Revival

Revival

Revival – Fresh Fire from God!

I am sitting in the midst of a gathering and am totally fascinated by the enthusiastic singing of the joyful worshippers, “God has sent the light of heaven down to this earth, to give the true light to those in darkness. We can experience joy and peace, since God’s mercy has given us Jesus.” The people tell me, “These songs were not passed on to us by Western missionaries; they were given to us by God.” Many such songs came up during a recent revival in Papua New Guinea. The songs usually celebrate the greatness and holiness of God, and Christ as the crucified and risen Saviour, and as the soon coming King. Those who sing these songs radiate a joy that stirs something in you. Something spectacular has happened in their hearts that has changed them completely. They sing whole-heartedly, they don’t bother what others think of them, they are not ashamed of worshipping the Lord in different styles, and they just have one thing in mind: being one with the glory and holiness of God.
What is the reason for this enthusiasm? Is this really a spiritual revival or just an emotional outburst, resulting from some kind of group dynamics or mass hysteria that will soon fade away?

Changed by God

How did this change happen? The church had experienced some very dry periods spiritually. There were only a few mature Christians; the majority of the traditional churchgoers were nominal Christians. God allowed a nearby river to overflow and the flood destroyed many houses. Fortunately no lives were lost. This great physical trouble led to a spiritual search for God. So-called Christians who were formerly satisfied with their ordinary spiritual life then felt a sense of hypocrisy in their personal relationship with God. Being confronted with the holiness of God made them aware of their own sinfulness and spiritual need.
This reminds me of Psalm 50:3 (GW), “Our God will come and will not remain silent. A devouring fire is in front of him and a raging storm around him.” Extraordinary things occur where God’s fire burns, similar to the times of the apostles.

What is a Revival?

What we sometimes call revival is more like a crusade or gospel week where evangelistic messages are being preached in hope of bringing lost souls to Christ, often through an altar call. This may be one part of a God-given revival. We may also call it evangelism, but that doesn’t exactly explain what a revival really is.
Revival is a spiritual reawakening from stagnation in the life of a believer or a church. “Revival is God bending down to the dying embers of a fire just about to go out and breathing into it until it bursts into flame” (C.Evans, a famous Welsh preacher). A vibrant church doesn’t need revival, only those who are in danger of getting cold need revival. Vance Havner says, “What we call revival is simply New Testament Christianity – the saints getting back to normal.” Revival can be defined as: “an inrush of divine life into a body threatening to become a corpse” (D.?Panton). Please take note that revival doesn’t come directly to unbelievers. It always starts with lukewarm Christians that are ignited anew. Others get attracted by this change, and as a result, also turn to Christ.

Revival is like?...

rain that comes down from heaven to water the dry earth. The soil can be prepared (Mt 3:3) but the rain comes from God alone.
wind. Imagine a fire that has burned down, the heat has gone, there are only some warm coals left. Dry sticks are added to the fire, a wind blows and the fire starts burning again, growing to a bush fire that is hard to stop. Again, the wind comes from God and cannot be controlled by man.

Preparing the Way for Revival

Studying the great revivals of the past will show that every revival is closely connected with sincere intercessory prayer. However, prayer does not cause revival to come automatically; it prepares the way for revival to come when God chooses to send it. In a similar way, John the Baptist prepared the hearts of the people for the coming kingdom of God through Jesus Christ (Lk 3:4). Revival is always a sovereign act of God. We cannot force God to give a revival, no matter how often we pray and how much we fast. We just cannot produce revival! It is also not transferable. Some think they can visit a revived area and “snatch” the blessing and bring it to another place. Jesus said clearly that the wind blows where it pleases. By this he means the working of the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:8).
What happened at Pentecost cannot be repeated. The Holy Spirit has come already and there’s no need to ask God to pour down his Spirit again. What we do need is a greater working of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives. What we need is Christians who are simply doing what they are supposed to do, according to what Scripture says. A question: Do the apostles really teach us to pray for revival and for a massive turning to God? No, rather we read of them praying for individual growth into holiness and maturity (Eph 1:15-19 and Col 1:9-12). As a result of this, people will see the light and taste the “salt” in us and turn to the Lord.

Revival starts with me! Just ask yourself: “Have I become lukewarm in my walk with God? Has routine and lack of interest taken the place of the ‘first love’ toward Christ?” If the following five signs of revival are not evident in my life, then I am most likely the first one in need of revival.

What are Clear Signs of a Revival?

When studying the past revivals in the Bible and in history, one can recognize five clear characteristics of a true revival. You might want to memorize them with the five fingers on your hand. A general sense of God’s holiness and presence will motivate his people to these five signs.

1. Turning to God in Repentance

Many Christians have a picture of revival as being a time of glory and joy, with many people being saved and crowding into church. This may be the result of a genuine revival, but it is not where revival begins. Revival starts with a deep sense of God’s holiness connected with a deep conviction of sin and experiencing godly sorrow. Backslidden Christians will feel the need to turn back to God. Much Christian work today is spoiled by pride, competition, selfishness and jealousy. We want to serve God without being touched by his holy fire. But first wrongdoings will need to be put right, secret sins will need to be confessed, ancestral practices will need to be brought to light, wrong attitudes will need to be corrected, forgiveness will need to be released, broken relationships will need to be healed. Without repentance there can be no revival (see 2 Chr 7:14)!

2. Passionate Prayer

Prayer should be a normal expression of a believer’s dependence on God. In a lukewarm spiritual state, the first thing we neglect is prayer. Satan doesn’t bother if we read the Bible and are busy with church activities, but he fears when we pray. In times of revival the Holy Spirit stirs believers to pray earnestly (Jas 5:16) and without ceasing (1 Th 5:17). Prayer is no longer seen as a duty but rather as a desire. People come together like sticks being added to a big fire, and sometimes they can hardly stop. Prayer movements have been started that have continued for years, like the prayer meeting of the Moravian revival in Germany. It started in 1727 and lasted for 100 years. Isn’t this similar to the first Christians in Jerusalem during the times of the apostles (Ac 4:31; 12:5)?

3. Worshipping in Truth

The working of the Holy Spirit in our lives will stir us to truly worship God. This worship is not only evident in joyful singing. True worship comes from a deep awareness of who God is and being absorbed in wonder, love and praise for him. During times of revival people don’t just “do worship” as part of the church service. Rather, with revival comes an awesome sense of God’s presence in his Spirit (Jn 4:24). They forget about themselves and others, they are gripped by a new love and longing for Jesus. Worship expresses itself in sacrifice and is evident in a dedicated life style. The Holy Spirit also gives new songs in times of revival to express deep spiritual truths again in a new way. A victorious church is a joyful church!

4. Hunger for God’s Word

“My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times” (Ps 119:20). This kind of longing and craving for the word of God is evident in times of revival. People just can’t get enough of listening to and reading the word of God. They love going to Bible studies, they listen to sermons and enrol in correspondence studies, just to quench their thirst. The Christians in Berea were exactly this kind of example to us (Ac 17:11).
    When was the last time you read the Bible just for the mere sake of satisfying your appetite for God and not to prepare another Bible study? Maybe you are in need of a revival.

5. Bold Witnessing

After experiencing a fresh renewing through the Spirit, it is hard to keep this to yourself (Ac 4:2). I once joined an evangelistic team preaching at a marketplace during the above mentioned revival. Young people who were known to be timid and fearful now gave bold witness of what God had done in their lives. Even young ladies were brave enough to confront sinful habits of elderly people in a way that was acceptable. This is the clear working of the Holy Spirit.
    Paul encourages us to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). The effect of Pentecost on the lives of the disciples made the onlookers think they were drunk. What merely happened was, they were not ashamed of testifying about the great deeds of the Lord. Whatever the cost, nothing could stop them!

