We are easily distracted by the things that matter less, and preoccupied with the things that matter least. This is exactly the case—too often, at least—when it comes to talk of revival and when it comes to our desire to see the Spirit’s work in our lives and in the church. J.I. Packer makes the case that it is the Spirit’s regular ministry, and not his extraordinary or miraculous ministry, that should preoccupy us. Give this a read and consider it:
The instilling of the knowledge of [God’s love] is described as part of the regular ministry of the Spirit to those who receive him—to all, that is, who are born again, who are true believers. One could wish that this aspect of his ministry was prized more highly than it is at the present time. With a perversity as pathetic as it is impoverishing, we have become preoccupied today with the extraordinary, sporadic, non-universal ministries of the Spirit to the neglect of the ordinary, general ones. Thus, we show a great deal more interest in the gifts of healing and tongues—gifts of which, as Paul pointed out, not all Christians are meant to partake anyway (1 Cor. 12:28-30)—than in the Spirit’s ordinary work of giving peace, joy, hope, and love, through the shedding abroad in our hearts of knowledge of the love of God. Yet the latter is much more important than the former. To the Corinthians, who had taken it for granted that the more tongues the merrier, and the godlier too, Paul had to insist that without love—sanctification, Christlikeness—tongues were worth precisely nothing (1 Cor. 13:1ff.).
He would undoubtedly see reason to issue a similar caveat today. It will be tragic if the concern for revival that is stirring at the present time in many places gets diverted into the cul-de-sac of a new Corinthianism. The best thing that Paul could desire for the Ephesians in connection with the Spirit was that he might continue towards them the Romans 5:5 ministry with ever-increasing power, leading them deeper and deeper into knowledge of the love of God in Christ. …
Revival means the work of God restoring to a moribund church, in a manner out of the ordinary, those standards of Christian life and experience which the New Testament sets forth as being entirely ordinary; and a right-minded concern for revival will express itself, not in a hankering after tongues (ultimately it is of no importance whether we speak in tongues or not), but rather in a longing that the Spirit may shed God’s love abroad in our hearts with greater power. For it is with this (to which deep exercise of soul about sin is often preliminary) that personal revival begins, and by this that revival in the church, once begun, is sustained.
The challenge here is to delight in those ordinary gifts, and not to shun them in the hope or expectation of something I deem better.
If you are reading Knowing God with me as part of Reading Classics Together, please read chapters 13 and 14 for next Thursday. If you are not yet doing so, why don’t you join us? We aren’t that far into the book yet, so you will not have a difficult time catching up.
The purpose of Reading Classics Together is to read these books together. This time around the bulk of the discussion is happening in a dedicated Facebook group. You can find it right here. A thousand people are already interacting there and would be glad to have you join in or just read along.