Christian Living

Q/A Friday: How Can We Recognize a Genuine Revival?

A revival occurs when a person or group of persons isolate themselves from the apathy around them and commit themselves under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live differently in light of that recovered doctrine. Many people think of a revival as an evangelistic crusade, but a revival is more. Revivals do not start in the world (under a tent or in an arena); revival starts with God’s people seeing their sin for what it is (e.g., the Jews in Ezra 10).

We can identify a revival as having the following 6 characteristics.

  1. Revivals result in God visiting His people in a way they have not recently experienced. For example, on New Year’s Eve 1739, John Wesley, George Whitefield, and some of their friends held a “love feast” which became a watch night of prayer to see the New Year in. At about 3 a.m., Wesley wrote, “The power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.” They felt as if God was personally visiting them in a unique way that they become both fearful and joyful. Revivals always begin with a restoration of the sense of the closeness of the Holy One. Thus, people get on their knees; they pray.
  2. Revivals elevate one’s esteem for Jesus and the cross. Jonathan Edwards called this one of the distinguishing marks of true revival. For the Christian, the person of Christ is an unavoidable reality but during revival this mark consumes him. Edwards wrote about this in his work The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. He says, “The person to whom the Spirit gives testimony and for whom He raises their esteem must be Jesus – the one who appeared in the flesh. No other Christ can stand in his place. No mystical, fantasy Christ! No light within – as the spirit of Quakers extols – can diminish esteem of a dependence upon an outward Christ. The Spirit who gives testimony for this historical Jesus and leads to Him can be no other than the Spirit of God.” (pg. 30)
  3. Revivals wage war against any interest of Satan’s kingdom. Again, Edwards says this is a distinguishing mark of true revival. Revivals don’t eliminate sin, but they do fight against it. When revival comes, people are struck by their sin and awake from their sinful slumber. They get on the offensive when it comes to battling sin. They don’t wait for sin to crouch at their door; they attack it before it invades their life.
  4. Revivals cause a deeper love and affection for the Bible. Since the days of sola Scriptura and the Reformation, the Bible has been vandalized in too many different ways. During revival, the Word of God is not vandalized but prized by all. And the product of such affection is absolute obedience. A.W. Tozer once asked, “Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late – and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work. To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble. Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.”
  5. Revivals invite fresh love for the Gospel as never before. The sense of God’s nearness creates an overwhelming awareness of one’s own sins and sinfulness, and so the power of the cleansing blood of Christ is greatly appreciated. Thus, as God’s people love the Gospel for themselves, they can’t help but preach it to others.
  6. Revivals stir up repentance. This is a natural outflow of one’s understanding of their sin and the power of the Gospel. Repentance results in restitution.

When revivals happen, the Spirit works fast, godliness multiplies, Christians mature, and converts appear.

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please email it to charlesheck@cox.net or post your question in the comments section.

Advertisements

Internal Adornment: Part 8

This is Week 8 of our series in the Beatitudes, where we have been addressing the internal righteousness that God looks for. These Beatitudes were given to help us address the issues in our heart and not just the external conformity to laws and regulation.

Today, we consider this – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mathew 5:9).

Peacemaking is not pursuing “peace at any price.” It does not include compromise. It is not being laid back or passive.

Peacemaking is not accepting “anything that avoids trouble.” If you take a smooth path instead of a rocky one, you are not a peacemaker. It doesn’t mean we avoid conflict at all costs. Some conflict is loving and necessary (e.g., rebuking a sin).

Peacemaking is not some New Age form of inner peace. Peace is not attained at by emptying your mind and finding your inner karma.

Peacemaking is reconciling 2 parties that are not in harmony. It is merging or reuniting two people or groups or factions that have separated over a matter (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:10-14).

