In recent months, I have been hearing the word ‘revival’ a lot. It may be the case that the term is not necessarily being mentioned more now than it has been in the past, and I am simply increasingly noticing its use. Either way, it is a term that I seem to be hearing more regularly and it is worth reflecting on.
Bethel Music recently released a song, Revival’s In The Air. Rend Collective also released a song called Revival Anthem. Both of these songs are essentially declarations that revival is coming. The sentiment is beautiful, but it also has prompted me to ask the question, “Where does revival begin?”
As I was reflecting on the question above, I heard a message from a megachurch Pastor in California regarding revival. The video message was posted immediately after the confirmation of the newest Supreme Court Justice, Amy Comey Barrett. In the video, the Pastor is clearly overcome with emotion regarding the confirmation. He speaks about what a momentous occasion this is, and triumphantly declares, “This is how revival begins!”
Is this how revival begins? Does revival begin by God’s people claiming it in prayer? Does revival begin through legislation, politics, or the judicial process? Or does it maybe begin by declaration in popular songs?
In seeking to let God reveal the answers to these questions, He prompted me to meditate on a word that I mentioned briefly in chapter seven of God Is Not on Your Side, repentance.
When Jesus started His earthly ministry, the first words He preached were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).” When John the Baptist preached, he said the same (Matthew 3:2), and called the people to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8).” When Jesus’ followers were filled with the Holy Spirit after His resurrection, and arguably the first revival occurred, Peter’s words to the people when they asked “What do we do?” were, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…(Acts 2:38)”
It is easy to look at the ministry of Jesus, John and Baptist, or the early church and yearn to see the same kind of response in our world today. How amazing it would be to see 3,000 people come to salvation in Jesus Christ and baptized in one day! Yet in our longing for the incredible, it is easy to miss the simple command from which revival is born, the call to repentance.
We live in the midst of a culture that increasingly normalizes sin. Sexual immorality, substance abuse, abortion, earthly nationalism, individualism, selfishness, pride, envy, covetousness, and foul language are just a few of the sins which have become increasingly normalized in our culture, some even within the church. For this reason, the call to repentance is all the more important.
Why? Because there is no revival without repentance.
All of the politicians, legislation, songs, and claiming of revival in prayer will amount to nothing if we are not repentant.
So what does it mean to be repentant? To answer this question, it is prudent to return to the teaching of John the Baptist. In his exhortation to the people to bear fruit in keeping with repentance, the people naturally ask “How?” His response is simple and practical, calling the man with enough clothes or enough money to share with the one who does not have, calling the tax collector to be fair and just in their work and not steal from the people, and calling the soldier not to extort or abuse those over whom they have authority. The evidence of a repentant heart is seen in how we live. It is also a daily occurrence, not a one time declaration. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to a life that exhibits repentance every day through my actions.
The evidence of a repentant heart will look differently in each person’s life. In spite of this, there are some common denominators that mark a repentant heart as seen in the teaching of John the Baptist: generosity, grace, and humility.
Unfortunately in today’s culture “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance” is becoming a rarity, even in the church. So often we bear fruit born from intelligence, good planning, organizational skills, motivational skills, pride or charisma and since the outcome is what we were hoping for we assume that God has blessed it. But if the work is not in keeping with repentance, if it is not bearing the mark of humility, then the fruit it bears will simply be our own.
Revival is something much bigger than any of us, and it is not something that we can bring about, no matter how hard we try. So, where will revival begin? Not in our politics, not in our legislation, not in our songs, but in a repentant heart.
I want to leave you with a question and a challenge. When was the last time you went down to the altar to pray? When was the last time you threw yourself at the feet of Christ in humble realization of the unfathomable grace that has been imparted to you in His sacrifice?
Not long ago, I had a good friend who was needing healing and to grow in their relationship with Jesus. I asked that person, “Have you gone down to the altar recently?” They paused for a second and then responded, “I don’t need to go to the altar?”
This person was in need of a miracle, they were in need of the movement of God in their lives; but they did not have a repentant heart. Sure, they had received Jesus as their Savior many years before (maybe even at the altar) and had been going to church for a long time, but their life did not demonstrate a heart that was repentant. They saw going to the altar in repentance as a one time event, not a daily occurrence. A follower of Jesus who “bears fruit in keeping with repentance” will long to go to the altar. They will long to humble themselves both publicly and privately before God and fall at the feet of Jesus.
For a long time, I had seen the scripture below as expressing God’s will for those who are outside the church, but more recently I am wondering if it may be better applied to those who are within the church, but have yet to come to a place of repentance:
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
So the challenge is to ask yourself when you last went to the altar. If it has been a while, reflect on why that is, and the next opportunity you have do not hesitate to publicly go to the altar to worship our heavenly father.
If you and I can start there, at the altar with a repentant heart, we can be confident that revival is not far away.