Publication:Pastoral Letter, April 2009
Dear Friend in Christ:
This letter begins a three part series on the subject of revival. I do not need to convince you that the Church and our nation need a real revival. There are all kinds of indicators, from declining local church involvement to a decline in social conditions. Secular trends and their impact upon the Church_and particularly our youth – should convince us that we have a deep, serious spiritual problem. The question is, “Do we stand by and watch or do we respond?”
I hesitate to use the term “revival” to describe what I advocate because it has been used to describe meetings and events that fall short of the biblical and historic models. A “visitation” or an “awakening” may better describe what we need. The revival of which I speak could be described as a Sovereign move of the Holy Spirit that dramatically affects both the Church and the surrounding culture to follow Jesus Christ.
A real revival goes beyond an emotional response to God. It is an extraordinary event that raises the level of ordinary living – a turning from our way to His way. The context for such an event is a moral decline that motivates people to turn back to God. It seems to me that our present context qualifies.
My own purpose is not to evaluate what some have called revival or to be critical of the efforts of others. Rather,it is to become a “seeker” myself and to motivate others to seek God. The path to real revival will not be easy nor the price cheap.
BIBLICAL AND HISTORICAL REVIVAL
The Bible and history provide many dramatic examples of revival. In 2 Kings 22,King Josiah led Israel in revival when the Book of the Law was rediscovered in the temple (of all places).Acts 2 tells about the Great Pentecost Revival. Acts 19 gives an account of the Great Ephesian Revival. And Revelation 2 warns the Ephesian Church to return to its first love.
History likewise gives examples: Pope Gregory led the early Catholic Church in a revival of missions. There was a Great Moravian Revival in 1727,the Great Awakening in the 1700s,the Second Great Awakening in the 1800s,the Welsh Revival and Pentecostal Revivals in the early 1900s,the Shantung Revival in the 1930s,the Latter Rain revival in 1948,the Hebrides Revival in 1949,the Argentine Revival in 1954,and the Charismatic Revival in the 1960s and 1970s.
While each revival was different, they all had an impact upon the Church and surrounding culture. There have of course been many other such events, but these represent occasions when God’s people for some reason became desperate and God responded.
THE PROBLEM OF SIN
The word “sin” has virtually dropped out of modern vocabulary. It has been replaced with “bad choices”, “mistakes,” or some other milder word. Western society has been on a road to “self-realization” which is a synonym for corruption. Using new terms has not changed the old results. Sin is violating the Law of God, missing the mark, or falling short. The Scripture clearly states the result is death_self destruction (see Romans 3:23; 6:23). Everyone suffers from this serious problem.
Humanism contends that we are born good; we simply make bad choices. But the Bible clearly states that sin is not just what we choose to do; sin actually lives in us (see Romans 7). It is a genetic problem; as long as we live, we must deal with it (see Psalm 51; 139:23-24). It is in our very flesh and causes all manner of problems while we live: lying, stealing, murder, adultery, division, gossip, and more. And there is another serious problem.
The word “judgment” is even more unpopular than the word “sin.” But the same Bible that speaks of love also speaks of judgment. John 3:18 tells us that because of our propensity, we are already under condemnation. John 16 says that the Holy Spirit convicts us of judgment – the Spirit warns us. Malachi 3 tells us that when God’s messenger comes, He will refine like a fire and judge. First Peter 4:12-17 tells the Church that when judgment comes, it will begin at the House of the Lord.
While we may not like the thought of judgment or the consequence of sin, judgment is a reality in every civil society and certainly in God’s order. The fear of judgment is a strong motivator. The loss of that fear leads to lawlessness and chaos. And, without the reality of judgment, the Cross of Christ makes no sense. In the Cross, God judged sin and provided a way of escape for us.
After the horrible events of 9/11, Oprah Winfrey led an “ecumenical” prayer service in New York City. But there was no national repentance and no lasting results. When anyone spoke of those terrible events relating in any way to judgment, it brought immediate and serious recrimination from the politically correct media and even the religious community. “Judgment” is taboo. While I am careful about assigning the word judgment to any tragic event, what kind of problem could raise the question of judgment?
Many of us want easy answers to difficult situations. And what about our current economy? Did moral failure contribute? Without real repentance there can be no real revival in social and economic conditions. The flesh seeks easy, side-stepping solutions. Any avenue will do as long as carnal desire is rationalized and survives.
The world worships celebrity, and Christians also flock to hype, personalities, or emotionally-driven events. Like the prophets of Baal, we get “worked up”, but no fire comes down. We seek something from God, but fail to seek God. We seek an “experience”, but not His purpose. There is little personal affect in much of our church experience, let alone cultural affect. That is not real revival.
