What Is Revival?
What is revival? Jonathan Edwards (an American revivalist preacher, philosopher, and theologian, who played a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening in the 1730’s) defines revival as: “a special season of mercy during which God pours out his Spirit, producing greater sanctification among Christians and in the conversion of the lost”. John Piper, a well known present day Pastor/Teacher, explains revival as the following: “the idea of revival originates in the reality that, on the one hand, God is the decisive giver of all spiritual life and, on the other hand, humans, even those who are born again and part of God’s covenant family, from time to time drift into a kind of lifelessness and lethargy and backsliding and indifference and weakness. And when you put those two together — God as the giver of life and man as ever drifting towards lifelessness — what you get is the need for the hope of reviving, coming back to life — a fresh out pouring of God’s live-giving Spirit on his people. That is what revival is”. Revival is an gift from God. An outpouring of life by God; the only One who can give life through Jesus. We see this in Psalm 85:6, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” And In Psalm 80:18, “Give us life, and we will call upon your name!”
What is the role of repentance? The bible describes many examples of how repentance has lead to revival. Repentance is also a gift given by God. In order to be revived we need to recognize that we are not. It is God who unveils our eyes to see so that we can humbly turn to the One who will forgive our sins and make us a new creation. God calls us to repentance because He loves us. He knows that it is through repentance that He will heal us, free us from bondage and give us the blessing of life in Him. We see this In 1 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land”. Similarly in Isaiah 57:15, “thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite”. A lowly contrite spirit is the first step. It is at that point we humbly know our need for a savour and turn away from what is old in our flesh, toward what is new and life-giving through Jesus. David illustrates this perfectly in Psalm 51, when he poured out his contrite heart to the Lord in repentance, and was filled with Gods grace, love and renewal. Jesus also teaches us the process of repentance and revival in the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). The first step as He so beautifully describes is to be humble and poor in spirit, knowing our sin and our need for a saviour. And the beatitudes continue to lay out the blessed process of growing in Jesus, proceeding from that initial place of repentance and lowliness. And it is an ongoing process. It does not stop when we are born again. Paul never stopped pressing on “to win the prize”, which was the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Ultimately it is God who is the giver of life and revival. Therefore, we must continue to pray. And there are few prayers in the Bible that have had a reviving, convicting, awakening, renewing effect like Ephesians 3, where Paul prays: “I pray that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”. Amen.
“The Bible describes many examples of how repentance has lead to revival”
by Jane Sinden
Dr. Jane Sinden is a member of the Stratford Christian Reformed Church (CRC). She loves the Lord with all her heart and seeks to serve Him in everything she does. She is a wife, mother and Professor at Redeemer University College. She has a PhD in Education, specializing in emotions. She had a difficult upbringing but is passionate about sharing her testimony and knowledge and to help others understand the role that emotions play in facing the “truth in the inward parts”, leading to repentance, healing, and freedom in Jesus.