Friday, August 15, 2008

Revive us again

A friend and I discussed the nature of genuine revival while travelling Ontario’s busy summer highways as we reflected on the most recent “revival” people are flocking to in Lakeland, Fla.

“Revive Us Again” was a song sung many times in my childhood. The song implied that whatever it was we once had, had left the building, and the way we sang it made me think it had to be true. The song had a holy groove, even if we didn’t.

The church always needs revival. There must always be a sacred thirst for more of what we have thus far sipped of the divine. Hence, our attempts to rekindle the fire we once knew, most of which we then market as “new”: New leader, new program, new “anointing,” new building, new music style, new social cause. Surely something new is the next avenue of the truly holy and will miraculously revive our comatose spirits!

The disconcerting thing is that this “newness” actually does work . . . for a time. Drive to Florida to take in Todd Bentley or Mickey Mouse, and you will probably experience a new “high.” In fact, you’ll probably come home with a skip in your step while becoming completely frustrated with the shallowness of the people around you: If they’d just received the “impartation” you did, we’d see Parliament Hill parlayed into the Mount of Transfiguration.

But such spirituality tends to produce “super-saint” elitism or it works like a religious drug. We suddenly have all the answers for the dry bones among us or we become spiritual versions of the addict straining for just one more “trip.”

I propose that this is not revival at all. Revival is not an event attended, a blessing sought, a victory won, or a cause championed. No. Revival is obedience to the person of Jesus Christ.

When Peter, James and John find themselves in the cloudy presence of Elijah, Moses and Jesus on the mysterious mount, they marvel at the sheer wonder of it all. Peter seems determined to open up a campground and theme park. Surely this is the moment they have been waiting for.

Wrong! God interrupts Peter while he was still speaking and says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). Even further, Jesus instructs his awestruck followers not to tell of the glorious vision at all. Instead of turning the experience into the point, they were to remember what the Father had said: Jesus was historically unique and was to be obeyed.

Whatever “spiritual” experience we might have, if it does not produce a deeper, more faithful obedience to the living Jesus it isn’t the real deal. Where “revival” does not awaken individuals and the church to a renewed, daily commitment to the person of Jesus—God the Son—then it is counterfeit, no matter what signs and wonders may be attached.

If we look to any “new” thing—like going ‘green’ or going to Florida—as our religious remedy while our radical commitment to follow Jesus as the unique Lord of all is not more selflessly obedient, then we simply are not hearing the voice on the mountain. Jesus is the centre of genuine revival and I fear many—of all revivalist persuasions—have set him aside in favour of our consumerist, religious and pagan visions.

Revive us again, indeed!