By Theodore D Grosbach
Instead, we will lovingly follow the truth at all times—speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly—and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is the Head of his body, the Church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly, and each part in its own special way helps the other parts, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love (Ephesians 4:15-16, The Living Bible).
A Healthy Body Will Grow
Children grow. Plants grow. Animals grow. And in the above passage, Paul the apostle lets us know that when the Body of Christ functions as it should, with each part contributing its necessary share, the spiritual organism we call the Church will also grow. Not only is the Lord the Head of this body, He is also the Creator of each of its individual parts. Paul tells us that Jesus has carefully placed each one in its perfect place, in close harmony with its neighboring piece, and that each of these parts aids in helping the others to be all that they must be as well. The result is then clearly seen: good health, growing, and full of the love of God.
Jesus said it rather simply in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Later on, alone with His disciples shortly before His arrest, He went on in great detail con-cerning the growth of the soon to be born Church. In John 15 Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and the branches to teach the principle that those in Him would produce fruit. He also used it to warn against being barren and thereby pruned from the vine. He went on to say that the Father is glorified when we bear such fruit. Then, in verse 16, Jesus tells them, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
The last part of the verse is extremely interesting when we consider it in the context of what Jesus was actually saying. The vine is the supplier for the branches, and whatever we might need in the production of fruit will surely be supplied. We have a right and an obligation to ask for whatever we need in the carrying out of His will—the production of good fruit that will remain. He is ever ready to provide these needs. It is already promised and the harvest is guaranteed!
The Realities Of Revival
One of the first things we need to realize concerning the reality of revival and/or harvest is that it must be understood biblically. This may seem like a funny and rather useless statement, but the sad truth is that sometimes we base our assessment of the current “revival” on vain rhetoric rather than a biblical perspective. Church growth is a very easy thing to talk about because people in this great Church want to hear about it. Whether or not it matches God’s idea of real growth or really significant harvest is another matter! Another way of looking at this reality is by realizing that revival may be present and all around us, yet we personally are not part of it.
There is an inherent “danger” in being associated with a revival-minded organization. While the body is experiencing growth, we in the local congregations might not. And there is a strong temptation then to believe that since we are part of the organization that is growing, we are therefore growing too. But is that a reasonable conclusion? A dead or dying local assembly in the midst of other churches that are growing well cannot rightly conclude that they are having growth in their own congregation. Yet, they may say, they are part of something alive and well and growing.
The same danger applies to individual saints in a growing assembly. While others are using the gifts and talents God gave them for growing His Church, some sit and abrogate their personal responsibilities to others. They eventually become good at nothing more than acting like Christians; yet being personally unproductive and in danger of being pruned from the precious vine of Jesus. Again, they may say, or even boast, that they are part of a growing congregation that is really “in revival.” Unfortunately, as individuals they are not part of that revival.
In Matthew 13:52 Jesus said, “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” What He was saying is simply this: when we dedicate ourselves to becoming real students of the Word of God, we will find great treasures within us that can be brought out and used to accomplish great things. Jesus promised His followers that they would be preachers, teachers, and witnesses for Him. But He also told them to wait until they were endued with power from on high before attempting to do what they were commissioned to do. They would first need the power and the direction of the Spirit, and then add the special anointing of love that comes with it to really be the light of the world that Jesus wanted them to be. So an understanding of the biblical perspective of real church growth is vital to the instruction that Jesus mentioned in the above scripture in Matthew. This brings us to another reality concerning the revival of today.
Several great principles of harvest can be gleaned from the fourth chapter of Mark. In this chapter we find the parable of the sower and the seed. It wasn’t a long sermon at all that Jesus taught that day. In fact, it only took a few moments to describe the actions and results of the farmer’s efforts. The reaction of the crowd, however, demonstrates the impact that this “little teaching” had on them. Though Jesus had addressed a multitude of so-called followers, by the time he finished the short account of the seed and the different types of soil it fell upon, there were only a few that remained behind and asked Him concerning the point of the message. To them He said “Unto you is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”
Jesus had used a parable to separate the wheat from the chaff. He taught this little story to those who really wanted to know more about the kingdom. When they stayed behind and asked Him about the meaning of the parable, Jesus gladly explained it to them. Those that had left already had gone their way still bound by ignorance and unbelief.
After a clear explanation of the parable, Jesus in verse 24 explains, “Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.” Moffat’ s translation puts it this way, “With the measure you deal out to others it will be dealt out to yourselves and you will receive extra.” Therefore, the second reality tells us that in order to understand revival biblically, we must desire to really understand without compromising. We have to be careful with what we hear and what we do with these precious truths that we have been given. Jesus’ principle is this: to get more, we must use what we have already. The desire to understand is not always easy though. Unfortunately, the temptation to compromise is always present in us. In fact, it seems that the Lord Himself actually offers us opportunities to hear and go home without a real understanding. It seems that in some ways He is still communicating in parables! Do we want to know the meaning behind it?
