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Wake Up: Pursuing Personal Revival The word revival may mean something to you or it may not. You may have heard it used to describe the reviving of someone who has fainted or in the context of reviving a building or a piece of property. The dictionary defines it like this:

“To restore from a depressed, inactive, or unused state. A restoration of force or validity.”

There has always been a need for revival within the church and sometimes it is more needed than others. Historically you can trace the movement of God through difficult and dark days in which the light of the church was threatened to be extinguished. He has always had a people. A people that would see the need and connect to God in a way that turned his judgment into mercy. 

There has always been a generation that rises up to challenge the purity, the passion and productivity of the church.

Revival is corporate: It can be for an entire church, denomination or the church universal.

Revival is personal: There are times when it is just about you and God.

Today I am making an appeal for personal revival in our lives and an appeal for our church. Not the church down the street or across town or the denomination we happen to be a part of. I am deeply concerned about us and I am asking for some people to join me in crying out to God personally and as a church.

In Isaiah 64 the writer is crying out for revival. He is asking for God to revisit His people. He is remembering what it was like when God came in the past and walked among them. He is passionate. He is hungry for God. He is desperate. Listen to these words and try to imaging the desperation in the mind of the writer.

Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble.

Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And O how the mountains quaked.”

For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who gladly do good,
who follow godly ways. But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly.

We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.

Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins.

And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. Don’t be so angry with us, LORD. Please don’t remember our sins forever. Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people.

Your holy cities are destroyed. Zion is a wilderness; yes, Jerusalem is a desolate ruin.

The holy and beautiful Temple where our ancestors praised you has been burned down, and all the things of beauty are destroyed. After all this, LORD, must you still

refuse to help us? Will you continue to be silent and punish us?” Isaiah 64:1-11 NLT


1.    What is revival?

It is critical that we have some notion of the revivals of the past.

Pentecost: This story is recorded in Acts 2 and it was a pivotal point in the early church. Jesus very clearly taught his disciples to wait until they were empowered and filled with His spirit. They waited and prayed until the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit touched them all. This experience ignited the church with a flame that burned for many years.

Jeff Ziegler and Jay Rogers wrote the following words.

“Revival speaks of the recovery of something that was once lost. During the Middle Ages Christianity did not cease to spread however, the experience of the Church of the Middle Ages was far removed from the experience of the first century disciples.

Sporadically, powerful revival preachers, such as St. Francis of Assisi, would appear and the common people of Europe would once again receive the power of the Lord's testimony. But the attempts to restore the experience of the first century disciples gradually became lost amidst the pageantry and formalism of the medieval church. Time and time again revival preachers would appear to condemn the excesses of the Roman church hierarchy.

Savonarola, a fifteenth century Italian friar, charged the church of his day with idolatry in sermon after sermon: "In the primitive Church the chalices were of wood, the prelates of gold; in these days the Church has chalices of gold and prelates of wood." With fiery oratory, Savonarola likened the Roman hierarchy to the "wood, hay and stubble" that the Apostle Paul had warned the first century Church about: "This is the new church, no longer built of living stones; but of sticks, namely, of Christians dry as tinder (kindling) for the fires of hell."

More often than not, preachers of reform, such as Savonarola and the Bohemian preacher Jan Hus, were put to death by church authorities. It became evident even to the common people that the Roman church was corrupt; the deaths of the great martyrs only rallied sympathy for their cries for reform.

For the people of the Middle Ages, the restoration of revival power had lacked one essential ingredient: the written Word of God. Ever since the time of St. Jerome, the fifth century monk who translated the Greek Septuagint and the Greek New Testament into vulgar Latin, the Word of God had remained obscured from the common people.

It wasn't until the invention of moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg in the late 15th century that the Bible became available in mass quantities. The invention of the printing press now set off a revolution in Germany. Now, every scholar could own a copy of a book or some type of printed material.

Reform was a slow process occurring over the space of centuries. The Bible was painstakingly translated into the common tongue of each nation. The common people of Europe had to become literate before mass revival was to take place. This was a long struggle won with the blood of the martyrs.

