Signs of Revival #5 — Change Goes Deep

Would you know a revival if you saw it? I am not sure I would. J.I. Packer has helpfully recorded ten different sings of revival life. If you would like to read the whole list, you can find it here.

The fifth sign of revival is: change goes deep.

When the winds of revival blow, conviction comes with it.  Superficial, cosmetic, outward, cursory change is not enough when God’s presence comes in power. When Christ’s church is awakened, her people begin to change at a deeper, more profound level. In revival, sin ceases to be a plaything and we see sin for what it really is–repugnant to a holy God. And as we repent and turn back to our gracious, forgiving God we change to our very core. Long-standing sin is thrown off. There is new strength for obedience. Holiness does not seem so strange. The alteration in our person and character is so deep that believers seem to change by multiple degrees of glory at a time.

When God comes down in power, his people cannot remain the same. In revival, believers become aware that they live before the face of God first, second and always. And before his face, we simply cannot, will not stay who we are today.

David Brainerd describes a revival among the Susquehannah tribe in 18th century North America,

“I stood amazed at the influence which seized the audience almost universally, and could compare it to nothing more aptly than the irresistible force of a mighty torrent, or swelling deluge, that with its insupportable weight and pressure bears down and sweeps before it whatever is in its way.

“Almost all persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together, and scarcely one was able to withstand the shock of this surprising operation. Old men and women who had been drunken wretches for many years, and some little children not more than six or seven years of age, appeared in distress for their souls, as well as persons of middle age. It was apparent that these children, some of them at least, were not merely frightened with seeing the general concern, but were made aware of their danger, the badness of their hearts, and their misery without Christ, as some of them expressed it. The most stubborn hearts were now obliged to bow.

“A principal man among the Indians, who before was most secure and self-righteous, and thought his state good because he knew more than the generality of the Indians had formerly done, and who with a great degree of confidence the day before told me he ‘had been a Christian more than ten years,’ was now brought under solemn concern for his soul and wept bitterly…

“Me thought this had a near resemblance to the day of God’s power, mentioned in Joshua 10:14, for I must say I never saw any day like it in all respects: it was a day wherein I am persuaded the Lord did much to destroy the kingdom of darkness among this people.”

May God come and change us deeply.

A God Entranced....

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Heaven on Earth

Many talk about heaven on earth, but few see it. Jonathan Parsons talks about what happened in Lyme, CT on October 11, 1741,

“Many more began to put on immortality, almost, in the look on their faces….Their looks were all love, adoration, wonder, delight, admiration, humility. In short, it looked to me a resemblance of heaven….Many old Christians told me they had never seen so much of the glory of the Lord, and the riches of his grace, nor felt so much of the power of the gospel before…never been so sensible of the low of God to them…they could not support themselves, many of them, under the weight of it, they were so deeply affected with i. Had no Christ put underneath his everlasting arms for their support, I know, not but many would have expired under the weight of divine benefits.”

Pray that God brings heaven down to your church tomorrow.

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Revival Changes What Christians Want

If you could have one thing from God, what would it be? What do you want most from God?

Good health?

A good reputation?

An idyllic family life?

A good job?

Your kids to obey?

Time?

A bit less stress?

Purpose in life?

Good things all, but none of these desires mark Christians in revival. In revival, a grand change occurs in the desires, the wants of God’s people. Instead of wanting things from God, they simply want God. When the presence of God brings revival the people of God metamorphosize. The saints shift from worrying about themselves and their kingdoms to being preoccupied with God and his kingdom. Is God enough for you?

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It has happened before. It can happen again. In Northampton so long ago, what people wanted changed. Jonathan Edwards tells how his friends desires changed. He says,

“The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven and every one appeared pressing tint it. The engagedness of their hearts isn this great concern could not be hid, it appeared in there very countenances. It then was a dreadful thing amongst us to lie out of Christ, in danger every day of dropping into hell; and what persons’ minds were intent upon was to escape for their lives, and to fly from wrath to come…The town seems to be full of the prince of God; it never was so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as its as then.”

What do you want most?

