By Dr. Ken Matto
As we look out over this planet of ours we can see the worldwide organized church involved with something called "Revival." Revival simply means "a state of being revived, a renewed interest or attention to something, or restoration of force, validity or effect." This definition came from my Merriam-Webster Computer Dictionary.
Everywhere we look we see tent revivals, church revivals, camp revivals, camp meetings, etc. Are all of these truly reviving the church? It seems we are in an age of revival and yet the church has gone deeper into a spiritually repugnant mode toward God and His Christ. So are all of these attempts at revival biblical? Close to my home, in Sayreville, NJ there was a "revival" in the summer of 1998. There were 3 Protestant churches involved and one Roman Catholic Church. If you have a dead Methodist church, 2 Charismatic churches and a Roman Catholic church, what kind of revival do you have?
Before we get into the essence of real revival, we must make a distinction between true and false revival. In the day in which we live, truth has become obfuscated by all manner of the teachings and rationale of men. The seminaries and pulpits have so darkened understanding, we no longer can identify truth, especially if we have put our faith in the teachings of men rather than the root teachings of Scripture. If we do not know the Bible, we will not identify the workings of Satan which are so prevalent in the modern day church.
A. Signs, Wonders, and Tongues
With the exponential rise of the Charismatic movement around the world, many take this movement to be a sign of a great revival taking place in the church. The biblical evidence reveals that the Charismatic movement is anything but a revival. This movement is the binding cord of the ecumenical movement which seeks a reunification with Rome and a one world church. The sad situation is that many cults speak in tongues, Roman Catholics speak in tongues, and missionaries stationed in areas with heavy occult or Voodoo activity state that the same ecstatic, ejaculatory chants and unintelligible sounds emanate form those who are under demonic control. Since this movement has many evil components in it, it cannot be a revival sent from God. Instead it is a major part of the great delusion sent by God.
(2 Th 2:11-12 KJV) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: {12} That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
B. Increased Church Attendance
Someone may hear a sermon or a radio program and feel guilty that they haven't gone to church in a long time but should go and begins to go. This does not constitute a revival. Many clergy associations urge their members to get as many people into their churches as they can. These clergy associations are centers of local ecumenicalism. How can a true born again believer want to urge people to go to a dead Protestant church or Roman Catholic church?
C. Morality Shift
A person might hear a sermon and begin to start looking at where they are morally. They may begin to watch family oriented programs or stop listening or telling dirty jokes. Cleaning up one's moral outlook does not constitute a revival.
D. Giving up Pet Sins
Sometimes a person may hear a morally focused sermon and may raise a guilty feeling in their life or it may "strike a chord." One may be engaged in smoking or addicted to TV watching or whatever and they may hear the preacher speak against their pet sin or mention it as being a god in their life, so the hearer decides to evaluate and then remove the sin from their life. This is nothing more than a moral reformation and does not constitute a revival. Anytime a person gives up any type of sin, I am in favor of it because it can only be for the good, even in the life of an unbeliever.
(Luke 11:24-26 KJV) When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. {25} And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. {26} Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
The above verses teach that reformation without transformation is not revival.
E. Increased Church Size
When a church increases in size, it does not mean that a great revival is taking place and that all who have decided to begin attending are saved or even searching. Many times church going is nothing more than a family tradition. At present there are church growth movements which do not focus on truth of the Scriptures but rather on getting people in at any cost or method. One such method is the entertainment of the audience in the church. Many churches have replaced preaching and singing with dramas or repetitive choruses. Just because this type of church grows, it does not constitute a revival.
F. Emotionalism
There are many who hear a sermon and go into a guilt trip about something they did to someone or just some action. On the other end of the scale, there are those who get on an emotional high when they hear a sermon which they enjoy hearing. Feelings are too volatile to build a foundation on it. Emotional highs do not represent a revival. Emotions are deceiving.
If you notice we briefly looked at what a revival is not. These 6 items have one major thing in common. They are all man centered! To understand the essence of true revival, it must be necessary to realize that
Nowhere in the Scriptures do we ever find anyone looking inside themselves or trying to analyze themselves and their actions. Any time a person was called in the Bible by God, there was always a tendency on their part to realize that they stood in the presence of a holy God. In essence, true revival is reality based concerning God. Is there any place in Scripture where we find the saying, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." I have never read that. Man wants to make God out to be as "one of the boys." God is a thrice holy God and He does not come to us with fanciful sayings. Whenever we read a direct quote from God, it is a "purpose directed quote" and not just a superficial saying in hopes He will be believed or obeyed. Let us look at some of the principles that we find in Scripture which gives us good insight as to what true revival really is.
