[b]Revival... a revival of what?[/b]
[i]by Jimmy Humphrey[/i]
Often I have heard over the years that we need to seek God for revival. This has been encouraged both at the local church level, denominational meetings, and through various ministries such as Sermon Index. Many talk about revival and pray for revival. But I must ask, a revival of what? Briefly, I'd like to offer up the following meditation on the topic. Lord willing, such will give place to a lengthier message in the future.
As a starting point that many students of revival have pointed out, to pray and seek for revival is to admit that we need reviving. That somehow there is something deficient in our present Christian experience. That somehow things are not as they should be. Unless this is realized, then any "revival" we are seeking is simply a soulish frenzy of religious activity that we wish to add to our present religious diet that seeks to somehow excite and satisfy ourselves in some fashion. Such a mentality looks at revival as a blowing the lid off the church. When in reality, as Leonard Ravenhill pointed out, revival is not when the lid blows off the church, rather, revival is when the bottom drops out. But such is not something we are often willing to accept. For the proud people that we are, we simply are not willing to suffer the necessary humility that comes with the bottom dropping out. We want everything to go smoothly and easily.
So with this foundation laid, I would like to assert three principle things that I believe to be the aim of all genuine revival:
If you haven't noticed already, I've used the adjective apostolic to describe the things we are to return to. For if the church is to be anything, it is to be apostolic. Not apostolic in the oneness pentecostal sense of the word. Rather, apostolic is a word used to describe the quality and level of dimension to which we as the church are to aim to attain. For if the church is not apostolic in quality, then it is not the church its supposed to be. As Art Katz said time and time again, apostolic is a word we should salivate over. For if that word doesn't get our mouth watering, then nothing will. And if we do not hunger for that which is apostolic, then we will be all to easily satisfied with something much less that purports to be the real thing, but is in fact something entirely other.
In our aim for apostolic faith, at the most simple level we are talking about the doctrines of the faith, "once for all handed down to the saints." (Jude 1:3) That is, there is an actual body of doctrine that has been handed down by the Lord and the original apostles that is to be the basis for everything we believe. Apostolic faith has no room for novelties. However, apostolic faith is much more than ascribing to razor sharp orthodoxy. Rather, apostolic faith has to do with seeking to embody the reality of that faith. Just as the Word was made flesh in the incarnation of Christ, so it is to be made incarnate in us who believe.
In seeking to embody the reality of the faith, such will give rise to apostolic practice. Apostolic practice is the issue of walking out the apostolic faith. The apostle Paul regularly encouraged the church to, "walk according to the pattern you have in us." (Philippians 3:7) For Paul could so boldly state such amazing things as: "...it is no longer I who live, but Christ..." (Galatians 2:20) He didn't say such a thing as just some sort of theological truth as many preachers do today. Rather, these are realities which Paul walked in for all to see, and for all to follow. Thus he could say: "...be imitators of me, just as I am also of Christ..." (1 Corinthians 11:1). This imitation is to be a way of life by where we practice what was preached. It is the outworking of the gospel message, not only in our own personal lives, but also in the life of the church assembled.
Finally, apostolic practice is intimately tied to apostolic life. If apostolic practice were to be the wineskin of our faith, that outward thing that is visible to all, then apostolic life is the wine of our faith. The issue of apostolic life is ultimately the issue of resurrection. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ. And in seeking to live out the resurrection life, we will find that our old wineskins from the world and our denominational traditions are completely incompatible with the new wine we have received. To try and continue on in the practice of the old wineskin will lead to the spoil of both. For Christ wants to act no different in you then when He walked among the world. But sadly, we often want to have it both ways in spite of the Lord saying we cannot.
Much, much more could be said than has been said here. But to summarize, what is needed in our day and generation is nothing less than a revival of apostolic Christianity.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon