Revival and Awakening Part 1: Revival
2 Chronicles 7:14
Intro: Good morning and Happy New Year. I was talking with someone the other day about how I always inverted my “2 and 1” when writing the 2021 date, so that I was still in the year 2012. Now I won’t have to worry about that so much when writing the date 2022. Though, if I wanted to, I could always say, “darn, I inverted the two’s” and see what kind of looks I get.
But as we start the new year, I’d like to start a new series. This is just a brief two-week series called “Revival and Awakening.” I suppose you can guess what the two subjects will be. This week it’s revival and next week, it’s awakening.
So if you have your Bibles, please turn with me to the Old Testament, and we’ll read 2 Chronicles 7, verse 14. This is a pretty popular verse, I’m sure many of you know it.
As you’re turning there, I would like to explain to you the difference between revival and awakening. What are they? How are they similar and how are they different?
Greg Laurie put it best. He said on Crosswalk.com that The words revival and awakening are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinction. An awakening takes place when God sovereignly pours out his Spirit and it impacts a culture. That is what happened during the Jesus Revolution [of the late 60s and early 70s], and it’s what happened in multiple spiritual awakenings in the history of the United States, even predating its establishment as a nation.
A revival, on the other hand, is what the church must experience. It’s when the church comes back to life, when the church becomes what it was always meant to be. It’s a return to passion. I think many times we overly mystify the idea of revival, but we don’t really need to. Another word I could use for revival is restoration – restoring something to its original condition.
And we know that God is in the business of restoration.
Scripture: So let’s take a look at our scripture this morning, and we’re going to see what God has to say about how we get a revival, or a restoration within the church.
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Central Truth: So, you’ll notice that God is speaking here, he’s speaking directly to Solomon after the dedication of the newly-built temple. The immediate context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 shows that the verse is tied up with Israel and the temple and the fact that from time to time God might send judgment upon the land in the form of drought, locusts, or pestilence. Because of the covenant relationship that he had with Israel, there was a direct correspondence between their obedience and their prosperity, and their disobedience and their hardship.
So what I want to point out to you today is that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Even though God never made a covenant with the United States or any other nation, this shows you his heart. It shows you his standard. God never gave us a judgement on the United States; most people believe that judgement is reserved for The Last Days and the return of Christ.
Some wondered if the attack 20 years ago on Sept. 11 was God’s judgement. I don’t believe so. I agree with Ann Graham Lotz, who said soon after the attacks, “for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection.”
So I don’t believe that God doles out judgement, but instead blesses those who bless him. And it’s been pretty obvious that in the past 20 years since Sept. 11, we haven’t gotten the wake-up call. We did, temporarily, I think. But in the past decade or so, we’re right back to where we were. Here’s something else Ann said. She said, “We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we’re sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life. We put our trust in you. We have our trust in God on our coins, we need to practice it.”
And that is an awakening. But I’d like to start with revival because in order for there to be an awakening, there needs to be a revival first. We, who are called by God’s name as His people––we who are called Christians, or in the Greek, “little Christs,”––need to pray, seek God’s face and repent. We need to do as Anne Graham Lotz said a moment ago, and ask God to revive our hearts as it once was, or maybe as it never was. Maybe we need our spirits revived as never before so that we can be prepared for perhaps the greatest awakening of our lifetime.
Point 1: If we go to the book of Revelation, we read Jesus’ message to the church in Ephesus. I’ll read that to you. Revelation 2:4-5 says, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”
Do you remember the kind of love we had for God at first? Life seemed new, it seemed different. I remember a professor of mine at Elim, who gave his testimony––this is the same professor who had the near-death experience that I told about one time––and he recalled getting saved during that Jesus Revolution I read about earlier from Pastor Greg Laurie. And this professor recalled going into work the next day and just being elated and overjoyed and people asked him what happened. And he said, “I met Jesus!” And they looked at him like he was out of his mind, but he didn’t care.
