Does anyone still believe in the possibility of revival?
Psalm 85:4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us! 5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
How often I forget one of the most important prayer requests. How can I forget to cry out as the Psalmist here does? “Restore us please!”
As I pray this, I am reminded of God’s glory and His sovereignty. “Revival is a work of God where He enlivens His people by accelerating and intensifying His work in individual’s lives” (Jonathan Edwards). If enough people have this personal renewal at any one time and in any one place, then the reality of God’s presence is demonstrated in spiritual sensitivity and a community pursuit of holiness.
So as I pray this, I am reminded that revival begins in me.
Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4 From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
Do I really desire this? Is there not a sense of fear that God would actually do this? Is there not a subtle secret doubt that God actually can or will do this anymore?
J.I. Packer often taught about the history of revivals. He made some interesting points about the nature of revival that come from his study of the theology and thoughts of Jonathan Edwards.
#1 Revival is more about holy living than new conversions.
#2 We cannot pray revival down – we cannot force God’s hand. It happens in His timing.
#3 Revival will not solve all of the churches problems. It can even create more!
#4 Revival is tied up in a deep desire to glorify God.
#5 Revival causes a deep repentance, responding in holy living, which draws outsiders in.
I still am excited about revival in our midst. As I am on the horizon of now 32 years as a Christian educator. God's work has always been going on, but I'm excited to see it in a more concrete way... every day!
This is echoed back to 1844 when Archibald Alexander lamented, “From this cause it proceeds, that many children who have the opportunity of a good pious education learn scarcely anything of the most important truths of Christianity. If they are compelled to commit the catechism to memory, they are accustomed to do this without ever thinking of the doctrines contained in the words which they recite; so that, when the attention is at any time awakened to the subject of religion as a personal concern, they feel themselves to be completely ignorant of the system of divine truth taught in the Bible.”
Dr. Alexander goes on, however, to make a most important point. He said that these truths that seem to be a source of great contention, are hidden treasures that actually have wonderful benefits.
He says it this way: “Of two people under conviction of sin, one of whom has had sound religious instruction and the other none, the former will have an unspeakable advantage over the latter in many respects.”
No doubt that some children of Christian parents experience God’s love in a variety of ways. They may be awakened early to stories of Christ and His sacrifice or God and His mercy. But these early experiences do not always manifest themselves in immediate conversion.
It is hard to know sometimes, if a child is truly converted. The Puritans were very careful in their use of the term. To them, “faith that fizzles was faulty from the first”. They instructed their children in the catechisms, but took no hope in externals and misleading ‘juvenile exercises’.
We must never take lightly the enemies of our souls: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Could it be that the great deceiver would use childhood practice with piety as a veil for true conversion? What if the appearance of salvation prevented true confessions of no faith as the child finally becomes aware of his sin?
Dr. Alexander was not fearful of this line of reasoning. He clearly states:
“While I would not deny that Satan may take advantage of these transient exercises to induce a false hope, I cannot be persuaded that he produces these impressions; for often the people, before experiencing them, were as careless and stupid as he could wish them to be, and because the tendency of these impressions is beneficial. The youth thus affected becomes more tender in conscience, forsakes known sin before indulged, has recourse to prayer, and feels strong desires after eternal happiness. These are not what Satan would effect, if he could, unless we could suppose that he was operating against himself, which our Savior has taught us to be impossible.”
If we understand the work of God’s spirit in a less than immediate or linear experience, we are more able to see that even these transient times of experiencing God are beneficial to conversion- even if it is many years down the road.
I love Dr. Alexander’s point here:
“So, when a revival occurs under the awakening discourses of some evangelist, people are ready to think that he only is the successful preacher whose labors God owns and blesses; whereas he does but bring forward to maturity, feelings and convictions which have been long secretly forming and growing within the soul—but so imperceptibly that the person himself was little sensible of any change.”
And what of those who do not receive adequate religious instruction or have these early impressions? No doubt they can be converted, but the soil is much less ready for the good seed of the word.
So I continue to say to parents and Bible teachers of the young- preach on! You don’t think you are making an impact, but you are! You never know what conditioning is taking place in the depths of the heart.
This doesn’t mean that we not try to find creative, encouraging, positive, and loving attempts to share the good news. But every prayer and every attempt may be producing fruit that we know nothing of, until we see it in eternity!
God bless those who labor among the young!
Here comes a new year and NEW OPPORTUNITIES!