Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

Two popular topics today within the Christian realm are repentance and revival. These themes can be emphasized independently of one another or interwoven; but one thing is certain, the church is in need of both.

Repent means reversal or reconsider. This is what occurred to three thousand souls on the day of Pentecost when Peter stood up and presented the Gospel. The Bible tells us in Acts 2:37-38, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” These people clearly reconsidered their way of thinking, believing and behaving and truly wanted to reverse it. In other words, genuine repentance occurred.

It is interesting to note that these new believers in the Lord Jesus Christ immediately had a change in doctrine, in their social lives, in religious practice and in their relationship with God. This is expressed in verse 42, “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” In other words, they exchanged the Old Testament Laws for the New Covenant in Christ, they fellowshipped with other believers, they partook of the ordinance of communion which represents the death burial and resurrection (gospel) of Christ, and in prayer or intercession and fellowship with God. Their lives had been transformed from dead religion to a living relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. They were truly born again.

What is revival? Is it the same as repentance? The English word “revive” signifies to “make to live again”. It derives from the prefix “re” meaning “again” plus the Latin “vivere” which translates to “live”. It presupposes previous life followed by a degree of “dying” followed by a “quickening” or “renewing”. Therefore, revival and repentance are two different experiences although revival may often be the result of genuine repentance. Biblical references to revival are connected to the literalresurrection from the dead. However, I believe we all agree that within the church the common usage for the word revival denotes spiritual resurrection.

Beyond these basic definitions of repentance and revival lies a vast world of differences. Some believe repentance merely consists of mental acknowledgment that one is a sinner and that by accepting Jesus as their Savior they are saved. Others take it a step further and believe that true repentance means giving up certain bad habits and lifestyles and attending church. Some feel that repentance involves keeping the Ten Commandments and doing good works. Many people believe they have truly repented because they have incorporated religion into their worldly lifestyles while others become super religious and self-righteous.

All of these faulty concepts of repentance are simply self-serving, pseudo social counterfeits of the real thing. True repentance begins in a convicted heart and flames out to envelop our entire person—body, soul and spirit! True repentance occurs when our pride is broken at the foot of the cross and all of our self-sufficiency is ground into dust. True repentance involves the whole person in agreement with God that “all of our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). True repentance lines us up in obedience to God’s word which means Jesus must be LORD of every area of our lives whether it “feels” good or not. Our eternal destiny turns on this very hinge of true repentance!

Before there can be genuine repentance there must be true brokenness. For an individual to come to genuine brokenness and repentance, the Holy Spirit must first bring conviction. It is the Holy Spirit that reveals to us our hearts. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Psalm 51:17 confirms, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

It can be a terrible, devastating experience for a committed believer to find himself or herself in attendance at a “revival” meeting where the speaker hammers out a “repentance” message lacking in grace, love and anointing of the Holy Spirit. When people are harshly coerced into “repenting” without personal conviction of the Holy Spirit they may find themselves “going along with the crowd”. Or they may try to “work up” some sort of emotional “repentance”. The terrible tragedy of such unscriptural methods of forcing people to “repent” is that they usually leave feeling guilty, ashamed, burdened and oppressed. Many weaker brethren walk away from God after such meetings believing they are “spiritual failures” because they honestly didn’t feel convicted in their hearts. They conclude that something must be “wrong” with them. Many Christians, at this point, withdraw from the Lord and force themselves into a mode of religious conformity; that is, trying to live up to rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts. Sadly, they abandon what precious personal relationship they did have with the Lord for dead-letter legalism.

On the other hand, real repentance always restores fellowship between the individual and God. The fruit of such restoration is love, joy and peace as well as the other fruits of the Spirit. There is new life and freedom along with a great hunger and thirst for the Word of God and the things of God not to mention a burning desire to win lost souls for Christ. This brings us to the subject of revival!

With the assistance of Internet, television, radio, conferences, seminars, books, tapes, videos and endless sermons on the subject, revival is the keynote—the “great topic” of the day. We’ve been hearing so much for so long about revival that any one of a number of differing definitions might well fit into our preconceived ideas of this longed for event. Perhaps revival has become so far removed from its original meaning and intent for the church that we will grasp at any supernatural manifestation that occurs and label it as “revival”. Is this not what the Bible warns against in scriptures such as, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” 1 Timothy 4:1 and “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Also, “…I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” 2 Corinthians 11:3.

Equally as devastating as finding oneself cornered in a meeting that has not been ordained of God (where the brutal hammer of fear-and-guilt-repentance is preached) is finding oneself in a demonic counterfeit “revival” meeting! The first reaction is one of fear. That in itself should be sufficient warning that there is a wrong spirit, for when the Holy Spirit of God falls, there is peace, love and joy. All of the people we have ministered deliverance to (because of involvement in false revivals) admitted that they had to fight to push past fear and that initially they wanted to flee. This is exactly what happens when people make a conscious decision to push past their fear when they first encounter demonic spirit guides (or other occult practices such as levitation, astral projection, seances, etc.) Eventually that fearful discerning of spirits becomes weaker and weaker as they give in to greater deception that eventually results in total delusion. This is why we are warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Notice that “unrighteousness” began and ended this portion of scripture. What kind of unrighteousness is Paul talking about? Is it what we normally consider as unrighteous…things such as stealing, lying, murder, adultery, etc.? On the contrary, what scripture is warning us of in these verses is the unrighteousness of a satanic nature behind “all power and signs and lying wonders” verse 9. We need to take heed to “test the spirit”behind everything. Just because something appears to be “good” doesn’t automatically mean that it is of God! If only Christians would realize that they must stop assuming everything. A good rule to remember is this: If something appears evil but God is behind it, then it is good; if something appears to be good, but Satan is behind it, then it is evil.

Just exactly what does the Bible tell us about an “end-times revival”? The answer: Nothing! On the contrary we are warned, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” 2 Peter 3:3. Jesus said, “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” Matthew 24:11-12. We read in 2 Timothy 3:12-13 concerning the last days, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” Jesus also asked, “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8. These verses certainly don’t describe the so-called revivals of today!

To quote Pastor Philip L. Powell, “Revival starts with the individual. It is this “reviving” of the individual that illumines his mind and heart to true doctrine (Reformation) and this creates a new dynamic (Renewal) that restores direction (Restoration). So what is it that revives the individual who sometimes becomes the “revivalist” in the grand public event which is probably more correctly called a “spiritual awakening”? I suggest to you that it is the response of the Holy Spirit to a rediscovery of the primacy and authority of the Word of God in God’s work. You see God has honoured His Word above His name.”

Pastor Powell wrote, “…when God’s Word came to me as a challenge to take a stand against the false that was coming into the church, I felt revived with a holy boldness and a sense of righteous indignation against the enemy and those who were giving him ground. For this reason my idea of revival is fairly clear cut.

I listened to Ken Gott of the so called Sunderland revival tell how he got whatever he got at Toronto and it made him crawl like a lunatic across the car park of his hotel and past the porters in the lobby, to whom he made some senseless motion of good-night greeting.

I said to myself, ‘No that’s not revival’. It’s my own personal individual reviving that has enabled me to stand and say those sorts of things publicly with a boldness that makes me fear neither man nor the devil. True revival causes you to fear only the Lord and to honour His Word above all other things.”

To which I say a hearty “AMEN!”