Revival and Reformation
Revival and reformation.
Do those two words create a certain resonance within us? What about 'revival meetings'? Does that elicit a certain set of scenarios? What about reform? That can bring up even stronger reactions. But as I think about these words I begin to sense that these are symptoms, and because they are only symptoms and not things we can produce ourselves they have become distorted in our perceptions and have confused our emotions. And in additions for me, a great deal of negative baggage has accumulated over the years in connection to these words.
But this morning as I was praying, an unintended (at least by me) slip caused me to ask for 'revival and revelation'. But suddenly it occurred to me that in fact this was itself a revelation to my own heart, a most important awakening about some of the baggage that has for so long been able to weigh down my feelings and trigger internal resistance connected to this phrase, 'revival and reformation'.
A problem has been that for too long God's people have thought that they had to revive themselves by putting forth great effort to somehow induce God to show up and bestow some kind of special power to them during some sort of service called a 'revival service'. And reformation? That has even heavier implications, for all my life this word has been closely associated to ever-increasing demands, expectations and minute details in all sorts of lifestyle areas from how to take a bath properly to the length of a woman's dress to how to suspend the weight of a mans' clothes on his body to what foods should be eaten with others. Reformation and reform have been so intertwined with sternness, severity and avoidance of nearly anything that might feel good that I have long had a hard time warming up to this phrase.
Of course, in my head I know that much of this baggage was meant as a decoy by Satan to keep me from catching a glimpse of the goodness of God and falling in love with Him. At least that's what my head has been figuring out for a number of years now. But my heart is still decades behind in many areas of my growing awareness of God and is still distrustful, waiting for different kinds of revelations to come along that will assure it that what my head claims to be true about God is in fact really true, for much of it sounds far too good to be true and even many Christians around me insist just that.
It seems that the most intense resistance encountered against the emerging revelations about God's goodness, the sterling character of His love, the purity of His passion and all the other stunning revelations about Him that I have been encountering as of late, comes from people who somehow believe that these things cannot be as true as what some of us are starting to assert. This confuses my heart more than my head, for I wonder what vested interests or what lurking fears motivate people to insist that we must believe only in a God who will at some point strike out at His enemies with violence; a God who will at some point act more like we want to react against our enemies; a God whom we insist does not have infinite patience but at some point will run out of patience with His enemies (and our enemies) and begin to treat them the way we feel they deserve to be treated. We call this 'justice' and we vindicate most of our feelings and cravings for revenge securely on this view of justice. But is it possible that it may us who are confused about the meanings of these words rather than God who might choose to win the war over sin differently than how we insist He must do it?
But I find myself digressing again here. What I started out to explore was the interesting relationship between revival and reformation to experiencing revelation. It is starting to become more and more clear to me that without greater revelation of the real truth about the character of the God than what we currently embrace, it will be impossible for authentic, godly revival to ever occur and that any reforms that we might embrace will have to be done with a much different spirit than what has been seen up to this point in those connected to most reform movements.
Here is what I have been learning about this thus far. It struck me many years ago when I noticed the close connection between the word reform and the Bible's description of the creation of the very first human, our father Adam.
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
Do you see it? The perfect human species came into being through a process of being formed by a perfect, passionately loving God who was so in love with us from the very beginning that to wake up this creature of mud that He had intimately shaped with His own fingers, God leaned over on top of Him and kissed Him. That's what I see happening in the description of Adam's creation.
So, what implications does that have for God's plans to restore humanity that has become tragically abused, deceived, degraded and has now suffered through all sorts of horrors that Satan has brought onto God's perfect creation in Adam? That is the true essence of reformation. God is in the business of re-forming all who are willing to cooperate with Him by revealing Himself to them and thereby restoring into their psyche the truth about both who He is and consequently who they were designed to be as perfect reflections of His own beauty and wholeness.
You see, the problem is that as long as we hold onto dark beliefs about what God is like, because we are by design images or reflections (that's what a mirror does – it reflects the exact image of what's in front of it), then whatever our concept of God is like, no matter how cruel and sadistic or ideal, that is the reflection that our heart cannot fail to reflect. We will always act out our internal picture of what we feel and believe at our deepest gut level what we think God is like and how we think He relates to us.
So might it be that Christians who find it necessary to oppose emerging revelations about God's goodness are loathe to let go of some of their favorite darker ideas about God because they don't want to face those same attributes in themselves that they insist are in God's character? When we insist that God will at some point run out of patience and throw in the towel and turn on His disobedient children with anger and punitive violence, could it be the real issue that we don't want to give up that practice in our own treatment of those around us or with our own children? When we insist that God has the right to use violence against those who reject or oppose Him, we may be just defending our own supposed rights to resort to violence against those who oppose and abuse or hurt us.
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
I am becoming more convinced that the reasons we find it so difficult to embrace fresh revelations about God – revelations that just might produce the kind of revival and reformation that we so desperately need – is because our own deceitful hearts shield us from facing honestly our own sinful, sick thinking inside. Because sin is defensive by nature, it will always offer optional explanations for anything that might threaten to expose its true character.
Because our own hearts are infected with the deadly virus of sin that has made our thinking and feelings and ability to perceive reality dreadfully distorted, we have become averse to clear revelations about the real truth about God that might threaten to expose the dreadful nature of our own condition. For the closer we come to the light of real love the more our selfishness becomes exposed in all its ugliness and the more we try to either excuse ourselves or we attempt to change or avoid the light that threatens to show us what is really inside.
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)
But rather than wanting to shame us with an awareness of our true condition as we naturally suppose is happening, God is longing to reveal to us the incredible beauty of our original design that has been distorted by the effects that sin has caused in us. God wants to show us that His only desire is to heal the damage caused by sin in every area of our lives through the transformational power of fresh and continually increasing revelations of the beauty and perfection we were meant to reflect. And only as we allow God to reveal the real truth about Himself to us and embrace them rather than insisting that these things can't be true because they don't agree with our preconceptions about Him, will we be able to be re-formed into reflecting the perfect beauty of what He is actually like.
Seeing this I begin to have more positive feelings about wanting to be revived and reformed. Interestingly both of these words start with the prefix re which indicates a second time around implying that something happened previously that need to occur again. Revive means to restore into a being lost strength, life, hope and everything else that has to do with living in joy and peace and thriving in God's presence. Reformation directly reminds us that at one point we were once formed perfectly to reflect God's love and goodness and everything else that makes up His character but now are in need of being reformed. Given this I want to let go of all resistance to God's revelations that are vitally necessary in order to have these things happen in my own life and with those around me.
God, reveal Yourself to me, to my mind and especially to my heart so that my soul, body and spirit will begin to better reflect Your perfect beauty, love and power as You intended for every human. Draw me closer to Your heart so that I may experience who You really are and see better the way You relate to me and to everyone around me.