REVIVAL AND REVIVALISM2 Chronicles 7:14-15
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 7, 2019
14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.
— 2 Chronicles 7:14-15, ESV
When America was an experiment, a collection of colonists pre-Declaration of Independence, the churches lamented what they feared was a lessening of faith and a loosening of morals. God sent revival, a great revival known as the “First Great Awakening,” through the prayers of His people and the preaching of His word by faithful servants like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. In the aftermath, a nation was born with God-given freedom and God-written morality.
A hundred years later the church lamented again what seemed to be God’s waning influence upon society. A “Second Great Awakening” ensued, although it was remarkably different from the First. Instead of a wonderful surprise, a season of special grace that accompanied the right preaching of the gospel and observance of the sacraments, it was planned, scheduled, even manipulated by what its leading proponent called “the right use of means.” The so-called altar call was invented, expository preaching and sacred songs were supplanted with motivational talks and rousing music, and herds came into the churches only to stray away in short time.
The First Great Awakening was a revival. The Second Great Awakening was revivalism. There is a heaven and a world of difference between the two. Revivalism, lingering largely in our day, is man-centered, manipulative, with mostly superficial results. Revival is God-centered, miraculous, with spiritual and lasting results. We do not want revivalism or any of its relatives. We want revival.
The Recipients of Revival
I have heard this text and the term “revival” used many times in many places. It used to be the staple of many Baptist and Methodist church calendars in the hope that many lost people would crowd into the church and become members. It has been used to promote a nation-wide or even world-wide turning to God, an outreach to degenerates and lost sinners everywhere. But revival is not for the degenerate, it is for the regenerate.
“If My people who are called by My name …”
God did not originally offer this principle and promise to the Edomites, the Moabites, or the Philistines. God was speaking to the Israelites, His people, who called upon and were called by His name. In this generation they had subdued all the promised land under the leadership of King David. At this moment they were celebrating the completion of the Temple under the leadership of King Solomon. They were in the right place at the right time doing the right things before the right God, but God knew that things would not always be right with them. The day would come when they would need a revival.
The same thing is true for the Christian church and the Christian man or woman. The church at Ephesus had lost its first love and needed revival. Simon Peter denied the Lord and had to be revived before preaching his powerful pentecostal sermon. The truth is that the love of God and the passion for the Scriptures and our usefulness as servants of the Lord ebbs and flows. And if yours or mine is ebbing any lower that it once flowed, we need revival, a renewal of our love and commitment to God, the things of God, the people of God, and reaching people for God.
The world is filled with moral, social, political, economic, and other problems. But the greatest problem in the world at large is the large amount of people with spiritual problems. People do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. People who claim to know do not act like they know. The only thing I know is that before I can reach lost people, before I can reform church people, I must confess that I am one of the people of God who need revival in my soul. I do. Do you?
The Requirements of Revival
The requirements of revival are much like the requirements of regeneration, which no mortal can meet, apart from the sovereign grace of God. A lost person cannot repent and believe, he or she is dead and lifeless spiritually, until God’s grace grants them repentance and faith sufficient to turn and trust in Him. So also a saved person, desirous of revival, cannot do the things God requires for revival without an unusual movement of God’s Spirit which bears revival fruit.
Here we arrive at an intersection commonly found in Holy Scripture, where the sovereignty of God is met with equal emphasis upon the responsibility of man. In John’s sixth chapter on sovereign grace, Jesus is recorded as saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” You cannot be saved and you cannot be revived apart from the decree of our Almighty God; yet, anyone who desires God it shall have Him. Do you want to be saved? Repent and believe the gospel, call upon the name of the Lord, and you will be saved. Do you want revival in your soul, in your church? Then here is map to take a Christian church and a Christian directly into the refreshing and reviving presence of God:
“ … humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, …”
Such things are easier said than done, especially the first thing, humility, which is actually the first word of the text in its original Hebrew. To be humble, biblically speaking, is to be in absolute submission to a higher authority. It means to live like a servant or bond-slave, which was the Apostle Paul’s favorite word for the Christian life. The authority we serve is supremely God, of course, but it also includes virtually every other person the Lord has placed in our lives. Imagine how a helping of true humility would impact a marriage, a friendship, a workplace, even a church. If everyone lived to serve God and one another, it would be a picture of true revival (not to mention the end of road rage).
Humility is wrought through prayer. Jesus prayed perfect prayers in the upper room and at Gethsemane, then humbled Himself on the cross. You cannot be haughty and pray at the same time. Prayer humbles your heart towards God, towards other Christians and fellow church members, even towards people who are lost, ungodly, and who even may have personally hurt you in some way. Pray the model prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray, and a spirit of humility, perhaps even revival, can take hold.
Seeking God’s face is essentially worship, private and public. Falling away from God can only be remedied by facing Him, lovingly and reverently, in our own quiet times and in regular, regulative corporate worship. Revivalism can come with any plan or packaged program from the church growth gurus. Revival can come when we come to God on God’s terms in personal and church life through humble prayer and genuine worship. Yet there is still one more requirement, one we typically think is for others instead of us.
We watch the news these days and think those people should repent. We look at other churches making compromising choices and think our brothers and sisters need to repent. When was the last time you thought you needed to repent? And when was the last time you thought of yourself as involved in something wicked? That’s language for the lost and the liberals, right? Wrong, according to God. A wicked way is any way of doing things that are not right with God. Scripture shows us the right way (murder, adultery, etc., are always wrong), conscience can be a variable guide (dress, diet, and drinks, etc.), but when you draw near to God, humbly, prayerfully, worshipfully, the light of God’s holiness will reveal any blemish in your spiritual face. Love the God who loves you unconditionally enough to unconditionally let your sin go. Then, enjoy the rewards.
The Rewards of Revival
“ … then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
God always hears but He does not always harken. He is omniscient but He has high standards. When we meet His requirements, trusting solely in His grace, He is faithful to give faith for salvation, or revival in the blessed communion between the Heavenly Father and His dear child. A fully right relationship between God and the Christian, and His church, is Heaven on earth. It is revival.
Forgiveness, like its precursor repentance, is the gift that keeps on giving, and forgiving. Our essential forgiveness is guaranteed in Christ’s finished work on the cross, but our experiential forgiveness is needed every time we sin, and desperately if we have entered into a season of sins by either commission or omission. The feeling is palpable, more so than the hottest shower on the dirtiest day. It is revival to know all is right between you and the Lord.
The first two rewards, perhaps two sides to the same coin, are personal. The last one is repercussional. It reveals that maybe not all of those old fashioned notions about revival are entirely wrong.
God promises His people He will “heal their land.” Of course, the Old Covenant context is quite plain. Israel was a theocracy, a special spiritual people and a political national entity at the same time. If one when wrong, the other would be diminished, and vice versa.
So what is the New Covenant application? Land is something, or some people, larger than ourselves. It could be that a church suffering discord and decline may be rescued by revival, real revival. It could be that an entire denomination of churches can return to God and become healthy and strong again. It could be that a community, a city, or even an entire country may be reached for Christ when a group of God’s people get thoroughly right with Him.
Why don’t we just let God determine the exact rewards, while we His people concentrate on confessing our need and meeting His requirements. Let us trust in God. Let us obey His commandments. Let us love Him, love one another, and love our neighbors.
Finally, let us hear and heed the opportunity of the fifteenth verse by joining together to pray for real revival to come. For the Lord has said, “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.”
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org