What are the signs of genuine revival, and what is the purpose of revival? Though we claim to seek renewal, are we in fact putting up roadblocks to God’s grace at the same time?
There has been a real focus on revival recently here at the Daily Declaration. That’s primarily because it’s part of the organisation’s DNA.
In particular, I’ve been fascinated with discovering the history of the Moravians by watching the interviews Warwick Marsh conducted with Dr Jason Hubbard. These inspired an article I wrote a couple of months ago, as well as my reading Dr Hubbard’s excellent book, Moravian Miracle: The 100 Year Prayer Meeting that Changed the World.
Also recently, Kurt Mahlburg interviewed Dr Barry Chant on revival, where he made the point that “revival” should be our normal state as Christians, as it implies a consistent increase of growth. But what we see as revival he called “divine visitation”, which he also showed was the more accurate definition from Scripture.
But for the sake of the more familiar, I’ll stick with “revival” unless there’s a direct application of “divine visitation”.
Now, I’m also looking forward to the book that Warwick is writing with Kurt Mahlburg on the rich history of revival in Australia, which I’m praying will be “for such a time as this”.
Historically, though, when we look to God during challenging times for the Body of Christ (as we’re certainly experiencing now in the West), we are prone to look to past outpourings as a model for what God will do in the future. Then when we pray for revival, we’re often asking God to “do it again, Lord, as You did before”.
But from past revivals, what we won’t find is what the Spirit will do in and through us, what revival “looks like”. But what we always find is His heart, primarily for the lost, and the specific nature of His desires in that situation.
It’s vital, therefore, that we practise right thinking about God’s purposes for revival. Do we, for example, get carried away with the notion that we are the primary beneficiaries of revival, that we get to party with the Holy Spirit? Because that’s been tried and found wanting.
I recall vividly the ’90s, post-Toronto, when all we succeeded in doing was to isolate the outpouring inside our four walls, reducing its scope to our own fascination with the physical and emotional manifestations.
In relation to this kind of fleshly response, Dr Michael L Brown, in his 1996 book From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire (now out of print), quotes the great healing ministry leader of the early 20th century, John G Lake:
“We have treated the precious Spirit of God as though He is a method of providing a means of spiritual entertainment for our souls. God’s purpose is far mightier than that. God’s purpose is that our spirit be tuned to heaven, our heart capable of hearing and realizing the songs of glory, appreciating the companionship with God and feeling flames of His divine love, expressing and revealing it to the hungry world that knows not God.”
And there you have the overarching purpose of revival: to miraculously energise the church to miraculously attract and convict those outside the church of their lost state and their need of a Saviour.
In other words, it’s not the “how” that’s the focus, but the “who”.
In Two Minds
But so often, and on so many issues, we are not “tuned to heaven” to anywhere near the extent that we are tuned in to exalting our own pet issues and opinions. This creates division in our thinking, and ultimately in our relationships, creating sharp divisions within the Body of Christ.
How can we even pray for, let alone expect, revival if we are hopelessly double-minded (James 1:6-7 NASB)? And are we not double-minded when we are so divided on recent and current issues? Take, for example, those relating to the pandemic concerning trust (or lack of it) in governance, truth (and who’s telling it), and the balance between individual rights and communal responsibility.
Or when in one breath we say, “Revive us, O Lord”, yet in the next, we’re commenting on issues like the globalist intentions of groups like the UN or the WEF, and we pine for the Rapture, crying, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
Why do we act as though our rescue is more important than revival and the harvest of souls that is its natural fruit? Can we really expect God’s fiery blessing to fall on us when we see the kind of fear-induced division these and other similar issues foster?
After all, these are the kinds of issues Jesus told us to expect, yet not to fear:
“But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
~ John 16:4, 33 (NASB)
In relation to that double-mindedness, a few months ago the Holy Spirit gave me three words that highlight this current attack on the Body of Christ: Diversion, Deception, Division. Satan is attempting to divert Christians from their true devotion, development and direction by deception in relation to false narratives and fear about world events. This leads to the division that is a consequence of the conjoined dominating mindsets of cynicism and scepticism, which are the antithesis of faith and trust in our good God.
Are we not double-minded when we focus too intently on these issues at the expense of other issues, for example, those relating to social welfare? Are these not equally issues of concern for Christian Conservatives?
