When Revival ComesA Complete Takeover
Leslie Basham: What kind of images does your mind conjure up when you hear the word, "revival?" It's January 4th. Thanks for joining us for Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Imagine with me a warm humid breeze blowing through a tent where several hundred people are gathered. A preacher steps away from the podium and raising his voice in an urgent plea for sinners to come to an altar while "Just As I Am" drifts from the piano. Now is this a picture of revival? Let's join Nancy and learn how to recognize true revival.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When you hear the word "revival" what are some of the images and words that come to mind? Well let me ask it this way--when the average person out there on the street hears the word "revival" what do you think are some of the images that come to his/her mind--what are some of the things you think of, some of the traditional thoughts about revival. Let me see some hands here.
Joyce: Summer tent meetings, okay, big weeks where revivalist or evangelist comes into town for some meetings.
Jan: Noise and drama, okay, that's a word picture that I think perhaps comes to some people's minds.
Woman 1: Bring people in--bring people in to hear the speaker. So if church, perhaps, or a group of believers has a revival or schedules a revival (in quotes) and they all go out and bring in or are challenged to bring in their friends and neighbors.
Leigh: Celebration, a fun time, you want to invite people to come, especially those who need the Lord, okay.
Woman 2: Tears and repentance.
Woman 3: A fresh touch from God where people are saved.
Is anybody here old enough to think of a sawdust trail? Does that image come to mine--a big tent--I see some heads nodding there. I think it's important that we understand first of all what revival is not and then take a look at what is revival.
First of all, revival as we're considering it this week in a historical and Biblical sense of that term is not an event--it's not a meeting. Now many people, particularly in some parts of the country have come to associate revival as a week of meetings or some extended meetings.
Revival is not something that we can schedule on our calendar. We can schedule revival meetings, but we can't schedule revival. I read about a sign outside a church in one town that said, "Revival, next Tuesday night," and then a sign on another church just down the street that said, "Revival next week, every night except Tuesday." Revival is not an event.
Second, revival is not just excitement. We can get excited about a lot of things--there's a lot of excitement at sporting events, for example, but that doesn't mean they're having revival in that arena just because there is excitement. Even at many Christian gatherings there's a lot of excitement, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're experiencing revival.
Third, revival is not emotionalism. Some of us when we think of revival, it conjures up images of crying, weeping, wailing, and shedding of tears. Now there may be and likely will be tears and weeping when we experience true revival, but there can be weeping and tears without true revival because revival is not emotionalism.
In fact, I remember one woman who had experienced a genuine revival in her heart and in her home and in her church, and reflecting back on that experience years later, she said, "Revival is not an emotional touch, it's a complete takeover." I like that--it's not just emotionalism; it's not just an emotional touch, though our emotions are touched in revival, but more than that it is a complete takeover.
Then number four, I want us to understand that revival is not the same as evangelism. Obviously evangelism is very close to the heart of God, His heart is for the world to be saved, but there is a difference. We're going to see over these next days that evangelism focuses on those who don't have a relationship with Christ. Revival is for the people of God--"Wilt thou not revive us again that Thy people may rejoice in Thee."
Now what is revival? There are many different definitions that have been suggested. One that I like particularly says that revival is an extraordinary moving of God's spirit. It's a moving of God's spirit in the hearts of His people that produces extraordinary results.
Revival is not ordinary. It is not just God working in the normal course of things. It is an extraordinary move of God's spirit in the hearts of His people that produces extraordinary results.
One man greatly used in revival said that revival is a fresh new beginning of obedience with God. Another revivalist defined it this way, he said, "It's a community saturated with God." I like that--a community saturated with the presence of God. Some would speak of a visitation or an outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God--God coming down and manifesting His presence in an unusual way among His people.
Someone else has spoken of revival as being the church falling in love with Jesus all over again. It's the bride in love with her Bridegroom. Revival really is, in a sense, a glimpse here on earth of a reality we will experience more fully in heaven and that is the love relationship, the marriage, the wedding of the bride to the Lamb.