What usually disrupts the peace is sin. Whether it be Satan’s sin in rebelling in heaven or Adam and Eve’s sin in Eden, sin disturbs, disrupts and ruins peace (James 3:16-18). Sowing in wickedness will lead to discord and not make peace (Isaiah 48:22). Sin can lead to war; it can lead to a violent episode between a husband and wife; it can lead to a self-centered tirade of a child; or it can lead to a clash of power between two leaders. When sin comes in, peace usually goes out.

We pursue peace because God is a God of peace (Judges 6:24; Romans 15:33; I Corinthians 14:33; Philippians 4:9; I Thessalonians 5:23). We pursue peace because God gives peace (II Thessalonians 3:16). We pursue peace because the Gospel is a message about peace (John 16:33; Ephesians 6:15).

Peacemaking matters because it characterizes citizens of God’s kingdom. Peace is a fruit of one who has truly been saved. Jesus is not giving these Beatitudes as options or suggestions. Jesus is lighting the pathway to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is attempting to save all of us from future judgement.

The remaining question is, “How can I grow to be a better peacemaker? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Live in James 1:19-20 – “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Be eager to listen to others. Be quick to hear what God’s Word says. Don’t feel like you have the answers to everything or must answer every question. When conflict exists or when peace is absent, relax.
  2. When you offend someone, work towards making peace. We already referenced Romans 12 that says we must do everything we can to be at peace with everyone. This suggestion is not easy, because it required humility, admitting wrong, and talking about the “elephant in the room.”
  3. Refuse to be vengeful. God is the judge of men – not us (Rom 12:19). Trust that God will do what He said He would do – act our vengeance. Our life is not a life that should be repaying men when they mistreat us. If you find yourself in a cycle of being vengeful, you will not find peace. Instead, you will further the war.
  4. Overlook minor issues (Proverbs 17:14; 19:11; 20:3).
  5. Die to self. Since the world does not revolve around us, and we are to live for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4), we can safely assume that one who is dedicating to living for the benefit of others is going to find himself making peace everywhere he does.

Internal Adornment: Part 7

We arrive at Week 7 of our series in the Beatitudes. Below are the previous studies.

  • God’s desire for internal righteousness (Matthew 5:1-4, 20)
  • Spiritual poverty (Matthew 5:3)
  • Mourning (Matthew 5:4)
  • Humility (Matthew 5:5)
  • Holy ambition (Matthew 5:6).
  • Mercy (Matthew 5:7)

Today, we consider this – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mathew 5:8).

The Greek word for “pure” means “free from any adulterating matter” or “clean.” It is where we get our English word “catharsis.” If something is cathartic, we say it was cleansing in some way. Thus, the idea of being “pure” is to be free from any defilement.

The “pure” Christian is single-minded in his devotion towards God. There is no competitor or no other love or no other god. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus reminds us that we cannot “serve two masters.” To be a friend with the world is be an enemy of God (James 4:4). A “pure” man is not divided between two loves. He doesn’t play on both teams. He doesn’t have his foot in the world’s door and another foot in heaven’s door.

What’s the reward? Seeing God. To see God is to know God. To behold God in any form or fashion is the ultimate human experience. The verb suggests to us that those who are “pure in heart” will continually see God for themselves.

Now, we know that God does not fully reveal Himself to even sinful men like Moses (Exodus 33-34), for men would die. The theophanies in the O.T. where God revealed himself in a symbol (e.g., cloud, pillar of fire, burning bush) were glimpses of a fraction of His glory. The closest full disclosure of God was Jesus Christ, and John tells us that Jesus is the exegesis of the Father; Jesus explains or exposits the Father (John 1:18).

We see God in creation. We see God in suffering (Romans 8:28-29). We see God in providence (Proverbs 21:1; Romans 13:1). We see God in Scripture.

If seeing God is the aim, and purity is the way to reach it, how does one get or remain pure?

First, verify your own salvation. The prophet Ezekiel, in foretelling salvation through Christ, said, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you” (Ezekiel 36:25). Purity begins with salvation when we get a new heart.

