Why do Revivals End
Why do Revivals End?
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 19:14)
And Jesus said to them, “… Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” (Mat. 21:16)
Revivals of faith, although they are much desired and promote a climate of noted spiritual satisfaction in its beginning, do not usually last many years. On the one hand, human (carnal) manifestations in response to the operation of the Holy Spirit blemish the purity of the Work that the Holy Spirit started to operate, weakening the flame that burned in the beginning. On the other hand, spiritual manifestations which which do not come from the Lord usually penetrate the Church and disturb the Work the Spirit is carrying out.
What human and spiritual manifestations are these that cause the decline of the operation of the Holy Spirit in the churches reached by revival? They are manifestations of the body as a result of the operation of the flesh (Gal. 3:3) and of deceiving spirits (I Tim. 4:1). What makes these operations possible? Firstly, the problems caused by hidden sins and by exalting the people used by the Lord. Secondly, disobedience to the orientations and principles established in the Bible. Finally, lack of knowledge of the Word of God and lack of spiritual discernment.
But what would be the reason for the Church in a state of revival not being able to fight against these maladies and prevail? And what resources does the Church have to avoid the corruption of the true revival?
Revival is the result of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church that is living in a lukewarm spiritual state (Rev. 3:15-16), leading the Church to return to the practice of all the Word of God (II Tim. 3:16-17). The reason for the presence of these two divine elements is what the Spirit operates through the Word (Eph. 6:17).
In every true revival there are certain manifestations of the Holy Spirit: a powerful manifestation of the presence of the Lord in the midst of the Church, the preaching of the pure Word of God, an outpouring of God’s love in the hearts, a passion for the lost souls and the generalized desire to live to please the Lord.
All of these manifestations lead the Church to have a special pleasure in praying and fasting, reading the Bible, to be present in the services and prayer meetings, evangelize and serve the Lord and the brethren. As a result, the Church grows in faith, in love and in the hope of Jesus’ return (I Cor. 13:13). The spiritual gifts are manifest and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) increase in the life of the Church. Lives continuously convert to the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:46-47), for the Lord confirms the preaching of the Word through signs (Mark 16:20). These operations of the Spirit touch profoundly not only the spirit of the believers, but their emotions as well.
Many spiritual movements characterized by collective emotions and non-biblical behaviors, despite being called “revivals” by their leaders, are not the result of true operations of the Holy spirit, but often are the result of psychological techniques of animation through which the preachers try to promote an exalted emotional state amongst the congregations. Often these leaders so behave not necessarily out of bad faith but out of ignorance about the way the Holy Spirit works and for lack of knowledge about the true nature of a genuine revival.
The falseness of these revivals can be proven by comparing phenomena that occur in them and the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. In these “revivals”, the leaders promote emotional practices of praise and of testimonies without wisdom, and bodily phenomena and “prophetic” messages that are learned in courses take place (as opposed to a gift granted by the Holy Spirit). These leaders usually say that all these practices and manifestations happen in true revivals. It is, however, a mistake, as explained below.
These practices and manifestations happened in true revivals, but in the phase in which non-spiritual elements penetrated the churches, even causing the end of the revivals. By reading the history of these revivals, even those in New England in the times of Jonathan Edwards, in England with John Wesley and in Wales in the times of Evan Roberts, we are informed that these revivals, which started by an authentic operation of the Holy Spirit, were, thereafter, hurt by the occurrence of these manifestations and practices, which provoked the end of the genuine movement of the Spirit.
Nowadays, led by leaders who ignore the limits established by the Word of God and who do not know the history of the Church, many sincere believers are accepting practices and teachings that do not come from God, thus repeating the same mistakes practiced in previous revivals. These believers are ready even to behave in the services in a manner that goes against what the Bible teaches about wisdom, decency and order (I Cor. 14). Out of ignorance they justify these practices by claiming that they happened in past revivals.
Manifestations of Human Nature
In true revivals throughout the history of the Church, along with the genuine operation of the Holy Spirit, there have always been, after a certain time, a series of manifestations that are do not come from the Holy spirit, but that are only manifestations of men (referred to in the Scriptures as from the “flesh”):
1) Lack of order and decency (I Cor. 14:40) – men start to lend their ways to the genuine spiritual emotions that he feels, although these emotions may have been produced by the Spirit, the exterior manifestations come from the flesh;
2) Public testimonies exalted regarding their “experiences” of conversions, in which their former sins are emphasized;
3) Use of spiritual gifts without wisdom (tongues and interpretation) (I Cor. 14:20, 23) and without submission to the pastors (transmitting prophesies and other gifts from one believer to another);
4) Transmitting prophecies, dreams and visions in public to accuse members of the church or pastors (the operations of the Holy Spirit are for edification – I Cor. 14:3);
5) Practice of spiritual gifts in public with great emotion and dramatic expressions, calling attention to their “spirituality” and imposing “respect” on the audience; and
6) Self-promotion on the part of the leaders used by God or exalting of leaders on the part of the Church.
