And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all“ (Acts 4:33).
It can be notoriously and historically difficult to quantify true and genuine revivals of the Holy Spirit in church history, but I believe we can observe biblical evidences of great grace being upon us right now at KCPC. What are genuine revivals? Revivals are genuine movements or outpourings of the Spirit upon the Church when God does a mighty work of great grace above His normal working through the ordinary means of grace (preaching, sacraments). It is important to note that a revival is foremost the “sovereign, extraordinary, saving activity of the Holy Spirit and is characterized by an intense sense of God’s presence” (quoted from ‘Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival in the Reformed Tradition, Michael A. J. Haykin).[i]
A genuine revival is a powerful work of the Holy Spirit in which there is recovered a new awareness of the holiness of God among His people. This heightened knowledge brings in a new season of the conviction of sin, which, in turn, leads to heartrending repentance. This lowly humility ushers in an awakened love for Christ. Believers begin to pursue personal holiness. Love for other believers intensifies. The gospel spreads like wildfire. Sinners are brought to faith in Christ, and the church is enlarged and empowered. True revivals are characterized by God’s people desiring at a deeper level to glorify Christ and to make Him known to one another and the world, and there is combination of faithful, bold, biblical teaching/preaching combined with faithful, exuberant, joyful, obedient, service-oriented living. There are both gifts being used, and grace that is given. True revival must be more than merely gifts, there must be grace, grace that demonstrates love for Christ and one another (cf. John 13:34-35; 1 Cor. 13:1-3).
If KCPC experienced a genuine revival, what would it look like? Both personally (individually) and corporately (as a congregation), because of the Holy Spirit’s powerful working, there would be a deeper awareness of God’s holiness and character. This would produce a greater fear, awe, and reverence for God. This deeper awareness of God would cause us to see more clearly the depths of our depravity and need for more Christ, and a deeper repentance. More particularly, a “heartrending” repentance because we would be sorry not merely for the consequences of our sins, but because our sins offend God and hurt others. There would be a deep, spiritual humility that would love Christ more, and desire to be holy, gentle, more like Him. This would cause us to overflow in love for one another, and more of a concern for the souls of men, that would cause the gospel to spread. The church would grow both spiritually and numerically.
Though there are abuses and misunderstandings, true and genuine revival ought to be sought out by those in the Reformed tradition. In fact, the great twentieth-century preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), commented that
“There is no subject which is of greater importance to the Christian church at the present time than that of revival. It should be the theme of our constant meditation, preaching and prayers.”
In the time known now as the Great Awakening, a time of revival in eighteenth-century Colonial America, Jonathan Edwards rightly warned critics of genuine revival when he said, “To oppose a genuine revival is to oppose God Himself”. Edwards wrote that a genuine and true revival could be recognized by a few important characteristics:
- Christ-centered: True revival makes much of Jesus Christ, not a focus on self; 2. Humble, Other-worldliness: True revival operates against Satan, the world, and the flesh; 3. Use of Means of Grace: In true revival there is a higher regard for Scripture and preaching; 4. Witness and Seal of the Spirit: The Spirit of truth witnesses to genuine revival’s validity; 5. Personally, Congregationally, Culturally Transformative: A change of heart evidences itself in love to God and others (this has societal and cultural implications).
Prayer is of utmost importance for revival. The grand object of prayer is to be that the Holy Spirit may be poured down on our ministers and churches, that sinners may be converted, the saints edified, the interest of religion revived, and the name of God glorified. Jonathan Edwards wrote concerning the importance of prayer:
When God is about to bestow some great blessing on His church, it is often His manner in the first place, so to order things in His providence as to show His church their great need of it, and to bring them into distress for want of it, and so put them upon earnestly crying to Him for it.
Edwards’ pastoral-theological instinct was “simply to prayerfully seek and expect from God ‘outpourings of the Holy Spirit’ as the central means of spreading Christianity until the Consummation”.
Some evidences of great grace being upon KCPC: We can observe increased joy in our worship; deeper desire for holiness and communion with God; strength, endurance, and sanctification in our troubles; confessional carefulness, clarity and boldness in our making the word known; loving, healthy and gracious “one-anothering” among members; increased attendance and participation at worship services and particularly prayer meetings (and new prayer meetings/gatherings starting organic-Spiritually!!); unity, humility, and gentle care in the body; a collective working together to beautify our building as one body, and a unique and magnanimous generosity that God has blessed us with! Our Heavenly Father does indeed do more than we can ask or even imagine according to the power at work within us! (Eph. 3:20-21).
Let us continue to pray together for more of Christ’s anointing or great grace by His Spirit. True revival will never depend upon techniques and the self-centered works of men. We must seek God for outpourings of His Spirit, while remaining ever faithful to the preaching of God’s Word and the means of grace He has graciously provided for His church to accomplish the mission He has given us. Let us also pray to be more watchful knowing that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We must pray to powerfully resist him by standing firm in the faith (1 Peter 5:6-11). Our real enemy hates what God seems to be doing; let us watch and pray lest we fall into temptation!
In Christ’s love,
[i] Part of this brief study is taken from my lengthier review of this book.