Do you remember how your life changed and felt different? Like a huge weight was lifted off and your spirit was revived. But it’s easy, living in this world, to get a little beaten down by the drudgery of everyday life––our old flesh starts to kick back in, the sorrows and trials and stresses of this life don’t quit just because we’re spiritually new. Traffic is still traffic. Our jobs are still our jobs. Our kids are still our kids. The customers at work who drive us crazy are still driving us crazy. We still have chores and stuff; cars still break down and roofs still leak, and it’s easy for those things to wear us down.
Gotquestions.org says that for the Ephesian church in Revelation, “What was once a love relationship cooled into mere religion. Their passion for Him became little more than cold orthodoxy.” In other words, it wasn’t that they had fallen astray, it was that their Christianity became nothing more than a belief system.
If we go to the next chapter in Revelation, we read something similar to the church in Laodicea. I’m sure many of you are familiar with verses 15 and 16: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
That’s quite a mental picture, isn’t it? God spitting people out of his mouth. Of course, we all know that is a metaphor, and this passage is filled with metaphors. But we get so caught up in that imagery that we miss the point. The point of this, when we read through the whole message, is that God is not eager to abandon his people. If we go a few verses down, God points out in verses 19 and 20: “19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
So that’s what I want to focus on today: God loves us. And because he loves us, he is waiting patiently for us to open our hearts to him so that he can revive us to what we once were or to the next level of what God wants us to be.
In the Book of Joel, we read, “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
And I’ve read this not too long ago, in 2 Peter, we read: 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
He wants to revive us. Think about that. We often think that God is more eager to judge, and sometimes that’s because we’re eager for God to judge. But God is eager for repentance and for us to come to him so that he can revive us. But as Ann Graham Lotz said, God is a gentleman, and he can’t force himself on anyone, and therefore he can’t force anyone to repent, and he certainly can’t force revival. He can only act if he’s asked.
I was having a Facebook messenger conversation with someone this past week who is an agnostic who couldn’t quite grasp the concept that there are millions of starving children, and there always had been since the dawn of time. How could God let that happen? And while that’s a whole other sermon topic, one of the points I was trying to make is that God doesn’t just jump in like Superman and save the day. He will eventually, but not until the fullness of time, the end of this age and the beginning of a new one.
And in a similar way, God won’t just jump in and revive us. Revival is a choice, it’s a condition of our heart. We have to ask God to revive us.
Point 2: What is a condition to revival? Besides asking God, what else do we need to do? Well, if we look back at our scripture verse, we need to repent. God’s people are still prone to slide into sin, and we have to be committed to repentance.
What is repentance? Repentance is understanding that we’re heading in the wrong direction, and it’s the willful turning from the wrong direction and head in the right direction. God wants us, his own people who may be heading in the wrong direction, to turn around and follow Him.
What happens if we don’t? Well, the answer is easy. It’s not that God will judge us like he promised to do to Israel, we’ll just continue to slide into becoming more like the church of Laodicea and become more and more lukewarm to the point where we get cold––perhaps like the Ephesians where we just go through the motions. We come to church, we sing a few songs (not really paying attention to the lyrics), we say a few prayers, and we daydream through a sermon. Then we leave.
Then we do it all over again the next Sunday. Then, like many people, we don’t see the need to come to church anymore. And I think that’s why so many churches are seeing a falling away. Even the Elim church we went to that had hundreds of people is now down to half of what they used to be before COVID. I think COVID gave a lot of them an excuse to not come back.
If that’s what a church service means to you, then that’s something you need to repent of. But repentance is a whole lifestyle issue. It’s a heart, mind and soul issue. And if we don’t repent, we’ll end up in a place we don’t want to be. Like I said, it’s not about God’s judgment, it’s about us stepping back away from God. We’ll end up going back to our old lifestyles and habits. Next thing you know, we’ll be more like the World than the holy children of God.
