So, You’re Praying for Revival?

The last 3-4 years have seen many prominent and influential churches and ministries come into the limelight for the wrong reasons. Sins such as adultery, spiritual abuse, and wrongful use of church funds have been the primary issues. While the Church has always had problems with sin and blatant immaturity (we are a work in progress), there is a unique thread with many of these ministries that currently have experienced hidden sins exposed. They have been seeking and praying for revival.

Defining Revival?

We may be guilty of having a limited perspective of revival. The word has connotations of larger crowds, a massive increase in people giving their lives to Christ, and special meetings added to a church’s schedule. While these may be aspects of revival, they are not the heart of revival. In essence, revival is the existing Church experiencing a fresh and life-changing revelation of the person and character of God. I say life-changing because when the glory of God manifests, it is provocative. We are provoked into either repentance or rebellion. I mention rebellion since when even a bit of God’s glory and holiness manifest, we see the condition of our hearts more in tune with how God sees them. Psalm 90, verse 8 reads, ‘You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.’ In the light of His presence, we see more clearly. In those moments when we see ourselves more as God sees us, we have a choice- to change or stay the same (rebel)!

So, while special meetings and increased attendance may accompany a fresh move of God’s manifest presence, the heart of revival is repentance- getting right with God (or more right with God in the life of a Christian). This is in keeping with the premier message of the four gospels; ‘Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.’

Just as the initial and foundational message of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples was ‘repent, the kingdom of God is at hand’ so too when a church or ministry ardently seeks God’s glory, majesty, and holiness- His manifest presence, it is inviting judgment due to an increased heart awareness of God’s holiness!

The heart of revival is getting right with God!

In the case of the Church, the redeemed, not judgment unto eternal life, but remedial judgment unto healing and wholeness in Christ. The writer of the Book of Hebrews quoted Solomon, in Hebrews chapter 12, when he wrote, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives.” Consider that God spoke of every son being disciplined, at least occasionally. God is never afraid to prune His vineyard!

We, as Christians, may also use a false yardstick at times to measure success in life. God does not measure our success as the world does with nickels, noise, and numbers! When we measure success from a biblical perspective, we must use God’s measuring rod of becoming conformed to the image of Christ as well. (Rom.8.29) God’s will for us is to bear much fruit- including making known the gospel to the lost. But if the size of the crowd is the sole measurement for revival, we have forgotten that while man always looks at outward appearance (the crowd and phenomena), God is concerned with the heart!

Judgment Starts First with Us

The saints who experienced the outpouring of God’s Spirit in the Outer Hebrides from 1949 to 1952 defined revival uniquely. They spoke of an awareness of God coming into the communities around the Church. They experienced a move of God that went way beyond the four walls of the Church. In a larger sense, however, they recognized that when Jesus is pouring out His Spirit, even many non-Christians will become aware of God and His holiness. Just as Jesus began to preach repentance in the Gospels, humility is critical to advance in the Kingdom of God today. Jesus instructed us to ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”! Embracing Christ ultimately means embracing the ways of God. That begins with responding to God’s judgments regarding our souls. If we are in a pre-revival time frame, then it stands to reason the judgments coming on many will start first with the household of God.

Every other Christmas, my wife and I host the gathering of her extended family for Christmas Eve dinner. Counting family friends, as many as thirty people may attend. The initial preparations for everyone coming over are not cooking the food or setting up all the dining areas- it is freshly cleaning the house! My wife always wants everything in perfect order before the guests arrive. In the same way, God is preparing His house for an influx of souls. Some initial house cleaning may need to occur before the newcomers arrive!

Cleaning house for the invited guests

Pride vs. the Fear of the Lord

In the greatest sense, the cost of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was paid for by Jesus on the cross. In a lesser but genuine sense, we make room for more of God in our lives and the Church by living surrendered lives to God. The price God demands is a surrender of our pride. With leaders, pride can arise for various reasons: our accomplishments, our position, and the gifting God may have given us. And that pride, if left unchecked, will lead to the cancers of our age- narcissism accompanied by a lack of fear of the Lord.
As we have read about leader after leader having to step away from ministry, the underlying foundation for their corrupt behavior almost always arises from that false pride of self and self-importance. One of the most overlooked warnings of Jesus is found in Luke 6, verse 36; ‘Woe to you, when all people speak well of you.’ In an age with so many growing up in brokenness, there is the constant temptation to govern our lives by the praise of man rather than the fear of the Lord. Part of living out of a healthy fear of the Lord is the simple ongoing recognition that anything good we achieve in life is mainly due to the abilities, opportunities, and gifts God gives us. Anything short of that opens the door to pride- the seat of satan!
When we read of the sin patterns of disgraced leaders, almost always it suggests Jesus’s powerful condemnation of the religious leaders of His day; ‘Then Jesus said to the crowds and his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.’ (Matthew 23.1-4)
Jesus was, and is, the serving King! No matter how great the gifting God may have given us, our heart’s motivation ought to be to serve and build up the ‘majestic ones in whom God delights.’ A failure to hold tight to that mindset opens the door to what Jesus also strongly warned of- loving to lord one’s authority over others.

