Though you may roll your eyes, I believe there are times in human history when our Creator exercises His right to completely interrupt the status quo. Humor me, if you will… Periodically in the course of civilization, God suspends His own laws of physics and sends His Holy Spirit to renew our faith, our devotion, and our joy. If you are an unbeliever, you have, no doubt already rejected this thought out of hand. If you are a Christian, I ask that you keep an open mind. I am both a product and a participant of such an event.
There have been pages of history that have been so deeply imprinted by God that the resulting eras have been given names by secular scholars. The “Reformation” of the sixteenth century and the “Great Awakenings” of the eighteenth century are two prominent topics in the narrative of Western Civilization. As we look more closely at the history of Christianity, we see many more spiritual renewals that enlivened individuals, churches, and denominations. Each occurrence brought a restoration of individuals’ relationships with God that, in turn, resulted in positive changes in society. We call these events “revivals.”
“O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2 NKJV).
A revival is not a series of services held at a local church. Revival is God personally interrupting human history to pour out His Holy Spirit. Revival can’t be called down from heaven; it is not man-made in any way, and it requires no human commentary. It is widespread and knows no church or denominational boundaries. Revival results in conviction, repentance and restoration wherever it flows. As Leonard Ravenhill once said, “Revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that He shows Himself.”
It seems that there are many Christians that believe God is somehow looking forward to Judgment Day. To listen to some, He can hardly wait to see this whole mess thrown into the fiery pit of Hell. Hmm… except that’s not what the Scriptures teach. Any Vacation Bible School graduate can recite John 3:16; but can we quote John 3:17?
16For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17 NASB).
Think about that. We know that a perfect God must one day separate between those who have been redeemed and those who have not. Yet God doesn’t hate sinners; He doesn’t take pleasure in crushing those who disagree with Him. He could have destroyed us all and started again, but He sent His Son so that we could be saved. The Apostle John wrote, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:8). Not only that, but the Father has purposefully postponed judgment in the hope that more might repent.
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NASB).
I have a theory… What if the Church, like Old Testament Israel, were to cycle between obedience and indifference? What if rather than a place to welcome fellow-sinners searching for mercy and grace, the Church becomes increasingly self-righteous and judgmental? What if we, as God’s people were to become complacent and irrelevant, with nothing better to do than sit around and tell the world all the things they are doing wrong?
And what if God doesn’t think too highly of that attitude in His people?
Again and again, God brings me back to Isaiah 59. Most of the chapter painfully recounts the sin, violence and injustice that have overtaken the age. The oppression is so fierce and boundless that the Scripture says, “Yes, truth is lacking; and he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey.” (Isaiah 59:15).
“And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought salvation to Him.” (Isaiah 59:16).
The last verse represents an absolutely incredible thought. It says that God is astonished that there is no one to intercede. Think about that just a moment. There are not a lot of ways to surprise God, but He is surprised that, in spite of the desperate need, there is no one that will step in to help. Rather than leave us without a rescuer, God takes on the role Himself. Continuing with that same verse, Isaiah speaks,
“Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.” (Isaiah 59:16-17).
In other words, when the bottom falls out and no human has any clue how to stem the tide of evil, God intervenes and takes on the role of intercessor. Though He is surprised that no one steps forward, He is, after all, the God who cares for the lost. He is the God who redeems. He is the loving Heavenly Father who sent His own Son rather than leave each of us dead in our trespasses and sins.
This is the power that changes everything. This is God setting things straight. This is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to teach, to comfort and to empower.
This is revival.
Thanks for dropping by. I blog every Tuesday morning and I welcome your comments. If you sign-up in the form on the right we’ll send you a link to the new blog each week. Starting next week, I’ll be offering my free eBook, “Thoughts on 21st Century Revival… Connecting with Millennials.” Be sure to check back in.