Updated: Mar 13
Exploring the weightier matters of the topic of revival
Let’s briefly review key points from Part #1 of our series “Call It Revival”.
The word “Revival” as it applies to our modern religious understanding is a relatively new concept possibly made popular by Jonathan Edwards, just 300 years ago.
Due to personal, experiential, and emotional biases we often find ourselves bickering and fighting within the church about what is revival and what isn’t. This leads to the church effectively cutting off its own nose as we divide over principles that are built upon a relatively modern construct full of emotions and opinions.
Modern revivalists and revival teachers and preachers define revival as a powerful act of the Holy Spirit where signs, wonders, and miracles are demonstrated resulting in a mass or continual harvest of individuals coming to faith in the Messiah, Yeshua, Jesus.
This brings us into Part #2 of this study “What Really Matters.” This part of the study will reflect on what the Scriptures teach are the weighty matters pertaining to revival “culture” and how we as believers should understand, interact with, and respond to moves of YHVH. What we will cover:
Discernment is Necessary
Playing the Holy Spirit Card
Signs and Wonders are not the primary hallmark of the move of God.
Focus on the right thing
Revival is the fruit not the focus
Bearing Fruit for the Kingdom
This is really the money maker, this is what matters most
Know the Holy Spirit
Built Upon Biblical Truth
Conviction of Sin
Learning to Obey
THE NECESSITY OF DISCERNMENT:
This may be the most difficult part of the discussion and application for each of us when it comes to something being a work of God or not. The discernment or lack thereof is often the source of much of the contention and division, and often is the catalyst driving hype and dramatization of what some may view as the next big move of God. However, lacking Biblical discernment on the matter is certainly a recipe for disaster for everyone involved. Furthermore, in our modern world of instant connectivity, news spreads instantly and recklessly more times than not.
Discernment is a catch phrased used in every Christian denomination and Biblical belief system. It’s a word full of meaning, but we should understand it Biblically before we progress any further.
The most direct word in the Old Testament is “bin”. According to the Strongs #995 it literally means to “discern”. Browns-Driver-Briggs adds a bit more nuance to the word “become separated, be distinct, speak perspicuously, consider, perceive, make to understand.” The application implies both in physical observation as well as insight, wisdom, and understanding. Deuteronomy 1:13 esv highlights a common usage for this Hebrew word “bin.”
“13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’”
1 Kings 3:9 leb
“9 Give to your servant a listening heart to judge your people, to discern between good and bad, because who is able to judge this, your difficult people?”
Discernment is not just an important discipline in the life of a believer, it is the hallmark of the most wise men in Biblical history. This ability to judge between what is good and bad, holy and common, righteous and evil is one of the marquee traits of the godly. This is such an important quality Paul prays on behalf of the church in Philippi for this very skill as they grow in maturity helping believers walk in sincerity, blameless before God.
Philippians 1:9-11 leb
“9 And this I pray: that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is superior, in order that you may be sincere and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.”
We cannot simply operate with our eyes and our goosebumps as a means of determining what is and is not a move of God. Having grown up in the “God Chasers” culture, whether 30 years ago in my youth or today Bible believers seem to all have the same idea, find a move of God…aka…revival… and go there because that’s where God is. If we spend our lives trying to recreate or find miracles, signs, and wonders simply to force ourselves into presence of God, we are doomed to fail. Remember, the Israelites found themselves in the presence of God because of some magical 5 step process for revival, instead they heard His Word, they obeyed His Word, and He showed up. There is no secret system, seek God with all your heart…
FOCUS ON THE RIGHT THING:
Our modern, western culture is fixated on creating a move of God. In fact, mega churches and mega movements in the U.S. actively teach their own version of revival generation. Pushing revival culture as a sign that you and your church on constantly in the presence of God. Why is this a bad thing? Revival culture puts the focus where it shouldn’t be, on the signs and not on the giver of those signs. This creates in an environment where signs and wonders become an idol, the object of our efforts and belief effectively taking our eyes of God Himself. When we take our eyes of the Father disaster awaits. In an abstract way, Peter teaches this lesson multiple times during his life, but none more than when He was called out upon the water.