To go one step further, are these not the very issues which, along with the “culture war” issues, where we find the corrective to the slow drift to the Left of Conservative parties in Australia? These together lead to the only true repudiation of the vague and empty Utopianism of the Progressive Left. So why do we often treat them as though they’re mutually exclusive?
In my very first article here at the Daily Declaration, I made that precise point:
“Conservatism cannot be what it claims to be — ‘conservative’ — for just one class in society. Conservatism is all about conserving the best for all, seeking to improve the lot of all.”
It was such an issue — the national rental crisis — through which the Holy Spirit touched me deeply and prompted me to write this article.
Selfishness vs Cultural Change
I firmly believe that not only should engaging with such issues be a defining characteristic of Christian Conservatism, but it is actually a defining characteristic of true revival. Revival doesn’t just transform lives and see large numbers brought into the Kingdom, but revival transforms culture.
In fact, it’s fair to say that if we claim we’re in revival, yet the surrounding culture remains unchanged, then it’s not really revival.
As Dr Brown puts it in From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire,
“… we can roll on the floor and laugh every night until three in the morning, but if the world around us remains unchanged, that is not revival. If the way we live outside the building does not become characterized by holiness and sacrificial love for the Lord and the lost, that is not revival.
And if everything that happens in our revival meetings comes through the hands of human vessels — without the supernatural visitations outside the Church, without the abiding Presence, without the clear evidence that God Himself has stepped down from heaven in power — that is not revival.”
In that case, it’s fair to ask if we in Australia are prepared for revival. Are we moved to more than a brief pang of sadness by the plight of the new “middle-class poor”? Will we even notice when their ranks swell due to the multiple pressures of stagnant wage growth, sharply rising interest rates and high inflation? Because, sadly, most of us see something like that story on the news about the rental crisis and it’s pushed out of our minds by the very next story.
This is because our age is marked by what I call apathetic insularity. Similarly, Francis Schaeffer, over 50 years ago, prophetically identified the two ruling aspirations of people in the future: peace and prosperity. Peace, Schaeffer defined as the overriding desire for a life unruffled by trouble; and prosperity, he explained, is the affluence achieved by acquiring more and more material goods. When this attitude takes hold of a person, their hearts are effectively locked shut to any outside influence of anything beyond their own situation.
And as those aspirations become a greater influence over our mindset, we’re also locked shut to our need to grow spiritually. But because the Holy Spirit continues to speak into our spirits, while we continue to heed our material aspirations, isn’t this the root cause of our double-minded condition? I think one of my favourite Christian singer/songwriters, Mark Heard, defined this most eloquently in his song, We Believe So Well:
“But we believe so well, don’t we tell ourselves?
Don’t we take exclusive pride that we abide so far from hell?
We might laugh together, but don’t we cry alone
For the ashes and the dust we’ve swept beneath the holy throne.”
There was a similar time in Israel’s past when they “believed so well”, and as a consequence, the prophet Isaiah delivered a stinging rebuke from God:
“Cry loudly, do not hold back;
Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their wrongdoing,
And to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God. ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast for contention and strife, and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you have done today to make your voice heard on high!
Is it a fast like this that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is this not the fast that I choose:
To release the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the ropes of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free,
And break every yoke?
Is it not to break your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will spring up quickly;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry for help, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you offer yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the need of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness,
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
~ Isaiah 58:1-12 (NASB)
More recently, Keith Green gave us a similarly prophetic wake-up call:
Just like Judah in Isaiah’s time, we too “ask… for just decisions” on issues that directly impact us. We also “delight in the nearness of God” in our meetings. But we fail to recognise God’s heart and focus for the lost and “the least of these”:
“To release the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the ropes of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free,
And break every yoke”
This is why we as Christians need to be so very careful that we do not absorb elements from the surrounding fallen culture, ruled as it is by “the spirit of the age” (Ephesians 2:1-2). When we do, it effectively dulls us to the needs of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).
Paying the Price
These attributes have now come to define the culture in fulfilment of Schaeffer’s prediction. And as politics is assuredly downstream from culture, then the kinds of social infrastructure our politicians are able to bring to fruition are limited by what we are prepared to pay. There are always complaints about not enough schools, hospitals, and too much traffic congestion, among other grievances. We also complain about taxes being too high.
