Perversion, filth, dissipation, idolatry, witchcraft, enmity, fighting, jealousy, anger, selfishness, strife, factions, envy, drunkenness, licentiousness, and reveling are just some of the words that not only describe the works of the flesh Paul wrote about in his letter to the Galatians, he also described the condition of many believers today in Croatia and around the world. Christ's body, which is spiritually sick, is in great need of spiritual awakening in order to once again become Christ-centered and return to the life and purpose God has for her.
You often hear people speak about revival. Many believers want to see revival in their lives, churches, and cities, but many have conflicting thoughts about what revival is and what it should look like. Some want to see only signs and wonders, others more holiness and righteousness, while some perhaps want to see their empty churches filled. Duncan Campbell, a well-known Scottish revival preacher, once said that the kingdom of heaven will not be extended in the way that our churches are filled with people, rather that the people in the churches are filled with God. True revival is a spiritual awakening in which people cry out to God because they want to know Him more; not because they want to see signs and wonders! In any case, revival is most certainly not just filling empty churches, but filled empty people in the churches with God.
Revival, or spiritual awakening, is the key to reviving spiritually dead churches that have bowed the knee to the gods of humanism and materialism. Today's modern churches, in their own words, talk less about the cross, the blood of Jesus Christ, dying to self, and the infilling of the power from on high. The worldly spirit that has overtaken the church today drives the church to adapt to this world. This kind of church desires for the world to accept her, and therefore attempts to cover over her backslidden state with artificial revivals void of the true presence of God. These are "revivals" that do not touch or change the corrupted state of fallen man, but are often outward displays of emotion without true change. This is why there are so many carnal Christians and unbiblical beliefs present at these revivals. These kinds of churches are just an outward manifestation representing revival to others, while inwardly harboring just the opposite.
Today's Christianity is divided, which is also one reason why there are so many problems in local churches, because they are filled with people who intellectually believe in Christ without having died to self and being crucified on the cross with Christ as their Lord. This is why there are fewer visible changes and little emphasis on change, which has been exchanged for proclamation of faith in God and an occasional emotional experience void of visible change in the way one thinks and works - which is actual conversion. It is enough for them that people simply say they believe in God, and the church immediately proclaims them to be believers and converts. So, we can conclude that according to these standards Satan is also a member of the church since he also believes in God, the Bible says that he believes.
And here lies a great danger because often people take on a religious form and learn what to say but continue living for themselves without a life change.
Our modern evangelistic propaganda and technology have greatly improved. More and more people are using the Internet as well as media for sharing revivals, but what is fascinating is that despite these modern "revivals" we are still not seeing cities taken for Christ as it was in those early days of real revival. Rather than seeing a banner of victory in those places of revival, after a short time we hear about defeated, frustrated and split churches. This is why I believe that we really need a true spiritual awakening with a specific characteristic that must be visible so that we know it is a true work of God.
REVIVAL IS FIRST OF ALL A WORK OF GOD
The Psalmist says, "Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?" (Psalm 85:6) He who revives the body is God. He is a God of revival and we must seek for His awakening. Without exception, revival includes an answer from us, yet it is not a work of man because God is always the One who revives.
A well known leader of a great spiritual movement and revival that took place in 1904 in Wales, was a young miner named Evan Roberts, whom historians describe as a young man "whose hair was full of mining dust and whose nails were black". He was not a very literate or an accomplished speaker, but one book that he knew well was the Bible. At 25 years of age he was thrown out of his apartment because he preached and prayed out loud in his room. One day while he was praying, God told Roberts that a spiritual awakening would come to Wales and that hundreds of thousands of people would come to Christ. With that vision in mind, Roberts began seeking to preach, yet no one would listen. He asked his pastor to let him preach in a church, and finally the pastor gave in to his persistent requests by saying, "Alright, Evan, you may preach after the Wednesday evening service, but only if people wish to listen." 17 people remained to listen.
Evans courageously shared what the Lord had spoken, and the message was simple: confess your sins to God, turn from your bad habits, listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and let your testimony be known. Although Roberts was not a capable speaker and pastor, those seventeen people were overtaken with a passion of God. During the next 30 days, 37 people repented and received Christ. During the next 5 months that number climbed to 100,000 and Roberts' vision was fulfilled. They closed many schools as the students gathered in prayer meetings to sing and praise God. Even children, imitating the adults, began gathering in each others homes and fields in the villages and so-called "prayer gangs" were formed.
