Characteristics of Revival
In light of the current ‘revival’ occurring at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, I felt impressed to discuss revival/renewal and what marks a true ‘move of God.’ Indeed you have seen and heard the many testimonies coming forth from the ongoing meetings at Asbury. While it may have located off campus to maintain a sense of daily life, it seems God is moving there and in many other college campuses around the country.
What Have We Been Praying For?
For years many in the body of Christ have been crying out for revival, awakening, renewal, and a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit. Many scoff at what is taking place in Asbury and other campuses. Everyone has an opinion without visiting there or examining the fruit. So, what have we been praying and asking God to do in the church and America?
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:17, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” Judgment can be discipline. In other words, God has already judged and brought discipline. When we are disciplined, our response should be to repent and seek reconciliation.
Thus, before we can expect revival or national awakening, we should seek God to clean up His body. However, God is not limited to moving in the church first. We should be continually evangelizing the lost and expecting the gospel to go forth through preaching, teaching, worship, prayer, signs and wonders, and acts of mercy and compassion.
Historically we have seen God move in the church first, spreading out into the community. Consider the Welsh revival where Evan Roberts prayed ‘Lord, bend us.” In the Welsh and Hebrides revivals, the power of God moved into the community, where people repented and turned away from vices such as alcohol, gambling, and sexual promiscuity.
I have been part of several nationally known revivals/moves and have seen almost everything. But, I have experienced what I read about in other movements personally. We like to get caught up in manifestations and need to focus on what is happening spiritually. Nevertheless, I have a list of eight characteristics or expectations that revivals should have, or at least part of them.
Acts 3:19-20 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”
When John came preaching the Kingdom of God, he repeatedly mentioned repentance. Many grew tired of hearing this, but this is a common theme throughout the Bible. That is how we gain entrance into the Kingdom.
Repentance is a good thing. It means we are turning away from our sins and those things that hinder our relationship with the Lord. Through repentance, we are made clean and can fellowship with Jesus and enjoy Him, His Word, and Spirit more.
Repentance is the key hallmark of any revival. We see many examples throughout scripture, but one of my favorites is in 1 Samuel 12:19-25. The people repent for asking for a king and ask the prophet to intercede for them, which he does. Later, we see revivals under kings like Hezekiah and Josiah. The book of Acts is full of these events, all marked by repentance, personal and national.
Peter mentions seasons of refreshing in Acts 3:19-21. Occasionally, we experience a fresh touch of God and feel refreshed. This is a follow-up to repentance, as we see on the day of Pentecost.
You know the feeling you get when you shower and feel refreshed and clean. That’s what refreshing does in the spirit. The Holy Spirit moves in and cleans us up, and we feel rejuvenated and ready to do His will.
God is in the business of restoration. He restored Adam and Eve and later Israel. He restored all of humanity through Jesus. That is part of the salvation experience, but we all drift away occasionally and must be restored to the right relationship.
Restoration brings us back into fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There’s also restoration with our fellow believers and non-believers. Restoration of finances and relationships can also occur.
Renewal is often thrown around in place of the term revival. Revival means to bring back to life. To renew something means to make it new or restored but better than before.
God is always about renewing things. The cross was an institution of a new covenant and renewed God’s relationship with humanity. Renewal means something is new. Often people renew marriage vows meaning they seek a fresh start.
So, renewal allows us a fresh look and approach to what God is saying and doing. It is like repentance but is a by-product of that.
I have already mentioned God is all about reconciling people to Himself. We also experience reconciliation with people, and broken relationships are mended. There are many levels to reconciliation.
Loving God and people are made possible when we are reconciled to each respectively. Through revival, we see reconciliation as one of the many fruits and hallmarks that indicate it is genuine.
We are told not to remember our sins because they are under the blood of Jesus. That is true, but I am talking about remembering and appreciating all God has done for us.
By remembering, we realize how dependent we are on Him and how much we need His presence. Therefore, it is okay to look back and see where we have been so long as we don’t feel condemned again.
After remembering and reflecting, we can let the Holy Spirit point us to the future and walk more closely with Him. Israel is repeatedly reminded of all God did for her to demonstrate how much he loved her. So, how much more does he love you and me?
Any time the Spirit is poured out in a fresh manner, often there is a fresh revelation. But that revelation always lines up with the word of God. So, for example, many get a new understanding of the Spirit, the Son, or the Father that they didn’t have before.
The Spirit reveals the Son, and the Son reveals the Father. They always agree. As Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:17, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
So we should pray for wisdom and revelation to experience and know Him better. Be careful of any experience or revelation that is unbiblical.
Many reformations in the church came as a result of some type of revival/renewal. Men like Luther, Wesley, Finney, and Moody brought many of the doctrines and practices we have today. These developed out of prayer and times of spiritual refreshing.
More recently, we have seen the gifts and the prophetic being restored. Despite many abuses among certain circles, these are still valid reforms. Many other truths and understandings being restored to the body will bring about reformation. The church will not be perfect until Jesus comes back; thus, there will always be opportunities for change and reformation.