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CONTINUOUS REVIVAL

by Norman P. Grubb


CONTENTS


PREFACE

These few pages are an attempt to describe a revolutionary experience in my own life, and in that of many others, of the way of continuous revival. I have known no other word from God which so simply and thoroughly reaches down to where ordinary folks live, and is found by us to be the secret of victorious living. By no means is it something which God has personally revealed to me. It has been the working secret which has been bringing continuous revival to thousands in East Central Africa over a period of sixteen years. It was the fact that there was such a thing as continuous revival which first caught my interest some years ago when I heard of this constant movement of the Spirit in the area of the Ruanda Medical Mission, a field of the Church Missionary Society, for I felt that was exactly what we, in the ranks of our own Society needed both at home and abroad. Various personal contacts with Africans and missionaries from the revival area deepened my conviction that God had given them the key we needed, for I saw some of our own staff transformed and quickened into marvelous newness of life and ministry through quite short contacts with them. Finally the door of opportunity was opened to me in 1950 to pay a short visit myself to Ruanda and Uganda. I had worked in Central Africa with C. T. Studd over a period of years and so had some understanding of African ways of life. What follows is an attempt to put into words what God taught me personally through that visit and what I have found to be a blessing to many others. First, it has meant a new discovery by me and many others of what we mean by "revival." When we come down to it in simplest form, it means the re-viving of dead areas in our lives. I remember when I first heard two from Ruanda speaking very quietly and simply for two days in our London Headquarters to about ninety of our staff. At the last meeting, they very quietly opened the door for any present to say anything that was on their hearts. Very soon one and another were bringing to the light areas in their lives where they had come face to face with sin unobserved by them before and were bringing them to the cleansing blood. I got a real shock at the end when one of the two quietly said, "I don't know if you realize it friends, but this IS revival!"

The transforming truth of that statement took time to sink in and is still sinking in! It began to shake me out of the misconception of years, that revival could only come in great soul-shaking outpourings of the Spirit. Thank God for such when they do come; they have been the great and precious hurricanes of the Spirit in the history of the Church. But I saw the defeatism and almost hopelessness that so many of us had fallen into by thinking that we could do nothing about revival except pray, often rather unbelievingly, and wait until the heavens rent and God came down. But now I see that "revival" in its truest sense in an everyday affair right down within the reach of everyday folk to be experienced in our hearts, homes and churches, and in our fields of service. When it does burst forth in greater and more public ways, thank God; but meanwhile we can see to it that we are being ourselves constantly revived persons, which of course also means that others are getting revived in our own circles. By this means God can have channels of revival by the thousands in all the churches of the world! And this is just what I found in Africa, and what I am attempting to describe in these pages; not, all glory and praise to God, just the passing on of a mere theory, but what has come to me by living with and seeing continuous revival in action among communities of hundreds in Africa; by experiencing the same working of the Spirit in my own life; by examining and grasping in some measure the Scriptural basis of this continuous revival, and finally by seeing God move in revival in many others through the presentation of the message and testimony. It has been a matter of seeing, learning, experiencing and transmitting, and now endeavoring to outline in print.

The truth is that revival is really the Reviver in action, and He came two thousand years ago at Pentecost. Revival is not so much a vertical outpouring from heaven, for the Reviver is already here in His temple, the bodies of the redeemed; it is more a horizontal outmoving of the Reviver through these temples into the world. It is a horizontal, rather than a vertical movement, and the importance of this fact will be seen later.

Norman P. Grubb

THE WALK

Now to go into the matter point by point. I learned first of a wholly now emphasis on the WALK of the Christian. I learned that in our evangelical and rightful zeal to bring sinners to the crisis of the new birth, and to lead the saints on to further crises of separation, consecration, sanctification, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, or whatever might be the special emphasis of our various Christian communities, we have often made too much of the crises and to little of the WALK. But the Scriptures leave us in no doubt of their emphasis. In almost every Epistle the Holy Spirit leads us on through the crises, the way into Christ, to the WALK with Him. Thus in Romans we are taught the way of justification and sanctification from Chapter 1 through 7, then in 8 it says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who WALK not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." In Galatians there is the battle of justification by faith as against works, and the Paul says, "This I say then, WALK in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh." And later, "If we live (have come alive) in the Spirit, let us also WALK in the Spirit." In Ephesians he introduces us into our glorious union with the ascended Christ, and then says, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye WALK worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called;" and later, "WALK not as other Gentiles walk," "WALK in love ... WALK as children of light ...WALK circumspectly." [10] In Colossians he says, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so WALK in Him," In Thessalonians he rejoices in the saving power of the gospel in the lives of the young converts, and then says, "As ye have received of us how you ought to WALK and to please God, so ye would abound more and more." Finally, to mention only one more, John in his epistle takes us to the very heights when he says we are to "WALK as He walked," for "as He is, so are we in the world;" indeed John does not even discuss how to be born again or how to abide in Christ, but, taking these for granted, now talks about the walk and life which is the outcome. (See also 2_John and 3_John).

Now to walk is a step-by-step activity. Given the main destination, all that matters is the next step. Christian living is concerned, therefore, just with the implications of the present moment, not with past or future. But we tend to live in the past and thus to avoid the keen edge of the challenge of the immediate moment. Thus, as things arise in our hearts and lives which are not consistent with our Christian testimony, we say, or imply, "Well, I know these things are not right, but anyhow I have been born again, I have been cleansed in His blood, I have received eternal life, Christ lives in me." Thus I circle around the raw facts of my immediate condition by leaning back on my past crises. We make too much of the past crises, but too little of the present walk. Thank God we are born again, and have received other impartations of grace, but now let us forget those, as it were; let us remember that all we are asked to do is to "WALK WITH JESUS," and that means simple concentration on things as they are with me just this moment, then the next, then the next, and so on.

There is something else also that much affects our Christian experience when we get confused between looking back to crises and just living moment by moment. One of Satan's favorite weapons is false condemnation. He loves to make us look back at our past failures, or into the future at our probably equal failures (so he says), and then puts us into a tail-spin of despair or depression. "Look at your pride, coldness, sensuality, worldliness, fruitlessness. You say you were born again or sanctified. Look at yourself! And if you have been that in the past, believe me, you will be exactly the same in the future!" In other words, Satan likes to talk in long-term generalities, based indeed on an element of truth, but built up into a huge lie; for God does not look on His children in a general sense as proud, cold, fruitless, and so on. He sees them in Christ, being conformed to the image of His Son. The difference between Satan's condemnations and God's convictions is that where Satan uses generalities pointing back to the past or forward to the future, God sees past and future in Christ and just deals with the present, and deals specifically. We WALK moment by moment, step by step with Him, the past under the blood, the future in His keeping. We are in Jesus and He in us. Now then, if our walk it this moment is beclouded with the rising up of some motion of sin in us, then God just points to that. "There," He says, "look at that, just that. Just get that right under the blood and then walk again with Me" So simple, so free from these condemnations from the past (or excuses through leaning back on the past crises), and from those fears for the future.

So now we have the first point in continuous revival. We "walk with Jesus." We are concerned only with the step by step life. We live in the present; "Today, today, today," as it says five times in Hebrews 3. We do not excuse the present by leaning back on past spiritual crises, nor do we get under false condemnation or fear through looking back at the past or forward into the future.

BROKENNESS

The next point is BROKENNESS. A picturesque word, a key word, indeed THE key word, in continuous revival. It is not a word that comes a great deal in Scripture, though more than we think, if we examine a concordance; but it comes enough to show that it is a picturesque, as well as true, way of describing the sinner's only and constant relationship to his Savior. We first learn that salvation is only possible for lost men through a BROKEN Savior: "This is my body which is BROKEN for you;" "Reproach hath BROKEN my heart." In Gethsemane He had a broken will, and on Calvary a broken fellowship even with His Father; for the One who is our Substitute and who was made sin for us had to take upon Himself the proud, unbroken ego of fallen man, and had to be broken at Calvary in his place. But man also has to be "broken." He sees his sinful condition before God, as he realizes the coming judgment and wrath, and as he is pointed to the slain Lamb, he has to "break" at the foot of the Cross. The proud, self-justifying, self-reliant, self-seeking self has to come just as a lost, undone sinner, whose only hope is a justifying Savior. David said it, when at the supreme moment of his own total brokenness, in Psalm 51, the Spirit caused him to comment, "The sacrifices of God are a BROKEN spirit, a BROKEN and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

