10-8-2011 – How To Discern Between True And False Revivals

Part five in a series on genuine revival
How do we avoid false revivals? As stated before…determine if what they are teaching agrees with Scripture. For example, if one claims to be drunk in the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 14:40 tells us otherwise, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” If one lacks control, remember that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. If a claim is made that a “messenger of light” appeared with a new revelation, point to 2 Corinthians 11:14 where we find Satan transforming himself into an angel of light. If those who look to the Word are accused of quenching and grieving the Spirit, we are reminded that Jesus used the Word of God for finality, discernment, and power.

As with any move of God, wisdom requires that we examine what is being sought and taught…what is the focus? Repentance, holiness, obedience, and purity should be primary rather than boasting, blessings, abundance, and prosperity. The very thing that we need may be the very thing that we are not discussing—repentance: “The Church must first repent; then the world will break! The Church must first weep; then our altars will be filled with weeping penitents” (Leonard Ravenhill).

Not all recent moves lack authenticity: what many have experienced are valid moves of God. Small and large revivals occurring throughout the world are truly that. While revivals may grow from pure motives and humble beginnings, they can be quenched by bizarre behavior or by leaders who lack character, or who take the glory and promote themselves. God calls us to be concerned, prayerful, and surrendered to Him. Matthew 7:22-23 again reminds us, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’!” Jesus is referring to those who “think” they know Him—these people prophesy, cast out demons, and do wonders “in the name of Jesus.” This Scripture should cause all Christians to search their hearts as to whether they have been truly converted…do they truly know Him? Paul encourages this as well, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

We easily ignore Scripture when we embrace views outside of God’s revealed Word…we default to our old nature or cultural trends, and can be easily led by false teachings. Jeremiah 23:16 sheds even more light on the need to discern, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD’.”

We are to discern truth from err, light from darkness, and right from wrong…but how? Jeremiah 23:17 offers one answer, “They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The LORD has said, You shall have peace;’ And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’” False teachers often don’t warn, confront, or convict. They offer comfortable messages and a false sense of peace, or they mislead with rules and regulations as found in 1 Timothy 4:2-3—“speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” Jesus said in Matthew 24:24 that “false Christs and false prophets will appear and deceive many.” Deception comes in many forms but centers around false hope or legalism.

Not all leaders in experience-oriented movements are false and misleading. Many are sincere and open to the work of the Holy Spirit and understand that visions, dreams, and prophecies cannot supersede the Word. God’s Word is the foundation on which all truth stands (cf. I Timothy 3:15).

What is true revival then? Simply stated: a genuine revival is God reviving His people—“Wilt thou not revive us again that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6 KJV). Repentance is often a mark of true revival. Recall what was said about Griffith Jones, who preached during the Welsh revivals of the 18th century: “The tears [of the congregation] began to flow in streams down their cheeks. Soon, they wept openly, and cried out, ‘What shall we do to be saved?’” Further, it was not uncommon for people to tremble and weep or shout for joy under the anointed preaching of George Whitefield. Whitefield was the primary evangelist during the Great Awakening that occurred in the mid 1700s. During this time, old grudges and debts were forgiven, morality improved, many were added to the church, and there was a greater sense of the fear of the Lord. That is revival!

Those who use past revivals to in an attempt to validate odd events today perhaps have not truly researched revivals. In reading Charismatics and Calvinists, Pentecostals and Puritans, Acts and Azusa, as well as countless biographies of leaders such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Wesley, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Charles Spurgeon, and D.L. Moody, and puritans such as Thomas Goodwin, John Bunyan, John Owen, and Richard Baxter, nowhere do these leaders encourage the hysteria or the outright weirdness that we sometimes see today. Granted, there were times of strong conviction such as when people held on to trees thinking that they were falling into the abyss of hell during the famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, by Jonathan Edwards. And people did cry out to God, and/or fall on the ground under the strong conviction of sin during the Revivals of George Whitefield, John Wesley, and Evan Roberts, but this is because sin, righteousness, and holiness were preached—“falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25). This is true revival.