Matthew 14:28-30 leb
"28 And Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water!” 29 So he said, “Come!” And getting out of the boat, Peter walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
Consider this lesson from Peter. One side teaches this story as a great act of faith, praising Peter for getting out of the boat, which is admirable. However, they forget the importance of keeping their eyes on the source of the miracle and not on the miracle itself. However, the other side would rather sit on the boat, grumbling about Peter’s recklessness. Would we presume that every act of radical obedience is not of God simply because it makes us uncomfortable or because it challenges our long-held dogma? I hope not, but at the same time we should tread lightly as we obey, properly discerning each step we take as we fix our eyes on the Savior.
The Bible is clear, not every sign, wonder, and miracle is from God, therefore not every movement appearing to have power is operating under God’s power. The Bible teaches us to be watchful and discerning because false teachers, prophets, and Messiah’s will come performing signs and wonders for the sole purpose of leading people away from God. If signs and wonders are the only markers we are using to find God’s presence, absent of discernment, we will most certainly be led astray. The Bible is replete with calls for diligence in discerning this works of God so we are not easily led astray. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 leb
“If a prophet stands up in your midst or a dreamer of dreams and he gives to you a sign or wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes about that he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (those whom you have not known), and let us serve them,’ 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer, for Yahweh your God is testing you to know whether you love Yahweh your God with all of your heart and with all of your inner self. 4 You shall go after Yahweh your God, and him you shall revere, and his commandment you shall keep, and to his voice you shall listen, and him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast. 5 But that prophet or the dreamer of that dream shall be executed, for he spoke falsely about Yahweh your God, the one bringing you out from the land of Egypt and the one redeeming you from the house of slavery, in order to seduce you from the way that Yahweh your God commanded you to go in it; so in this way you shall purge the evil from your midst.” Radical/reckless pursuit of the wrong thing may produce the product of chasing the miracle and not the miracle giver. I have seen so many people become so addicted to the emotional high and energy of a place where people seem to be experiencing powerful moves of God because of supposed signs and wonders that they are never satisfied with the space between. Is God in every thunder, lightning, and fire? No, but is He in some of them? Yes. Discernment is how we know the difference. Consider, God first appeared to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai with sounds of great trumpets, fire, smoke, lightning, and the earth shaking (Exodus 19:16-20). However, He also revealed Himself in a quiet whisper (1 Kings 19:11-13).
BEARING FRUIT FOR THE KINGDOM:
After years in charasmania something became crystal clear to me, fruit is irrelevant as long as “power” is present. In the same way, those who oppose signs, miracles, and wonders reject every movement that operates outside its narrow parameters no matter how much genuine fruit is being produced. As we prepare for war against each other, the fruit sits and rots in the fields as the workers bicker amongst themselves. True moves of God produce fruit, not fruit in keeping with us, but fruit in keeping with our Master. There is no more quoted passage for this than Acts 2.
Acts 2:37-41 leb
“37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “What should we do, men and brothers?” 38 And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all those who are far away, as many as the Lord our God calls to himself.’ 40 And with many other words he solemnly urged and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this crooked generation!” 41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and on that day about three thousand souls were added.”
Whether you believe that the apostles were speaking in an unknown heavenly language or
miraculously speaking in known tongues heard by men and women from all nations, the simple reality 3,000 people were raised from death to life on this day. Three thousand people joined the body of believers, being discipled in truth, turning away from their sin, and submitting their lives to the living God. Here’s the rub, whether it is 3,000, 3,000,000 or 3 a move of God, “revival” bears the fruit of true repentance.
Luke 15:8-10 leb
"8 Or what woman who has ten drachmas, if she loses one drachma, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the drachma that I had lost!’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’”
I don’t see people live streaming and flying across the world to attend church services where one person gets saved…so why do we do it when 300 people do? Why do we do it when people are simply meeting and praying for 2 weeks in a row? It’s not magic water, we can’t bottle it up and share a drink of magic revival water with everyone when we get home. Yet in this way, we should eagerly rejoice with heaven when one life repents and turns from their sin. So, some have rightly said, we need to stop speculating if one thing or another is a move of God, until the fruit is seen and understood. Why are we so eager to chase down a work of God, or jump on our keyboards and pick apart and destroy everything we see happening that doesn’t climb into our little box and take a nap. We have to move beyond these childish knee-jerk reactions and begin to seek God, fix our eyes upon Him and His Word, and use discernment as we approach these events.
This is the weightiest matter, we should be far less careless with our actions and our words as we are eager to cast judgement on supposed works of God. In this way, not matter how reasonable one may be, we often expose our lack of discernment in our quick responses to works attributed to a move of God.
