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Since the days before Pentecost, has the whole church ever put aside every other work and waited upon Him for ten days, that [the Spirit’s] power might be manifested? … We give too much attention to method and machinery and resources, and too little to the source of power.
J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), “The Source of Power for Christian Missions”, in The Missionary Review of the World, v. LIII, Missionary Review Publishing Co., Inc., 1930, p. 516
Ask any church leader why America–or the churches in general or a denomination in particular or all Christians–does not (do not) have revival and the answers will usually come out to something like: “We’re not praying,” or “We’re not praying hard enough,” or “This takes prayer and fasting.”
Today, I spent an hour on the internet reading some of the hundreds of websites on the subject of revival. Those that attempt to cover the subject of why we are not experiencing revival usually attribute it to sin, complacency, or prayerlessness.
Maybe they’re right, but it seems to me those answers are missing the point.
The reason we’re not having revival may indeed be that we’re not praying for one. After all, Scripture assures us that “you have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2)
But that just leads to the question of why we’re not praying for revival. The answer, I strongly suggest, is simple: we don’t want a revival. We like things the way they are.
I said it and will stand by it: we do not want revival. The churches don’t, the church members don’t, and very few of the pastors want a genuine Heaven-sent revival.
After all, revival means change, and we don’t want change. We’re too comfortable the way things are at the present.
I used to have an elderly man in my last church who showed up for services from time to time mainly because of his wife. Once when I was visiting in their home, I learned that five years earlier, he had had a heart bypass operation. His wife said, “And pastor, the doctor ordered him to walk several blocks a day, but he won’t do it.”
I tried to shame him a little. After all, the walking was for his own good and might prolong his life. He said, “Preacher, the reason I don’t walk is simple. Walking interferes with my routine.”
His wife scoffed, “What routine! Pastor, he goes to the casino!”
He lived two more years, still spending his days with the slot machines.
That, in a word, is why the great masses of Christians do not pray for nor desire revival: it would interfere with their routine.
By “revival,” we mean an across-the-board movement of the Holy Spirit as He touches hearts, changes minds, melts pride, and transforms sinners.
In a revival, the hearts of God’s people are broken in repentance and humility, the Lord’s people come together in love and service, and the Lord’s work of ministry and giving and witnessing and missions moves forward at warp speed.
Now, logically, most Christians would like these things to occur. In our heart of hearts, we know this is what is going to be required for God to transform the modern church and make it once again a missionary organization. We know the people of our community are not going to be reached in numbers big enough to have any kind of impact until the Lord’s people have a new touch of God in their lives. And we confess we want that, that we desire revival.
But we don’t. Not really.
Everything inside us resists change. Our ego resists Anyone else sitting on the throne over our lives. Our spirit rebels at Another calling the shots. Our bodies are afflicted with inertia, which we learned in the chemistry lab means a resting body prefers to remain at rest.
Now, I’ve seen revival and perhaps you have, too.
When the Lord’s Spirit moves in and begins to touch lives, you can throw away the schedule and the printed order of worship. Everything else goes out the window when the Holy Spirit sets up shop.
People get confronted with their sinful ways. Hearts are broken over their wickedness. Husbands confess to their wives and mothers apologize to their children and children start obeying their parents. Friends reconcile with friends, and then turn to their enemies in humility. Bosses ask employees to forgive them. Employees confess to wrong-doing and face up to their poor work ethic. Pastors get saved; pastors’ wives get saved; deacons and their wives get saved.
Tears are shed by the buckets. Prayer meetings become loud and long and unstructured. Meetings get interrupted by church members walking in with a neighbor or co-worker they have just led to Christ.
The pastor is no longer the only one hearing from God. Church members testify of what God told them this morning in prayer time. Those who never headed anything in their lives now find themselves leading Bible studies and witnessing projects. The timid suddenly become outspoken.
The lid is off their faith. They now believe God can do anything and that they can do all things through Him. Nothing is off-limits any more, nothing out of bound, nothing unthinkable. They are free in their giving, loving, serving, and most of all, in their thinking.
Invariably, spectators and outsiders–those untouched by the Holy Spirit and uncertain the Holy Spirit has had any part in these shenanigans whatsoever–condemn the excess, resent the disorder, suspect the new people who have begun coming to church (“Not our kind of people!” and “Let’s see if they stick!”), and look for occasions to attack the ringleaders.
Revivals drive some people away from the church. On the other hand, revivals attract a lot of new people in, frequently the kind who’ve not been brought up in a religious tradition and do not know how to behave in a sanctuary. Revivals disrupt the flow of things, end the tyranny of the calendar and the clock and the Pharisees, and rearrange a church’s priorities. Revivals produce an entirely new set of leaders for a church.
In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that revival kills off the old church and leaves an entirely different one in its place.
All of this is painful, uncomfortable, disruptive, and even expensive.
And, being human, we don’t like pain, discomfort, disruptions, and expense.
We like our comfort. We prefer our complacency. It feels good to see the same faces at church every Sunday, all of them occupying the same pews they have held down for ages. There’s a warmth about sitting in the Bible study class with the same 8 people we’ve known for years; newcomers and visitors are an intrusion. The pastor may not be saying anything we haven’t heard him say time and again, but even the drone of his voice carries a certain kind of comfort, too.
None of this is new. God’s people have dealt with this love for laxity and resistance to the Holy Spirit from the beginning.
“An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority,
And my people love it so.”
Ah, yes. Something inside our rebellious hearts love it when the preachers and television evangelists say what we want to hear, when they calm our anxieties about the future by their platitudes, when they tell pleasant stories and find just the right interpretation of Scripture to agree with what we had always hoped. We give them our full support when they minimize our sin, omit the need for repentance, and remind us again just how wonderful we are.
Jesus put His finger on the problem when He said, “No one, after drinking old wine wishes for new, for he says, ‘The old is good enough.'” (Luke 5:39)
Therein lies the problem. We’re satisfied with the old when God wants to do a new thing in our midst. I can hear some church leader say about his congregation, “We may not be doing much, but we’re good enough.”
And that’s the problem.
So, what is the answer if God wants to send revival and we don’t want one? Where do we begin to address this stalemate?
I have three suggestions for the people of God, the ones commissioned to represent the Lord on this planet, to bring worship to Him, and to carry His gospel to the ends of the earth. They and only they have a concern with the matter of revival. Revival is only for believers. After all, you cannot revive what never was alive in the first place.
1) REMEMBER THE BIG PICTURE.
