There has been for a number of years a great deal of talk about the subject of revival in the church. Go to your local Christian book store and peruse the aisles and you will find any number of books dealing with the subject. You can read about the ‘seven golden steps’ to revival, why revival tarries, how to actually revive yourself and many, many books on the subject of the great revivals of the past. But the one thing that is lacking in all of our interest, the one thing that is lacking in all of our talking about revival is an actual revival where we are.
We have become experts in building a thing that we call the church. We have mega churches with thousands and thousands of people in attendance every week. We have huge international ministries with multi-million dollar budgets at our disposal. We criss-cross the globe preaching and teaching the clever turns of phrase that we call the Gospel. But the one thing that we are lacking in all of the ministry that we do in this world is an actual revival.
We have experts on the revivals and preachers of the past. There are those who know the doctrine of Finney and Wesley in and out and use it as a basis for their ministry today. They know the exact time line of every revival and can quote endlessly all of the factors that played into every documented revival, big or small. And yet in all of their knowledge the one thing that is missing is a revival of their own.
In the seeking of revival, we have discovered keys that we believe cause revival. One of these is the idea of repentance. Now repentance means to change your mind, to change your ways, to stop doing and thinking what you are engaged in that is displeasing to God and begin to live right in His sight. We know as well that repentance will be known not by tears but by a changed life- fruit that comes with the change that show that something has transpired in your life. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” In short, that repentance is a change in your life that after it occurs, it changes the entire path of your life and you are no longer the same as you were before you repented.
In gaining the revelation that repentance is needed, we have of course, committed the same error as everyone that has come before us and overstressed this one aspect at the cost of other beliefs. Repentance that is overstressed has only one outcome and it is not revival; it is spiritual abuse. It is a nasty religious spirit that judges and condemns and abuses everyone in its path. In the end, revival is not accomplished by repentance alone instead, what is created is isolation and bitterness.
We have had meetings where repentance was evident in abundance. We have had meetings where people ran shrieking to the altar, crying for their sins. We have had travail until it had become just another spiritual fad, the polar opposite of holy laughter and yet still just another fleshly exercise in futility. We have had meeting after meeting with people who were told to repent and who were thundered at from the pulpit regarding where they were wrong. Although they were the ones open to our message and open to whatever God wanted from them, they were still not good enough and always needed to repent again. And yet, after all of the travail, all of the repentance, all of the thundering, still there is no revival.
We have heroes in the repentance community that some come close to veneration of. It has struck me as being almost idolatrous the way that we look up to these men as though they caused something to happen or the way that we search their writings for clues that will lead us to revival. We speak of Leonard Ravenhill with a touch of awe because of his messages and yet what revival did Ravenhill preside over? He was an expert on why we have no revival much like many of us are. And yet with all of his knowledge of what was wrong he never saw a revival to the scope of the ones that he spoke of. We blame the church system, we blame the people and we blame the preachers and yet see no revival. We determine that it is due to having buildings or not enough street ministries or not enough prayer or not enough perfect people in the church and yet we see no revival.
We have said that the key to revival is prayer. I don’t think that anyone would argue that prayer plays a role, much like repentance does. The Smith sisters in the Hebrides revival prayed for months for the move to occur. Evan Roberts from the Welsh revival prayed for upwards of 12 hours a day for a revival to occur. But if they in the Hebrides would not have sent for Duncan Campbell, no revival would have occurred. If Evan Roberts had not gotten up off of his face and headed for Moriah Chapel, there would have been no revival there either.
Prayer alone is not the answer. Prayer prepares the way of the Lord and that is all. To over focus on this one aspect will do us no good because the answer can not come through this one thing. Jesus did not say to just ask. He said to ask, seek and knock. Ask God for the thing and then get up and seek the answer. Once you have found the right door, stand outside of it and bang on it until it is answered. Just asking gets you nothing whatsoever, you must seek and then you must knock.
I would submit to you, my brothers and sisters that the repentance community has erred in its thinking. The great idealist and the eventual ruination of both Evan Roberts and the Welsh revival, Jessie Penn-Lewis said “The enemy pushes truth too far, so that it becomes error; and even what is true can absorb you too much, so that you become blind to all else.” Too bad Penn-Lewis could not follow her own advice for it was good advice for sure and one that we had better pay close attention to ourselves before the same error that infected her and in turn, infected Evan Roberts, infects us and brings everything that we have done to nothing.
