What often passes for revival in the modern church is typically nothing more than a charismatic caricature of revival that is driven by a hyper-emotional experiential-based movement that mimics what one would see at a drug-induced rave party or Woodstock music festival. It’s largely devoid of any sound biblical preaching and those involved, when confronted with the actual Word of God, tend to back away and become defensive.
But the Bible describes true revival as something completely different. First off, true revival is not an ecumenical gathering of every sub-biblical denomination on the planet who congregate together for the sole purpose of setting aside doctrinal differences in favor of superficial unity. The Bible is clear that true Christianity seeks to align itself with the Scriptures both in deed and in doctrine.
True Revival garners a deep desire in the believer to know Christ and the Scriptures demonstrate that the only way to know Christ is to read and study His word and rightly apply it to our lives. 2 Timothy 2:15 states “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” The key is rightly handling the word of truth. In order rightly handle the word of truth, one must hear the word, read the word, study the word.
Those who are truly affected by true revival are eager to learn and hear the word of God preached, presented, and expounded upon. Much of what happens in the faux revival movements of today results in people being repulsed by the Word of God. When confronted by the truth of Scripture, they often brush it off and retort with such phrases as “God is love” and “just come see for yourself what God is doing.” Rather than dealing with what God says, their emotions drive their experience and their beliefs. But the Scriptures tell us in Acts 17:11 that there were some who were some believers who were more noble than others because “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
Further, true revival is characterized by true repentance, not false repentance. The Bible itself is our guide for morality, orthodoxy, and orthopraxy. It tells us what to believe, how to believe it, and how to apply it to our lives. Many faux revival movements today claim to be centered around repentance and faith, but upon examination, the repentance isn’t based on biblical teachings, it’s based on emotionally-informed humanistic ideas of what morality and love should look like. Often, modern churches find themselves repenting of actually holding to biblical beliefs, for example, having a strong stance on moral issues such as homosexuality or abortion. They often exchange these strong convictions against these immoral issues for a worldly notion of “love” and “acceptance.” We see this in all of the progressive denominations today and many of the charismatic movements are falling prey to it as well.
But the Bible teaches that true repentance means turning away from our carnal emotions and aligning our will and beliefs with the Word of God. Revelation 3:3 says “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”
And lastly, true revival is sparked by the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. What we see a lot of in modern churches today that passes as “revival” is often nothing more than a concert with emotionally-charged music and people, who know little-to-nothing about God’s word, sharing questionable experiences that when spoken in front of a crowd in an emotional trance, only adds to the ecstatic excitement taking place. There is no preacher involved and there is no true teaching of the Word of God by someone who is able to rightly handle the text. There is no examination of anything being taught if anything is being taught at all, and everyone is merely open to suggestion from the trance-like experience they’ve been placed under by the mood-setting music and atmosphere.
True revival is not a counterfeit movement driven by hyper-emotional experiences and superficial unity, but instead, it is a movement that seeks to align itself with the Scriptures both in deed and in doctrine. It is something that is grounded in the faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of God. It ignites a deep desire in the believer to know Christ and align their beliefs and convictions with the Scriptures. It is characterized by true repentance, which is grounded in biblical teachings and not humanistic ideas of morality and love. Any time we are presented with something passing itself off as a true revival or a move of the Holy Spirit, we should not be hesitant to examine against the precepts of Scripture—it is the only Godly way to handle such things.
But test everything; hold fast what is good. —1 Thessalonians 5:21