I hear a lot about revival these days. Indeed, I too long for a revival that would see droves come to Christ in repentance. However, if you look back at some of the revivals of the past—The first and second Great Awakenings, the Welsh revival, etc—you will find that often what killed them were the unBiblical emotional excesses that crept in from the fringes. These excesses lead to the sectarianism that eventually buried the revivals
In our age where discernment is quickly shrugged off as divisive, hateful or not coming from a “spirit of unity,” how long would a real revival last here? Even with the great and devout mind of Edwards the First Great Awakening quickly descended into the ridiculous. The following comes from Jonathan Edwards: A Life, by George M. Marsden.
In his letter to Robe, he provided a concise summary of what he had learned from seeing two revivals come and go. Gentleness and gentleness and genuinely self-renouncing humility were far better evidences of true saintliness than were merely intense experiences. “Many among us have been ready to think, that all high raptures are divine,” Edwards explained, “but experience plainly shows, that it is not the degree of rapture and ecstasy (although it should be to the third heavens), but the nature and kind that must determine us in their favor.” Genuine raptures would be accompanied not by a “noisy showy humility,” but rather by “deep humiliation, brokenness of heart, poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, solemnity of spirit, a trembling reverence towards God, tenderness of spirit, self-jealousy and fear, and great engagedness of heart, after holiness of life, and a readiness to esteem others better than themselves.”
What concerns me is that in old revivals the likes of Edwards fought hard against excesses, but those who call for modern revival seem to be fighting hard to produce them. From non-stop repetitive music at rallies, emotional appeals, or even the so called sign and wonders, the aim is simple. Get them excited. Get them crying. Any emotional experience is counted as the work of the Holy Spirit. But all emotional experiences are not necessarily works of the Holy Spirit. I cried at the Muppet movie on Friday. I really hope that wasn’t the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit!
Let us continue to pray for masses of people to come to know God through faith in Jesus Christ his son, but let us not equate all emotional experiences with the Holy Spirit, especially those that WE MANUFACTURE with big shows and music.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
Note: I have nothing against music or even big productions necessarily. I love worshipping my King with fellow believers. I am talking about using emotional manipulation, whether intentional or not, to create a revival. Genuine raptures, as Edwards notes, ought to be accompanied by, “deep humiliation, brokenness of heart, poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, solemnity of spirit, a trembling reverence towards God, tenderness of spirit, self-jealousy and fear, and great engagedness of heart, after holiness of life, and a readiness to esteem others better than themselves.” Let’s shoot for preaching the word faithfully and let God produce those things.