As Roy Hession says in the opening paragraph of his brilliant book, The Calvary Road, ‘Revival is just the life of the Lord Jesus poured into human hearts.’. What a great definition! It implies that revival should be less of an event marked by time and location, but rather a continuous experience that we have as Christians. Yes Lord, we definitely want to sign up for that!
Revival is just the life of the Lord Jesus poured into human hearts.
Of course, history also shows us that there are times when the Holy Spirit powerfully encounters a group of people in a certain location in a way that is different to the norm, and this seems to be what has been happening on the campus of Asbury University in Kentucky, USA. It has been so encouraging to see God lifted up through worship and young lives touched by the love and power of God. Let’s pray that those impacted will go on to reach many with the amazing Gospel message and that the life of Jesus will be poured out into many more hearts!
The events in Kentucky over the last couple of weeks have caused me to chew on this subject of revival and I wanted to share some of my thoughts. I don’t pretend to be a revival expert but I believe there are a couple of really important questions to think about… How can we work out if something is a true move of God, and how can we experience this in our own lives and churches?
This first question is critical, especially as the enemy has the ability to look just like an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), he can pull off fake miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9) and he is forever trying to distort and make crooked the good things of the Lord (Acts 13:10). Discernment is crucial for this so that we can not only identify a true move of the Holy Spirit, but that we can also keep a true move of God from going off track and into deception.
In any genuine move of God, we will be the ones who bend to Him.
As a simple starting point, wherever the Lord is at work we will see His character on show. To me, this is the initial checkpoint. So, following the list in Galatians 5:22-23, can we see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? If so, then we can have confidence that the Lord is moving.
I also found the verses in John 16:7-11 helpful in providing a guide for identifying an authentic move of the Holy Spirit. Verse 8 says that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement. So, the first thing the Holy Spirit does is bring into focus our own sinfulness. This must be the case, because as the life of Jesus is poured into our hearts, we are faced with the contrast between His utter holiness and our own failure, faithlessness, selfishness and worldliness. It was interesting to see the words ‘Holiness unto the Lord’ written above the organ pipes in Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University. He is Holy, and therefore when He is poured out in genuine revival, the only right response is one of confession of sin and heart-felt repentance.
The next work of the Holy Spirit is about righteousness. He gives us that sense of perfect relief through His grace – a massive gift having come to terms with our sin! We cannot better ourselves or earn our way to Him, but as we confess and repent of our sin, He cleans us and wraps us up in His own righteousness. There is hope and joy in becoming more aware of the mercy and grace He freely gives us!
Finally, the Holy Spirit shows us how the enemy is judged and defeated and we have been set free from his grip and brought into God’s family. That means we have a new destiny in Jesus – one of life and purpose, free of judgement, and opening up amazing opportunities to play our part in His Kingdom plans.
In any genuine move of God, we will be the ones who bend to Him. We will be the ones who turn from our wrong ways and humble our hearts. It will inevitably lead to a renewed hunger for the Word of God and a thankful and worshipful heart whose sole focus is to glorify God. People, personalities, ministry’s, churches – none of them will be central. Jesus will be central. Not only will we be drawn towards the Lord, but we will also be drawn to each other in more healthy relationships – simply because God’s master plan is to unite everything in Him (Ephesians 1:9-10). We will experience freedom, healing and deliverance because that’s what happens when the Holy Spirit is around (2 Corinthians 3:17).
As we encounter all these things in true revival, it must then lead us out to share with others. Just take a look at what happened after the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost in Acts 2… they didn’t just stay in the upper room, they went out full of boldness and courage and started the Church! This is what we need to look for.
This second question is also vital. When we see God moving, our hearts should be rightly stirred to desire more of Him personally and in the lives of those around us. Some jump on planes and fly to where the action is, others watch online hoping to join in remotely while others might be filled with longing, but also doubt that God’s revival power will ever reach them.
But we have a heavenly Father who desires to meet with us more than we desire to meet with Him, and he longs to pour out the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). So, if God is wanting to pour out His Spirit into our lives, how can we prepare ourselves to receive Him?
I believe it must start with a deep recognition of our absolute need of Him. We must be faced with a sense of the poverty of our own condition. It is described in Matthew 5:3 as being poor in spirit – the root word for poor meaning reduced to begging, destitute, humble, helpless and powerless! But in the Kingdom of God, it seems that when I own this reality I am blessed! As Andrew Murray says, ‘Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds you abased and empty, His glory and power flow in.’!
How amazing that revival is not reserved for those who are strong and perfect, but for those who are empty and aware of their lack! It was interesting that the short talk given at Asbury University before the revival started was based on Romans 12:9-21. The speaker, Zach Meerkreebs, talked about the 30 commands that are included in those 13 verses – each one describing how we are to love each other and even our enemies. He went on to share how totally impossible it is to live out those verses unless we have first encountered the love of Jesus personally and allowed that to transform us. He was essentially pinpointing our poverty in spirit.
Revival doesn’t happen in the lofty places of our successes but in a poor heart that has made room for Jesus.
Identifying this need will create a hunger in us to seek the Lord with all our hearts. In recognising we are poor in spirit, we are humbling ourselves and making room for Him to move. Again, revival doesn’t happen in the lofty places of our successes but in a poor heart that has made room for Jesus. God is looking for room and it is the humble place that has room – just like the manger in Bethlehem provided room for Jesus when there was no room anywhere else.
Maybe our best response to what we see happening in revivals is to have a healthy dissatisfaction with the status-quo, to get on our knees and admit our great need for the Lord.
Prayer: Lord, I am hungry for more of You. I am dissatisfied with just going through the motions of being a Christian and I long for your life to flow into me, through me and out of me to others. Lord, I humble my heart, I bend to You, I admit my desperate need for You and I ask that you would revive my heart. I do this, not for my own selfish motives but so that You can be glorified. I ask with a thankful and expectant heart and in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.
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