REVIVAL - WHO NEEDS IT?
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15
I remember clearly the first time I heard the term "revival" used in a Christian context, back in the mid-seventies. A traveling evangelist had set up a huge tent in the town I lived in, with the words "Revival Meetings" written in large letters right across it. I had no idea what he meant by "revival", but one of the senior ladies in the Pentecostal church I had recently joined tried to explain it to me. I still had no real concept of what she was trying to convey, but the tone of her voice and the "far away" look of longing on her face spoke volumes. I was impressed. REVIVAL! It was obviously something I, as a newly Spirit-filled Christian, and so hungry to learn, needed to take very seriously.
Over the years since that day more than twenty five years ago, I've heard the word many times. I heard it reverberate through the Christian world loudly and clearly when the "Father's blessing" broke out in Toronto. A few years later, "revival" became the catchcry once again for the Brownsville outpouring, and since then for a number of other spiritual "hotspots" where the Spirit of God was known to be moving in power, healing, and salvations. I've seen the word plastered in big letters alongside indisputable (?) numbers on the billboards of large city churches. (You know the ones I mean: "Now in our umpteenth week of revival!"). I've heard it whispered, shouted, pleaded, commanded, claimed, and groaned, in countless prayer meetings and intercessors' conferences. I've read just about every "hot off the printing press, must have" book on it. I've poured through volumes on the history of revivals and the lives of revivalists from Edwards to Roberts. And I've listened dutifully to the varied opinions of "authoritative voices" on the subject, from local church pastors to international prophets.
And just lately I've come to the painful conclusion that while we're all talking about it , writing about it, reading about it, praying for it, seeking it and chasing it, there don't seem to be a great many of us actually HAVING it!
So what is this elusive thing we all think we want; Revival? And do we really want it, or do we just need it? Some seem to think revival is just the church awakening, dying to "dead works" and coming alive to a living relationship with Jesus. Others would say you know revival has come when there are signs, wonders, miracles and healings being manifested. Still others will tell you it's not a revival until there are multitudes of souls being added to the Kingdom. I don't dispute any of these views, in fact I suspect revival includes all of them. But are any of these a revival, or are they the fruits of revival?
If we turn to the scriptures for more insight on the matter we find that all the recorded instances of revival in the Bible, were preceded by some common elements. Revivals took place under the reigns of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29, 30, 31) and Josiah (2 Chronicles 34 & 35); revival came in the days of Ezra (Ezra 9 & 10); and again in the times of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-6) and the early church (Acts 2:37-47). A closer examination of each of these will reveal that God revived His people when He saw a combination of four things:
Forsaking of all forms of idolatry;
Separation from the surrounding world;
A turning back to the His Word.
Have you ever heard the old saying "familiarity breeds contempt?" It seems the church of God has become so familiar with terms like "renewal", "repentance" and "revival" that we're fast losing the significance and integrity of those words. I've heard it stated that we've had our fill of "repentance", that it's time to celebrate. Surely the question is not whether we, the church, are satisfied with our repentance, but whether the God is satisfied. And surely He alone is able to judge when we've borne the "fruit worthy of repentance." The word "repent" in the Old Testament ("shuwb") conveyed the idea of withdrawing, reversing or turning back from a position, (e.g. Ezekiel 14:6.) In the New Testament, the Greek word for repent ("metaneo" ) means to think differently, to reconsider, and comes from a root word meaning to consider and exercise the mind, or to change one's mind or purpose. It signifies not just regret, but a turning point. In the New Testament, repentance was preached first by John the Baptist, (Matthew 3:2), taken up by Jesus after John's imprisonment (Matthew 4:17), and later by the disciples (Mark 6:12). In scripture, revival was preceded by repentance.
However, if we look deeper we will discover another significant aspect of scriptural revival, and that is that before revival was granted on a corporate scale, it first took place in the spirit, mind and will of an individual. Both Hezekiah and Josiah, Kings of Israel, experienced revival in themselves before it manifested in their nation. It is said of Josiah that he began to "seek the God of His father, David" (2 Chr. 34:3). Ezra the priest was drawn into deep and humble repentance for the sins of the Israelites which led in turn to the corporate repentance and revival of the people. When John and Jesus preached "Repent. For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" it was individuals who responded. They came one by one to be baptized, one by one to hear the words of the Kingdom, one by one to follow Jesus. Yes, there were crowds, but crowds are made up of many different individuals, not all who are of the same mind. Often crowds become a remnant when things become harder than expected. (See John 6:48-66)
The point I am making is that revivals start with the convicting power and quickening of the Holy Spirit in one yielded vessel. And when revival flares up in one, it cannot be contained. It spreads like wildfire to those around, until as in Hezekiah's day "the thing is done suddenly" (2 Chr. 29:36).
