Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of filming an Easter message while standing in front of the famous Colosseum in Rome.
It was the same Colosseum where countless Christians were martyred by a brutal government that persecuted and slaughtered followers of Christ, and the same city where apostles Paul and Peter were both executed for their allegiance to the Lord.
They died in faith, however, trusting in a living Savior who had borne their sins on the cross, was buried in a stone tomb, and was raised to life on the third day. It was the power and glory of the resurrected Christ that kept the flame of faith burning brightly in their hearts, all the way into His very presence.
This is how the Apostle Paul described it in his letter to the church in Rome, years before he arrived in Roman chains: Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).
And the Apostle Peter, speaking to saints scattered across the Roman empire, exclaimed that God has “begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”(1 Peter 1:3).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the everlasting cornerstone of Christianity. When God raised His Son from the tomb, it was perfect proof that His death on the cross as a substitute sacrifice for our sin was accepted by the Father. Resurrection remains the guarantee that our sins are forgiven (1 Corinthians 15:17), that we have been delivered from God’s wrath in the future judgment (1 Thessalonians 1:10), and that we, too, will be raised into His presence upon our physical death (2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Corinthians 6:14).
Apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, our faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14), and we would still be doomed in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). And, wonderfully, even our frail, mortal bodies will one day be instantly changed by His power into new, immortal bodies like that of Christ. We will have redeemed souls (Psalm 49:8) and redeemed bodies (Romans 8:23), living in a new Heaven and a new Earth (Isaiah 66:22). Praise God! I look forward to that day, don’t you?
Until that glorious day, believers will live through many trials and temptations. We will fight many spiritual battles along the way, deal with challenging relationships and seek to be faithful in a culture that has turned its back on God.
Throughout our nation’s history, God has periodically sent revivals among His people to refresh and revitalize their faith in the Lord. There was the first Great Awakening in the 18th century that swept across the American colonies. After the United States declared independence, we saw the Second Great Awakening, once again strengthening the saints and bringing many to saving faith in Jesus.
Of course, there have been more revivals through the centuries—special outpourings of the Holy Spirit when God moved mightily among His people. Just recently, there was such a move of the Spirit at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, that lasted for weeks (see page 6). Thousands came from far and wide to join the students, as multitudes streamed forward to the altar night and day in a spirit of repentance and worship.
I believe the following characteristics are always authentic marks of a special movement of the Lord in His people:
Confession and repentance. “Revivals are a time when sin is recognized as exceedingly sinful.” Those are the wise words of my friend, Dr. Jim Foulkes, a retired missionary to Africa who was a student at the great Asbury revival of 1950 and attended this most recent revival. True revival always sees a strong conviction of sin, for believer and unbeliever alike. As we confess our sins and repent, God gives us an ardent desire to turn away from iniquity and turn in faith to the Lord.
Fresh dependence on the Holy Spirit. Genuine revival is a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people. It is Spirit-sparked and Spirit-guided. The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to live an obedient life is experienced in a concentrated way (2 Corinthians 5:17). Real revival cannot happen without the working of the Holy Spirit. Revival is not from man, but from God.
Fresh awareness of the holiness of God. Worship and praise for the thrice-holy God is front and center. His righteousness and holiness are esteemed and honored. Only against the backdrop of our perfectly holy God is sin seen as “exceedingly sinful.” A new hatred of sin grows and develops as our hearts are continually humbled before a pure and holy God.
Godly, enduring fruit is produced. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8, ESV). The true test of revival is a godly life that brings forth godly fruit in ever-growing ways. God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are evidence of a transforming move of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Of course, you don’t have to be at a particular place like Asbury to experience God’s reviving touch in your life. Hear what the Prophet Isaiah says: “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, [and also] with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’” (Isaiah 57:15).
Let’s humble ourselves day by day before our holy God, that He may refresh and renew us, and so that we may know our Lord and Savior in the wondrous, life-changing power of the Resurrection! He is Risen! ©2023 BGEA
Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version. The Scripture quotation marked ESV is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
Photo: Shealah Craighead/©2023 BGEA