V. History Will Be Repeated
We are told that history will be repeated. "I was instructed that fanaticism similar to that which we were called to meet after the passing of the time in 1844 would come in among us again in the closing days of the message."—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 221.
The Foundation for Fanaticism
This counsel must serve as a caution and a warning that we should have nothing to do with excitement and sensationalism. The popular mind that has been living on the superficiality of the modern world of press, radio, and television, of stage and screen, has been prepared for mass hysteria, which can be triggered into almost any extreme at a moment's emergency. This same spirit has been filtering into the church. Many who know this message only from what they have heard from the pulpit and in discussion here or there, but who have no root in themselves through a personal experience with God and the study of His Word, are candidates for fanatical extremes of various grades.
These "sermon tasters" go to church services to be entertained, and they are disappointed when something new or novel is not presented. Those who seek the novel, the sensational, and are not satisfied with a simple study from the Word of God are potential victims of emotional stirrings, which in a time of emergency could be whipped up by Satan into a tidal wave of fanaticism that could rock the very foundations of the church. The Lord warns those with a tendency toward the sensational not to play into the hands of such an element in the church: "Be careful and do not go into or try to create human excitement"— Ibid., book 2, p. 57.
"There is an intense desire on the part of many to startle the world with something original, that shall lift the people into a state of spiritual ecstasy, and change the present order of experience."—Ibid., p. 23. Paul admonishes, "From such turn away." He also wrote, "The time is coming when men will not tolerate wholesome teaching. They will want something to tickle their own fancies, and they will collect teachers who will pander to their own desires. They will no longer listen to the truth, but will wander off after man-made fictions" (2 Tim. 4:3, 4, Phillips).*
Beware of Cold Formalism
As was true of the early reformers, we will not only have to resist the fierce fires of fanaticism on the right but also the icy waters of cold formality on the left. If Satan "sees that the Lord is blessing His people, and preparing them to discern his delusions, he will work with his masterly power to bring in fanaticism on one hand and cold formalism on the other, that he may gather in a harvest of souls."—Christian Service, p. 40.
Therefore, though we should not go into or try to create human excitement, on the other hand, "we should not be among those who will raise inquiries and cherish doubts in reference to the work of the Spirit of God; for there will be those who will question and criticize when the Spirit of God takes possession of men and women, because their own hearts are not moved, but are cold and unimpressible."—Selected Messages, book 2, p. 57.
Through a false concept of the work of the Holy Spirit, through a conservatism, a lack of understanding and appreciation of the need of revival, through a false understanding of fanaticism, many will go to the other extreme and will be confirmed in resistance to the genuine work of the Holy Spirit. Many in this extreme will be deceived into believing their conservatism is the real experience. "Formality, worldly wisdom, worldly caution, worldly policy, will appear to many to be the very power of God, but when accepted, it stands as an obstacle to prevent God's light in warnings, reproof, and counsel from coming to the world."—Ibid., p. 19.
Paul gave caution on this danger: "Be careful that nobody spoils your faith through intellectualism." "Just as you received Christ, so go on living in him—in simple faith" (Col. 2:7, 6, Phillips).* Sister White adds, "We are in continual danger of getting above the simplicity of the gospel."—Ibid., p. 23.
The Lord further tells us that those in the church who are content with a theory of the truth but who lack the daily operation of the Spirit of God upon the heart will cry, "Beware of fanaticism," while the Holy Spirit is actually moving among God's people in a real revival experience. Notice this divine observation: "When souls long after Christ, and seek to become one with Him, then those who are content with the form of godliness, exclaim 'Be careful, do not go to extremes.' "—Ibid., p. 57.
A Safeguard Against Extremes
Perils surround us on every side, but we need not become desperate or confused if we cling with the hand of faith to our Mighty Deliverer and follow His leadings through the study of His Word. We have this assurance:
Let not anyone be afraid of going to extremes while he is a close student of the Word, humbling the soul at every step. Christ must dwell in him by faith. He, their Exemplar, was self-possessed. He walked in humility. He had true dignity. He had patience. If we individually possess these traits of character, who accept justification by faith, there will be no extremists.—Ibid., p. 22.
VI. Aftereffects of the Revival
A factor that has caused many to take unwarranted cautions regarding revivals is a misunderstanding regarding the results of some awakenings. Many have taken the erroneous position that because the effects of a revival do not last, this demonstrates that the movement was mere excitement and therefore spurious. Some time ago a report was given of a revival that had occurred in one of our large centers. The person reporting said, "I have been told it was a false revival. There was a real stir in the church; families were united, old feuds were settled, confessions were made, people corrected wrongs, and gave up their bad habits, but it was only temporary."
