Publication:Pastoral Letter, May 2009
Dear Friend in Christ:
This letter represents the second letter in a series I am writing about “Real Revival.” My last letter was about “Real Conditions for Real Revival,” which included humility, prayer, seeking God, and repentance. Second Chronicles 7:14 promised that if those conditions were met, then God would hear from heaven and heal the land. Should we meet those conditions, and God hears our prayers, what would real revival look like? That is our subject.
In 1964, I – along with others – received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit after seeking God and repenting of sin. I was pastoring a Southern Baptist church. In my first sermon after that experience, I preached from Matthew 3:11,and something remarkable happened – before I concluded the message, members of the congregation began coming to the altar. One lady said, “I don’t know where you have been, but I want to go there.” This was the beginning of a lasting revival, or visitation, from God that touched thousands of lives.
Second Chronicles 6:38 says “…and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul…” then you will hear from heaven. Second Chronicles 7:14 says, “Then will I hear from heaven…” Isaiah 59:1-2 tells us that God can hear, but our inquiries separate us from Him. So, what if we do seek Him until He hears? What can happen?
Our search may take time, but His response can be sudden. Malachi 3:1-2 says that He will suddenly come to His temple. Acts 2 records that He suddenly poured out His spirit upon those in the upper room .Acts 9 records that suddenly a light shined from heaven upon Paul. When God is ready, things happen in a hurry.
DELIVERANCE BEGINS. Israel, in captivity, cried and groaned out to God and deliverance began. We cannot deliver ourselves, but when God moves, He becomes our Deliverer and our salvation.
HEALING BEGINS. Second Chronicles 7:14 says when He hears, He will heal our land. Malachi 4:2 says that “the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in His wings.”Healing and wholeness are not a doctrine, but they are acts of God.
THE KINGDOM COMES. Romans 14:17 says, “The kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit not only imparts righteousness, peace, and joy, but causes us to live a life of righteousness, peace, and joy – it’s Kingdom living, a lifestyle. He causes us to put the Kingdom first (see Matthew 6:33).
THE KINGDOM EXPANDS. When revival came to Ephesus, the Word of God “grew mightily and multiplied.” All the region was affected (see Acts 19). I have discovered that while I may preach on evangelism, it requires the Holy Spirit to truly motivate God’s people to do it. A lack of evangelism is a real sign of the need for revival. The historical revivals have always swept multitudes into Christ’s Kingdom. The great revival in Wales (1904) swept one fourth of the population into the Kingdom. In Argentina, 1954, the largest stadiums were filled, and 300,000 came to Christ.
FAMILIES ARE CHANGED. Malachi 4 says that fathers’ hearts would be turned to their children and children’s hearts to their fathers. This is the greatest sociological need in the world!
ENEMIES ARE SILENCED. Proverbs 16:7 tells us that when a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. When Jacob was returning to his land of promise, he had to wrestle with God. Once he found favor with God, he humbled himself before Esau and found peace.
MANIFESTATIONS OCCUR. When the Holy Spirit comes in power, God’s people are overcome and demonstrations of His power occur: Laughter, weeping, shouting, clapping, lifting up hands, dancing, spiritual gifts, healing ,praying in the Holy Spirit, praise, prophecy, giving, falling down, and worship. These are signs of His power – but not means to His power. Manifestations are to be expected and governed by leadership. A biblical understanding is vital to God’s people so that manifestations do not become an end themselves.
Acts 2 and other passages tell us how to respond to God when He moves upon us: get established in apostolic doctrine (Bible Truth); fellowship; eating together and having communion; sharing resources; prayer; gathering; loving one another; unity; living a holy life; and hunger for the Word.
Another response is service. The Scripture makes it very plain that God desires us to live a life of joyful service .Jesus said that the harvest is great, but laborers are few (see Matthew 9:37). David said that God’s people would “volunteer freely in the day of His power” (see Psalm 110:3). Isaiah 58 is another chapter that promises God’s blessing upon those who serve. The greatest in the Kingdom is the one who is servant of all (see Mark 10:44). If we are expecting a revival, a great harvest, we must go beyond merely training Christians; we must train laborers. We cannot afford to “sit on the porch and wait for the crop to come in.”
A third response to revival is to discern the true from the false. Malachi 3:18 says, “In that day, you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.” The word of God divides the soul and spirit (see Hebrews 4:12). Soulishness (being driven by the senses) has no place in revival.
If Satan cannot prevent revival, he will attempt to join it. True followers will be joined by those who are attracted to the sensational. Leaders must be able to “spot” those who are not serving God’s purpose. Revival should produce a “choir” – not a group of “soloists.” To discern and discipline are the leader’s most difficult tasks; failure to do so will bring a revival to disrepute. The apostles exercised discipline (see Acts 8:9-25; 5:1-11). Many great revivals have perished because leaders failed to discipline. The Church’s overall current condition can be traced to that failure as well. If anyone rejects correction, that person proves the need for the discipline.
REVIVAL THAT ENDURES
When the Holy Spirit fell upon the small Moravian group in 1727, the prayer meeting continued for the next one hundred years, and they sent out hundreds of missionaries all over the world. First Corinthians 4:1-2 tells us that we are stewards of the mysteries of God. It is our privilege and responsibility to steward the work of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures and history tell us that persecution cannot quench a real revival, but we can allow it to diminish from poor stewardship.
Proverbs 6:16-19 tell us that God hates a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run to do evil, a false witness and one who sows discord among the brethren. These issues destroy revivals.
The keys to enduring revivals are the same keys that bring revival: humility, prayer, seeking God and repentance. I would add a willingness to speak the truth in love and staying focused on Jesus Christ. An additional way to see enduring revival is to stay focused on God’s purpose for revival, which is to bring the Gospel to all people groups (see Matthew 24:14). The great revivals of history have produced missionaries and evangelists in large numbers.
Perhaps the bottom line in producing an enduring revival is to make real disciples of Jesus Christ. Discipleship was Jesus’ own focus and required one to lay down their life to follow Him. True disciples are responsive to the Word of God and the Spirit of God, not self interest.
WHAT MUST WE DO?
Our task is to hear the Holy Spirit, even in the small things, so that great things can happen. Our task is to prepare and persevere until God moves on the Church and through the Church to the culture. Our task is to study the Scriptures so that we can give a biblical response to God’s power when He moves. God will not do our part, and we cannot do His part.
So much that we hold dear grew out of great revivals: our doctrine, our values, and way of life. The Great Awakening paved the way for our nations’ founding and for the great spiritual fervor.The abolition of slavery was influenced by the Second Great Awakening. Our work ethic was influenced by the teaching of Scripture, and even entrepreneurial activity grew out of faith (note the life of John D. Rockefeller).
We are debtors to those in the past who humbled themselves, sacrificed, sought God, and repented of sin. We have been handed a legacy that is the envy of the world. The question before us is what kind of legacy will we hand our children and grandchildren. We cannot remain passive and still pass on what cost our ancestors so much.
When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost that Jesus Christ was crucified and risen, the hearers were “cut to the heart” and asked, “What must we do?” Peter’s response was “Repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive that gift of the Holy Spirit”(see Acts 2:37-38). He went on to say, “The promise is to you, your children, and those who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (see Acts 2:39).
In other words, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit are for us as much as it was of them. And three thousand of them received the promise that day. The question for us remains the same: what shall we do? Will we leave the answer to history or will we step up to it today?
Given the wonderful results of true revival, should we not choose to humble ourselves, pray, and seek God’s face, and repent of our sins? And given the state of our nation and the need to heal our land, should we not respond as many Israelites did that day? Was England worse off than we are now prior to the Great Awakening? Was our nation worse off than it is now? I do not believe so.
We may comfort ourselves with past victories but the future requires a current response. What more must happen beyond wars, current morality, economic difficulties, and threats from other nations or terrorism to awaken us to seek God? Should we wait for some other church or group to meet God’s conditions or should we face this issue personally?
I recall World War II and the prayer meetings that were conducted in our small town. I recall the tears when lives were lost. Now I see “the righteous perish and no man takes it to heart” (see Isaiah 57:1). When my dear wife Carolyn died of cancer, like others that I have known and loved, it got my attention, and caused me to seek the Lord. Death and disease have touched us all. Many godly people have been taken; will we take it to heart?
I urge you to join me in seeking God. I know of other groups of believers who are humbling themselves before God, and I believe that “rain clouds” are moving toward us driven by the “Wind of the Spirit.” This is the time for unusual measures that will bring extraordinary results. It will take sacrificial and even laborious effort, but the stakes are high and the rewards are worth every effort.
If God is moving in a special way in your area, let us know so that we can share the encouragement with others. My next letter will be “Real Results of Real Revival.” God bless us in obedience to Him.
We sincerely ask for your continued prayer and financial support for CSM during the month of May. Be part of helping us to reach the next generation with the Gospel of the Kingdom. And be sure to visit us online at www.csmpublishing.org today!
Scripture Reference: 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, Malachi, Acts, Romans, Matthew, Acts, Proverbs, Psalms,