In 1972 I heard J. I. Packer lecture at my seminary. One simple sentence of his has echoed in my mind ever since: Do not neglect the revival dimension in your ministry. Revival is powerfully Christ-exalting. That is what I desire. And I am guessing that you, as you follow The Resurgence, feel the same passion.
What is a true revival?
But how can we distinguish true revival from false? Not everything labeled revival can be trusted and welcomed. Fortunately, we have guidance from a master theologian, Jonathan Edwards, who studied the Bible profoundly and experienced revival personally.
In his essay The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God Edwards offered categories for discernment from 1 John 4:1, where the apostle writes, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God...
Not everything going on in church is of God
Edwards broke it down into two broad categories. First, negative signs. That is, whats going on in a church may or may not be of God. We just cant be sure. Edwards listed nine negative evidences:
Whats stirring in a church is new, unprecedented, surprising.
People are emotionally aroused, trembling and weeping, even passing out.
It attracts attention and causes a public stir.
People have intense experiences, and spiritual things become vividly real.
What draws people in is the example of others.
The people involved misbehave at times, even get weird.
Satan mixes in his delusions.
Some of the people involved fall into bad doctrine and sin.
The preachers scare people with their portrayal of Gods wrath and hell.
Edwards believed that a movement marked by these negative signs is not necessarily disqualified as true revival. But we need to know more.
God at work
Second, there are positive signsthat is, proofs that God must be at work. A revival is always imperfect, because we complicate it. But we can still know for sure that God is there too. The devil not only wont, but cant produce these outcomes:
People lovingly raise their esteem of the biblical Jesus, displayed in the gospel.
The movement pushes back against sin and Satans hold on peoples lives.
People revere the Bible with a settled conviction that it is Gods truth.
People receive and are helped by sound theology, even though it means they have to change.
People grow in love for Christ and in loving humility toward one another.
Edwards taught that when spiritual power moves through a church with this impact, the Holy Spirit has done it. This is revival. We should receive it with enthusiasm.
Stay low before the Lord
One reason Im glad to be involved in Acts 29 is that if we will stay low before the Lord, what he is doing among us could surge into times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:20). The very thought moves me. I hope it moves you too.
Lord Jesus, visit us with power for this generation, to the praise of your glorious grace!
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon