I have written on the subject of "revival in the land" many times, and I will admit it is always a struggle. It is a struggle because I want to pray for it and receive it from God's perspective and not man's. And therefore lies the challenge in my spirit. Because Revival often has the appearance of being one of the "buzzwords" among this generation of Christians, -- Kingdom and Ekklesia being others -- my spirit is unsettled as whether the proclamations of today's prophets that "revival is here" is true or not.
How, as Christians, do we define "revival"? If we say our self-proclaimed revival is real, does it meet God's standards, and is it Biblically verifiable? Please understand -- these are very real questions that I have. I am not coming from a "religious" spirit or mindset. I am highly sensitive to how man has corrupted the teachings of the Bible, and history has proven that we Christians can supplant [supersede and replace] God's meaning with our own self-serving interpretation. I want nothing more than to see the world revived and restored to their first love for Christ; to see a spiritual reawakening and evidence of the fruit of righteousness and God's ways in the lives of believers. But my questions include these ... Who is the Source for revival -- God or man? How does the Bible portray true revival?
I want to begin by saying I don't have the definitive answer; I just know that I am seeking God's perspective on revival, and in light of our modern Christian decrees for such, I am experiencing a conflict in my spirit that I have yet to resolve. You see, if I understand it correctly, what I hear today's most vocal and recognized pastors and "prophets" saying is this: Revival happens when "the Church" awakens from a spiritual dormancy to a new and revived love of God and His Word; we are convicted of our sin and come before the Lord in repentance and with a zeal to spread the Gospel of Salvation to the world. We become active in declaring our victory over the Enemy by our faith in the Blood and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We preach and proclaim our hope in Eternal Life and our inheritance in Heaven, which will witness to the spiritually blind and deaf, creating a hunger for the joy and peace that are evidenced in our lives. The world will awaken to the truth of our testimony and Revival will sweep the land. Please forgive me if what I have described varies from your understanding, but this is what my spirit hears when Christian Revival is spoken about.
But what of Biblical Revival? Is it different? How does God define Revival? I want to be clear... much of what I describe above is also evidence of what the Bible shows as "revival" in the lives of God's people. The clearest example for me of Biblical restoration and revival is found in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Bible. Both men -- Nehemiah, as Governor of the exiles returning from Babylon, and Ezra, the scribe of Moses's Law from God -- confessed the unfaithfulness of the leaders and people of Judah, and the breaking of their covenant with YHWH. They confessed the sins of the nation and repented of their rebellion and wickedness. They recognized God's patience and forbearing, and His many warnings until He handed them over to their captors. They prayed for forgiveness and restoration/revival of their love for God and obedience to His ways. And Nehemiah professed the truth that God was just and righteous in everything He brought against them; that He had dealt with them faithfully, while they had acted wickedly (Nehemiah 9:33). The people wept for their abandonment of the Law and their covenant with their God.
So the people rededicated themselves to a new covenant with YHWH, committing to a signed document detailing their return to the ways of God; His commandments and statutes. They dedicated the Wall of Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, restored the tithes and the Sabbath. And they were reconciled with God. There are many today who are praying fervently for that same reconciliation with God and revival of faith in our nation. But are we taking the concrete [tangible and visible] steps that signal a return to the ways of the Lord? Or has Revival become more of an emotional and often-times temporary experience, failing to yield any lasting long-term evidence of God's involvement?
I ask this question because there was one thing I noticed in re-reading the accounts of Nehemiah and Ezra. In the first chapter of Ezra, the Bible states that "the Lord stirred up (put in motion) the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia", to write a proclamation that allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, thereby launching the opportunity for the Jews to once more seek Him and His righteousness in how they lived their lives and conducted their government. In other words, the living God sovereignly and powerfully broke into human history with an action that resulted in people being convicted of their sin, and a recovery of Biblical truth that embraced His moral laws, and re-established His Word as the central and absolute authority over all of life's existence. Is that how we understand and promote Revival in the 21st Century? Or has that word become just another "feel good" general truth that we tell ourselves when we gather large groups of Christians together to praise and worship and speak "Revival" as a desired result of our fervor and zeal?
Are we demanding of our civil, as well as religious institutions, to establish the Word of God as the central tenet by which this nation will govern itself and our individual lives? Too many of our churches look like the world, instead of representing the holiness of God. It is also not enough to declare that America "made a covenant with God at the founding of this country", if like the ancient nation of Judah, we have torn that covenant asunder with our arrogance, wickedness, rebellion, and following after the desires of our own heart! God did not abandon us -- the nation of America abandoned God! We cannot expect our nation to be excused of the blasphemous and heinous corruption and abandonment of God's Word, if the same God did not excuse His chosen people, the nations of Israel and Judah. In fact, we resemble Babylon more than we do the repentant Jews who returned to Jerusalem from that adulterous nation.
Believe me, I passionately desire Revival in the United States! But to be true and absolute Revival, it must be more than an emotional human response to the acknowledgement of our sin and rejection of God's authority in our lives. We cannot plan and orchestrate revival. It begins with an action from God! So, I will be praying for God to break into our world with a manifest [and physical] display of His Presence that convicts the hearts of people to genuine repentance; a turning away from their selfish ambition to show evidence that they are true and obedient followers of Christ.
After all, the perfect example of God breaking into the world [and the greatest revival ever] was the coming of our Savior. And it happened in a manger in the backwater village of Bethlehem. It was also at a dark and hopeless time in history. I think we can agree that this time also qualifies for such an initiation of revival and God's sovereign action. Throughout the Bible's history, God has used a willing, righteous, and obedient remnant. I believe such a remnant exists today, and why I believe revival in the individual life is so important and necessary to defeat Evil in our day. Finally, I know this remnant has been set apart to God, filled with His Spirit, and preparing for the return of our Lord and Savior. Therefore, I am not expecting a raucous, explosive expression of worldwide revival, but rather a quiet, yet powerful fear of the Lord, experienced as the irresistible presence of God that sweeps through the faithful remnant, who will then carry it to the masses. May we all soon have that spiritual sense that God was in this place, and we have received a divine visitation!
Habakkuk 3:2 O Lord, I have heard the report of You, and Your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.