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Our Heritage & Our Hope

by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com

Our language is alive.  The meaning of words are constantly changing with each succeeding generation.  Do you remember when "bad" meant inadequate rather than exceptional?  The word fly meant something that buzzed or was zapped, instead of something that is cool. Though slang words change most rapidly, descriptive words also change.  The drunkard has become an alcoholic. Adultery has become  an affair, and the adulterer is now one who believes in multiple partners.  Many of these changes in word meanings have coincided with the cultural decay of our society.

Christians and the church are not immune from the shifting of word meanings. Holiness and spirituality mean different things to us than to our spiritual forbearers.  But perhaps the most overused and least understood word in Christendom is revival.

Revival once meant spiritual renewal.  Charles Finney's definition of revival was "the Christian's new beginning of obedience to God."  Another definition is "the awakening of man's spirit to the Spirit of God."  This generation of Christians are more likely to define revival as "three nightly services where a visiting speaker gives a bible message." 

Revival has a negative connotation with many preachers and Christians.  Some have dropped the name revival and replaced it with bible conference or seminar.  A revival is thought of as a boring and outdated exercise.  Such was not always the case.  Many Christians today do not understand the important part that real heartfelt revival has had in church history and the history of our nation and the world.  It is not taught in schools.  It is not usually seen on the History Channel or The Learning Channel

Purpose Statement:  Revival has literally been the driving force of all that is good in our country and our churches.  Education, health care, and social reform are products of revival.  Revivals were the building blocks in the founding of this nation.  Revival is the heritage of the church and it's enduring hope.  In this message, we hope to show revival in it's truest sense, what it is and what it can accomplish in the heart of the believer, in the churches, and in our nation.
All throughout scripture and church history, there are three aspects of revival.  (1) There is a need for revival.  A one-word description of this aspect of revival is failure.  (2) There must be an expectation of revival.  This can be summed up in the word fuel.  (3) Lastly, there are the results of revival, which points to the future.

I.   Failure!  (The Need for Revival)

The bible is filled with instances where revival was needed.    The psalmist cried out, Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? in Psalm 85:6.  In 1 Kings 16, we see how Ahab and Jezebel had brought idolatry to prominence in Israel.

29 And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel...
30  And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.
31  And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.
32  And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.
33  And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.
There was certainly a need for revival when Ahab ruled.  But time would fail us to give reference to all the examples of man's failure in the bible.  The Israelites in the wilderness, the times of the Judges, Hezekiah, and Nineveh all spring to mind.

1. Our Emptiness    We need revival when we are not full of the Spirit.  We can not serve God effectively without His Fullness.

2.  Our Enticements   We are failures when we allow ourselves to be enticed by the world, the flesh, or Satan.  We need revival when we lose the battle in these areas.

3.  Our Energy       What energy are you working in:  The Flesh or the Spirit?  You can look at most church members and listen to most preachers and see that the flesh is ruling in their lives.  It is then that we have a need for revival!

In the Dark Ages, the established church (Catholic) had become unbearably corrupt.  Idolatry and heresy had taken over to such an extent that society had digressed to anarchy.  There was certainly a great need for revival during that time.  God answered the need with men like Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Huss, William Tyndale, and many others.

God is available today to answer our need for revival.  Some would say our culture has digressed to sub-human levels, approaching even the Dark Ages in sin and idolatry.  The fact that there is a definite need for revival is the first condition of experiencing it!

II.   Fuel!   (The Expectation of Revival)

Here we find the aspect of revival that is so challenging. Evangelist Roy Goodson once made this statement: God never runs out of revivals; but He can run out of places to give them!The need for revival is apparent.  Of that, there is no argument.  We can see the need, but we find it difficult to provide the fuel for revival.  What is the fuel?  The fuel for revival comes from the Christian's heart.  In Psalm 42 we read:

1  As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
3  My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
The great preacher James Stewart said: The burden of my life is that God will revive His work.  I believe that the days of revival are not past, that the church's potential is the same as it was in apostolic days.  When a preacher says that revival is impossible in these days, he will never see an extraordinary move of the Holy Spirit in his life and ministry.  The fuel for revival is the desire to have it, the dream to fulfill completely God's plan and purpose for your life!

