Next Sunday, we’re hosting revival services. Now there is usually a great deal of excitement around these services and rightfully so.
We eagerly come expecting great things from God. We expect to experience a personal encounter with Him. Whether it be a prophetic word, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, salvation, spiritual gifts, healing, deliverance, or some new thing that has never even been done before, we come with great expectation!
We expect the fire of revival to come anew and to set our hearts ablaze for Jesus. We expect His refining fire to burn away our fleshly desires and for God, our All-Consuming Fire, to cause us to shine brightly for Him. We expect to have our hunger and thirst for more of His Presence to be satisfied and yet simultaneously to increase.
We expect to hear a fresh word of God; a new revelation about Him and His Kingdom and more about who we are in Christ. We expect to be encouraged and challenged and inspired to live the full and abundant lives that Jesus promises to us.
All of this is great and right and should be the case. However, why wait until we need revived to seek after God for these things and to expect them from Him?
Do we wait to eat until we are fatigued and beginning to pass out?
Do we wait to breath until we’re blue in the face and losing consciousness?
Do we wait to find a source of income until our vehicles and home have been repossessed?
Of course not!
What if our zeal for the Lord was something that we fanned into flame daily? What if we lived under the sheltering cover of His Presence? What if we sought and followed the lead of the Holy Spirit consistently?
What if our desire to bring others into a personal encounter with Jesus exceeded our own personal hunger for more of God’s Kingdom?
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
It’s something to seriously consider, right?
Throughout our history, we’ve experienced many revivals. God’s word and our recent history contain several of them and I believe that we’re going to soon experience a great revival once again! As the Elijah and Baal showdown taught us, if we provide the sacrifice, the fire of God will fall, right?
However, now, we don’t prepare an altar of stone and wood upon which we place bulls.
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
We offer up our own selves as a living sacrifice and expect the fire of God to fall. It’s said that John Wesley was once asked “What is your secret? Why do so many people come to hear you preach?” and that he answered “I get alone with God in prayer. He sets me on fire. The people come out to watch me burn.”
The greatest revivalist of all time took the same approach. In fact, you may have heard of Him before. His name is Jesus Christ. God, Himself, came down from perfection and wrapped Himself in the same weak and tempted flesh that you and I live in. God became man and dwelt among us.
He was baptized with water and with the Holy Spirit and He began a world-wide movement that will not cease until He returns again to end the current order of things. In just three years, His ministry made such a rippling wave that you and I are here as a direct result of it! In fact, that same Spirit that baptized Jesus and even rose Him from the grave dwells in you and I!
The blind could see, the dead were raised, the deaf could hear, the leprous were given clear skin, sins were forgiven, food was multiplied, every sickness and ever disease was healed, demons were cast out, many believed and began following Jesus. The list goes on and on and on, but essentially revival broke out!
As Jesus described it:
…the kingdom of God is in your midst.
The Kingdom of God was brought and established here on the earth and the kingdom of darkness was being driven out and its works demolished! Recall the quote from Wesley as we continue on:
15 the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
What was happening publicly for all to see and experience and share about began in lonely places of prayer. We can’t expect a mighty move of God, a fresh outpouring of revival, if in our prayer closets alone our hearts are not burning and our voices are not crying out for mercy and our lives are not fully surrendered to the will of the Father.
Jesus’ success was defined quite simply in His own words as this:
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
Revival begins where John Wesley’s great sermons began, in our time alone with the Father in prayer where His refining fire sets us ablaze!
Of course, no revival goes without challenge and without being mislabeled as a work of the devil by religious people with the right words, but the wrong hearts.
17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
It is not the heart of God to simply raise up a single person to lead and sustain revival. It takes teams. Every follower of Jesus has some role to play to bring and sustain a move of the Holy Spirit. We are all a part of His body and we are all critically necessary to properly represent Jesus.
Jesus was the rock thrown into the waters of the world, but He moved and empowered twelve, then seventy-two, then one hundred and twenty, then thousands, which rippled through the whole earth and that movement is still growing to this very day! It will continue to grow until people of every tribe and every nation and every tongue have hear the good news about the salvation Jesus offers to us and He finally returns again!
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
You would think that people would be excited, right? A man was just saved and gave His whole life to follow Jesus. Now, he’s inviting others to have a personal encounter with Jesus as well so that they can experience the same thing that he did. However, sinners getting saved offends a religious spirit and it rises up in opposition via complaining.
30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
It’s a good thing to review and to study past revivals and to learn from them in where they succeeded, where there were issues, and even areas where they may have failed. However, God is a creative God and He’s always looking to do a new thing making new paths through the wilderness and bringing forth new springs in wastelands (Isaiah 43).
This next event is recorded in three of the four gospels. Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-38
Whether just a sincere question from a pure heart or whether a complaint from an offended heart, people began questioning Jesus and His disciples. They wanted to know and began challenging them on their methods and ways. They asked, “Why don’t your disciples do what John’s disciples and the Pharisees do? Why don’t you do ministry the way that others do?”
33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
What they didn’t understand and what they weren’t perceiving was the spiritual season and the time that they were living in.
34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
He then used a few parables to try and help them understand the critical need for us at times to honor and enjoy the old while simultaneously embracing the new or to otherwise be destroyed by our unwillingness to change.
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
There’s nothing wrong with the old. Sometimes, like a fine wine, they are better. However, that old fine wine was once a new, unaged wine itself. We not only can, but we must learn to honor the old and making a place for them while also preparing in our lives a place for the new. Not necessarily mixing the two, but embracing whatever change God is bringing about.
After all, Jesus declares, “Behold, I make all things new!” Sometimes, we’re looking for signs, but are blinded to the ones that are right in our face. Recently, we visited a used car dealership to pick up an old beater for the kids to drive around. I asked if he accepted personal checks and he said, “Sorry, but only cash or certified check.” My eyes were immediately drawn to the signs up everywhere, including one six inches from my face between he and I that said exactly that. I had to apologize and laugh for not noticing.
Jesus said that we need to have eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is speaking. It isn’t that He is quiet, it is that we’re not paying attention. Sort of like Jacob a few weeks ago who proclaimed, “Surely the Lord was in this place and I was not aware.”
1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
So next week, bring as many people as are willing to come out. Invite anyone and everyone. Come expecting all of God’s promises to be fulfilled and eager to experience the Kingdom of God anew and afresh.
However, let’s not just come for ourselves. Let’s come expecting God, an all-consuming fire, to set us ablaze that we might spread the fire of revival to those around us. Let’s be intentional about continuing to fan into flame the fire of the Spirit within us every day so that we might live in the Presence of God and be revivalists ourselves in our own spheres of influence.