Second, wash yourself in God’s Word (Psalm 119:9). Jesus prayed that we would be made holy by His Word (John 17:17). The Word will sanctify you. You cannot expect to grow by casually reading and studying God’s Word. When sin moves in, the Word moves out and when the Bible moves into your heart, sin will have a hard time finding a place to dwell.

Third, walk by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16). The Holy Spirit is the agent of sanctification. To walk by the Holy Spirit is to daily pursue His fruits – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We know we are walking in the Holy Spirit if the desires to produce these fruits are greater than the desires to be fleshly or carnal.

Fourth, and finally, surround yourself with pure people. A friend of the fools will be hurt and a wise man walks with the wise (Proverbs 13:20). Bad company can pollute one’s good morals (I Corinthians 15:33). Your closest friends should be pure in heart. Your friends say a lot about who you really are.

Where is your heart? Is your heart far from God, like the religious leader? Do you see God all around you? How is your heart postured towards Him?

What Fruit Do You Bear?

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God” (Psalm 92:13-14).

Palm trees and Lebanese trees symbolize strength and permanence, which is in contrast to the weakness of brevity of the wicked. They are trees that stand erect. Now, historically there weren’t really trees in the Temple but the point is that if there were, they would flourish because they are as close to God as they could get.

And because they are strong trees and they stand upright no matter the circumstances, they are bound to flourish.

Anyone who stands in righteousness and is for God will flourish. The closer you are to God, the more this will be the case.

Remember in Psalm 1 that the godly man is like a tree planted by the water and bore fruit (Psalm 1:3). The man of God is “like a tree” who is productive and fruitful. He is “planted,” which refers to a permanent state. The man of God plants himself in water. Why? So that he can grow. He does this in order to be productive.

The man of God is known by the fruit he bears. Charles Spurgeon writes, “The Lord’s trees are all evergreens. No winter’s cold can destroy their verdure; and yet, unlike evergreens in our country, they are all fruit bearers.”

The man of God produces fruit because he puts himself in a place to grow. The man of God plants himself wherever and whenever he can in order to grow. He makes whatever sacrifice in his own personal time to be “planted by the rivers of water” so he can grow.

Why? Because a man of God is known why what fruit he bears.

Internal Adornment: Part 6

It is Week 6 of our series in the Beatitudes. In previous weeks, we have considered the following subjects:

  • God’s desire for internal righteousness (Matthew 5:1-4, 20)
  • Spiritual poverty (Matthew 5:3)
  • Mourning (Matthew 5:4)
  • Humility (Matthew 5:5)
  • Holy ambition (Matthew 5:6).

Next, we consider this – “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Mathew 5:7).

The word “mercy” comes from a Greek word that means “sympathetic” or “charitable.” To be merciful is to show sympathy or love to those in need or in some state of misery or unhappy circumstance or condition; it is responding to the needs of others. Chuck Swindoll uses the image of getting under someone’s skin … in a compassionate sense (Improving Your Serve, pg. 111).

Mercy is more than hoping someone’s needs are met; it is sitting down on that sidewalk with the homeless man, putting your arms around him, and meeting his need in whatever way you can. True mercy is not discriminate (Psalm 145:9). True mercy love who he wants to love; he loves the unlovely.

Why are we to me merciful? Because God’s mercy is great (II Samuel 24:14; Daniel 9:18; II Peter 1:3), God’s mercy is immeasurable (Ephesians 2:4-5), God’s mercy is eternal (Psalm 136:1), and God’s mercy compels us to show mercy (Luke 6:36).

We can show mercy in church discipline by making our aim restoration and not “finger pointing” (Galatians 6:1). We can show mercy in marriage by being quick to forgive (Proverbs 17:9). We can show mercy in our friendships by protecting our relationships from gospel and slander and bitterness. We can show mercy to the needy by giving them food, water, shelter, and/or clothing.

Jesus says those who are merciful will be how mercy. Showing mercy is proof that God has shown you the mercy of saving you. Jesus is saying, “Be merciful, and I will continue to show you the riches of my grace and mercy to you by saving you.”