The Reformation of the Church in the 16th century marked the end of the Middle Ages, a time in which the Church had been mired in every wretched, vile depravity known to man. Under the weight of papal abominations, sexual promiscuity, financial scandal, and sweeping ignorance of God's Word, the Church had lost the testimony of Christ's character. In the midst of such carnal chaos, the Lord began a process of restoring truth, order, and vitality to the Church.

Men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli were used of the Lord to recover foundational truths of the Christian faith which had been lost for nearly a millennium.

When Luther posted his 95 theses on the church door at Wittenburg, he was merely calling his colleagues to a theological debate: a common practice in his day. In the controversy that ensued, church officials demanded that Luther recant his theses, although they were not willing to debate the stocky German friar concerning his knowledge of scripture. The soldiers who came to arrest Luther did so only after Luther refused to recant his theses. His immortal words were the galvanizing force of Protestant Reformation of the 16th century: "Here I stand; I can do no other; God help me. Amen."

A few years later, in Geneva, Switzerland, John Calvin published his Institutes of the Christian Religion. In it, he outlined a comprehensive theology for Protestant Christianity, something Luther had failed to do. He articulated and implemented a plan of church government separate from the rule of bishops and popes.

This period of reform saw the following areas of doctrine restored:
A) Justification by faith alone.
B) God's sovereignty over all men and nations as an already established fact.
C) Christ's work in His death and resurrection as finished, complete and this great victory communicated to the church.
D) All believers comprise the priesthood and each may approach Christ without a human mediator.
E) The Church as the visible demonstration of the Kingdom of God in the Earth.
F) The Bible may be read by the common man and can be applied to all areas of life.
The impact of the Reformation upon Western Civilization is nothing less than astounding. The invention of the printing press during this time made the Bible, and with it reformed theology, widespread throughout the German states, Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries, and eventually Britain. These recovered doctrines spawned large movements of evangelistic exploits, along with great Christian optimism.

You can’t talk about revival without including the Puritans. By the end of the 16th century, the nations of northern Europe had broken the bonds of the political-ecclesiastical system which had tied them to Rome.

The moral life of the peasant was as lax as the times were cruel. Undernourished and overworked, the peasant consumed as much as a gallon of beer or wine on an average day. Weddings and holidays were occasions for drunken revelry; huge festivals and frolics were held which gave peasants the opportunity to engage in every sort of crude behavior.

The Puritans - whose name was originally used as a term of derision, given because they shunned the frolics of the common people - arose in England in the 1560s. They were a group of radical nonconformists who believed that the Elizabethan Reformation had retained too many Catholic ways and wished to purify the Church of England.

Despite the derision of fellow citizens and repression by the monarchy, the Puritans were widely influential in England. More than any other group of reformers, they stressed individual responsibility and duty.

In the 1600s, James I harassed the Puritans with laws requiring conformity to the Church of England. During his reign, the most radical Puritans, unwilling to compromise their reform efforts, fled to the New World in a mass exodus. The Puritans who came to America saw the New World as an unconquered kingdom in which to advance the gospel. They saw the world as the property of Christ to be cultivated and cared for by men. They became convinced that even as they had been reborn as individuals, now whole societies might do the same. It was in America that the Reformation worldview attained its highest ideal. American society was unique in that it was the first culture in the world (with the exception of ancient Israel) to have biblical precepts as the sole basis for its laws and civil government.

Seventeenth century America saw great strides of reform in the areas of civil government, law, history, and literature. The following reformed institutions were features of 17th century America, were founded by the Puritans, and have since been imitated all over the world.

The First Great Awakening of the 18th century could be considered the first sweeping revival to take place since the time of the apostles. While confined geographically to Great Britain and colonial America, the effect of this awakening would eventually bring revolutionary changes to the world at large.