So many of us seem to be sitting around waiting for "the revival to come" as if some mighty rushing wind is going to bombard through the doors and windows at any moment, knocking us off our feet and transforming us all into "Supersaint" in an instant. And I won't for a minute say it can't happen that way. We know it has and can. God is sovereign and if He chooses to move on His church in that manner, so be it.
But consider this: Maybe there's a revival already starting in some of us. Maybe it's not coming, maybe it's here. And maybe He's just waiting for us to truly yield to everything He wants to do in us as individuals, before He brings it all out in the open and lets the world know about the treasure He's been hiding in His earthen vessels.
And to stretch the idea even further - maybe revival isn't the boisterous, happy, party time we've anticipated. Maybe revival is having everything comfortable and familiar in our lives stripped away; maybe it's having to let go of relationships, habits, or dreams we've held for years, in fact forsaking anything and everything that's exalted itself above the knowledge of the Lord; maybe its calling sin sin instead of "weakness" or "personality" or "culture"; maybe it's discovering we're wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked before our Creator, rather than the "have need of nothing" people we thought we were; maybe its being confronted with the ugliness and utter hopelessness of our flesh in such clarity that all we can do is cry out for mercy. Yes, maybe it's uncomfortable, and maybe it's learning that repentance isn't just saying sorry, but wilfully turning (2 Corinthians 7:9, 10).
Is that where you are right now? Well, if it is, welcome to revival my friend. This is it. If you're being dealt with by the Holy Spirit in a way you've never known before; if every day brings new revelation of the depth of your need and complete dependence on God's grace; if all of your dearly held doctrines are being questioned, stretched and even dismantled by Him; if your obedience is being tested to the utmost; if you are being driven to the Word out of sheer desperation for the truth; if you thought you knew at least a little and now find you know nothing; if everything you believed you had learned long ago is being re-examined and sifted; if what you had perceived as your God-given duty, ministry, calling or career is being exposed to you as nothing short of idolatry; in short, if you're not even sure who you are any more - well, there's a good chance you have what you've been asking for - REVIVAL!
One who experienced revival in a unique and powerful manner was Lazarus (John 11). Our English word "revive" means to "come or bring back to life" and comes from the Latin "vivere" - to live. So if we are to take the word "revival" at face value, what can we learn from the story of Lazarus, as one who was dead and lived again? Perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to the Holy Spirit's work of revival in our individual lives, is our fear of death. Not just physical death, but death to our everyday lives as we have known them. Three times in John 11 it was said of Jesus that if He had only come earlier, Lazarus "would not have died" ! Jesus, however, was fully aware of this. In fact, He had purposely delayed His journey to Bethany so that at the time of His arrival Lazarus had already been in his tomb for four days. Jesus did not view death in the same way as Martha, Mary and Lazarus did, and He does not view it in the same way as we do. How can He, when He is the resurrection and life? Lazarus' death was, to Jesus, no less than a means to bring forth life.
So it is with our flesh. The purpose of its death is that we may live. We have thought we have been alive, but we have not known life "abundantly" which is the supernatural life Jesus came to give us. Our English translation of His words "more abundantly" in John 10:10 fall far short of the original meaning of the Greek word used in that verse ("perissos"). This word literally translates as "exceedingly abundantly above, beyond measure, excessive, superfluous and vehement" - LIFE! In the light of the life Jesus came to bring us, we have indeed been dead.
When Jesus cried out the words "Lazarus, come forth!" Lazarus responded. Think of him in the blackness and dampness of that cave for four days, wrapped in his grave clothes. The Voice of Jesus suddenly breaks through every unseen barrier, commanding wholeness and life. At the sound of His Voice, death retreats full speed into the darkness, and Lazarus awakes. Jesus cried out the command, but it was Lazarus who "came forth". It was Lazarus who yielded, body, soul and spirit.. It was Lazarus from whom the grave clothes were removed and whose eyes were uncovered to behold the face of His Lord. It was Lazarus who was revived.
Jesus is beginning to revive His Bride. He's starting with individuals. It starts with me, it starts with you. And it means a death must take place - ours. But He will not leave His Bride in the cold, dark cave. When the refining has taken place He will call her forth to life abundant.
So let me ask you - revival, who needs it? May God grant us a revelation of the desperation of our need and the humility to yield to His purifying fire as He revives us - that we may live!
"Come, and let us return to the Lord, For He has torn, but He will heal, He has stricken but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us ; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord, His going forth is established as the morning. He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth." (Hosea 6:1)
Cheryl McGrath, Great South Land Ministries
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