Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Do you ever get discouraged by the darkness of sin in our world? Here’s Richard Owen Roberts.

Richard Owen Roberts: Justice demands that we pin the blame where it belongs—on the church. The church is the light of the world. If the light has become darkness, how can you blame the darkness?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, for Tuesday, September 27.

Nancy: Our guest this week is Richard Owen Roberts. He’s been a longtime friend and a longtime servant of the Lord and soldier and a faithful man with a heart for revival. Actually, Mr. Roberts, we go back a long ways. You are a part of the spiritual heritage and history of my own life.

We’ve talked about this before, but I think it would be of interest to our listeners to know that you were raised in upstate New York. You came to know the Lord there as a child. My dad was converted as a twenty-five-year-old rebel who was far, far, far from God in a meeting under the preaching of Hyman Appleman who was a Russian, Jewish, Southern Baptist evangelist.

As I understand it, your father was on the committee that brought Mr. Appleman to Albany for that series of meetings.

Mr. Roberts: My dad became an elder in the Presbyterian church in Schenectady. He was assigned the responsibility of the oversight of the evangelistic outreach of the church. One of the things that he got engaged in was this cooperative evangelism program with many of the churches of the region. We lived in Schenectady.

Hyman Appleman was invited and an old horse arena was found that was available. It was converted into a tabernacle.

Nancy: The reason my dad was interested in that meeting was not because he had any interest in the things of the Lord, but he had been a gambler—he was a gambler. He was interested in horse betting and races. He was intrigued by the Christian meeting, this gospel meeting that was going on in this converted horse operation.

Mr. Roberts: I was in my teens, I believe, at the time that this occurred. I remember the preaching of Hyman Appleman. It was powerful preaching—earnest. Not an awful lot happened in that arena in terms of spiritual results.

But I remember my father telling me one day with a glow about this gambler who had been converted the night before. Now, I had no connection at that time with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: Well, there was no Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Mr. Roberts: Art DeMoss was the name attached to this gambler. Often in the years following, my dad would reflect on the horse arena meetings and how grateful he was to have been privileged to participate in that.

Nancy: I actually have been told that Mr. Appleman left that meeting before it was scheduled to conclude, thinking that not much was happening, but not realizing at the time that at least one who was converted there, the man who would become my dad, that God had radically transformed his life.

My dad and Mr. Appleman became dear friends.

Mr. Roberts: Oh, I hadn’t been aware of that.

Nancy: I can remember Mr. Appleman staying in our home. He had this very thick, guttural, Russian accent. And hearing my dad and him pray . . . I would just be a little fly on the wall, sitting in the corner listening to them pour out their hearts. The words Mr. Appleman spoke into my own life were words of affirmation when I was a little girl seeking the Lord. Now, both of those men are in heaven, but to be walking in their train. And you faithfully over these many years are still calling God’s people to repentance, to holiness, to personal and corporate revival.

As you shared with us yesterday, how when you were twelve God put this burden for revival on your heart. I don’t know if I’ve ever shared with you, that it was when I was twelve or thirteen years of age, that God put a deep passion for revival on my own heart. And similar to you, I was reading the book of Acts. I was in a good Bible preaching church, but realizing that what I was seeing in Christianity around me, though it wasn’t aberrant, it wasn’t doctrinally flawed, I just realized it was qualitatively different than what we read in the book of Acts.

I began reading some of those history books, those biographies, those books that you talk about—and you have a humungous collection of those. But as a young teenager, it was reading those books that God gripped my own heart and called me to the ministry of revival.

Mr. Roberts: There is something very powerful in that. We can both testify to the fact that at twelve years of age God did a wondrous act in us which has not altered. It has been there all this time.

I think that when we speak about the moral and spiritual decline that has preceded all revivals of history, one of the things we have to face is that twelve year olds are treated as dumb today. A lot of the Sunday school literature and other youth literature that I see and the report that the young people themselves give me of what’s going on in their youth meetings is a dumbing down.

These kids are treated as if they are incapable of embracing great issues. Yet, by the grace of God, each of us were embracing things of such magnitude. We’ve never embraced something of such magnitude or of such consequence than what we were embracing at twelve years of age.

Nancy: And it was the work of the Spirit of God.

Mr. Roberts: Absolutely—a work of the Spirit of God. Ought not the church and parents and mothers be alert to the fact that kids of ten, eleven, and twelve are possessed with amazing ability to embrace all the great things of God. Decisions can be made then which could impact the world for all eternity.

Nancy: And that word should be such an encouragement for many moms we have listening today who are homeschooling their children, or their children are maybe in another school system, but moms who are discipling their children in the ways of the Lord—realizing that at nine, ten, eleven, twelve years of age God can be doing a deep work in the lives of those children that will bear fruit for decades to come.

