Saturday, January 10, 2009

Revival ???

I've been wondering about modern revival in our contemporary North American Christian church. Is it a one-time event, a series of exciting meetings featuring miracles, strange phenomena, changed lives, or..? 'Revival' simply defined is 'raising to life what was once dead.' But how can a resurrected spiritual body like Christ's Church become so dead it has to be continually revived? And how often? Every generation needs its own move of God, but how genuine is Christian 'revival' if it needs to be raised from the dead every couple years… or months or days? Is it a seasonal thing? How many times can you be 'born again' again? Perhaps we are drawing more from hyped-up North American canned religious marketing gimmicks than a whole gospel. Believers in Christ receive a full gospel: Christ lived, died and rose again and this simple but powerful faith changes lives – once for all! We must not compromise this simple truth with lesser religious substitutes. We are the body of Christ, not Lazarus. Angelic stirrings, superficial manifestations and partial spiritual awakenings are incomplete and even deceptive when they only heighten expectations but do not clearly exalt Jesus and affect the genuine goods.

We have forgotten our simple roots in Christ and this is evidenced by how Scripture is often taken out of context to justify assumptions and then twisted into something far removed from its original intent. For example, John 5:1-15, the Pool of Bethesda scenario: a man with a 38-year long infirmity waits at the pool’s edge for an angel to stir the waters so he can get in, be healed and revived. This passage has been used to promote special geographically-located 'revival' healing wells, but I have a few questions about its relevance and relationship to real revival.

First, my marginal notes indicate that the last part of verse 3 and all of verse 4 are not in our earliest Bible texts. The Bible records no other such healing manifestation in Bethesda; no Jewish historical records contain that story. This is a Bible notation of mere Jewish tradition. It's a myth, a human form of religious superstition! But people have wrenched it out of context to build 'healing' ministries on watery, unstable, leaky foundations. Healing is in the fountain of Jesus' Blood, not in some pool of mystical pilgrimage.

Second, this situation is totally inconsistent with God as the Bible reveals Him. The Great I AM is a God of love; not selfish, competitive ambition. . Yes, God can do what He wants and His ways do change; but His changeable ways are ever consistent with His unchangeable nature, never in contradiction to who God is. “In the beginning… God. The Great I AM. I am the Lord, I change not. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday today and forever.” He does not reward those who sense angelic stirrings and beat everyone else into the pool. It's incredible that such a misrepresentation of God is tolerated, let alone celebrated in much of today's church. Such teaching and manner of ministry is totally inconsistent with the Bible's revelation of Jesus Christ. Healing is definitely connected with faith, but is it that type of run-to-Bethesda, Lakeland or wherever ‘faith’, first-in-the-pool-gets-healed ‘faith’, even if it means pushing others aside for your miracle ‘faith’ that God is revealing here? A 'faith' that heals the few who make it in before everyone else but leaves the sick and dying at the edge, clinging to residues of mystical hope is not the faith of Jesus. Such a charade leaves not only a poolside of rejected, unhealed victims behind in its wake, but a bad taste in my heart and a stain on the misrepresented image and character of God. An entire revivalist culture has built around this supposition. It is a false revelation.

Christ's healing is deeper and fuller than merely requiring a physical response to some supernatural surface manifestation. However, much North American Christianity seems bored with the real thing and has instead dug up 'superspiritual' substitutes and passed them off as Christian life. Jeremiah writes to us:

"My people have committed two evils:

They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,

And hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water." (Jer 2:13)

Pools, cisterns… systems that hold no water; religious systems based on myth and tradition; ministry extravaganzas that exalt personalities and gifts. We have hewn them out. They are neither God's Hand nor Kingdom, but works of human flesh and idolatrous religion. In the end, they yield nothing but false hope, disappointment and delusion.

We are like that paralytic, lying at the edge, waiting on arbitrary stirrings of revival. And as in the Bible account, the real Jesus, the Way the Truth and the Life Jesus, comes to us, deeply moved by our constant infirmities, and asks, "Do you want to be healed?" Not just surface, physical release from pain, but body, soul, spirit, mind, will and emotions whole! In other words, do you want complete salvation, deliverance from not only physical infirmity, but healing in your entire being, even your thinking and feelings changed, a will transformed by His Life?

