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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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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

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After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

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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?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

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Go Stand Speak (DVD)

With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?

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Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.

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