Where did I get this understanding of revival, you may ask. Well, from the Bible, actually, and from the book of Acts specifically.
"Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing [referring to the outpouring of the Spirit and the wonders that accompany Him]"
"And they devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received the food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."
In Acts 2:33 we see Peter speak of a pouring out of the Spirit that is visible to those who are listening. It is, in fact, so visible and obvious that Peter specifically refers to "this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing" when speaking of this outpouring of the Spirit. It's tempting to say that this outpouring could just be the massive response of people to the gospel, and that's certainly part of it as we shall see, but Peter is referring to something different in this sermon. What Peter is referring to are displays of the Spirit like what he quotes from the book of Joel in verse 17:
"And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams, even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy."
Acts 2:17-18 (cited from Joel 2:28-32)
I don't want to get into specifics regarding what signs and wonders accompany such an outpouring of the Spirit because people strongly disagree as to what those are (notice, for example that the apostles spoke languages unknown to them when the Spirit came, yet Joel promises prophesying, dreams and visions) and I believe the Spirit can do as He pleases wherever He pleases. But I will say that such an outpouring is obvious to any who are present and it is undeniable that something unusual is taking place. As the story in the book of Acts progresses it is clear that an outpouring of the Spirit seems to happen at every place that the apostles take the message of the Gospel. Whether it's tongues/languages, prophesy, dreams, visions or other unusual happenings, the Spirit is almost always mentioned as "falling upon" people or people being "full of" the Spirit. Whatever we think of such things it is undeniable that such an outpouring is evident and visible to all who are present.
I also promised to show that a massive response to the Gospel is involved in the pouring out of God's Spirit as well.
"And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Acts 2:21 (cited from Joel 2:28-32)
A large number of people calling upon the name of the Lord and responding to the gospel message always accompanies a pouring out of God's Spirit. This is another clear and evident sign of the Spirit and His blowing amongst God's people. In verse 41 we are told that three thousand people were baptized that day alone in response to the Gospel message. This is revival and awakening and can be seen as thousands repent of their sins, are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and receive the Holy Spirit.
Now, I also said that revival comes with a deep-rooted understanding of and commitment to the Body of Christ. Look at Acts 2:42-47 carefully. In verse 42 we are told that the new believers were devoted to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship with one another, to breaking of bread (a way of saying they ate together), and to praying together. These people didn't have to be told that they belonged to the Body of Christ and that they therefore belonged to one another - it came naturally! No one had to tell them to make the Body of Christ the center of their lives - they seemed to want that automatically. They ate together, they prayed together, they did life together. Continue to verse 44 and you will see that ALL who believed were TOGETHER and had ALL things in common. There was no individual possessions or individual lives - they were one, as Christ is one with us and one with the Father. This may sound crazy to you but I would submit that it only sounds crazy to you because of the culture we live in where individualism has choked the life out of the Body of Christ. In verse 45 we see that they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to ALL, as any had need. Again, this came naturally as the Spirit had filled them and revealed to them that they belonged to Christ and therefore to the Body of Christ. This is not cultural, as may be tempting to assume - this is revival!
Hopefully you see the implications of what we are shown about the first revival in the book of Acts, but let's condense it into a short list:
- Revival or awakening comes as the gospel message is preached, people accept this message, are baptized and are filled with the Holy Spirit
- Revival or awakening involves a pouring out of God's Spirit in clear and obvious ways that are visible to those watching
- Revival or awakening involves a complete and utter devotion to the Body of Christ as evidenced by losing one's individualism and a realization that one belongs to Christ and to the Body of Christ
You can have a commune where people sell their belongings and share everything - but this by itself does not constitute a revival (in fact, it often has nothing to do with Christ at all as pot smoking hippies followed this pattern). You can have obvious workings of the Spirit like tongues/languages, prophesying and other miraculous gifts and not have revival (see Paul's letter to the Corinthians where the gifts of the Spirit were plentiful but the love of and commitment to the Body of Christ was absent). You can have sound doctrine and preaching of the gospel message and even have people accept the gospel message and still not have revival (see Revelation 2:4-5 where Jesus threatens to remove the Holy Spirit from the doctrinally sound Ephesian church unless they repent and do the works they did at first - works of love, and I would argue living as the Body of Christ).
Does this offend you? I hope so, because it certainly offends me. I am deeply convicted when I see the apparent lack of this in my own life. I long for a revival where the Gospel is preached and believed; I long for a revival where God pours out His Spirit in obvious ways; I long for a revival where the Body of Christ lives and acts like the Body of Christ Himself. Anything other than this is simply noise and though God may save some through it, it does not advance the Kingdom in the ways that we see in the book of Acts.
Please join me in praying for such revival in our midst. Pray to God our Father Who is the only one Who can make this happen. Pray that the Holy Spirit will once again blow and do the things we see in the book of Acts and that we know has happened throughout the history of the Church. Pray for God to kill our individualism and help us to live as the Body of Christ - doing life together. We will lose our lives in the process, but we will gain the Kingdom and God will be glorified in mighty ways for all to see!