So moms, don’t underestimate what you are doing as you are reading the Scripture, pouring the Word of God into the lives of these little ones. Our program has been the successor program to Elisabeth Elliot’s ministry. I sometimes look at these little ones and say, “The next Elisabeth Elliot is somewhere around here.” Someone that God is speaking into some young person’s heart, some child’s heart. We both testify that those seeds can be very powerful.

Now, you just mentioned this matter of the decline that always precedes a work of God in revival. On yesterday’s program you talked about the beauty of holiness, and God in the midst of His people, and the precious thing of having that sense of the presence of God in and among His people, and how that is seen in holiness.

We want to step back today and say there is a condition that precedes true revival. And that is, the need for holiness in this moral and spiritual decline. As you have read and studied many, many, many books on how God has moved in the past in revival, just talk to us about that progression, that condition that precedes revivals.

Mr. Roberts: Yes. This is a very urgent matter, and one that I don’t think we give the right attention to. When we look at our society, we see the depressing state of things; we see the gross immorality. We face that fact that it is an acceptable practice in most circles to lie—that, in fact, if you don’t lie, there is something wrong with you. If you are not grossly immoral, you’re living in a very foolish fashion. It’s considered much more reasonable now to live in sin than it is to have any interest whatsoever in holiness.

Obviously, how did we get there? This is the question to ask. We also ask, what really can be done? We are in danger of thinking that because there is such gross immorality and because the moral and spiritual decline of the nation is so great that we are without hope. But one of the great lessons that the Lord taught me a long time ago about revival was that revivals are preceded by a terrible moral and spiritual decline. This can be borne out by Scripture. We have wonderful accounts of revival in history—all of which were preceded by this moral and spiritual decline. We have records of history which, of course, fortify our conviction along these lines.

But how does it happen that a nation, a people, a church that stood for holiness has lost sight of the consequence of holiness? They have learned to adjust to the wickedness around them and the part and parcel of all that is wrong.

Nancy: Could I just say, it’s not just the secular culture that it’s true of, it’s the church.

Mr. Roberts: The part of what I see that is so dangerous is that the church is blaming society for what’s wrong. Justice demands that we pin the blame where it belongs—on the church. The church is the light of the world. The church is the salt of the earth. If the salt has lost its saltiness, if the light has become darkness, how can you blame the darkness for what’s wrong?

The church has got to come to grip with the fact that this situation came upon us gradually. The solution is to realize what happened—“I made space for small sin. I allowed it to remain. It drew others, and now holiness has been crowded into the smallest corners of my life.”

When we use the term revival, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that it has a similarity to another term that begins with the letter “r,” regeneration. Think of the connection between the two. Here’s a person who is totally lost. They know nothing of Christ, they care nothing for holiness, they have no conviction concerning sin, they just live to please themselves. Then they fall under the ministry of the Word of God.

Suddenly, there is an inner awareness that things are not right. At first, nothing outward happens, there’s just this inner awareness. We sometimes use the word awakening to describe that. This person has been awakened to sin. They face the fact that, “I am a sinner. I’m in trouble with God.”

Then they hear the message of repentance and the message of faith. What happens to the sin that filled their life? By the grace of God, it’s gone. They confess. They believe. God empties them of self and sin and fills them with Christ. They are born again. They are a whole new creation. They have a fresh start. It’s beautiful to behold.

So revival is that time when God draws near, and when holiness again gains this marvelous attraction, and where one does come to deep repentance and renewed faith. They start all over again—emptied of self and filled with Christ. The experience of revival is so precious that one never loses completely that glorious work of God in their life.

So we find ourselves at a time in our history when all around us are those filled with sin and self, when churches have become focused on themselves, where sin is as much prevailing in the church as it is in the world, where we need to again be brought face to face with holiness. That happens when God draws near.

Nancy: I do think there are some today who feel that there is no hope. You used that word a little bit ago. You’ll hear it said, “Things have just never been this bad before.”

Mr. Roberts: Yes. It’s understandable that they think that way. But whenever I hear statements of that sort, really, (I don’t want to hurt anybody) but nonetheless, what we are doing is acknowledging our ignorance of history.

There are so many instances in the past where things are so vile it’s almost unbelievable. Maybe there are a few listening today who are old enough to remember a very saintly man who traveled this country—an Irishman who had a wonderful wit, but who was a deeply, earnest, godly man. His name was J. Edwin Orr.

I remember him speaking once. He was often very dramatic in his speaking. In front of an assembly of young people, he began by giving a reading of collected materials. He talked about a situation in various schools in this country, how a student took the chapel Bible and they cut out the whole center of the Bible. When the chaplain came in to lead service and opened the Bible, there was nothing there—just the margins. The Bible had been cut away.

