Summary: Revival; renewal, and repentance: They are all the same experience of getting back to first love-to the love that puts Jesus in the center of life. This is not a rare need, but a constant need, because we, as Christians, tend to decline.
O Henry tells a short story of the lad who grew up in a small village and sat next to a lovely young
lady so innocent and sweet. He left that village for the big city where he got in with the wrong
crowd and became a thief and a pick pocket. One day as he was working the crowd, doing quite
well, he saw that girl he sat by back in the village. She was still the same fresh, innocent, and sweet
girl. He did not want to be seen by her, so he hid, but he was overwhelmed by his memory. He
remembered what he had been, and realized what he had become. He leaned his head against the
lamp post and said, "God, how I hate myself." That was his turning point. He had the choice to go
back to what he once was, or to go on to be more what he was becoming, and that he hated.
The Prodigal Son came to this point and said, "I am going home where I was." That is what
repentance is! It is responding to what you remember as a better day, and a better way, and
choosing to stop departing from it, but to go back to what was. Repentance is admitting that you
once were on a better path that you have now forsaken, and choosing to get back on that better path.
We tend to think repentance is for those only who have never been saved, but Jesus makes it clear,
repentance is as much for Christians as it is for those being saved for the first time. Christians need
to constantly consider if they were once on a better road that they need to return to. They need to
ask with William Cowper-
Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?
Revival; renewal, and repentance: They are all the same experience of getting back to first
love-to the love that puts Jesus in the center of life. This is not a rare need, but a constant need,
because we, as Christians, tend to decline. The idea of perpetual growth does not fit reality. We are
usually the best Christians we will ever be when we first fall in love with Jesus. Maybe we are not
very sharp in our theology, and wouldn't know a false prophet if we heard one. Maybe we would
not spot a heresy if it sat on our nose. But we had a fervent love for our Savior, and we long to
make that love known. The best witness for Christ comes from new converts. They don't know how
often people don't want to hear their good news, and so they share it with enthusiasm. It is only after
a lot of rejection that a Christian tends to withdraw from the sharing of his or her faith. That is why
Jesus says we need to become as little children to enter the kingdom of God. It is getting back to the
simplicity and enthusiasm of our new birth days that is really the high point of our Christian life. To
be childlike in Christ again with a fervent love is the ideal.
Jesus is not anti-maturity, for that is a vital part of the Christian life, but we need to keep going
back to that first love and keep it alive as we grow in maturity, or the maturity itself is much ado
about nothing. When we first become Christians we are the most normal. We soon grow out of this
normalcy and become abnormal. That is why we need revivals to get back to normal. Vance
Havner said it as only he could in his book Repent Or Else!
"Revivals should not be necessary. God intended that His people Should grow in grace without
periodic spells of backsliding and repenting. But so long as we have such a malarial brand of
Christianity, a fever and a chill, a fever and a chill, we shall need revivals. Nor is a revival a mere
emotional upheaval. The way out of a stupor is not by getting into a stew. God does not intend that
we live in a fever of excitement all the time. The farmer must break up his fallow ground, but if he
did only that he would never plant or cultivate or reap. Surgery may be necessary at times but it is
not normal to live in a hospital. What we call revival is simply a return to normal New Testament
Christianity. Most of us are so subnormal that if we ever became normal we would be considered
Older Christians acting like younger Christians would seem abnormal, but the fact is, that is what