River of God | Day 5
Matthew 13: 1-23, 2 Samuel 6, Luke 10:38-42, Numbers 20:8-13
We’ve already begun our discussion on the glorious river of God, and how it is going to flow in and through us, resulting in a great harvest. Now it’s time to talk about a few unpleasant words. Repentance, cleansing, shaking, discipline, purging, and process - these concepts are all involved in the release of the river. Revival is a process, and we must study each part of the process if we’re going to experience it in its fullness. This process of revival must begin with the process of repentance.
Repentance is an important aspect of our journey to revival - not only personally, but on a corporate level. As humans, we are riddled with shortcomings. But sometimes it’s difficult to remember that movements and organizations carry them as well. God is working through His imperfect bride. We cannot expect that we will navigate this river perfectly without Him. As we try to live out the perfect balance of God, we will often need to submit to a seasonal process of cleansing and adjustment.
Why must repentance come first? Between waves of revival - when the fire wanes - complacency, sin, and compromise often set in. This requires a season of adjustment before God can bring a fresh move of His Spirit. Imagine sin, complacency, and compromise as ice that blocks the flow of the river. The river will only begin to move again if we allow His refining fire to come and melt away the blocks we’ve set up in our finite understanding. This is the value of repentance.
It’s imperative that we understand and grasp these “in-between” seasons and moments. We have failed to understand the process of revival as it concerns phases and seasons. And our limited knowledge of true, lasting revival has led us to follow false types and methods instead. There are many different ways that false revival can manifest itself.
Sometimes, we witness a revival that springs up quickly, but it lacks firm roots and quickly dies (as the Parable of the Sower shows us in Matthew 13). Other times, we presume that revival has arrived before it actually has. Our presumption then causes us to relax or change strategy prematurely. This results in lost momentum. We’ve tried to manufacture revival with man-made methods, and it has always failed. Or sometimes, we rely on performance instead of relationship to produce fruit.
True revival is different. While there is plenty of evidence to support what revival isn’t, we must always weigh revival through three criteria. Is the Church renewed through the conversion of sinners? Are churches experiencing growth and influence toward social reform? Is the Presence of God allowing for social upheaval? These are the things that show us if revival is man-made or God-breathed.
Charles Finney insisted that revival always includes conviction of sin on the Church's part. It would bring backslidden Christians to repentance, resulting in the restoration and salvation of sinners. If we are experiencing God’s power and the flow of the Holy Spirit, it is inevitable that unbelievers in our midst will be compelled to redemption. We see again that repentance becomes a key foundation for revival.
When we become honest with ourselves and submit our lives to the Holy Spirit, we will be able to experience true revival. This means that as we move closer to the heart of God, He will show us things we must surrender in order to live a life fully open to Him. When we see Christians’ behavior altered - without condemnation, but through the conviction of the Holy Spirit - it will be a strong indicator that we have found ourselves in the middle of revival. And as a result of our honest and strong relationship with God, we will see Church growth that will have us bursting at the seams.
Finally, we must acknowledge that social reform is an indicator of revival. If we can only trace the movement of God to one church, one man, one meeting - it isn’t revival. Revival will sweep the nation. It will be a force unstoppable. It will cause us to contend for the strategy of Heaven on how to reform our culture. The river of God won’t be diluted, and it won’t be thwarted.
It is important to understand these three characteristics of true revival. That way, when movements or expressions appear, we are able to judge scripturally and accurately the movement of God and how His river is flowing throughout the Church. None of this is to say that movements of God without true revival are unwarranted or unwelcome; this is our opportunity to see what God is doing in a moment, and turn it into true revival. If we can get His heartbeat, we will be able to navigate the waters exactly as He intended and we will see great change come, not only personally, but corporately.