The Nature of an Awakening
Aiming at an Awakening - #5 of 12
* There is an old fable of a farmer who finds a viper (a deadly snake) freezing in the snow. Taking pity on the snake, he picks it up and places it in his coat. The snake, revived by warmth, bites the farmer who (by the way) is his rescuer. The farmer dies realizing it was his own fault – because a snake is a snake and will always have the nature of a snake. Another fable tells of a scorpion who asks a frog to carry him across the river. The frog is afraid of being stung BUT the scorpion says, “If I sting you then we both would die.” The compassionate frog is convinced so he agrees and begins carrying the scorpion across the river. You guessed it; midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. Just before they sank, the frog asked the scorpion ‘why’ and the response is, “You knew what I was when you agreed.”
* In Wikipedia this application is made; “This is used to illustrate that the behavior of some creatures, or of some people, is repressible, no matter what.”
* As we are ‘aiming toward an awakening’, it will serve us well to understand the nature of an awakening. What is it? What does it look like? Or “What is the nature of an awakening?”
* The dictionary rightly says this kind of nature as: “the inborn or innate qualities of or the character of.” So how can we Biblical identify what a Spiritual Awakening looks & feels like? No one alive has witnessed a landscape changing-culture altering awakening. Ravenhill & Havner both lamented that, “if the average church knew what it was- would say no to it!”
* Let’s take a look at the Biblical nature of an Awakening & see the “what & why.” (TEXT)
* The Psalmist 85 is very plain and asked God for “REVIVAL.” A revival is indeed a spiritual awakening. Today we think in terms of meetings. Two things which need to be said: A call to God for a Holy Spirit Awakening or Revival is different than an evangelistic meeting. For the evangelistic meeting, believers are out sharing their vibrant faith with the lost world and the meeting becomes an ingathering of those who have received Christ or those who have been cultivated to the point of coming inside a building where God does the final call to salvation and many are saved. This can be a glorious time.
* But this cannot, or better said, will not happen if God’s people who are called by His name have lost their passion and their vibrant faith. The Spiritual awakening (Revival) is for those who indeed do KNOW Christ, have (in the past) walked by faith in the Spirit, & whose hearts have grown cold. There are many reasons why hearts grow cold, but we must confess that most of the time it is because of unconfessed & unrepented of sin. An awakening is a event, very personal, in the life of a believer where the Holy Spirit wakes up that person to their own sin (not the sin of someone else) & that person comes clean before God by confession & repentance. A church awakening happens when this action is repeated by all members.
* Think about the setup for the Psalmist’s prayer in chapter 85. The Children of Israel had sinned against God. God warned them repeatedly, but they refused to heed His warning & stubbornly continued going away (against) God. So God sent Nebuchadnezzar against them and he destroyed Jerusalem, the Temple, & took both them & the sacred things to Babylon. The Captivity was approximately 70 and the people were allowed to return home – and now back at home, the Psalmist says, “Please return to us & revive us.” He sounds desperate.
* So I ask, “What is indeed the nature of the return, revival, or awakening he (& we) desire? (NOTE: We will take this in reverse order so that our end today will be the beginning.)
1. It Results in God’s Glory – It is a sad truth but we talk little about “God’s Glory”, yet the Chief end of man is the GLORY OF GOD. As a follower of Christ, our life should reflect Christ’s character and Christ’s character was to bring Glory to God. We just came through the Christmas season where we heard the angel sing, “Glory to God in the Highest.” God is all about His Glory and He is all about His followers ‘honoring Him with their lives.’ After offering his request, it seems, the Psalmist articulates the glory of God in verses 10-13
a. Purity Is Reclaimed – Look in verse 13 and read about ‘righteousness’. God is all about the holiness of His people. Purity is big on His agenda. Somehow today, we have decided to hide behind the excuse that, “I’m only human” and it is this mentality that has destroyed individuals and families. The culture is telling you that “God expects too much.” The culture says ‘no one can live up to His standard.’ Yet the Bible tells us not only can we, but that God Himself will send us His Holy Spirit to lead us. God doesn’t tell us to do or be something and then ‘leave’ us; He’ll lead us – if we’ll let Him. Never forget Psalm 24:3-6 (READ). Verse 6 gives us a perspective that we need when it says “Those who seek Him.” The closer you get to the Father, the purer your life becomes. If you can reside in sin, then you’re far from the Father. Also, the closer you are to God, the easier it is for others to see Him in You. Glory!