In one city they began prayer under the motto: "Awaken, you who sleep". People would pray long into the night, sometimes the entire night with the intent that God calls people to Himself, to awaken them from sleep so that they may become aware of their sins and turn to Him. There are reports of people who awoke in the middle of the night, went to a prayer meeting, and turned to Christ.
Just as God had revealed, Roberts experienced a spreading of revival in England. It was reported that in this revival around 2 million people were converted. Believers who prayed were awakened and renewed by God.
Revival is God's work. We cannot impress the average man by our websites, programs, oratory or managerial skills; what we truly need is a manifestation of the supernatural in order to win people for Christ.
The following story speaks of that. The Great Awakening that took place in America between 1726-1750 also illustrates that revival is God's work, not man's.
In the time of the colonies, America was in a state of great moral and spiritual decline. Jonathan Edwards, a pastor of a congregational church in Northampton, Massachusetts, was deeply concerned about this and began to seek God for a "revival of religion". Others also began to seek God and in 1726 a spiritual awakening began in various places. Edwards reports that during the spring and summer of 1735 "the city was filled with God's presence". Accounts tell us that without any planned evangelistic program, many people came to Jesus Christ. Edward's church was suddenly filled with people who were seeking salvation. "Our public meetings were wonderful", Edwards said, "The congregation was revived in God's presence and all were in involved in public worship. Each hearer carefully drank in the words of the minister who spoke. The congregation was in tears at times while the Word was preached; some cried in sorrow, others because of love and joy, while still others wept in anxiety for the souls of their loved ones."
People came from other places and as soon as they reached the town they felt the greatness of God's presence. When the converted reached their homes, they carried the spirit of revival with them and the revival spread to other towns. During this time of revival, Edwards preached his most well-known sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". During the sermon, conviction was so heavy that those present cried out for mercy while the words were coming from Edward's mouth. Hell had suddenly become so real to them that some grasped on to the pews while others clung to the pillars of the church because there was such a presence that the people feared the eternal flames would consume them. Edwards presented hell as so real that it "seemed as real as a place that could be found on the world atlas", said one of his biographers, Ola Winslow.
The power that followed Edward' preaching was not a result of the topic of his sermons. Preaching about hell was not that which unsettled listeners. Edwards was naturally a very sensitive man who would often dissolve into tears while speaking about the love and mercy of God. Nor was it due to his speaking ability because Edwards usually read his sermons. His preaching was powerful because of his prayer life. He would spend entire days and weeks in prayer before preaching even one sermon. The result was a revival that not only changed the moral and spiritual character of his congregation and city, but rather an entire nation!
Spiritual awakening and renewal are God's work, which is why the Psalmist says that He will revive us. "Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?" (Psalm 85:6)
ALTHOUGH REVIVAL IS GOD'S WORK, BELIEVERS ARE NOT NEVER PASSIVE, BUT VERY ACTIVE AND RESPONSIBLE FOR SEEKING THE GOD OF REVIVAL.
Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?" (Psalm 85:6)
Although God is the God of revival, this does not mean that we have a lesser responsibility, because in revival history you always find human agents through which it is made possible.
Many times I have heard believers say that they can do nothing to make revival happen and that it is just "His sovereign work". Certainly revival is God's sovereign work, but with this many justify their laziness and passivity in seeking God, claiming that they can do nothing to make it happen. This is a great deception! This kind of attitude simply places the responsibility on someone else.
When we take a closer look at the lives of the early disciples we see how their entire beings were active for just one purpose - to do their best for Christ. They were not just passively waiting for a better time for missions or evangelism, while pitying their own spiritual state; rather they began spiritually strong and were responsible for the things God had entrusted to them. When they waited for the filling of the Spirit, they did not only receive a promise in faith while continuing to live their own lives, they were active in prayer in the "upper room", waiting for the Father's promise.
It seems that today we want to take the path of least resistance. We do not like to work hard for God's kingdom, we do not want to be responsible, we do not want to die to self, we do not want to serve where there is a need, crucify our bodies through fasting and prayer, or even sacrifice our health for God's kingdom if needed; which was the case in many revival preachers throughout history.
