“It would be odd to look to revivals to address a problem if we do not acknowledge that we have failed. To ask for revival is, in fact, admitting that we are sick or dying … Just as preventive measures taken early may help a person not become sick, paying attention to discipleship and disciple-making makes revivals unnecessary.”
LISTENING TO A PODCAST by Dallas Willard, I heard him say these words:
“One of the things you learn about revival is that it is a temporary phenomenon. It does not solve the problem of spiritual growth … One reason that it does not is that it does not focus on character growth. It focuses on events … I am not against revivals. I am against calling things revivals that aren’t revivals. As the ideology of revival developed, it came to the point that we can have revival whether or not God came. We’re just going to announce that we are going to have one … put up a sign … I think that is dangerous.”
What Willard said resonates with me because I have always been interested in revivals. But it is also a rebuke because he was speaking to those who look to revivals to address the problem of waning spiritual fervour.
Revivals are sometimes called by diﬀerent names – awakenings, renewals, stirrings, etc. The idea behind it is that God steps in when the church either fails in keeping Christian zeal alive, or that she has strayed from her calling as the bride of Christ. In His grace He may very well intervene. If, however, we have properly nurtured Christians as disciples of Jesus Christ, then the need for revivals fades.
Disciples, by definition, do not need revivals; they are the ones who keep the fire burning. “You did not choose me,” Jesus said to His disciples, “but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. ” John 15:16 (ESV). Quality fruit production (those that “abide”) happens in a fertile and thriving environment.
It would be odd to look to revivals to address a problem if we do not acknowledge that we have failed. To ask for revival is, in fact, admitting that we are sick or dying. That is probably why many revivals are preceded by times of repentance and seeking of forgiveness (i.e. admission of failure), and immediately followed by times of healing and reconciliation (i.e. initial stages of recovery).
Just as preventive measures taken early may help a person not become sick, paying attention to discipleship and disciple-making makes revivals unnecessary.
The Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup is the President of Trinity Annual Conference.
God’s Word vs human tradition
WHAT DOES JESUS say about tradition?
The Pharisees referred to it as “the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3, 5). But Jesus called it “the precepts of men” (v. 7) and “the tradition of men” (v. 8).
Now this immediately cut the ground from under the Pharisees’ feet. They believed that Scripture and tradition were equally ancient, equally Mosaic, equally divine.
Christ did not share their view. On the contrary, He drew a sharp distinction between the two. On the one hand there was what “Moses said” (v. 10), and on the other what “you say” (v. 11). At first sight one might suppose that this was simply to set two Jewish teachers or schools of thought in opposition to each other, Moses and the elders. But this is not how Jesus saw the disagreement.
To Him Moses and the elders were not comparable, for the elders were fallible men with human traditions, while Moses was the spokesman of God. So what “you say” is equivalent to “your tradition” (vv. 9, 13) or “the tradition of men” (v. 8), whereas what “Moses said” is “the commandment of God” (vv. 8-9) and “the word of God” (v. 13).
To put this beyond question we may observe that the phrase “Moses said” in verse 10 is rendered in Matthew 15:4 “God said”, and this was the consistent custom of Jesus and His apostles. For them “Scripture says” and “God says” were synonymous.
Thus, we have our Lord’s own authority for distinguishing between Scripture and tradition as between God’s Word written and all human interpretations and accretions.
Put another way, we may say that the only “tradition” which Scripture recognises is Scripture. For “tradition” (Greek – paradosis) is what is handed down, and God’s purpose has been that His Word, His unique revelation given to prophets and apostles, should be transmitted from generation to generation. – John Stott, writing in Authority: Tradition or Scripture?