This theme is one that every true hearted Seventh-day Adventist should have foremost in their Christian focus. It should be the goal of every day, to keep the vision of revival and reformation in the personal life, and the enthusiasm will radiate out for others to catch the vision as well.
When Elder Ted Wilson was elected as leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2010, he emphasised, even plead with the people in the 70,000 strong congregation to put their energy into revival and reformation. During many of his discourses from that time on, he has kept at those words to see the church go forward to revive and reform.
While I am wholeheartedly in agreement with revival and reformation, there is one other ingredient that must go with these two, and that is repentance.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” —Matthew 3:1,2
“Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” — Matthew 4:17
“Then said he (Jesus) unto the disciples...Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.”— Luke 17:1-5
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” —Acts 2:37,38
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” —Acts 17:30
In the book of Revelation, the only time the word 'repent' is used is in chapters 2 and 3 when writing to the seven churches. Seven times John pleaded with the seven churches to repent, the last of course is the plea to Laodicea. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” —Revelation 3:17
So repentance is a necessary ingredient for each of us to go forward in our Christian experience, to put away our pride and prejudice and humbly seek Jesus in our hearts by the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Then comes revival and reformation.
The experience that Ezekiel had in chapter 37 is the vision of the valley of dry bones, plenty of them. Those bones were in desperate need of revival as there was no life in them at all. But it was more than that, bones have had life in them, or been the framework of a living being, but now that life is gone out of them – dead!
“This simile of the dry bones applies to the world, but also to those who have been blessed with great light; for they also are like the skeletons of the valley. They have the form of men, the framework of the body; but they have not spiritual life. But the parable does not leave the dry bones merely knit together into the forms of men; for it is not enough that there is symmetry of limb and feature. The breath of life must vivify the bodies, that they may stand upright, and spring into activity. These bones represent the house of Israel, the church of God, and the hope of the church is the vivifying influence of the Holy Spirit.” —Bible Commentary vol.4, p.1165,1166
So now let us look at some counsel for us as a people to be revived and reformed from a dead body, to a live and working body. Chapter 37 identifies dead physical bones and Ezekiel sees those dead bones become living. But the vision really relates to dead spiritual bones needing to be injected with life to a vibrant, working living spiritual body, God's Church.
“God calls for a spiritual revival and a spiritual reformation. Unless this takes place, those who are lukewarm will continue to grow more abhorrent to the Lord, until He will refuse to acknowledge them as His children.” —Selected Messages vol.1, p.128
But we must bear in mind that revival and reformation are two different entities in the Christian life.
“A revival and a reformation must take place, under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Revival and reformation are two different things. Revival signifies a renewal of spiritual life, a quickening of the powers of mind and heart, a resurrection from spiritual death. Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Reformation will not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness unless it is connected with the revival of the Spirit. Revival and reformation are to do their appointed work, and in doing this work they must blend.” —Selected Messages vol.1, p.128
And work they will. There definitely will come a time when there will be revival and reformation in the church, giving new life to the old dead bones.
“In visions of the night, representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God's people. Many were praising God. The sick were healed, and other miracles were wrought. A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested before the great Day of Pentecost. 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. On every side doors were thrown open to the proclamation of the truth. The world seemed to be lightened with the heavenly influence. Great blessings were received by the true and humble people of God. I heard voices of thanksgiving and praise, and there seemed to be a reformation such as we witnessed in 1844.” —Test. vol.9, p.126
Sadly, not every one will be willing to accept the life of revival from God.
“Yet some refused to be converted... These covetous ones became separated from the company of believers.” —Test. vol.9, p.126
“Are we hoping to see the whole church revived? That time will never come.” —Selected Messages vol.1, p.122
But our God is merciful to us, after showing us our need for repentance, revival and reformation and we don't understand, in His mercy, He will bring us to the same place again to have another attempt. As long as the heart does not openly rebel, He will gently bring us back to the same lesson until we learn.
“The Lord brings His erring children over the same ground again and again; but if they continually fail...to reform on every point where they have erred, He will finally leave them to their own weakness.” —Test. vol.9, p.182
“The Lord brings His children over the same ground again and again, increasing the pressure until...the character is transformed.” —My Life Today, p.92
“He will prove them where they have formerly failed; He will try them, and if they fail under the trial the second time, He will bring them around to the same test again.”— Test. vol.5, p.623
So with these thoughts, it seems there will not be a perfect church in the present reality of this world. In fact it isn't possible, because the church is made up of erring human beings.
“We may create an unreal world in our own mind or picture an ideal church, where the temptations of Satan no longer prompt to evil, but perfection exists only in our imagination. The world is a fallen world, and the church is a place represented by a field in which grow tares and wheat. They are to grow together until the harvest.” —R & H, Aug 8, 1893
But we are quick to qualify that statement. This does not mean there can be no perfection of individual character. God will have His perfect people, yes, ultimately it will become His Church, but this is only reminding us of Jesus' words that tares will remain among the wheat until the harvest. In the same article Ellen White states; “We should earnestly desire to be like the perfect Model...By beholding and copying the perfect Model, we shall present to the world a character that is Christlike.” —R & H, Aug 8, 1893
How Does Revival and Reformation Come About?
Here are some tips from inspired writ that will help us in a tangible way.
“There must be a reformation. The plowshare of truth must plow deep furrows in our proud hearts, and tear up the sod of our unsanctified natures, that the Spirit and love of Jesus may be planted in our hearts.” —Sons and Daughters of God, p.49
“A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work...A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer.” —Selected Messages vol.1, p.121
The whole church revival will start with individuals dedicating themselves to change and re-commitment and this should begin in the home and with ministers of the gospel to lead by example.
“When churches are revived, it is because some individual seeks earnestly for the blessing of God. He hungers and thirsts after God, and asks in faith, and receives accordingly. He goes to work in earnest, feeling his great dependence upon the Lord, and souls are aroused to seek for a like blessing, and a season of refreshing falls on the hearts of men.” —Christian Service, p.121
“A reformation is needed among the people, but it should first begin its purifying work with the ministers.” —Test. vol.1, p.469
“The great reformative movement must begin in the home.” —Sons and Daughters of God, p.43
The results of this will be simple, practical and primitive Godliness, the law will be restored to its full and discord will be banished.
“Before the final visitation of God's judgments upon the earth there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” —Great Controversy, p.464
“It is only as the law of God is restored to its rightful position that there can be a revival of primitive faith and godliness among His professed people. ‘Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." —Great Controversy, p.478
“The time has come for a thorough reformation to take place. When this reformation begins, the spirit of prayer will actuate every believer and will banish from the church the spirit of discord and strife.” —Test. vol.8, p.251
There are some fairly strong requirements and decisions to make for revival to take place, and amazing results from making those decisions. To start and develop a full revival and reformation is one thing, but to maintain it is another.
“The period of great spiritual light, if that light is not sacredly cherished and acted upon, will be turned into a time of corresponding spiritual darkness...The insidious temptations of Satan...always will come after a season of revival.” —Selected Messages vol.1, p.135
This we cannot let happen. It's not a matter of holding off starting a revival because we may not maintain it, it is a matter of getting that revival going immediately in our hearts and maintaining it what ever may come upon us. The devil will never be happy if he sees repentance, revival and reformation come into hearts, then a change in the church, but remember God will be! We can maintain it, every day in the power of God's protective care upon us. There will be a full reformation, we just have to make up our minds if we will be a part of it or not.
“In His church on earth...the Sun of Righteousness will shine in undimmed luster to the world... He has bestowed upon His people capabilities and blessings that they may represent His own sufficiency. The church, endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depositary, in which the riches of His mercy, His grace, and His love, are to appear in full and final display. Christ looks upon His people in their purity and perfection, as the reward of His humiliation, and the supplement of His glory, – Christ, the great Center, from whom radiates all glory.” —Desire of Ages, p.680
Here are a few statements in conclusion that help us realise what God's purpose is in a full revival and reformation. Firstly, it is not only for us personally, but it is to vindicate God's character, and to establish His principles to all the other worlds.
“God's purpose is to be accomplished through His people. Not to this world only, but to the universe are we to make manifest the principles of His kingdom.” —Test. vol.6, p.13
“The rectitude and justice and moral excellence of the law must be maintained and vindicated before the heavenly universe and the worlds unfallen.” —Bible Commentary vol.7, p.951
“Secondly, be encouraged friends, it can be done, we can attain and maintain a permanent fervent enthusiasm in Christ.
“The world is watching... professed Christians... And God and the angels are watching. God desires His people to show by their lives the advantage of Christianity over worldliness... Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of the Saviour shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them.” —Counsels to Teachers, Parents and Students, p.324
Finally friends, choose this day to follow Jesus Christ. He loves you, He wants you, He will do all He can to claim you.
“The triumph of the church is very near, the reward to be bestowed is almost within our reach...” —Testimonies to Minsters, p.431
Based on The Time of the End, by James Hayward, p.267-270