The object of spiritual revival is not the emotional outbursts, unstructured services, excessiveness in enthusiasm, bigger budgets, or even the crowded churches which often accompany revival. These things may occur and often do, and they tend to frighten away those of us who like worship to be completely predictable and identical to the way we did things last week.
The whole point of a movement of God’s Spirit which we call revival involves great concerns, matters like a) glorifying God in this world, b) magnifying the Lord Jesus Christ, c) the spiritual rebirth of millions of lost people, d) the restoration and health of families, e) the healing of society and the redemption of our culture, f) rescuing the futures of vulnerable little children, and g) reviving and re-aligning the Lord’s churches.
When we get hung up on the emotional excesses of revival, we fail to look at the big picture, that the whole point of revival is God transforming this world, one person at a time, for His own purposes and glory.
2) MAKE THE BIG DECISION.
If revival is about re-establishing God’s glory and Christ’s honor, about transforming lives and homes and churches and society, don’t you want that? Surely we do, even though we like our comfort and hate being “messed with,” we who call ourselves disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ can be said to desire these things.
In fact, David Mains points to the restlessness of church members today as a sign that God’s people are indeed yearning for a genuine revival. He says, “Step one to any kind of revival movement is a deep-seated sense of dissatisfaction with the way things are. People who are already satisfied with life seldom aspire to something more, so I’m glad if there is a restlessness going on.”
The kind of restlessness Mains refers to can be seen in the way believers run from one church to another, crossing denominational lines, soaking up Bible studies in conferences, and pressuring their leaders toward more relevant and productive ministries.
Dr. Mains emphasizes that these “yearnings for more than meager fare have a tendency to go in one of two directions. The first is a negative bent and results in a carping or complaining spirit….” The other is to drive us to our knees in praying for a great movement of God’s Spirit, a movement we call revival.
If we can admit that we want God’s transformation in our world, our institutions, our people, our churches, and our homes, then, where is the starting place to achieving that?
3) PRAY THE BIG PRAYER.
We’re now at the point where we can pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We can pray for His will to be done in Washington, D.C., as in heaven; in my town as in heaven; in my church, my home, my own life.
That’s the simplest definition of revival you’ll ever find: God putting into place His will for vast numbers of His people.
And so the prayer we pray for revival may come down to being the simplest prayer one can ever lift heavenward: “Lord, we want thy will. Thy will be done in us.”
In so saying, you are handing Him the keys, moving out of the driver’s seat, yielding your will to His.
Now, if it happens that the pleasures of this world have you in a death grip and will not let go–you could not possibly imagine leaving home on a Tuesday night and helping at the homeless shelter because you would miss your favorite television show–and you cannot honestly pray for God’s will to be done in your life, then there’s another prayer for you.
This one is the key to the other. Try praying this: “Father, I cannot say I want thy will to be done in my life. But I wish I could. Therefore, I pray that I will want thy will to be done. I ask you to change my heart and give me a desire for Thee.”
Many Christians today have no clue what a critical hour we are living in. The hour is urgent, the Lord is willing, the devil is hard at work, and too many church members are sitting in the grandstands enjoying the view when they should be suited up and on the field.
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion.” (Amos 6:1)
One Saturday, the pastor was having trouble with his sermon and decided to go for a drive in the country to clear his mind. Soon he came upon a scene unlike anything he had ever seen. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles were everywhere and crowds were blocking the streets. He pulled his car over to the side and got out. Down the block, a large house was burning down, and everyone was working to rescue the people inside and extinguish the blaze.
Later, when the pastor drove home, he knew he had found exactly what his sermon needed for the next day. Sunday morning at church, he preached the sermon God had given him. Toward the end, he told about driving through the country and coming upon this great old house, of the trucks everywhere and the crowds blocking the street, the frantic activities and the ambulances. To his surprise, the congregation sat there impassively, completely unaffected by his story.
On the way home, the pastor expressed his disappointment to his wife. “The congregation didn’t react at all the way I thought they would,” he said. “I really thought hearing about that burning house and all would have affected them.”
His wife was quiet a moment, then she said, “Well, honey, it might have. And it should have, but for one thing. You forgot to tell them the house was on fire.”
Someone needs to tell God’s children today that the house is on fire. It’s time for us to get up off the couch and get busy.
Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt.
Original publication date: October 5, 2009
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“No erudition, no purity of diction, no width of mental outlook, no flowers of eloquence, no grace of person can atone for lack of fire. Prayer ascends by fire. Flame gives prayer access as well as wings, acceptance as well as energy. There is no incense without fire; no prayer without flame.”
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I believe I’ve a message that the devil doesn’t want me to preach, and we’re going to preach it – we pray – in the power of the Spirit. Hopefully it will be a message that will change your life, as a Christian and as a non-Christian – because we’re looking tonight at the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We’ve looked at ‘What Is Revival?‘, we need ‘A Revival in Christ-Centred Gospel Preaching‘, we need ‘A Revival in the Bible‘, we need ‘A Revival in Prayer‘, we need ‘A Revival in Holiness‘, we need a revival, last night we saw, in love – but tonight we’re going to see that we need ‘A Revival in the Holy Spirit’.
We’re going to read from Ephesians chapter 5 please, well-known verses of Scripture – verse 14 through, please, to verse 19 of Ephesians chapter 5. Verse 14 then: “Wherefore God says, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light”. Maybe you’re here tonight, and you’re sleeping, you could be sleeping in your sin, you could be dead in trespasses and in sins, as Ephesians chapter 2 speaks. Well, listen, you need to waken up, and you can waken up in the presence of God and realise that Christ has power to deliver you and give you life more abundant and free. Yet this verse, I think, is speaking to believers. Did you ever think of believers as being dead? Paul thought it so.
He says: “Awake from your sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise”. Walking circumspectly, I remember a man once saying that it’s like cat – if you’re from East Belfast you would know this, maybe you cultured folk down here in civilisation wouldn’t realise – in the wee streets down Templemore Avenue where our church was, they used to have the entries running up between the houses and the yard, and the toilet was often in the yard. On the walls around the yard there was broken glass, and that was to keep the bad boys out, and maybe to keep the children in – I don’t know. But if you had seen a cat walking around the wall of the yard, that’s what it is to walk circumspectly: walking carefully around the glass that was implanted there.
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is”. Isn’t it good to know you can know what God’s will is? “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”.
In John chapter 3 a religious man, under the cover of the darkness of night, came to have an interview with the Lord Jesus Christ – and I think some people have been experiencing that this week. It didn’t matter that this man came seemingly ashamed of what his friends would think, all that mattered was that he came to Jesus. That’s all that matters, friend, tonight: that you come to Christ. You don’t have to put your hand up, you don’t have to walk down an aisle, you don’t even have to speak to the preacher – all you have to do is talk to the Lord, confess your sin, and ask Him to save you. But you know, the Lord Jesus spoke to this religious man about something that was foreign to him, He said: ‘Ye must be born again’. You must be born of the Spirit of God.
You see, you can’t be saved without knowing something of God’s Spirit. We saw last night a little bit about what God’s plan is in saving men: Jesus, the Son of God, came incarnate in human flesh to this earth, in order to die the death of every man, to take the sins of every man, to be buried, in three days rise again – and the plan of God has always been incarnation. You need to understand that: He incarnated His own Son in flesh, but what He wants to do is incarnate His own life in our flesh. That’s God’s endgame: manifesting the very life of Christ in our lives. Do you know anything of that, believer?
You know, to hear some people, you would think being saved was all that mattered. Now it matters a great deal whether you go to hell or go to heaven, sure that’s a given, isn’t it? But you know conversion, getting saved, being born again, is only the beginning – it is only the threshold experience with the Spirit that introduces us to a lifetime of adventure, of many spiritual experiences and encounters. F. W. Faber, the poet, put it like this:
‘Tis not enough to save our souls,
To shun the eternal fires;
The thought of God will rouse the heart
To more sublime desires’.
Now if you’re not saved tonight, you need to be saved, you need to be born again: except a man or a woman, boy or girl, is born again, they cannot see – cannot see and will not see – the kingdom of God. But you know, there is an experience taught in the Bible that can be simultaneous with conversion, or can be subsequent to conversion, and it is the fullness, the blessed fullness, of the Holy Spirit. It’s mentioned 14 times in the New Testament, 4 times in Luke’s gospel – of John the Baptist, of Elizabeth, Zachariah, and of the Lord Jesus Himself. Those are the only occasions that it’s mentioned prior to Pentecost. But things changed after Pentecost in a remarkable way. You see the Lord Jesus, before He went to Calvary, before He rose again, before He ascended, said to the disciples in John 14:16-17: ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you’, He dwelt with the disciples, but after Pentecost Jesus was prophesying and promising, ‘He shall be in you’.
Now that was something different than the world had ever seen, and even God’s people in history. God’s Spirit, the prophet said, would be poured out on all flesh. Anyone who met God on His own terms could be filled by the Spirit. The same is the case with salvation: you’ve got to meet God on His terms. If you took a vox-pox of people on the street in any given city of our world, and asked them: ‘How do you think people can get to heaven, if you believe in heaven?’; if you asked a hundred people, you could come back with a hundred different answers – and that would mean a hundred different religions. Sinatra sang: ‘My way’, and that’s the way people live, isn’t it?
An undertaker – I’ve been having a lot of conversations with them lately – one of them at a funeral was sharing with me about a burial he did recently. He saw an epitaph on a gravestone: ‘I did it my way’. This undertaker was a believer, and he just was reminded of that verse: ‘There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the ways thereof are the ways of death’. My friend, you’ve got to come to God on God’s terms, you’ve got to come to God His way, you’ve got to put your good works behind you, you’ve got to forget about any righteousness or indeed any sin that you think might disqualify you. Indeed, your sin is the only thing that qualifies you to come to the Saviour of sinners, the Lord Jesus who died.
But it’s the same for the Christian – you see, I don’t know whether you’ve seen this trend going through everything I’ve been saying these nights: but the thing that gets you saved in the beginning is the thing that keeps you going to the end! You see there is nothing changes, or no new formulas or secrets: the cross of Christ that redeemed you is the very thing that will do everything for you right throughout your whole Christian experience. So God’s terms are what have to be met, and they were met in the truest sense in Acts chapter 2 where – I would have to say – the disciples became complete Christians, on the birthday of the church when they became the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and God’s Spirit came to dwell and reside in them. From Pentecost on in the New Testament, ten times you find the fullness of the Spirit mentioned, nine times in the book of the Acts, and once in this verse that we read together in Ephesians.
Now we’re going to look tonight, and we’re going to take time to do it, because I think this is a very important subject – and it’s one that pulpits are afraid of these days. We’re going to deal with, first of all, what the fullness of the Spirit is not; then secondly we’re going to look at what the fullness of the Spirit is. First of all: the fullness of the Spirit is not only for Christian workers. Now, in Acts chapter 1 and verse 8 the Lord said to the disciples: ‘Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth’. We know from Acts 4 that when Peter began to preach, he preached full of the Holy Spirit and boldness, and it was something that did characterise the service of the apostles and the early Christian evangelists. But don’t you think for one moment – whilst the fullness of the Holy Spirit entails an equipping, an unction, an enduement for service, it’s not just for those who are involved publicly in ministry, it’s for all! In chapter 5 of Ephesians where we were, Paul was exhorting all the believers in Ephesus to ‘walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise…and be filled with the Holy Spirit’. So this is not for Christian workers only.
Secondly: this is not the gift of the Holy Spirit, as is spoken of in the New Testament. Romans 8 and chapter 9 tells us: ‘Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his’. You see the Spirit of Christ is what births you, regenerates you – and when you see it, you get God’s Holy Spirit, God comes to live within you. So don’t think that until you’re filled with the Spirit, even if you’re saved, you don’t have the Spirit – that is unbiblical. Don’t think of the fullness of the Spirit as getting more of the Holy Spirit. Now, I know the illustration Paul uses in verse 18 of chapter 5 of Ephesians seems to illustrate that the Holy Spirit would be like a liquid. He uses this comparison to drink – but we must not think of the Holy Spirit like a liquid, or like a force – that’s the way the cults believe He is, that He’s not personal, He does not have a personhood. You can’t have part of a person, that’s obvious. What you can have is less of a person’s trust, less of a person’s influence in your life – so don’t think of it so much as ‘I need more of the Holy Spirit’, yet I understand why people think that way and talk that way, but it’s not so much how much of the Holy Spirit you have, as how much of you He has.
Do you see the difference? D. L. Moody was being considered for an evangelistic campaign in England, and one of the organisers asked somewhat sarcastically: ‘Does D. L. Moody have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit that we’re just thinking about him and nobody else?’. The answer came back very quickly: ‘No, D. L. Moody does not have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly of D. L. Moody’. That’s what we’re talking about: the Holy Spirit controlling your whole person. Dr J. Wilber Chapman asked William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, ‘Tell me the secret of your great life for God and man’, and Booth humbly replied: ‘Since the first day God put the poor of London on my heart, He has had all there was of William Booth’. That’s what we’re talking about: not so much having more of the Spirit, but the Spirit who has been implanted in you at conversion having more of you!
