What is Real Revival?
If your newsfeeds are like mine, you have at least come across some articles detailing the “spiritual revival” that is coming out of Asbury University in Kentucky. Much has been written and many people traveled to this university to get a sense of what God may be doing.
In light of this many have reached out to ask what my perspective is on this and I thought it would be helpful to not necessarily address the Asbury situation, but to have some discernible truths about revival in general in order to help the discerning Christian to ascertain what God does in revivals. Know this up front, this article has a space limit. I will be just giving you some points that I think will help you discern and evaluate any so-called “revival” so you can determine if such revival is a work of God or a work of man and human emotions.
Another important point I need to say is that I believe in revivals. Revivals are a God thing and God will use them to get His people awaken to His truth and sweep across the lands to cause the believing and the unbelieving to get right with Him and His truth. People will be saved. People will get right with God. People will start obeying and following God and His Word. And so the discerning Christian is going to ask such questions such as, “Is the revival genuine, or is it a mere outburst of superficial emotion? Do we find empty enthusiasm backed by nothing of substance, or does the enthusiasm itself signal a major work of God?”
A couple of foundational passages come to mind as we start, the first being 1 John 4:1-3, where the Apostle John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now it is already in the world.” Right off the bat we know when God is doing His work it will speak of the greatness Of Jesus Christ; His Deity and His atoning work on the cross.
The second passage that is appropriate in our study of revivals is Acts 5:38-39 where Gamaliel gives this assessment of the Apostles and their ministry when he said, “And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, for if the source of this plan or movement is men, it will be overthrown; but if the source is God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” Truth and time will go hand in hand, and if this is of God it will show its fruit. On the other hand, if the revival is of man, the evidence of that will be shown as well. God will put His “Hand” on what is truly His.
Here are some discerning points we must apply to any so-called “revival.”
A Definition of Revival
We must have a Biblical understanding of revival in order to ascertain if it is a revival or not. “Revival is an extraordinary move of the Holy Spirit upon significant numbers of people who are dead in their sins (unbelievers) or apathetic in their walk as believers and marked by worldliness. The extraordinary move of the Holy Spirit results in extraordinary spiritual transformation. Revival cannot be induced by human means. It results from a special outpouring of sovereign grace upon those whom God chooses. However, it is often preceded by persistent seasons of prayer and always includes the faithful proclamation of the gospel attended by unusual boldness and power” (Working definition by church historian Scott Christensen). This definition points out that it is the Holy Spirit who is unleashed to do God’s reviving.
It is a great reminder to understand that the Holy Spirit’s role is to confirm and to convict. The Holy Spirit will confirm the testimony of Jesus Christ. Jesus said this about the role of the Holy Spirit in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you.” God’s revivals will always point to Jesus. The Holy Spirit also convicts people of their sins. Again Jesus said this about the Holy Spirit in John 16:8, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness, and judgment.” The Holy Spirit will not go rogue. He will affirm what has been already received by Himself in the Bible. He will not dispense new revelation.
The Bold Preaching of the Gospel Leads to a Deep Conviction of Sin
There must be (and there is) preaching of God’s Word in revivals. Romans 10:17 comes to mind where Scripture says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Sins that were thought to be no big deal suddenly appear very wicked. Those under the conviction of sin often experience a sense of God’s wrath in such a way that they wonder why He has not already consigned them to the fires of hell. This leads to broken-hearted contrition and humble pleading before God in open confessions of sin and repentance.
The Preciousness of Christ In Light of Forgiveness
3) Christ and His work on the cross become extraordinarily precious as one experiences the sense of God’s forgiveness, pardon, and grace. Often tears of terror turn to tears of unspeakable joy. There is a deep hunger for the Word of God as though one would starve without consuming it constantly. The Word comes alive in ways it never did before.
A Need For Evangelism to the Lost
The concern for the lost becomes their direction. Those who experience the fires of revival are not indifferent to the lost. They see the true and desperate condition of lost souls and desire their conversion to Christ. They share His Gospel because they know it will change their eternal destiny.
The Necessity of Biblical Truth in All Things
5) Revival brings about a reformation of truth in the lives of Christians and even the communities in which revivals occur. Sin and idolatry are dispensed with. Believers gain a fervency for holy living that has a lasting impact on individuals, as well as entire churches and communities. Broken relationships are repaired. Confession and forgiveness are freely exchanged and there is an eagerness to meet one another’s needs.
I pray this stirs our hearts to seek the Lord all the more. I also pray it helps us to be discerning when “revivals” pop up. Know this: If the revival is from God it will have a lasting and eternal impact on souls.