More Viewpoint articles from past issues of the Presbyterian Standard are available online here.
IT is common for the Lord's people, especially in a time of declension such as ours, to pray for revival. But do we know what we are asking for when we cry to God and say, "revive thy work"? What in fact are we looking for and hoping for? Often the zeal is admirable but the thinking is questionable.
Frequently a 'revival' is considered to be the most suitable solution to a particular problem. What is that problem? It is that attendances at worship are falling, church buildings are closing and society is increasing in wickedness. This is obviously not a good state of affairs and a revival is what is needed to put things right, so the thinking goes.
It is wise to probe a little deeper to discover the reality. We should certainly lament these sad signs of spiritual decay but we should see them as just that – symptoms of a problem rather than the problem itself. The actual malady is located in the church and among the people of God. It is a malady which, like a cancer, tends to spread over time and may be undetected at first. However, if it is not dealt with this malady will gnaw away at the vitals of pure religion until all that is left is "a form of godliness" which is devoid of any life-changing power.
The problem concerns truth. Everywhere today truth is set upon by those who ought to be its friends. Truth is "fallen in the street" (Isa.59:14). What we need then is a revival of truth!We need truth in the pulpit. We need truth in the pew. But above all we need truth alive in the heart and mind. A genuine revival will see scriptural truth arise and assume its proper place in the life of every believer. We will no longer sit in judgment upon it; it will have authority over us. The result will be a transformation.
Revival must first of all be personal. David prayed, "Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word" (Psa.119:154). When we are burdened by the sinful world around us and the world of sin within us we know that only the gracious influence of God's Spirit can help us.
Has God kindled a flame in your heart by His regenerating work? Then thank Him for it; He will surely preserve and prosper it. But do not neglect the means which He has given to sustain that flame. Feed it with the pure oil of truth. And when the fire in your soul is burning low pray earnestly to God that He will give you a greater love of the truth to make you a brighter witness.
Revival ought next to be ecclesiastical. When the cause of God is weak the united plea of His saints is, "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?" (Psa.85:6).How does the Lord's answer? When God revives His cause "Truth shall spring out of the earth" (v11). In this way Christ will cleanse His temple. The church will quickly forsake unscriptural beliefs and practices and will no longer seek to justify them. Out would go free-willism, in would come the God-centred doctrines of grace; out would go hymn-singing, in would come the God-given Psalter.
Revival should lastly be national. The prophet prayed for the covenant land: "O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy" (Hab.3:2).
Our own land should not to be viewed as a heathen nation in need of missionary endeavour, for that is not how the Lord views her. Our prospects might in one sense be better if that were the case. Rather she is to be seen as a Christian nation which has decayed and moreover as a covenanted nation which has gone back upon the solemn vows she has made to God. Let our humble prayer then be that the Lord will "visit this vine" and make her fruitful once again.