A. Realizing the great gulf between our sin and God's Holiness
(Isa 6:1-7 KJV) In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. {2} Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. {3} And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. {4} And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. {5} Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. {6} Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: {7} And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
One of the principles of true revival is that God opens up the spiritual eyes of people to realize that great difference between the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God. This dichotomy is seen in our passage of Scripture. When Isaiah was called, his eyes were opened to realize that he was a sinful and unclean being until the time that God saved him which is symbolized by the hot coal touching his lips. The hot coals representing the gospel because only the gospel can remove our iniquities. (Rom 4:7-8 KJV) Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. {8} Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Probably the best picture of this is seen in the Parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man could not come over to Abraham because of the great gulf which was fixed. The principle is that there is a great gulf between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of men. God cannot even look upon sin because of His holiness.
B. Crying out to God
(Psa 27:7-9 KJV) Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. {8} When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. {9} Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
In a real revival, God begins to work in the hearts of the people. True revival is not somebody walking down an aisle and uttering a few words rather there is a sincere lament because the heart of the person is being broken and transformed at the same time. I have seen Billy Graham Crusades on TV where they show the people coming forward and I have seen many of them laughing on the way down. That is not the sign of a penitent heart turning toward God. In fact, when God begins to call someone, there is usually a time of somberness as God begins to open the heart of that person to their sinfulness until the time which God removes their sin burden and they become born from above. Then the joy of the Lord flows in like a flood. This is also known as positional sanctification.
C. Sincere Godly Sorrow for Sin
(Heb 12:17 KJV) For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
When God takes hold of the heart of a person there is a realization of the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God which results in a sincere sorrow that the sinfulness of man has sinned against the holiness of God. Esau, after finding that he sold his birthright for soup, sought it back with tears but his tears were not of sincerity. He no doubt was crying over all the possessions he lost. Many preachers teach that God gives a second chance. Sometimes He does as with the case of Jonah but this verse surfaces a principle that sometimes God's decision is final and there is no repentance on God's part. True sorrow realizes that a person can do nothing to gain salvation on their own but knows only God can give it because how can unholiness please holiness?
D. A Repentant/Reorganizing Spirit
(1 Th 1:9-10 KJV) For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; {10} And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
One of the keys of true revival is its ability to last in the hearts of the true believers. A person who is truly saved or revived will begin to remove from their lives anything which will be offensive to God. As we see the Thessalonians turn from idols, so does the true believer. Sports is no longer the god! Alcohol or Cigarettes become repulsive! Bible study takes the place of TV! I think you know what I am driving at that anything which keeps us from obeying God on a consistent basis, is removed from our life as a result of salvation, not a step to salvation.
E. A Return to the Bible Alone
(Psa 105:8 KJV) He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.
Probably one of the major results of revival is the hunger for God's Word minus man's words. Many evangelists or preachers give out the works of men in campaigns. Many books which are given are nothing more than evil psychobabble, feel good books or they give copies of "The Living Babble." A person who has been truly saved or revived will evidence a hunger for the Word of God minus all the educational hooey which man tries to bring to it. The Bible is its own interpreter. It was during the Renaissance period which predated the Reformation when people were crying out for a return to the original biblical languages. Once the truth was placed into the hands of God's people, the world was once again "turned upside down." Now with all the garbage in these so-called Christian Book stores, the world has turned Christianity upside down.
(1 Cor 2:13 KJV) Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. This verse means we are to compare the Bible by the Bible for true understanding. When a person turns from the extra-biblical material which inundates the believer to the Bible alone, then they will begin to discover the deep truths of Scripture which is like the roots of Psalm 1.
(Psa 1:1-3 KJV) Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. {2} But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. {3} And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Let us look again at the 5 principles of revival:
1. Realizing the difference between the Holiness of God and our sinfulness
2. Crying out to God for salvation
3. Sincere, godly sorrow for sin
4. A repentant/reorganizing spirit
5. A return to the Bible alone.
(If you have a King James Version, then stay with it. If not then buy one and make that your Bible and disregard the rest.)
(2 Cor 6:2 KJV) (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)