The devil and revivals

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I remember in 1971 when my father was born again. I was five. It was a life-transforming change. The whole direction of his life changed. He immediately got down to informing his family of nine siblings and their families, as well as my mother’s family, all third, fourth, and fifth generation Christians, by many letters, reasoning with them about the need for repentance and salvation, as well as pointing out some of the problems with the Lutheran church in South India that had strayed far away from the scriptures and become very liberal. His rebirth and subsequent plea to “come out of her” drew a divisive line through the group, where a small number showed interest in what he had discovered by the grace of God, and a much larger section regarded the turn as a tragic end for a man who had hitherto showed so much promise. Much to my father’s sorrow, his father, a well known Lutheran pastor, did not openly support him. Nevertheless, my grandfather’s thoughtful silence was loud enough.

Within a decade, the same people, while still remaining in the old church, were speaking this new evangelical jargon. As various good movements moved into university campuses and churches, and Christian book stores filled with good Christian literature, everyone spoke of being born again. Phrases like “accepting Jesus as one’s personal Saviour” became commonplace.

Although one cannot say for sure, it looked as if the same proportion of unregenerated people still filled the pews in the same old churches, the only difference being that the jargon had changed, the songs had changed, the style of praying had changed, and so on.

(Shortly after this, the charismatic movement washed over the people, still seated in their pews, and left behind yet another set of terms and postures and songs.)

For many years it seemed to my husband and I that we were very alone. “Where were God’s people,” we often wondered. It was not to say that all the professing Christians we met were not sincere or that they were not regenerated. But something was not right. A small group of us isolated ourselves, and by the grace of God, were able to study the word for ourselves and grow. In the last decade, we were introduced to “Reformed Theology” and heard about some solid Christians who were firmly grounded on the word. What a joy, we were not alone.

But now, all of a sudden, we seem to find many people under the Reformed umbrella. To see a young person reading a John Piper book in a bus or find kids in a school who have heard about Joshua Harris seems within the realm of possibility these days. Ought we to think that God is moving one more time in a big way in the world? My humble plea is that we be very cautious, for our ancient foe still prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. It will only take him a little bit of ingenuity, and God knows he has much of it, to make people excited about all the right things–the history of the church and the reformation, all the right authors and preachers and associations. He can cause people to feel a sense of accomplishment in studying the scriptures systematically and yet not be really right with God. I am sure, in certain circles, it is already “cool” to be reformed.

What makes the genuine different from the counterfeit is the Spirit of God. Let us pray much to be filled with the Spirit that we may, with greater discernment, delve deeper into the word, and somehow recognise counterfeit movements that arise from within us and lie in wait by-and-large invisibly like chameleons– speaking our language, singing our songs, and even preaching our sermons.

On the other hand, if what we are seeing is really a revival of sorts, may the Lord enable us to know that also and help us make full use of it for the furtherance of His glorious kingdom.

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