Saturday, July 11, 2015


The concept of "revival" is a biblical, if too often wrongly franchised, one.

To be revived is to be made alive. The Bible teaches that we are, in effect, born dead. We're born in sin, into a condition of alienation from God which means death and eternal separation from God.

It was to bring us new life that the sinless Jesus Christ bore the weight of our sin on the cross and rose from death. All who repent and entrust their lives to Him have new and everlasting life with God. For us to be raised from the dead beyond the graves we all face and for us to know life with God now, Jesus says that we must be "born from above" (or "born again") (John 3).

In other words, we need to be revived.

And the apostle Paul's open acknowledgment of the continuation of our sinful nature within our mortal frames until we die means that we need to be revived again and again. (This is what we Lutherans call, living in daily repentance and renewal.)

The author of Psalm 85:6 recognizes our need for revival and asks of God: "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?"

In 1909, James Burns identified the "laws of revival," common elements of all revival, of all coming to and being renewed in life with God. He observed these "laws" in the Bible and in history.

In a nutshell, revival has nothing to do with tents or altar calls--though God may use them within some revivals.

Revivals aren't so much events, but waves, movements of God's Holy Spirit, that sweep first through a few individuals and then whole communities and regions, sometimes whole nations.

Revival happens when people become heartsick with their own sin and come to the God Who meets us at the cross to seek forgiveness and empowerment for different kinds of lives--lives reflecting the image of God and the love and righteousness of God.

Revival doesn't begin with harsh judgments about others' sins, but with shattering realizations about our own sinfulness. And whenever the sins of others are mentioned in the prayers of someone being revived by God, that person implicates themselves in the same sins.

Revival also happens when we see the beauty and the power of Jesus' cross. We understand that His agonies were for us. He bore the condemnation we deserve. The cross is the only source of hope that those of us bound otherwise for condemnation and hell can find in this world.

Revival happens when the glory of the God we know in Jesus Christ is more important to us than our own fulfillment, happiness, or success. The person being revived recognizes that God is to be worshiped with our whole lives not because God is some insecure deity to be placated, but because the God Who made us has earned the highest praise from us for having made Himself our servant on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). To worship and hold high the God we know in Jesus is to, maybe for the first time in our lives, see reality, ourselves, the world, and God aright.

The God we know in Jesus is worthy of our surrender because Jesus rose, just as He died, for us.

In Jesus' resurrection, revived people see the promise of God to be with us always (Matthew 28:20) and we see the guarantee that all who follow Christ are part of the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), bound to live with Jesus forever. Who more to be praised than this amazing God?

In Jesus' resurrection, we see too, the power over life, death, and sin that only God possesses. And we know that this power has been marshaled for our good: to give life, to erase the power of death over us, to release us from  condemnation for our sin and to empower us each day, as we turn to Him in surrender, to live in accordance with His good will.

Revival is not a product of human imagination or effort. It comes from God.

Burns writes:
No revival can come from below. All attempts to create revival fail. Nor can we bring revival down, since prayer is not the cause of revival, but the human preparation for one. By prayer we prepare the soil.* 
Is there a disposition to pray for revival? Are devout men and women everywhere becoming alarmed, not for the success of the Church, but for the glory of Christ?* If not, then the night [of unbelief and turning away from God] is not far spent, a far deeper darkness is yet to come. For what would revival be, if we were not prepared for it?
Speaking for myself, I am alarmed. Not just by (or even mostly by) the sin of my nation and the world, but by the sin in me. And so, I'm praying.

I'm asking God to forgive me my sins for Jesus' sake.

I'm asking God to empower me and push me to share my faith in Christ, my life with Christ, by both words and actions, with others. Without reserve.

I'm asking God to prepare the soil of my heart for ever-deepening levels of renewal through Christ.

I'm asking God to work these same miracles in His whole Church and beyond the Church.

I'm asking God to bring revival to me, to the people I know, to the Church and to the congregations I know and love most, to my family members. Come, Holy Spirit, come!

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