In the first discourse holdtotruth discussed how revival begins when something is precious. And how “precious things remind you to live.” This entry changes course slightly. Which is the theme of the lesson. Every revival is rooted in plot changes.
I can still hear my mother telling my dad and me to get out of the window or off the deck when a storm was coming. It seems like there is not as much build up to storms compared to when I was young. Or it may be that I lived on the side of Burnett’s Mound in Topeka so you could see them coming. Bright blue sky with slowly rolling clouds in the background moving our way. The distant sound of thunder and the sky being changed. It would give way to brilliant shades of grey and squall lines. The clouds would roll over and surreal colors skewed the way everything looked. Strange greens and dark blues.
“GET OUT OF THE WINDOW!”
We like blue skies. But revival seems to come when the plot thickens. Tim Keller spent some time in this topic in Center Church in Chapter four entitled “The Need For Gospel Renewal.” He gives a rather detailed background to some of the major historical revivals of the church and draws our attention to what occurs when revival is manifested. Whether you are talking about individual or corporate revival it is an intensification of all the things the Spirit of God does in the life of the body, and thus in you also.
Revivals and renewals are necessary because the default mode of the human heart is works-righteousness- we do not ordinarily live as if the gospel is true. [Keller, Center Church, pg 54]
Whether it is the Roman captivity of Israel, the awakening in Antioch where they were made distinct from Judaism and first called Christians, the reformation, the great awakening of early and mid 18th century, the corner boy who says ‘enough’, the sister who refuses to settle, the business owner who changes her management ethic or business ethic, when coworkers who claim to believers start to notice each other more than just getting a project done, or the church that assumes the role of ‘city on a hill.’ All of these revivals occur because of a plot change. Something that normally does not happen…happens.
We love movies (and some of us books.) And I think the major component for a movie (or book) that is really good is character development and the plot. We love in the movie when tension and suspense occurs. The anticipation of how the characters will react. The story painted so well you can see it. The author who loves his readers so much he will try to put the reader in the story. We love suspense and tension in stories….
…but we hate it in life. HATE it.
When the Author and Perfecter of our objective trust in him (that is our faith) decided to create this story I believe He was setting the stage for something epic. Storms and chaos make for epic stories. It teaches us about the Savior, it molds us at the same time.
Keller notes that the Holy Spirit’s job is to “unfold the meaning of Jesus’ person and work in such a way that its infinite importance and beauty are brought home to the mind and heart.” [Emphasis mine] You can learn about Jesus in a book. But the book of life is different. Mind change is in tension with heart change also. And Our God is not in the habit of teaching at a chalk board. I’m certain Paul clearly knew that the only way to know the power of His Resurrection [Philippians 3:10] is to die. You have to be dead to resurrect.
When the clouds released all their rain and it pounded on the house and the lights would go out, my father and I would slip to the window to gaze through the storm. I think corporate revival is when the heart of the church (and thus every individual heart) can gaze straight through the storm and see the Son shining through it. The Gospel is the only sustaining message through every plot change. Martin Luther suggested this is of utmost importance and we should “Beat this (message) into their heads continually.” So let me say it again:
The Gospel is the only sustaining message through EVERY stormy plot change.
Revival necessitates plot changing storms, but revival is also where you learn to hold to the life giving message.