Biblical revival comes from God. It is recognized through the standards which God uses to communicate to us about how He works. When God works, He works according to His Word. The Spirit of God convinces us of the necessity for revival and opens our eyes to recognize revival if it pleases God to bring it. All of the above considerations are measured by the Word of God, the Bible.
The Bible is not simply a collection of revelatory sayings. It is the book of the covenant. In Scripture God defines how He will relate to mankind. Humanity in general has lost its relationship with God. God in His graciousness has established a new relationship with His people through His Son, Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is called the covenant.
A covenant is a pre-established agreement on how to relate to one another. God established a covenant with the federal head of mankind, Adam, prior to the fall (Gen. 1:26f; 2:15f). The covenant addressed the relationship between God and His people as well as how people were to relate to each other. The covenant was broken by Adam and Eve. It was graciously renewed by God (Gen. 3:8–24).
The history of the Bible, of the book of two covenants (the Old and New) is a description of how God relates to mankind and how mankind is to relate to God and to each other. The Bible is a covenant document.
In order for God’s people to keep covenant with God they will require constant spiritual renewal. God provides spiritual means to accomplish that. These spiritual means center around the operation of the Holy Spirit, the revelation of God’s Word, and the preservation of God’s ordinances.
God has to uphold His people. His people need to be constantly dependent on Him. To fulfill the covenant, God’s people cannot do it on their own, rather, God’s Spirit operates through His people.
The one particular dimension which I wish to point out is that God’s Word and attributes are not suspended but fulfilled in God’s holy workings (Mt. 5:17). The Psalmist prayed: “Revive me according to Your Word” (Ps. 119:25). Jesus said: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” If that is true that God works according to His Word, we can expect that God’s law as given to us in the Bible, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, will be fulfilled and not suspended with times of revival.
Revival is directed at the people of God. Even though the law has civic and religious functions for non-Christians, we are speaking about the fulfillment of the law among God’s people.
In 1995, our family went, for the first time, to a Billy Graham Evangelism Crusade. We went as a family. It was a Saturday and about 70,000 people were in the Skydome in Toronto. Most of you are familiar with such crusades. There is music, a sermon, the call to come to Christ, and the counseling before the stage. Evangelism activities took place. Some evangelism follow up studies have shown that the actual number of persons who go forward and who eventually join a church faithful to the Bible are less than 1%. I am sure there have been crusades or evangelism rallies where the number has been higher. However, the point is, the Billy Graham Crusade is conducted for the purpose of evangelism.
Revival is different than evangelism. Let’s take the same crusade as an example. Evangelism took place among the several thousand people who came forward. It is estimated that many of the people who did not come forward, or who were in the choir, music group and platform committee were already Christians. Revival would be directed at them.
What if the speaker would have directed his sermon to them? What if he would have said something to the effect of: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3: 19). These were the words of the apostle Peter to the Old Testament covenant members and leaders. They are applicable to new covenant members and leaders in our day and age as well.
If the Decalogue were to be fulfilled by Christians led by the Holy Spirit in the church today, we would have a full blown revival in our land.
It is not our purpose to examine all of the Ten Commandments at this time. I would like to comment on the first four, traditionally known as the first table of the Law. The first table, or section of the Decalogue, has to do with our relationship to God. The second table, commandments 5–10 have to do with our relationship to our neighbor and ourselves. In the first four commandments of the law, we see the need for revival in the areas of theology, devotion, witness and communal worship.
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT AND THE REVIVAL OF THEOLOGY
“You shall not have any other gods before me…”
In times of revival there will be a revival of true theology. Theology is not only the science of the knowledge of God or that which we study in church and seminary. “Theo,” referring to God, and “logos,” referring to knowledge, is a knowledge all of God’s people must possess. In times of revival, as in the days of Acts, we will see a boldness in representing the sovereign Father, the redeeming Son, and the sanctifying Holy Spirit.
A current practice for publicly witnessing has been the evangelical march movements. Throughout the world, not only the Jesus March, which in 1996 involved more than 13,000,000 people, but other marches have been realized. Are these evangelical marches, in and of themselves, signs of revival? Or, does something else have to occur? Let us take a closer look.