And revival is really the bride getting ready for the wedding--all eyes on Jesus--all pure and ready for Him. And in that preparation of the bride, God is glorified. One person has just said revival is God. It's God showing up on the scene, revealing Himself in an unusual way to His people.
Now we need to understand that revival, true revival, is supernatural. It is beyond the ordinary, beyond the explainable. If you can explain what's happening in your church in terms of human initiative, promotion or efforts, then it's probably not revival.
Revival is a sovereign work of God. It's not something we can manufacture; it's not something we can make happen; only God can do it.
Let me read a passage in Isaiah 41 that references this sense of the sovereign work of God. Isaiah 41, "The poor and needy seek for water, but there is none, and their tongues fail for thirst." Revival supposes that there's a need, that there's a declension in the spiritual condition and there's a thirst and a desperation.
Then he says in verse 17, "I the Lord will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them." (Verse 18) "I will open rivers in desolate heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water."
It's a transformation, the dry places become a thriving garden. But look at verse 20--so "that they may see and know, and consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it."
You know in a very real sense, every true revival has stamped on it, "Made in Heaven, Made in Heaven." It's a sovereign work of God. We have to stand back in awe and in wonder and say, "God did this. Man could not have made this happen, this something that God did."
And then there's a sense in which revival is often sudden. You see God is moving all the time. He is always at work. He is effecting His purposes in the world, but there are moments when God accelerates the process. He makes it happen more quickly, almost as if it is in time lapse photography.
There's an illustration of that in 2 Chronicles 29 with the revival of King Hezekiah in the Land of Judah, and in the last verse of that chapter it says that the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for His people because it was done so quickly.
One of the fruits of the second Great Awakening in the area of moral and social reform was the Temperance Movement. The temperance workers said that when God moved in an extraordinary way in revival during those days that what they had tried for years to accomplish all of a sudden took place in a matter of weeks.
In the early 1900s there was a great revival in the land of Wales, and some of the eyewitnesses to that revival described what had happened. They talked about the whole area of coalmining which had been one of the major industries in Wales
And they said, "you know in earlier years people would mine the coal out of the earth with pickaxes." They would just have to keep attacking and going after it. It was very intense, tedious and laborious work, but they said that then came along dynamite.
They were able to blow open those coalmines and do the work much more quickly. That, to them, was a word picture of what God did in a relatively short period of time there in the nation of Wales.
One writer has said, "In revival things happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Meetings are lengthened, crowds gather, sermons have to be preached--not because it is all arranged in advance, but because God is at work. People will arrive without warning for a meeting, moved by an unseen hand." In revival God takes over. It is His sovereign work.
As you hear of God moving in these ways that are sovereign, the supernatural, the sudden, do you wonder if it could really happen today? That's a great question. Over these next several days we're going to look at the evidence that God wants to and is able to send--in our day--a fresh moving of His Spirit. Not the work of man, not the work of our human hands or efforts, but the sovereign, supernatural work of God. Turning the hearts of men, of women and homes and even a whole culture to Himself.
Leslie Basham: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss explaining that revival doesn't just take place at camp meetings, it's for you and me right now. That's why Nancy has written a new workbook with Tim Grissom and the staff of Life Action ministries.
It's called Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival. It's an interactive workbook that takes you through things like repentance, holiness, purity and maintaining a clear conscience. You can be revived every day sitting at your desk going through a personal Bible study. The book also includes discussion questions to use in a small group. Nancy, what do you hope will happen as a result of Seeking Him?
Nancy Leigh DeMoss Leslie, my burden for Seeking Him could be summarized by one verse, Psalm 69:32. "You who seek God let your hearts revive." And my prayer--and that of others who've worked with me for years on this book--is that it will be a tool, a resource that will be used by many individuals, families, small groups, churches. And that as a result of God's people seeking Him in a more concentrated, concerted way than they ever have before, that as a result they will truly experience true revival.
Leslie Basham: For more information on how you can be a part of Seeking Him, call us at 1-800-569-5959, or visit www.ReviveOurHearts.com.
If God were to truly revive us today, what practical results would we see? Nancy Leigh DeMoss will answer that question tomorrow. Please be with us for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministries, Back to the Bible, and FamilyLife Today.