There’s actually a new Revival going on in the Church in this time.
This new Revival does not look at all like we expected it would look like, when we prayed for it decades ago.
But with God, things rarely are what we expect.
In Jesus’s day, the people of Israel expected a conquering King-Messiah; this was the ‘revival’ they were looking for. An all-powerful, conquering King who would use military might and Kingly authority to evict the hated Roman occupation forces and re-establish theocratic law in their society, and in so doing, driving out the essentially Pagan gods that the Romans worshipped. This was why they did the thing with the palm branches and cries of ‘Hosanna!’ on what we now call ‘Palm Sunday’, and is also why they rejected Him in that final week of His life on earth and eventually cries of ‘Crucify!’. Their Messiah was not what they expected, and He was not what they wanted, and so they rejected Him.
Some still expect this kind of Messiah today. We expected the idea of a conquering King that would slay (or at least bring to repentance) all His ‘enemies’ in one go – either as part of that expected Revival or, preferably, when He comes again. We always expected a returning Jesus who would really give His enemies ‘what for’, as we say in Yorkshire.
It was also what they expected when Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah in His home town of Nazareth in Luke chapter 4 (I expand on this passage in this blog entry). When we prayed for revival, we expected God to bring thousands into His Kingdom in repentance and change governments, ‘usher in’ (I hate that phrase!) a ‘new age’ of righteousness in our nations, society and governments.
But, in Nazareth, Jesus ‘rolled up the scroll’ (Lk 4:20). He figuratively shut the book with a decisive ‘snap’; He didn’t read the bit they wanted to hear, the bit about vengeance and judgement. Their ‘revival’ didn’t happen as they thought it would.
And a similar thing is going on with the modern revival. Jesus seems to have ‘rolled up the scroll’ on the parts that people are expecting. The things that many modern Christians are looking for in the revival they are praying for are the things they expect – many souls crying out to God for mercy and forgiveness, consciousness of sin, and yes healings, deliverances and salvation – just like happened in revivals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – and these things aren’t happening. But still people are coming to a fresh realisation about the love of God for them.
You see, this time, what’s actually happening is different. This time, the revival is about revisiting the nature of God’s loving character; His forebearance, tolerance and, above all, His grace – His undeserved, extravagant and properly-over-the-top favour. people are realising what God is like and how much He loves them, irrespective of how ‘unworthy’ they thought they were (and sadly this feeling has largely been fostered by some in the Church).
In Jesus’s day, His ‘Revival’ was fixed entirely in an accurate vision of Father God’s character and His love. And Jesus does not change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13:8). He’s not coming back as a mighty Conqueror, bent on destroying all those who refuse to submit to His Will. He’s still coming back, yes, but just like He did before, in living and enacting the key to His character: “Father, forgive them” (Lk 23:34). And so this modern revival also shows God’s character and love to those who have the eyes to see it.
Now, with our modern ‘expected’ Revival, in a way, similarly to overthrowing the Romans (who were the percieved problem for the Jews a the time), people are asking for the Spirit to come, but to bring us back to the rules (i.e. to perceived purity) and make us slaves to law/religion again. I’ve written on this before and, for those with eyes to see, it’s pretty obvious what is happening. It’s interesting that the Revival that many Fundamentalist Christians have been praying for for decades (and I know; I was one of them!) is going on right now under their noses, but most of them fail to see it. It’s a revival of peace, tolerance, a lack of bigotry and exclusivism; a revival of love, goodness, joy and all the other fruits of the Spirit. And yet they still see it as ‘liberal’ theology; as work of the devil. And this is so tragic because they are missing what God is doing, just like some of the religious people in Jesus’s day.
Maybe that’s why Jesus told his disciples to go only to the lost sheep of Israel (Mt 10:5-6). Maybe it’s because the Jews of that day were the most lost, most bigoted and thought that they were the only ones who were ‘saved’ because they were God’s holy people. It sounds like some of the more militant of the ‘fundamentalist’ groups today – an insistence that theirs is the ‘Only True Way’ when actually it is Jesus – inclusive, broadly-encompassing, all-welcoming Jesus – who is Himself the ‘Way’ (Jn 14:6), and not some narrow doctrinal position.
Note that when I talk about the Church in most of my writings, I am not referring to your ordinary, everyday churchgoer who loves and serves Jesus. The people who simply love others as Christ asked us to do. No, I am referring to the militant Pharisee brigades, the ones who think that their, and only their interpretation of Scripture is the correct one, to the exclusion and indeed presumed ‘damnation’ (sending to Hell) of all who disagree on even the most minute little point of doctrine. The people who turn unbelievers away because they ‘shut the door of the Kingdom in people’s faces’ (Mt 23:13)
But this modern Revival is one in which the doors of the Kingdom will be opened once more. Opened to those who have doubts, opened to those who don’t want to believe in all the silly trappings of Religion, opened to those who traditionally have been made to feel unwelcome in churches: Gay/Lesbian/transexual etc. people, atheists, those who want to ask awkward questions. Jesus welcomes all these people and everyone else too. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel ‘worthy’; God loves you just as you are. He doesn’t want you to be different, to change, to change your points of view on anything – except that the only thing involved in what Jesus called ‘repentance’ is that you need to change your mind about Jesus. And God can help you do that, too. This doesn’t need any strength on your part.
If you are someone who feels like they would like/love to be a part of what Jesus is doing in this day, but you’ve never really taken that step of trusting Him, then can I invite you to do that? The Bible says in many places that all that is required is to ‘believe in the Lord Jesus’. You don’t have to buy into all the silly ideas and doctrines, like the earth being only 4,000 years old, or that evolution is false, or that the earth is flat or whatever. You don’t need to believe that the entire Bible is written by God or that it is infallible or contains no errors or anything. All you have to do is believe in Jesus; the other things you can accept or reject as you want. Maybe say something like, ‘Jesus, I believe in You. I know I have my doubts and my fears, but I know that You understand those and you also understand me as well. Help me to believe in You. Please walk alongside me and please make Yourself real to me’. There’s no formula; no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do this. Simply express your desire for Him to be your Friend and to walk with Him. And He will honour that. Then just walk free in your life in Him.
This is the new Revival. Knowing that God is entirely FOR us, and not even slightly against us (Romans 8:31). It’s a Revival of finding out about God’s true character of Love, Grace, mercy, forgiveness and His complete, utter, unshakeable favour.
Let me put it another way. Jesus is saying to everyone in this day: