♣ REVIVAL: Do We Know What We’re Asking For?
Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence…to make Your name known…that the nations might tremble at Your presence! (Isaiah 64:1-2)
I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…And one (seraphim) called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of Him who called…And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! (Isaiah 6:1,3,4,5)
Revival is a word that rolls so easily off our tongues and has become a cliché that in turn has blinded us from what it really implies. Many churches, Christian groups gather regularly to pray, organize and expect God to fulfill their demands! But seldom, if ever in our day, does a genuine spiritual awakening take place.
Countless of churches may encounter intense emotions and varied phenomena that sweep along thousands upon thousands of people with the latest tide, all declare to be of the Holy Spirit, when in actual fact it is proved to be nothing but emotionalism, elevation of self – even to the point of subtle demonic activity that tightens its grip on those held captive and deceived. If there is anything the devil can do it will be to upset, twist, distort what God is doing and keep a soul from experiencing a genuine move of the Holy Spirit; it is always his attempt to mar God’s creation in regeneration and to counterfeit, if he can, the activity of God.
Today’s Christian in general fails to discern and recognize the power of the enemy. He seems to lie dormant, but the truth of the matter is that he is deceiving more subtly than he ever has done. He is defeated and unimaginably outmatched by the power of our King of kings and Lord of lords, but many Christians in their immaturity and ignorance fall short of realizing that our enemy still prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to destroy all who are in his path and threaten his rule. It is no wonder the Holy Spirit guided Paul in his treatment on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6 and other inferences throughout his epistles, not forgetting that the same author spoke of the enemy’s disarming being brought to open shame as Christ gloriously triumphed over them through his atoning sacrifice and death on a cross (Colossians 2). We need balance in this area as also there are those who give too much focus on the demonic realm. Nevertheless, the exhortation to the testing of the spirits is just as valid as when it was written in the first epistle of John.
Coming from the land of revival, Wales, I’m amazed at how the word revival here in America is thrown about just like a softball; the very utterance lacks sincerity and depth.
I hear it so often in and from so many churches, I see it advertised, I hear the announcements: “On June 14th-21st we’re going to have revival…” or, “We have a visiting pastor who’s going to conduct a revival meeting next week…“ or, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t help you out… we’re having revival that week…” I could go on and on, but what greatly concerns me is how any one can announce and ‘organize’ a revival! Such a mentality blatantly reveals that anyone who speaks in such a fashion has not even begun to perceive what revival really is – well done for merchandising revival!
Have we not witnessed over the last few decades so-called ‘waves of the Holy Spirit’ and people running from one country to another and from one city to another to ‘catch’ the blessing as if God in His omnipresence ran an expiration date?!
And what have most of these so-called ‘great moves of God’ resulted in? Nothing but wild laughter, licentious conduct, and behaving like animals – literally! God created man to be man; he is unique, above the animal kingdom, and was made to worship God, not bring dishonor to Him or bring chaos where God designed order.
I say this with absolute conviction and persuasion that the majority of these so-called revivals are contrary to the operations of the Holy Spirit; they are an insult, even a blasphemy! Such movements do nothing but glorify man – the so-called leaders that peddle a false doctrine and gospel unto their own destructive gain, and in the meanwhile, draw in the millions around the world to obtain their experience and ‘fix’. I believe that God’s judgment is already happening as He is allowing many to be deceived and deluded in believing lies rather than the truth. We live in a day of great apostasy and many have expected it to be blatantly obvious – however, the rug has already been snatched from beneath our feet. We live in the day where Christianity is at such ease because of the ‘appearance of church growth’ and I don’t doubt for one second that Paul Washer is frighteningly correct when he stated that 95% of churches here in America are not regenerate. His messages do not appeal to many – neither did Jeremiah’s! Paul is a man that God has raised and it is so sad that most churches will not have him back to speak all because he preaches the word as God would have him. That’s an appalling reflection on the churches out here and yet they call and pray for revival! But what are they really getting? One of the key marks of a revival is a reverence for God, something this generation is alien to. Of course, you have the minority that does fear God – but only a minority!
I’ve been to many churches, enough to make you sick, that bear a strong resemblance to nightclubs or dance clubs; we’re too comfortable with the world; we love it and will not part with it. How can we say we love God if we admire the world – the system, mentality and trend of it? And we want revival and expect it? “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water“ (Jeremiah 2:13), bears great significance for us today, and we want revival? We will not get it because we ask amiss, we ask with wrong motives; we ‘seek’ God but not with ALL our hearts. Few find God these days (in the sense of really knowing Him). We don’t know what we ask for.
A genuine move of the Holy Spirit inevitably results in holiness, conformity to the image of Jesus Christ. The meaning of the Holy Spirit has been long forgotten; we want the ‘Spirit’ but not holiness; we want an experience, but on our terms. It is experiences we chase, but fail to pursue God; it’s the gifts we like, but remain ignorant of the Giver; it’s the power we want but fail to realize that the implication means the increasing of Him and a radical decreasing of ourselves.
Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, the seraphim worshipping and crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” The brightness of it all was too much for Isaiah; the majesty of God over-awed him, so much that he fell apart, “Woe is me… I am undone, I am lost.” He couldn’t bear the sight of his own filth in the light of God’s blazing perfection; he couldn’t stand up on holy ground – he dare not! Isaiah was truly a broken man – “For my eyes have seen the Lord of hosts”. Does such a scene warrant the shallow worship prevalent in the church today? Does such an experience check our over-familiarity with God that saturates our services today?
Many talk of revival as the top of your head blowing off. No, true revival rather is the bottom of your world falling out.
David Davies, a godly man from Wales whom I personally know, was a missionary in the Congo during the 1950’s who witnessed a mighty outpouring of the spirit of God in revival, converting thousands unto Christ. He said that it was a time when God ‘walked’ among people such was the intensity of His presence, an experience he would never forget. Not so long ago he was asked the question if he desired to experience that again. His response was contrary to the norm of what we’re used to hearing today: “I wouldn’t rush to ask for it…it was a fearful, awesome and glorious encounter that does not leave you unchanged; it shatters your world and you come to understand something of what Isaiah experienced when He saw the LORD…” This is such the opposite of what happens today in many so-called revival meetings.
Study the Welsh revivals (1859 and 1904), the Hebridean revival (1949), the Congo revival (1953) and the Great Awakening over here in the United States (1730 onwards), and read the accounts and then hold them up to the mockery that goes on today. Was the culture and times different then – is that the difference? Absolutely not! God made Himself known in great power. My heart aches when I hear and see of all the activity in the name of God; it shatters my heart, and imperfect as I am, I sometimes wish I were born in a past generation where people once took God seriously – a people who really knew Him. No era has ever been perfect, but I really believe in this generation the church has never burned at such low ebb as it does now. The church has never been as liberal and apostate as the day in which we find ourselves in; Christians have never been so intolerant to sound doctrine as they are now, there definitely seems to be more tares than wheat – “Many are called but few are chosen.” Never has there been such a famine of God’s word in a diversely mass populated world. We declare God but ignorantly worship Him; we Christianize everything but remain unchanged ourselves; we declare a gospel but not the gospel of Jesus Christ; we claim thousands of converts – but not unto Christ – and lead them on the broad way to hell! Is this heavy? Is this critical? Is what I’m saying unfair and unloving? It’s being honest and not afraid to stare the facts and statistics in the face… and cry to God with a broken and contrite heart, “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down; that You would walk with us once again; turn us from our sin and ignorance to knowing You… Oh, that the honor of Your name would be restored once again.”
Do we know what we’re asking for when we pray for revival? Thousands in the 1904 Welsh Revival who encountered that mighty out-pouring of the Holy Spirit came to the realization they were not regenerated. These were people who attended chapel/church religiously who believed they were Christians, but when God’s presence was made known, they understood they had never known Him.
Job said, “Now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” That verse has to be one of the most accurate descriptions of what a real revival is – not what we run after today – the spectacular, THE experience hosted by one egotistical megalomaniac like so many have in the recent past. Leonard Ravenhill said, “The next revival will have no man’s name on it. It will not raise an abomination or denomination or whatever you want to call it. The next one will supersede it, it will break every vessel we have, burst it open with the majesty and the glory of God.” Who are we more conscious of when it comes to our pastors and leaders – them, or God? Who stands in the foreground? Oswald Chambers said, “If I, as a minister of God, attract attention unto myself, I have failed my mission.” We hardly find pastors with that mentality today.
Revival will entail death to self like we’ve never known it. It is not clean and easy like so many think it is; it can be very ugly and messy. We will come to loathe ourselves in His presence. All that we esteem highly in ourselves will be reduced to a pile of rubble and ashes; the love of self will go and God will finally take the throne in our hearts.
Many boast and brag that God ‘showed up’ in their services and there is no apparent change in their lives. If God really showed up, we’d know – there would be no doubt about it; we’d be prostrate with our faces to the floor, our hearts breaking and our bodies sobbing with agony of the revelation of our wretchedness in the light of His majesty.
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.” (Hosea 6:1)
Isaiah saw the Lord and in turn saw himself – a wreck, but God in His mercy who brought him there provided and applied the cleansing, took away his guilt having his sin atoned for. There will be no doubt when God moves in revival, that He will reveal our sinfulness, and in our brokenness will cleanse, heal and renew. God desires to walk with us but will break us in order to make that possible, and in our weakness, helplessness and contrite condition we will know His grace and mercy in measures we have not known before. It’s from here we will discern the call of God on our lives and be sent out into the world, effectively proclaiming Him to lost souls.
Oswald Chambers, who died in 1917, said: “If there is to be another revival it will be through the readjustment of those of us on the inside who call ourselves Christians.”
As mentioned before: the Church has sadly become the mission field; the world ought to be the focus and priority! Instead, the Church needs to be brought back in line, pick back up the original mandate/commission in order to effectively reach a lost and dying world.
Revival has one ultimate aim: the glory of God made known unto a people that don’t know Him resulting both in reformation and regeneration. The Holy Spirit in revival will not draw attention to miracles and spiritual gifts, but will rather bring focus to the cross of Christ as Redeemer to a dying soul; it always has been central in genuine revival and always will be.
A spiritual awakening reforms the individual, the church – exalting the preaching of the word and sound doctrine, regenerates the lost and positively influences society.
Our next revival will be the result of God’s sovereign will and no doubt will be mixed with the pain of persecution that He will use to perfect His Church.
There is no formula to revival, no dictating to God, no manufacturing of God; it is purely His work – all of it. All we can do is turn to Him, ask Him to humble us and in the meantime wait patiently for Him.
Lord, restore the honor of Your name in and through Your Church again.