How the Blessing Is Lost
Because the results of a revival did not last, does that prove it was false? Absolutely not. Notice:
There have been things written to me in regard to the movings of the Spirit of God . . . at the college, which clearly indicate that because these blessings were not lived up to, minds have been confused, and that which was light from heaven has been called excitement... We must be very careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in pronouncing the ministration of His Holy Spirit a species of fanaticism. . . .
That God did abundantly bless the students in the school and the church, I have not one doubt; but a period of great light and the outpouring of the Spirit is quite generally followed by a time of great darkness. Why? Because the enemy works with all his deceiving energies to make of none effect the deep movings of the Spirit of God on the human subject.
When the students at the school went into their match games and football playing, when they became absorbed in the amusement question, Satan saw it a good time to step in and make of none effect the Holy Spirit of God in molding and using the human subject. . .
It is an easy matter to idle away, talk and play away, the Holy Spirit's influence.—/bid., book 1, pp. 130, 131.
How the Blessing Is Retained
God does not intend that the revival experience should not last. His desire is that a revival should lead to genuine reformation, a reorganization of the mind, the home, the church, the institution, through a change in ideas and theories, of habits and practices. His plan is that we follow on to know the Lord.
It is not enough to be moved upon by the Spirit of God. We must repent of our sins and set about to reform our practices. The struggle for mastery over self, for purity of heart and holiness of soul, is a lifelong struggle. Self-denial is to be experienced at every advance step heavenward. To follow God we must deny the natural tendencies. Paul said, "I die daily," and so will we if we do God's will.
The promise is, "If we follow on to know the Lord: . . . he shall come unto us as the rain." There must be steady and consistent growth if we are to be ready for the finishing touches of sanctification that will fortify us for the time of trouble. Unless we are growing daily in the exemplification of the Christian graces, we shall repudiate our former experience and shall identify the genuine work of the Holy Spirit as a species of fanaticism. If we do not know God through revival, through obedience and service, we shall not recognize the power of God when He moves among us, and we shall brace ourselves to resist it.
VII. A Revival Is Coming!
Regardless of how we relate ourselves to it, a revival is coming.
In visions of the night, representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God's people. . . . Hundreds and thousands were seen visiting families, and opening before them the word of God. Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 126.
In that great revival "men will be moved by the Spirit to leave their ordinary employment, and enter the fields in which the warning message has never been proclaimed. Many will be endued with power from on high."—ELLEN G. WHITE in Review and Herald, Oct. 13, 1960.
But the entire church will not be revived. "Are we hoping to see the whole church revived? That time will never come."—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 122. During revival the unstable will go to the right and the formalist to the left. Those who have been following "on to know the Lord" will go triumphantly through the time of trouble into the kingdom.
VIII. The Need of Continual Revival
Every church service should have the spirit of revival. There are times for special revival efforts such as the Week of Prayer, revival meetings, and evangelistic series. These special efforts will cause many lost in sin, indifferent to the claims of Christ and the promises of God, to turn to the Saviour for a new life. These special meetings, as well as other church services, will also help the maturing Christian to have opened before him new vistas of spiritual challenge and Christian service. These times of special spiritual emphasis have their place, but they can never be a substitute for the additional work that each person must have done upon his heart through a daily devotional experience with God.
Our secret personal devotion should be a daily revival experience. I must take time to be alone with God. Daily I must hear His voice showing me the unconquered territories in the land of my heart. Every day I must pray fervently as I open the Word of God: "Lord, show me myself and show me my Saviour and make the Book live to me." Only as we have a growing awareness of our great need will we reach out for divine power. It is only he who knows his need that Christ can help.
IX. Revival for the Church Will Come Through Individual Effort
The Lord says, "We must enter upon the work individually. We must pray more, and talk less."—Ibid. "The change we need is a change of heart, and can only be obtained by seeking God individually for His blessing, by pleading with Him for His power, by fervently praying that His grace may come upon us, and that our characters may be transformed. This is the change we need today, and for the attainment of this experience we should exercise persevering energy and manifest heartfelt earnestness."Ibid., book 2, p. 23.
X. It Is Time to Seek the Lord
In this time of peace for the church we are preparing to settle our destiny in the crisis. Now is the time for us to be seeking with all our God-given energies to know the Lord, that we may be kept from every extreme. The time is here for sincere people to gather in little groups spontaneously and pray for the blessing of God upon them and upon the church. The hour has struck for us to spend more time in searching the Scriptures and talking about the matchless love of Jesus, that our thoughts may be lifted above the vain and trivial.
A law of the mind declares that the mind takes the level of that upon which it dwells. Our thoughts are altogether too much of earth and too little of heaven. Paul pleads, "Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth. . . . Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:1, 2).
We must turn away from a thousand things that invite our attention that we may put first things first. "It is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you" (Hosea 10:12).
* From The New Testament in Modern English, @ by J. B. Phillips 1958. Used by permission of The Macmillan Company.