In the meantime, Jonathan Edwards, a Northampton, Massachusetts pastor, began to pray for his unconverted congregation and for the unconverted of North America. His efforts to promote revival enjoyed huge success in his village church as early as 1734. Edwards' passion was for the glory of God, and for the kingdom to be advanced among the lost:

"My heart has been much on the advancement of Christ's kingdom in the world. The histories of the past advancement of Christ's kingdom have become sweet to me. When I have read histories of past ages, the pleasantest thing in all my reading has been to read of the kingdom of Christ being promoted. And my mind has been much entertained and delighted with the Scripture promises and prophecies of the future glorious advancement of Christ's kingdom on earth."

Edwards vividly described the onset of the awakening as "A Divine and Supernatural Light" which had invaded western Massachusetts from heaven. The revival occurring among his own congregation was the first in a series of revivals which spread from Maine to Georgia. Hardly a person in Northampton remained unaffected by the revival. The news soon spread among the surrounding villages. Those who came to Edwards' church to inquire about this phenomenon, returned to their towns greatly convicted and soon the revival spread.

The onset of the awakening did not occur solely among the religious, but according to Edwards "the worst persons in the town seemed to be suddenly seized with a great degree of concern about their souls." Within the next seven years the awakening had seized the colonies. Church records of this time period indicate that as much as one-third of the population of the American colonies had had a salvation experience. The magnitude of the awakening caused Edwards to wonder aloud whether the millennial reign of Christ was not descending on the earth. If another 20 years of awakening passed unabated, Edwards extrapolated, there would be no one left to save.

Across the Atlantic, the deplorable social conditions set the stage for the revival efforts of John Wesley and George Whitefield. The Puritans had left their mark on America, but in England Puritanism had been rejected with the restoration of the monarchy. James II ferociously persecuted the remaining Puritans and they were forbidden to preach under severe penalties. The poor were unspeakably wretched - gin had made the people cruel and inhuman. There were the spectacles of daily public hangings applauded by men, women and children; prisons were unimaginable nightmares; mothers were forced to scavenge for scraps of food to keep their children from starving. By 1730, life in England was morally corrupt and deeply crippled by spiritual decay.

Into this world, John Wesley was born in 1703 to ministering parents.

In 1736, John Wesley traveled to Georgia in hopes of seeing Indians converted to Christ. After two years of frustrating failure he met the disciples of Von Zinzendorf on the voyage home to England. The Moravians showed a "great seriousness" and were calm during the winter storms that buffeted the ship, while Wesley was afraid for his life. On his return journey to England he began to doubt his salvation:

"I went to America, to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me? who, what is he that shall deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near; but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, 'To die is gain.' I who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted to God. 'I am not mad,' though I thus speak; 'but I speak the words of truth and soberness.'"

Although he preached holiness, Wesley was uncertain of his own salvation. Wesley was convinced of his unbelief and finally resolved to leave preaching, "How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?" He asked a Moravian missionary friend, Peter Boehler, whether or not he thought he should leave preaching. Boehler answered, "By no means." Wesley then asked, "But what can I preach?" Boehler then gave him the advice that would change his life and affect the destiny of all England: "Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith."

Two months later, Wesley very unwillingly went to a society in Aldersgate-street, where someone was reading Luther's preface to Romans: "About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and that an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death ... And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often conquered; now, I was always conqueror."

Soon Wesley was preaching in the open places to tens of thousands of sinners who never frequented a church building. Wesley preached like a great apostle, carefully laying out the foundations of the faith in the hearts of his hearers. Previously he had failed to reach a single soul in America, yet now he reaped a great harvest.

He was undiscouraged by controversy and being barred from preaching in many churches. Once, openly confronting this unfortunate situation at his father's church in Epworth, he stood upon his father's tombstone in the churchyard and made it his pulpit. A huge crowd gathered to hear him preach, and ultimately the pastor of his father's former parish was converted! He was able to calmly face mobs who were ready to stone him or beat him to death. 

It is an interesting fact to note that most of the time when God is about to do something it is the church that stands in the way. Church people apparently hate and loathe change. Historically, men and women who follow God into a time of renewal and new life have to do so over the opposition of protectors of tradition. It is exactly the same today. (Talk about our own denomination and those who will do anything to keep from having to accept change.) Most churches in America today are declining yet they want nothing to do with the hard work and sacrifice it takes to move where God is moving.

