Revival: The Gospel Of Addition - Devotions for the Man in the Mirror

Revival: The Gospel Of Addition

I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

Acts 26:20

Over the past few years I have heard several mature, respected Christian leaders remark that God didn’t have much to say back in the 1950s. If He was silent then, His voice virtually thundered in the sixties, seventies, and eighties. In those decades America underwent a revival of unparalleled historic proportion.

According to Gallup surveys, confirmed by other polls taken over the past fifteen years, 33 percent of all Americans over age eighteen indicate they are evangelical or “born again” Christians. That translates into 59 million Christians, or one in every three adults, who experienced a turning point in their lives as they made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.

This information should grip us with terror. It means that the greatest revival in history has so far been impotent to change society. It’s revival without reformation. It’s a revival which left the country floundering in spiritual ignorance. It’s a change in belief without a corresponding change in behavior.

Other polls, as well as our own experience, show that this dramatic spiritual conversion has not been followed by a moral conversion. Instead, during those decades the moral will and character of America fractured into thousands of diverse, dwarfish, self-determined systems of values and beliefs.

Those value/belief systems commingled with an historical Judeo-Christian ethic, but mostly they built on the footings of the moral disillusionment of the times:

  • The suspicious sixties: “Down with the establishment!” Vietnam. Watts.
  • The selfish seventies: “You can have it all.” Watergate.
  • The alienated eighties: “Go for it.” “If it feels good, do it!”

We preached a gospel relevant to our times, one that was in agreement with what contemporary society was saying.

The American Gospel

How did the building blocks of the gospel become glued together with the cement of self-centeredness? The American gospel has evolved into a gospel of addition without subtraction. It is the belief that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior. It is a spiritual experience without any cultural impact. It is revival without reformation, without repentance.

Though illogical at first brush, a closer examination shows how this happened. When a company experiences a burst in sales, it redirects its energy and resources into capturing those sales while the window of opportunity is cracked open. The natural consequence? The back office stutters and sputters.

In a similar way, Christianity experienced an enormous burst in sales (read: evangelism). And the Christian world appropriately poured its energy and resources into capitalizing on the window God cracked open. But the back office (read: discipleship) has stuttered and sputtered. The result? We live in a nation of spiritual stutterers and sputterers—spiritual infants.

Every new generation of believers must be discipled. Once shown how to add Christ to their lives, they must be taught how to subtract sin—and to obey. Paul’s gospel was adamant that adding Jesus must be accompanied by subtracting sin. “I preached that they should repent [subtract sin] and turn to God [add Christ] and prove their repentance by their deeds [obedience].” Have you added Christ to your life without subtracting sin?

The proof of religious conversion is to demonstrate that we have both added a relationship with Christ and that we have subtracted sin (repentance). And we multiply proof to a weary world by what we do—our deeds, our obedience. What we do must confirm what we say. Our deeds are the proof of our repentance. Are you proving your repentance to the world by your deeds?

A changed life is one that has added Christ and subtracted sin, that attracts a world weary of worn-out words. Obedience is the proof. Paul labeled his mission “to call people…to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5). Paul knew that unless the believer became a "behave-er” that revival would not lead to a reformed life.

Are you obedient? Is there a difference between your behavior and those around you who have never met the Savior? If there is none, what will attract them to the kingdom of God?

Are you a disciple of Christ, or still an infant? Learn why Paul "preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” What is it that Paul saw that today’s Christian has not yet seen? Do you see it yet?


Lord Jesus, I see it. I see that I have added You to my life, but that I have not subtracted sin as You desire I should. Your gospel is the gospel of addition and subtraction—love and holiness. Deep in my soul I desire to repent, to add You at a new level of full surrender, and to prove my repentance to the world by what I do—by how I behave. Fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit so that I can demonstrate a changed life to a weary world. Amen.

From the Book: