Toward a Genuine Revival
by Loren Sandford www.newsongfellowship.org
Pardon me for the length of this word. It's basically a transcription of the notes from a sermon I preached at home on 8/10/08. I feel so strongly concerning the issues raised that I believe it needed to be put in writing and posted here, even at the risk of offending some.
Ive been troubled in my spirit for months now concerning revival. Something is wrong in the revival stream. Ive not been able to put my finger on what is wrong exactly, but Ive settled on a few things.
Having said that much, know that Im NOT saying that anything going on is false. God is moving really and truly. Im saying that something is wrong and much is missing.
Here are four simple biblical elements that must be present in balance for there to be a foundation for real revival. Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 2:3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
So the first element is that God shows up out of the box in power. This includes observable physical manifestations of His presence. At such times God often does things for which there is no precedent, like tongues. Peter preached that the outpouring on the day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of Joel 2:28ff., but that passage speaks only of the Spirit being poured out in dreams and visions. It says nothing of the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues has no precedent in any Old Testament passage. God acted out of the box.
Acts 2:36&nb sp; "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified."
2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"
2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
2:39 "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself."
The first word out of Peters mouth when the people asked, What shall we do? was repent. So the second element essential to genuine revival is deep and brokenhearted repentance in response to God.
Acts 2:44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;
2:45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
2:46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart
The third element essential to real revival is therefore that love, fellowship, and covenant bonds form. This speaks to the centrality of the local church in the plan of God. Instantly, the focus was not on the thousands gathered, although they remained faithful to meet as a large group i n the temple. The focus fell upon walking it out together, house to house in covenant love.
Acts 2:43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
The fourth element is that God announces His presence and expresses His love with wonders and signs. In the days following the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost the lame beggar at the gate of the temple in Acts 3 received healing. There were so many healings that Acts 5:15 says, they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them.
The byproduct or result of all of this is Acts 2:47
And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being s aved. The church grows. THAT IS BIBLE REVIVAL.
Today the focus has become skewed. The stream isnt pure. Much is happening but its incomplete and unbalanced. But before I go any farther, let me be clear. Im not saying that anything going on now is false or that it isnt God. Im saying that much is unbalanced and incomplete and that it isnt the BIG ONE.
Im saying that we must be careful lest we miss the big one when it comes because it may not look much like what were seeing now. It wont be the big meetings in regional centers. It will be centered in the local churches, and not around mega-stars. It will be fueled by the gifts of everyday believers and Jesus will get the glory, not the mega-ministries. And because of that it will reach many more people than any large national para-church ministry ever could.
There is another move of God coming after whats going on now that will be pure, balanced and complete. In every way it will be the real thing and were going to have to be discerning enough to see it and flow with it. But there will first come a disillusionment with what is currently practiced. It has already begun. People I have known for much of my life who have championed revival are quietly not getting on board or are registering their disagreement with certain things in their writings. They are holding back, sensing something not quite right. We must pray that a growing sense of disillusionment doesnt turn people off to the real thing when it comes.
So here are some of the issues. First, where is repentance and the cross these days? By His stripes were healed and at the cross He took our infirmities (Isaiah 53). The first word out of Peters mouth in Acts 2 when the people asked him what shall we do was repent. And repentance was the prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Every revival that ever impacted this country in a way that transformed our society had at its center the cross, the blood of Jesus and repentance. It seems to me that our focus today is not on repentance and righteousness, but on power and on signs and wonders. Every once in a while we nod politely in the direction of the cross almost as an afterthought and mutter, Oh yeah. Its the cross. We should repent. And then we move quickly on to something more appealing than the broken heart and the contrite spirit.
Second, as we focus on power, signs and wonders and healing, where is the biblical plumb line for much of what is said, taught and practiced? The apostle wrote, I Corinthians 4:6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.
There is no new truth apart from Scripture. There is no special revelation. No practice in ministry, doctrine of healing or deliverance or any other thing stands exempt from testing by a biblical standard. Anointing and the presence of God do not give us permission to move beyond anything written for us in the Word of God.
But I see us in revival circles gradually moving toward exalting experience as the measure of truth rather than the unchanging Word of God. So, third, I see an off balance focus on power and experience. I have actually heard major leaders say that we are living in a post-biblical age when God is moving in such a way that we dont have to be bound to Scripture in our ministries, our practices and our methods.
And so it becomes all right to push people down, or knee them in the stomach when they have 4th stage colon cancer (and for those who saw it on TV, the man was NOT healed) or body slam them to the floor. We dont question making people run laps around the sanctuary to contend for their healing. Where did Jesus ever tell anyone to contend for his/her healing? Or we tell people to confess that they've been healed when in fact they have not been healed. Where did Jesus ever tell anyone to do anything like that?
We think its all right to do these things if we believe thats what God is saying or if it seems that it works and if the anointing continues. We just accept it because theres anointing in the room. But Jesus never did any of those things. Experience rather than the word of God has become the measure, the validation, the test of what is true and right.
On this basis it becomes all right to speak of being caught up to the third heaven as so many prophets do today - and to tell everyone what we saw and experienced there in spite of II Corinthians 12:2-4, I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. Illegal! Paul was so uncomfortable with saying anything about that experience that he didnt even want at first to identify himself as the one he was speaking of. But today we speak of third heaven experiences openly on international TV.
