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Edited from a message delivered at the "Heart-Cry for Revival" Conference near Asheville, North Carolina, April 2002
What is revival? The question we ask is the question the psalmist asked in Psalm 24: 3: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place?" The Psalmist comes back and answers that question resoundingly. He says: "He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation" (Ps. 24:4-5). If we dont thoroughly understand the answer to this question, there will not be revival in the land.
Before we can understand the nature of revival within men and women, we must understand the nature of man and what religion is. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, the Apostle Paul said he was praying that the people of God would be wholly sanctified, set apart, holy and blameless in spirit and soul and body. Every part of their being was to be set apart unto God. Paul gives the picture of man: the body being the outer man with his five senses; the soul being the inner man, the basic personality with the mind and emotions, and the spirit, being the innermost.
The natural man does not live by faith as do we who know Christ. The natural man lives by sight. The whole world for the natural man is built on the outside because his spirit is deadened by sin (Eph. 2:1), and he cannot have fellowship with God because God is holy. All man-made religion is built from the outside and works its way in. It never really satisfies the deep need of man, because the deepest need of man is a need to know God. The spirit of man has been deadened by sin and God cannot have fellowship with man in that condition. The will of the natural man is in bondage and slavery to sin. The natural man outside of Jesus Christ has no ability to know God, no matter how religious he is. No outward works will get us to God. All man-made religion is built on outward works. All man-made religion is making some effort to reach up to a god.
The basic problem with man is in the deepest part of man, the part created so that we could know God there in the spirit, and have fellowship with Him. That part of the natural man is deadened because of sin.
The Nature of the Gospel
What makes Christianity different from all religions is that we are saved by grace. It is not of ourselves. It is not of our works. It begins outside of ourselves. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ. Christianity doesnt begin with anything we do. Our salvation is all of Him. It begins with God. God must speak to us; we cannot come to Christ, except the Spirit draw us. There were multitudes following Jesus because of the miracles He was doing. Jesus told them, "No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him" (John 6:44).
Christianity does not begin with us trying to reach up to God, but it begins with God reaching down to us. The night I was saved, a man of God stood up and preached the Word of God, and that Word pierced into my heart. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. When the Word of God comes, it is truth coming, and the Bible says, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). What happens is that repentance and faith take place in the deepest part of man. In our mind we agree with who Jesus really is and what He did on the cross. In our emotions there is a longing to know Him, and in our will there is a turning from sin and a turning to Jesus, a turning away from the sinful way weve been going. We cant do that in our own power. But when the Word of God pierces our heart the truth shall set us free. It is by the truth of the Word of God.
This is what real Christianity is. The Bible says in John 7:37-39, Jesus speaking: "He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" What happens is that in the deepest part of our being, comes the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Now our will is no longer in slavery and bondage. Our will is now set on obedience.
The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is that although a Christian can sin, a Christian is not a slave to sin; a Christian is now a slave to Jesus. We belong to Him and we are set free from bondage to sin. When we sin, we sin because we choose to sin, not because it is our nature to sin. We have a new nature within us. Deep in the inner part of us, as we open our will to His will and as we walk in obedience to Christ daily, the Spirit of God has access and He flows. Our minds are renewed daily, our emotions are filled with love and joy and peace and patience and kindness, and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We begin to do the things of God, the works of God and outward things. Yes, Christians do outward things as Christians; that is the outflow of the Spirit of God within.
The Christian Who Needs Revival
Let us look now at the believer who needs revival. Christ is dwelling in us, but something happens. Somewhere in our Christian walk there is an act or an attitude or a disposition of disobedience. Christ is still dwelling in our hearts, but there is not the free flow of the Spirit of God to flow out of us to reach the world and to touch those who are around us. What do we do? What we do is basically this: we begin to live in the power of the flesh, rather than in the power of the Spirit. Living in the power of the flesh, we do those things that are familiar to us. We know all of the concepts of revival; we know all the outward things that happen when we are walking with God, so we begin to do the outward things. We begin to live in the same manner as the religious world lives.
We know the things of God. We can say, "Amen!" We can say, "Hallelujah!" We can sing our songs. We go through all the outward motions but our hearts are far away from God, and we stand in need of revival because of the sin that is in our lives.
I came back from an evangelistic meeting several years ago, and my wife and I went to church on Sunday morning. It isnt often I get to worship in my own church. We were excited to go to our home church. On the way to church my wife and I had an argument, and I spoke to her in a manner that was not pleasing to the Lord. I was immediately convicted by the Holy Spirit that the manner in which I had spoken and what I had spoken was sin. The Holy Spirit said, "You need to get right, with Me and with her." But I was too proud. I didnt want to admit that I was wrong. At the church I put on my "Christian face" and my "Christian smile." People who hadnt seen me for a long while came up to me and said, "Oh, Brother Sammy, its so good to see you!" I responded, "God bless you, brother."
We went into the service, and I sang the songs. The pastor stood and preached the Word of God, and I said, "Amen, Brother, preach it!" I went through all the outward motions and yet deep in my heart I knew that there was sin in my life and I needed to get right. But I was ashamed and afraid to do that. I was living by the flesh, the power of the outer man, rather than by brokenness and yieldedness to God. Then the pastor gave the invitation. It had been a message for believers, and he gave an invitation to the believers to get right with God.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, "Sammy, thats you." But I couldnt do that. Im an international evangelist; Im an author on revival. I couldnt go to the front. What would people think? It was no problem for God. He withdrew His presence.
