The Glory Of Revival
It is never too late for God to send revival and reverse His judgment Ė until that judgment is final. Even when the nation of Israel faced Godís ultimate judgment through impending invasion, war, and captivity, God still looked for a man to stand in the gap (Ezek. 22:30).
In His compassion, God did not want to send judgment. All He wanted was one man to make a difference.
Later, in his prophecy of the dry bones (Ezek. 37), the prophet Ezekiel predicted that God would send revival to His people. Ezekiel was taken in the Spirit to a desert valley filled with dry bones that had been scattered about.
"These bones are the whole house of Israel," God told the prophet (v. 11). Then the Lord promised to send His Spirit into them that they might live and be restored to their land (v. 14). Ezekiel prophesied, and the bones came together; the Spirit of God empowered them, and they came back to life.
Revival is a supernatural action that comes sovereignly from the hand of God. Revival is the Reviver Himself in action in the inner life of His church. No one can bring revival or manufacture its results. We can pray for it, weep for it, repent of our sins, and wait on God to move, but we cannot make revival happen.
Human efforts brought about by advertising and promotional schemes, electronically enhanced music, computerized visitation lists, and just plain hard work will not in themselves bring revival. All of that may be good in its place, but it is not sufficient to bring a visitation of God on His church.
Genuine revival is the extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It results in deep conviction of sin and a deeper work of spiritual cleansing in our lives. When revival comes, Godís glory is manifest and His presence is evident. The whole church becomes ablaze with His glory!
Revival restores our first love for Christ. It resets our focus on Him alone. It redirects our energies to serve Him alone. It reorganizes our priorities to obey Him alone. Genuine revival brings back the glory of God that has often departed from our lives. It restores the joy in our relationship to God and to one another.
Revival also resolves conflict in the church. When our hearts are broken before God, His love flows out of us to everyone around us. The surest sign that a church needs revival is when jealousy and conflict prevail. Revival changes all of that because it removes bitterness, renews the mind, refreshes the spirit, and redirects the energies of our lives to serve God.
Lord, Do It Again
Apparently, it was the memory of an outpouring of Godís Spirit that prompted the psalmist to pen the words of Psalm 85. In the first three verses, he prays in essence, "Lord, You have done it before." He reflects on the freedom (v. 1), forgiveness (v. 2), and restored fellowship (v. 3) that God had brought to His people in times past.
The memory of past manifestations of the power of God motivates us to seek Him for a fresh moving in our midst. So the psalmist cries out in verses 4-7, "Lord, do it again!"
This is the heartís cry of a man who is not satisfied with a ho-hum, explainable, subnormal brand of Christianity. He speaks for those of us who long to see the fullest possible expression of the power and purity of God unleashed in His people.
The psalmist cried, "Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?" (v. 6). Notice that it is Godís people, not the lost, who are in need of revival.
To revive means to bring back to life. The lost have never had spiritual life; they need to be regenerated. Before the church can effectively reach a lost and needy world, we must first be revived, purified, emptied of sin and self, and filled with His Holy Spirit. In our unrevived state, we have nothing that would cause lost sinners to be drawn to Jesus.
Godís Word reminds us that judgment must begin at the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17). In the Old Testament, when God gave Ezekiel a vision of forthcoming judgment for sin, He instructed that the judgment was to "begin at My sanctuary" (Ezek. 9:6).
Not only is revival for Godís people in general, but more specifically, I must acknowledge my personal need for revival. As the old spiritual puts it, it is "Not my brother, not my sister, but itís me, O Lord, standiní in the need of prayer."
We tend to be acutely aware of the shortcomings and needs in everyone around us, yet we are so easily blinded to our own needs. While God may graciously send revival to a number of believers in a given area, revival is not a spectator sport. It is intensely personal. Someone has wisely observed, "Revival is Godís finger pointed at me!"
In our summits we ask people to fill out prayer cards so that our team can pray specifically for their burdens and needs. Invariably, during the first several days of the summit, people will ask us to pray for their husband or wife, their wayward son or daughter, their backslidden friends, or their deacons or church staff to experience revival.
But when the Spirit of God begins to break through, those cards begin to read more like this: "I thought my mate needed revival Ė but God has shown me that I am the one in need of revival." When we start to see our own needs, then we may believe that God will soon come and meet with us in genuine revival!
The nature of true revival may best be seen in the results it brings about in the lives of Godís people.
New Love for God
Revival brings, first, a new love for God. When asked by a Jewish legal expert which was the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus replied without hesitation, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart" (Matt. 22:37). If the greatest commandment is to love God with all my heart, then the greatest sin must be to love God with any less than all of my heart!
Jesus commended the Ephesian church for their diligent activity, their sound doctrine, their separated lifestyle, and their endurance. But He grieved that they had left their first love (Rev. 2:4). He warned that if they did not remember, repent, and restore their devotion to Him, He would render them useless by causing their light to no longer shine.
New Hatred for Sin
In the manifest presence of a holy God, we come to see ourselves as we really are and to detest every deviation from His righteous character in our lives. Again and again in Godís Word, we read of men who were deemed spiritual by others but who came to see the deceitfulness and wickedness of their own flesh when they came face to face with God.
