Is God a “Revival Genie?” : Rub with Prayer, Get Revival?

If prevalent teachings about revival are to be believed, our God is more like a reluctant genie in Arabian Nights than a gracious heavenly Father.

Sinbad only had to utter a magic phrase to open Ali Baba’s cave.  If you believe common revival teachings, we have to do the evangelical equivalent of climbing up the Scala Santa[1] on our knees to convince God how serious we are about His interests in the earth. Apaprently, there will be a great future day, when He releases His goodnes that He is disinclined to release today, because we do not yet qualify for it. For the believer, Sinbad’s “open simsim”[2] has become, “You must position yourself for the next move of God.”

This positioning can involve any number of things reflecting the passion of the particular teacher or preacher. Supposedly, we are never quite good enough, never quite holy enough, never quite united enough, never quite prepared enough, not sincere enough, not praying enough, not repentant enough, not generationally integrated enough, not open to the spirit-realm enough and on and on, to qualify for what God wants to do. Allegedly, if we don’t do this or that thing today, we will be excluded from what God is going to do tomorrow.[3]

How have we come to such a place?

When He found us, we were positioned in rebellion, we weren’t worthy, and He filled us with His treasure freely. But now, He’s supposedly going to be impressed with our sincerity in seeking Him and His ways, and for that, He will reward us by letting us in on His future activities? Has His wonderful grace regressed now that we are His own? It seems that way for many.

Let’s take a look at praise and worship as an example of something that many believe must be “restored” in order for God to usher in His great last day revival. There are many other “if only” contingencies that folks believe in. This will serve as an example.

Worship in Spirit and Truth – John 4:24 (For a more detailed presentation, click here.)

The idea that we have to be positioned in a special state, on a special day, at a special time, to receive a special blessing is reinforced every week in the theology and practices of many of our worship services.

Many have been taught for 40-60 years that we must do certain things in praise and worship to create an atmosphere for God “to come down and dwell among us,” so that the Spirit can “move.” The song service is believed to be divinely prescribed as the time to let praise ascend, so God can descend, and meet with His people in a manifest way.[4]

The implication of this teaching is that there are special times and conditions that more or less cause God to do special things He would otherwise not do. We enable God by our singing. Apparently, He is stuck in heaven until we sing. This belief system needs a thorough overhaul and a New Covenant update.[5]

Typology based on Moses’ and David’s Tabernacle taught that the spiritual worship of John 4:24 which is “accepted” by the Lord, consists of certain outward forms and dynamics according to the “present truth” of the restoration of the tabernacle of David.[6] The “spirit” is defined by external Psalmic expressions: raising of hands, clapping, banners, dance, song of the Lord, free praise, etc. This is contrasted with the supposedly “dead” liturgy and man-made traditions of non-charismatic, traditional churches.[7]  Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Psalmic expressions, other than attributing significance, superiority, and merit to them! Our worship expression in liberty is in response to what God has already done, not to condition God to do something in the future. We sing because of joy and thankfulness, not to “release God out of heaven.”

Let’s look at John 4:20-24 – contextually.

Our forefathers worshiped in this mountain (Mt. Gerazim in Samaria) and you say, that Jerusalem is the place where it is necessary to worship. Jesus says to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming, when you (plural: you all) shall neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You (pl) worship that which you (pl) do not know: we know that which we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

In John 4:20-24 Jesus is talking to a Gentile woman[8] whose life is out of kingdom alignment (to put it mildly). He starts to press her on issues of personal behavior, and she immediately tries to change the subject to issues of how to worship in an accepted way.  Jesus’ response to her evasion includes the phrase: worship in spirit and truth.

However, He was also talking past her. He used the plural pronoun: you. He is speaking about a perspective regarding worship focused on externalities held by Samaritans (and Jews), which would soon be made obsolete. Both understandings of worship, Samaritan and Jewish, consisted of special places, times, and activities separate from the normal sphere of life. Both mountains, Jerusalem (Zion/Moriah) and Gerazim, were characterized by externality: they were special high places where at special times, people could come and observe a special class of people (priests), perform special ritual acts on their behalf.

Typical charismatic interpretation of this passage, applying spirit and truth to the externalities of Davidic form and expression, misses Jesus’ point entirely. It unfortunately reinforces, the worldview and mentality that He was trying to undo, that worship consists of:

  • Special times: corporate meetings, Sunday AM, prayer meetings, etc.
  • Special places: the worship service, the Church building, the prayer closet, etc.
  • Special ritual expressions: Davidic form and expression.
  • Special people: worship teams, worship leaders, 24-7 Davidic worshipers, etc.

