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TEXT: Habakkuk 3:2
SUBJECT: The Spirit of Revival
My talk today is on The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Revival. I don't need to define The Holy Spirit, do I? He's the Third Person of the Trinity, equal to the Father and Son in every way, but doing a work distinct from theirs. Not contradictory, of course, but distinct. All God's people agree on this.
But there's less agreement on Revival. Thus, to begin our study, let's define our term.
WHAT IS REVIVAL?
Before I tell you what a Revival is, let me tell you what it is not:
If you'd asked me this thirty years ago, I would have said, "A revival is a series of evangelistic meetings". The church I went to had one every year and it lasted one week.
I think these meetings can be a very good thing. But they're not the same as a Revival. Historically, revivals have often been related to these meetings.
But in what way? Not as a cause of the revival, but as it's result. When people are revived, they turn off their TVs and go to church! A Revival is not a series of Gospel meetings.
A Revival is also not a different kind of work by God's Spirit. In ordinary times, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, kindness, meekness, faithfulness, and self-control".
But in Revivals, what does God's Spirit produce in us? The very same fruits! It's not as though the Spirit gives ABC in ordinary times, but XYZ in revival times! He doesn't.
What, then is a Revival?
A Revival is the ordinary work of God's Spirit greatly deepened and widened.
Ordinarily, the Spirit enables us to love Christ and win souls to Him. In Revivals, He enables us to love Christ more and to win more souls to faith in Him.
That's what a Revival is. It's a great work of God's Spirit.
WHAT DOES A REVIVAL LOOK LIKE?
Thus far, I've been pretty abstract. Now, let me try to describe for you-not what a Revival is, but how to recognize it.
On this point, no one is better qualified than Jonathan Edwards. He was a very brilliant man, with a deep knowledge of the Bible and first hand experience with Revivals-and their counterfeits!
Edwards says that Revivals are not (1) big numbers, (2) loud noises, or (3) weird things. Revivals may contain these things, but they don't make a revival-and sometimes they take away from it.
In his day, Edwards saw a man preach 24 hours straight! He heard women speak in tongues, and people dance or pass out in the service. He didn't damn these things, but he thought they polluted the Revival.
Today, of course, we have a Revival in Toronto that is marked by Holy Laughter and Holy Barking. In the Vineyard, one man told me God rained down gold dust on him. Some have claimed that God miraculously gave them gold fillings.
[I'm loath to agree with Jimmy Swaggert, but on this point, I think he's right. He said, "If God wants to fill a man's tooth, I think He'll do it with.tooth!].
If a Revival isn't about numbers, noise, and nonsense, what is it about? The Bible tells us. The best place to look at it is the Book of Acts, Chapters 2-12
I have to be selective, here, but let me point out a few things that we see the in Church at and after Pentecost.
Every church acknowledges the importance of Christ. But in many churches, He has lost the primacy-He's not Number One. What can take His place?
Reformed Churches are always tempted to put The Reformed Faith in His place. Whether it's the Five Points of Calvinism or Covenant Theology, or Reconstruction, or some other distinctive mark of the Church. It's not that we "deny the Lord who bought us", but He slips into the background while we're putting other things in front of Him.
Charismatic Churches often put the Holy Spirit or His gifts or what He's doing in their lives before the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, of course, the Spirit of God is important and His gifts are necessary, and so on, but remember,
"When He is come He shall
testify of Me".
Other churches put their traditions before the Lord. They're more Luther-centered or Wesley-centered than they are Christ-centered.
The Home Church Movement is in danger of doing this, too. Do they believe in Christ? Of course they do. But what do they emphasize and how do they identify themselves? Meetings in the home? Lord's Supper every week? Unpaid pastors? Sharing time?
Whatever other churches emphasize, we can be sure of this: the Revived Church in the New Testament gave Jesus Christ first place in their lives, their worship, and their message.
What's the first sermon about? Acts 2:22.
How's the first miracle done? Acts 3:6.
What's the first persecution for? Acts 4:1-2.
What's the first prayer about? Acts 4:20-30.
Who'd the enemies blame for the church's success? 4:13
The first believers had a deep love for each other. Let's not fantasize about it. It was not perfect. Widows from Judea were better treated than widows from other places, for example. But they did love each other.
The love they had for each other was more than a warm feeling that no one could be sure of. It was seen in how they lived. For example,
They spent a lot of time together, Acts 2:42.
They shared what they had, Acts 2:44-45.
They showed hospitality, Acts 2:46
They prayed for each other, Acts 2:42, 12:5
They wept for each other, Acts 8:2.
Love for the saints is not a secondary issue. When the Church is revived, it's always there-and obvious. When it's lacking, the Church is in grave danger, cf. Revelation 2:4-5.
When God's Spirit grips us with power, He makes us unashamed to witness for Christ. The Revived Church was bold to speak up for Christ! And they did it in a society that had just killed the Lord! Remember, Pentecost is only seven weeks after Passover!
Yet here they are preaching Christ without fear! First Peter. Then Stephen. Then Philip. And finally, everyone! Acts 8:4.
I know evangelistic zeal can be without knowledge. It can be artificial, heartless, or forced. Thus, not every soul-winning program implies Revival. But where there is Revival, there will always be evangelistic zeal!
When a Church is revived, it will be Christ-centered, loving, and evangelistic.
WHAT IS THE DANGER OF REVIVAL?
Revivals are good things-very good things. But that doesn't mean there are no dangers associated with them. Let me tell you about the one I fear most.
If you've read books on revival, you long to see one. But there's the danger. In waiting for a Revival, we don't appreciate what we have now and we don't do anything now.
Compared to the Great Awakening, we live in a bad time. It's easy to become frustrated and disillusioned. As though one baptism a year isn't a wonderful thing! It is! Angels rejoice over one sinner who repents. We should too.
Whether the times are wonderfully alive or as dead as a door nail, the Lord wants us to "occupy till [He] comes". He wants us to be faithful in worship, love, and evangelism, even if the times grow darker and darker. It's hard to do. We need patience.
SHOULD WE LOOK FOR REVIVAL?
Only God knows whether revival will come to us-or when. But, be that as it may, we have two good reasons to hope for Revival.
The first is Theological.
Revivals cannot just happen. Several things have to be in place. Here they are: God must be almighty, Jesus Christ must be exalted, the Spirit must be poured out, and Satan must be bound. All four are presently true!
There is no lack in God, in Christ, or in the Holy Spirit to prevent Revival in our time and place. Nor is there any power or cunning in Satan to prevent it. He's whipped.
The second is historical.
If you read the history of Revival, you'll see that they are rarely local affairs. When God pours out His Spirit in England, for example, He also comes to America, to Switzerland, and to other places too.
That's happening right now. Last week, Tom Wells spoke at our church. He's a Reformed Baptist pastor, author, and something of an expert on Revival. He said from the pulpit,
"We may be living in the greatest
revival in the history of the world".
He cited Africa and the Far East as examples. God is saving millions in those remote places. And if He's at work there, then why not here?
I am not Postmillennial. And you don't have to be to believe that Revival is both possible and likely. Surely, Romans 5:20 teaches that,
"Where sin abounded, grace
did much more abound".
WHERE DOES REVIVAL BEGIN?
Revival begins in the church. Often in the heart of one person. When the Baptists met in the late 1700's hardly anyone looked for revival. But two young men did-William Carey and Andrew Fuller.
God lit the fire in their hearts, and soon they became the Father and Uncle of the Great Missionary Movement, to bring life to a people who had never heard the name of Christ. Carey had it right,
"Expect great things from God".
Maybe we "have not because we ask not".
Let us, therefore, ask God to revive us, our churches, and the world. And let's not ask only once or twice, but,
"Keep on asking,
Keep on seeking,
Keep on knocking".
And see if God doesn't do
"Exceedingly, abundantly above
all we ask or think".
Revival! God bring it to pass, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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