KEYS TO REAL REVIVAL
Let us examine who is to pray, how to pray, and what we are praying for. (Next month’s Pastoral Letter will continue this theme also.) I would encourage a study of Isaiah 55; Isaiah 57:15; 2 Chronicles 6:37-39; 2 Chronicles 7:13-15. Remember real revival is a Sovereign gift from God.
- REVIVAL BEGINS WITH GOD’S PEOPLE. “If My people who are called by My Name…”(see 2 Chronicles 7:14; Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:4-12.)First Corinthians 6:20 reminds us that we are bought with a price – the blood of Jesus. We are not our own, we are His possession. He can do with us as He wills. A revival is when God’s people return to His will and His ways.
- DESPERATION. Joel 2 gives us a look at the desperation that precedes revival: alarm, threats, weeping, mourning, fasting, and fear of losing our heritage. Jesus spoke of hunger, thirsting, and mourning as conditions for blessing. Exodus 2 speaks of crying out and groaning. Desperation is an extreme awareness of need and willingness to do whatever is required (see Genesis 32 and Matthew 5).
- HUMILITY. Humbling ourselves is what we do. Humility is a deep sense of unworthiness before a Holy God. It is turning from Satan’s own sin of pride to Jesus’ attitude of humility. It is the posture of listening instead of speaking (see Isaiah 57:15). Philippians 2:5-11 tells us that though Jesus was Divine, He deliberately humbled Himself in station and reputation and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. The Cross tells us many things, but two in particular. God loves us and hates sin. As it was with our Lord so it is with us – humility is the portal to God’s purpose.
- PRAY AND SEEK GOD’S FACE. My friend Derek Prince said the difference between prayer meetings and seeking God’s face is that when a prayer is concluded, we stop. When we seek God’s face, we don’t stop until we find Him. (See Genesis 32:30; Psalm 27:7-10.) To seek His face is to see a higher vision of God (see Isaiah 6) and to find His favor.
- TURN FROM WICKED WAYS. Repentance is to begin to see our sin as God does, to be sorry for it as He is, and to turn from our way to His. (See Isaiah 55:7; Isaiah 53:6; Acts 2:37-38; 2 Corinthians 7:10.) The depth of repentance will determine the scope of revival. Deep repentance will produce results that are profound and enduring. Real repentance is a gift from God (see Romans 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25; and Hebrews 12:17), but it is also our response to His truth and His grace. The prophets, John the Baptist,our Lord, and the apostles all preached repentance. All real revival begins in repentance. And real repentance endures when the revival is over.
- WAITING ON GOD. The danger of thinking that we know what to do is that we might just do something before we hear from God. The Pharisee did that, the Publican did not. Liturgy and program have their place, but they can also prevent us from hearing God. We often proceed as though God has nothing to say.
NOT A FORMULA
What I have outlined in this letter as “keys” is not a formula. God has a time. Those that learn to wait on the Lord will renew their strength.(See Isaiah 40:28-30; Psalm 40:1-3; and Luke 24:49.)In the early days of my experience, I waited on the Lord – sometimes all day and all night. I am not good at waiting; I am an impatient person. But God is patient (see James 5:7).
We may do “steps 1-5” and nothing will happen immediately (see Psalm 27:13). Faith means that we wait until…. Waiting teaches us that God is the initiator; He is in charge. But if we sincerely do what I have outlined and wait in faith, He will do what He said He would do! And what He said is worth the wait.
We all have needs unmet, loved ones not saved, promises unfulfilled. When God moves, He will do what we cannot. Some will keep on in the flesh, trying to obtain what can only be received from God. But others will grow weary in themselves – and of themselves – and seek God. I hope that we will be among those.
REAL REVIVAL AND RESULTS
My next letter will describe real revival, and then the third will describe the results of real revival. But if we do not get this letter right in our hearts, the next two letters will not matter. I sincerely urge you to not only prayerfully study this letter, but discuss it with your pastor and friends.
I will mention one other issue. I have recently undertaken reconciliation with friends of former years. My own failures have led to some division. I believe that as Jacob attempted to reconcile to Esau before returning to Bethel, we too should attempt the same prior to our return to Bethel. We may not reach all that we have offended nor will we always be successful, but we are called to make the effort.
I hope that you will not only study the keys that I have suggested, but that you and I can put them into action_not only for our sakes but for those who will be touched. As we obey, God will bless…and Godspeed!
Charles V. Simpson
P.S. Please continue to remember CSM this month as you pray, and also as you plan your budget. We need your support to continue our outreach, publishing, and networking. Also, we hope to see you at our annual Gatlinburg Conference, April 22-24. This year, we will focus on “A Call to Arms:Prayer & Action!” Visit www.csmpublishing.org for more information.
Scripture Reference: 2 Kings, Acts, Romans, Revelation,
Psalms, John, 1 Peter, Isaiah, 2 Chronicles Exodus, 1 Peter, Joel, Genesis, Philippians, Acts, 2 Corinthians, 2 Timothy, James