What Revival Did To A Church

Jonathan Edwards was an eyewitness of at least two revivals. As you may recall, revival is a work within the church that spills out onto the outside world, NOT vice versa. Edwards brings out what happened when revival came to his church. He says,

“When once the Spirit of God began to be so wonderfully poured out in a general way through the town, people had soon done with their old quarrels, backbitings, and intermeddling with other men’s matters. The tavern was soon left empty and persons kept very much at home; none went abroad unless on necessary business, or on some religious account, and every day seemed in many respects like a Sabbath-day. The place of resort was now altered, it was no longer the tavern, but the minister’s house that was thronged far more than ever the tavern had been wont to be.” Jonathan Edwards in A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Word of God

When God comes down, his people change. May we see days of revival in all of our churches.

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J.I. Packer has seen it all. Except….

J.I. Packer is evangelicalism’s Senior Statesman. This man of God has both studied history and made history. He has written dozens of books including the classic Knowing God. For a time he sat under the preaching of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones! This octogenarian has seen it all…except genuine revival. Listen to the good Dr. Packer in his own words,

“For more than half a century the need of such reviving in the places where I have lived, worshiped, and worked has weighed me down. I have read of past revivals. I have learned, through a latter-day revival convert from Wales, that there is a tinc in the air, a kind of moral and spiritual electricity, when God’s close presence is enforcing his Word. I have sat under the electrifying ministry of the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who as it were brought God into the pulpit with him and let him loose on the listeners. Lloyd-Jones’s ministry blessed many, but he never believed he was seeing the revival he sought.

I have witnessed remarkable evangelical advances, not only academic but also pastoral, with churches growing spectacularly through the gospel on both sides of the Atlantic and believers maturing in the life of repentance as well as in the life of joy.

Have I seen revival? I think not—but would I know? From a distance, the difference between the ordinary and extraordinary working of God’s Spirit looks like black and white, a difference of kind; to Edwards, however, at close range, it appeared a matter of degree, as his Narrative and his Brainerd volume (to look no further) make clear.

Some evangelicals need to be asked, Are you not expecting too little from God in the way of moral transformation? But others need to be asked, Are you not expecting too much from God in the way of situational drama?

Do we always know when we are in a revival situation?” J.I. Packer, A God Entranced Vision of All Things, pp. 107-08.

May we see days where the very winds of heaven blow on us and the obvious answer to the question, “Have I seen revival?” is YES!

A God Entranced....

Signs of Revival Life #4–Christ’s Cross is Valued

JI Packer asks, “Would we recognize a reviving of religion if we were part of one?” Good question. In Chapter 4 of A God Entranced Vision of All Things, this quintessential Christian statesman lists ten signs of revival (go here for the complete list). Today we look at the fourth sign of Revival: Christ’s cross is valued.

In many western churches today the cross is little more than jewelry or a bit of decoration on church buildings. A revived church sees the cross for what it really is–utterly remarkable. In revival days the cross moves from the periphery of church life to the blazing center. Every Christians knows that there is no salvation without Jesus absorbing the fury of God on the cross. When God’s presence comes in power people go from knowing to knowing. The church begins to think of the cross of Christ as it really is, not elemental but fundamental.

God is a God of love toward Christians but only because he was a God of wrath to his son. In times of revival, this truth stirs hearts instead of eliciting yawns. History records countless examples of men and women reveling in the Jesus’ sacrifice like giddy children. After all, It is the old, ordinary truths (like Jesus propitiatory sacrifice) that are injected with fresh Holy Spirit power in times of revival. If you need to reboot your appreciation for all that Jesus has done for you try spending a few days in 2 Corinthians 5, especially verse 21:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

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An Average Ordinary Revival

“Christian TV” is noisy and largely unhelpful, but especially on the nature of revival. To hear and see them tell it revival is long on preachers yelling things like, “Fire” or “More” ad infinitum and short on the preaching of Christ. Revival becomes a flurry of special meetings and impressive manifestations. History and scripture tell a different tale.

