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Time Always Tells
“Revival, above everything else, is a glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the restoration of him to the centre of the life of the Church.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
My friend and licensed therapist Jim Cress often says that if regaining trust is possible that it will always require, "time + believable behavior." I think this concept is also true of how we evaluate and view the validity of "revival." As I'm writing this post there has been what many Christians have called "revival" taking place at Asbury College. A chapel service that started on a Wednesday morning has gone on for 70+ hours. Pictures taken from the college chapel show a room that is standing room only with people gathered across cultural, ethnic, and social classes coming together to worship, pray, and seek the Lord. From the outside, this truly does look like a revival.
I’ll be honest, my natural tendency when it comes to these things is a bit of skepticism. I long for a type of holiness that is marked by consistency and continuity over a long period versus the fireworks of emotion and charismatic impulse of a moment. Now, let me be clear. I’m not saying that the emotional expression is wrong or should be rejected. I just feel a sense of caution that emotion without what Eugene Peterson referred to as, “a long obedience in the same direction” is in the end largely unhelpful.
The question when it comes to what is taking place at Asbury is whether or not this is a true biblical revival. My answer is pretty simple – I don't know. From the outside, it certainly seems to be. My heart longs for it to be. But I do know that time will always tell us everything that we need to know about what is true and lasting.
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What is Revival?
J.I Packer shows us how the book of Acts is “paradigmatic” for how we should view biblical revival.
Packer defines revival as, “an essentially corporate phenomenon in which God sovereignly shows his hand, visits his people, extends his kingdom and glorifies his name”
Packer reminds us that revival is first and foremost an act of God. This action has a visible component but is always intended to have a lasting impact which is often unseen, unheard, and invisible to the human eye.
I’ve come to believe revival is like an iceberg. Icebergs float across the ocean and have the potential to cause extreme damage to ships. Can anyone say, “the Titanic?” It’s believed that only 10% of an iceberg is visible above water while the remaining 90% is below the water. What makes the iceberg so dangerous isn't what is visible to the human eye, it's what's invisible and hiding below the surface.
I've come to believe this is a great image of what true biblical revival is. The news channels and social media often catch the visible aspect of revival and marvel at it. Notice, I started this article with the fact that at the time of writing, worship, and prayer have been going on in a chapel building for 70+ continuous hours. This phenomenon has caught the attention of many (believers and non-believers) and even has people from around the nation traveling to Asbury to take part. Let me be clear, this is beautiful. This is God-honoring. This is special. This is also what is "visible." This is the 10% that everyone can see.
My question and only time will be able to tell; is what about the 90% that is not visible to us? What is the substance of these countless lives at Asbury that have been captivated by a Holy God who requires holiness from His children? The 10% naturally will be celebrated and highlighted, but my encouragement is for us to pray for the invisible 90% that will set these lives in a direction that will truly be dangerous to the powers, principalities, and authorities of evil at work in our world. So, what exactly does this 90% of enduring and lasting revival look like in the life of the Christian? It seems we find the following:
The Marks of Enduring Revival within the Christian:
1. Inward change (Heb 8:10-12) – The way of God is deeply rooted in the heart, mind, and soul of the Christian. What is true of the inside, is evident on the outside. Eugene Peterson referred to this as a type of “congruence” that is vital for Christians to live an honest life before the Lord.
2. Obedience to Jesus in all of life (Eph 4:1-3) – Life is marked and fragranced by humility, gentleness, and patience. There is a focus on living life with "one another" in accordance with the law of Jesus that is within the hearts of the followers of Jesus.
3. The impulse towards generosity and giving (Ac 11:28-30) – Generosity and kindness become as natural an impulse to us as breathing. Ok, that feels like a stretch, and in our humanity it is. But the good news is we don't rely on our humanity to live the Christian life, we depend on the Spirit of God that indwells and empowers us.
4. Joy flows from us (Ac 13:49-52) – Circumstances don’t dictate our response. The real presence and protection of Christ does.
A Call to Prayer:
So, what can we do? I think these moments are an invitation to prayer. We pray that this revival is one of substance and longevity.
We pray that what is true of the outside expression would be congruent with inward change.
We pray for a life of long obedience towards Jesus. We pray for a heart of generosity and giving of time and resources that would mark our lives.
We pray that joy would flow regardless of situation and circumstance because of the enduring presence of Jesus who is with us and for us.
 J. I. Packer, Among God’s Giants (Kingsway, 1991), 43.
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