Many times over the years I have heard Christians people pray for revival. In prayer meetings, from pulpits, in Bible studies and in private gatherings, spiritually sensitive people have agonized over the encroaching darkness of this sinful world and have called upon the Lord to send a revival among God’s people to turn them back to the Lord and His Word and cause un-believers to repent and embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior.
I have never witnessed a national revival. I have seen God’s refreshing of believers’ spirituality several times but mostly in small localized settings. Like most Christians, I long for a powerful, Spirit-energized revival to break out in the United States and see a return to spiritual responsibility and righteousness and also to see a large number of those who are lost come to Jesus Christ as Savior. The word “revival” has been defined in several ways, so I think we must begin with a definition.
J.I. Packer defined “revival” as, “God’s quickening visitation of His people, touching their hearts and deepening His work of grace in their lives. It is essentially a corporate occurrence, an enlivening of individuals, not in isolation, but together.” “Revival” comes from two Latin words that mean “to live again” and has the idea of something being re-energized.
Spiritually, this work of re-energizing comes directly from God and is experienced by the believer.
Historians have noted several great revivals. In Acts 2, we have a great revival in Jerusalem where believers were energized, and thousands of unbelievers received Jesus Christ as their Savior. In the sixteenth century, The Reformation stirred the slumbering chords of faith to the fervent pitch of revival and many more thousands came to know Jesus Christ. In the eighteenth century, in the decades preceding the American War of Independence a revival known as the Great Awakening occurred. The twentieth century saw a great revival in Wales and later, the East African revival. Mr. Packer continues, “In revival God is said to arise and come to His people, in the sense of making His holy presence felt among them, so that His reality becomes inescapable and the infinite ugliness, guilt, corruption and pollution of sin is clearly seen.” The gospel of redeeming love and free forgiveness through the cross is valued as the best news ever and acts of repentance whereby believers distance themselves from their sins” and having turned from their sins, they full embrace Jesus Christ and He becomes a hero to them.
God is the source of this re-energizing because He is the only source of life. He created all life and He alone can revivify or re-energize life. If revival is to come, God must bring it and His people must pray for it. Today we will look at a Psalm of revival and then examine ten ele-ments of revival that come down to us from Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening.
A BRIEF EXPOSITION OF PSALM 85.
Remembrance of God’s Past Blessings. This Psalm was written by the “sons of Korah.” These were a family of Levitical priests who served in the worship of the Lord in the temple. They composed several hymns designed to lead the people of Israel in the worship of God.
They began by going back to a time when Israel (Jacob) had been in captivity, most likely during the time of Moses. They recounted the specific things God had done on behalf of His people—He restored and forgave. He covered all their sin and withdrew the penalty of fury and burning anger their sin deserved. In a sinful nation, God’s fury descends.
The Psalm begins here because if God had moved in this manner in times past, will He do that again in the present generation?
Prayer Request For Revival. The sons of Korah who served in the temple yearned for a return of spirituality to the people and this meant revival. For us, this signals three important lessons: revival comes only from the Lord, it begins with prayer and it begins with God’s people turning to Him.
God is specifically asked to revive His people. The Psalmist cannot do this. Only God can restore His people. The word in the original language means to return to life. In addition, revival will require God’s loving-kindness and grace. And it will lead to the salvation that only God can give. A call for revival is to be a matter of prayer.
Results Of Real Revival. There are several unique results of real revival. There is a new focus on hearing God’s Word and a desire to encourage fellow believers. There is a prayer not to fall back into the sinfulness that incurred God’s anger in the first place. He will give peace and violence will go away. God’s glory will once again visit His people in their land and they will be known for their loving-kindness, truth, righteousness and peace. In fact, truth will be so preponderant that it will seem it is springing up from the earth like their crops.
TEN ELEMENTS IN REVIVAL.
God Comes Down. Isaiah 64:1, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, That the mountains might quake at Your presence.”
Revival empowers the sense that God is inescapable as He searches our minds, measures the true spiritual depth of our lives, makes us know what He thinks about us, moves us to call upon Him for help, shows us His grace and mercy and fills us with joy.
God’s Word Pierces. 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” There is a fundamental shift in thinking about the Bible in revival. The lack of concern for biblical truth and extreme laziness in Bible reading and study is replaced by a diligent deter-mination to understand the Bible and deeply search out its unspeakable treasures.
There is a powerful change in viewpoint from seeing the Bible as just another book to seeing it for what it really is: the true Word of the Living God. The Word of God, whether through preaching, teaching or personal Bible reading and study has the breathtaking result that God is personally speaking to us one by one and it strikes with piercing and absolute authority. We change our lives to obediently match its message.