Wesley's life is awe-inspiring. Historians testify that it was John Wesley's Methodists that provided the moral ballast that kept England from sliding into the same bloody tragedy that was experienced just a short distance away in the French Revolution of 1789. At the end of his life he had trained 750 preachers in England and, through his student Francis Asbury, 350 in America. At his death there were 76,968 Methodists in England and 57,621 in America. His brother Charles wrote hundreds of hymns which are still well known and sung today.
The Methodists continued in a move of the Holy Spirit keeping up their fervor until the latter part of the 19th century. Wesley's work significantly affected the theology of American churches during the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s. Many revival preachers, such as Charles G. Finney, taught a modified Wesleyan doctrine of holiness which energized revivalism in America.

By the 1770s, at the onset of the American Revolution, the thirteen colonies had become radically transformed. Believers from seperate denominations shared a common spiritual experience. And all felt an internal spiritual unity which naturally led to an external union. It was the Great Awakening, begun in Jonathan Edwards' church which led to the emancipation of America, both spiritually and politically.

The Second Great Awakening can be understood as a series of revivals - beginning in the late 1790s in the sparsely populated western frontier states, to the Great Revival of 1857, and ending with the Holiness revivals and the Pentecostal revival at the turn of this century - a continuum built upon the mounting momentum of the previous reforms.

The revivals of the 1700s centered around the villages and cities of the east coast, but the work of the Second Great Awakening began in the sparsely populated frontier. The major personalities of this period include the Methodist circuit riders Francis Asbury and Peter Cartwright.
In August of 1801, the Cane Ridge Revival meeting occurred. The scenario is a six-day camp meeting attended by 20,000 people! It was a remarkable event, since this occurred in the sparsely populated frontier. Among the thousands who were converted was a young skeptic, James B. Finley, who wrote this account:

"The noise was like that of Niagara. The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm. I counted seven ministers, all preaching on stumps, others in wagons and one standing on a tree which had in falling, lodged against another.... Some of the people were singing, other praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents, while others were shouting most vociferously. While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly strange sensation such as I had never felt before came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lips quivered and I felt as though I must fall to the ground. A supernatural power seemed to pervade the entire mass of mind there collected.... I stepped up on a log where I could have a better view of the surging sea of humanity. The scene that had presented itself to my mind was indescribable. At one time I saw at least five hundred swept down in a moment as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens."

This was the beginning of the Second Great Awakening. America's early westward movement was characterized by true Christianity. The figure who dominated America's revivalism during this period was Charles G. Finney. A young lawyer who had become convicted by the Holy Spirit after having read the book of Romans as a part of his legal studies, Finney's ministry began with the following experience:

"Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without the recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in such a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings. No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart.

"I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over and over me, one after the other, until I cried out, 'I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.' I said, 'Lord, I cannot bear any more;' yet I had no fear of death."

The focus of Finney's revivalism centered on social reform. He attacked every vice known to society and insisted that societal sin in every form be done away with completely. The roots of virtually every social reform movement of the 1800s can be traced to Finney's revival meetings.

The latter half of the century gave the world such great revivalists as, D.L. Moody, William and Catherine Booth, Hudson Taylor, George Mueller. They and many others helped to make this century an age of optimism and explosive missionary activity.”

In order to form a comprehensive understanding of revival and spiritual awakening, we must begin with our initial definitions about the nature and purpose of revival and then add each of the restored doctrines and areas of testimony since the time of the Reformation. We must start with the framework of historical orthodoxy and then build upon this foundation with the subsequent principles and doctrines emphasized in each successive revival.

In addition to defining revival, we must also incorporate the definitions of spiritual awakening's accompanying fruits, namely: reformation and restoration. Let's define the three foundational tenets of revival theology:

REVIVAL - This begins with a recovery of the Lord's testimony in a given generation. The resulting effect of the revived Church on society with large numbers of people being converted is termed a spiritual awakening.