Isaiah was a man chosen of God to communicate His truth to a godless generation. Early in his ministry, Isaiah was given a vision of the exalted, reigning, thrice-holy Lord of Hosts. By contrast, Isaiah saw himself to be utterly defiled, unworthy, and in desperate need of cleansing at the altar.
Job was a righteous man who honored and worshiped God. But intense suffering revealed a root of self-righteousness and pride in his view of himself. After listening silently to Jobís lengthy defenses of himself and his righteousness, God told Job to stop talking and listen as God revealed His character and His ways.
From that awful, blinding encounter with God, Job emerged with a radically altered view of himself. "I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6).
The church today seems to have little fear of God. Few of us can honestly say that we "Abhor what is evil; [and] hold fast to what is good" (Rom. 12:9).
In summit after summit, we counsel with professing believers who are indulging themselves in fleshly lifestyles, clinging tenaciously to pet sins, and ignoring clear-cut commands of Godís Word. I have observed a growing tendency among Christians to treat known sin casually.
Revival requires that we see ourselves and our sin as God does, and that we cooperate with Him in rooting out of our lives all that is unholy. A revived church is a pure church.
New Joy in Our Walk
The psalmist reminds us that God revives us so that we may rejoice in Him (Psa. 85:6). In the unrevived state of the church, we derive our joy from circumstances, programs, entertainment, and things that appeal to our flesh.
However, true and lasting joy is only to be found in the presence of God and through Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the Father (Psa. 16:11). Nehemiah 8:17 points out that one of the by-products of the great revival before the Water Gate was "very great rejoicing."
Joy, laughter, and singing are signs of a revived people. No wonder the psalmist exclaimed, "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy" (Psa. 126:1-2).
Generally, in the first week or so of our summits, people are reluctant to really sing out Ė which is not very surprising, considering how empty and unhappy the average Christian seems to be.
But as people begin to be emptied of sin and filled with the Spirit, the new inner fullness begins to express itself in their singing. We no longer have to depend on a worship team. People cannot help but make their own music to the Lord.
Nothing can quench the overflowing joy that results when peopleís hearts are purified, their consciences are cleared, and their innermost beings are filled with the Holy Spirit.
New Love for Others
Those who have been forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:47). Believers who have come face to face with their own sinfulness and have been forgiven by the grace of God no longer find it difficult to love others.
Love for Godís people is the natural overflow of love for God. In a revived church, bitterness, grudges, critical spirits, anger, and conflict are replaced by genuine love, forgiveness, humility, and oneness.
Nowhere is this product of revival seen more clearly than in our homes. Malachi prophesied that in preparation for the coming of Jesus, the hearts of the fathers would be turned to their children and the hearts of the children would be turned to their fathers (Mal. 4:6). Revival, like the filling of the Spirit, is evidenced in submissive wives, loving husbands, and obedient children.
The Old Testament repeatedly describes revival as the turning back of captivity (Psa. 85:1; 126:1; Isa. 61:1-3).
The account of raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11 illustrates the freedom that comes with genuine revival. Lazarus went through three distinct stages. First, when Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus was dead.
Then Jesus commanded, "Lazarus, come out!" He did so, but Scripture tells us that he was still bound by the yards of grave clothes and layers of sticky spices that had been wrapped around him for burial. He was alive, but he was bound.
What a picture of the average Christian Ė alive, but bound! For all practical purposes, there is very little difference between this unrevived believer and the unbeliever.
But Jesus did not leave Lazarus in that condition. He spoke the word, "Unbind him, and let him go!" And that is exactly what God does for us in times of revival Ė He sets us free!
Early one morning during a summit, I heard a knock on my trailer door. When I opened the door, the man who stood outside burst into tears and said, "I am free! I am free!"
So often these are among the first words to come out of the mouths of those who have been revived. What do they mean?
They mean that in their unrevived state, they were prisoners. They were in bondage to sin, guilt, bitterness, moral impurity, or habits they could not break. But Jesus came to set prisoners free and to loose the bonds of sin.
Through Jesusí death and resurrection and the power of His indwelling life, the prison doors have been thrown open, and we are eternally free! Words cannot describe the sense of release that comes when believers discover and appropriate the truth that sets them free.
The unrevived church is a powerless church. All the results it produces can be explained in terms of natural ability, effort, and energy. The late Dr. J. Edwin Orr, a historian of revival, pointed out, "In the unrevived state of the church, saints go racing to find sinners. But in the revived state of the church, sinners will come racing to find the Savior!"
A lost world cannot help but feel the impact of genuine revival in the church. In fact, virtually every social reform movement, evangelistic thrust, and missionary movement in history have been born out of revival.
In the wake of real revival, timid, self-conscious believers who never dared to speak of their faith to the lost will discover anointing and power for witness. Over and over, I have watched God loose the tongues of young people, housewives, businessmen, and, yes, even preachers to witness with freedom and boldness.
The revived church is a church endued with supernatural power from on high. That is why the oft-heard cry of the Welsh Revival was, "Bend the church to save the world."
The early church was known for the signs and wonders of God at work in their midst. Empowered and energized by the Holy Spirit against incredible opposition and odds, they soon reached the whole known world with the Gospel of Jesus. The revived church is a church where God is releasing His supernatural power.
Taken from Ablaze With His Glory by Del Fehsenfeld, Jr. Copyright ©1993 by Life Action Ministries. Revised Edition © 2009. Used by permission.