Here we come to a crucial point concerning the way of brokenness, as indeed concerning all relationships of the Christian life. It is the most crucial point in this whole way of continuous revival; the point, as we shall see later, that has to be re-learned by twentieth-century Christians surrounded by all their respectability. It is this. All Christian relationships are two-way, not one-way. They are horizontal as well as vertical. That is to say, we are a two-way people. We are not just isolated units living in a vertical relationship with an isolated God; we are members of a human family also with whom we live in horizontal relationships, and our obligations are two-way all the time. We cannot, for instance, say that we have become righteous before God through faith in Christ, yet continue unrighteous among men. The Bible says that would be living a lie. Equally we cannot say we love God and hate our brother, for the Bible says, "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" This comes out particularly in John's first epistle, where the two-way fellowship is mentioned in the first chapter at verse three, two-way righteousness in the third chapter at verse seven, and a two-way love in the fourth chapter at verse twenty. But now this is true of the way of brokenness, that is, of repentance and faith. "The word of faith," we read in Romans 10:8-10, is a two-way, with the heart towards God and with the mouth before man. Indeed it takes it further and says that to experience in our hearts and lives the full benefit of our faith, we MUST express it both ways, for "with the heart man believes unto righteousness," that is to say, the heart-believer is accounted righteous before God; but it is "with the mouth" that "confession is made unto salvation," that is to say, we realize in our experience the joyful fact that we are saved. Confession before man does something in our hearts that heart-faith alone never does. There are many sincere believers, in churches where they are not taught to witness before men or to expect assurance of salvation, who truly trust in the mercies of God through Christ, yet do not even know for sure in their hearts that they are saved, and have none of the joy of the Lord, because there is no mouth confession. But when we do the much more costly thing of telling men that Christ has become our Savior, something happens in our own hearts. We are saved and know we are saved! Any soul-winner also knows that if a seeker were to say, "Yes, I'll accept Christ in secret, but don't let anybody know," we would say to him, "Brother, that's not a genuine faith or brokenness. If you really mean business and are really committed as a lost sinner to the mercies of your Savior, the proof is that you are committed before men as well as God. If you don't confess before men, we may well doubt the genuineness of your faith and the reality of your salvation."

So saving faith, the attitude of brokenness, is a two-way activity, towards God and man, as are righteousness and love and indeed all the relationships of Christian living. Indeed, we can put it this way. We can liken a man to a house. It has a roof and walls. So also man in his fallen state has a roof on top of his sins between him and God; and he also has walls up, between him and his neighbor. But at salvation, when broken at the Cross, not only does the roof come off through faith in Christ, but the walls fall down flat, and the man's true condition as a sinner saved by grace is confessed before all men.

But the trouble soon begins again after conversion, and here lies the basic hindrance to continued revival. Continued revival is continued brokenness, but brokenness is two-way, and that means walls kept down as well as roof off. But man's most deep rooted and subtle sin is the [16] subtle sin of pride: self-esteem and self-respect. Though hardly realizing it, while we are careful to keep the roof off between ourselves and God through repentance and faith, we soon let those walls of respectability creep up again between ourselves and our brethren. We don't mind our brethren knowing about successes in our Christian living; they can know if we win a soul, if we lead a class, if we get a prayer answered, if we get good things from the Scriptures, because we too get a little reflected credit out of those things. But where we fail, in those many, many areas of our daily lives -- that is a different question! If God has to deal with us over our impatience or temper in the home, over dishonesty in our business, over coldness or other sins, by no means do we easily bear testimony to our brethren of God's faithful and gracious dealings in such areas of failure. Why not? Just because of pride, self-esteem, although we would often more conveniently call it reserve! The fact is we love the praise of men as well as of God, and that is exactly what the Scriptures say stops the flow of confession before men (John 12:42-43).

But let us note that the key to the reality of the whole of the Scriptures is the openness of the men of the Bible. We know of God's most intimate dealings with them, their sins and failures every bit as much as their successes. How do we know the details of Abraham's false step with Hagar, of Jacob's tricks with Isaac and Esau, of Moses' private act of disobedience concerning speaking to the rock? Of Elijah's flight and God's secret rebuke, of the inner history of Jonah? How did the disciples know the inside story of Jesus' temptations to record for us? Only because they were all open before their contemporaries. They lived in the light with each other as with God.

All through history men have turned in their fears and sorrows and doubts to the Psalms. Why? Because they are the heart experiences of men in fear, and doubt, and guilt, and soul-hunger, describing how they had felt and how God had met them.

Why was David's repentance acceptable to God, and yet Saul's, for a much less apparently carnal sin of failing to slaughter all the Amalekites, unacceptable? The reason is plain. Both kings, when faced respectively by the accusing finger of the prophets Nathan and Samuel, admitted their guilt before God, and said, "I have sinned" (1_Samuel 15:24 and 2_Samuel 12:13); but Saul's repentance was demonstrated to be insincere because he desired that his sin be hidden from the people (1_Samuel 15:30), whereas the proof of David's utter brokenness was that he told the whole world in Psalm 51 what a sinner he was and that his only hope was in God's mercy. Openness before man is the genuine proof of sincerity before God, even as righteousness before man, and love to man are the genuine proofs of righteousness before God, and love to God.

Note also that hiding the truth about ourselves before men, pretending to be better than we really are, is the supreme sin which Jesus drove home to the Pharisees, the sin of hypocrisy, and was the direct cause of their crucifying Him. It was not the open harlot or publican, but the religious men who pretended to be holy, and covered their inner condition, who drove Jesus to the cross rather than have the truth about themselves exposed any more. Note also that the first sin judged in the early church was the sin of hiddenness before men, Ananias and Sapphira pretending before their brethren that they were making a bigger surrender than they really were. And finally note that in every dealing of the believer with God recorded in the Scriptures, every step taken in the walk of faith, the Scripture shows that that transaction of inner faith had to be expressed in the spoken word, the faith had to be confessed before men; it was the clinching act which sealed the faith and committed the believers. See it in the lives of all men of faith from Abraham right through to the apostles; what they had believed in their heart, they declared with the mouth as something God had said to them and which would assuredly come to pass.

So far then we have learned these two lessons: that continuous revival is the simple daily walking with Jesus, and also walking in a brokenness two-way which is expressed in the heart to God and by the mouth before men. We will see in a moment, in practical detail, how this works out more fully in the daily life.

CUPS RUNNING OVER

We will now turn to the first chapter of John's first epistle to lead us further in this walking. Verse 3 speaks at the beginning of a two-way fellowship, "that ye also may have fellowship with us," and "truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." Then it goes on in verse 4 to say that he writes to us "that your joy may be full." Fulness of joy is to characterize this daily walk. Or as David said in Psalm 23, "My cup runneth over," not only full, but running over! And this brings us to our third major point. Walking with Jesus, brokenness, and now CUPS RUNNING OVER.

We all can recognize that as a beautiful description of the abiding presence of Jesus in the heart, His peace, joy and presence filling us to overflowing, with no shadow between. We can see the clear sparkling water of life welling up within and flowing over the thirsty souls around through look, and word, and deed. But here comes the point of it in this message of revival. We are to recognize that "cups running over" is the NORMAL daily experience of the believer walking with Jesus, not the abnormal or occasional, but the normal, continuous experience. But that just isn't so in the lives of practically all of us. Those cups running over get pretty muddled up; other things besides the joy of the Lord flow out of us. We are often much more conscious of emptiness, or dryness, or hardness, or disturbance, or fear, or worry than we are of the fulness of His presence and overflowing joy and peace. And now comes the point. What stops that moment-by-moment flow? The answer is only one -- Sin. But we by no means usually accept or recognize that. We have many other more convenient names for those disturbances of heart. We say it is nerves that cause us to speak impatiently -- not sin. We say it is tiredness that causes us to speak the sharp word at home -- not sin. We say it is the pressure of work which causes us to lose our peace, get worried, act or speak hastily -- not sin. We say it is our difficult or hurtful neighbor who causes us resentment or dislike, or even hate -- but not sin. Anything but sin. We go to psychiatrists or psychologists to get inner problems unravelled -- tension, strain, disquiet, dispeace -- but anything which causes the cups to cease running over is SIN.

What proof have we of that statement? Quite a simple one. What are "cups running over"? Of course, the Spirit witnessing to Jesus in the heart. He is our peace, joy, life, all, and it is the Spirit's work never to cease witnessing to Him within us. What then can stop the Spirit's witness? Can nerves, or tiredness, or pressure of circumstances, or difficult people? Paul's cry was, "Who or what can separate me from the love of God? Can tribulation or persecution or things present or things to come? No!" he says. Only one thing separates us from Him -- "your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you." Thank God, the great separation has been replaced by reunion with Him at Calvary, but still the daily incursions of sin in the heart bring about the temporary separation from the sense of His presence; we all know that. The cups do not run over.

Now this is an exceedingly important point. By far the largest number of us, including myself, have not been accustomed to regard it as some form of sin if the cups cease to run over, and that is just why they do not quickly start running over again; for where sin is seen to be sin and confessed as such, the blood is also seen to be the blood, praise God, ever cleansing from all unrighteousness; and where the blood cleanses the Spirit always witnesses -- and the cups run over again. But the blood never cleanses excuses -- sin called by some more polite name!