All these things deal with externalities! Jesus said the day would come when true worship would not be defined by externalities. That day arrived 2,000 years ago. Pentecost made worship focused on externalities, obsolete. Why have we regressed into Old Covenant mentalities under the guise of restored Davidic truth?

The New Covenant is not characterized or defined by:

  • Special times
    • Since Pentecost, every day is the present day of the Lord.[9] Every day is full with divine opportunity[10] for worship and kingdom expression. God is the present God,[11] not the “I will be some day, under some conditions” God.  Some prefer one day to another, let no one judge us in these matters.[12]
  • Special places
    • We are the temple of God. His presence abides in us.[13] His presence fills the  earth, in and through the hearts of His people. There is no place He is not.[14]
  • Special ritual expressions
    • Our lives are our worship,[15] not our ritual expressions or Davidic form.
  • Special people
    • We don’t need a professional class of any sort.[16] We ARE the NT holy of holies, and we all have access to the heavenlies by the blood of Jesus,[17] not by praise and worship. There are no presence brokers[18] in the New Covenant. We enter His courts, with thanksgiving and praise, not by thanksgiving and praise. We enter by the blood of Jesus, nothing else.

Conclusion

I once asked two very gifted senior leaders whom I respect (each with over forty years of ministry experience) about the “revival” and open heaven they experienced during the height of the Charismatic renewal.   Naïvely, I wanted to know the secret to their “success”: “What did you do to cause such wonderful things to happen?” I was Sinbad. I was standing in front of Ali Baba’s cave hoping that their knowledge of the secret word could be passed to me so I could access heaven’s treasures. In modern parlance I wanted to know, “What did you do to position yourself for the great revival you experienced?” “Tell me your secret of success.” I was looking for the magic revival button so I could push it and be “successful” too.

To their great credit, and to God’s eternal glory they both said: “We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t know why God was doing what He was doing. We were just glad to be along for the ride.”[19] My, how different in spirit that is from the modern merchants of guilt who would have us believe that our participation in God’s good future depends on ourselves and our spiritual acumen. There is no magic revival button.

Our Father causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. If He should move in some exceptional way in the future, He will draw the rebel as well as the son. He has to, because He is constitutionally and consistently good to the undeserving . . . all the time. If my participation in God’s future goodness depended on my being “properly positioned,” I would have no hope, and neither would you.


[1] The Holy Stairs in Rome that tradition says Jesus walked upon into the praetorium of Pilate. Helena allegedly brought them to Rome in the 4th century. The climbing of these stairs on one’s knees (kissing them as you go along) was said to grant 9 years plenary indulgence for every step.  Luther is said to have climbed half way up before giving up and walking back down in disgust.

[2] Open sesame (Anglicized Arabic).

[3] Please refer to our article, If Only, at www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/if-only-why-revival-never-comes/

[4] The belief system has permeated even non-charismatic Evangelical assemblies. Jesus taught that obedience, not singing, was the key to His manifest presence – John 14:21.

[5] There are only six references in the New Testament that refer to the presence of the Lord and none of them have anything to do with praise and worship. This brief article is not the place for the overhaul. Those interested can refer to our series A Better Way to Worship.

[6] Amos 9:11 – the context of which, and the apostolic application of which (Acts 15:16) has nothing to do with praise and worship.

[7] Traditional=dead, missing God. Spiritual superiority and elitism abound in this belief system.

[8] Talking to this woman in public was shocking and morally offensive behavior in their culture.

[9] Hebrews 3:7,15, 4:7

[10] Lamentations 3:23

[11] Exodus 3:14

[12] Colossians 2:16

[13] 1 Corinthians 3:16, John 14:17

[14] Psalm 139:7-10.

[15] Romans 12:1-2

[16] 1 Peter 2:9

[17] Hebrews 4:16; 9:11-28

[18] Specialists who “take us into His presence” with worship.

[19] Interestingly, neither of them could replicate the same dynamics or “success” in venues subsequent to that out pouring. You cannot accomplish with charisma and administration, what only God can provide by the release of His resurrection life.

_______________________________

Copyright 2013,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial  use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephrcrosby@gmail.com.

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12 comments on “Is God a “Revival Genie?” : Rub with Prayer, Get Revival?