So this is not for Christian workers only, it’s not the gift of the Holy Spirit as such, it’s not more of the Holy Spirit, and it’s not the baptism of the Holy Spirit – though there is contention over this, and I wouldn’t fall out with folk too much about it – but 1 Corinthians 12:13 says: ‘For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit’. Now that’s clearly referring to our salvation experience, being placed into the body of Christ. Neither is the fullness of the Spirit total sanctification. First John chapter 1 and verse 8 teaches us clearly: ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’. Paul teaches clearly in Galatians 5:17 the two natures: ‘For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh’, and it’s only the child of God who has the Spirit, ‘and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would’. We saw the importance on our Wednesday evening of feeding the divine nature in us, rather than the fallen nature.
So, when you’re filled with the Spirit, that doesn’t mean you’ll never sin any more, it doesn’t mean you’re perfect. Neither is the fullness of the Spirit a once and for all filling. Literally the word used here in verse 18 is ‘be being filled’, ‘be being filled’, present continuous tense – ‘be continually filled’, if you like, ‘with the Holy Spirit’. Now notice that it doesn’t say that you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, but ‘be full’ – it’s that perpetual thing. It may begin by a crisis experience in your life as a Christian, but it must become a consistent characteristic of your life. In Acts chapter 6 and verse 3 the apostles declared: ‘Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom’ – not ‘who have been filled with the Holy Ghost and wisdom’, but who were presently full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, ‘whom we may appoint over this business’.
You see, you could be filled yesterday and empty today. You could be filled by the Holy Spirit of God tonight, and grieve the Spirit of the Living God tomorrow morning. It was Moody who said: ‘We have buckets that leak. God fills us, but so often by our waywardness, and our carnality, and our blatant sinfulness the Holy Spirit is grieved in our lives’. You’ve got to understand: what we’re talking about tonight is not a once and for all filling – though there may be crisis experiences – but this is something that must be going on every day. We’ve been here, haven’t we, night after night: we’ve got to get to Calvary every day, every day, to be broken, to be cleansed, to be filled!
Dr Douglas Brown preached on the fullness of the Spirit in Wales, and God did a mighty thing. One young man followed him into his room, and cried: ‘Sir, it’s all right telling me to be filled, but I’m full of’ – and he pointed over to a wastepaper basket in the corner of the room that was full of cracks. Dr Brown replied: ‘What if you are full of cracks? If your basket was lowered into the sea, it will be filled, and it will remain full – if it abides in the ocean it cannot be emptied. The basket will only lose its contents if it’s removed from the sea. Young man, cracks or no cracks, if you abide in Christ you will always be filled by the Spirit’ – that’s it! That’s it.
What the fullness of the Spirit is not: not just for Christian workers, not the gift of the Holy Spirit, not more of the Holy Spirit, not necessarily the baptism of the Holy Spirit – though a baptism of the Holy Spirit would be good for all of us in the true sense of the word, being immersed. It’s not total sanctification, it’s not a once and for all filling – so what is it then? Well, we need to find out from Ephesians 5 and verse 18, here is a command, now, it’s a command – that means, not to be filled by the Holy Spirit is to be disobedient!
Now, what Paul does here is something that I would never have done: he uses alcohol as an illustration, but he does it because it is so powerful. He’s basically saying: ‘Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess’ – whatever drink does in the negative, he’s saying the Spirit of God does in the positive. Now, what does drink do negatively? Well, it dominates a man or a woman’s personality, and it also determines their behaviour. So it changes who they are and what they do. You know a man is drunk by many indications, but three are: the way he walks, the way he talks, and the way he smells – isn’t that right? The evidences of being filled with the Holy Spirit are the same, but in the positive regard. When we are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit the way an alcoholic is controlled with drink negatively, we are positively affected in our walk.
Galatians 5:16 tells us: ‘This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh’. Ephesians 4 verse 1 tells us to walk worthy of the calling wherewith we are called. First John 1 verse 7 tells us to walk in the light, as He is in the light. What this is talking about in our walk is to hide nothing from God, to walk in the light. Are you hiding nothing from God tonight? Maybe you’re hiding something from the nearest and dearest to you. Maybe you’re hiding something from the taxman. Maybe you’re hiding something from the boss. You can’t be filled with the Holy Ghost if you’re hiding anything.
The walk is affected, just like the drunkard. The talk is affected. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34 that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. You know what it’s like with drunkards: they are grumpy, grouchy men, and when they get a few pints into them they’re all happy. The opposite happens the opposite characteristic, and the talk is affected, the personality is affected when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit. How we talk to people changes, and how we talk about people changes! You see it in the Acts of the Apostles, when people were filled with the Spirit something happened to their mouth, something happened to their tongues – isn’t that right? Peter said that the Apostles preached boldly, Paul says in verse 19 of our chapter: ‘Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord’.
It affects what we say with our mouths, it affects our talk, it affects our walk, it affects our smell. Second Corinthians 2 and verses 14 to 16 says that we as believers are meant to be a savour of Christ to those that believe and those who do not believe. We’re meant to smell of Jesus Christ. ‘Howbeit’, the Lord Jesus says, ‘when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you’. The Holy Spirit wants to make you like Jesus so that others may smell Him off you.
Now we encounter a problem, the problem being that this is far from the present personal experience of most professing believing Christians today. Now John Owen was a puritan, and he lived a long time ago, and he said that his church was stuck somewhere between the cross and Pentecost. I doubt the church is no different tonight! It’s as if the Comforter has never come, though we sing ‘The Comforter has come’! Whether you go to the charismatic end of Christendom that’s frying in emotionalism – don’t misunderstand that as the Spirit of God – or whether you go into the tight conservative wing that is dying in intellectualism, there is a severe and distinct absence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit in lives and in churches.
I want to ask you tonight: this is something that has been bought for you, believer, by the precious blood of Christ – are you realising the blessings of the fullness of the Spirit? You see, we, particularly in the sort of churches we circulate in, we believe the Bible – praise God for that – but we can fall into the trap of believing that if the Bible says something, that we’ve got that thing. Do you see what I’m saying? We have the Bible for a thing, so we think we have the thing the Bible is talking about. We dwell on our positions according to what the Bible says, and yet we’re not really living in the reality of possession – experientially knowing what the Bible teaches!
