We Need a Revival of New Testament Love

by | Feb 4, 2015 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

We who call ourselves Spirit-filled Christians are notorious for overusing the term “revival.” If we get a standing-room-only crowd in a church for more than three nights in a row, and those people end up swooning on the floor after the altar call, we start hyping things up and comparing the meetings to the First Great Awakening.

But what exactly are the signs of a genuine move of God? Lately I’ve been buried in Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians to find the answer to that question. After all, one of the most explosive spiritual awakenings in history took place in the Greek city of Thessalonica. It was a headquarters of ancient paganism (and just three hours from Mount Olympus, the home of the Greek gods), yet when the gospel was preached there it triggered a chain reaction of miracles and mass conversions.

Paul said of the spiritual explosion in Thessalonica: “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5a). A riot erupted, Paul was run out of town, and the new Christians were persecuted. Yet the attacks couldn’t stop them: The impact of this move of God was so forceful that within a short time the newly converted Thessalonians spread their faith throughout most of Greece (see v. 8).

So we could say that biblical revivals always include: (1) powerful preaching that brings heavy conviction of sin; (2) supernatural miracles that display God’s power and confirm the message; (3) notable numbers of true converts who share their faith aggressively; and (4) persecution from those who resist the gospel. But after reading 1 Thessalonians a few more times I noticed one additional hallmark of genuine revival that we often ignore: (5) remarkable, sincere love that nurtures the growing Christian church.

We all want the miracles. We long to see mass conversions. But we forget that New Testament revival doesn’t happen without New Testament love. I see this love manifested in some specific ways:

1. Servant-hearted leadership. The apostle Paul and the leaders on his team did not think of themselves as “all that.” They weren’t pulpit stars. They didn’t ride in limousines or demand five-star hotel rooms. Paul was even willing to work a job so he wouldn’t be a burden to the Thessalonians. He told them: “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our very own lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).

In today’s “Spirit-filled” churches, some pastors have morphed into hipster CEOs who appear only in the pulpit and on the video screen. They may bring a powerful message, but the idea of personal impartation has become a relic of a bygone era. In the era of the iChurch, we really can’t get on the people’s level. That’s too bad, because sermons alone don’t make disciples. People need a personal touch from leaders who feel deep affection for those they are discipling.

2. Selfless investment. When Paul was in prison, he didn’t throw a pity party or feel bad for himself. He was thinking 24/7 about the people he had led to Christ in Thessalonica. He desperately wanted to see them again. They were in his heart. He prayed for them constantly “that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith” (3:10). That kind of selfless love, modeled by humble leaders, sets the bar high for the entire church.

3. Slobbering affection. The word “brethren” appears in 1 Thessalonians 17 times. Paul understood that when we join the community of the redeemed, we are bonded together by the Holy Spirit who lives in all of us. That precious spiritual bond should be treasured. That’s why Paul wrote: “May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another” (1 Thess. 3:12). He knew the true measure of Christian maturity is fervent love.

Paul also told the Thessalonians: “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss” (5:26). Today we explain this verse away by suggesting that kissing was a cultural tradition that doesn’t apply to us. Really? I’ve been in churches where people keep their polite distance, and their lack of affection is an indicator of their icy spiritual condition. Some people criticize what they call “sloppy agapé,” but I’ve learned that when Christians hug and kiss each other, they are also more prone to be passionate followers of Jesus.

Paul cared deeply about his followers and he told them: “We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (2:7). There is a direct connection between extravagant love for each other and the spirit of New Testament revival. Let’s rediscover it.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter @leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books. You can learn more about his ministry, The Mordecai Project, at themordecaiproject.org.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

All of us at some point will hit a place of getting the wind knocked out of us. We all experience unexpected detours and times when there seems to be no way out. But there is One who lives in us, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us the strength to overcome obstacles....

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Whether it is the Spirit leading or forbidding in the book of Acts, or the Spirit leading throughout Christian history, it’s clear that the leading of the Spirit is important. In the Old Testament, it appears that the Spirit of God could be withdrawn completely from...

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Everyone has a race to run. That just means we all have a life to live. The apostle Paul says in Hebrews 12:1 (NIV), “Therefore...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for...

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

God says that during this season, He is turning up the heat, finding the gold and bringing His refining fire. Job makes a powerful statement of faith as he says of the Lord, "When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold." God knew Job's heart and Job knew the heart...

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

In 1971, I was invited to spend one month in Singapore at a new institute that had been started by John Haggai. It was still in the formative stages then—a place where Asian church leaders would be trained and challenged to witness for Christ. Today, more than 40...

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

It was a Pentecost bloodbath and most Christians never heard about it. More than 50 Christians were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks on Nigerians this year. Scores of gunmen rushed in to kill Christians in the midst of worship. All told, over 360 million...

RECENT ARTICLES

Prophecy: A Window of Time Has Opened for Believers to Preach the Truth

I was rejoicing and praising God on Friday, June 24, 2022, for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, knowing that an ungodly decree was overturned and one national curse was broken. I heard by the Holy...
The Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: The People I Saw in Hell

The Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: The People I Saw in Hell

In 1998, God gave me a life-changing vision of hell. I receive many questions about my experience from people all over the world, but one question I'm often asked is, "Who did you see in hell?" There are others who say they've had an experience like mine, and they...

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

One of the most amazing facts about the Founding Fathers of our nation is this: The one referred to as the "voice" of the revolution (John Adams) and the one referred to as the "pen" of the revolution (Thomas Jefferson) both died on the same day—July 4, 1826—exactly...

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

It’s a question I frequently hear. It’s one I’ve asked. And maybe it’s one you’ve asked, too. The question is, “God, why did You give this to me?” This can be any number of issues, from emotional or psychological struggles to symptoms or sicknesses, disabilities or...

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

I sense it. And I perceive a growing number of people in massive proportions sense the increasing momentum of power and might worldwide. Something is on the horizon—something more eerie and ominous than what the people of the world have ever before experienced. Even...

Pin It on Pinterest