A preacher once said, "It remains to be seen what one man, completely sold out to God, can accomplish for Him."  D.L. Moody was in attendance that day and purposed in his heart to be that man.  He was a great revivalist who wanted to see a great move of God as much as God wanted to give it!

Examine with me what makes up the fuel for revival.  We can see it in the bible definition of revival found in II Chronicles 7:

14  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
1.  Recognition   We must see ourselves as God sees us.  We must "humble ourselves."  The word means to be brought into subjection, to be subdued.   We are the masters of our own destiny; we are the rulers of our dominion.  We refuse to allow God to have His rightful place in our lives.  If we are to have revival, we must first recognize that God has the ultimate authority in our lives.

2.  Reverence   We must seek the face of God.  What this means is to earnestly desire the fellowship and gaze of God's presence.  God cramps the style of today's carnal Christians.  We practice separation, but not biblical separation.  We want to keep our spiritual lives separate from our everyday lives.  There can be no revival with that attitude.

3.  Repentance   The verse tells us to "turn from our wicked ways..."  The word turn carries with it the meaning of a complete change, a restoring, a relinquishing.  Repentance is a change of mind and will.  It is a complete turnaround.

As we examine history, we conclude that these conditions of revival were met almost exclusively in times of great trial.  The second Great Awakening in American colonial times coincided with the war for Independence.  The revivals of Finney and Nettleton came right after the War of 1812 and difficult times on the frontier.  The revivals of Dwight Moody and Sam Jones came on the heels of the Civil War.  R.A. Torrey and Billy Sunday preached revival to people dazed by industrial advancements and horrified by a World War.  Since World War II, revivals have usually been localized as opposed to regional.  Baptists have generally carried the torch in modern revivalism.  Billy Graham's crusades have been the largest and best known, but many others have also given their lives to be fuel for revival.

Do we want revival?  Are we willing to give of ourselves to become the fuel for God's spiritual work?

III.   Future!   (The Results of Revival)

As we examine scriptural accounts of revival, we understand it's importance and power.  In verse 14 of II Chronicles we see the results:

...then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Read the wonderful accounts of the revival at Nineveh, or of Josiah's revival , or Ezra's.  Also, read the Christian historical accounts of revivals and stirrings in America down through the generations.  You will find that schools, both primary and colleges, were born from the fires of revival.  Many hospitals, orphanages, and charities are the direct result of the revival of God's people.

History has been changed because of revival.  The independence of this country was was oiled by revival.  Each colony had it's own self-interests.  There was nothing to bind them in one accord to fight the British.  But the churches had great influence during this time.  Religious freedom was one of the prominent issues of the revolution.  Religion bound the colonists in a common purpose and helped to create the greatest nation in the history of the world.  America was literally born in revival!

What does revival bring?  What is our future without revival?

1.   Will There Be Virtue?   Can America return to the days of godliness?  Will our churches return to the biblical doctrines that have sustained us?  Revival is the key!

2.   Will There Be Vision?   Will we begin to look at society through the lens of scripture?  Will we go back to identifying the sins that separate us from our God?  Will we see the lost multitudes as Christ saw them?  Is there hope for our children and grandchildren?  Revival is the key!

3.   Will There Be Victory?   There was once a time when we could say that "America has never lost a war."  That is no longer true.  It is possible for the Christian to walk with his God and never lose a personal battle.  But such victory can never be obtained through a fleshly, carnal walk.  There must be renewal; there must be spiritual awakening; there must be revival!

Revival is our heritage!  Someone once said, "If it is good, it is God.  If it is not good, it's not God!"  All the good in this world is due to His mercy and grace!  He bestows that mercy and grace through seasons of refreshing and revival.  The church you attend very possibly is the result of revival.  Our school system, our laws, YMCA, colleges,  things that are no longer even considered "Christian." are results of revival. 

We pass monuments to God's revival power every day.  Revival is the heritage of our past.  It is our hope for the future!

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