Learning the Lessons of History

One of the main reasons for the study of History is that we see how other people did things in the past, what they got right and what they got wrong, and to avoid making the same mistakes again.

We call it ‘Learning the Lessons of History’; sadly, though, it sometimes appears that the only lesson we learn from History is that nobody learns the lessons of history. We make the same mistakes over and over again!

I read an article recently* where the writer describes what happens when there’s a mighty move of God in the Church. Some call this ‘Revival’ – in its real sense: a huge realisation of the sense of the presence and power of God in society and in individuals’ lives**. Here’s some thoughts that were provoked by that article.

All of the great revivals of history have seen many souls saved, many people healed, societies changed, lives changed, miracles, and all sorts of signs and wonders indicating the ‘breaking-in’ of the Kingdom of God into everyday life. From the first ‘big’ revivals documented in the Book of Acts in the Bible, right up to recent revivals, this has been the case.

Another great fruit of revival has been the setting free of ‘ordinary’, everyday believers into the ‘Glorious freedom of the Children of God’ (Romans 8:21); the freeing of people from the shackles of ordinary religion and with an emphasis on personal freedom and personal accountability to God, not to men.

However, after only a short time, some people decide they’d like to try to ‘keep’ the blessing, but in their own strength. They observe the different behaviour of those who have been touched by the revival, and perceive this as the reason for the blessings, not a fruit of the blessings. They reason, ‘If you act/behave in this manner, then healings follow, revival follows; this is the reason why God is blessing us’. Whereas actually the converse is true: because of the revival, people change; their behaviour changes and their demeanour changes.

And so, the behaviour becomes the accepted norm, ‘Christians behave this way and no other. Anything else is a sin’. Effectively, the fluid rhythms of grace are subverted by unwritten rules and expectations, and so the new wine leaks out of the old wineskins and the blessing is lost and the revival ends. Trying to crystallise what God is doing into a set of formulae and rituals means that God is no longer free – and that was our choice, not His – to do the things He wants to do. The Yeast of the Pharisees has worked its way through the batch of dough yet again.

And then the cycle repeats: people eventually tire of the restrictive religious practices, they pray for revival freedom, and it happens again. It even happened in the Book of Acts: after the incredible events of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, the Church grew like wildfire. But within only a few short years after the Resurrection, already the Jerusalem church were setting rules by which newly-believing Gentile Christians were expected to behave (Acts 16:4, Acts 15:28-29 and similar)

So, perhaps we should try to learn the lessons of history. When the next revival happens – and it will – let’s not try to ‘preserve the blessing’, in the fashion of the Israelites gathering too much manna and trying to store it for the future. For example, in Exodus 16:19-20:  “Moses said to them, ‘Let no man leave any of it until morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.…” Now granted, Moses had a real penchant for throwing a thrombie with people, but still the point of the illustration is that if you try to keep, to preserve, today’s blessings for tomorrow, they will no longer be fresh. And so it is with the next revival. We need to make sure that we live it day to day, accepting God’s fresh blessings daily and yes, being excited about what He’s going to do tomorrow, but really living in the ‘now’ and enjoying the blessings of walking with Him on a daily basis, right now.

And we can begin to practice this now. Learn to walk with God now, enjoying His presence and companionship right now. There’s really no time like the present! Let you heart burn with His Spirit. Bless others, do what you see the Father doing (John 5:19), and in doing so, be Jesus to the people you meet. This will put you in good practice for accepting the blessings of revival – and keeping them fresh.

And don’t try to make up formulae or rules to keep the blessing. That isn’t how it works. It works only by walking daily with Jesus, by His Spirit. Remember all this when the revival happens. It will stand you in good stead.


 

*If someone recognises this argument, and can point me to the book, blog or website where I might have read this, I would be really grateful!

**I am differentiating here from what I think is one American concept of a ‘revival’, which is more of a small ‘tent crusade’ where the Gospel is preached, maybe only for a few days at a time.

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