So let’s be honest: who among us would be willing to pay more in tax to see those needs realised in the shortest possible time? Or are we, even as Christians, like the rest of society, too wedded to our material aspirations to even consider it?
I was reminded of this when I read the recent article here by former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Ramesh Thakur, where he made an excellent point:
“Pandemics have long been identified as one of many global challenges for which the world should have prepared in advance.”
But the problem I see is that if any government announced that they needed to, for example, massively increase the hospital capacity to cover such a future challenge. This would involve a cost of many tens of billions of dollars, requiring an increase in the income or GST tax rate. Would we be supportive of that?
If any proof were needed that such forward planning would provoke a negative response, you don’t need to look any further than the issue regarding the dedicated quarantine centres built for returning travellers during the pandemic. These are now empty, and being labelled as “white elephants”.
Yet there was so much criticism of governments for not being prepared for the influx of citizens wanting to come home from overseas. So these now empty quarantine centres are the exact thing that many were criticising governments for not having ready at that time.
On this basis, think again about the plight of those caught in the rental crisis. Even if you are moved by their plight, would you applaud moves by governments to undertake the kind of program that could alleviate the problem in the shortest possible time? What if it meant a fast-tracked public housing program that required increased taxation?
So, if we have, to any extent, imbibed “the spirit of the age”, and become indistinguishable from the culture, then before we can experience an outpouring of revival should we not expect the Spirit to come to correct and purify us?
If that’s the case, then the words God spoke through the prophet Malachi come to mind here:
“Behold, I am sending My messenger, and he will clear a way before Me. And the Lord, whom you are seeking, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of armies.
“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like launderer’s soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.”
~ Malachi 3:1-3 (NASB)
Again, this from Dr Brown’s book:
“This is a picture of revival too. He brings judgment, not just joy. He comes with claims, not just charisma. He is demanding, not just delightful. He is the Lord of all, not just lovely and adorable. He refuses to merely “fit in”… He died for us all, and He died for all of each of us. He expects all in return. Encountering the Son of God is radical. Surrender is total and absolute.”
I don’t know about you, but for myself, I find this incredibly challenging just reading it as I type! But Dr Brown has more to say:
“Yet we often drift from this truth. We serve God out of habit and worship Him by rote. We divide our life into little compartments. We give Jesus a nice compartment of His own! But when He comes in revival power, when He is glorified in the midst of His people, then He stakes His claims and renews His rights over the flock He purchased with His blood…
He is the fullness of God in bodily form (Col. 2:9), the all-consuming fire, the Lord of glory. And when we cry, ‘Come, Lord, consume me!’, He just might do that very thing.
Do we grasp the meaning of those words? “Come Lord” — the King in His majesty; the Creator in His splendour; the Master in His holiness; the Son of God in His might. Do we really want Him to come?
“Consume me” — in fire, in flames, in a blaze of purity; until my carnal flesh is burned beyond recognition and a new creature shines forth; until my will is totally absorbed in my Maker’s; until the unseen is far more real than the seen; until I am utterly dominated by my God.
Is that what we want, or are we merely seeking a little brushfire to warm and cheer us, or a Holy Ghost cookout that will satisfy our cravings? Once you pray, “Consume me, Lord”, you can’t negotiate with the flames.”
Dr Brown’s sobering judgement raises some questions that we need to consider: what do we need to change to be prepared for this kind of divine visitation? Are we prepared for it to involve God’s purifying Presence? Will we submit everything to Him? Are we prepared to, as Graham Cooke describes it, “kiss the Hand that hurts”?
I think that a good example from Scripture of this, of the alternative to division or apathetic insularity, or both, is found in the kind of devotion displayed by Mary of Bethany. She sat at Jesus’ feet, soaking up His teaching, which He described as “the good part” which was the “one thing… necessary, … which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 NASB). That devotion to His teaching led to a sacrifice at great personal cost:
“Mary then took a pound of very expensive perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
~ John 12:3 (NASB)
This beautiful song by Rend Collective gives this act even greater relevance for us:
So, what comes after this? As I mentioned, God never uses the same kind of circumstances, and no two revival outpourings are similar. The one common denominator in all of them is a burning desire among God’s people to see God bring transformation to the whole culture, which I will address in another article in the coming days.
In the meantime, here’s another Rend Collective anthem that I think is a fitting prayer to take us from here to there.
Photo by George Webster.
Thank the Source