O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years made known; in wrath remember mercy. Hab. 3:2. Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Ps. 85:6
The two verses were brought to our attention by a reader who asked whether they could serve as a basis for prayers for revival. In the last article I pointed out that the OT times were different from the new dispensation.
I urged our readers, who are interested in this subject, to write us for a pamphlet on revivals published by the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.
I wish to make a few more points concerning revivals in this article.
The first one is that Pentecost is not a revival, although it is claimed to be such. Pentecost is something far, far richer and more wonderful than the rather tawdry revivals which men covet so fiercely. Pentecost had the following characteristics.
1) It was the full realization of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ which was begun in the incarnation, carried through the atonement, accomplished on the cross and the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and made possible by His glorious exaltation in heaven.
2) It was essentially the full realization of the work of Christ because it was the climax of His work of salvation.
3) The Spirit poured out is the Spirit of Christ, through Whom Christ gathers a catholic church, i.e., a church from every nation under heaven.
4) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth promised in John 14, 15, 16 Who leads and guides the church of the new dispensation into all truth.
5) Through His work in the church all God's people, including women and children, become prophets, priests, and kings, and these offices are no longer limited to a few individuals (Acts. 2:17, 19, 21).
6) The Spirit of truth made such a difference in the disciples that, although prior to Pentecost, they understood very little of the Lord's work, after the Spirit was poured out they understood it all with astounding clarity. This is evident from Peter's remarkable sermon which He preached on that day.
The second remark that needs to be made in connection with the question of revivals is the nature of God's work of conversion. Ordinarily, God does not work dramatically, suddenly, visibly, externally; but slowly, invisibly, internally, and always irresistibly. Conversion is the every-day and life-long struggle of the child of God as he fights against sin, flees to the cross, seeks help and strength from Christ to go on in the battle, and gains growth in sanctification only bit by bit. In my student days, Rev. H. Hoeksema often reminded us from the pulpit that the clearest evidence of conversion in the life of the Christian was daily sorrow for sin.
The third remark, closely related to what I have just said, is that God works in the church in this same quiet, almost unobserved, non-intrusive way. Elijah expected great revivals on Carmel, but it ended in nothing. Only at Mt. Sinai did he learn that God was not present in the earthquake, the fire, the tornado-like wind; He was present in the still small voice, for by that still small voice in the hearts of His people God preserved the 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
I once saw a fern plant break through four inches of macadam on a forest road. The plant is seemingly so fragile that it can be snapped off by a child. It grows so slowly, no one can see the growth. But it is irresistible as it pushes aside heavy and strong macadam to seek the light. So also is the work of the Spirit in the hearts of God's people.
Finally, there is something that is somewhat pathetic about the incessant clamor for revival. As often as not (and this has, in fact, been publicly stated) a church which has become spiritually lethargic, even often guilty of false doctrine, ineffective in its work because the gospel is no longer preached, looks to revival to bring about changes. We must pray for revival, it is said. The churches are in need of revival. All will be different when revival comes.
But what is forgotten is the urgent calling that comes to us to engage in church reformation. That responsibility rests four-square on the shoulders of anyone concerned about the welfare of the church. And such church reformation must include separation from apostatizing churches and a return to what Jeremiah calls "the old paths." That kind of reformation is painful and difficult, calling one who engages in it to suffer persecution; it is to deny one's self, take up one's cross, and follow Christ.
This is the way the Spirit works. To sit back and hope and long for revival is an abdication of personal responsibility which the Lord will not bless.
Not revival but reformation; that is what the church needs. Are there those with the spiritual courage to engage in this important work?
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 22
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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