Richard Lovelace wrote the definitive study on revival in 1979 called Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal. Although now dated at certain points, this modern classic has held up remarkably well in the almost 40 years since it was first published. This blog will look at what he identified as the preconditions of renewal: awakening to a true knowledge of God and self.
Knowledge of God and knowledge of self are preconditions of spiritual life because revival involves awakening. What people wake up to in the light of a revival is their own condition and the nature of the true God
Awareness of the holiness of God – His justice and His love
- God’s mercy, patience and love must be fully preached in the church. But they are not credible unless they are presented in tension with God’s infinite power, complete and sovereign control of the universe, holiness, and righteousness. The tension between God’s holy righteousness and his compassionate mercy cannot be resolved by remolding his character into pure benevolence (as the church did in the nineteenth century). Only the cross of Christ reveals both the severity of God’s anger against sin and the depth of his compassion in paying its penalty.
Conviction of the depth of sin – In your own life and in your community (Isa 6:5; Dan 9:4-11)
- In the Bible, sin is not just specific thoughts or acts of wrongdoing; it is more like what psychologists call a complex: an interrelated network of compulsive attitudes, beliefs and behavior deeply rooted in our alienation from God. Sinful thoughts, words and deeds flow forth from this darkened heart automatically and compulsively, as water from a polluted fountain (see Mt 7:18, 15:19, and 12:35).
- Anxiety is at the root of much sinful behavior, since the unconscious awareness of our isolation from God create a profound insecurity in the unbeliever or the Christian who is not walking in light. This insecurity generates a kind of compensatory egoism, masked inferiority, fear and deep self-loathing.
- Most congregations of professing Christians are saturated with a kind of dead ethical respectability rooted in the flesh rather than in the Holy Spirit. At the opposite extreme from religious formalism, there is a great deal of active religiosity in the form of worship or service which is also energized by the flesh.
- For individuals and churches to be infused with spiritual life, not only the flesh as an agent of death but also the world and the devil must be displaced.
- When “world” is used in a negative sense in Scripture, what is meant is the total system of corporate flesh operating on earth under satanic control. Included are dehumanizing social, economic and political systems; business operations and foreign policy based on local interest at the expense of general human welfare; and culturally pervasive institutionalized sin such as racism. Much of the Christian community today is deeply penetrated by these worldly patterns of thinking, motivation and behaviour, and thus its spiritual life is deadened and its witness rendered ineffectual.
- An occupying army of fallen angelic powers is battling the light, so spiritual warfare is part of the church’s experience. Often the real enemy to be fought is not the visible oppressing powers but the idolatry and apostasy by which the powers of darkness have occupied the hearts of God’s people.