A Reformed Understanding of Revival (writen on my lunch break at work) God Bless!!
For a reformed understanding of Revival and the relationship between God-centered preaching, holiness, the filling of the Holy Spirit and revival, I encourage everyone to read Martyn Lloyd Jones’ deeply biography laden commentary on Romans 8. (link). This a fantastic balanced read. If you do not know who Lloyd-Jones is the great Dr. was the successor of G. Campbell Morgan at Westminster Chapel, which is the Puritan / “non-conformist” church in London. This pulpit is the place where Puritanism and the English Reformation were born, and Lloyd-Jones is a great son of that marvelous tradition.
Lloyd-Jones’ position is that the filling of the Holy Spirit, the baptism, what ever this is called is the same as the “Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are sons of God” (Romans 8:15-17). This experience is a heightened sense of assurance of salvation which brings a great affectionate knowledge of the Grace of God. To support his view he spends two or three chapters quoting the lives of the great reformed preachers like John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon etc.
This view is a great unifying view as it defines the fire in the context of the light. What I mean by this is to say that the way we know a authentically reviving experience is when the light of the knowledge of God’s grace through the Gospel creates affection in the heart. This too is Jonathan Edwards position. It is this affection which creates passion for the Excellencies of God’s moral perfections and a love of holiness and grace. This knowledge of God is the truth that sanctifies. Lloyd-Jones is saying that history and the bible teaches this not as a cold academic exercise but as an encounter with God the holy Spirit as He bears witness to the Grace of God in Christ. The heart is flooded with love of God through the Gospel. Here is the unifying experience of the revived regardless of denomination.
For pastors the key is how do we preach from a place of revived knowledge and how do we impart this thirst for God to others.
The key here is that the method of the historical reformed preachers bridged the problem very well in that the focus on how to warm the heart through the Holy Spirit was to focus on the content of the sermon and the preaching of God centered messages. Lift up the moral attributes of God and draw people to the fire of the light of the knowledge of God. Focusing on the content of our message and the exposition of God with the aim of producing not academic knowledge but passion for God and love for God is the key. No one can claim that though we believe so forcefully in prepositional truth and the emphasis on preaching that we are dead when w ourselves seek to create fire especially if we ourselves are filled with fire ourselves.
It is said that many preachers pray only minutes per day. Is it a wonder that the knowledge of God and affection could be communicated from a heart starved and weak in prayer. Prayer is the passion to know God and takes hours per day to cultivate. If we desire passion it is time for the pulpits to be filled with passionate men who have a fire that is fueled by knowledge of the moral beauty of God as displayed in the Gospel. This is the road to revival.