Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.—John 15:16
The night before He died on the Cross, Jesus told His disciples that He had ordained (appointed) them, and all those who believe on Him, to experience a very wonderful life. It is a life of productivity (abiding fruit), and miracles (answered prayer). No Christian could ask for anything more. In the tenth chapter of John, the Lord said we would have life “more abundantly,” and this statement in chapter fifteen is referring to that abundant life. Some Christians, however, express doubt about whether such a life can actually be experienced and sustained.
With the rise of interest in real, scriptural revival has come concern in some quarters that seeking and preaching revival might do us harm. Some voices express the fear that a revival emphasis will bring disappointment that will hurt faith. Others say that the emphasis breeds frustration, as Christians pursue ideals that are never achieved. We are told by detractors of revival not to raise expectations, or give weight to certain promises, or lead people to pray for a filling with the Spirit. Those who believe in revival, however, see such concerns as rising from unbelief, and believe that the new interest in God-given revival is a good thing for Bible-believing Christians. The truth is that the worries about revival talk come from doubts that the abundant life can be lived—that revival is achievable and sustainable.
In the thirteenth through the seventeenth chapters of John, we read what Jesus said to His disciples about what His followers can expect in the New Testament age. With their Mediator seated at the right hand of the Father, believers have special privileges in prayer. With the Spirit of God dwelling inside them, Christians can expect supernatural enablement to fulfill their mission. The words of Jesus in this important section of the Bible promise us a life of miracles (John 14:12-14), victory (John 14:15-17), divine manifestation (John 14:18-23), illumination of Scripture (John 14:24-26), abiding peace (John 14:27), and spiritual reproduction (John 15:1-12). These are the things Jesus told us to expect if we will “abide” in Him; that is, live in complete submission to Him (John 15:9-11). Revival preaching calls on Christians to live this way and to expect these things. The question for many Christians is whether such a life is really “do-able.”
Believers who seek revival in their lives and in their churches will not be disappointed or frustrated if the abundant life is do-able. Those who think that a revival emphasis puts the congregation on a perpetual “guilt-trip” (as some critics have argued) don’t think that the abundant life promised by the Lord Jesus is really do-able. But Jesus certainly said that it is.
He summed up His description of this life (described elsewhere in the New Testament as being “filled with the Spirit”) in terms of friendship with Him (John 15:13-16), concluding with the promise of productivity and miracles. This is the life He planned for us, and therefore it is do-able. Since revival is achievable and can be sustained and lived, we must take care to handle our talk about it with care.
1. Don’t Preach As if it Isn’t Do-able
Both proponents of the truth that we can expect God to revive His people in response to their repentance and faith, and those who deny this idea, must be careful not to act as if the victorious life is beyond the reach of most believers. Even revival preaching can sound as if the Lord expects things out of His children they can never give Him. It is true that God does expect things of us that we cannot produce apart from faith in Him for enablement. This is the message of the fig tree that was cursed for not bearing fruit even though the time of figs was not yet. Jesus said we must have faith in God, and the life of faith will make do-able what living according to the flesh cannot do. Preachers need to live a life of faith and be filled with the Spirit in order to preach about these things, so that folks can believe they can live this way.
2. Don’t Deny That it Is Do-able
Opponents of revival need to be careful about what they say. The concept of revival (when it is defined scripturally) is that of God bringing His people back to spiritual health. Sometimes we have confused revival with its results. New Testament Christianity is such a powerful thing when it is lived that it always has a mighty effect on the unconverted. The revival in times of widespread awakening among the lost was not in conversions but rather in a change in believers that brought on the conviction and salvation of so many of the lost. The idea that revival only happens as a sovereign act of God has no support in the Bible. Although God is sovereign (and we are grateful that He is), not everything He does is a sovereign act. The conditional promises of Scripture say that if men will do this, God will do that. In matters affected by a conditional promise, God can be expected to do what He said He would do. If we confess our sins, for example, the Lord is faithful to forgive us. About revival, God says, “If my people…then will I,” and “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”
Critics of revival say that it doesn’t matter if believers repent of their sins or seek God’s face; He will not revive them (bring them back to spiritual health) unless He has independently chosen to do it. Revival as an unpredictable, unlikely event rather than the promised response from a God who is ready to revive His people is not a teaching of the Bible. And the related teaching that denies the do-ability of the Christian life as taught by Jesus is virtually blasphemous.
3. Don’t Live Without It
These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
We can live in Christ and experience “peace.” This is living by faith, walking in the Spirit, savoring the things that be of God. Otherwise we will live “in the world” and experience “tribulation.” This is living by sight, fulfilling the lust of the flesh, savoring the things that be of men. Every Christian can learn to live in Jesus. Jesus died, rose again, and ascended to Heaven in triumph so that we could have this abundant life. It is the revived life, and it definitely is do-able!