Signs of Fake Revivals

If people talk about a revival and you don’t observe these five characteristics, you should be cautious about calling it a God-given revival. Satan disguises himself and comes as an “angel of light” to confuse the believers (2 Co 11:14). It is Satan’s desire to interfere with God’s work. He wants to destroy the church by imitating the real thing. Where God is at work, Satan also wants to interfere. From the beginning he has been a liar and a deceiver (Jn 8:44). When God turned the staff of Moses into a snake, the sorcerers of Pharaoh did the same, but with Satan’s power. However, we know that their snakes were later eaten up by Moses’ snake (Ex 7:8-13).

During the revival a young man got up after an evangelistic evening service – all the pastors had left already – and proclaimed to the congregation that he was an angel sent by God. The amazed believers, seeing this “miracle”, trusted this person as an answer to their prayers. Of course they expected this “angel” to bless them with money and other benefits. The “angel”, however, expected a great offering from the astonished believers. When the church leaders heard about this, they wanted to confront this “angel” and ask him some questions, but the young fellow had disappeared. The Christians then blamed the pastors for hindering the revival and grieving the Holy Spirit. Little did they know that the same person would be seen a few weeks later, roaming the streets of the city in search for work.

Some Christians are misled by the thought that the church building is in itself holy, and everything that happens in the “sanctuary” or behind the pulpit is produced by God. However, we need to be aware that Satan, if he can go to God in heaven (Job 1:6), can also go into church buildings. He wants to misuse church buildings and pulpits for his wrong purposes.
God’s power has not diminished and in his sovereignty he still uses signs and wonders to display his mighty works, especially among people groups who have little access to the written word of God. We read of miraculous healings and visions in the Muslim world through which people turn to Christ. However, in times of revival, spectacular events may lead to emotionalism in today's church. People then lose focus of the true signs of revival and glorify the manifestations in such a way that they drift away from a balanced biblical teaching and are easily led astray.
Fake revivals can be identified when the following points occur:

  • People orientated: They glorify the messengers more than the message and give them a lot of money. They respect “vessels” and so called “prophets” in an unbiblical manner. Revivalists start overriding the programme of the church and are not willing to submit to spiritual and mature church leaders.
  • Emotionalism: Touched spectators only want to get together to recharge their emotions, but hardly any change is recognizable in their lives. Some sing all night long and neglect their responsibilities in their family and at their workplace. Some even fall into immorality during such get-togethers. Others have uncontrollable body movements, make strange noises, and fall backward to the ground, but one cannot testify to any lasting impact or sanctification in their lives.
  • Becoming rich/‘prosperity gospel’: Earthly blessings such as health and wealth are being sought after more than spiritual blessings. People quote 3 John 2, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you” and think this is a guarantee for a sorrow-free life, even though God never promised that we would have no problems. We read the opposite case in what Jesus prophesied in John 15:20, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” They believe that a revival will just make them debt-free in their business, will miraculously heal their marriage and bring prosperity as a whole. False revivals stir false expectations
  • Ancestral belief: Some think of the Holy Spirit as equal to their ancestral spirits. Same practices used for the worship of idols are now used to worship God. Their worship is side-tracked by outward expressions of faith and valuing relics. They chant certain words or use a specific “formula” to channel the Spirit’s power. In some churches the phenomena of shouting louder and louder to make a prayer or a sermon more effective can be observed as an imitation of heathen practice. The Bible by contrast says we should “not keep on babbling like pagans” (Mt 6:7).
    In times of crisis and sickness, the ancestral worldview tends to come to surface. People go to church on Sunday and pray to God for healing, nevertheless go back to consulting witch-doctors and other mediums to find out the cause of their sickness. Spirit-worship and cults seem to creep in and people start praying at graveyards to deceased ancestors for riches. God hates this kind of religious mixture (Dt 12:31).

