I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow [walk in] my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 NIV
When we pray and ask God for revival, what do we have in mind? What are we visualizing a revival will look like? In most cases, I suspect that we are looking for religious ecstasy with accompanying signs of spiritual power.
To be sure, the spiritual powerlessness of the contemporary church and the lifelessness of much of our devotion is an affront to God and a sign to the world that something is wrong. But on the other hand, all too often revival movements that have focused on religious ecstasy have run amuck. Church history is littered with stories of heresies and sexual excess that have arisen from great revivals. Why is that, and why wasn’t it the case with the revival led by John and Charles Wesley in England?
Should we try to squash the ecstasy that comes when we are face to face with God and know ourselves fully clean in his presence? Of course not, and we could not if we wanted to. So there was plenty of ecstasy in the Wesleyan movement, especially in the early days. John and Charles were even accused of promoting “enthusiasm,” which meant “fanaticism” at that time. But that supposed “fanaticism” did not come to define the movement. Why not?
The reason is because the Wesley brothers were not seeking ecstasy, they were seeking the Biblical God and his character, and to get rid of everything that prevented that ethical character from being reproduced in them and their people. Notice the scripture printed above. What will be the result of Spirit-filling? It will be a certain kind of “walk,” one whose direction and character are dictated by God’s instruction manual – his “torah.” The goal of revival for the Wesley’s was nothing less than holy living.
So it should be for us. Holiness should be a wedding of godly character and ecstatic experience, and if that wedding is truly done and done right, then the joy of his presence will flood through our ethical righteousness, while the reality, consistency, and solidity of our ethical righteousness will be the anchor for our ecstasy. Revive us again.