Convocation 11/5/17: Tim Lee and revival

Lets talk about revival.

Our speaker today was Tim Lee, a purple heart veteran and evangelist. He shared a message about the need for revival in America and how it can be achieved. He preached from Nehemiah chapters 1 and 2, arguing that the actions of Nehemiah should be an example for us today. Lee claimed that before revival can occur, we (Christians) must first turn away from our own sin. To support this, he pointed to Nehemiah 1:8-9,

“‘Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations,  but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’” (NIV)

Lee concluded by issuing a call for those in the student body who felt led to be pastors and evangelists to stand up and dedicate their lives to service as spreaders of the word of God.

While I agree with much of what Lee preached, I have several reservations with how he sees revival. My first reservation is that his view of revival relies heavily upon the example of Israel. In his message, Lee used the example of Nehemiah returning to Israel as a demonstration of how God creates revival. This is not uncommon, many biblical scholars find the origin of revival in Israel’s history of falling away from God only to be brought back to him. However, this ignores the unique position that the Israelites were in as a people and as a nation. Israel was unique in that it had two major covenants with God, the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant, found in Genesis 12-17, is God’s promise to Abraham that he will make a great nation of his descendants. The Mosaic covenant, found in Exodus 19-24, is God’s promise to make the Israelites his chosen people and a holy nation as long as they follow his commandments. Because of these two covenants, Israel had a special relationship with God. They were punished when they did wrong, but if they kept the terms of the covenants, they were blessed.

Christians are not under either the Abrahamic or Mosaic covenant but the new or Messianic covenant. In this covenant, we are able to receive salvation through faith in Christ. This is why most of us as Gentiles are able to receive salvation. Prior to the new covenant, God only had covenants with his chosen people (the Bible does not mention any others). Because of this, non-Jews were unable to receive salvation. Because Christ died on the cross, we are able to receive the new covenant. However, this does not mean that the old covenants suddenly apply to Christians. These were contracts that God made exclusively with the Jewish people, not with the Gentiles. If we are basing our belief in revival on the example of Israel, we may be disappointed. The results that Israel had were the results of their covenants with God, covenants that Christians and America do not have. We cannot perform the same actions and expect the same results.

My second reservation with how Lee sees revival is that he sees it as a very antagonistic and patriotic process. Throughout his message, Lee constantly returned to need to retake America from its “enemies”. At one point in his speech, he pointed out that the biggest threat to America is not outside adversaries, but those inside the country who he claims wish to destroy it. The only way to defeat these “enemies” and retake the country was to bring about a religious revival.  This is problematic for several reasons. First, it treats faith as if it is a weapon. Salvation and evangelism are meant to help those who are lost and do not know Christ, it is not meant to be used as a weapon to defeat our “enemies”. To use it as a weapon ignores the very reason God sent his son to die for us: because he loved us. Romans 5:8 makes this clear, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV). If we are using evangelism as a weapon, we are not demonstrating the same love that God and Christ showed.

A second issue with using revival and evangelism to retake the country is that it makes them a tool of patriotism. We as Christians are called to be salt and light to the entire world, not just to America (or whatever other country you live in). We are not citizens of this world anymore, but citizens of heaven. Paul makes this very point in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV). If we subject our faith to our patriotic beliefs, then we are putting our earthly citizenship before our heavenly citizenship. It is also dangerous to conflate our religious beliefs and our national identity, as we risk subjecting our faith to our political goals. We must always put our Biblical principles before our political desires.

Tim Lee is a great evangelist who is truly passionate about sharing the gospel. However, I found the vision of revival that he put forward in this message to be extremely problematic. 

Lightning Round:

  • He does know there are women in that audience, right? Everyone couple of minutes he reiterated that his message was for young men, completely ignoring over half the campus. Women are also capable of sharing the Gospel.
  • Not a huge fan of his claim that anyone who questions your goals, purpose, or method is an enemy. That is a real quick way to fall into group-think and desires for ideological purity (also, it makes me an enemy).
  • Lee mentioned the internal enemies of America frequently throughout his message, but never actually said who these enemies are. From his statements, it is fairly obvious he meant those who disagreed with him politically, which is unfortunate. Political disagreement does not make one enemies, it is the very nature of our country.
  • I do not like culture-war style rhetoric as a whole. It often comes off as a way to weaponize religion.

Bible verses quoted: 5

Total verses quoted all semester: 61

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Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Liberty University leadership or administration in any way. This post is solely a matter of personal opinion. The opinions expressed here are solely my own and should be not be taken as the opinion of the University, its staff, or the student body.

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