As I write this, the Asbury College Revival continues and is even spreading to other campuses. Christians are crying out to God for revival–but what is revival? And how should a believer pray for revival?
Is a revival characterized by signs, wonders, and miracles?
Is it repentance from individual sin?
Is it a long worship service?
It can include all of these things, but the most important characteristic of TRUE REVIVAL (because there is such a thing as a false revival) is repentance and crying out to God for the sin of idolatry and unfaithfulness to God.
2 Chronicles 7:14 says: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
A few verses later we discover the sins which caused God to become so angry with his people. (For some reason, this verse is never emphasized.)
“But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them…” (2 Chronicles 7:19)
God said it was “wicked” to turn away from His Word (his “statutes and commandments”) and to worship and serve other gods (idolatry). Nearly every prophet—Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Ezekiel—cried out against Israel’s SPIRITUAL ADULTERY (unfaithfulness to God).
Christians often quote this verse–and then point to the sins of society (such as abortion or sexual sins) as the wicked ways for which the church needs to pray. But what are the wicked ways of the CHURCH? 1 Corinthians 10:11 says the Old Testament stories were written as examples “for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” And what was this instruction? The same instruction that was given to the ancient Israelites: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).
Did you know this is the same sin the church has been guilty of throughout our history? We’ve been unfaithful to God. We haven’t kept the Gospel pure. We have added other “truths,” other lovers, to the scriptures. In the ancient world, the Israelites were adulterous when they added the gods of the surrounding nations to their worship. They never stopped loving God. They continued with their sacrifices, temple worship, and festivals, but they also went to the high places and oak groves to worship Baal or Molech. To God this was like being married to a wife who had lovers on the side. This was the message of Hosea the prophet, through whom God cried out: “How long will my people be incapable of PURITY?” (Hosea 8:5, NIV)
The apostle Paul was concerned that the same thing would happen to the church. He warned the church for three years with tears because he was grieved at the thought that they would be led astray (Acts 20:28). He explained to the Corinthians how the church could be seduced (an act that leads to unfaithfulness) by Satan so that our “minds should be corrupted from the “simplicity [singleness, purity, made up of one element] that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3, KJV). Satan deceives and seduces us in our thoughts. The high places where idol worship once occurred aren’t in the cleared out groves and under the oak trees of ancient Israel; the high places are now the regions of the mind and intellect where Satan wars against the truth.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations, and every HIGH THING that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:4-5)
Over the last 2000 years, the church has been seduced over and over into becoming friends with the world. In hopes of befriending or being accepted by the world we embraced Greek philosophy, creating a lukewarm blend of philosophy and Christianity. It led to the Dark Ages and the Inquisition. In hopes of befriending or being accepted by the world we embraced scientific racism. It led to Southern slavery. In hopes of befriending or being accepted by the world we embraced Darwinism, Hegelian philosophy, and historical criticism. It led to Nazism. These are now the exact places (the Inquisition, slavery, Nazism) where atheists and skeptics attack us! (Click on any of the links for more information on how the church was both faithful and unfaithful.)
James, the brother of Jesus, warned us against spiritual adultery when he cried out, “You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? . . . Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?’ (James 4:4-5) This is a New Testament description of God’s jealousy! Faithfulness isn’t only for the Old Testament saints. Christians have repeatedly been seduced away from a pure relationship with the Lord.
(Yet there has always been a faithful remnant who rejected the world and stood on the scriptures alone . . . and now they are our heroes. Luther during the Reformation. William Wilberforce, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and all those who worked to abolish slavery. The Confessing Church that opposed Hitler and Nazism. All of these heroes of the past centuries stood on the Rock of the pure Word.)
Jesus said we are the salt of the earth. In the past when we corrupted the truth (watering it down) and were unfaithful to God, instead of preserving society, MILLIONS suffered and died.
How is the church being unfaithful now?
1) We’ve corrupted the Gospel with business principles, psychology, mammon (through the prosperity gospel), Old Testament law (like the Judaizers), science (such as evolution or quantum theory), philosophy, eastern religions, the occult, fiction (such as The Shack), man-made traditions, new revelations (like the Gnostics), dreams and visions, environmentalism, political ideologies, Critical Theory, and on and on . . . This list is not exhaustive!
2) We’ve added mystical experiences to the blood of Christ. Why do we need to add our own efforts to the sacred way provided by Jesus? Contemplative prayers, soaking prayers, labyrinths, the “silence,” centering prayers, and breath prayers are all ADDITIONS to the Gospel…they are the equivalent to the “strange fire” offered by Nadab and Abihu to the blood offering of the lamb.
3) We’ve listened to false prophets and false teachers. These men and women claim to be hearing from God, yet their prophecies seldom come true. They are false prophets and false teachers. Why do we need an extrabiblical revelation from God? Why do we need signs and wonders? Just like the Pharisees, the Word isn’t enough for them. They needed signs. Jesus called them adulterous for this. (They also added man-made traditions to the scriptures.) They didn’t keep the Word of God pure!
Yes, “by grace you are saved through faith…” (Eph. 2:8), but the Greek word for faith [Strong’s G4102] is “pistis” and it doesn’t only mean to believe in the truth of something, it also means “faithfulness.” If we want true revival, we need to PRAY AND REPENT OF OUR UNFAITHFULNESS to Jesus and the Gospel. By creating a blend of truth and lies, much of the church has “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25) and has been drinking from both the Fountain of Living Waters and from broken and dirty cisterns. We’ve become a lukewarm blend that is only good for being spit out.
When King David was unfaithful, he repented, and God called him a man after his own heart. Does the modern church even care about the heart of God? The prophetess Huldah told King Josiah he wouldn’t receive the judgment of God because his “heart was tender” toward God–causing him to cleanse the land of idols. (2 Chronicles 34:27) Is your heart tender towards God?
We need to make ourselves ready (Rev. 19:7) to be a FAITHFUL bride without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish by being washed by the water of the Word. Our Bridegroom is looking for someone with whom he can be equally yoked, having the same heart and values. Will you be “found FAITHFUL“ (1 Cor. 4:2), and hear these words when you appear before the Lord, “Well done, good and FAITHFUL servant” (Matthew 25:21)? Our Jesus is Faithful and True, but that doesn’t mean we can’t betray him. We are still responsible for our own heart and actions.
As you seek God and ask for revival, I plead with you to seek God in holiness (with a whole and undivided heart), and to worship your First Love in faithfulness–keeping the scriptures pure and undefiled by worldly ideas. I pray that this new generation of young Christians will be devoted to the Lord in holiness, because without holiness “no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
I’m grateful for the heart of our young people as they cry out to God for revival, but this letter is for the older Christian also–because it was us who have been involved in so many of the unfaithful ways I’ve listed above.
Is it so difficult to have an undivided heart? To not blend in other corrupting views with our faith? To not betray the Lord with other loves? True revival will only come when the church turns from THEIR wicked ways and loves Christ (the Word become flesh) ALONE.
Genuine revival will also lead to the salvation of people. The need for repentance in the church is deep and I hope that is what is happening. But if it does not manifest in a return to the scriptures and the preaching of Christ crucified and raised from the dead then there will be no results. I will be looking for that as this unfolds. Hoping and praying for a great Acts 2 move of God that brings repentance and salvation.