“Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].” Romans 12:2 [Amplified Bible, Classic Edition]
So far, we’ve looked at how revival brings new energy, new expectations, new birth, and new obedience. Now we look at how it brings a new atmosphere. Atmosphere can be defined as, “a surrounding influence or environment.” In both the Old and New Testaments, we arerepeatedly given vivid accounts of what a sudden dramatic change of atmosphere, a ‘spiritual climate change’, a revival is like, be that in for example the praise and worship at the dedication of Solomon’s temple or in the fervent praying in a filthy Philippian jail.
“And when the trumpeters and singers were joined in unison, making one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and other instruments for song and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever, then the house of the Lord was filled with a cloud, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 [Amplified Bible, Classic Edition]
“ But about midnight, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the [other] prisoners were listening to them, Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the very foundations of the prison were shaken; and at once all the doors were opened and everyone’s shackles were unfastened. When the jailer, startled out of his sleep, saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was on the point of killing himself, because he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.But Paul shouted, Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” Acts 16:25-28 [Amplified Bible, Classic Edition]
Revival is the Holy Spirit working in extraordinary measure, marked by the mysterious manifestation of God’s presence. It isn’t something we can manufacture or market. Revival is the special and sovereign falling of the Holy Spirit’s fire, and our job is simply to seek Him. To some degree, revival is a ‘repetition’ of what happened on that first post-resurrection Pentecost. The disciples obeyed Jesus’ final command to remain in Jerusalem where they would receive power. The Holy Spirit utterly changed the ‘atmosphere’ in that upper room suddenly propelling the disciples out onto the street, into the marketplace, to birth the church. Their dejection and discouragement, fears and timidity, doubts and uncertainties were all blown away. Boldly the disciples now took up the first responsibility Jesus had given them – go make disciples of all nations in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth! These same disciples were now filled with assurance and confidence, they enthusiastically declare God’s wonderful, amazing works in public on crowded Jerusalem streets. The church became filled with immense joy, celebration, and thanksgiving. The closing verses Acts 2 graphically describes something of this new atmosphere: –
“Therefore, those who accepted and welcomed his message were baptized, and there were added that day about 3,000 souls. And they steadfastly persevered, devoting themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship of the apostles, to the breaking of bread [including the Lord’s Supper] and prayers. And a sense of awe (reverential fear) came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were performed through the apostles (the special messengers). And all who believed (who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ) were united and [together] they had everything in common; And they sold their possessions (both their landed property and their movable goods) and distributed the price among all, according as any had need. And day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord’s Supper]. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts. Constantly praising God and being in favour and goodwill with all the people; and the Lord kept adding [to their number] daily those who were being saved [from spiritual death].” Acts 2: 41-47 [Amplified Bible, Classic Edition]
Revival manifests the living God’s glorious presence, not just for individuals but for the many, be that for cities, regions, or nations. Reading through the rest of the Book of Acts we repeatedly find confession of sin and repentance, a hunger and desperation for revival, the love-saturated atmosphere of revival, powerful prayer and grace for revival, much courage and boldness, unity and lack of selfishness, and expectancy that revival will come.
When revival happens it significantly impacts the church and the world. In every pillar of culture – law, government, economics, fine arts, science, education, or health care – the Christian faith has and continues to contribute enormously to the overall well-being of mankind. Jesus Christ has the power to transform men and women, who in turn can transform society. This impact is perhaps none more evident than in the value put on human life. The early church championed the rights of the most vulnerable and was reviled for caring for outcasts. Our modern-day value of human life is rooted in Christ’s teachings and the actions of early Christians in rescuing newborn babies abandoned on the trash heaps of Rome or Athens. Whether through widespread infanticide, brutal gladiatorial games, glorification of suicide or human sacrifice, or endemic slavery there was an almost global attitude that human life was cheap and utterly disposable before Christianity.
We must not forget that the most beneficial institutions of our society find their roots in the profound influence of Jesus Christ. Early Christians founded the first hospitals, orphanages, and feeding programmes combating the pervading view of the Greco-Roman world that it would be better to just let the sick, the poor, and the orphans die. Monastic libraries provided the inspiration for the first universities. Jesus by elevating sexual morality and conferring upon women a much higher status revolutionised their place and prestige in society. Today’s cherished values originate from the First Century ‘Jesus revolution’ which turned the world upside down. The values of equality, compassion, consent, enlightenment, science, freedom, and progress are all rooted in Christianity.
“It is ever the darkest hour before the dawn. The nation always seems to be given over to the evil one before the coming of the Son of Man. The decay of religious faith, the deadness of the churches, the atheism of the well-to-do, the brutality of the masses, and these, when at their worst herald the approach of the revival. Things seem to get too bad to last. The reign of evil becomes intolerable. Then the soul of the nation awakes.”
The Welsh Revival by Eyewitnesses (c1904)
How might this 120-year-old eyewitness statement also be an apt commentary on our society in 2023?
Pray for a sudden fresh lasting all-pervasive revival in our land and the new atmosphere it will bring.