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revivalHe will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
-- John 16:14

“In all companies, on other days, on whatever occasions persons met together, Christ was to be heard of, and seen in the midst of them. Our young people, when they met, were wont to spend the time in talking of the excellency and dying love of JESUS CHRIST, the glory of the way of salvation, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God, his glorious work in the conversion of a soul, the truth and certainty of the great things of God’s word, the sweetness of the views of his perfections.”
-- Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions

It is the Spirit’s raison d’etre to shine the light on Christ. The Spirit is often called the “shy” person of the Trinity because of this. He is content--no, zealous--to minister to the church the Father’s blessings in the gospel of Jesus. He quickens us to desire Christ, illuminates the Scripture’s revelation of Christ, empowers us to receive Christ, and imparts Christ to us even in his own indwelling. For this reason, then, any church or movement’s claim of revival better exalt Christ at its center, or it is not genuine revival.

At the front end of Paul’s excursus to the Corinthians on the sign-gift charismata, he reminds us: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

What we often see in false revivals is the exaltation of particular figures or the worship of a worship experience itself. You can turn on nearly any religious television programming and see this work in action. Christ is given lip service but exhilaration, personal revelation, warm fuzzies, and spectacular manifestations are the real objects of worship. Charlatans are at the helm, and they purport to wield the Holy Spirit as if he were pixie dust. In these cases and others, it is not the Spirit stirring, but the spirit of the antichrist.

Edwards writes elsewhere:

When the operation is such as to raise their esteem of that Jesus who was born of the Virgin, and was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem; and seems more to confirm and establish their minds in the truth of what the gospel declares to us of his being the Son of God, and the Saviour of men; is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God.

Revival given of the Spirit of the living God, places Christ always and ever at the center.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
-- 1 John 4:2-3

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9 thoughts on “A Revival Without Christ at the Center Is Not a Revival”

  1. Andy Woodard says:

    There’s a couple of typos here you might wanna look at. Exaltat. And the reference at the end is first John four, not John four. I want to share the article with someone but don’t want them to be put off by the typos. Thanks. The article is a blessing

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Thanks, Andy. Fixed.

  2. Pete O'HALLORAN says:

    Jared I agree with you in principle. However, my observation is that those seeking revival, and seeking with the book of Acts as a model, do not always have the most thought-through theology. They may be visited by the Holy Spirit but not steward that visitation well. Those with more thought through theology (are they seeking or expecting revival?) may then dismiss the whole thing and distance themselves. Would it not be better to draw near? To help the revival finds better direction? Maybe to be revived ourselves?

  3. Paul Alvarez says:

    Amen! I grew up in the 4square church… And yes they had their days when the Spirit was abused… But I’ve seen videos of so called revivals that make the 4square church look Lutheran! I’ve also been to youth groups that staff prayed over all of us until we spoke in tongues… I prayed and prayed and it never happened. It was all a show… I know that now.

  4. Daniel Routh says:

    Just remember the ministry of Christ and the early church. The reason so many televangelists mimic signs and miracles and manifestations is that there are real ministries (such as Shake the Nations) that have given themselves over to the power of the Holy Spirit. And you are right–any true ministry must exalt Jesus more than any other aspect.

  5. Krishan says:

    That last scripture quotation is from 1 John 4:2-3, not John 4:2-3.

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Thanks, Krishan. Fixed.

  6. M. Cisler says:

    I agree that Jesus needs to be at the center. I also believe that during these times it is vital to continue to preach the gospel. I have one question regarding this: how would you define the gospel?

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Short definition? “God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

      I also like Paul’s historical “nutshell” in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15 as a good summation.

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

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