When God’s Word digs deeply into the human heart, His Spirit awakens us to new life.
by ELLEN VAUGHN
EACH SPRING the miracle happens. After the gray winter months and the cold, short days, the sun warms the frosty earth. Green shoots emerge from the dead soil, and our hearts renew as the creation mirrors the greatest miracle of all, Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Even in nature’s pale reflection of that glorious resurrection, we breathe deeply again. We come out of our own tombs. We shake off the shadows of a long, dark winter. And this Easter, even as we revel in a sense of new life, we long for a spiritual springtime in our nation. We long for revival. We long for an awakening.
It has happened before.
In the book I wrote with California megachurch pastor and friend, Greg Laurie, we told the story of the last time God surprised us all with an unexpected renaissance of His Spirit. It was called the Jesus Revolution.
It blossomed in the late 1960s, a time not unlike our own — a season of great change, social chaos, and political divisions. Millions of young people threw off their parents’ religious and social mores and sought life’s meaning in a new trinity of drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll. Then, to everyone’s astonishment, a powerful spiritual movement grew among those very rebels; young people started turning to Jesus in droves. They carried well-read Bibles plastered with “One Way!” stickers; they shared the good news that Jesus was the one way to heaven with anybody who would listen. They flocked to the churches that would welcome barefoot, long-haired hippies — and those churches experienced revival, a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit among the redeemed. It was the greatest spiritual awakening of the 20th century.
In our own strange day, many of us long for a similar movement of God’s Spirit. What would a new Jesus Revolution look like today?
All we know is that it would be scary, exhilarating, messy, passionate, and surprising. We should not pray for revival unless we are willing to be turned upside down — our heads, pockets, and lives shaken out. During revivals, the transcendent power of God is unleashed in human beings … and when the divine is poured into the human, human beings act in unusual ways.
But whatever God chooses to do, we do know a few things about what happens when revival comes.
First, God comes down. Revival is no human endeavor. It is an electric encounter with the Other — the Eternal One who lives from everlasting to everlasting — that brings about the conviction of sin. At Pentecost, when the apostle Peter preached and his listeners were “cut to the heart,” Peter told them, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 2:37; 3:19, NIV). There is no refreshment without the conviction, confession, and forgiveness of sin.
God’s Word pierces human hearts. The teaching and proclamation of the Bible itself is central, for revival is a divine synthesis of mind and heart, more than just emotional experience and more than just cognitive assertions.
Lives change. People renounce sin and live differently than they did before.
When these things happen, there is an unmistakable flood of love, generosity, outreach, and joy that fills the local community of Christians, both new and old.
When churches overflow with this evidence of God’s Spirit, unbelievers are drawn to the community of faith and are converted. Those conversions expand exponentially: a Jesus person shares her faith, and another comes to Christ. He shares the gospel with two more, who tell four, who tell eight. The gospel spreads.
C.S. Lewis called this organic transmission of Truth the “good infection.” It was one of the great hallmarks of the Jesus Movement — and that good infection, unlike coronavirus or any other virus, would be most welcome indeed in the fresh, warm days of this new spring.
ELLEN VAUGHN is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker. Her latest book is Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, the authorized biography of the acclaimed missionary and author’s early years; Ellen is currently writing the biography’s second volume, which tells the rest of Elliot’s dramatic story.