Its wrong. Our culture teaches us that if weve experie nced something it must be true, but each step we take in the direction of exalting experience above the truth of the Word of God moves us farther from the sure foundation and closer to shipwreck.
It seems that if we hear teaching that doesnt line up with the word of God and if it comes out in the context of a genuine visitation of the Holy Spirit then we believe the false teaching must be true because we had an experience. But the Word of God is our plumb line, not experience.
In the real, complete and balanced revival thats yet to come were going to have to test experience by the Word of God, define experience by the Scripture and know what is true and right by that test. Were called to I John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.
I Peter 1:20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matte r of one's own interpretation, 1:21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
II Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. Peter warned against distorting what is written in Pauls letters and says that destruction results from this di stortion. Theres a lot of distortion going on these days to justify things that dont stand the test of Scripture
3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness
Key phrase, dont be carried away. God wants us to receive revival. He wants us to receive His wonders, but we dont have to throw our brains on the table to do it.
3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The church in Corinth was arguably the most anointed church in the New Testament. They had it all. The gifts were in flowing in power tongues, healing, prophecy and more - even while they abused what God was giving them. They began exalting one above another on the basis of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that various ones of them moved in. Pride had taken root. Hero worship had taken root based on the gifts certain ones exercised. There were perceived haves and perceived have-nots. They had begun to worship and exalt spiritual superstars in their midst.
They thought, as we tend to today, that their imbalance was validated by the Lords continuing presence and the exercise of His power, but their imbalances and abuses drew some stinging rebukes from the apostle Paul. They thought, God is showing up so what were doing must be right. WRONG.
And so Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13:1-3, If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be b urned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. If we read this as Paul meant it to be received in its context, it must be received as a backhanded slap in the face bordering on insult.
Go back to Acts 2 and see the love taking root in that first church. The Holy Spirit fell and the first thing they did after they repented was to begin to nurture relationships. Love. Covenant bonds. Being together. Meeting in one anothers homes. Sacrificing for one another. Until that happens, its not revival. Its an empty shell. Just a lot of noise.
In Corinth they had the power and the signs and wonders but no grounding in love or in Scripture and so sin and immorality crept in, just like today. Paul had to rebuke them sternly for tolerating the presence of a man in their midst who was sleeping with his fathers wife and would not repent. I Corinthians 5:2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
In the second half of chapter 6 he had to rebuke them for other forms of sexual immorality and in the first half of that chapter for taking one another to court. They had power without love and they had signs and wonders without a grounding in the Word of God. The result was unrighteousness and immorality of every kind. Just like our culture now and for the same reasons.
In that kind of atmosphere there was no consciousness of a need to repent - just like in our culture today. Without repentance there is no character of Jesus imprinted into average believers and without the character of Jesus there may be power, but there will be no revelation of the true nature of the righteous God of heaven and His love that passes our understanding. And so our leaders fall into sin and our critics have a field day pointing the finger. We are too much the church in Corinth and not enough the church in Act s.
If we will seek holiness God will give us power and experience. But if we seek power we may miss holiness. Disaster will result.
My fourth issue is that right now theres a fascination with extended nightly meetings in a region. The thinking is that such meetings will spark revival in local churches. Again WRONG and again unbiblical.
Steve Strader pastors Ignited Church where the Lakeland Revival began. He is still regarded as the host pastor. On August 3 the revival left the 10,000 seat tent and returned to the 700 seat sanctuary at Ignited. In the second week of August as Steve led the meeting, he made an appeal. He stated that since the revival had begun his people had scattered. His next words tore at my heart as he cried out to his own flock, Please, come home. The effect of the Lakeland Revival on local churches has been negligible and in some cases destructive. Extended meetings in a central location draw people and resources out of the local church and Gods plan has always been the local church.
When the Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost they didnt enter into extended meetings in a central location led by a star. They began nurturing covenant bonds between people, meeting from house to house and developing relational love. The church grew exponentially as a result.
If we have all the power without the relationships, the love and the covenant bonds then we have nothing. Just noise. God wants a people who in their covenant bonds are patient, kind, not arrogant, not selfish, not provoked, completely forgiving, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things and enduring all things for one another (I Corinthians 13).
When that happens and theres power and the presence of God, its revival. Until that happens its just a man on a stage working his gifts on a n audience. Or its just God pouring out an invitation with power, but were not really hearing.
Its not about the man on the stage. Its about Jesus. Its not about the anointed leader. Its about YOUR gifts and YOUR service, the power of the kingdom of God given to YOU. Read I Corinthians 12, to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. And its about the love that takes root in YOUR heart as real revival draws you into the character of Jesus. Its not really revival until youve absorbed the nature and character of Jesus, until you love as He loves and live as He lived. Until then its just the noisy gong or the clanging cymbal.
And so past revivals filled up and strengthened the churches. The New Testament is all about strengthening the local church. Thats the focus. Thats why Paul wrote his letters that became the bulk of our New Testament.
So, can we cherish what God is doing, but test mens use of it by t he Word? Can we long for and pray for the BIG one, balanced and solidly rooted in Gods principles? Can we build a I Corinthians 13 church soaked in love and ready to be a vessel to receive that kind of presence and power from God? Will each of us receive, honor and use our gifts of the Spirit to minister power in this world?