KNOW THE HOLY SPIRIT:
Finally, we will wrap up this article with this, not every spirit is of God, so no matter what Spirit is being attributed to something, it is our responsibility to know the difference.
A lack of spiritual maturity, built upon Biblical illiteracy and not knowing the Spirit of God as described in Scripture will always lead to failure both in our recognition and response to God’s move in our lives. It appears in our world today, as people are connected across the world, discernment seems to be lacking amongst the body of believers in such an alarming way. As a result people are tossed by every wind of wild doctrine, false teacher, and various false signs and wonders as they grasp in the dark for a real spiritual experience.
Having grown up in revival, “spirit-led” circles if anyone stood up and questioned certain behavior, the ultimate get out of jail free card was played, “the Holy Spirit made me do it.” Once the Holy Spirit card was played, all dissenters were silenced under the weight of potentially blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In this way, proper discernment was masked under the burden of shame and fear. Unfortunately, this creates a counter swing that often leads people to be hyper critical of certain Christian circles and spiritual applications. Instead of everything being permissible as long as it can be blamed on the Holy Spirit, suddenly nothing is acceptable because we decide God doesn’t work this way or that. Again, this lacks right and reasonable discernment as people push back against supposed works of the flesh with their own work of the flesh. As we draw the battle lines, and entrench ourselves in our own doctrine, godly wisdom and discernment is often left behind for the weapons of war like keyboards and livestreams. As arrows of opinions are launched at brothers and sisters of Biblical faith, we fail to rightly, gently, and sincerely seek the Father for wisdom as we wage war against our own body, the body of the Messiah. A civil war of sorts within the Kingdom of God. This by no means indicates I believe that correction and discipline is not needed, but far too often those discussions do not happen according to Biblical wisdom. Unfortunately, the lack of discernment on both sides of the isle often leads to both parties recklessly pursuing their own will and wisdom apart from God.
We are warned against following or believing every spirit.
1 John 4:1-3 leb
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”
The work of the Holy Spirit leads people in these three important ways:
1. GUIDANCE IN BIBLICAL TRUTH:
John 16:13-14 leb
“13 But when he—the Spirit of truth—comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak from himself, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will proclaim to you the things to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and will proclaim it to you.”
A move of God, guided by His spirit will always lead us into truth. Any event that does otherwise is not, and cannot be a work of God’s Spirit.
2. CONVICTION OF SIN:
John 16:7-11 leb
“7 But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me, 10 and concerning righteousness, because I am going away to the Father and you will see me no more, 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”
When exposed to the truth of God, by the Spirit of God, it results first and foremost in repentance. This is evident all throughout Scripture whether in Nineveh (John 3:5), King Josiah (2 Kings 22:11), or the 3,000 saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41), the truth of God when met with a sincere heart produces the fruit of repentance.
3. LEARNING OBEDIENCE:
Ezekiel 36:26-27 leb
“26 And I will give a new heart to you, and a new spirit I will give into your inner parts, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will give my spirit into your inner parts, and I will make it so that you will go in my rules, and my regulations you will remember, and you will do them.”
One of the greatest works of the Holy Spirit is returning to walk according to God’s instructions as we flee from sin according to conviction, based on the truth of God’s Word. You want to see a work of the Holy Spirit? Find people who obey God.
We can bicker and fight about all kinds of things, and certainly the topic of revival provides many with ample ammunition. However, when we are sincere and persistent in keeping our eyes on our Messiah, being guided by the Spirit of God, God moves and bears fruit for His kingdom. Our war is not with each other, it is not against those who refuse to climb into our doctrinal box, and it’s not against moves we despise with our intellect it is against the "deceiver," satan. We must be cautious in our attempts to come against a supposed move of God, but we should also be discerning about what we participate in. The New Testament provides some of the greatest wisdom on this topic from the voice of a critic.
Acts 5:34-39 leb
"34 But a certain man stood up in the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law respected by all the people, and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, ‘Men and Israelites, take care for yourselves what you are about to do to these men! 36 For before these days, Theudas rose up saying he was somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was executed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and caused people to follow him in revolt. And that one perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 And now I tell you, keep away from these men, and leave them alone, because if this plan or this matter is from people, it will be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them, lest you even be found fighting against God.’ So they were persuaded by him.”
Let us not be wise in our own site but humble before God and men. We are responsible for every careless word that comes out of our mouths. Therefore, be quick to listen, slow to anger, and eager to please our Master in every way.
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