It is interesting that people are often sick when it is time to go to church, or attend a spiritual activity, but the next day they get up and go to work. This is an indication that people need a spiritual awakening, because God does not occupy first place in their lives.
Today's flawed presentation of the gospel without death to self and the cross is often the reason for undedicated attitudes, and because of this Christians live for self and use God to achieve success in their lives or to ease their struggles on earth. And often we see nothing more than this. However, those whom God has used are witnesses to the importance of prayer, responsibility, fasting, and hard work in times of revival, even for sacrificing their health and lives. Although revival is God's work, people have always done their part - they sought God and cried out with their whole heart and being regardless of where they were. And God was glorified!
John and Charles Wesley, and their friend George Whitefield, regularly fasted and prayed while they were studying at Oxford in 1732. Every evening from 6-9 they met for prayer and Bible study, Wednesdays and Fridays they fasted. Because of their conviction about the essential nature of fasting, Wesley did not want the Methodist denomination to appoint pastors who refused this discipline. But today - for someone to become a pastor or spiritual worker, it is enough for them to simply have a diploma in their hands, a connection in a certain denominational circle, or charisma without character, regardless of their spiritual or moral state.
At the start of the 19th century, when the Holy Spirit began pouring out at the Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, one of the main focuses in that school was prayer. There was a prayer room on the top floor of the school that was open 24 hour a day and every student was included in the prayer cycle.
Before the Holy Spirit descended, before the New Year, the students met for teaching on the works of the apostles and for nightly prayer, when around 11:00pm Charles Parham prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Agnes Ozman, who wanted to receive the Holy Spirit in the biblical way. Charles Parham said this, about the event, "Humbly, in Jesus' name, I laid my hand on her head and prayed. I had hardly spoken two sentences when the glory of God descended on her; her face and head glowed and she began to speak in Chinese. After she received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, she could not speak English for three days."
William Joseph Seymour, before meeting with Charles Parham, had a passionate desire for God. "Before I met Parham", said Seymour, "there was such a great desire in my heart for God that for two and a half years I prayed every day for five hours. When I came to Los Angeles, my huger was even greater than before. I prayed and asked God, 'God, what can I do?' The spirit said to me, 'Pray all the more.' 'But, Lord, I am already praying five hours a day.' And this is how I increased my hours of prayer to seven hours. And I prayed this way for a year and a half. I prayed for God to give me what Parham was preaching about, the true Holy Spirit and fire with tongues, love and God's power that the apostles had."
What followed was the well-known Azusa street revival that ignited the entire world. After the leaders of the congregation, where he preached his first sermon on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, threw Seymour out, he began to preach in a building that one church had used as a stable and storage room. On April 14, 1906, after the first service, revival began to spread. Historians tell us that prayer was a priority for all activities at Azusa Mission. One man that had been present there described what he saw, "The whole place was filled with prayer." Seymour spent most of his time behind the pulpit with his head in a shoe box while praying.
It is very clear that we cannot just leave things to the Lord, saying that He alone is responsible for revival, filling the church, and awakening a nation because there is a great responsibility that lies on us to take our important role in spiritual awakening. Only when we fulfill the prerequisites for actively seeking God can we expect for the Holy Spirit to work and change our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
Revival requires our active involvement. God will bring revival to those who repent and seek His face. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." (Matthew 5:6) There is no spiritual awakening and blessing for those who are uncaring, disobedient, passive, and unwilling to seek God!
WHEN THERE IS REVIVAL, SANCTIFICATION IS PREACHED IN THE POWERFUL PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
In Acts we read that the disciples "spoke the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:31b)
A good example of their preaching is the aforementioned message by the Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards. The sermon preached in Enfield, Connecticut in June 1741, marks the start of the Great Awakening in America.
The sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" described hell so clearly that many present held the pews so tightly that their knuckles turned white. Their knowledge of sin was so great that Edwards had to halt his message to quiet the people who were crying out to God for salvation.
Those who described the event said, "It seemed that he had no intention of appeasing his listeners with a conciliatory gesture or gentle words, but he targeted their hearts and conscience in order to reveal the horror of their delusions, secret sins, and the hypocritical detachment of their religiosity while preventing their escape to artificial godliness that was void of the power of God. His preaching was often terrifying but also promising to those who truly sought God."
