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When Revival Is Real


Many events are named “revival.” Few deserve the title. Sinclair Ferguson describes genuine revival:

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In his Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, Jonathan Edwards draws on 1 John 4 to show that all true works of God share several features:

1. A high esteem for Christ.
2. The overthrow of Satan’s Kingdom in our hearts.
3. A reverent view of, and close attention to, God’s Word in Scripture. image
4. The presence of the Spirit of truth convincing us of the reality of eternity and the depth of our sin and need.
5. A deep love for both God and man.

But what does this mean in real-life terms?

. . . Many years ago, I witnessed revival in its most microcosmic form in a sudden, unexpected, and remarkable work of God’s Spirit on a friend. The work was so dramatic, the effect so radical, that news of it spread quickly to different parts of the country. . . . I [asked] my friend . . . What this remarkable experience had involved. The answer was illuminating. Five things seemed to have happened . . .

1. A painful exposure of the particular sin of unbelief occurred. Listening to preaching was a staple of my friend’s spiritual diet, but what came with overpowering force was a sense that God’s Word had actually been despised inwardly. God’s own Word, preached in the power of the Spirit, stripped away the mask of inner pride and outward reputation for spirituality. There was a fearful exposure to sin.
2. A powerful desire arose to be free from all sin. A new affection came, as if unbidden, into the heart. Indeed, a desire seemed to be given actually to have sin increasingly revealed and exposed in order that it might be confessed, pardoned, and cleansed. Disturbing though it was, there was a sweetness of grace in the pain.
3. The love of Christ now seemed marvelous beyond measure. A love for Him flowed from a heart that could not get enough of Christ, ransacking Scripture to discover more and more about Him.
4. A new love for God’s Word was born—for reading it, for hearing it expounded and applied, and especially for knowing every expression of God’s will, so that it might be obeyed.
5. A compassionate love for others now flowed. It came from this double sense of sin and need on the one hand and grace and forgiveness on the other. Christian witness ceased to be a burden and became the expression of Spirit-wrought and powerful new affections.

It was thus for King David:

Have mercy upon me, O God . . . According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight. . . . Purge me . . . Wash me. . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God. . . . My tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
—Psalm 51:1–4, 7, 10, 14

—Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 103–104.

August 7, 2008



Posted 2020·04·15 by David Kjos
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