Not long after the birth of this great Church in Acts 2, we read about the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the Temple in chapter 3. Not only is this a true account of a magnificent and supernatural deliverance, it also presents us with great spiritual symbolism. The poor crippled man was accustomed to being brought to the same place each day where he hoped to find the same little offerings that would sustain him for twenty-four more hours in his pitiful existence. He was quite used to it. In fact, he was so used to receiving this minimum that he nearly missed the will of God on the fateful day of his healing. As Peter and John focused their gaze on him in Acts 3:5, we are told, “And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.” Unfortunately, he was expecting to receive the wrong thing! In the presence of powerfully anointed men of God, and with the Lord wanting to heal him and change his life forever, the lame man was simply intent on finding the bare minimum as usual.
This is not so unlike much of what we experience. Have we settled on being spiritually crippled when God’s for us to be mightily healed and used in the kingdom? Are we used to receiving so little that we cannot recognize the intervention of God when He wants to take us to a new level of spiritual depth? How many times, in church services for example, have we settled for less then
God’s best? Do we come to church expecting the very minimum or the very maximum? Sadly enough, the potential to compromise is ever before us. Too many times we may find ourselves expecting to receive the wrong things. The Vine wants to give us all things that are beneficial to our spiritual health in order that we may bring forth much fruit. We must not settle for less than what He wants for our lives and our personal ministries and we should desire to fully understand our individual parts in God’s revival scheme.
In Mark 8:22-25 we can read the curious story of Jesus praying twice for a certain blind man. Certainly Jesus did not require two prayers for a healing—He was the Almighty robed in flesh! Instead, he used the double prayer to illustrate an important point. After praying the first time, He asked the man if he saw anything. The man replied with the famous words, “I see men as trees, walking.” In other words, I can see that there are men, but they are nothing more than indistinguishable figures to me. Then and only then did Jesus pray the second time. Asked again what he saw, the poor man declared, “I can see every man clearly!” This should be the revelation that we have as well.
Our aim must be more than seeing men in a vague and compromised way. We need to see every man clearly in order to understand the real need of true revival in our midst. What if the man had replied the first time, “Thanks Jesus, that will be enough for me. After all, I’m better now than before.” Or, “Thank you that I can see a little bit more than my neighbor.” What if he would have left the presence of the Healer with only a partial touch? When is enough really going to be enough? And who decides that it is enough? Have we heard enough preaching and teaching that we need no more? And when we do hear it, does it have the impact it should? How do we express our desire to fully understand the biblical perspective of spiritual harvest and revival?
“I Cannot Come Down”
Things were moving along very well in Jerusalem. The walls were now rebuilt, and only the doors and the gates were lacking. Nehemiah had succeeded in leading a massive ear: to build as quickly and efficiently as possible. Despite the odds and all the impediments that had stood in his way, the man of God had persevered and the walls were in place. Then one day, Nehemiah received a message asking him to attend a meeting with two men, Sanballat and Geshem. They wanted to meet with him in a village in the plain Ono, but Nehemiah rightly perceived their strategy as one of compromise. His answer is one we would do well to remember. In Nehemiah 6:3, he replies, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” No one would have found fault if Nehemiah would have stopped at this point of the project. After all, someone else might pick up the task. And he had certainly done a marvelous work up to that point. But Nehemiah rightly judged the danger in ceasing to complete the task that God had given him to do.
Doing more than someone else, or doing more than ever before in our own experience does not qualify the task as complete. God’s revival is an ever-growing one. We need the same depth of commitment that Nehemiah felt, because for him the work was not finished. When will our work really be finished? Perhaps it might be a good idea to remember the proposed meeting place with Sanballat and Geshem—in fact, it should become our reply when offered what might be called a good-looking compromise: let’s just say, “Oh no!”
Open and Closed Doors
The third reality concerning God’s revival is that the time for seeing it is now. It started in Acts 2 with the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, and it is God’s will that it continue throughout these end times. Peter preached it clearly: “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…” (Acts 2:16) We are not waiting for God to do anything special. To the contrary, He is probably waiting on us to do something special!
