Would You Know a Revival If You Saw One?

JI-Packer

 

J. I. Packer:

Would we recognize a reviving of religion if we were part of one?

I ask myself that question. For more than half a century the need of such reviving in the places where I have lived, worshiped, and worked has weighed me down.

I have read of past revivals. I have learned, through a latter-day revival convert from Wales, that there is a tinc in the air, a kind of moral and spiritual electricity, when God’s close presence is enforcing his Word.

I have sat under the electrifying ministry of the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who as it were brought God into the pulpit with him and let him loose on the listeners. Lloyd-Jones’s ministry blessed many, but he never believed he was seeing the revival he sought.

I have witnessed remarkable evangelical advances, not only academic but also pastoral, with churches growing spectacularly through the gospel on both sides of the Atlantic and believers maturing in the life of repentance as well as in the life of joy.

Have I seen revival? I think not—but would I know? From a distance, the difference between the ordinary and extraordinary working of God’s Spirit looks like black and white, a difference of kind; to Edwards, however, at close range, it appeared a matter of degree, as his Narrative and his Brainerd volume (to look no further) make clear.

Some evangelicals need to be asked, Are you not expecting too little from God in the way of moral transformation?

But others need to be asked, Are you not expecting too much from God in the way of situational drama?

Do we always know when we are in a revival situation?

— J.I. Packer, “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion: A Study in the Mind of Jonathan Edwards,” in A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), 107-108.

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