Now maybe I’m confusing some of you, but I think what I’m trying to say is that: we’re like the bus conductor that has called out the destination so many times, that he thinks he has been there himself. We read, and we pray, and we sing, and we shout and preach about the Holy Spirit and His fullness, but have we experienced this in our lives? It’s like someone dying, and the will being opened, and the son is left everything, and the son becomes satisfied with the written text of the will – but he doesn’t want the inheritance! It would be ridiculous! God says we have the Spirit, and can know the Spirit, and can be filled with the Spirit – but because God says that that is our possession doesn’t mean it’s our experience.
Watchman Nee illustrated it very well like this: if you think of what the blood of Christ purchased for you as a man walking into a book store and purchasing two books. The bookstore owner wraps them both in brown paper, leaves them on the counter – they have been paid for, they’ve been purchased, but the man walks out with only one book. Now you need the book of forgiveness, you need to be forgiven, friend tonight, you need to be cleansed, you need to be born again – but believer, Christ has bought, with His precious blood, the fullness of the Holy Spirit for you, and many of us are leaving it on the counter!
Now there are two commands in verse 18: the first is don’t get drunk – and that’s a command Christians need to hear today. Social drinking is excelling among Christians, particularly middle-class Christians I have to say, that have never grown up in working class homes and seen what drink actually does – but there’s going to be a rude awakening one of these days, if it’s not already happening: a reaping of the consequences of this. You know, what is drunkenness? Some will tell you that you only need to take a glass of wine to realise that your perception is decreasing. I’m not going into that tonight, that’s not my subject – but Paul says here: ‘Don’t get drunk’, and the best thing you can do is stay away from drink. ‘But be filled with the Spirit’, now that is in the imperative mood – that’s meaning this is not an option, to ignore it is at your peril. It’s in the plural, it applies to all the Christians, not a select few. The verb is in the present tense, that means it’s to be a constant experience – not on special occasions. The verb is also in the passive voice – do you know what that means? You do not fill yourself, you need to get to a place where the Spirit fills you.
Now let me put all those things and make sense of them in a translation that bears all that out: ‘Let the Spirit constantly fill you’ – is He? ‘How do you let the Spirit fill you?’, you say. Oh:
‘The old, old story, it is ever new;
The old, old story, it is ever true:
That Jesus died for me as well as you’.
Get beneath the cross of Jesus – broken beneath the cross of the Lamb of God, that’s the only way to get saved my friend! Not by works of righteousness that we have done, not by your church affiliation, not by religion, not by ritual – it’s the cross. But dear Christian, you’ve got to realise that being broken before the cross is where you’ll be filled, and realising by faith that it’s what Christ purchased for you by His precious blood. Some of you might remember the late Rex Mathie. I had the privilege of entertaining him one Sunday when he was preaching in our church. I asked him: ‘There are so many views on what the fullness of the Holy Spirit is, what are your thoughts on the fullness of the Spirit?’. He had thought much, he said, and considered it in his lifetime – all the views he surveyed. He said this: ‘David, I think I’ve come to the conclusion it’s the opposite side of the coin to the Lordship of Christ. When you and Jesus aren’t arguing about anything, you’ll be filled with the Spirit’. I thought that was profound – because you see chapter 4 of Ephesians and verse 30 says we can grieve the Holy Spirit. The Bible says we can quench the Holy Spirit. You see when we hurt Him, when we cause Him pain, He is dovelike in His personality – He is easily grieved and flies away. But the desire of God is that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith – when Jesus and you aren’t arguing about anything – are you arguing about something with the Lord tonight? There is something in your life that you won’t let go of, there’s something you won’t confess, there’s something you won’t put beneath the blood – you’ll never be filled, my friend.
Does Jesus feel at home in your heart? Oh, all our hearts are filthy and wretched, the heart is deceitful above all things, our minds are defiled – that’s why we need to continually come to the cross of Calvary to get that cleansing. That’s what we need: the fullness of the Spirit. E. M. Bounds said: ‘No erudition, nor purity of diction, nor width of mental outlook, no flowers of elegance, no grace of person can atone for lack of fire. Prayer ascends by fire, flame gives prayer access as well as wings, acceptance as well as energy. There is no incense without fire, no prayer without flame’. Believer, if you’re having a Christian experience like the grand old Duke of York – when you’re up, you’re up; and when you’re down, you’re down; and half times you’re only halfway, neither up nor down – you’re like a roller coaster, you need the fullness of the Spirit! It doesn’t mean you’ll never have any problems, your problems might only start – but my dear friend, you can never have a victorious Christian life if you’re arguing in your mind and heart with Christ about some issue! That’s what we’re talking about.
Now, historically the church in its most blessed times, particularly in revival, has always emphasised this truth. Many well-known and mightily used servants of God have testified to being filled or anointed with the Spirit in a very dramatic way, it has to be said. D. L. Moody said, I quote him: ‘The blessing came upon me suddenly like a flash of lightning. For months I had been hungering and thirsting for power in service, I had come to that point where I think I would have died if I had not got it. I remember I was walking the streets of New York, and I had no more heart in the business I was about than if I had not been in this world at all. Well, one day, O what a day, I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Right there in the streets the power of God seemed to come upon me so wonderfully that I had to ask God to stay His hand. I was filled with a sense of God’s goodness, and I felt as though I could take the whole world to my heart. I took the old sermons I had preached before without any power, and it was the same old truth, but there was a new power. Many were impressed and converted, and this happened years after I was converted myself. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world. It would be as small dust in the balance’.
Other mighty men of God, and they weren’t charismatic now, they weren’t even Pentecostals, they had this experience – and sometimes it was very dramatic. However, other men, equally used of God, had no such great manifestation – nothing dramatic at all, and yet were equally as filled with the Spirit. Some people just testify to have, having surrendered all to the Lord, experienced such an overwhelming sense of God. Have you ever experienced an overwhelming sense of God? Some others have said that they felt they were going to burst with joy in the Lord – we could all do with a dose of that!
Brainerd said: ‘My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God that I was even swallowed up in Him’. It mightn’t have been so dramatic, it was just something in his mind and heart where he got a capacity to appreciate God! It’s mighty, isn’t it? R. A. Torrey was Moody’s helper, his predecessor, and he didn’t experience anything dramatic at all. He just said he asked God for it, because it was promised in the word, and he just believed God that he had got it by faith, and that was it – that was it. Spurgeon was the same, Billy Sunday the same – they testified to this great power, but didn’t have the same experiences.
