Can I Or May I

By Grant Phillips

Years ago in grade school (elementary school these days) I learned the difference between “Can I” and “May I”. Our English teacher, who was also our math teacher, and our history teacher … well, you get the point … taught us this lesson, and I have never forgotten it. She gave this example to illustrate the difference between the two words “can” and “may”:

1.     Can I go to the restroom? This sentence is actually saying, “Am I able to go to the restroom?”

2.     May I go to the restroom? This sentence is actually saying, “Do I have your permission to go to the restroom?”

This now leads me to the real issue. I wrote another article entitled “Is It Too Late For Revival”. Down toward the end I made the following statement, “Is it too late for revival? I reiterate that in my opinion we have gone so far in our rebellion against God, we will not choose to repent, but instead face judgment. I would love to be proven wrong.”

The two words mentioned above, “can” and “may”, fit into this problem perfectly, and they are exactly where I was coming from in the statement I quoted to you from the other article.

Can we have revival in this United States of America? Yes we can, because we have a God who says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) We are most certainly able to have a revival, if we choose. Nothing on God’s end is preventing it. The only prevention is our own hearts. We are able, if we will.

May we have revival in this United States of America? Yes again. God gives His permission by the same passage quoted above (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Allow me, at this point, to state exactly what I mean by a “revival”. This word is related directly to God’s people, not to the world. A “revival” is an awakening of God’s people that brings them back in obedience and service to Him. It has nothing to do with an evangelist meeting. An evangelist meeting is aimed at the lost, but a revival is aimed at God’s own children, the Christians.

Even if a full blown revival were to take place within the Church, that doesn’t necessarily mean that judgment would be withheld from the sick, perverted, blasphemous actions of the world we live in today. Neither does it mean that judgment would not be withheld. This is totally up to God, but the Church could be the only “second chance” the world has.

So if nothing changes in our country if there is revival in the Church, why bother? Here is why. (1) The fellowship of God’s people would be restored. (2) Christians would become true disciples and soul winners. (3) Thousands more would come to Christ than are now, because Christians would actually be living as God intends. (4) Families would be restored. (5) God’s people would stand up for the Truth. (6) Thousands would be saved from the ravages of drugs, crime, etc. because of coming to Christ. (7) Thousands of innocent babies would be saved from the medical butchers. (8) God would be honored by His own upon this earth. (9) Many of the local churches would be swept clean of the phonies behind the pulpits. (10) Many charlatans who prey on others to obtain their wealth would go broke, because the innocent, duped Christians would wise up. (11) And who knows, our government could actually be restored by God-fearing leaders. The possibilities of God’s power are endless. We the Church have the unlimited power of God behind us, if we would only repent.

Now we are back to those two words “can” and “may”. We know we are able to repent (we can), but will we allow ourselves to do so (we may)? “WE” are the only thing keeping us from a revival. WE are our own worse enemy.

Regardless of how far we have fallen, there is always room at God’s throne for a broken and repentant heart. So where are we in our heart with Him?

I hate to be so pessimistic, but I am not seeing the willingness in the hearts of those who claim to be Christians to repent, basically because so many do not see a need to do so. There is room for repentance in all of us, without exception. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Take heed that this statement of Jesus was spoken to the church at Laodicea. Notice what Jesus said to this church in verses fourteen through nineteen, “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” What did He say last? “Be zealous therefore, and repent”! This is today’s church!

How many have sat listening to a great message from their pastor, and thought “you tell them brother, they need to hear this”? Until we realize the message is for us too, we will never repent. And even then, if we do not realize that we are able to repent (we can) and allow our hearts to come to Him in repentance (we may), we will never repent.

I urge you to prove me wrong. I do not want to be correct in thinking that we, the Church, will not repent of our evil ways. Folks, we are not as well off as some of you may think. We need desperately to repent.

I need to make one more point. Let’s assume, with what we know now, that little Johnny or little Suzie asks the teacher, “Can I go to the restroom?” The teacher responds, “Yes, you are able, but you still need my permission.” The light bulb comes on, and little Johnny or little Suzie now understand that they need to say instead, “May I go to the restroom?” So the question is put forth to the teacher, “May I go to the restroom?” The teacher now responds, “Yes, you have my permission. You may go.”

One more thing; let us say that little Johnny or little Suzie represents you and me, a Christian, the Church. The teacher represents God. We ask God, “Can I repent of my sins Lord?” God says, “Yes, you are able to repent. I have made it possible for you.” He then reminds us that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) The light bulb lights up and we now ask, “May I repent of my sins Lord?” God responds with, “Yes child, if you are willing to repent, I am always willing to forgive you. Tell me what is on your heart.”

We are able to repent because Jesus has already made it possible for us to do so, but do we want to repent? God has made it possible. God has given His permission. Are we willing?

Little Johnny or little Suzie may be able (they can), and have the teacher’s permission to go to the restroom (they may), but if they do not get up and actually go to the restroom, what is going to eventually happen? You got it! They can be able. They can have permission, but if they do not actually get up and do it, they will have a mess, right at their desk.

We the Church are already in a mess. We have been provided the ability and permission by our Father in Heaven to repent. However, until we do so, the stench of our sins may bring judgment down upon us all. Is it possible that God would take the Church to the cloakroom for a good paddling before taking us home? The “apple of His eye” has not avoided punishment. What makes us think we will?


Grant Phillips

Pre-Rapture Commentary