Revise Us Again was the first Frank Viola book I read. I recently picked it up again because I remembered how much this book had taught me. This book came as a life-saving rope when I felt like a suffocating child who didn’t know how to swim. I was so weary of doing church, because church has been so hard and everybody doesn’t get along. I thought whenever a group of people who love the Lord gather together, it’s church. But then there are so many labels, divisions, and pressure. Then so much gain, but then loss; so much joy, but then jealousy.
Even if you are not a struggling believer, this book can still edify you. I’ll share a taste of it by putting together here some quotes that have benefitted me greatly,
“Through some believers, He speaks as Prophet. Through others, He speaks as Priest. Still through others, He speaks as Sage.” (pg. 26)
“In addition, because Bill does not use the mystical jargon that fills Chris’s vocabulary, Chris concludes that Bill’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is subnormal. Worse still, Chris may judge Bill to not have the Holy Spirit at all, for if he did (he muses to himself), Bill would agree with him.” (pg. 48)
“Christian leaders have been telling God’s people that they must ‘be like Christ’ for the last six hundred years (at least). The well-known book by Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, was published around 1418. Some 480 years later, Charles M. Sheldon’s book In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? was published. Ever since then, Christians have been trying to ‘do what Jesus did.’ But this ‘gospel’ hasn’t worked. The reason? It’s an instance of asking the wrong question. The question is not ‘What would Jesus do?’ I believe it’s ‘What is Jesus Christ doing through me … and through us?’ Jesus made pretty clear that we cannot live the Christian life. Instead, He must live it through us. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5) Notice that Jesus Himself couldn’t live the Christian life without His Father:2 Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.’ (John 5:19) By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent.” (pp. 58-59)
“A large part of the gospel is to be awakened to an indwelling Christ—not as a doctrine or theology, but as a living, breathing Person whose life we can live by.” (pg. 60)
“In short, the goal of the gospel is not to get you out of hell and into heaven, but to get God out of heaven and into you so that He may be displayed visibly and glorified in His creation.” (pg. 61)
“I’ve observed this phenomenon all my Christian life. People express the same experiences differently. This is due to many varied factors, some of which are the person’s temperament, the specific vocabulary of one’s religious tradition, or a specific “effect” they wish to have on those who hear them testify. (Sometimes this isn’t so well motivated.)” (pg. 72)
“Numerous things about the Christian life amaze me. One of them has to do with a phenomenon that has repeated itself throughout church history. I call it ‘being captured by the same spirit you oppose.’” (pg. 85)
“It’s my strong feeling that a genuine revelation of the fullness of Christ will strip you and me of all exclusiveness and sectarianism. And it will demolish an elitist attitude.” (pg. 95)
“Let me pass on a word of advice. If you ever hit a fork in the road with the people with whom you do church (whatever that looks like), there’s one sure way that the Lord can get what He wants. Drop whatever is causing the problem, and let it go into death. There is nothing for us to cling to except the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing.” (pg. 127)
“Many Christians fear diversity. We all love unity, but we tend toward uniformity. This tendency is most clearly seen in denominationalism. But it exists vibrantly outside of denominational lines as well. Diversity, however, is part of the nature of the body of Christ. It’s also woven into the universe. Look at creation. Look at your physical body. Look at the eternal Trinity who brought both into existence. What do you find? Particularity with unity. Diversity with harmony. Point: Diversity is a sign of fullness.” (pp. 138-139)
“Point: The church in Ephesus received the deepest and highest revelation of Christ through choice servants of God—Paul, John, Timothy, Titus, Apollos, etc. And yet, as the New Testament closes, we discover that the church in Ephesus was corrected by the Lord for leaving her first love (Rev. 2:1–4). What happened? If experience has taught me anything, I would guess that they simply stopped pursuing Him. They got stuck. They clung to the Christ they had been given by the greatest servants of God, and they stopped there. To put it another way, their Christ was too small!” (pg. 143)
“Embracing the gospel of libertinism or the gospel of legalism will tether you to the flesh. The fruit of libertinism is the defiling acts of the flesh. On another branch, but just as deadly, the fruit of legalism is the self-righteousness of the flesh. Both gospels produce carnal activity and generate death rather than life. As a result, both clash with the new creation and have no place in the full-hearted gospel of Christ. Only Paul’s gospel—the glorious gospel of grace, the gospel of Jesus Christ—has the capacity to bring you and me into the freedom that is ours in Christ. And the end of that gospel is the ageless purpose of God for which our Lord burns.” (pg. 145)
This will always be a book that I return to from time to time.