The opposite of repentance is willfully remaining sinful. When we came to Christ, we were aware that we were sinners in need of a savior, but I’ll bet that there was a certain ignorance of certain sins that you didn’t even know that you were committing until after you were saved and started going to church. You’d hear the preacher or the Sunday School teacher say something and it was like, “Oh, that’s a sin?” And God would convict you of that, and you would have to repent of that.
But after a while we can become so complacent in our church pews that we shrug off the need to better ourselves, or the need to come back to our first love. We get comfortable right where we are, and we say, “More? No, I’m good.”
I can’t hardly say that to Jim’s pies let alone God. Can you say, “More of you, God? No thanks, I’ve had enough. I’m full.”
Some of us may say that and not even realize it.
We talked about King Solomon earlier in our scripture verse. In his book of Proverbs, he said, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). To be stiff-necked is to have a stubborn, obstinate spirit that makes one unresponsive to God’s guidance or correction. The stiff-necked are, by definition, unrepentant.
Point 3: Can you be a Christian and not feel the need for revival? I think there are some who feel perfectly fine right where they are. One foot in the church, and the other just inside the line of the World, with that foot getting ever closer to crossing that line. God calls us to become revived in his glory and to grow closer to Him. To have both feet in. To be all in.
The other day, I was talking with someone and one of the things we talked about was how controversial the Bible is. We’ve been lucky to have lived in a time and place where the Bible has not been controversial…until recently.
But the way things have changed, from now until Jesus returns, we will live in a world where the Bible will be controversial. And we are going to have to make a distinct choice to follow the standards of the world or the standards of the Bible. If we do follow Christ, then we have to suffer whatever consequence that brings from the world such as the loss of friends, ostracized from family, maybe even divorce.
Revival will set us apart. Revival will set us and secure us in a holy place––it will secure us in God’s secret place, a place where we’re sheltered and sanctuaried under God’s wing. It’s a place where we’re set so right with God that we won’t care what other people think. Revival will make us so full of His Holy Spirit, that we will not seek the approval of anyone else. Sure, it’ll still sting if we lose friends and family. I’ve lost people on social media, and it bothers me. But does it bother me enough to go back and say, “I’m sorry?” No, because I’m not sorry. I’d rather be a fool in the eyes of man than a fool in the eyes of God.
1 Corinthians 3:18-21 says, “If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.” 20 And again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21Therefore, stop boasting in men.”
One of the commentaries I read said, Paul is calling for the Corinthians to renounce all worldly wisdom, to make an “about face,” a 180 degree turn back to the truth, to turn away from the wisdom of the world and to the wisdom of God. In short, be willing to be called a fool. Pride will fight against obeying this command for it does not want to be called a fool!
Becoming a fool for Jesus is better than following deceptive worldly wisdom! Note that Paul is not playing games, for the verb “must become” is not a suggestion to the Corinthians but an order as from a commanding general, in essence calling for them to “Do this now!” “Do not delay, the need is urgent!”
An article appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution It reported the recent speech delivered by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to an event sponsored by the Christian Legal Society at the Mississippi College School of Law. He said that Christians must proclaim their belief in miracles and ignore the scorn of the “worldly wise.” He went on to say that the modern world dismisses Christians as fools for holding to their traditional beliefs, “We are fools for Christ,” he said “We must pray for the courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world.”
Conclusion: When it comes to the New Year, there is no better time to ask for revival. Now, as the world seems to have settled down some, it could be the calm before the next storm. There’s still a lot of uncertainty. If you look at the news, things are teetering a bit and we don’t know which direction things are going to go in 2022.
Inflation is the highest it has been in decades. The crime wave is out of control in large cities and no wonder, they’ve defunded those who control crime. The border is wide open and apparently the Federal government doesn’t care about making sure their own Federal laws about immigration are being obeyed or that those who come in are safe or not trafficking drugs or kidnapped sex slaves. COVID cases are raging, and the answer is apparently “get vaccinated or else.” And that doesn’t seem to really be the answer because many of those in hospitals right now are vaccinated. The Afghanistan withdrawal was a debacle. Who knows what the new Afghan Taliban leadership is capable of––yet. If that threat wasn’t bad enough, there are rumors of war between Russia and Ukraine.
