Clear the Air                                                                February 2003

Tent meetings, fiery preaching, healings and salvation.  Is that what you think of when you hear “revival”?  I think it would be safe to say that most of us would say yes.

I have been active in the church since 1992.  During the almost eleven years since then I have come to understand several things about revival in America.  These things are by no means all inclusive, but I think they are a fair representation of what the church in America, as a whole, accepts as fact.

A church holds revival meetings to get their congregation fired up for God.

Revival meetings can be an effective way to increase church membership.

Revival meetings can be an effective way to increase church coffers.

In general, what we call revival is something centered on a particular church or denomination and it rarely overflows its boundaries to affect anyone else.  Revival has become synonymous with the refreshing of God's people.  But is this what real revival looks like?

I'll admit that many - perhaps most - of the people who warm a pew on Sunday morning do indeed need to be revived, just as anyone on the brink of death would need to be resuscitated.  The western church has been hamstrung.  The power it was meant to have through the truth and simplicity of the Gospel has been watered down leaving the body of Christ just as helpless and hopeless as anyone else.

If a person is fortunate enough to attend a church that teaches of God's salvation by way of a personal relationship with Christ, oftentimes a person's prayer of salvation is the ultimate goal.  As long as the person's soul is saved from hell that's all that matters.  While the person does indeed accept the Lord, he is left to languish in the effects of whatever sin or oppression he may have brought with him to the altar.  Yes, God can and does intervene and does perform miraculous conversions.  But by and large, people are left fairly unchanged and are not taught that there is more to being a Christian than going to church.  If a person has accepted the Lord, if they have been converted, but they continue unchanged in their sin, was their conversion real?  And what about churches that sanction and promote sinful behavior?  How is a person to know what God sees as right or wrong if those in authority reset the boundaries?

In Matthew 13:31-32, we find the parable of the mustard seed.  The birds of the air, which represent the evil one, feel right at home in the mustard tree, which represents the kingdom of God.  A mustard plant normally only grows to the size of a bush, so this tree is unnatural.  

A parallel passage to the parable of the mustard seed is found in Revelation 2:12-17.  It is the letter to the church at Pergamum, which means mixed or perverted marriage.  In this letter Christ portrays Himself as the One who has and wields the sharp two-edged sword, which is the whole of Scripture - both Old and New Testaments.  So here we see that the issue for this church is the Word of God.

The letter continues to site this church for having those within it who cling to Balaam's teachings, which were to cast stumbling blocks before Israel and to have them enter into mixed marriages in order to hamstring their relationship with God.  Then they are also chastised for having those who cling to the teachings of the Nicolaitans, which means rulers over the people or laity, and which the Lord says He hates.

Neither of these passages paints a very kind portrait of the church, but I'm afraid they are quite accurate when speaking of the western church as a whole.  Simply due to the fact of the culture in which we live we have the tendency to be highly “self” focused and don't like to have to take a good hard look at whether or not what we're doing is right or wrong.  Our culture's motto very well could be, “Whatever I'm doing is fine as long as I'm not hurting anyone else,” and nothing could be farther from the truth set forth in the Bible.  So, when you take the world's standards as the correct measure, then interpose Christianity on top of that incorrect standard in hopes of normalizing the church with the culture, you're headed for trouble.  But what does all this have to do with revival?  Everything!  If the foundation you're working off of is faulty, everything that grows out of it will be skewed.

Rather than the myopic, self-seeking critter we label as revival in this country, true revival from God is not confined to a church or a denomination.  It's not confined to those who already believe in Christ and need a fresh touch from heaven.  True revival from God cannot be contained and will, by its very nature, spill over into the lives of those who live in the towns and cities where God chooses to pour out His Spirit.  People's lives will be dramatically changed.  Whole cities will be forever altered for the good of Christ.  People will come face to face with the repulsiveness of their lives and will cry out to God for mercy, for they will know that He is the only One who can save them from utter and eternal ruin.  They will be stopped on their way to work and fall to their knees before a Holy God.  They will be stopped in the bars and in the alleys when they are looking for their next high.  And in an instant, God will touch their lives and change them.  But is the church ready for this?  Are we ready to welcome with open arms the people who God has already given to His Son before the foundation of the world -- people who are far from what we would think of as "acceptable"?

Before we pray for revival, before we cry out to God asking Him to pour out the Holy Spirit in our midst and revive our land, we had better know what we're asking for.  Our lives will be changed forever.  Our churches will be changed forever.  Our sensibilities will be changed forever.  Our world will be turned upside-down.  Our standard of measure will be shaken and made right.  God's truth will come like lightening from heaven to pierce the darkness in which we still live and enjoy, even though we profess to be children of light.  I can't think of a better thing that could happen to the body of Christ!  Lord, let it happen!

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