Biblical Teachings and Discernment
The corruption of genuine revivals, as the result of fleshly practices or of the operation of deceiving spirits, happens above all for lack of knowledge of God’s Word (Mat. 22:29) and for lack of spiritual discernment (I Cor. 12:10). It could still be added that they happen for lack of knowledge of the history of the Church, particularly the history of the revivals, for this knowledge would help to teach the believers of today regarding the practices to avoid.
For lack or steadfastness in the knowledge of God’s Word and for lack to spiritual discernment (Rev. 3:18b), many pastors are mistaken regarding the spiritual manifestations, not knowing how to distinguish what comes from the Holy Spirit. Besides this, they are afraid of putting out or saddening the Holy Spirit, if they prevent a few phenomena that do not seem convenient to be manifest. As a result, they admit practices and behaviors that come from the flesh or even from deceiving spirits.
The lack of spiritual discernment is the inability to distinguish what comes from the Holy Spirit, what comes from the spirit of men and what comes from the enemy. This discernment can come from the operation of the gift “discernment of spirits”, from a specific revelation of the Lord or from the knowledge of the Scriptures, in which is found a series of general principles and specific teachings that instruct the Church regarding the practices that proceed from men or from the Enemy.
A few principles taught in the Word of God that help the Church to avoid wrong practices are the following:
a) Glory is given only to God, not to men (not even to “great servants” of God);
b) The Work of God – that is, the Church – does not have founders or owners; Jesus is the only founder (Mat 16: 18);
c) The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets (no one can say that the Spirit forced him/her to say or do something) (I Cor. 14:32);
d) Everything should be done with decency in order in the Church (I Cor. 14:40);
e) One should act with wisdom and good sense in the church, avoiding that the unbelievers think that the believers are out of their minds (they should not scandalize the visitors) (I Cor. 14:23);
f) The Church should constantly observe the limits established by the Word of God (spiritual manifestations not sanctioned by the Scriptures should not be accepted) (I Cor. 14:47);
g) The Church should test or judge the spiritual gifts (I Tess. 5:19, 21), to know if the gifts come from the Lord or not (the prophets are not judged, but the prophecies – I Cor. 14:29 – for every believer makes mistakes in using the spiritual gifts);
h) The Scriptures contain all the doctrines and practices that are necessary to the edification of the Church (Gal. 1:9), and it does not need any doctrinaire innovation (much less non-biblical emphasis to doctrines that are biblical); and
i) The Church does not need “strange fire” (Lev. 10:1-3) to be animated, stimulated and feel divine emotions to praise God; only the fire from the altar – the Holy Spirit – should manifest itself in the Church; the leaders should not, therefore, rely on the emotions of the Church, should not use methods of animation based upon psychology or practiced in show business.
The limits implicitly or explicitly established in the New Testament for the use of the spiritual gifts (I Cor. 14:37) avoid the gifts to be ill used. It is possible, for example, to speak tongues in a loud voice (for self edification), when one is at home by oneself. However, when this limit is ignored and tongues are spoken in public, in a church meeting, and there is no interpretation, a limit that was established in the Word of God is disrespected. In other words: fire is a blessing if it is disciplined, that is, on the stove; when this limit is broken and it leaves the stove, reaching the furniture in the living room, it becomes a problem.
In order to understand such limits, it is necessary to be integrated in a church that practices completely the doctrine of the Body, in the form described especially in I Corinthians 12 to 14, for only this church receives the revelation and the discernment from the Lord. Now, if a member who is isolated from the Body, and therefore does not submit to the authority or the counsel of his pastor, he ends up losing spiritual discernment regarding what comes from the Holy Spirit and later even regarding what is sinful or not.
Now it can be asked: why did the Church not detect these mistakes in time, and why was it not able to avoid them in the cases where it had pastors with spiritual discernment and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures?
The Church has forgotten two biblical doctrines that are basic for the spiritual health of the Church and that, for this reason, should be well understood and practices: Body and Revelation. Body means that the Church should live as the Body of Christ, with each member submits to the Lord Jesus as the Head of the Church, with each member in the function that the Lord gave him/her in the Body, submitting themselves to one another, carrying each other’s burdens, living to serve the Church and the Lord.
Revelation means every Word that proceeds from God’s mouth. The Church must be directed by God’s Word – be it by the doctrines, practices and biblical principles, or by the orientations transmitted by the Holy Spirit through the spiritual gifts.
Why is the practice of the doctrine of the Body of Christ necessary to avoid the corruption of the revival? The practice of this doctrine is basic for the live of the Church, for it allows the church to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. This happens because when the Scriptures refer to the Body, it also refers to Government and Discipline.