I could have spent the next week, or the next years or the rest of my life in that condition. I was familiar with the way of revival and with the things of revival. I was familiar with the methods of revival. I was familiar with what Christians do in conferences like this, and it would have been very easy for me to go through all of the motions. We can go through things outwardly, knowing the Scriptures, and yet our hearts be far away from God.
It was a critical time in my life. Finally that afternoon I went to my wife, and I said, "Sweetheart, Im so sorry. I was wrong in what I said and in the manner in which I said it. Will you forgive me?" She did forgive me, and we had revival. The presence of God came and filled our lives.
The Revival Standard
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands
" (Psalm 24:3-4). If we are going to have revival, we have to have clean hands. Gods glory is at stake. What is revival? It is the manifest presence of God among His people. Its a visitation from God. If we who carry the message of revival in the Name of Christ, go out and touch the world and our hands are unclean, there will be no revival.
Early in my ministry, there was a key moment when I was a young Bible College student. I had just come to know Christ and was studying the Bible. Before I became a Christian I cheated on my exams quite often. When Christ saved me, I would no longer do that. At the Christian college, I had a biology course. In that course we had to dissect a frog and we had to identify all the parts of that frog. I had studied, and at testing time, I wrote the names of the parts on my paper. There were several of us at a table looking at the numbers and writing the names of those parts. I came to one part of the frog that I had studied and I knew that part, but I couldnt remember it. A friend of mine saw my dilemma as I was trying to jog my memory, and he turned his paper to where I could see it. When I saw the name of that part of the frog, I said, "Oh, I remember," and I wrote it down.
I went back to my dorm room. Later when I got up to have my time alone with God I discovered that the heavens were closed. I said, "God, where are you? Where are you, O God? You seem so far away."
The Lord spoke to my heart and He said, "You lied. You cheated on that exam."
I said, "O God, Youre right. I cheated. I confess it. Please forgive me."
Then the Holy Spirit said, "But theres a lie on your record. You need to go to that professor and make it right."
I began to argue with the Lord, and I said, "But, Lord, You dont understand. This is a Christian college. The penalty for cheating on an exam is you are expelled from the college."
And the Lord said, "Thats fine." And the heavens were closed.
I came to the place where I wanted God more than I wanted to be in that college. I went to that professor and I said, "Sir, I must confess to you
" and I told him what I had done.
He said, "I knew that. You werent the only one who did it. There were some others, too. But youre the only one who has come back and confessed, so Im going to give you another chance." I ran back to my dorm room, and I got on my knees and when I got on my knees, the heavens were open!
A Pure Motive
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands, and [secondly] a pure heart." A pure heart means "without mixture"a heart whose motive is without mixture, a heart that has one desire, one longing. Everything must come under the inspection of this standard. It is the standard for revival. It is that we desire the glory of God more than we desire anything else.
"Blessed are the pure in heart: for THEY shall see God" (Mt. 5:8). Its only because of the work of Christ in our hearts that our hearts can have such purity. But we must have an undaunted want and longing and desire, saying, "God, I want you more than I want anything. More than I want Your blessings, more than I want your gifts, more than I want to be used of You. God, I long for YOU!" That must be the longing of our hearts.
Then one final thing: "He has not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully." It must be a person who is brutally honest and transparent. Its time to stop trying to impress each other, and to get honest before God. The Scripture says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9). Revival begins with getting fully honest before the Lord.
As a new Christian, I heard Bill Bright speaking on the subject of the confession of sin. It set a pattern for my Christian life and walk. He said, "I want you to get alone and to take a piece of paper and write down every known sin in your life. After youve written it out, I want you to pray this prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts, and see if there is any wickedness in me. Whatever God shows you, write that down. After you have written it down, go through 1 John 1:9 and confess it to God, repent of it right there; forsake it, and let God cleanse you of it."
So I went and got alone with God. I took my paper and pen and wrote down all my known sins. I think there were three or four I wrote down, and then I prayed that prayer: "Search me, O God, and try me
" When I prayed that prayer, I had to get more paper. God began to show me things. I said of one, "Oh, thats a problem." God said, "No, its sin." Of another thing I said, "That things a weakness." God said, "No, thats sin." Of something else I said, "Oh, that thing is just a habit," but God said, "No, thats sin."
I had to get brutally honest. And we have to live in that attitude of brutal honesty. There is no other answer. Of that one who so lives, God says, "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation" (Ps. 24:5).
Jesus taught His disciples to pray in this way: "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our transgressions [our debts, our sins], as we forgive those who transgress against us
" (Mt. 6:9-12).
Let us go to God in prayer about those things that are unclean on our hands and impure in our hearts and deceitful in our lives. Let us meet with the Lord and ask Him to do a work in our lives. Be honest. Be willing to forsake sin. Trust the Blood of Jesus to cleanse you. Oh, thank God for the Blood of Jesus, and for what Christ did for us on the cross, and for His Resurrection! How lost we would be without a Savior!