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"God hath highly exalted (Christ), and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11).
Preeminently, all true revival is about God bringing glory back to His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit through His church. Between the Ascension and the Consummation, this is one of the most strategic activities of the Holy Spirit. In fact, corporate revival necessitates Trinitarian activity: Father-initiated, Spirit-driven, Son-centered.
Yes, biblical revival is supremely Son-centeredit is utterly Christ-dominated. Some have even called it a "Christ-awakening." We can only think rightly about revival when we think rightly about Christs place in revival. He is the criterion by which we define it, measure its legitimacy, and vindicate its impact.
This is the heart of the consensus we seek. Further, our collaborations must coalesce around Christ. Any spiritual experience, whether called revival or something else, that diminishes Christ, bypasses Him, or actually leads away from Him, is not of God and holds no hope for any generation.
The first issue before us as Christian leaders, then, is not to define the characteristics of revival. Rather, it is to comprehend more fully the Christ who is at the center of corporate revival.
Fundamentally, revival is an awakening to all that Christ already is for us. Saint Irenaeus said: "Christ brought us every newness by bringing us Himself." In the same way, in revival God does not make new things. Rather, He makes things new. He does this by reintroducing us to Christ who stands at the epicenter of His renewing purpose among the nations. As said earlier, in revival God accelerates, intensifies, deepens, and extends the newness that Christ secured for us. Revival increases our capacity to express this newness and to minister it to others. In revival God invites the church into more of who Christ is for us, even as we invite Christ into more of who we are for Him.
After all, Scriptures revival promises were secured for us by the cross of Christ. The cross marks the most decisive moment in Gods ongoing commitment to "the recovery of a backslidden people." Everything that revival brings has been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. In addition, the message of the cross exposes, rebukes, and replaces every false hope on which the church might depend, giving us the greater hope of Gods inexhaustible and unconditional renewing grace. The cross acts as a hinge to open the floodgates of Gods reviving bounty for any generation of His people.
Four Christological tests of the legitimacy of anything calling itself "revival" might be applied:
1. Existential Does it exalt Christ, revealing Him to be the centerpiece for Gods people? Does it give evidences of His lordship over peoples, institutions, and the Powers of Darkness? Does the Holy Spirit have greater freedom to manifest the ministries of Christ among His people?
2. Ethical Does it multiply evidences of Christ-likeness throughout congregational life? For some, does it increase a spirit of daily repentance or efforts at racial or denominational reconciliation?
3. Ecclesiastical Does it sharpen and empower the life and work of a local congregation in such things as worship, teaching the Word, prayer, spiritual gifts, love for one another, and outreach with the Gospel?
4. Eschatological Does it appear to be, in principle, a reflection of the Final Revival; that is, an approximation of the Consummation? Does it reinvigorate the Church to work toward the End by spreading the Gospel in ministries of social reform, compassion to the poor, justice, reconciliation, community transformation, as well as the many facets of global missions?
A SUGGESTED PATTERN
In conclusion, whether revival is chronologically near or not, we can be certain the Holy Spirit always keeps it Christologically near. To use another term, revival is about arrivalwhen, through the Spirit, Christ shows up afresh (as it were) to invade His church, to capture and conquer us anew, to re-energize us with His eternal purposes, and to take us with Him to fulfill them more fully than ever. No wonder the 18th century New England Puritans called corporate revival, quite simply, "the manifest presence of Christ."
As noted above, a general pattern in biblical revival, observable throughout church history, highlights this dominance of Christ in all revival. The pattern might be outlined in this manner:
Realization: Revival desired. A people alerted to seek more of Christ.
Preparation: Revival sought. A people repentant and ready to receive more of Christ.
Manifestation: Revival received. A people confronted and changed by more of Christ.
Consecration: Revival applied. A people devoted to live more for Christ.
Revitalization: Revival absorbed. A people enlivened to express more of Christ in all of life.
Penetration: Revival unleashed. A people actively sharing more of Christ by word and by deed.
Expansion: Revival fulfilled. A people taking more of Christ to the nations.
SOME WORKING DEFINITIONS
Revival is utterly Christological. Working definitions that capture this might include:
"Revival is the Church falling in love with Jesus all over again." (Vance Havner)
"Revival is a community saturated with God." (Duncan Campbell)
"A revival means days of heaven upon earth." (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
"Revival is ultimately Christ Himself, seen, felt, heard, living, active, moving in and through His Body on earth." (Stephen Olford)
"Revival is God purifying His church." (Erwin Lutzer)
"Revival is that strange and sovereign work of God in which He visits His own people, restoring, re-animating, and releasing them into the fullness of His blessings." (Robert Coleman)
"Revival is a sudden bestowment of a spirit of worship upon Gods people." (A. W. Tozer)
"A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness and selfishness, and making God and His love triumph in the heart and life." (Andrew Murray)
"Revival is the reformation of the Church for action." (Max Warren)
"Revival is God revealing Himself to man in awful holiness and irresistible power. It is Gods method to counteract spiritual decline and to create spiritual momentum in order that His redemptive purposes might be accomplished on earth." (Arthur Wallis)
Whatever definitions we create, those who have lived in a season of revival record three consistent, Christ-honoring dimensions: (1) In revival God gives His people a renewed focus on Christs person. As a result, (2) we experience together in new ways the fulness of Christs life within the Church. (3) All of this presses us into new involvements in the fulfillment of Christs mission, both where we live and among the nations.
Whatever definition one may favor, it appears that in the end, revival is Christ!