In the midst of terrible persecution, the early Church of Acts needed a full assurance that what they were doing was the will of God. There could be no room for doubt that it was the time and place for revival. These were men who hazarded their lives for the gospel and there was too much to lose if they were wrong. In Acts 4, Peter and John were apprehended by the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem and severely threatened. They were commanded to never preach or teach again in the name of Jesus. They answered strongly that they were compelled to continue witnessing about what they had personally experienced. They then called for the church to come together and pray with them. They prayed for boldness and courage. Why? They knew that they were called, and they had the strong conviction that this was the time for an apostolic move of the Holy Ghost in them and through them!
During the prayer meeting, the house where they were assembled shook with God’s powerful witness that they were fully in His will. Then, again in chapter 5 they are arrested and brought before the authorities for the crime of preaching the truth. The answer in verse 29 is a well-known one, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” How true and how powerful this statement is! In the face of doubt, threats and open persecution, this should be our response: the time is now for what we must do! It started in Acts 2 and is continuing today if we will but enter into it with the same kind of dedication and spiritual resolve that the apostles had.
Much has been written concerning the messages to the “angels of the seven churches” of Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Some see them as simple letters to different parts of the early Church, others as the “evolution” of the Church through its various stages. Whatever may be the actual intent and definite meaning of the letters, it is worth noting the last two of these “letters.” The messages to the church of Philadelphia and to the church of Laodicea have something in common. They also are the last two to be addressed before what many theologians believe to be the timing of the Rapture of the Church. The commonality in these two passages in Revelation 3 is a door.
The two churches are described differently, with different spirits completely. Philadelphia is shown to be a faithful group that has kept the word of the Lord’s patience through times of difficulty. A promise is given to those who will be overcomers and eventually known as pillars in the temple of God. When trials were so hard in the church there, the saints kept a little strength and never denied the name (or the will) of the Lord. In verses 7-8, however, we read of the secret to this enduring faithfulness. The Lord had set before them an open door, a door that no man could shut. This was a door that had been opened by God Himself, and once opened, no man had the power to close it. And it was a door that, when closed by the Lord, no man was able to reopen it. For the faithful of the church in Philadelphia, the key to their reward lay in working and living their faith by an open door experience. Their door was open, the time was right, and no man could shut the opportunities that were in front of them. They simply were obedient to the call and the time.
Later in verses 15-19, however, we read of a different spirit completely. The saints in the Laodicean church had become self-satisfied and foolish in their outlook on Christian life. They were “rich” and increased with goods to the point of considering themselves as in need of nothing. In actual fact, the Lord labeled them as “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” What a combination of attributes for a church! Then, in verse 20, we read of another door. This is a door that has been closed by men, and the Lord is unable to open it! Rather, He stands at the door and gently knocks, hoping that someone inside will open so that He can enter and truly fellowship with him. If the door is not opened from the inside, the Laodiceans will forever be left in their pitiful and carnal condition. Yet the promise of overcoming is still there for them, too. All it takes is opening this door.
Today’s Church must recognize the need for complete submission to the Lord, and also the need for response according to the times in which we live. We really are closer to the coming of the Lord than ever before. There really are more lost souls than ever before. And a self-centered and inward assessment that declares that we have somehow reached the height of holiness and now are in need of nothing will only preclude the promised revival. The time for revival is indeed right now!
The last reality of revival to consider in this chapter is that it is based simply on producing healthy saints in every local church. While the mathematics may not be exact, the logic is still valid: in the story of the sower and the seed, at least one-fourth of the seed made its way to good soil. The mechanics of this principle are very pure and promising. Good seed planted on good soil will begin to grow. Proper care and follow-up will ensure a good harvest. Therefore, anything that would impede the above needs to be corrected (or even eliminated) from our programs in the Church. The goal simply needs to be bringing saints to the place of being knowledgeable concerning the seed and the soil. It’s not even much a matter of skill at this point, but one of teaching and then experience. How does one recognize good ground? What kind of seed should be sown? What is the right timing in certain portions of the harvest field? Beyond that, God takes over in many ways.
Referring once more to Mark 4, we read in verses 28-29, “For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” We do not always have to know how it happens, but we certainly need to be assured that it will happen!
We started this chapter by stating that a healthy church will grow. In later chapters describing the six principles of revival, we will look very closely at how to produce healthy members in healthy congregations. The reality of today’s harvest potential must get inside of all of us, and must also flow out from us to saturate others. The role of leadership in today’s Church is to ensure the spiritual health of the membership and to equip the saints with the tools necessary for being the witnesses that the Lord has called them to be. The time is right, the power is available, the direction is clear, and the burden is strong. Let’s put our hands to the plow and see a harvest like never before!
The above article, “The Realities of Revival,” is written by Theodore D. Grosbach. The article was excerpted from the second chapter of Grosbach’s book Principles of Revival.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.