The Anecdote- Isaiah 30.15

Most of us have heard the encouragement to ‘keep short accounts’- not allowing minor issues to grow into huge problems. It’s good advice for marriages, families, friendships, the workplace, and especially with God. If we fail to catch the little foxes running loose in the gardens of our souls, they may morph into roaring lions! How do we hold onto a lifestyle of keeping short accounts? The answer is keeping the eyes of our hearts on the wonder of Jesus and the working out of God and His ways in our lives. If we do so, we will be continually consumed with the wonder of who He is as opposed to ourselves and our achievements. As we emulate the worshiping angels surrounding the throne of God, our hearts, like theirs, will be gripped with His holiness, majesty, and beauty. This, in turn, renders repentance not so much an event but a lifestyle!

Isaiah 30, verse 15 reads; ‘For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In rest and repentance you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.‘ Especially for those in leadership, this is an incredible promise- living lives of realizing God’s rest and strength amid the ongoing stress of responsibility! The final part of verse 15 is a warning rebuke, however. God states, ‘You were unwilling’!

Keep short accounts

The besetting sins that tempt us are not beyond the self-control the Holy Spirit offers us as we abide in Christ. The problem, however, is when we take our eyes off Christ’s wonder and make ourselves the center of it all.
A second vital key to maintaining Biblical standards in one’s life is cultivating at least one or two tight friendships. Over time, if we’re intentional, we can develop life-giving relationships. A life-giving relationship is someone whom you thoroughly trust. It is a friendship where you can share your fears and temptations and know that friend will strengthen you simply by their loving encouragement and prayers. However, those relationships require time, intentionality, and commitment to develop.
God gave a powerful warning through the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church of Galatia; ‘Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.’ (Gal.6.7-8) Sooner or later, if left unchecked, demonic strongholds in the life of a leader often will develop into patterns such as sexual sin, abuse of people, and misuse of finances. And sooner or later, those behavioral patterns will be exposed!! It will especially come out in championing revival because God will not be mocked by hypocrisy!
The need for this season is not so much revival- we need a far greater move than that of the Holy Spirit. In the Western World, we need a Great Awakening. And as the Body of Christ pursues that, we should not be surprised if what we allow in secret becomes shouted from the rooftops. God will not be mocked, and to whom much is given, much is required!

When a Leader’s Sins are Revealed

First off, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. As God cleans house, let’s be careful not to despise or discard all the good fruit from the ministry of a disgraced leader. Any service or worship that those involved under a compromised leader genuinely offered up to God, God values. If we disdain the good that came out of a ministry led by a fallen leader, we must, in turn, tear David’s Psalms out of our Bibles!
Secondly, avoid confusing forgiveness with restoration. One can genuinely be contrite regarding their sins and ask God’s and the Church’s forgiveness. But that is not the same as restoration. Forgiveness can happen quickly when there is a repentant heart. Restoration, however, takes time (read Psalm 51). Just as when someone replaces junk food with healthy food, the cravings for unhealthy food don’t instantly disappear! The longer there has been a stronghold of the enemy within one’s soul, the longer it will take to bring about wholeness. It’s a real tragedy for the Church when gifting is considered more important than a Christ-like character. When fallen leaders are put back in the saddle too soon, they are only being set up for greater failure.
Thirdly, let’s avoid pharisaical judgments on those whose sins are made public. Galatians 6.1 reads, ‘if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.’ If the situation was reversed, how would you want others to pray for you?
Lastly, let’s not confuse God’s sovereign plans with the rise and fall of any Christian leader or ministry. It’s a trap to pin your faith in what God is doing in the world today on the stature and prestige of any leader, Church, or ministry. God is omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful). While He enjoys working with us and through us, He is never dependent on any of us! The nations will be given as an inheritance to Christ Jesus!

Marc Dupont
February 2024

 

 

 

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