So I want to say to you carefully tonight: we should not gain our understanding of the fullness of the Spirit, this biblical truth, by the experiences that are told in biographies of men and women of bygone eras – because there is a great variety, God moves differently in all our lives. So we must beware of hankering after experiences, this is the great danger, this is where the devil can come in with a man, or a woman, or a young person, who is really following hard after God. They realise there is something more of spiritual experience, and the devil takes them on a detour to look for an experience rather than seeking God! ‘My goal is God Himself’ – you see, sometimes we can be seeking feelings. You know, feelings are a great obstacle in comprehending spiritual things. If you’re not saved tonight, you might be one of those people I often hear saying: ‘I don’t feel the time is right to get saved’ – that’s a lot of nonsense! ‘Now is the accepted time’, the Bible says, ‘Now is the day of salvation’. There’s no other time to get saved but now. Then some say: ‘Oh, I don’t feel I’m saved. I asked the Lord to save me, but I don’t feel it’ – you’ve got to understand: salvation, from start to finish, is not about feelings, it’s about faith! It’s faith based on fact, the fact of God’s word, taking it up and accepting it.
I often explain it like a train: the engine is fact, God’s word, what Christ has done, what He has promised. The first carriage, it is faith, we are meant to be connected with the fact of God’s word. The second carriage is feelings, and the feelings will come after the faith and the facts – they will, eventually. But we must not have our carriages linked to feelings, because feelings is only a carriage and it will not pull one carriage and an engine behind it – no way.
‘Feelings come, and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving.
My warrant is the word of God, none else is worth believing’.
To be saved is to be saved by faith alone, not feelings – and to live by faith is by faith alone, you can’t rely on your feelings now. There was a dear lady in the congregation we were in previously, and I’ve heard that she had to have her leg amputated. She expressed the torment of feeling that her foot was still there, and yet when she looked down it wasn’t. Her nervous system was telling her that she was still having a pain in her foot that had been taken off – surely that tells us by nature that you can’t rely on feelings!
Old W.P. Nicholson was sick on one occasion, and he went privately to an expert on his conditions. This expert put electrodes on his chest, and then the doctor, he went off and sat down and read the paper with a cup of coffee. If you know anything about Nicholson, you’ll realise he started to get worked up – this man sitting reading his paper and drinking coffee, and he was sitting there with the electrodes on. He burst out, and he said: ‘I’m a busy man, I haven’t come over here to watch you while you’re going to drink coffee and read the paper – when are you going to start my treatment?’. The doctor said: ‘Mr Nicholson, there’s enough electricity running through your body now to push a train up a hill’. Nicholson said: ‘Well, something must be wrong, because I don’t feel a thing, I don’t feel a thing’. The doctor had a wee adapter that he attached somehow – don’t ask me how it was done – to the electrodes, to put a lightbulb on it; and when he did it the lightbulb lit up! Nicholson said that he realised how the Spirit might be flowing through you, and you not even realise it until a need arose – until a need arose.
Now listen, we have touched on a whole lot of areas here that can confuse people, and my desire is not to confuse you further. My desire is for you to just come to the cross in brokenness and faith, and repent of sin, and ask the Lord for this blessing. Ask, and believe, and you will have – the Bible promises it: ‘What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them’. Have you prayed for the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Jesus said: ‘If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?’. I agree with Billy Graham on this much anyway, he says: ‘I don’t care what you call it, just get it!’ – just get it.
Do you have it? Do you have Him completely pervading the whole of your life, all that you are? Unsaved friend, the only thing that will break the shackles of your sin is the power of God’s Spirit – nothing else! You need Him tonight, you need to come humbly to the cross. But believer: do you not need the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Paul Rader, with this I finish, wrote some beautiful hymns – one of which was ‘Fear not little flock, whatever your lot’, I don’t know whether you know it or not. He preached a powerful sermon on one occasion on the theme: ‘Out of a man’s innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’. Later on that evening two men who had heard the sermon asked Mr Rader to meet with them for a meal, and for a discussion. One man began by saying – we’ve all heard this – ‘Mr Rader, you preached a good sermon, but you are wrong dispensationally’. Then the other said: ‘Mr Rader, you’re a good preacher and a good brother, the problem is that you have the wrong interpretation’. Gracious man that he was, Mr Rader did not answer, and then he bowed his head with the rest of them to pray before eating their meal. When Mr Rader finally looked across the table at the first brother, he saw that something had happened: tears were streaming down the man’s face, and his shoulders shook with emotion. Finally he was able to say these words: ‘Brother Rader, we have the interpretation, but you have the rivers of blessing’.
Do we have the mighty fullness of the blessed Holy Ghost? Let us pray. Now, as our heads are bowed, I know that you might not agree with everything I’ve said – but I’m not really worried about that too much. I’ll agree to disagree with you, but what you have to agree with me is that all of us need more, and a deeper experience of, our Christian lives – and the only way we can have it is through God, and it’s His Spirit; He is His Vicar, the Vicar of Christ on the earth today. He is the one who administers His will, and you need Him in your life. He is to be your constant companion, He is the Paraclete, He is the strengthener, He is the one who will not leave you an orphan. He will bring the presence of Christ to you and in you – do you know Him?
Why not say tonight, if you’re not saved: ‘Lord, cleanse me at Calvary, and fill me with the Holy Spirit. Save me from my sins now and forever’. Dear Christian, you can do no better than repeat those words – even though you are saved for time and eternity. Oh, we might have the right interpretations, but oh for the rivers of living water. Amen.
Don’t miss the rest of The Revival We Need, and the bonus sermon: “A Call To Arms”…
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Lifeboat Mission in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh recording in his ‘The Revival We Need’ series, entitled “A Revival In The Holy Spirit” – Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit ‘donations’ from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word.
Holiness can never be separated from revival. If some kind of spiritual experience in an individual, or among a community, has the label “revival” pinned to it, we should always look at the lives of the Christians and the new converts. Are they a holy people who fear only God and sin, and who allow God’s Word to rule their lives? If not, then we are not looking at revival. Neither loud excitement nor somber quietness, and not even love and gifts, are any necessary evidence of revival.
But a deep conviction of sin and biblical holiness are. God prefers light to heat, and holiness to happiness. Someone has described revival as the top blowing off. It is, but not before the bottom has fallen out!
In 2 Chronicles 29 not only did the Levites “consecrate themselves” (v. 15) but they and the priests “went into the sanctuary of the Lord to purify it.” (vv. 15-16) They went into the sanctuary. The Revised Standard Version reads, “the inner part of the house of the Lord,” and there are two things to notice about the inner part of the house of the Lord.
