I’ve been asked a few times this week, “which comes first holiness or revival?” I’m greatly encouraged by the question. It tells me that something is stirring the spirits of the people as God prepares their hearts for what He is about to do. So which comes first? My answer…revival!
I grew up in a rural pentecostal church where holiness was preached on Sunday and required come Monday. I lived under a long list of do’s and don’ts all designed to keep me holy. This produced a lukewarm faith that was comfortable looking the part but not living it. Then revival hit. I went from nominal to radical within weeks. God completed in a moment what I had tried to do in my flesh for years. For me, revival preceded holiness.
The same was true for Isaiah. He was early into his prophetic ministry when he finds himself caught up in an incredible God encounter. Isaiah sees the Lord and his first response was what?
Isaiah became painfully aware of his own unholiness there in God’s holy presence, (let’s not forget, he was already a prophet). He cries out, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips.”
Notice Isaiah singles out the place of his gifting. As a prophet the word of the Lord flowed from his lips yet in the holy presence of God, he became convicted of the mixture that had been found in his words. It’s the Lord, not Isaiah, that provides the remedy. He dispatches an angel to come to Isaiah with a hot coal from the altar to sear his lips and cleanse his sins.
It is possible that a young Isaiah, like us, was comfortable functioning primarily through his gifting. The church world has certainly seen plenty of pastors, prophets and people who have powerful gifts but impure hearts. We celebrate their charisma while overlooking their character. However, God was looking for a greater level of purity so that Isaiah’s gift could function more powerfully. The prophetic mantel on Isaiah’s life had to increase so therefore the holiness in his life had to as well. That holiness was not going to come from a greater observation of the law, but from a greater observation of the Lord. For Isaiah, revival preceded holiness.
Holiness is the natural response to revival. When we see the Lord we quickly become aware of 1) how holy He is 2) how unholy we are. It is in the those moments that we cry out to the Lord, in repentance and He comes to us with the burning coals of the altar to perfect His holiness within us.
A life touched by revival is a life marked by holiness. Apples do not have trees growing from their stems – it is the tree that bears the fruit from its branches. Likewise, holiness is the fruit that naturally grows out of a life revived. Revival bears holiness. It’s the proof that the move was genuine.
If you do not see holiness present in your life what does that say about your encounter with the Cross? A superficial visit to the Cross will produce a religious lifestyle that is comfortable with compromise. A supernatural visit with the Cross will produce a righteous lifestyle that kills the compromise.
It’s unfortunate that we live in a day where holiness has become a deemphasized truth. Isaiah 6 shows us that while holiness may be silently ignored on earth, it is loudly being proclaimed in Heaven. I pray that we once again gaze upon His holiness until we start to see it within us!
One last thought. Those of us who have experienced true revival that has produced true holiness must be careful not to allow our response to become someone else’s requirement. That produces the “holiness” I grew up with. Never forget that it was an encounter with God that produced our holy life. To require holiness from someone who has yet to truly encounter God is like asking someone to drive without giving them the car. If revival precedes holiness then we must cultivate an environment of revival not rules and regulations. When they are touched by the fires of the altar, trust me, their lives will be altered!