Revival and Discipline

by Joseph Franks

It is not uncommon for an individual to suffer cardiac arrest while working out at the local gym or health club. For this reason, many establishments have purchased and mounted Automatic External Defibrillators on various walls. It is a wonderful blessing to be able to save a life by shocking a diseased and dead heart back into operation. However, following these extreme acts of love, a change in the daily disciplines of the diseased individual must occur. For this sick individual to enjoy his new lease on life, he must eat and drink differently; he must exercise more regularly; he must monitor his situation more closely; he might even need to undergo some further corrective procedures or surgeries. Yes, the reviving of his heart made the dead person alive; it made the formerly sick individual much more healthy than he once was, but his heart is still diseased, and he must grow in discipline in order to maximize the gift of life given to him.

This analogy works in the Christian life as well. Isn’t it wonderful to know there is a God who sends sudden, violent, and sweet revival? Isn’t it thrilling to see in Scripture how quickly God regenerates dead hearts such as Saul of Tarsus, Zacchaeus, and the Samaritan woman. When one reads of the Holy Spirit’s conviction and work in David, Jonah, Peter, and the Prodigal Son, one becomes most appreciative of the irresistible or effective grace of the Holy Spirit. Yes, revival happens. Instantaneously and miraculously, men and women are born again or recovered from their backslidden posture. Yes, revival is a reality that comes at God’s good pleasure, and it is a fantastic spiritual phenomena which all ministers hope might fall upon their church and all parents pray might fall upon their children.

However, following revival, changes in spiritual discipline must proceed. Or to use theological terms — following regeneration, justification, union, and adoption, progressive sanctification must be pursued. Bottom line, the work of God is to be followed up by the works of man. Saved individuals get the privilege of glorifying and enjoying God more and more, and this requires work on their part. According to Philippians, Christ who began a good work in us, he is completing it, and he is planning on doing so through men and women who are working out their salvation with fear and trembling. According to Galatians, the Holy Spirit fruits the believer, and it is the duty of the redeemed to “walk in the Spirit,” “keep step with the Spirit,” and “live in the Spirit.”

Consider the following quote from Walter Chantry, “Revival never produces permanent health in God’s people. It suddenly resuscitates them, but daily good habits of worship and sanctification must conserve and nourish the spiritual health given from above.” (Celebrating the Sabbath, ix)

So while being cognitive of and thankful for the sovereign working of the Holy Spirit in sending revival and resuscitating our dead hearts, let us respond in worshipful adoration by asking the question, “How are our daily spiritual disciplines?”

  • Will we be found worshiping with God’s people on the Lord’s Day?
  • Will we regularly avail ourselves of the blessings of the Gospel read, preached, prayed, sung, tasted, seen, and felt?
  • Will we be found educating ourselves and our families in our various Bible studies and classes?
  • Will we open God’s Word daily and spend time pursuing his wisdom?
  • Will we enjoy, more and more, the opportunity to pray without ceasing?
  • Will we fellowship regularly with men and women as we assist one another on our Christian journey?
  • Will we pray at meals, reminding ourselves and our family of the bountiful provision of the Lord?
  • Will we look at those good gifts of God that contribute to our sin and consider fasting or fleeing from such things?

Friends, it is not works-based legalism for us to be disciplined. Routines and patterns are not signs that grace is lacking. To the contrary, it is the grace of God that causes individuals to establish healthy patterns that the Spirit uses to spiritually improve his friends. Those instantaneously revived by the Holy Spirit are most often those progressively sanctified through the disciplined application of his means of grace. (I.e. Worship, Word, Prayer, Sacrament, Fellowship) Therefore, let us follow up our prayers for revival with works of discipline.

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