A renewed emphasis on revival is sweeping the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is as it should be. Revival is an ongoing experience in the spiritual journey of each Christian and in the life of the church. Revival is the renewal of the spiritual energies of the soul. It has to do with a new commitment to Jesus every day. It leads us to a deeper experience in prayer, a more diligent study of God’s Word, and a life of service and witness. A heart hungering for spiritual revival is a heart that longs for a more intimate experience with Jesus. It isn’t satisfied with a shallow, superficial experience. It craves much more.
Shortly before His death Jesus prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). If I were paraphrasing this passage in the context of revival, I would say, “And this is true revival: to really know God and His Son, Jesus Christ.” Revival is about knowing Jesus intimately; about fellowship with the Savior.
But is that all there is to it? If we pray and study our Bibles more, will this automatically lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus? It might, or might not. It is possible to pray and study the Bible for hours and still not be any closer to Jesus; it largely depends on our motives as we pray and study God’s Word.
Imagine a group of people 2,000 years ago who spent hours praying and studying Scripture, yet were instrumental in putting our Lord to death. If spirituality were determined by the number of hours one prayed or studied Scripture, the Pharisees should have been the most spiritual people on the planet. But they plotted to crucify our Lord. Their egotistical pride resulted in totally misunderstanding the essence of true religion.
Any so-called revival that focuses on “my spiritual experience” alone also misses the mark. If it develops attitudes critical of those who may not measure up to “my standard of holiness,” it’s certainly not genuine spirituality. If the emphasis of revival is merely to change external behavior rather than to experience a change of heart, something is wrong.
Changed hearts lead to changed behavior. Genuine revival never leads to self-centeredness. It always leads to a selfless concern for others. When our hearts are renewed with God’s grace, we long to bless and serve others. All genuine revival leads to a renewed emphasis on mission and service.
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on a church that was praying for power to reach the world with the message of salvation (see Acts 2:1-4). Christ’s followers recognized their need of divine power to carry out His command to proclaim the gospel. Commenting on the disciples’ experience, Ellen White made this powerful statement: “What was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? The glad tidings of a risen Savior were carried to the uttermost parts of the inhabited world. As the disciples proclaimed the message of redeeming grace, hearts yielded to the power of this message. The church beheld converts flocking to her from all directions. Backsliders were reconverted. Sinners united with believers in seeking the pearl of great price. Some who had been the bitterest opponents of the gospel became its champions” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 48).
The purpose of revival is to fill our hearts with such a love for Jesus that we long to share Him with everyone possible. In genuine revival our own hearts are awakened to His goodness, His compassion, His forgiveness and power. We are so charmed by His love and transformed by His grace that we cannot be silent.
The purpose of revival is to draw us so close to Jesus that His love overflows from our lives to others. Revival: For what? All true revival leads us out of a preoccupation with ourselves to lives of witness and service. It leads us into our communities to share Jesus’ love in word and deed, to make an everlasting difference for Christ and His kingdom.
I pray that the Seventh-day Adventist Church experiences this heaven-sent revival of latter-rain power to share His message of love and truth in this climactic hour of earth’s history.
Mark A. Finley is editor at large of the Adventist Review. This article was published February 10, 2011.