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When the Spirit of God comes to revive his people the ordinary means of grace (preaching, fellowship, prayer, corporate gatherings) take center stage. The ordinary is infused with the breath of God and the results are extraordinary. The same old truth cut a bit deeper. All of a sudden sin becomes as grotesque as it actually is. Praying becomes like breathing. God’s word is not just ink on a page but life to the soul. Biblical preaching is borne by a new power with much greater effectiveness. In revival times, special meetings are a response to God’s work and not a strategy to get God to work.

Jonathan Edwards says the same about when God came to Northampton so long ago,

“This seems to have been a very extraordinary dispensation of providence; God has in many respects gone out of, and much beyond, his usual and ordinary way.”

Of that time Hansen and Woodbridge say,

“His (Edwards) sermons marshaled the same old arguments, but suddenly gained traction, and people understood what had previously escaped them. It seemed like almost overnight the town changed unmistakably. Overcome either by distress from sin or by the greatness of God, people talked of nothing but revival. Those yet untouched by the awakening plead for God to revive them. Every day felt like Sunday, and everyone seems to look forward to the Sunday meeting.” A God Sized Vision, pg. 31

Revival times will dawn when the same old truth carries new supercharged power. May we all get to see your basic, average ordinary revival.

 

Saturday Revival Quotation

We will continue with the signs of revival next week, but as we enjoy this weekend take your desire for revival with you. No one can twist God’s arm into revival by secondary means, but we can and should and must pray. Hansen and Woodbridge say it well,

“Though God alone can instigate revival, the church need not wait idly. God may choose unexpected ways t and times to bless our efforts to preach ant teach his Word. We can confess our sins known and unknown and forsake them. Above all else, we can pray. When Christians petition God for revival, they acknowledge that all their efforts to organize and contextualize go for naught unless God goes before them. Revival is neither a well-organized evangelistic campaign nor a finely crafted apologetic treatise, though the church may profitably employ such methods. Revival transcends all ordinary ways we comprehend and communicate the grace of Jesus Christ….

Indeed, neither the biblical record nor Christian history is completely without these stories of revival. When all hope seemed lost, God moved.” A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir

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Are We Expecting Too Little?

God is big. You and I are not. It is far to easier to shrink our expectations of God down to bite size chunks, instead of asking for more. Just because our lives are ordinary does not mean our God is ordinary. I think I expect too little of God, and I think that I am not alone. Colin Hansen and John Woodbridge have written a prodigious book on Revival. The title of the book says it all: A God-Sized Vision, Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir. If you only read one book on revival, make it this one. Hansen and Woodbridge fire my revival desires as they explain the purpose of the book,

“Yet we submit that many Christians have grown so content with the ordinary that they don’t bother asking God for anything more. False biblical dichotomies that widen the chasm between the New Testament and us cannot justify reluctance to pray as Jesus and the apostles prayed. We who live in an era of small things must remember eras when the big things seen and heard in the Bible returned once more.

This book is not for those who have grown comfortable with the Christian life. Others, however, will feel the Spirit nudging them toward something more. They will begin to see ways they have been satiated by small things and lost the tastes for big things. They may realize that if Jesus is truly Lord, then everything changes. The timeworn routines that promise peace no longer satisfy. They will embrace a God-sized vision for his work in this world. We cannot pretend that we can see things perfectly from God’s perspective. But we can plead with him to give us a glimpse of the world from a loftier vantage point. Few of us are tempted today to dream too big. Rather, our vision shrinks to the size of our limited experience. Yet all thing safe possible for those who believe in the God who created the heavens and the earth. In our disbelief, we can ask God for inspiration to believe. They he may give us a vision of divine size.”

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When Revival Comes to Town

Revival came to Northampton in 1735. Jonathan Edwards describes the effect on the town, the church and everyone in between:

Edwards“This work of God, as it was carried on, and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town: so that in the spring and summer following…1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then. There were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought to them; parents rejoicing over their children as new born, husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands.

The doings of God were then seen in His sanctuary, God’s day was a delight, and His tabernacles were amiable. Our public assemblies were then beautiful: the congregation was alines in God’s service, every one earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth; the assembly in general were, from time to tim, in tears while the word was preached; some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbors.” A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God

Lord, come upon all of us like this!