutors called them Anabaptists, or “re-baptizers,” because they baptized upon true confession of faith in Christ. That’s where they got there name, “re-baptizers.” The authorities said, “What’s wrong with your other baptism?” And of course, they were offended that these fiery Anabaptists were not satisfied with the other baptism! But they said, “We believe in believer’s baptism!” And infant baptism was the issue in that day. It is other issues in our day.
This righteous root—consider their theology: Their theology was very simple. In the first thirty years of Anabaptism, they hardly had time to sit down and figure out, “What is theology?” Their theology was simple—you live for Christ, you suffer for Christ, you die for Christ—no matter what! That’s the kind of theology they had. Oh, how different the Protestant Reformers had it in those days—they could sit in the comfort of their homes on a nice padded chair with the light shining over their Bible and sit around and discuss and hash theologies and, “What do you think it means?” and, “What do you say it means?” And back and forth they went—but Anabaptists were running like dogs in the forest! No time to sit down and figure out theology, but yet they had such a beautiful, simple theology—their theology was survival. “Theology” was lambs in the midst of wolves! Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves—very simple theology. Obey the Word and the Christ of the Word at any cost. That was their theology. They took an uncompromising stand for truth.
The issues of the day were infant baptism and the mix of church and state. But I want to suggest to you this morning, that there were deeper issues than that. Those just happened to be the issues of that day. You see, God didn’t just raise up somebody to take a stand against infant baptism. God raised up a people who were willing to stand for Christ and whatever the issues were in their day. The issues are different in our day but just because the issue is not infant baptism anymore, that doesn’t mean there are no issues. The issues have changed. Its 2004, will we be the kind of a people who will be uncompromising in the midst of a compromising world? That’s a question. Their commitment was to Christ, and that caused them to face the issues of their day, no matter what. They believed in an aggressive evangelism. They were not the “quiet in the land.” Amen? They were not the “quiet in the land.” They were not baking pies in 1525 to 1555. They were aggressive evangelists. This brought great persecution upon them.
Many were told (and the devil’s methods have never changed), but many of them were told by the smiling face of a persecutor, “Oh, my friend, I’m sorry that you’re here in this prison. I don’t want you to stay here. You can go home, if you’ll just be the quiet in the land. We’ll let you go home, with your family! Just go home and bake pies and plant corn, and you can do your thing as long as you want!” Boy, his methods sure haven’t changed, have they? But they were aggressive evangelists. They knew the purpose that God had them upon the earth. They knew what it was, “We are here to preach the Gospel of the kingdom. We are here to win a lost soul to Christ. We are here to live for the Lord Jesus in an uncompromising way. That’s why we’re here!” And so, all the other appeals to a better life, a nicer home, a little bit better place to sleep, a soft pillow underneath your head were all looked at with disdain. All they knew was that Jesus said to go and make disciples—radical followers of Jesus Christ, everywhere you can. And they did, didn’t they?
This righteous root of Anabaptism, they were anointed with the power of God. The Spirit of God attended their labors, inspired their hearts, inflamed their message, and comforted them in prison—filled with zeal as they sang in the fires of their martyrdom. The Spirit of God was upon them. But it’s very interesting to me, again, they had no theology about the Spirit of God! They didn’t need a theology about the Spirit of God, they had Him! So there were no big, long discussions about the Spirit, about how He comes, who He is, and whether He’s come, and what it will be like when He comes—they didn’t need to have conversations like that. He was there! They were anointed with the Holy Ghost! The combination of evangelism, their commitment to Christ, and the persecution that came because of their evangelism kept the Holy Ghost fresh and lively in every one of their hearts. This is the Anabaptists.
Consider their views on materialism and poverty this morning. They had a high view of poverty. I mean, it was honorable if you chose to be poor. Not so anymore, is it? But it was honorable if you chose to be poor. And they had a guarded view of materialism. They looked at it like this: to be rich was to be worldly! To those early Anabaptists, 1525 to 1555, to be rich was to be worldly! They cared for each other out of the necessity that demanded it in their day. Yes, some of them lived in community, but most of them, listen, they were in such straits, that it would be a joke to try to figure out how to live in a community, like we would think of a colony today. Yeah, they lived in community—“you’ll live in this cave, and I’ll live in this cave! And we’ll break our bread together in humility in the middle of the night when nobody else is around and worship God together.” Yeah, they lived in community.
Number six, they were fearless. They were fearless. You know, like it says in Revelation, chapter 12, they “loved not their lives unto the death.” That means they didn’t care about dying. When you don’t care about dying, nobody can stop you. Nothing can stop you, if you don’t care about dying. And they were fearless, because they were not afraid to die. They had no fear of death—and because of that, no fear of man. There was no fear of man in the midst of them. They faced their persecutors, they faced the Sanhedrin, they faced the councils, they faced the Inquisitions, and they faced them with boldness. Kind of like these Chinese Christians are, you know. They didn’t just humbly hang their head, they looked right boldly into the face of their persecutors and they said, “Thus saith the Lord, my friend, God is going to judge you for what you’re going to do to me when you cut off my head.” And they smiled at him.
Can you imagine what that would do to a persecutor? Instead of him being in charge, you just look him right in the eye and say, “Let me tell you something, friend”—just like Jesus did to Pilate—oh, Pilate squirmed when Jesus did that to him. “You don’t have any power, Pilate, none at all—if you have any power, it’s been given to you by God. I can lay down my life and I can take it again.” That kind of courage is what the Anabaptists had—they were not afraid to die.
We’re afraid to die! We need to be honest—we don’t want to die! We’re afraid to die! You know, I thought about the last few days—I wonder what would happen if somebody walked in the back door of this place, pointed a gun up here. I wonder what would happen to us; I wonder what we would do? I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d do. I know what I’d want to do, but I don’t know what I’d do. I’m trusting God for that. One magistrate said it this way, “The more I kill them, the more they multiply—I don’t know what to do. I’ve got more dead bodies that I know what to do with!”
And lastly (and there are many, many more points, I just wanted to lift up a few of them to help us to realize where we are in relation to where they were), they believed in suffering love. They would not fight back. They loved the souls of their persecutors so much—they suffered the spoiling of their goods, they suffered the loss of their property, they suffered starvation and poverty, they suffered the loss of their families, and they suffered the loss of their lives because they loved their persecutors and wanted to see their souls saved and they would not fight back. And the brokenness, and the humility, and the extremities fueled the fire of God in their hearts even more! See, they found the key to ministry: “Death worketh in us that life might work in others.” They knew it—they tasted it!
This account of these righteous Anabaptists reminds of the Chinese house churches. That’s the way they are! That’s the kind of commitment they have—that’s the kind of suffering that they are going through—that’s the kind of courage they have, to this day. Right now they’re there, going through all these things that we’ve been looking at and listening to this morning—they’re there today, going through those very things! And it’s 2004. Are we going to be prepared? That’s a good question!
Beloved brothers and sisters, this righteous root is worth reviving. It’s worth patterning our lives after. It must be revived, and I believe it will be revived. But it may take persecution to do it. I don’t know, I’m not a prophet, but we must know that God will revive it in the last days. I believe that. But must we wait for persecution? Must we stand and watch our babies’ heads smashed with a sledgehammer, to rise up then and revive? Must we do that? It can happen, brothers and sisters. Must we stand and watch our virgin daughters raped before our very eyes, and then rise up and get desperate? I think we should rise up and get desperate now, before that day comes, because it’s coming. Why must we wait for that? God is calling us to better things this morning, brothers and sisters.
You know, I think the devil looks at the Anabaptists like Napoleon looked at China. Napoleon, in the 1800’s, said of China, “SHHHHHH! China is a sleeping giant, let her alone, or she will destroy us all!” I wonder if the devil doesn’t look at the Anabaptists in the same way. The devil watches her. “SHHHHHH! Go to sleep; go to sleep; go to sleep O little children! Let her sleep!” He says, “If she ever wakes up to her heritage, look out, the kingdom of darkness shall be shaken once again!” He keeps lulling them to sleep, generation after generation. How many generations have they been sleeping? “Have your own religion! Wear your clothes! Live your simple life! Bake your pies! Be a tourist attraction, no problem! Sleep on now, mighty giant of Anabaptism, sleep on, sleep on. Don’t wake up and win the world and shake my kingdom again!” says the devil.
In closing, how do we revive it? Can we even do it? That’s a good question! With our present circumstances, our present practices, and our present theology, can we even do it? Our view of suffering is very different than theirs—our view of evangelism is very different than theirs. And our view of materialism is very different from theirs. Can we even do it?
How do we revive it? Number one, we must begin with an honest acknowledgment of where it really is. We must begin with an honest acknowledgement, and acknowledge that our fathers have sinned and our fathers’ fathers have sinned grievously before God. An honest acknowledgement of where we are compared to where they were would be a good start.
Owning up to some of the recent articles in the newspaper would be a start. They’re rather embarrassing, those articles about the plain people, all the problems they’re having—the youth, drugs, drinking, and incest, all those kind of things, they’re embarrassing! You know, you just wish you could just get rid of those papers, and don’t let anybody read them! But you know what? It could lead to some humility in those people called the plain people. We could do it that way. We could let it do that in our hearts, and cause some self-examination and maybe some desperation to rise up in the heart. That would be a right response to those embarrassing articles in the newspaper, wouldn’t it?
You know, I was in an Anabaptist church some years ago, and the minister got up in the middle of his sermon and he said something that I never forgot—he said these words: “We hear a lot of talk about revival these days. We don’t need revival, we are revival!” These were the words that came out of his mouth. And it was toward the end of his sermon, toward the end of the service, and I’d sat through the whole thing (and it was a pretty dry piece of bread that evening.) “We are revival!” What was he saying? You know what he was saying? He was saying, “We believe the doctrines of the early Anabaptist church, we believe in nonresistance, we believe in separation from the world, we don’t vote”—you know, and down the list he could go. Because we believe these things, we are revival. That’s an utter deception. Those are good things, and we believe them, but that is not the spirit of early Anabaptism. They were a power for God! Let us be honest. We have the theology of Anabaptism, but we don’t have much of the reality of Anabaptism, and let’s be honest about it. Then let that honesty lead to some open dialogue.
First, it’s got to take place in our hearts! Just a good old-fashioned honesty meeting just between God and me! Get on my knees and say, “Okay, God, that’s right, we have fallen!” That’s the first step! But then, let that honesty lead to open dialogue, where we can begin to talk, “What is wrong?” Dialogue! Back and forth. What do you think is wrong? What do you think is wrong? I need help! We need help! Open dialogue. And then open our heart to the voice of his prophets, instead of stoning them, every time some guy comes along and says there’s something wrong. If we pick up a stone, and let him have it, we’ll never find out how far we’ve fallen. It just won’t happen. So don’t stone the prophets. Listen to them. Despise not prophesying, Thessalonians says, but rather listen to it, and prove it, whether it be true or whether it be false!
Number three, on how to revive this righteous root—a cry for restoration. First, we get honest. Then, we are willing to dialogue. Now we’re ready to cry—to cry for restoration. Persistent prayer. Desperate prayer. Remember the judges, brothers and sisters here locally? Emanuel read us those accounts and went through the book of Judges here the other evening and that message of compromise? It wasn’t until the people got honest enough to cry to God! Then God came through and delivered them. Until then—no deliverance. Though they probably wanted it, though they were weary of the situation they were in, though they were probably wringing their hands and saying, “What shall we do? What shall we do?” I tell you, there are Anabaptists today that are wringing their hands and saying, “What shall we do? What shall we do?” It wasn’t until they got to the place where their stewing became a desperate cry to God from a sincere, humble heart that God came through and delivered them—a persistent cry for restoration!
Number four, we must repent of our fear of man. The fearlessness of the early Anabaptists was the strength of their lives. It was the strongest character in them. But today, we are afraid of man. We must repent of our fear of man. We won’t talk to our neighbors because we are afraid of what they might think, or we’re afraid of what they might say! We must repent of our fear of man. I believe it is a spirit of fear that has the plain people gripped and held in bondage, and every time somebody pops up their head a little bit and starts to think, “Maybe there’s something wrong, maybe we should change this or that.” You know, “GRRRR!”—some growling spirit chases them back down again and they sit down in their pew and be quiet for another generation. We need to repent of our fear of man!
And lastly, don’t focus on the movement. Focus on the Christ of the movement. And I feel this is one place where things have gone awry many times. I mean, we have garnished the sepulchers of those early Anabaptist leaders and we have lifted up that movement and we have made it so much more than it is—It’s only one movement where the Spirit of Christ was mightily moving! Don’t focus on the movement! Focus on the Christ of the movement! And yeah, look and see how God worked in the lives of those men and women and say, “God, make us like that through Jesus Christ our Lord!” We must return further than 1525, brothers and sisters. We must return to the early church, and the Acts, and the Christ of the early church, if God is ever going to revive the righteous root of Anabaptism. We must return to these things. This is the burden of my heart this morning. Thank you for listening.
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