In the Jesus March in London on May 23, 1966, with an estimated 3,000 in attendance, a co-pastor of a very prominent evangelical church in London was asked to pray. He prayed according to an evangelism/prayer strategy called “Windows 1040.” With this program, the nations which are least responsive to the gospel are prayed for. On that day he prayed for Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, conversion from Islam to any other religion is a crime punishable by death. Christians have been jailed in Saudi Arabia. So the co-pastor prayed for the persecuted Christians. He also prayed for deliverance from the darkness and deception of the Spirit of Islam. A London Free Press reporter gave this information to the Muslim clerics in town. Soon there were headlines accusing the Christians of intolerance. The co-pastor was asked to apologize. It was reported by the press that he believed what he said was true but he was sorry he offended people. The senior pastor of the church was also approached. He apparently told the reporters that neither he nor the church had anything to do with the co-pastor’s prayers. The mayor of London, a fine Christian sister, was approached. She had been seen with her eyes closed during the prayer of the co-pastor. What was her point of view? She was quoted as saying that she was praying that no one would take offense at the prayer of the co-pastor. The London Free Press and the Muslim community called for another march, this time, a march of religious tolerance. One week later, a reported 1,000 persons (the video only shows several hundred), celebrated a march of religious tolerance involving Muslim leaders and liberal Protestants.1
Now, wouldn’t you agree with the editor of the London Free Press that the god of the Muslims is the same as the God of the Christians? Even though the Muslims and Christians have different interpretations, we both believe in the same Almighty God, the God of creation and providence, whom politicians and preachers regularly call upon to support their cause.
Does Allah have a Son to save you? Did Allah send a Son to take your human nature, go to the cross and die in your place? Did Allah have a Son who rose again and now reigns at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, who intercedes for you day and night? Does Allah have a Son who is your righteousness? Does Allah have a Son who justifies you? Does Allah have a Holy Spirit by whom you are reborn, or else you could not enter the kingdom of God? Would you cry out “Abba Father” to Allah?
Does Allah have a Bible which is God breathed and inerrant? Does the Koran contain the Words of Life? Is it the truth? How can it be the truth when it claims that Jesus was a good prophet and yet they reject His prophecies. Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life, and no one comes to the Father but by me.”
Does Allah have a people, who are part of the seed of the woman, the sons of promise and the children of God, who are born according to the Spirit?
Does Allah teach that we are saved in Christ alone, through faith in Him alone, and by the grace of God alone?
Does Allah affirm the deity and personhood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit or rather, the spirit of the Anti -Christ; does he deny Christ?
Is it the Spirit of a holy God by which new Christians are punished by death, assassinated in Iran, Palistan and other Muslim countries? Is it the Spirit of Christ that inspires slave traders to enslave Christian women and children in Sudan?
Dear people, do you now really believe that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God? Do you know that the true God prohibits the tolerance of other gods in His presence?
It is true that there are many ways to God. Only the way of grace through faith in Jesus leads to heaven, all other ways end in judgment.
Before the claim can be made that the March for Jesus is a sign of revival, it has I to be clearly shown that the marchers are willing to stand up for the only true God, witness to the true God, and, if necessary, receive persecution for doing so. True revival is boldly theological and theologically exclusivistic.
THE SECOND COMMANDMENT AND THE REVIVAL OF DEVOTIONAL LIFE
“You shall not make for yourself any graven images…”
In times of revival there will be renewed devotion, prayer, and personal repentance and faith. We are not to make images of a spiritual God, for God is spiritually re-making us into His holy image.
When Protestants think about idols, they are quick to point to the veneration of the saints and Mary in the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, within the RCC there has been a very significant renewal movement.
It should be noted that during the 1970’s and right up to today, the most significant movement of people from the Roman Catholic Church to the evangelical churches in Latin America has been through the Catholic Charismatic Movement. With the study of the Bible, incredible numbers of people were challenged. When it was seen that the traditional church would not change, many persons joined the evangelical churches.
What was it that could not be changed, and which, in fact, has become stronger and stronger in the RCC? It is the veneration of Mary and the saints. It has everything to do with the second commandment. Literally, millions have switched from the RCC to evangelical churches in Latin America. An estimated 8,000 persons a day are leaving the RCC, not all of course, for religious reasons. This, in part, prompted a Papal visit in 1996. Pope John Paul in his recent trip to Guatemala said the following:
All those who have at some time prayed (emphasis mine) to the Most Holy Virgin, even though they may have strayed from the Catholic Church, conserve in their hearts an ember of faith which can be revived (emphasis mine)…The Virgin awaits them with maternal arms open wide.2 We do not pray for such a revival. It is our Biblical belief that Deuteronomy 18:11 prohibits speaking with deceased human beings. We may only pray to God as our Lord taught us. Only Jesus is our intercessor. We communicate with Him through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are to have personal and spiritual communion with God and nothing is to stand in the way.
In times of revival, idols fall and true devotion to God will be exalted in personal repentance, prayer and praise. Revival does not become inclusive of idolatry for unity for religiosity sake, rather revival brings genuine separation from idolatry.
THE THIRD COMMANDMENT AND THE REVIVAL OF WITNESSING
“You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain…”
The name of Jesus is the most precious outward sign we have that we are saved. “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 12:3). “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10–11). It is only in the name of Jesus that we may come into the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 14:6).
In times of revival the name of God is accompanied by the powerful Word and corresponding deeds. There will be a revival of witnessing to Jesus.
The government of Canada has systematically tried to stop Christians from witnessing to the name of Jesus.
The Lord’s Prayer was taken out of the Public Schools, Parliament, educational textbooks and other government places.
It is prohibited by law for public school teachers to witness about Jesus to her students, fellow teachers, and students’ parents.
Now, in the name of tolerance and plurality, some people are clamoring for a return of religious values and religious prayers back into the public school system. The Lord’s Prayer is making a comeback, along with Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and, of course, the silent prayer for the atheists.
Christians should protest the use of the Lord’s Prayer as a symbol of religious tolerance. It contradicts what Jesus taught us: “When you pray, pray like this, ‘Our Father who art in heaven, holy be your name.’” Our Christian responsibility is to see that the Lord’s Prayer is not placed among the pantheon of prayers in the public school system.
Throughout Canada there has been a movement to preserve the honor of God’s name in education. First there is the Christian private school movement. And lately, home schoolers. Christians within the public school movements are organizing through Youth For Christ, Campus Crusades, the Navigators and other fellowships. There is a tenacious resistance to give up on the exclusive name of Jesus!
We look forward to a massive revival in the education world, where Christian education, whether that be done at home, with private schools, or informally within the public schools, will exalt the name of Jesus as the ultimate fountain of authentic education, wisdom and values.
It is not only in church and education in which the name of Jesus will be exalted! We rejoice in business movements, family services, social service ministries, judicial groupings, political parties and other mission movements, which seek to authentically proclaim the name of God.
THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT AND THE REVIVAL OF COMMUNAL WORSHIP
“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God, in it you shall not do any work…”
The fourth commandment points us to taking time for communal worship, communal rest and the pursuit of holiness.
In times of revival, there will be renewed emphasis on communal worship, communal rest and the personal pursuit of holiness on the Lord’s Day and during the week.
While working among the Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, we saw a time of revival. From 1982–1989, the church grew from 400 attendees to 9,500. Twenty small groups became over 200. The Lord blessed us with revival. People would walk for hours, crossing swollen rivers, and slipping and sliding along muddy paths in order to attend worship services. The Christians enjoyed each others’ company. They rested from the hard, back breaking work of cutting, picking up and loading sugar cane.
During the late 1980’s the sugar cane officials became concerned. Thousands of men were staying home from the cane fields on Sunday. The harvest had to be brought in! When I was in the Dominican Republic in 1996, I preached in Batey Nuevo. There, in 1989, the sugar cane boss had come into the church on a Sunday morning during the worship service. He kicked a few benches over and shouted for the men to get to work. The worship service was halted. When they asked me for my opinion on how they should react, I said: “Go to the cane fields, but don’t work. We’ll go see the administrator as soon as possible.” The administrator did not back down. Shortly afterwards, several lay pastors and elders were walking with the elements of the Lord Supper from one village to another to do the Lord Supper. They were picked up by the sugar cane guards for not working on Sunday. They celebrated the Lord’s Supper in jail and were let go that same day.
During these times of revival among the Haitian immigrants there was a boldness to stand up for the commandments of God and for communal worship.
True revival will see a revival in true theology, true devotion, true witnessing, and true communal worship. “Revive your church, O Lord, according to Your Word!”
1 Michael Sanchez explained in a telephone interview that the London Free Press reporters took his and the Senior pastor’s quotes out of context. Nevertheless, the prayer was not fully defended.
2 Stephen Sywullca, Christianity Today (April 8, 1996).
Ligionier Ministries of Canada