J.I. Packer recorded a wonderful lecture series on the theology of revival that is packed with insights into the way the Holy Spirit works in and through the people of God during these remarkable times. One such gem is his outline of the marks of genuine holiness that characterise true renewal.
- Non-Perfectionist Humility. The humility of the person who knows that still, as a sinner, he or she lives only by being forgiven on a day-to-day basis.
- Watchfulness Against Sin. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:12. You distrust yourself, knowing the deceitfulness of your own heart. “Today I’m feeling good” is not something you allow to keep you from checking to make sure self-aggrandizing dispositions aren’t taking you over again.
- A Real Love of Righteousness. “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” writes Paul in Romans 7:22. A backslider thinks that pursuing power, pleasure, profit and privilege is more worthwhile than the practice of righteousness. But a real love of righteousness and a real distress at unrighteousness – whether in one’s own life or in the world around – then it is genuine holiness manifesting itself.
- A Genuine Love of Others. There is genuine affection and concern for people in need, and living with the question, “What can we do to help them?”
- A Genuine Love of Christ. This will come out in the way people pray.
Where any of these are missing, you are seeing something less than Christ-like holiness. And when renewal happens in the church, the Spirit of God works powerfully to take folk along this path from where they are.
Where this doesn’t happen, you should be suspicious of the movement. For renewal is more than just religious excitement; true renewal is always advance along the path of holiness. Six things masquerade as expressions of holiness but which ought to be nailed as negations of true holiness.
- Anti-Intellectualism. The idea that using the mind on God’s truth has nothing to due with spiritual discernment. To lean on your understanding – to trust it – would be a way to quench the Spirit, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t use your mind.
- Anti-Experientialism. This is a reaction against an unrestrained emotionalism in some circles by promoting a calm, quiet holiness which is never exuberant. A blind emotionalism is an evil thing that bars Christian growth, but to deny emotion in Christian devotion altogether is equally an aberration. We needed the Charismatic movement to set us free on this point.
- Quietism. The attitude that says, “I won’t do a thing until I feel an inner urge from the Spirit of God prompting me to do it.” Faith is an active grace, said Luther, and he was right: faith expresses itself in doing all that one can for the Lord. The motivation of quietism is the fear of doing things in your own strength or in “the energy of the flesh”. This is a right motive, but if you are abiding in Christ and asking him to bless and use what do because without him you can do nothing, it’s not then your initiative running ahead of God – it’s you doing the Lord’s will in the Lord’s way.
- Anti-Socialism. Christians are sanctified by the Lord for life with others, not life in isolation.
- Fanaticism. That is, laying claim to private revelations that go beyond Scripture. This is an expression of spiritual pride. If you get visions, dreams or impressions, test them by Scripture and submit them to judgement of the fellowship. Don’t assume that they must be special revelations from God.
- Anti-Nomianism. A temptation comes to those who seek to follow the Lord to believe that the Holy Spirit within them will prompt them to do whatever needs to be done, so they don’t need to study and meditate on God’s revealed standards – as though there was something low and legal about it. In 2 Peter 2 and Jude we see people saying in effect, “We’re Christians now and spiritually we are all right, so it doesn’t matter how we behave. Indeed, we show that we understand gospel freedom and the fullness of God’s salvation by letting ourselves go wild.”
Renewal is Christ pouring out His Spirit on His people to advance that work of grace which conforms them to Him, makes them more human, makes their humanity a richer, a more sensitive, and a more God-honoring thing.