At my grandmother’s house when I was a kid these metal things were sticking out of the walls. The large living room had two protruding from each wall. The smaller bedrooms had only one in the entire room. I would come to learn that these things were oil lamps. My mom would tell me of the days when she was a child, the days before they had electricity in the home; light came from oil.
It was one year after the end of WWII; mom was 18 years old when the old homestead received electricity.
According to the Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey, 1925 marked the year 50 percent of Americans had electricity, but nearly all of those with electrical power lived in cities. Today, according to the World Bank, 100 percent of Americans have access to electricity.
In one generation, from my mother’s early years to my latter years, electricity has made lives so different. When my mom was 12, she did not know what electrical power was, 12 years before my 70 birthday, and life would be unrecognizable without it.
Instead of using a typewriter (for those of you too young to know what a typewriter is you can see them in museums) I am typing this column on a laptop, run by electricity; my wife is watching television, a lamp in the room is providing light. My phone would be unrecognizable to Alexander Graham Bell as it does not need any wires to communicate with the outside world, it has a screen, I can type on it, watch live events as they happen from anyplace on the globe. All of these things powered by electricity.
All the above is only scratching the surface. Look around the kitchen, the can opener, toaster, refrigerator, and on and on and on the list goes. Electronics are in every place and do everything.
I cannot help but think how excited my mom and grandparents must have been when they flipped that switch; no longer needing to light the oil lamps every evening.
Life before WWII is nearly unrecognizable today.
There is one constant – Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
Jesus never changes, but the church has. Please do not think because of my long-winded example of the changes in life brought on by electricity that I am advocating becoming Amish. I am only trying to show that over the span of just a generation or two, things can be completely different.
The three great awakenings of 1700-1800 were all massive movements by the Holy Spirit sparked by preaching about sin.
The First Great Awakening of the 1730s-40s started with Jonathan Edwards’ work, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.”
The Second Great Awakening came nearly 100 years later but lasted longer (1820s-50s). The main thrust behind this revival was Charles Finney. Finney’s two main topics were salvation by faith and righteous living. He emphasized a virtuous life so much his critics claimed Finney preached the saved were sinless. That is not the case, but it does show that sin was a major topic during these years of revival.
The Third Great Awakening only lasted about 10 years, from the mid-1870s to the mid-1880s, but again there was a significant emphasis on sin. A quote from D.L. Moody, the foremost evangelist of the time, “God has nothing to say to the self-righteous. Unless you humble yourself before Him in the dust and confess before Him your iniquities and sins, the gate of heaven, which is open only for sinners, saved by grace, must be shut against you forever.”
Just as the life of the 1880s, with city streets filled with horse and buggies, people hauling water into the house from the well or creek, women killing a chicken in the morning for tonight’s supper, is a lifestyle long forgotten, the preaching of sin, in many churches is long forgotten as well.
Sin was a significant topic of Jesus when He preached. Matthew, Mark, and Luke explained that Jesus’ message was a message of repentance (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 13:1-5). John tells us when Jesus talked to the woman taken in adultery He said, “… go, and sin no more.” In other words, He told her to repent (John 8:11). There cannot be a message of repentance unless there are sins needing repentance.
I receive emails from writing the column. Few are criticism, some are questions, but the majority of them are from people expressing a heartfelt desire for the preaching of old. Preaching about sin, preaching about the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, preaching about living a righteous life.
From the general tone of the emails, American Christians are longing for the preaching of Edwards, Finney, and Moody; and most importantly, the preaching of Jesus Christ.