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Revival Versus Reformation

By P. Andrew Sandlin
Published May 1, 2008

Talk of the need for revival in the church is all the rage these days. I receive announcements of and invitations to conferences designed to incite a burden for revival in America (oddly, the spiritual state of the world at large is usually ignored) and provide a strategy to accomplish that revival. The announcements allude to or provide examples of the moral degeneracy of our society, as well as the spiritual apathy of professed Christians. The opinion over on my side, however, is that it is reformation, not revival, that is our most pressing need.

Revival and reformation are not to be equated. Revival is a stirring of apathetic saints; reformation is an alteration of their very spiritual core. Revival (contrary to the beliefs and tactics of “revivalists”) is a sovereign, gratuitous outpouring of the Holy Spirit-not sweet, spiritual, “showers of blessing” provoked by a meritorious repentance and contrition of the saints; reformation is a revision of the very heart of religion, a conscious effort to make a full-scale break with all that is unscriptural, and to reinstall Scripture as the final authority of belief and practice; the effects of revival are temporary; those of reformation span centuries. Revival makes better Christians; reformation makes a better Christianity. Revival makes Christians more zealous; reformation makes them more knowledgeable. Revivals occur spasmodically; the work of reformation is never completed.

The mention of the term reformation immediately reminds us of the great Protestant Reformation, an historical event almost as significant as the Enlightment and more important than the Renaissance. It altered not only the course of the church but also that of society itself. In this point reformation differs from revival also: the latter greatly revitalizes a tepid church, while the former reorients society and the general social mindset. Its deep social effects are possible because reformation involves the reordering of thought, an occasion which, unlike the work of revival (necessary and potent though it may be) is able to altar the state of affairs beyond the sphere of the church. Thus, while Old Testament Israel experienced numerous significant revivals, as a society she experienced no reformation until the coming of Christ which, indeed, influenced not only that relatively small nation but the entire known world.

A revival would quicken the sleeping, worldly church of our time and give it fresh devotion to the God of the universe and his Son. A reformation, however, would dismantle the deadly secularistic/materialistic/humanistic axis that presently dominates the West. Not only religion, but also law, the arts, and politics would be reformed. The results would be as far reaching as those of the Protestant Reformation.

A.W.Tozer implied that reformation must precede revival because those who were not properly reformed are not worth reviving; and if they were revived, they would simply persist in their wrong ideas and practices, on an even dangerously larger scale. The revival at Pentecost was preceded by three and one-half years of careful training. It would have been foolish for Christ to spiritually revive the apostles, for they had virtually nothing in themselves worth reviving. When, nonetheless, he instructed them in a proper devotion to the Father and Himself, they were prepared for a revival from the former Judaistic hardness of virtually all Israel at Christ’s coming. The revival of Old Testament Judaism would never have turned the first century world “upside down.” It took a reformation to do that.

We don’t need revival; we need reformation.


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Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?

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Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

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Martin Luther: Digitally Remastered 1953 Classic (DVD)

“Here I stand … I can do no other!”

With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.

The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.

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Massacre of Innocence (DVD)

Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion

This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.

Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.

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A Revival Account: Asbury 1970 (DVD)

What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?

Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!

“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l

Running Time: 40 minutes

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