Revived to What?

I often hear people speak of a desire for revival and reformation. What I don’t often hear people speak of is exactly what they want revived or reformed. So what exactly are we looking for?

My thoughts on this topic are influenced by Mark Noll’s book, The Rise of Evangelicalism, conversation with my friend Denny Burk, and an article on biblical illiteracy.

Here are some things I think we would experience if the Spirit of God were to revive us again:

1. A deep sense of the holiness and majesty of God resulting in godly sorrow for sin and a firm resolve to turn from it. In a word, repentance.

2. A hunger to know God and make him known, resulting in a desperate rush to be fed biblical truth. This would take shape in Christians reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible for themselves. It would also result in people wanting to have the Bible taught to them—at church, in home Bible studies, and maybe even in a seminary.

3. A fervent reliance upon God in all things, giving rise to ceaseless prayer. This would mark our individual lives as we constantly call upon God for help, and it would mark our corporate lives as we gather to beseech the Lord to make his name great in our midst.

4. A marked increase in new conversions. Here is a helpful summary of some research done on evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention, and here are some suggestions for improvement. It could be that another part of the explanation as to why we are not seeing more conversions and baptisms is that Christians don’t have a deep reverence for God that produces holy living (number 1 above), they don’t nourish their souls on God’s Word (number 2 above), and they don’t pray much because they don’t feel much need for God (number 3 above). Are these things being cultivated in your church? If not, why not? What is being cultivated? Isn’t the point of church knowing and worshiping God?

5. As lives change, lives change. Work takes on a sacred quality as vocational service becomes a living sacrifice of worship to God. Leisure is no longer lazy lounging with worldly entertainment. That waste of life is replaced by an urgency to redeem the time in relationship building and a zest for numbers 2 – 4 above. There is a place for entertainment, but let us insist on entertainment that is edifying. Conversations with friends would be changed as well. What do you talk about with your friends? We talk about what we like to talk about, and what we like to talk about is a reflection of what matters most to us—or should be. In Jonathan Edwards’ descriptions of the first great awakening, he notes that conversations in Northampton were theological—having to do with God. Imagine that!

6. I am by no means trying to make a list of what piety looks like, but I do think that people whose lives are marked by the things described in numbers 1 – 5 above are revived. The sum total of these things is a pursuit of personal holiness in response to being ravished by the living God. If our churches become influenced by Christians who live this way, our churches might experience reformation.

7. All of this results from God revealing himself powerfully to people such that he evokes from us a response that corresponds with who he is. If we do not see him, know him, love him, and long for more of him, none of this will happen.

May the Lord be pleased to revive our lives and reform our churches!

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