A revival is not here to stay forever, as some may wish. In the natural world you cannot have constant rain, you also need sunny periods. Times of revival are refreshing but also exhausting. God sends them to bring the church to a higher level of maturity in order to keep the believers strong through dry periods.

Responsibility of Church Leaders

Some pastors and church leaders tend to withdraw when extraordinary things happen in their church. This is a big mistake! This encourages the revivalists to think they don’t need the pastor anymore; they only “obey the Spirit,” as they say.
Instead, pastors need to be part of it, be with the people, observe as much as they can, have an open mind, pray intensely for the gift of discernment (1 Co 12:10), and have the courage to give correction if needed. Revival time is prime working time for pastors. Pastors need to be busy with teaching the congregation, especially new converts; teaching on the holiness of God, on the way of salvation, on the five clear signs of revival and on the fruit of the Holy Spirit. They need to teach people to build on the word of God and not on their feelings, experiences or supernatural phenomena.
When pastors confront unbiblical practices, the offended often try to shut the mouths of pastors with Matthew 12:32, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” They take this verse out of context and misuse the Bible for their agenda. God’s word says clearly that church leaders need to test that everything is done according to the word of God (1?Jn 4:1). We don’t need to reject everything that is unusual to us, but we do need to be of sober mind (2?Ti 2:26) and be aware of false prophets trying to mislead the church.
It is wise not to pour water on a revival fire quickly, even if it’s partly a fake fire. A story of Jesus in Matthew 13:24-30 gives us more insight on that. Beware not to rip out the good fruit. Time will tell what is genuine and what is fake. Then you can distinguish better and make sound judgments.
According to 1 Corinthians 14 everything in church should be done in an orderly manner. Practices of people not being able to control themselves should be rejected. Paul reminds us that the gift of prophecy needs to be under the control of the prophet (1 Co 14:32). If people confess being “slain in the spirit” and speak unconsciously while being in this state of trance, then they are not really slain in the spirit but slain in their soul and emotions. What they speak comes from their own unconscious mind and is not a direct message from God. Satan likes to misuse such experiences for his purpose. We have the whole revelation of God already, in the Bible. So every prophetic word in the church must be backed up 100 percent by Scripture. There is no need for additional messages through so-called ‘vessels’ or ‘prophets’. For this reason we need to test a revival according to the afore mentioned five signs: repentance, prayer, worship, God’s word, and witness.

Conclusion

As you read this article, don’t you feel a longing to experience a fresh wind from God in your life and in your church? You might look to others but you need to say to yourself, “Revival needs to start in me.” Let us pray for a new vision for God’s kingdom and his church. Let us “prepare the way for the Lord” and expect great things from him, but let us also let him work according to his plan and purpose!
Torsten Kugler

Application to your personal life

Answer the questions below. You might need a separate sheet of paper for the answers. Discuss your questions with another Christian leader.
Where does a revival come from?
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Give a definition of what a revival is.
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Find two ways to demonstrate what a revival is. You may also use this article in your search.
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Revival is always a sovereign act of God. But what can you do to prepare for revival?
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Where does revival start?
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Do the apostles teach us to pray for a massive revival or rather for individual spiritual awakening and growth?
Read the following references to help you give an answer:
Ac 4:31, 1 Cor 12.13, Eph. 5:18.
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What is the first sign to look for when you hear of a revival?
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State the five signs of a real revival. Try memorizing them.
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Observe your own life. Which of these five signs are lacking in your life?
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 Now observe your church. Which of these five signs need to be revitalised?
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Often pastors tend to withdraw during times of revival.
What should a pastor rather do?
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 According to 1 Co 14:32, who needs to be in control, the spirit of the prophet, or the prophet?
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 Should we be searching for extra messages from God, be it through so called “vessels” or other “prophets?” Read these references to help you give an answer: 2 Ti 3:16, 2 Pe 1:20-21, Rev 22:18. Where do we find God's revealed message to us?
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Sources:
Understanding Our Need of Revival by Ian Malins
Bible Translation used: NIV, GW God’s Word®.