Want to grow in mercy? Be broken over the mercy that God has shown you. Think about your sin, your fleshly indulgences, your prideful way of thinking and inability to do anything about becoming more and more evil. Then consider, God’s foreknowledge of this problem and how He designed a plan of redemption.  Weigh heavily God’s choice for a sacrifice. He didn’t decide to keep the blood of a goat or bull pure to atone for sin. He sent the most precious gift He could give. There wasn’t anything more priceless or valuable then His Beloved Son.

There is a hymn written by Isaac Watts rarely sung entitled “How Sweet and Awful is the Place” with the following stanza

“How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
Lord, why was I a guest?”

If you can get a handle on this reality – that God treated His Son on the cross as if He lived our lives, then you will run to mercy every chance you get as a reflection, response and pay-back for the mercy show to you.

Internal Adornment: Part 5

In Week 5 of our series on the Beatitudes, we focus on holy ambition (Matthew 5:6). In previous weeks, we have considered:

  • God’s desire for internal righteousness (Matthew 5:1-4, 20)
  • Spiritual poverty (Matthew 5:3)
  • Mourning (Matthew 5:4)
  • Humility (Matthew 5:5)

Here is how Jesus addresses the issue of holy ambition – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mathew 5:6).

This Beatitude is about having godly ambition – not a self-righteous ambition – but a holy ambition. “Ambition” is a word you must be cautious about using as a Christian, because it can just as easily be used to describe an egotistical aspiration as it can an example of sanctification.

Think about the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Here was a disillusioned young man who wanted to experience the world on his own. He was tired of his dad, the rules, the regulations, etc. So, he took the money he accumulated, went out into the world and wasted it.

When he ran out of money, he was hungry for the wrong thing – more money. So, he found a job working with pigs. As he thought about his vocation of being a pig-worker, making very little money, he realized what he had done in disrespecting his father and squandered his money foolishly.

So, his level of hunger went to a whole new level. Only this time, he was hungry for the right thing. He wanted a reconciled and restored relationship to his father; so, he went home. When he was truly starving, he hungered to do the right thing. That is a depiction of what it means to hunger for “righteousness”; it is to hunger to be like God and pleasing to God.

We are born with a void to fill. Proverbs 27:20 says our hearts are never satisfied. Every man longs for purpose. We ask questions like, “What should I be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals? What about my dreams and desires?”

For the Christian, our ambition is one of being like God, being righteous. For the non-Christian, his/her ambition is for the accumulation of stuff, his/her fifteen minutes of fame, multiple bank accounts and stocks, a perfect “bill of health”, an encyclopedia of knowledge, multiple degrees and any trophy he can fit in his “boasting case.” Jesus says, “You don’t need any of that. Pursue ‘righteousness’.”

The “righteousness” Jesus is speaking of is practical “righteousness”. Every Christian is already positionally righteous, but every Christian should work towards being practically “righteousness”. We live off the “righteousness” of Christ. When Paul says that he looks at us as if we were righteous because of the sacrifice of Christ in the cross (II Corinthians 5:21), that is positional “righteousness.” That means we are righteous before God. Christ’s righteousness has purchased a place in heaven for us.

Practically speaking, we aren’t righteous. Every sin is unrighteousness. To hunger for “righteousness” is to hunger for the expulsion of sin in our lives, to not have the tainting of our flesh in our decision-making, and to be rid of the temptation to pursue evil.

You desperate for this kind of emulation? As you pursue “righteousness”, Jesus says you “shall be satisfied.” The word “satisfied” usually describes fattening an animal until it can eat no more. We seek and He satisfies. When you are righteous, God gives you satisfaction and a hunger for more “righteousness.”

Have you ever considered a time in the past and noticed an area of spiritual progression in your life and you just couldn’t help but be ecstatic that a particular sin wasn’t as big of a temptation for you anymore? That is the satisfaction Jesus refers to. As soon as we experience that satisfaction, we hunger for another area of “righteousness.”