CONVICTION, CONFESSION, CLEANSING

Here then are the three main points of the walk in continuous revival -- Walking with Jesus, Brokenness, Cups Running Over. But when cups do not run over, which is very often -- hen what? Only sin stops the inner witness. Then how are we to know what the sin is? The answer to that is to be found in reading on in this key chapter of 1_John 1. Verse 3 has spoken of two-way fellowship, and verse 4 of fulness of joy. Verse 5 gives a surprise. John says he is now going to give us the inner truth about Him with whom we walk. He is ... love? No -- "God is light." If it just said "love," that would be easy, for I might escape a too strict facing of sin by saying, "Well, anyhow He loves" -- which is indeed what I have often said. But "this is the message ... God is light." What then does that mean? Well, nothing could be more simple. The obvious main function of light is to reveal things as they are. The Scriptures themselves say that -- "That which maketh manifest is light ..." (Ephesians 5:13). Light is very silent, does not push or drive anyone, but is inescapable to any honest person. You can't lie to light. If you hit your toe against an object in the dark, you may mistakenly say that it is a table. But when the light is turned on in the room, you can no longer continue to say that it is a table if it really is a piano. Light just gives you the lie.

God is light. Silently, inexorably He shines on and in us, revealing things just as they are in His sight. Have you ever noticed the pivotal place given, even in salvation, to our response to light? In John 3, we are distinctly told that men are not lost because of their sins, for they have already been atoned for, but they are lost for refusing the light. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." Light silently showed them exactly what they are in God's holy sight, but they won't take it. No, they will never "come to the light" and admit themselves to be what God says they are; but the only way any of us have been saved has been by responding to that light and saying about ourselves what God says. Thus our eternal destiny hangs on whether we love darkness or come to the light.

But even as this is true concerning the unsaved and the necessity of their "coming to the light," it is also true in 1_John 1 of the believer and the necessity of his "walking in the light." He also can walk in darkness (verse 6), if he wishes to do so. That is to say he can refuse to admit, concerning himself, what God says about hem; he can have other and more convenient names for his sins. Worse still, he can be either a deliberate hypocrite (saying he has fellowship with Him, but really walking in the darkness), or he can be self-deceived and not recognize that he is sinning when he is saying he has no sin (verse 8).

So it gets down to this. Sin is a revelation. It is God who graciously shows us sin, even is it is He who shows us the precious blood. Sin is only seen to be SIN -- against God -- when He reveals it; otherwise sin may just be known as a wrong against a brother, or an anti-social act, or an inconvenience, or a disability, or some such thing. Indeed that is often the extent of the message of a "social gospel," to be rid of sin as a hindrance to brotherhood, as an inconvenience to human progress; not as coming short of the glory of God. GOD shows us sin. We do not need to keep looking inside ourselves. This is not a life of introspection or morbid self-examination. We do not walk with sin, we walk with Jesus; but, as we walk in childlike faith and fellowship with Him step by step, moment by moment, then if the cups cease to run over, He who is light, with whom we are walking, will clearly show us what the SIN is which is hindering, what its real name is in His sight, rather than the pseudonym, the excusing title, which we might find it more convenient to call it. Let us say again, it is so simple. God does not speak in terms of general condemnation leading to despair of past or fear of future. He speaks in simple specific terms of any actual sin in the present which is hindering the inner witness of His Spirit.

What do we do then? Well, that is obvious. 1_John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins ..." The word CONFESS is the word SAY with the preposition CON or WITH added. Three times over in those verses 5-10 man has said his own say (verses 6, 8, 10); but to confess is to say with another, to say what another says. To confess is to say about my sin what God says about it. "You say that is sin, Lord; so do I." That is confession, of course, with the desire to be rid of the sin and the actual ceasing to do the thing, or maintain the attitude, or whatever it is.

Then where there is this confession, we all know there is the word of promise, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." We may say the cleansing is almost automatic, where there is the confession. That light which shines so unchangingly on the sin, shines also on the blood. "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light," says John, "we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." When walking in the light, we read, both sin and the precious blood are seen, the one, praise God, cancelling out the other. And it is important to remember that confession of sin does not deliver by itself. It is THE BLOOD that cleanses, and we must always pass on from confession to faith and praise for THE BLOOD, believing that the blood alone is what glorifies God and delivers us. Folk often remain depressed and mournful and asking others to pray for them after confession of sin, when they ought to pass straight on by simple faith to the blood ever flowing and cleansing, in the words of the old hymn:

"The cleansing blood, I see, I see;

I plunge, and oh, it cleanses me.

It cleanses me, it cleanses me;

Oh praise the Lord, it cleanses me."

Once again, where the blood cleanses, the Spirit witnesses, and where the Spirit witnesses, the cups always run over! So we are back again where we started -- walking with Jesus step by step, brokenness, cups running over. When they stop running over, it is always sin. Sin is seen as sin in the light of God. As we walk in that light, we recognize and confess our sins; the blood cleanses; the Spirit witnesses; and the cups run over again!


Part 2 of Continuous Revival by Norman Grubb


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