“For to me, to live is Christ…” (Phil. 1:2)
The word “revival” means to receive new life. Though not found in the Bible, the word describes an important historical phenomenon. Revivals are special outpourings of the Spirit of God that bring new life to large numbers of people. Many unbelievers come to Christ and many believers are motivated to love and serve the Lord more fervently. However, there are important distinctions between genuine revivals and false revivals:
1. False revivals are man-made.
They depend upon manipulation and excitement of emotion. People may go forward, pray, or even experience physical manifestations such as falling over or trembling. Yet these are not necessarily the results of the work of the Spirit. Ministries and churches sometimes hold “revival services” and even “miracle services.” But neither God’s miracles nor true revival can be programmed by man to happen at a certain time. In fact, when people try in their own strength to make revival happen, true revival is hindered. People are no longer waiting for what the Lord desires to do.
2. True revival is the result of the sovereign work of the Spirit of God.
Only God has life in Himself. Man is incapable of imparting life. Without Christ and without the Holy Spirit man is nothing and can do nothing. (John 5:26, John 6:63, John 15:5
3. True revival is not necessarily characterized by unusual phenomenon.
Rather revival is characterized by all the normal practices prescribed for believers. These include loving and obeying God, loving the brethren, studying God’s Word, preaching the Gospel and prayer. The difference is that during revivals, these things are done by more people, with greater frequency, and with greater intensity. (Romans 12:9-13, Acts 2:41-42, 46-47)
4. True revivals produce more than passing emotions.
They bring profound and lasting change to whole communities and nations. Biblical examples include Ezra, Josiah, David, and especially the New Testament church. Examples in history are numerous including the Reformation and the First and Second Great Awakenings. In fact, I came to Christ during a true revival (1965-1975). During this time, multitudes of people were converted, churches were multiplied, and world views were radically changed. The fact that there are still strong Christian influences in our culture today is due in large part to what God did during this revival. But this influence is rapidly eroding and our culture is dying.
What our nation needs more than anything is true revival. Human beings are not capable on their own of finding solutions to their deepest needs. The answers will not be found in the political or even the educational sphere. This is because the real problem lies in man’s radically corrupt heart, which only God can change. (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 8:7-8, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Ezekiel 36:26-27)
What is needed is for multitudes to find new life in Christ. Only God can make this happen. Yet the fact that revival is a sovereign work of God does not negate our responsibility to respond. Just because we do not currently live in a time of national revival does not mean we can’t have personal revival in our hearts. This simply means to be completely surrendered to Christ. It means that we say along with the Apostle Paul, “To live is Christ.” And for this to be true, God must work in our hearts.
So what can we do as believers? We can study God’s Word. We can stay in close fellowship with others who are fervent in their love for the Lord. And we can pray. We can pray that God would help us to have hearts fully submitted to Him. And we can pray that God would once again send revival to our nation. If we as individuals live in a state of revival, we will experience new life and will be used by God to impact many others.