John Wesley, whom God used in many ways during the revival in England and America, had a similar style. Historians describe him this way, "Wesley gave an example of a gradually developing message, first speaking about the love of God to man followed by questioning of our own conscience, and then about God's glory and the gospel that brings forgiveness and life."
In history, revivals were often accompanied by undaunted Christ-centered preaching, so much so that people literally fell on their knees before God. The revivals in England, led by John Wesley and George Whitefield, were marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit that had a great influence on people. Wesley wrote in his journal the following about George Whitefield, "Immediately after he began with a call for people to turn to Christ, four men came to him at almost the same time. One helplessly lay on the ground, the second trembled, the third was in strong convulsions, and the fourth, in tears, cried out to God."
Wesley and Whitefield thought this was amazing and sometimes asked certain people to leave their gatherings. However, after that a woman wrote to Whitefield a counseled him to let the people stay because upon leaving they interrupted the service. "'Let them cry'", she wrote, 'it will have a greater effect than your sermon,'" Wesley later wrote in his diary. "From that moment, I began to believe that we need to let God finish His work in the way He wants."
In connection with sanctification that comes with revival, Charles Finney once said, "I don't know how to otherwise explain it, than to say I preached with inspiration. It often happened that the topic would simply come to my mind. It seemed that in some intuitive, but clear way knew what I needed to say and many thoughts, words and illustrations seemed to come to me on their own at the same speed that I spoke them."
The revival always brought a bold manifestation of the Holy Spirit, such as signs and wonders, healing, trembling, shrieking, crying, and sometimes joyful dancing. All in all, the purpose of these manifestations was always to draw man to God, not to focus on the manifestations themselves, as many believers do today - for many, it is appealing to have manifestations without God's presence and change of the inner man. This is why today there are so many problems in these so-called revivals that are not supported by true inner change, but by various distorted, soulish and carnal behavior in the name of revival. Every manifestation in the Bible always had the purpose to turn people to God, not to the manifestation itself, or to the ones whom God was using.
REVIVAL ALWAYS CHANGES SOCIETY AND PEOPLE.
True revival always, without exception, changes the moral climate of the society where the awakened believer lives and works. History shows us that true revival reaches far outside the walls of the church. Revival is something more than just an exciting service - it drastically changes society.
In the example of the revival in Wales, it is well-known that at the time of revival, crime almost completely disappeared - there was no rape, robbery, murder, or embezzlement; the judges almost had no cases to judge. One writer revealed the following, "One circle of police chiefs held an emergency meeting to talk about the role of the police force in cases where the force is not needed." Alcoholism rates dropped. One year after the revival began, in two districts the percentage of babies born out of wedlock fell by 44%.
The revival also influenced the future of America. After the revival in England led by John Wesley, George Whitefield joined Jonathan Edwards in New England. Thousands of people were saved while he prophetically spoke about "political freedom without England's pressure and spiritual freedom without the bondage of sin."
While the Holy Spirit led people such as Edwards and Whitefield, in a region of around 250,000 people, 50,000 were saved. If you add to that the number of those who were already believers, it would have been enough to appoint a future nation. God actually used Edwards, Whitefield and others to turn the American colonies to God and to once again accept Christian values that were laid out in the Declaration of Independence.
The Great Awakening in Kentucky in 1800 spread through Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and on to the west. From that revival grew many missionary movements, the abolition of slavery and more accessible education. Those that participated in that revival founded more than 600 schools. Colleges such as Princeton and Columbia were founded due to the need for educating ministers for the many churches that were planted. Revival brought an ever-increasing desire among people for political independence in the colonies. Harvard professor William Perry said the following in relation to that, "The Declaration of Independence in 1776 was the result of evangelical preaching of the evangelists in the Great Awakening."
The revival that God promises begins when in humility we repent and turn from sin and passivity in seeking God, we fast, pray and seek His face and turn from that which does not please Him. God promised that He will answer those who listen, hear, love and believe with the fires of revival. "Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?" (Psalm 85:6) When revival happens, it will not just change the spiritually dead in the church, but also the city and nation in which revival is taking place. This is the result of revival - change in the people and city where the living church works!