We need a widespread awakening. The gentleman I was talking to the other day about the Bible being controversial now, was also talking about how crazy the world has gotten. And I said, you know, there is going to be this delicate balance in the world like we’ve never seen. There’s going to be those who are going to increase in wickedness, and then there are going to be those who have had enough. But there’s nowhere stable for them to go.
They’ll see the institutions that they’ve placed their faith in dismantle. They’ll see that the political parties don’t have the answer, they’ll see that education and economics aren’t enough. They’ll see that the family unit has dissolved, and they’re going to come to something that is stable and solid and grounded. And they’re going to come to the church.
And we have to be ready. And that means, we have to be in the midst of a revival in order to be ready to help and administer their awakening. When they come into the church, when they seek God, we have to have God within us for them to meet. We have to have God’s presence in this sanctuary. We have to have what they need.
Are you ready?
One of the things about a revival is that although we have to make a conscious decision as to have a revival, a revival is not a planned event. It’s not something we sit in a board meeting and discuss. We have to have open hearts to receive a revival.
When the apostles met in the upper room in the 2nd Chapter of Acts during Pentecost, the only thing planned was the time and place. The Holy Spirit did the rest, and transformed everyone there, and brought about a new power, a new boldness, a fresh wind and a fresh fire. Literally.
What will God do if we ask for revival? I don’t know the specifics. All I know is that whatever he does it will revive us, it will be good for us, great for those outside the four walls of the church and it will give God the glory.
So today, I want to ask you to ask God to revive you, personally. About 25 years ago, there was a worship chorus written by Matt Redmond, and its lyrics are this:
We’re looking to Your promise of old, That if we pray and humble ourselves
You will come and heal our land, You will come, You will come
We’re looking to the promise You made, That if we turn and look to Your face
You will come and heal our land, You will come, You will come to us
Lord, send revival, start with me, For I am one of unclean lips
And my eyes have seen the King, Your glory I have glimpsed
Send revival, start with me
Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray that you will come to us. Our world so desperately needs a great awakening. But Lord, your church must be revived first. So I pray that you will come to us. Here we are with open hearts asking you to come, fill us anew. Revive us with the first love that we once had. Set ablaze a new fire within us, a fresh wind of your spirit and the greatest world-wide revival of your church that has ever happened.
The times are dark. And when it’s the darkest, that’s when light shines the brightest. So let your light, your church, shine bright in these dark times. Let your light within us shine so brightly that we cannot hide it, in Jesus name, amen.
The Bread: The New Year brings with it many resolutions. And one of those resolutions this year, I hope, is the resolution for revival within us. And collectively, not only this church, but the worldwide church can experience something fresh and new from God.
That certain something is made possible by The Holy Spirit. And the coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit is made possible by the finished work of the cross. The inward transformation of the Holy Spirit is a covenant that God has with us. We read in our scripture verse this morning how God made a covenant with Israel, but through the finished work of the cross, God now makes a covenant with His people in a personal, individualized way.
And that’s why we take the bread and the cup to remember and reflect on this covenant. Let us take the bread and remember.
The Cup: Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, he promised The Holy Spirit. And as I said earlier, The Holy Spirit came in the Upper Room at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is our seal of the covenant between God and each and every one of us. If we receive The Holy Spirit, then we’ve received God’s covenant with us. So there is no reason for us to not want or welcome a revival. There’s no reason for God to not give us a revival. We already are a temple of the Holy Spirit. God wants to revive us. And he went to great lengths to allow us to have a revival within our hearts. He went to the lengths of shedding his own blood to make that covenant.
Let us never take that for granted. Let us take the cup and remember.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your great covenant. We can each, individually have a covenant relationship with you. It isn’t just for Israel, but for whoever calls upon your name, all over the world over the past 2,000 years. We thank you, and we ask that you would come to us and revive us, oh Lord. Now, in the New Year and beyond. In Jesus name, amen.