Monday, November 15, 2010

Revival Regurgitated

or Revivalism is OT

Round Table Christians Part IV

According to the Online Dictionary, revival means to restore to life, vigour or strength. The word 'restore' indicates bringing something back to a former state that presumably was glorious but has since died, decayed or fallen into disrepair. The dictionary specifically defines a spiritual revival as an awakening of interest relating to personal religion. When Christians talk of revival reference is often made to the Old Testament but unfortunately this is fraught with difficulties as the church is not Israel in revival. Jesus teaches that new wine must be put in new wine skins and that you cannot restore an old wins skin with new leather. We can therefore only draw lessons from Israel's history and infer what God might be saying to us because the church was started from scratch.

The New Testament is largely concerned with the birth of the church and spans less than a century so we have little chance of seeing a church in decline or restoration. Its probably only in Revelation that God speaks directly about revival as we understand it today. The church in Ephesus is called to return to its first love or be snuffed out and the church in Sardis is told to strengthen what remains and is about to die. However, we are not informed as to the response of the churches and, anyway, the focus is normally on the book of Acts. The problem here again is that the church in Acts is being born, not restored. Many will say that the New Testament church is a model that we need to return to; they will point to the power and effectiveness of the early church and, moving on to the new Testament letters, will say that these are the guidelines for how the church should look, with the five-fold ministries beginning with apostles. This warrants a great deal of study and debate but I would suggest that there is a common denominator amongst the restorationists and revivalists that both defines and contradicts their thinking.

Going way back into the Old Testament God told Moses that there would be a prophet just like him that would guide Israel into all truth. It was Moses who gave Israel their Law but it would only be the prophet who was like, but would supersede, Moses who would fulfil the Law and give his people the ability to live a godly life. That, of course, was Jesus. The problem I see with revivalism is that it is an Old Testament paradigm. While it holds that the new is come and the old is passed away it has, in effect, restored the old rather than replacing or superseding it. By citing the book of Acts as a model and Paul's letters as manual, it simply gives us new rules. Instead of putting the Old Testament in context, the New Testament becomes The Bible Part II. It could be argued that the Bible (proper) ends with the Gospels and the rest is a God inspired commentary because everything is summed up in Jesus - he is the alpha and omega.

In short, while revivalists go on about God doing a new thing, what they teach and prophecy sounds rehearsed and regurgitated. Instead of looking forward and seeking fresh ground they continually look back to what has been. You hear talk of a new wave, times of refreshing, "you ain't seen nothing yet". Anyone who is serious about the Great Commission that Jesus left us with will want to see the outpouring of God's Spirit but there is a God chasing mentality that troubles me. If there is one lesson to be learnt from Jesus' teaching it is that we must lay everything down in deference to him. That means scrapping our own agenda no matter how noble it may seem. God knows we need stimulating and if he doesn't put zest into our lives we will find excitement elsewhere but if we have faith that God will meet our every need at the opportune time we have no need to chase anything.

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