One of the challenges of true revival is breaking through the icy surface of cold formalism, while at the same time avoiding the fiery flames of fanaticism.
Formalism is rigidly locked in the status quo. It is satisfied with the external husks of religion while it denies the living reality of faith. Fanaticism tends to go to extremes. It goes off on religious tangents. It tends to be unbalanced, focusing on one aspect of faith to the neglect of all others. Fanaticism is often self-righteous and judgmental. The apostle Paul longed that the Christian church “no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph. 4:14, NKJV).
What do we learn about those who thought that signs and wonders proved that they were Jesus’ faithful followers? Matt. 7:21-23.
The deeper issue in both of these experiences is the commitment of the heart. Signs and wonders can never take the place of authentic biblical faith. They are not a substitute for surrendering to the will and Word of God. The essence of real revival is a faith so deep that it leads to an obedient life committed to do God’s will. A biblically based revival echoes John’s words, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith” (1 John 5:4, NKJV).
“What kind of faith is it that overcomes the world? It is that faith which makes Christ your own personal Saviour-that faith which, recognizing your helplessness, your utter inability to save yourself, takes hold of the Helper who is mighty to save, as your only hope.”-Ellen G. White, Reflecting Christ, p. 21.
Which side do you tend to lean toward: formalism and tradition, or more toward experience and excitement? If, perhaps, you lean too much toward one side or the other, how can you find the right balance?