First, it was that part of the temple which was furthest from the eyes of men. They could have overlooked this and few would have seen it. The priests could have shoveled away all the dirt from the outer court and swept spotlessly around the great altar outside; they could have emptied out the stale, stagnant water in the great bath in front of the altar and filled it with fresh water. Everybody would have been very impressed.
But instead they went into the sanctuary and started there, furthest from the eyes of men. God judges the secrets of man. And holiness begins with an alarm at the sin lurking in the dark corners of life.
Paul never encouraged his readers to merely make promises to God, but always to take action. He writes in a blunt way to the Christians at Rome: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13).
Christ said, Blessed are those who mourn,” which refers to those who feel their sin and cry over it. Sin is always a problem to the Christian who is longing for revival, and revival always deals uncomfortably with those things the world around us does not see. Revival throws light into the dark places.
In encouraging his congregations in Wales in 1904 to prepare for revival, Evan Roberts would remind them that the Spirit would not come until the people were prepared. “We must rid the churches of all bad feeling–all malice, envy, prejudice, and misunderstandings. Bow not in prayer until all offenses have been forgiven: but if you feel you cannot forgive, bend to the dust, and ask for a forgiving spirit. You shall get it then.”
But the second thing about the sanctuary is that it is nearest to the eyes of God. It was the holy place, representing God’s presence among his people. Only the clean Christian can live close to God. In the same verse in 2 Chronicles 29 we are told that the Levites dealt with “everything unclean,” and they threw all the rubbish into the valley of Kidron. The Kidron Valley begins north of Jerusalem, passes the temple and the Mount of Olives and ends in the Dead Sea. Most of the year the Kidron Valley is a dry sunbaked riverbed, but in the rainy season it becomes a torrent. It was the city rubbish tip, because rubbish left here would eventually be swept downstream. Kidron represented a total removal, a complete cleanup. These Levites did not just leave the rubbish outside the temple.
For the same reason, Moses ground Aaron’s calf to powder, King Josiah crushed the pagan altars and scattered them in the Kidron Valley, and the Ephesians burnt their books of magic. When Jesus spoke of cutting off an offending limb He meant that there is no sacrifice too great to make us fit for God to use. In Revival Christians will weep over their sins–sins that at present they entertain.
In fact it is this shame over sins that were once acceptable that we read of in 2 Chronicles 30:15: “The priests and the Levites were ashamed and consecrated themselves.” All their past seemed to come before them as a great cloud of sin and they were sick of what they had been entertaining for so long. When Hezekiah reminded the leaders of the people of the disgrace of the past (29:6-9), he did so for this very reason: he wanted even the spiritual leaders to become painfully aware of how far the nation had fallen–including themselves!
It must be admitted that when revival comes, those who have longed most for it may suffer most conviction in it. Revival always touches the conscience of those who long to serve Him most. It was as the priests and Levites were busily engaged in the revival that they became most acutely ashamed of their past. According to 2 Kings 18:4 the emblems of idolatry and the worship of the fertility goddess, Asterah, had to go; the idols of the Baal god were also removed (2 Chronicles 28:2). Worse still, many of them were reminded of the child sacrifice they once indulged in (28:3)– their own children cruelly put to death! All this came vividly before them and they were ashamed.
It is a sad fact that in normal times Christians hold on to those things that revival will snatch away from them. In Korea and Borneo Christian leaders held on to their fetishes and charms, but the revival made them so ashamed that these things were publicly confessed. The present day secret sins of Christians will be brought into the open in revival, or at least into the mind of the Christian, and there will be no peace until all is confessed and put right.
This desire to be holy becomes a burning passion in revival, and Christians persist in fighting against sin in their lives: “They began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day of the month they reached the portico of the Lord. For eight more days they consecrated the temple of the Lord itself, finishing in the sixteenth day of the first month” (2 Chronicles 29:17).
Here was a sixteen day spring-cleaning until everything that was unclean was removed from the temple. The priests started at the center and a week later they came into the vestibule and then they started all over again! They never gave up on their warfare against all the rubbish that had accumulated in the temple.
And the priests reported to Hezekiah, “We have purified the entire temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table for setting out the consecrated bread, with all its articles. We have prepared and consecrated all the articles that King Ahaz removed in his unfaithfulness while he was king. They are now in front of the Lord’s altar. (vv.18-19).
Revival Begins with Conviction
Revival is always a revival of holiness. It begins with a terrible conviction of sin. It is often the form that this conviction takes that troubles those who read of revival. Sometimes the experience is crushing. People weep uncontrollably and worse! But there is no such thing as revival without tears of conviction and sorrow.
In January, 1907, God was moving in a powerful way in North Korea, and a Western missionary recalled one particular scene: “As the prayer continued, a spirit of heaviness and sorrow for sin came down upon the audience. Over on one side, someone began to weep, and in a moment the whole audience was weeping. Man after man would rise, confess his sins, break down and weep, and then throw himself to the floor and beat the floor with his fists in perfect agony of conviction.
“My own cook tried to make a confession, broke down in the midst of it, and cried to me across the room: ‘Pastor, tell me, is there hope for me, can I be forgiven?’ and then he threw himself to the floor and wept and wept, and almost screamed in agony.
“Sometimes after a confession, the whole audience would break out in audible prayer, and the effect of that audience of hundreds of men praying together in audible prayer was something indescribable. Again, another confession, they would break out in uncontollable weeping, and we would all weep, we could not help it. And so the meeting went on until two o’clock a.m., with confession and weeping and praying….”
He went on to describe a meeting a few nights later when many Christians were brought to a deep conviction of sin: “My last glimpse of the audience is photographed indelibly on my brain. Some threw themselves full length on the floor, hundreds stood with arms outstretched towards heaven. Every man forgot every other. Each was face to face with God. I can hear yet that fearful sound of hundreds of men pleading with God for life, for mercy. The cry went out over the city till the heathen were in consternation.”
Scenes like these are typical of almost every recorded revival. There is no revival without deep, uncomfortable and humbling conviction of sin. it is this terrible conviction of sin that led the Congolese Christians, during the revival in 1953, to sing a chorus of their own making:
Receive salvation today,
This is the hour of judgment.
The missionaries wanted to change the words to ‘This is the hour of mercy,” but were pointed to Malachi 3:2-3: God had come as “a refiner’s fire.”….
We must be fully aware that this deep and painful conviction of sin is an inevitable part of true revival. If all this appears to be a frightening prospect, it is well to understand that God will bring it, and that a deep, uncomfortable, and at times overwhelming, conviction of sin is an indispensable part of revival. We often have a tinted view of revival as a time of glory and joy and swelling numbers queuing to enter the churches. That is only part of the story.