There is much talk today of “Christian Perfection”, the same as there was with Penn-Lewis. There is an overemphasis on holiness and holiness preaching, the same as there was with Penn-Lewis. There is a definite tendency in the repentance community to focus on an ideal until we become blind to all else. This is what was done to Evan Roberts and this is the same spirit that we are welcoming among us. Jessie Penn-Lewis had some truth to what she said but all error is ‘truth pressed to extremes’. If we allow ideals to absorb us too much, we will lose sight of what God wants us to do. We have, by welcoming this spirit, entered into the Penn-Lewis era of the repentance movement. And God help us, we did not even get to see a revival! We have welcomed this intellectual, over-reasoning snake into our beds. We have forgotten that what the world needs is not theology, any more than it has ever needed it. Those that are wrapped up in theology spend their time straining at gnats and arguing what they believe is right but not actually doing anything of value. Where is the fruit of your theology, Penn-Lewis? Where are the saved souls and changed lives? You deceive by twisting truth and slight of hand but there is no fruit to what you do because you are, in the end, the harbinger of the death of a movement! This spirit needs bound in chains and all of us ought to choose to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified until we are free from its grasp.
We hear that what we need to do is to show the world its sin. We hear a lot about this, how the world is in adultery, fornication, drunkenness, witchcraft. There are abortions being performed every single day and the drug abusers and child molesters walk among us even now. Some go so far as to preach against the sins of society on the streets to the sinners themselves and yet there is still no revival.
We have forgotten that sin is the fruit of a rotten tree. If I were to go out back to the orange tree and clean it of all of its oranges, would it cease to be an orange tree? No, in short order the fruit would reveal again exactly what that tree was- an orange tree. Revival therefore must not deal with the fruit of the tree but with the tree itself.
When I work on a car I have toolboxes full of tools. One for this job and one is for a different job altogether. And while I may not be an expert on automotive repair, one thing that I know for sure is that I can not fix everything that may be wrong with a car with only a monkey wrench. And yet, here we are. We have excluded things that we need from our toolbox as we threw the baby out with the bath water and then try to fix everything with just our single monkey wrench.
When was the last time that we heard someone from the repentance community speak on faith? When have we heard how to pray in your needs or to engage in a faith walk? Are these things not biblical? What do we do with Mark 11:22-24 in our circles? We ignore it because it sounds too much like the Word of Faith movement that we have rejected. And in so doing we have followed the exact same error that we attribute to the Word of Faith people, the Cessationists, the Prophetic community and everyone else that is lumped into the error category- we have ignored scripture that does not fit in with our theology.
And we are left with not enough tools to complete the job.
When we deal with sin, we talk about the conviction of the Holy Ghost. But the sin that the Holy Ghost convicts of is unbelief (John 16:9). The world’s problem is not physical sins, they are the fruit of a rotten tree as was stated previously, it is unbelief. It lay at the root of every sin that man ever committed on this people planet- they live how they want because they do not believe that God exists. If they were to believe for a second that some day they would have to stand before the bema and give an account of their adultery, who would still commit that sin? It is because they do not believe that they continue in sin.
In the battle of the kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the world, the weapons of our warfare are polar opposites. The world uses unbelief and the Kingdom of God uses faith. This has been so from the very beginning. And yet this is never heard in repentance circles. Is it any wonder that there is no revival? We do not talk of faith, only of the problems that are plaguing the system.
Revival is when unbelief lifts off of a community, a region or a nation; it is when the kingdom of God and faith chase the kingdoms of the world and unbelief clear out of town. Faith is contagious and as deadly as the Black Death to the flesh of the world. This was the point of signs and wonders in the ministry of the first church- to suspend disbelief long enough for the seed of faith to take root.
Faith is mentioned over 200 times in the Word, repentance only around 50. And yet we never speak of faith, never teach how to walk in it. We ignore it completely because we don’t want to be in error. And yet the greatest error that I can imagine is trying to base a Christian life on repentance alone and ignoring faith. Three things abide now according to scripture; faith, hope and love. And these three things are what are lacking the most in the repentance community. We have young preachers railing at those who come to hear them, preaching in great wrath and great anger at the church. But when do they preach with as much passion about faith, hope or love?
We were to be a movement that helped correct the errors in the Prophetic community by introducing the aspects that they had forgotten. Instead, we have cast off everything that resembled them and ended up powerless with no gifts in operation. This may make me unpopular but I don’t care, none of the repentance community has added to what I do for the Lord one bit over the years. There are aspects of what they teach in the Word/Faith movement that are correct and totally scriptural. There are aspects of what they teach in the Prophetic community that are also right on. When we ignore this, we hobble ourselves and our ability to work effectively for the Lord and I for one am not willing to do that.
We are so afraid of error that we stay away from everything not in our bubble. But this is error in and of itself. What we need today is not Finney or Wesley, not repentance or prayer alone; we need a full Gospel message. And a full Gospel message is just that- full.