by Dr. John Yates
The Revival of our Time
1. A revival that begins with what we have rather than what we do not have.
I see many earnest Christians praying from a position that focuses on what we lack rather than what we have e.g. we don’t have miracles. This can easily become a shame – based motivation. In the initial heat of a spiritual outpouring of grace this underlying sense of failure may be obscured. However, when things come to cool down many feel like they must have failed God in some way. The devil wreaks havoc by accusing the brethren of failing to live up to a level of devotion that they (mistakenly) believed brought revival in the first place.
Rather than focusing on what we don’t have, let’s seek to enter into what we do have. It is not a matter of achieving something through prayer, fasting, sacrifice, passion etc. but allowing the Spirit to express in us the completeness of the indwelling Christ. “v9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, v10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” (Col 2:9-10). Christ – centredness is always the remedy for Satan’s strategies.
2. A form of revival compatible with cultural patterns of God’s sovereign arrangement .
Derek Prince asked a question about Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matt 13:24-30). “Under what conditions did the wheat and the weeds grow up together?” The answer is, “The same conditions.” Prince applied this to sensing what God wanted to do in the church through discerning what he was doing in the world. For example, the emphasis on personal freedom in the 60’s was an important social context for the freedom of the Spirit in the charismatic movement in the church.
In the last few decades Western societies have moved from “I need” (1950’s) to “I want” (1960’s- 1990’s) to “I can” (2000 +). Whereas we have been in a top down culture dominated by leaders with a fear of losing control, the internet is rapidly stimulating a “creator culture”. The world of Youtube, Myspace, Facebook and wikipedia is rapidly replacing passivity with hands on involvement, collaboration, porous borders and an open source economy. Leadership is still needed to stop things falling into chaos, but it emerges within the open space community and is democratically recognised.1)http://www.demos.co.uk/media/pressreleases/wideopen
These cultural shifts contain a prophetic sign. We are rapidly moving towards a spirituality (especially amongst youth) that will not wait for permission from men, but seek only permission from God. This means a radical change of wineskin. We should anticipate a very charismatic form of leadership that will be much more fluid and dynamic than anything we have preciously seen. The flow of the Spirit will direct congregations in a moment by moment way that emerges from the life of the whole assembly – “v26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. …v31 For you can all prophesy one by one,” (1 Cor 14:26, 31).
Oversight (1 Peter 5:1-2) will not be hierarchical or controlling but based on character and wisdom recognised by the community of faith. It will be internal to what the Spirit is doing amongst the people of God.
3. A revival that involves us all as priests and kings.
Whilst there have always been and will be stand out leaders: Peter, Paul, Francis of Assisi, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, William Booth, Smith Wigglesworth etc., the work God is seeking to release has a broader character. Despite the encroachment of the American celebrity culture that elevates the specially gifted, Australians are a more down to earth and equal minded people.
The famous slogan, “the priesthood of all believers” (Luther), means every Christian has within them, as the Spirit wills (1 Cor 12:11), the capacity to do works of power. The call of more visible figures, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists and so on, is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph 4:12). The Lord is seeking to release millions of armchair believers from spectatorship into testifying to and praying for the lost and hurting in a visible hands – on capacity. “You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they reign on the earth.”” (Rev 5:10).
4. A “street level” revival.
Classic Protestant revival movements in the last hundred plus years seem to have found a focus in church buildings and religious style meetings. This attractional form of awakening is certainly a biblical pattern e.g. the day of Pentecost. God has however often taken a different route in bringing forth his kingdom e.g. the Sermon on the Mount, the open air preaching of the eighteenth century Evangelical revival.
Christ’s delight is that we see his Spirit at work in every home, school, office, shop, factory, prison, club, parliament, police station, restaurant, street etc. manifesting supernatural power. Only by envisioning and empowering every believer in every context in which God has placed them can Jesus “fill all things” (Eph 4:10) and disciple nations (Matt 28:18-20).
5. A revelation of righteous power.
Most revival movements break down after a few years through division, selfishness, pride, sexual sin, false teaching, or simply burn out. One reason this unfortunately occurs is because of confusion about the nature of power. Supernatural power is not necessarily trustworthy.
All humans are aware of the almighty power of God. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Rom 1:20). The power of the Creator however does not bring people to saving faith because guilty human beings can only entrust themselves to a manifestly righteous power.
Only an unconditional love working for us through sacrifice is considered trustworthy by our consciences. This is the power of the gospel, “v16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. v17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (Rom 1:16-17).
Stable revival movements have always clearly revealed the power of the Redeemer in his death and resurrection. Only this suffering and triumphant power creates a change in our hearts about the character of God. When a flood of evil, hardship and persecution comes in the wake of revival, only those who know God’s character as revealed in Christ shall stand (Matt 7:24-27). Only gospel power (not signs, wonders, healings and miracles as such (Rom 15:18-19) cannot be counterfeited by the forces of evil (2 Thess 2:9; Rev 13:13-14).
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘v4 Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.v5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, v6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:4-6)
I believe this is a word of preparation.
Whatever our views of the current atmosphere of revival expectation, let us not look to the right or to the left, but prayerfully consider what the Lord is asking of each of us.
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