In the Body of Christ, what stands out first is the Rule of the Lord Jesus as the Head, whom everyone should obey. The members do not do their own will nor do they choose the function they want to have in the Body. The members of the Body should, rather, fulfill the functions that the Lord has determined to them.
On the other hand, the members should submit themselves to one another, firstly to the Pastor, then to the deacons, respecting the authority of each servant in their sphere of action. Example: the pastor has the authority to correct, exhort every member; the Sunday school teacher has the authority to direct the class and to teach what comes from the Lord, etc.
When we mention Rule, implicitly we talk about authority, order and orientation. All these elements protect the Body from the deception from the enemy. When there are orders in the Body, the believers obey the determinations from the Lord and the servants who have the authority transmit to the other members the orientations of the Word and those revealed through the spiritual gifts.
Thus, when the Lord wants to operate something in the Church, He knows that He only needs to reveal His will, for the Church will obey the orientation that will be transmitted by the Pastor (example: orientations regarding a fast, about an evangelism, regarding separating a servant to become a Sunday School teacher, etc.).
In order for a Body to work with harmony and satisfactorily perform all the vital functions and the role that is expected from it, it is necessary to have discipline, that is, obedience to the Lord and submission to the servants who have authority in the Church.
Whenever the Church is not organized as a Body nor does it live like the Body of Christ, there is anarchy and individualism. Each member does his/her own will, rejects the orientations that the Lord revealed to the Church, does not accept the advice from the Pastor, etc. The reason for this behavior is that there is no Body, nor government; then unruliness, lack of order and lack of authority prevail. There is no discipline, but stubbornness, lack of respect to authority and disobedience to the Lord (Jude 8, 10).
In this state of lack of rule and discipline, the limits established in the New Testament are not observed, generalizing the lack of discernment, wisdom, decency and order in the services, particularly in the use of the spiritual gifts, with subsequent scandals, disappointments with the use of the gifts, manifestations of the flesh and, in the end, the Enemy himself.
Revelation is every Word that proceeds from God. The Bible is the Revelation from God to men. However, the Lord also reveals His will to the church through the spiritual gifts. Through the gifts of prophecy, interpretation of tongues and the word of knowledge, the Church receive the Revelation from God.
Through the Revelation, the Lord transmits details regarding His Plan for the edification of the Church. When the Holy Spirit is transmitting these orientations, the Lord Jesus manifests Himself as the Head of the Church. The Revelation, however, only works well in the Body, that is, in a Church that lives as the Body of Christ; a Church that submits itself to the Head, obeying the pastors and the determinations revealed by the Holy Spirit.
It is up to the Church, as the Body of Christ, to obey the Revelation, that is, to obey the determinations that the Lord Jesus transmits through the spiritual gifts. If there is obedience to the Revelation, the Church is preserved from deceit of the enemy and from sin, for the Lord reveals what does not please Him, what should be corrected and how to obtain victory in the spiritual struggles, giving the knowledge to His Body regarding false doctrines, practices from the flesh and other phenomena that allow interferences from the Enemy.
The lack of Revelation, on the other hand, brings about disorientation, lack of focus and lack of objective, in addition to the lack of knowledge of God’s Plan for the edification of the Church. For not understanding what the Lord’s plan for its edification is, the Church is open to programs, new doctrines and practices that promise to “promote revival”, but that many times only drive the Holy Spirit away. This happens many times because, as he halts the Rule of the Lord Jesus, man takes over the government of the Church and man’s plans replace God’s Plans.
However, if there is Revelation, the Church knows more exactly what the will of the Lord is, and He grants spiritual discernment to the Church, through the gift of “discernment of spirits” and through the understanding of His Word, enabling the Church to understand the true meaning of the Scriptures, that is, enabling it to see what is beyond the letter.
For lack of understanding and practice of these basic doctrines of the New Testament – Body of Christ and Revelation – the revivals ended up not reaching their goal For not living these doctrines, the Church lost the blessings derived from the government, discipline and the direction of the Lord Jesus through which it can enjoy the knowledge and discernment of all of God’s will.
When the Church practices the doctrines of the Body of Christ and the Revelation, it continues united to the Head and receives all the vital impulses and the necessary orientations to Its edification. It also receives the revealed knowledge of the Word of God and the discernment (by the gift of discernment of spirits or by revelation) regarding the doctrines and practices that come from the Holy Spirit.
Through the knowledge and practice of these doctrines, the Church will always be victorious, for it will obey the limits established by the Holy Spirit in God’s Word and will have discernment as to the manifestations of the flesh and of the Enemy that can corrupt the revival. For this reason, the revival that the Lord is currently operating in His Church does not need to end, but can last until the glorious return of the Lord Jesus! Maranatha! “Oh, Come, Lord Jesus!”