Theology

Putting an End to Revival for Pentecost’s Sake

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I have experienced revival for years now, but the Spirit is slowly bringing that to an end.

Although I hoped to avoid it, and for a season struggled to name it, revival was happening just the same. The intensity and fervency has varied in degree, but over and over again, I have allowed a quickening of the fleshy residue that lingers in the corners of my heart.

Without consciously realizing to it, I have kindled a revival of the old self.

Although this old self is, objectively speaking, no longer alive (because I was crucified with Christ), the old self always wants to make a comeback. There is a tug toward a renaissance of the ego.

The Old Self Rolls Into Town

Like any good revival, just about the time when boredom or discontent is setting in, the old self rolls into town and makes enthusiastic promises about the return of better days. Remember when you had more influence – when you were better liked? Maybe we can bring back that guy? You don’t want to miss the opportunity for approval, right?

I am a new man, but one with bad habits – a new man who hasn’t yet unlearned the tendencies of living without hope and without God in the world. Old self tendencies are revived almost every time religious euphoria is at a low – almost every time the journey grows difficult and pressure increases.

The good news is that the Spirit is bringing an end to the revival of the old self.

The good news is that the Spirit is bringing an end to the revival of the old self. Click To Tweet

This is happening neither by accident nor by straining out all the good holy feels. It happens as I yield my heart to the Spirit’s formation of a completely new life in Christ. The yielding takes place in the desiring core of my being that drives my decisions, where the old self likes to hide out, over and over again – one foot in front of the other.

Turning Toward What is to Come

An end to revival involves turning away from what was toward what is to come. Or as Paul says, it looks like putting off who I was and putting on who I will be. It looks like learning to treat the old self as it actually is: dead and buried – no longer functional. And lest I forget, it happens over and over again – one foot in front of the other.

The Spirit certainly works disruptively and often unexpectedly, crashing into my agenda without permission. But bringing and end to revival and walking in newness of life is most always a deliberative, rather than ecstatic, process. It is more of a slow suffocation of the old self than it is a drummed-up fervency for an experience that supersedes my actual life.

After all, Pentecost was not and is not a revival.

If revival is all about the resuscitation of an experience or an epoch that existed in the past that unfortunately faded, then that’s not Pentecost. Pentecost was not a heavenly boost of spiritual enthusiasm needed to propel God’s mission through dry times. It was not a shot of divine adrenaline for a movement grown lethargic.

Pentecost was not and is not a revival. Click To Tweet

A Shift in Time

Pentecost is not concerned with the restoration a golden age. Oh, if only the good days would return again! If only God would restore our fortunes! There was a time when God’s people prayed for and celebrated a return to how things were, but Pentecost is simply not angled toward what was.

Rather, Pentecost is decisively angled toward the world to come – the world of God’s reconciliation of all things in Christ. When the Spirit was poured out, that marked the radical breaking-in of God’s New Age, his new creation in Christ, into the present.

Pentecost was and is a shift in time.

When the world as-it-was ripped open in Christ, and God poured out his Spirit, time itself shifted. The effect is that every ordinary moment is transformed into a kairos.

That means we are no longer stuck in a frame where the best thing that could happen is a semi-annual stirring pushes us over the hump till the next stirring. We are now anticipatory participants in the unfurling of Jesus’ fullness, always inviting the Spirit to more fully appropriate that fullness among us.

The Invitation of Pentecost

If Pentecost was and is a shift in time, then our invitation for the Spirit to come among us is not a plea for the Spirit to show up out of the blue and bring back those times when we all felt closer to Jesus. We’re also are not asking the Spirit to come and rejuvenate us, as if the batteries in our soul are running low and we desperately need a pick-me-up.

We are inviting the Spirit to work in us the newness of God’s life in Christ only possible if, in fact, time has been transformed by the interruption of the world to come.

Thus our invitation is both a recognition of and surrender to the reality that God’s kingdom in Christ is already breaking into the present. We ask the Spirit to come so that the Spirit might progressively form us into those who can see and receive newness in Christ, keeping in mind that our invitation is also an agreement to have our lives surprisingly disrupted at a pace we do not control.

In a sense, there is no post-Pentecost time because all of our living is now primed with Spirit-tual possibility. Any moment can be the very time in which the Spirit makes real a foretaste of the world to come in Christ – any event a site of reconciliation and new life.

Lord, send your Spirit to put an end to the revival of our old self in order to make us participants in the world to come in Christ, even now, minute by minute, right where we are.

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