How Do You Get a Revival?

Jared Wilson: It is not a miracle, or dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means–as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means. There may be a miracle among its antecedent causes, or there may not. The apostles employed miracles, simply as a means by which they arrested attention to their message, and established its Divine authority. But the miracle was not the revival. The miracle was one thing; the revival that followed it was quite another thing. The revivals in the apostles’ days were connected with miracles, but they were not miracles. I said that a revival is the result of the right use of the appropriate means. Those are the words of Charles Finney from his Lectures on Revivals of Religion. I say that Finney is dead wrong. Dangerously wrong. But Finney’s words here serve as the philosophical precursor to countless

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Mark Noll on Three Things about Awakenings in Church History

Mark Noll: As a historian, three things increasingly impress me about awakenings in church history: First, that they really do occur, and—from medieval, monastic revivals through classic evangelical awakenings to modern Pentecostal renewal—they really have brought great benefit to the church. Second, revivals tend to exaggerate, so that along with the real benefit often come increased problems like exalted opinions of one’s self in God’s general design. Third, most of the circumstances that have made a permanent difference in spreading the Gospel and deepening the church’s understanding of the Gospel have taken place in ordinary church settings rather than revivals. —quoted in “What Christian Leaders Are Saying about Spiritual Renewal,” Vocatio 11, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 6. (HT: Justin Taylor)

Five marks of revived churches

Ray Ortlund: J. I. Packer, writing in God in our Midst (Ann Arbor, 1987), pages 24-35, proposes that, among the variety of God’s ways, five constants appear in biblical revivals: 1.  Awareness of God’s presence: “The first and fundamental feature in renewal is the sense that God has drawn awesomely near in his holiness, mercy and might.” 2.  Responsiveness to God’s Word: “The message of Scripture which previously was making only a superficial impact, if that, now searches its hearers and readers to the depth of their being.” 3.  Sensitiveness to sin: “Consciences become tender and a profound humbling takes place.” 4.  Liveliness in community: “Love and generosity, unity and joy, assurance and boldness, a spirit of praise and prayer, and a passion to reach out to win others, are recurring marks of renewed communities.” 5.  Fruitfulness in testimony: “Christians proclaim by word and deed the power of the new life, souls are won, and a community conscience informed by

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Carson and Keller on Revival

Though Keller and Carson could both be described as “pro-revival,” they are clear about unique dangers that have historically attended outpourings of God’s Spirit. “There is the danger of domesticating, of packaging, that can often end up making it feel phony,” Carson observes. As Keller adds, “Some are attracted to the glitz, others just want the attention.” He cites Jonathan Edwards’s little-known Thoughts on Revival for a sober-minded reflection on the false experiences that sometimes attend revival because of human sin. Keller and Carson on Revival from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

More honest and less impressive

Ray Ortlund: If I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 2 Corinthians 12:6 God had given the apostle Paul an amazing spiritual experience — apparently, some kind of guided tour of heaven.  If Paul had wanted to “wow” the rest of us, he easily could have.  But for fourteen years he told no one about it, quietly keeping it to himself, wonderful though it was.  He didn’t exploit his remarkable experience to enhance his ministry. Paul was deeply secure in Christ.  He was content for people to perceive him and rate him on the basis of what they themselves could observe in him – not what he could claim, even rightly claim, but the ordinary human realities they could see and hear.  It was the fraudulent “super-apostles”

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Would You Know a Revival If You Saw One?

  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

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Let’s Pray for Revival

The Gospel Coalition Council members Kevin DeYoung, Bryan Chapell, and Richard Phillips recently sat down to tackle this knotty topic. “In a true revival, you’re not adding human manipulative techniques to a biblical ministry,” Phillips explains. Rather, you’re “doing biblical ministry, fortified by prayer, and the Holy Spirit is giving you a great harvest.” Moreover, Chapell points out, “True revival is often very disruptive to the traditional church.” As a result, many churches “want revival until it comes.” On the other hand, DeYoung adds, some don’t desire to see revival unless it occurs in their church. To be sure, the history of revivalism is shot through with examples of well-meaning people seeking to engineer what only God can do. As Lloyd-Jones warned: “Pray for revival? Yes, go on, but do not try to create it, do not attempt to produce it; it is only given by Christ himself. The last church to be visited by a revival is the church trying to make

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How can we tell when God is really at work?