There is an unhealthy imbalance in Charismatic Christian church life today. We need more than the package form of revival. We need more than surface stirrings of waters; they only stroke bruised egos and ease wounded comfort zones. We need a stirring in our religious root systems. We have failed to recognize and acknowledge The Lord for who He is and the way He truly works. He is Love, Mercy and Healing. He is wholeness. The Bible proclaims, “In Christ dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily and you are complete in Him.” We cannot settle for speculative substitute manifestations when Jesus Christ has made the Way into the Holy of Holies clear and open for us by His Blood once for all. His Presence is poured out for us, in us and through us. We don’t just need a pool to jump in. We have a whole river to swim in and in Christ there is more than enough, even a well to drink in. Anyone really thirsty? Jesus said, “Come to me and out of your innermost being will flow rivers of living water, not into you, but out of you! Christ challenged a self-centred religious system in His day; He defeated it at the Cross and continues to confront it today. It is finished! It’s time for the body of Christ to move out of Old Covenant types and shadows into New Covenant light! The River of God’s healing is for the whole: body, soul and spirit whole; individual members and corporate whole.

We need a deeper experience, a depth yet not probed. Spiritual awakening by itself is definitely not enough; there must be a raising up of the body, following through with specific, personal discipleship, changing from religious forms (even and especially when we pride ourselves that we are not ‘religious’) into the real image from glory to glory, not just from experience to experience, where self is the standard of measurement. Those awakened must know His healing faith and power to arise from their hearts and raise their whole being from their pitiful poolside existence. We have been crippled too long without the strength and maturity to truly walk the talk and take real steps forward. We need to drink, eat, and swim in the full River of God’s love. We need more than a visitation; we need, and in Christ we are, a divine habitation. Do you not know that individually your body is the temple of God and corporately we are the body of Christ, the temple of His Holy Spirit?

Church: will you rise from your bed of excuses or keep playing with religious games and gimmicks? Jesus is calling us to be and make disciples, those who will know Him and respond at His leading; those who truly follow the Lamb wherever He goes. We are His sheep, not a groupie following of healing junkies trying to lasso and market hyped-up miracle manifestations that fall far short of His truly revealed glory. We must discern and discount what is not God but what we have called God anyways because that’s all our poor souls have been trained and addicted to. The Law never saved anyone, but neither does license. All they can do is convict that we are in a ditch, need our Saviour and direct us to the Cross. Angels have never saved anyone’s soul nor have they been agents of healing without directing the needy to Jesus. An unhealthy overemphasis of their ministry is nothing more than a renewed cultish Gnosticism. Anything less than the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus is dead religion. It may be a different package, but it’s the same old deception; perhaps a different form or manifestation, but still the same empty religion. Christ challenged a self-centred religious system in His day and still does today. He defeated it then at the Cross and continues to expose its emptiness. It is finished! It's time for the body of Christ to move out of Old Covenant types and shadows and walk in New Covenant light! We have lain crippled too long; it's time to truly rise and walk the talk. While others wait for waters to move, let the Cross move you to look to Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith. Right now He's crying out to a needy world and a distracted Church: "Anyone here want to be whole?

I long to see what happens when we answer 'Yes!' and He adds, "Then take up your bed and walk!" The Church -- rising up, walking in love, unity, revelation and obedience…glorious and whole! Jesus paid for a revolution, true reformation in individuals and community! Let's not settle for lesser forms of 'revival'.


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  2. This article has really challenged me to go back and re look at some things I've taken as truths. Henry you once again did it, you brought me back to looking at the simplicity of the Gospel. Keep writting these your sons and daughters are hungry for Truth. kevin

  3. Well Henry, i agree. I have had enough of cult-like behaviour and superficial hype. Lets put those subsitutes on the bench and bring on the real Jesus; which starts whithin our own hearts, minds and attitudes.

    Thank you

  4. As much as I love revival and works of God they tend to not last when we build them around a personality and not Jesus. While I believe there have been valid moves of God they have not sustained due to character flaws in the leaders. It should encourage us that God can and will use anyone of us if we would make ourselves available. Thanks for the solid word Henry keep them coming.