Friday, December 23, 2005

Could 2006 Be The Year Of Revival?

Due to my previous post, "I Hate Christmas", it will come as no surprise to some that my thoughts are already at the New Year and what 2006 holds for us. I can't wait for 2006 and the New Year! I said that this year has been one of the worst of my life, and I'm eager for a new clean fresh slate. And with that constant reminder of that quote from C H Spurgeon by the left of my blog, I'm constantly hungering for a deeper, more powerful experience of the Holy Spirit. I don't think I have done more than dip my big toe in!

A number of previous blog entries have referred even subconciously to revival. I mentioned David Tomlinson's disappointment with the fact that the Charismatic Renewal didn't produce revival, also in the comments section of a post on "Unity", I mentioned hearing Terry Virgo announce at CCK, Brighton that he is inviting a man to the Brighton Leaders Conference next year from abroad who has already had amazing meetings in Reading, and whom God has promised that He WILL be coming to the UK - that He hasn't forgotten us. That excites me!!

I realised that not all believe in revival. It's been more than 100 years since we saw a revival in this country and it cannot be taken ad lib that all do. The pastor of the previous church I went to did not. As far as I can tell the whole SGM movement of churches don't really. I can understand that I think - their passion is the gospel. One could argue that a revival is one of those "disputable" matters that isn't central. However that view isn't inbred in me. My home church in Dunstable passionately believed and prayed for revival, even when it became cessationist.

So I am re-reading a book given to me by my pastor Dr Stanley Jebb by indeed a cessationist - Iain Murray called; "Pentecost Today?". It is an outstanding book that I have read carefully many times and while there are some key points I don't agree with - for instance his views on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it's implications could be absolutely key if we are indeed to see revival come to the UK in 2006.

So here's a swift book review before I head off to work.

Murray's first chapter is cautious and well required. He begins by noting that the term itself is open to misunderstanding. For instance a "revival" in the USA could often be just a series of evangelistic meetings held through the week. He then outlines what he perceives to be the three major views on revival held today.

1) The whole concept of occasional revivals is not biblical at all. (The SGM view I would guess). He says of this view; "We should not speak of revivals as extraordinary, periodic events because the whole age in which we live is of Pentecost and the 'last days'. The danger with this view, Murray writes, is that this tends to leave Christians satisfied with the existing situation and anticipating nothing more that they presently see. "If we think only that the Holy Spirit is continuously resident in the church, as if necessarily present and inherent in the means of grace, we can easily begin to forget how urgently we stand in need of the supernatural". The church has too often settled down into a dull routine in whch more attention is given to human plans and gifts and scholarship than to prayer.

2) The presence or abscence of revival is conditional upon the obedience of the church and the behaviour of Christians. (Charles Finney's view also Duncan Campbell's view). The essential thing, they taught, was sanctification, clean hands and a pure heart. Murray notes quite rightly that the evidence of church history is against the view that revival is conditional upon our conduct. Many who have spent a lifetime in continued labours for the gospel have not seen the unique success that a revival can bring.

3) And "more biblical" (hence we can guess the view that Murray and therefore I hold!). Murray notes that it is an "old-school" view (held by the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards and C H Spurgeon). The third view agrees that the Spirit was given once for all at Pentecost but while the Spirit was given permamently, He was not given in the same measure and degree as witnessed at Pentecost.

It was not to be the "norm" that 3000 would be converted on one particular day. So from Pentecost onwards, the work of the Spirit can be viewed in two ways - the more normal and the extraordinary. These two differ not in essence or kind but only in degree. The evidence for this is 3-fold.

i) It is clear from the book of Acts that all Christians did not remain permamently filled with the Holy Spirit in the sense of Acts 2:4. Had that been so it would not have been necessary or possible to say of the same people again in Acts 4:31 that they were "filled with the Holy Spirit". This quote in particular is note-worthy seeing as I wrote an argument to this degree in my post; "This is No Age to Advocate Restraint" - a response to Open but Cautious-ites: - Murray writes:

"What is indisputable is that there are differences in the manifest Presence of the Spirit of God".