Ray Ortlund: In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own sins and eccentricities.  And we do complicate it.  In this life, the work of the gospel is never pure, always mixed.  But we do not need to be stuck in analysis-paralysis.  The true gold of grace is discernible, within all the mess, in four ways: One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work. Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work. Three, when we are believing, revering and devouring the Bible more and more, God is at work. Four, and most importantly, when we love Jesus and one another more, delighting in him

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When God puts himself “under the power of his people”

Sam Storms: Jonathan Edwards saw a direct cause and effect relationship between the faithful and fervent prayers of God’s people and the authenticity of heaven-sent revival. “When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, ’tis his will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people; as is manifest byEzek. 36:37, ‘I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them’; . . . And ’tis revealed that when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out ‘the spirit of grace and supplication,’ Zech. 12:10” (Some Thoughts, 516). Again, “When God is about to bestow some great blessing on his church, it is often his manner, in the first place, so to order things in his providence as to shew [sic] his church their great need of it, and to bring ’em into distress for want of it, and

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Revival is Always Christ-Centred

Jared Wilson: He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:14 “In all companies, on other days, on whatever occasions persons met together, Christ was to be heard of, and seen in the midst of them. Our young people, when they met, were wont to spend the time in talking of the excellency and dying love of JESUS CHRIST, the glory of the way of salvation, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God, his glorious work in the conversion of a soul, the truth and certainty of the great things of God’s word, the sweetness of the views of his perfections, &c.” — Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions It is the Spirit’s raison d’etre to shine the light on Christ. The Spirit is often called the “shy” Person of the Trinity because of this. He is content — no, zealous — to minister to the Church the Father’s blessings in the gospel of

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What is Revival? Two Options

By Nathan A. Finn Most evangelical Christians are in favor of revival. This is in part because of the many ways evangelicals in the English-speaking world have been shaped (for better and worse) by the history and theology of spiritual awakenings. Nevertheless, despite a generally pro-revival posture, it seems to me that evangelicals don’t agree on how to define revival. There are at least two different views. Some understand revival to be an unusual and extraordinary outpouring of God’s Spirit upon a church or group of churches. It results in a renewed sense of God’s presence and power among those affected, which in turn leads to a season of heightened spiritual maturity, evangelistic fruitfulness, and church growth. Revival frequently has a positive influence on the wider culture. According to this view, revival is by its very nature a temporary blessing, sovereignly bestowed by God, unto the purpose of a season of remarkable ministry. Jonathan Edwards and Martyn Lloyd-Jones understood revival

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Five marks of revived churches

J. I. Packer, writing in God in our Midst (Ann Arbor, 1987), pages 24-35, proposes that, among the variety of God’s ways, five constants appear in all biblical revivals: 1.  Awareness of God’s presence: “The first and fundamental feature in renewal is the sense that God has drawn awesomely near in his holiness, mercy and might.” 2.  Responsiveness to God’s Word: “The message of Scripture which previously was making only a superficial impact, if that, now searches its hearers and readers to the depth of their being.” 3.  Sensitiveness to sin: “Consciences become tender and a profound humbling takes place.” 4.  Liveliness in community: “Love and generosity, unity and joy, assurance and boldness, a spirit of praise and prayer, and a passion to reach out to win others, are recurring marks of renewed communities.” 5. Fruitfulness in testimony: “Christians proclaim by word and deed the power of the new life, souls are won, and a community conscience informed by Christian values emerges.”

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Lord, Do It [revive us] Again!

Colin Hansen writes: Why isn’t there as much interest in revival among Christians today compared to former years? I posed that question to Tim Keller and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, each of whom has been inspired by reading about past revivals to aspire for such an awakening in our day. We all agree there isn’t a lot of talk about the revival stories, a problem I’ve experienced and tried to address with John Woodbridge in A God-Sized Vision. Keller notes with appreciation the recent interest in evangelism but notes that revival leads to an ingathering of new believers. “The best way to reach people is to show them something gorgeous here,” he says. Reformed Christians rightly emphasize the need for doctrinal reformation. Indeed, revival does not come to apostate churches. But it’s possible to focus so much on our efforts to reform church doctrine that we don’t bother to ask God to work in extraordinary ways. We neglect this privilege of prayerful,

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How To Know What Real Revival Looks Like