  1. Steve, thanks for sharing this timely word.
    Yesterday I saw a post on FB by a well known minister who is advertising for a Big Tent Revival coming up with a bunch of well known “power” ministers. We are expecting a mighty release of God’s power and miracles and “fire”. Apparently the same weekend this will be happening there are other “scheduled” revival meetings happening around the country and they will be praying for one another and expecting a great outpouring. Honestly, I hope we do get a great outpouring.
    But in light of what you wrote here and the other articles you wrote on revival that are pointed and needed for balance I see 3 types of participants in this “manufactured revival” (oh, the pressure on the worship leaders).
    Three types are :
    those positioned to be the greatest beneficiaries of this “fire of God”,
    those who are involved (these be the few) who are just hungry for God and want to be a part of whatever He might be doing but just don’t know better as you have detailed above,
    and the third type which most will fit into are those desperate for a touch, more positioned toward the consumer side of the equation. The ones who will want to replicate, what the first type are doing, in their homes, churches, communities. So they are the ones (and I know them well 🙂 who buy all the materials looking for that secret formula, etc…
    I am glad there are people hungering for God, hungering for His power to be manifested in their lives and those around them but it is the mixture that is troubling. It is the forgoing of the fullness that Christ shed His precious blood for and the Apostles laid their lives down for as well – that is what seems to be lost in all this. (as you stated above).

    • Well said, Seth. If, as the scriptures say, God has given us everything that is necessary for life and godliness, the question becomes, why don’t we get on with what we have been given, rather than begging God to do more? What if revival was a simple as lots of people actually living like Christians?

  2. Steve as a professional student of revival for 25+ years (I have read every book looking for the formula) I am so thankful for a written account of where I ended up in my study. I agree 100% and pray for the Lord to deal with our pride that fuels this demon.
    Also Wall Street Marketing tactics are what people want. They want to know who are the great speakers who will be there to call Jesus down on our behalf.
    WEare more educated but still in the Dark Ages……..

  3. Thanks Stephen. Some time ago I read that anticipation is one of the strongest triggers of dopamine in the brain, which may explain why we find it more exhilarating to look forward to revival than to simply live as though we are already revived.

  4. Steve, amen. I wholly want real miracles — with X-rays and unassailable proofs instead of unsubstantiated testimonies, real signs and wonders and the real glory of God. Yet there is so much striving after the flesh in this regard, and many of us, often out of ignorance and including me, have striven until we realized it left us empty. But we learned if we were willing to learn. And in further support of what you said, there is only one high priest, by whose blood we enter the presence through the veil, which is his flesh. “It is finished.” The high priest is also our brother, our true brother, which is staggering when you think about it. Our brother Jesus said to our sister Mary Magdalene, just after the resurrection, “Go tell my BROTHERS – I ascend to MY Father and YOUR Father, to MY God and YOUR God.” No longer just “friends” (who know what their master is doing), but actually brothers. Most of the book of Hebrews discusses Jesus as our great high priest (and brother) who saves to the uttermost those who come to Him. Maybe it’s time we believe, set aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets us, and run with endurance the race set before us, looking unto Jesus….. Isn’t it that simple? Costly in terms of this world, but simple? Isn’t looking unto Jesus to really see the glory of God? Regards. Fob

  5. Stephen,

    Love it – thanks for your article – and thanks for the comments by others (and your added comments). thank God that we are cutting through all the marketing, theatrics, works, and religion.

    In Christ, through His blood, we have full and free access to the Lord. Yes, we are the temple. His is with us ALWAYS!

    I find myself returning to 1 John 4:19 – we love because He first loved us. God is the initiator, we are the responders. It is not about us making it happen by our rituals or works.

    Also Rom 12:1-2; our surrender and response to Him is a Worship to Him (reasonable sacrifice really meaning “spiritual worship”) – His moving in us (vs 2) is not by our initiation, but by His love and providence.

    This reminded me of my reading the other day about the love slave in Ex 21:2-6. All that we have and all that we are is because of His love, His grace, His kindness, and not by what works, theatrics, or religious practices we do.

    Jay

  6. Thank you so much for caring about the Pentecostal world. That world is like a wild donkey which doesnot want to be tamed. Your blogs bring the balance and sanity back to the mixed up world of Pentecostalism. If we would just spend more time with the poor, lost, hungry and widows. We would be revived for more than one lifetime.
    Blessings,
    Mick

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