Summary: Preached the weekend before our annual revival, this three-point expository sermon explores the real meaning of revival, focusing on the Word of God, the Worship of God and the Work of God.
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 3/23/14
Recently, Ashley and I watched the movie “Princess Bride” for the first time with our kids. It’s a classic fairy-tale movie filled with romance and swashbuckling adventure. In one pivotal scene, Miracle Max lifts the lifeless arm of the hero, Wesley, and lets it drop to the table, massages his chest, and searches for signs of life. The situation looks awfully grim to Wesley’s companions, but then Miracle Max exclaims, “I’ve seen worse…it just so happens, your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There is a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there is usually only one thing you can do…go through his clothes and look for loose change.”
Sadly, there are countless churches all over the country that are in the same condition as Wesley… or worse. Last year more than 3,500 churches died, closing their doors for the last time. The same number will likely die this year, too. Myriad more churches have lost their healthy glow, displaying little or no signs of life.
Now, I don’t think that the church here is dead or even mostly, but we’re not as alive as we should be. Before you go scrambling for loose change, I want to remind you that we’re planning to host a revival here at The Grove next weekend. We’ve recruited guest speakers, talented worship leaders, and invited other believers from all over the area. Our hope is that this event will do for us, what Miracle Max promised to do for Wesley—bring revival, renewal and rejuvenation.
But, I also want to warn you that the only way we will experience true, meaningful revival is if we follow God’s prescription for it. Our God is the real miracle-worker and he wants to breathe new life into his church and his people; not just here, but everywhere. And he’s done it before.
Two and a half millennia ago, the nation of Israel was in desperate need of revival. The city of Jerusalem was conquered by the mighty Babylonian Empire. The temple laid in ruins. The majority of the population was either slaughtered or relocated to the far reaches of Babylon. For decades, God’s people lived in a foreign land, surrounded by pagan influences. But after seventy long years, God stirred the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a decree, releasing the Jewish remnant from captivity, allowing them to return home and rebuild. Led by great men like Ezra and Nehemiah, the Israelites rebuilt the walls surrounding the city and completed construction on a brand-new temple. But even with these physical structures restored, they hadn’t yet experiences real revival. They were simply setting the stage for God’s Spirit to move.
Once the physical restoration was complete, the spiritual restoration could begin. Ezra, one of the leading priests, called an assembly of all the people. They gathered in the square just inside the Water Gate with a unified purpose. What happened in the city of Jerusalem that day ignited their hearts and restored their spirits as true revival swept through the land. They were mostly dead for more than a generation, but thankfully, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. The same kind of revival that they experienced is available to us today. True revival will always explode from the formula they established. Three ingredients were essential in restoring their spirits and reviving their hearts. First, was the Word of God.
• THE WORD OF GOD
Any place you see true revival happening, you can bet that the preaching of God’s Word preceded it. The Bible says, “Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion… in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet” (Nehemiah 8:4-5 NLT).
Can you sense the awe and anticipate they must have felt? They built a special stage and pulpit, just for this occasion. It had been decades since God’s people had met to together to hear the Word of God read. Most of the people gathered that day had never heard a single verse of Scripture spoken aloud. They we hungering and thirsting for God’s Word. As Ezra opened the Word of God everyone stood with eagerness in their eyes. Do you know how long they stood?
The Bible says, “He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:3 NLT). Are you ready to give this a try? Can you imagine standing for five or six hours, just listening to God’s Word being read? We can’t make it through a thirty minute television show without flipping the channel half the time.