Before the glory and the joy, there is conviction, and that begins with the people of God. There are tears and godly sorrow. There are wrongs to be put right, secret things, furthest from the eyes of men, to be thrown out, and bad relationships, hidden for years, to be repaired openly. If we are not prepared for this, we had better not pray for revival. Revival is not intended for the enjoyment of the church, but for its cleansing.
None of this should surprise us if we understand the ways of God in the Bible. The terrible judgment upon Uzzah for his careless contempt of disobedience (2 Samuel 6:6-7) is paralleled with the remarkable story of Annanias and Sapphira in the early church (Acts 5:1-11). The purpose was the same: “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11).
In revival there are none in the church and few in the community who take sin lightly. God turns His anger into mercy but still He makes His people “feel” their sin. We have an unholy church today because Christians do not feel sin or fear it. The God who punished the sin of Uzzah, and before that, of Achan and of Nadab and Abihu, is still as holy now as He was then; His view of sin has not changed.
Secondly, it must be understood that this experience of conviction, and the physical crying and fainting that not infrequently accompany it, can be fraudulently copied by men. There is always the danger that foolish men try to ape the work of the Holy Spirit. To set out to create these physical responses, whatever name we give to them, is a dangerous and sinful meddling with the work of God.
It is not difficult to work people up to such a degree of intensity that they show the symptoms of conviction without the lasting fruit of peace in Christ and a holy life. Conviction of sin, and everything that goes with it, is God’s work, and it is the wise Christian leader who leaves it in His capable hands. Those who long most for revival should begin by examining their hearts and lives before the searchlight of God and His Word. If we cover our sin and do not confess it now, when revival comes we may find ourselves confessing it to the church.
God’s Presence Brings Conviction
When God came to the Congo in 1953, it was two months before the unbelieving world was touched, but those were a painful two months for the church, with missionaries, pastors, elders and evangelists confessing their sin. The reason why this deep conviction of sin is so much a part of true revival is simply that the presence of a holy God is so real. A holy God makes the Christian aware of the gravity of even the smallest sins.
When Isaiah went into the temple and stood in the presence of God, his response was devastatingly self-condemning: “Woe to me!…I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:3). The reason there is so little repentance among our congregations today is not just that our sermons are not directed against sin, but that God is not felt among us. Those who know themselves to be in the presence of a holy God are always aware of personal sin. Daniel is one example: “We have sinned and done wrong. We have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land (Daniel 9:5-6).
Nehemiah was even more specific about his own personal sin when he cried to God for the derelict city of Jerusalem: “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:6-7).
An illustration of this is clearly seen in the experience at Baria in Borneo in 1973. One national Christian, Taman Ngau, records the time when the entire village seemed to be going to the church: “There in the church we found the Lord. The whole place was full of the Spirit of the Lord. Young people were praying and worshipping. Some of them were confessing their sins and we began confessing too. We didn’t realize we had sinned before, but we saw how filthy we were in the presence of a holy God.”
But all this is only the beginning. Duncan Campbell declared again and again that true revival is a revival of holiness and that holiness is more desirable than happiness. One man, converted under the preaching of Campbell, claimed that his conversion cost him $10,000; he had to return to America and work for a year “to make restitution for things I had done as a sinner.”
Two-hundred years earlier Jonathan Edwards commented that one effect of revival is to bring sinners “immediately to quit their sinful practices.”
This deep work of conviction always leads to a freedom of joy in the new found experience of forgiveness. Following the “smiting of the heart” come the “outbursts of the joy of salvation.” It is not our happiness that God is concerned with, but our holiness; it is impossible to read the story of revivals without understanding this.
If there are three things that are common to all true revivals they are prayer, preaching, and a conviction of sin. If we are to expect a revival in these days, we must expect it to hurt. In recent years we have been busy trying to convince the world by our Christian clowns and comedians, and by our big, happy events, that Christianity is fun. The reason why the world does not take Christianity seriously is because Christians don’t!
Revival does not persuade the world that the Christian faith is fun, but that it is essential. There is a colossal difference . The first work of the Spirit is not to tell us that we can be happy, but that we must be holy–because God is.
The kind of men God has used in revival were men who trembled at sin and whose conscience was sensitive to the approach of sin; men who did not try to justify their lazy, careless habits, but who lived disciplined and determined lives. If there is one thing common to the men God uses in revival it is that they fear nothing but God and sin. The reason for this is that revival is always a revival of holiness, and therefore the vessels God uses must be holy.
A man may be extreme or even unwise in his leadership, but if he crosses the boundary into sin then God will set him on one side. Humphrey Jones was greatly used in Wales in 1859 until his pride robbed God of the glory, and then his effective ministry was ended.
As the leaders, so the people; there is no honor to God in an unholy people. When we look at the fruits of revival we shall see how great a reformation any revival brings to society. But the reason for deep conviction is so that the people will feel their sin and hate it. The deeper the pile-driving, the higher the building can rise.
When revival comes, priorities are focused on what pleases God. Public houses and dance halls will close, betting shops are abandoned, even sports are set on one side; work output increases, and honesty is the norm. In Wales, during the revival early this century, it was claimed that pit ponies stopped work because they no longer understood the orders from the men–no one was swearing at them!
In the light of this, how many of us are ready for revival? Have we shown God we want a revival? There is a preparation that must begin now, and a concern to be holy will show God that we care. We will be saying to God, “Lord, I long for revival, and this is how much I long: I want to be as holy as a saved sinner can be.” And if there is still no revival, we shall at least have done our duty and God asks us to do no more than that. The outcome is His, the preparation is ours.
“The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before Him and prepares the way for His steps” (Psalm 85:12-13)
Last evening, there was an elders meeting at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church. Each time the elders gather, we make sure that we spend the first portion in prayer and seeking the Lord. It was a good time of prayer.
Apart from prayer, nothing eternal will take place in our lives and in the church.
If we do not pray, revival will not come.
Let us continually seek the Lord in prayer so that He will refresh us!
By Wesley L. Duewel…
Sometimes God has gives revival to a local church or group of people. At times a whole community is blessed and changed by revival. On a few occasions an entire region or even a whole nation had become spiritually awakened and morally transformed by a widespread outpouring of God’s Spirit in revival.
At times revival has lasted only a day or two. Yet God has been so powerfully present for that brief time that more spiritual transformation has resulted than from months and years of ordinary Christian life and witness. At other times revival has lasted for months (Wesley L. Duewel, Revival Fire, 16).
May the Lord send revival!