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: http://ern-baxter.blogspot.com/2005/11/this-is-no-age-to-advocate-restraint1.html - 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.