From Ray Ortlund: In 1972 I heard J. I. Packer lecture at my seminary. One simple sentence of his has echoed in my mind ever since: “Do not neglect the revival dimension in your ministry.” Revival is powerfully Christ-exalting. That is what I desire. And I am guessing that you, as you follow The Resurgence, feel the same passion. What is a true revival? But how can we distinguish true revival from false? Not everything labeled “revival” can be trusted and welcomed. Fortunately, we have guidance from a master theologian, Jonathan Edwards, who studied the Bible profoundly and experienced revival personally. In his essay The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God Edwards offered categories for discernment from 1 John 4:1, where the apostle writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” Not everything going on in church is of God Edwards broke it down into two broad categories. First, negative

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Pray for an Awakening in Your Church

You can pray that God would move in way that results in: hundreds of people coming to Christ, old animosities being removed, marriages being reconciled and renewed, wayward children coming home, long-standing slavery to sin being conquered, spiritual dullness being replaced by vibrant joy, weak faith being replaced by bold witness, disinterest in prayer being replaced by fervent intercession, boring Bible reading being replaced by passion for the Word, disinterest in global missions being replaced by energy for Christ’s name among the nations, and lukewarm worship being replaced by zeal for the greatness of God’s glory. (HT: Justin Taylor)

What Is Revival?

From Justin Taylor: Here is how J. I. Packer answers that question in his essay, “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion” in A God-Entranced Vision of All Things (pp. 100-104): Revival is God touching minds and hearts in an arresting, devastating, exalting way, to draw them to himself through working from the inside out rather than from the outside in. It is God accelerating, intensifying, and extending the work of grace that goes on in every Christian’s life, but is sometimes overshadowed and somewhat smothered by the impact of other forces. It is the near presence of God giving new power to the gospel of sin and grace. It is the Holy Spirit sensitizing souls to divine realities and so generating deep-level responses to God in the form of faith and repentance, praise and prayer, love and joy, works of benevolence and service and initiatives of outreach and sharing. What is the pattern of genuine revival? Packer suggests

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Only For The Asking

“How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 In a sermon preached in 1740, Jonathan Edwards pointed out that we ask God for basically two kinds of things. We ask him for temporal blessings like health and jobs and family needs. We also ask him for spiritual blessings. But Edwards noted how much more frequently and fervently we ask for temporal blessings: “They don’t need any preaching to stir them up to take thorough care to obtain those outward things. . . . And if they begin to suffer for want of those things, how much do they make of their sufferings! . . . Had God nothing better to bestow upon you, when he had made you his children, than a little money or land, that you seem so much to behave yourselves as if you thought this was your chief good? . . . I am bold to

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What is needed

“What is needed is something that cannot be explained in human terms. What is needed is something that is so striking and so signal that it will arrest the attention of the whole world. That is revival. Now we of ourselves can never do anything like that. We can do a great deal, and we should do all we can. We can preach the truth, we can defend it, we can indulge in our apologetics, we can organize our campaigns, we can try to present a great front to the world. But you know, it does not impress the world. It leaves the world where it was. The need is for something which will be so overwhelming, so divine, so unusual that it will arrest the attention of the world . . . . ‘Authenticate thy word. Lord God, let it be known, let it be known beyond a doubt, that we are thy people. Shake us!’ I do not

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Lloyd-Jones on Jonathan Edwards

“No man is more relevant to the present condition of Christianity than Jonathan Edwards. . . . He was a mighty theologian and a great evangelist at the same time. . . . He was pre-eminently the theologian of revival. If you want to know anything about true revival, Edwards is the man to consult. Revivals have often started as the result of people reading volumes such as these two volumes of Edwards’ Works.” -D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 1976 (HT: Reformed Voices)

Must Unity Precede Revival?

From John Piper: J. Gresham Machen was not persuaded as so many seem to be today that revival and reformation will come to the church only after all the churches in a city experience more “unity.” That has always seemed backward to me. If the churches had deep unity in the truth and in the Spirit, that would be revival and reformation—amazing reformation! Unity of the kind we need is one of the miracles of God’s reviving and reforming work. And even when great revivals have come, along with new unity there was new division. In the mean time faithfulness to the gospel and love for people, no matter how controversial, is the path to reformation. Here’s Machen: Souls will hardly be saved unless the evangelists can say with Paul: “If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed!” Every true revival is born in controversy, and

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