At Yale, for instance, at the time Timothy Dwight became president, it was said that there were not more than three students in the whole student body with any religious interest at all. The bulk of the students were atheists and promoting licentious conduct. Then God came. Timothy Dwight preached a series of sermons on the being and the attributes of God. Suddenly, the whole student body turned around.

So let’s not be unwise and say things have never been so bad before. There are countless times in history where things have been as bad and often much worse than they are right now. Those people, however, had a sanity that we’ve lost. They said things are so bad only God can help. We say things are so bad not even God can help.

Nancy: But the fact is, things are so bad that only god can help.

Mr. Roberts: Absolutely.

Nancy: And you really believe that He can.

Mr. Roberts: I believe with all my heart that He can.

Nancy: Well, one thing that we know sure, and that is, regardless of when God chooses to breath upon His people once again in a corporate, widespread awakening, or revival, it is possible today for anyone listening to our voices to repent.

As you were painting that description just a few minutes ago of a person being regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God, that has allowed sin to come in the cracks of his life and to crowd out holiness . . . You made that beautiful statement about how through repentance, the presence and the holiness of God can be restored in that person’s life. I have no doubt that there are those people listening today who are in need of that work of personal revival. Would you just speak to them and give them an invitation, a word of challenge and appeal to respond to the Spirit of God today?

Mr. Roberts: You may not be in a situation where the presence of God is wonderfully manifest in your church. But you do own a Bible. What if you were to focus your attention to what God says about Himself? What if He were to draw near to you through His Word? And you were to come under this wonderful, wonderful awareness of His holiness? And the longing in yourself were to be holy even as He is holy? Why not commit yourself to seeking such a personal awareness of God that His holiness will create in you the incredible longing to be as He is? Purposefully, deliberately.

Let me spell it out like this: What if you were to call a moratorium on all misuse of the Bible? What if you were to say to yourself, “I’m tired of using the Bible as a medicine cabinet”—going to the Bible to get a “pill” to pick me up; to get a vitamin—something to encourage me. “I’m going to use the Bible for the next six months to gain such a picture of God that His holiness becomes my holiness.”

Set aside, say, a half an hour each morning to search through the Scriptures, to find all those wonderful passages where God shows what His heart is like; where you really catch a deep, deep awareness of who He is. And all the time you are doing that, “Lord, I want to see you as You are, so that you can make me like Yourself.” He would find a prayer and a purpose like that irresistible. He would delight to draw near to you.

So take to heart James words, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (4:8).

Nancy: Perhaps even as you are listening to those words, the Holy Spirit has been speaking to your heart, and you say, “That’s what I want.” There’s a desire God’s putting in you to know something of that presence of God that has not been a reality in your life in recent days.

If you are at a place where you can do that right now, maybe if you are driving, you can pull your vehicle over to the side of the road, or you are in your home or your workplace and you can just stop and take a moment. Perhaps you are listening on the Internet. Before you move on to your next activity, say, “Lord, I just want to draw near to you. I want to set aside these next days, weeks, months of my life to be intentional about seeking You, about letting You speak to me, entering into Your holiness, repenting as that is needed as You expose sin in my life. Whatever You show me, I’m willing to repent of it if it is not pleasing to You.”

There may not be anybody around you who resonates with this. You may not know anybody else seeking the Lord this way, but would you be one in your circle, in your sphere? Right where God has put you—in your family, in your workplace—would you say, “God, I want to be one person who seeks the Lord”? God says, “If you draw near to Me, I will draw near to you.”

Father, how I pray that You would by Your power take the words that have been spoken from your servant, Mr. Roberts, today and what we’ve heard from Your Word, and would You penetrate and pierce hearts of listeners. Would you cause them to stop and take stock and acknowledge, “I’ve not been living close to the Lord in a sense of His presence in my life. I’ve not been walking in holiness, but I want to.”

Oh Lord, would You give that desire? Would You stir in the hearts of Your people?Revive the hearts of Your people, O Lord. And we pray it for Jesus’ sake, and for the sake of Your great kingdom, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Richard Owen Roberts about revival. They’ve explored revivals through history. And they’ve invited you to experience revival in your heart.

Do you long for the Lord to awaken your heart in fresh ways? Do you pray that He’ll awaken the church and transform a nation in our day? I hope you’ll make revival a deeper part of your life by reading the book, Ablaze with His Glory. It was written by Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., the founder of Life Action Ministries, before he passed away in 1989.

We’ll send you Ablaze with His Glory this week when you donate any amount at Or ask for it when you make a donation of any size by calling 1-800-569-5959.

Imagine you know someone who prayed a prayer as a child and were told they had become a Christian. Yet now, they’re living an immoral lifestyle. Do you think that decision early in life was authentic? Nancy will talk about it tomorrow with Richard Owen Roberts. Please be back, for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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