Over the last 2 months it has been reported, around the world, that revival has broken out on college campuses in the United States of America. We have been informed of possible spiritual awakenings on the campuses of Asbury College, Lee University, Belmont University, and Cedarville University.
In these locations it has been reported that students are repenting, praying for one another, staying for hours in praise services and that charismatic gifts have been manifested among participants.
Although these elements are biblical and may be present during times of revival, their presence neither confirms nor denies a revival. That said, only repentance of sin leading to prayerful seeking of the LORD, among those call by the name of Christ are indispensable to revival.
Truth told, it is too early to tell whether revival has taken place. Asbury for example, has concluded after about three weeks, therefore there will be little objective measurement on long term effect. Consider this fact concerning Asbury: since its founding in 1890, the college has had as many as 8 revivals or what was thought to be revival.
This is noteworthy because it may reveal a predetermined pattern, that may suggest man’s desire and promotion, rather than a genuine, sustained move of God, by God. And for a school, founded in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition, that is less than 150 years old, it seems 8 revivals is a little suspect.
To compound the fervor of potential revival, in the Christian population in America, is the release of the movie “The Jesus Revolution”, detailing the important people and happenings of the “Jesus People Movement” or what is sometimes referred to as the “Hippie Revival” of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
It was this movement which gave birth to the Calvary Chapel Church denomination, as founder Chuck Smith was at the forefront of the “Jesus People Movement”, with hippie evangelist Lonnie Frisbee. The movie is basically the story of how celebrity pastor Greg Laurie came to faith in Christ, and how the Christianity spread among the youth counterculture population, in its first year and a half.
“The Jesus People Movement” had some of the same characteristics as the above revivals, yet with this moving of God, there was a focus on repentance and discipleship, among those who remained in discipleship with pastor Chuck Smith, which the movie does not do well to explain.
It must be clearly and definitively stated once more that prophesying, speaking in tongues, healing, casting out demons, hours of singing and times of spiritual emotional out cry, are not foundations to revival, nor indicative that a revival is occurring. These may be present during revival, but not indicative of one.
Additionally, many people seeking an encounter with the Holy Spirit, is not indicative of a revival. In fact, even though many in that pattern may be sincere, often their sincerity rises from a zeal without biblical knowledge, that can lead to spiritual shipwreck.
Remember that the Holy Spirit was given to us by the Father, for the purpose of glorifying Jesus Christ (John 16:14-15).
We must remember that the Holy Spirit, in us, compels us to seek Christ, His glory and His fame. We seek Christ in love, the giver of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and His continuing fullness (Ephesians 5:18-19).
We seek Christ. Far too often people chase “revival” rather than be moved by the Holy Spirit to be revived into the mission of Christ in their city.
Associated with Asbury and the people and experiences inside of the “Jesus People Movement”, are also unsavory elements masquerading as right and biblical, which need to be dealt with. This should not blow us back, for whenever God moves in power, the enemy attempts to counterfeit and convolute what God has brought forth.
When these elements are unchecked and experienced by those in attendance, they can damage the faith of the unaware, as well as the name of Christ. Therefore, it is essential we understand the nature of revival.
So, what is revival?
This question is not easy to answer, as the word “revival” does not appear in scripture, but tends to be associated with times where God does something to awaken His people from backsliding or apostacy.
Therefore, a foundational aspect of revival is the repentance of God’s people (either Israel or since Pentecost His church). This repentance is seen in God’s people returning to simplicity in the faith and the expulsion of worldly ways, which have crowded out true biblical faith and practice. This spiritual transformation then comes to bear on the world around God’s people.
Over the last 40 years, it seems that whenever continual and protracted manifestations of the Spirit (either real or imagined) occur, where praise music seems to continue unending, where charismatic speakers whip people into a frenzy, where “dreams and visions” occur and masses of people begin to make pilgrimage, that it is believed to be a revival.
That belief does not jibe well with the true character of a biblical revival, which at its core exclusively begins with repentance in the church. In America, Christians must be careful to do the work of repentance and obedience to Christ, rather than chase charismatic movements.
Even when a reviving of the Church may occur, we must fight the urge to run to where we believe the Spirit of God is, for He is everywhere present with those who are Christ’s own. Therefore, we must be catalysts for God’s will, and His kingdom where we are at.
To understand revival, we must look to God’s word for for clarity. There are three places in God’s word that are apropos, in defining revival, they are…
- II Chronicles 7:13-16
- Ephesians 5:13-19
In my next post we will dive into these passages and discover the true nature of Revival.
In looking forward let us always remember that it is God that begins a revival and the church’s repentant response that either keeps revival rolling, or shuts revival down. We will find that God’s mercy, in reaching out repeatedly, is the only way revival takes place.
Let us remember that the LORD called Israel back to Himself, repeatedly, through prophets, invasions, pestilence and captivity. It was only when Israel responded with repentance and faith, that revival would come.
Let us remember this pattern exists in the New Testament as well, with the Church of Ephesus. Both Paul and John loved and served this Church. In reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church, we can see 30 years in advance of Christ’s call to return to their “First Love”, that Christ was calling them to awaken.
Revival begins with the church awakening to the reality of God’s presence and how it has turned from Him sinfully, while being convinced of being faithful. This awakening brings godly sorrow, working repentance leading to a renewing of our faith and commitment, to the God, Who’s Son alone is our salvation (II Corinthians 7:10).