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Is revival a non-starter?

May 2003 | by Des Frost

Some of God’s people see no need for revival in the UK. They see no need for a revolutionary change, either because there is too much going on already in the large and prosperous churches they attend, or because it has never occurred to them that the evangelical cause in the UK is in dire straits, and something has to be done to put things right.

Other believers however, when they compare what happened in New Testament times, and also what has happened in genuine revivals down the centuries, know that all is not well. They are sure we are missing out on God’s best.

Hard times

The one certain indicator that we need revival is the lack of genuine conversions. The knock-on effect is that unless there is intervention from above, true Evangeli-calism in the UK will become a thing of the past — because older believers are passing into glory without being replaced by younger ones.

The bad news, then, is that the Evangelical church in our country has fallen on hard times. But even if revival came, would we want it?

This might seem an absurd question to ask, yet it is a perfectly valid enquiry. Why? Because there is no point in the people of God seeking blessing from on high if they cannot handle it when it comes — because it cuts across and interferes with their present lifestyle.

Total obedience

We must be willing to live in accordance with the principles laid down in the Word of God, where believers are told not to love the things of this world.

Thus, if we are compromising our profession of faith by indulging in worldliness, and are unwilling to give it up, it would be better not to pray for blessing from above.

Furthermore, it is hypocritical to plead for blessing at the throne of grace if we are not prepared, personally and corporately, to embrace those doctrines which always accompany genuine revival.

For example, the central theme of the preaching must always be ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). Therefore if at present we are proclaiming a message which does not have Calvary at its core — and we are not willing to deal with the problem — then it is probably better that we do not seek revival.

It is the same with the work of the Holy Spirit. He alone is responsible for the depth and extent of the blessing in any revival. Thus, if we are not willing to give total obedience to his leading, we should not pray for blessing from above.

Numerous conversions

Now, if blessing from on high did descend, there would be numerous conversions. Here we might well experience problems, because many have ‘dumbed down’ the genuine article.

As a result, we get about as much joy from seeing sinners saved as being told that someone has given up chocolates for Lent.

What should be an earth-shattering, life-enhancing event, has been reduced to something routine and matter of fact. If revival did come, and converts began to appear at the church door for Bible instruction, we would have to make the effort to get as excited as them at sins forgiven and the certainty of eternal life.

Spurgeon certainly did so. Anyone who reads his sermons must surely be struck by the fact that he never lost the thrill of seeing sinners brought to faith. He once said, ‘I believe that today God is doing great wonders in changing depraved natures, breaking down hard hearts, and winning rebellious minds’ (Sermon No. 1981).

Shallow gospel

He constantly acknowledged the sheer magnitude of the Almighty’s work of conversion in the lives of unbelievers, whether they were formerly prostitutes or alcoholics or whatever.

But somehow we have lost sight of that magnitude. Sometimes in our preaching we give the impression that all it takes to get sinners into the Kindom of God is a bit of fine tuning in their hearts and minds.

Our failure to recognise that unsaved sinners are spiritually dead has caused immense problems. It has brought about a shallow gospel, manufactured to meet an equally shallow need.

We are now paying the price. God is no longer doing great wonders — on the same scale as in Spurgeon’s day — in changing depraved natures, breaking down hard hearts, and winning rebellious minds.