REFORMATION - This is defined as the corresponding effect of a spiritual awakening on a particular society. Great social reforms occur due to the sanctifying power of a revived Church acting as a redeemer to its culture.

RESTORATION - This occurs as each successive wave of revival restores great truths which were part of the normal experience for the early Church of the apostolic age, but had been lost during the time of the Middle Ages.

These three great forces, working together throughout time, have brought us to a crucial juncture in history. We desperately need to understand what God has accomplished in the past and to examine the current state of affairs. The purpose of such understanding is to create an atmosphere within the Church of our generation which is conducive to yet another wave of revival which will reform the nations and complete the Great Commission.

As we begin to understand the mechanism through which God was worked in the past, we will be able to ask the following questions and give some answers about the future:

* What are the chances another revival of the magnitude of the First and Second Great Awakenings occurring in our generation?

We should first mention that there is revival happening all over the world today. There is spiritual awakening which has swept hundreds of millions of people into the Kingdom of God within the last decade. There is revival in Africa, South America, the former Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, the South Pacific Islands, and Southeast Asia. The sheer volume of this "World Awakening" not only rivals but even surpasses what happened in America in centuries past. As we turn to our own nation and Europe, we see that the supposedly "Christian" nations of the world today are freaks in terms of revival experience. Nevertheless, in times of great darkness in America's past revival has dawned bringing new light and hope. So we can hope and pray for a Third Great Awakening in America which will surpass all past experience.

What will be the effects of future awakenings on the societies of the world in terms of reformation of culture?

The plethora of social problems our nation now faces - sexual immorality, AIDS, racial problems, economic woes - are reformation tasks for the Church of the new awakening. Poverty in our own country and around the world is something we need to be doing something about.
 We stand once again at the crossroads. Our country is filled with declining churches. We are in big trouble as a nation and in my opinion the failure of our nation and the failure of our local communities can be laid at the feet of a dead church. When I see families falling apart, people strung out on drugs and alcohol, children becoming the target of sexual predators, and the value of human life at an all time low, I lay it at the feet of the churches in America that have refused to change with the times. I lay it squarely at the feet of people who fight to hold on to old methods while forgetting the message that Christ gave the church to share.

The percentage of adults in the United States who attend church is decreasing. U.S.

churches are growing, but not enough to keep pace with the population. Only 40 percent of adults said they went to church last week. That’s down from 42 percent in 1995 and 49 percent in 1991. Roughly half of all churches in America did not add one new person through conversion growth last year.

No matter how you do the math, current conversion rates still point to one horrible conclusion: Lost people lose.

In America, it takes the combined efforts of 85 Christians working over an entire year to produce one convert. At that rate, a huge percentage of people will never have the opportunity, even once, to hear the gospel.

Some researchers claim more churches are closing than are opening every year. Almost three times as many churches in America are closing (3,750) as are opening (1,300) each year.

Conversions to other religions and dropouts from Christianity are escalating. Justin Long notes that in North America, “the nonreligious have grown from 1 million in 1900, to 26 million today and the atheists have grown from 2,000 in 1900 to 1.4 million today.”

Between 1989 and 1998, the Muslim population in the United States grew by 25 percent. No major American city is without an Islamic teaching center.

Buddhism is growing nearly three times as fast as Christianity. Hindus form the second-fastest growing religion in North America and [pseudo-Christian]cults are also growing significantly.

Too many churched people believe and behave identically to their unchurched counterparts.

What would you call a person who believes in astrology, reincarnation and the possibility of communicating with the dead? If your first thought is “New Ager,” you missed an important group. According to a Gallup survey, these are just some of the beliefs held by people who call themselves Christians.

What are we going to do about it?

If all the sleeping folk will wake up, If all the lukewarm folk will get fired up, If all the dishonest folk will confess up, If all the disgruntled folk will cheer up, If all the depressed folk will cheer up, If all the estranged folk will make up, If all the gossipers will shut up, If all true soldiers will stand up, If all the dry bones will shake up, If all the church members will pray up... Then we can have a revival! --R. G. Lee

2008/04/27