Murray notes that the idea of variation in the 'measure' of the Spirit is commonplace in Puritan writing quoting Issac Ambroce and John Owen as proofs.

ii) The New Testament indicates that while the Spirit is always present in the church, the degrees of His power and influence remain subject to Christ Himself. "In other words the church is ever dependent upon Christ, her ever-living Head for the 'actual influence' of the Holy Spirit'. Murray notes that if there is no more of the Spirit to expect then the promise of our Lord in Luke 11:13 has no more relevance for us today.

iii) How can the view which sees no justification for occasional revivals offer any convincing explanation for such great and sudden turning points in history such as the Reformation? How are these extraordinary eras to be explained if the Spirit is always uniformly present?

To summarise: "A revival is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit brought about by the intercession of Christ, resulting in a new degree of life in the churches and a widespread movement of grace among the unconverted. It is an extraordinary communication of the Spirit of God, superabundance of the Spirit's operation, an enlargement of His manifest power." (I love that bit)

Oh dear ... well that was a review of chapter 1. Why can't I type faster?! I have to go to work - this clearly is going to turn into a series.


jul said...

Interesting! I was brought up Wesleyan, my dad was a pastor and avid reader. I can remember him reading the journals of David Brainerd as a bedtime story when I was about 4. I devoured books myself as soon as I could read, and read whatever my parents were reading if I could. So suffice it to say, I grew up with the classical idea of revival, but never saw anything like that happen or talk to anyone who did. It was a kind of mysterious word to me when my dad talked about it, and very exciting.

I'm not sure what SGM thinks about this. I once read something where C.J. referred to the days of TAG being the closest thing to revival he had ever experienced. Wish I could remember where I read that. Most of our pastors, at least the older ones, are more classic penecostal in their view, teaching the baptism of the spirit, which I don't totally agree with theologically speaking, but enthusiastically support people who do. My view is that anytime people are desiring to be filled with the Spirit, we should encourage it. I have been examining these views lately though. I'm always open to change my thinking if I can find it in Scripture. I definately don't believe in entire sactification however. It only took one year at a Wesleyan bible college to convince me haha! Not what they intended I think.

I'm with you on the revival issue. Let's have one here and there and anywhere else possible. (But especially Canada?) Maybe I'll write about my forest fire story on my blog sometime. It's one of my favorites.

Adrian said...

CJs interview with Nigel mentions revival in a postive way which sure sounds like he believes in it

jul said...

That's where I read that!

Baxter's Boy said...

Kewl - I like being proved wrong! Thanks guys. x

Baxter's Boy said...

Rats ... that's got my thought processes going now!! Okay ... so if C J and (as Jul called them) the other "older" pastors who seem more pentecostal-charismatic do indeed hold some sort of theology of revival in SGM, then would it be fair to argue that those "newer" pastors who are more Third Wave do not?

Because I can testify definately that there is a clear mix of Pentecostal-Charismatic theology and Third Wave within SGM. The paper produced by Jeff Purswell seemed to be leading SGM along a more Third-Wave sort of route in terms of pneumatology. So does this Third Wave view omit a "Revival" theology?

Yet Sam Storms seems to be the most classic Third Wave theologian and his website does indeed have an excellent paper on Revival that seems most definately for it!

Or am I thinking far too deeply about this, and it is actually more a generational thing as Iain Murray wrote? And that those "older" pastors who remember the days of refreshing of the 70's tend to hold a revival theology whereas maybe the newer generational pastors do not?

Anonymous said...

No I agree, I think it is a generational thing. Such happened in Old Testament times after all; "There arose a generation who did not remember ...". This brings the discussion round a full circle to your comments on the importance of mentors. Your mentors must remind you and re-tell the great works that the Lord has done. If they do not, then they will be forgotten.

So very well ... C J Mahaney may believe in revival and it seems has experienced a touch of it. But the question is, has he reminded Harris of that? And does he constantly teach and remind the younger generation under his care to look for more?

I hope that contributes a few thoughts to this all-important discussion.