Man’s Sin Is Seen. Acts 2:37, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” Have you ever felt the conviction of God in your life? In our present spiritually comatose, selfish and lawless world, there is little vital aware-ness or recognition of the ugly, putrid, corrupt and deadening power of sin that controls and coerces the masses of humanity. The Bible says, “All have sinned,” while we respond stubbornly, “All but me.” The biblical doctrine of total depravity of every member of the human race has been scurrilously and tragically set aside.
Revival changes this. Through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the desperate and dangerous condition of every person as a sinner in the hands of an angry God convicts the heart and causes the soul to tremble. Revival brings the deep conviction of personal sin, especially unbelief and rebellion against Jesus Christ and shows the judgment of God’s eternal wrath upon each and every soul.
Christ’s Cross Is Valued. Galatians 6:14, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The cross of Jesus Christ becomes more than a decoration or jewelry. It is seen in all of its powerful and compelling truth. In the searing light of revival, man’s arrogance is crushed under the power of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross becomes the single most important event in history. In revival, people recognize the cross as the atoning sacrifice and express faith in the crucified Lord and glory in the forgiveness of sins found only in the cross. Christianity that is alive in the heart is always cross-centered.
Change Goes Deep. Acts 19:18-20, “Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.” Rather than the superficial changes that characterize our culture—changes that are here today but gone tomorrow, revival brings substantial changes in thoughts, words, actions and habits. It brings a changed way of living. When we think differently, we behave differently. The essence of the change is to cease living to oneself in self-will and sin and begin living to God in obedience and holiness.
Revival caused the inward press to change and leave past attitudes and behaviors behind, even if it means the destruction of very expensive material items used to express sin and rebellion against God. This is true repentance—turning from sin to a continuing and growing relationship with the Lord.
Love Breaks Out. We don’t know how to truly love. Acts 2:44-45, “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” Reports that come down to us from history during the Great Awakening say, “The town seemed full of the presence of God; it was never so full of love.” People loving one another!
“Because the sinner receives the knowledge that he or she is the special object of God’s redeeming love expressed in Christ on the cross, a grateful love for others is generated.” Old grudges and offences are set aside and forgiven and are replaced by a new attitude of mutual love, care and compassion.
Joy Fills Hearts. 1 Peter 1:8, “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Peter, who was part of the great revival on the Day of Pentecost identifies one of his experiences as “glorified joy” and tells us that kind of joy should be a continuous part of the Christian experience. People today undoubtedly want to experience this kind of joy, yet must turn to artificial and superficial means to catch a tiny glimpse of this joy that bubbles up from the depth of a redeemed soul. Sadly, this artificial happiness is often not grounded in God’s truth and is only temporary.
Under revival conditions in the first century, irrepressible and inexpressible joy in Christ was a usual and universal experience among Christian believers. When God is reviving His work, intense joy, alongside generous love, becomes a blessed routine.
Each Church Becomes Itself. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25, “But if all prophecy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.” The powerful sense of God’s presence become the typical experience in the church when gathered for the ministry of God’s Word. The gathered Christians know God is present to bless, encourage and strengthen those who are His.
When the people in the local church develop a unity of spirit and purpose in the message of the gospel and everyone agrees in the intelligent declaration of God’s grace, then unbelievers who join the service alongside the believers will come under true conviction for their sins (here:the secrets of his heart). He or she will understand that “God is really among them” and they will choose to trust in Christ as the Lord and Master.
The Lost Are Found. Acts 4:4, “But many of those who had heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” God’s wonderful blessings overflow; the saints reach out; unsaved people seek and find Christ because they see such a profound difference in the believers. Revivals are more than con-versions, but they are about converting the lost to Jesus Christ. There have been times when thousands of unbelievers have embraced Christ.
As the Great Awakening of 1734-35 was unfolding, Pastor Jonathan Edwards wrote, “I am far from pretending to be able to determine how many have lately been the subjects of divine mercy, but if I may be allowed to declare anything that appears to me probably in a thing of this nature, I think that more than 300 souls were savingly brought home to Christ, in this town, in the space of half a year.”
Satan Keeps Pace. Ephesians 6:10-13, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Satan does not create but he destroys. He is always busy trying to destroy God’s work. He is a cunning and shrewd adversary who attempts to counterfeit God’s true reviving work using the false fire of fanaticism, the false zeal of errant teachers, the false strategies of orthodox over-doers and divisive firebrands who major in minors in an attempt to discredit and demolish what God has been building. When revival comes it becomes even more imperative for Christians to take up and utilize the whole armor of God for the purpose of standing for the truth of God’s Word and against error and sin.
Do you want revival in our country? Are you praying for revival? Our nation needs a Christian revival. Our state needs a Christian revival. Our county and city need a Christian revival. Our church needs a Christian revival. We need a Christian revival! If in sovereign will and through His infinite grace God sends revival, it will begin here among believers in Jesus Christ.
Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner 6/15/2018 Next Update, 6/27/2018