b. Provision is Resumed – Consider verse 12. The home lands of the Jewish people had been barren and dry for 70+ years and the Psalmist knows that when God returns, He’ll provide what is good. God is our provision. He is not only what we need, He is ALL we need. I have offered this, “God will not be all you need until He’s all you’ve got, but when He’s all you’ve got, He’ll be all you need.”
* The nature of a Spiritual Awakening is that God gives you all you need because you are close to Him. Think about the Prodigal Son. Did the Father in that story WANT to provide for His boy? Yes. Even while the boy was in the pig-pen? Yes, I believe so because scripture says, “The Father was watching for Him” so the Father had the boy on His mind. But don’t miss this, “The boy had to ‘come to his senses’ & come back to the Father before the Father could provide.” In our spiritual walk, the believer enjoys the indwelling Holy Spirit serving as his conscience. So the Heavenly Father puts in the believer a Holy Voice to call us to our senses and bring us back home so that God can resume all the provision we need.
c. Power is Restored – This is discovered in verses 10-11. Look at what all joins together; love and truth get together, Righteousness and peace kiss, and the result is that truth comes up from the earth and righteousness comes down from heaven; it is only through the power of Jehovah God that all of this gets together. All the power of Holy God comes wrapped in His Spirit causing us to walk in love, truth, peace, and righteousness. Am I the only one who believes this would be a good deal? When the power comes, the purity and provision are clearly seen, felt, and witnessed – and the only one who gets the Glory is God! The Results!
2. It Resounds with God’s Goodness – The goodness of God is a sermon series not one point in a 35 minute message. His goodness fills volumes. In our affluence we forget that we are what we are and have what we have only by God’s blessing. What we have belongs to Him, we are only stewards and manager. In context of this scripture & an awakening, see this:
a. Shows God’s Commitment –(Vs 1)To study the history of the Jewish nation is to ask, “Why did God continue to put up with such a hard-headed & stiff-necked people?” It seems that every time God was ready to do something big with them, they had a business meeting & decided against following God!
* Yet because God chose them, He stayed the course with them. Make no mistake, He sent some of them to their graves, but He didn’t abandon His people. God’s committed to His.
* Does it ever frighten you to remember the story of the Jewish nation? God called them, they refused, and the number of people who died because they refused God? God’s commitment is not to ignore our disobedience, but to bring us to Himself & make us pure and Holy.
b. Shows God’s Compassion – (Vs 2-3) After the 70 years in exile, the Jewish nation was allowed to come home by King Cyrus. But the people knew who it was who had set them free, it was Jehovah who had arranged it. And now in His compassion, He was giving them one more opportunity to go ‘all in’. In verses 2 & 3, He took away-covered-withdrew-turned from - out of His great compassion to allow them to start over again. When God’s people awaken to Him, He is compassionate to them. By the way, Romans tells us that God’s love (compassion) leads us to salvation. One quality of being awakened spiritual is seeing God’s compassion.
c. Shows God’s Character – The character of God is unchangeable! The Bible clearly speaks to us and lets us know that God will change His mind, but never His character. I read the plea of the Psalmist saying, “God, please return to us” and then concludes His plea with the result of being reunited to God, “That your people may rejoice in you.” So the thought is “God, please return to use that your people may rejoice in you.” God character is seen in this truth: when He is close to His people then His people have a reason to rejoice. Do you see your closeness to the Father as a reason to rejoice? God loves a rejoicing people because ‘The joy’=strength. When we are awakened it results in God’s Glory, resounds with God’s goodness, and:
3. It’s Reveals God’s Grace – We know about God’s grace. Grace versus mercy is incredible. God’s grace is what we all need; no one needs or desire justice from God. That’s a tough deal
* God’s grace is offered to any people who respond to His call, His spirit, and His drawings.
a. Found in Repentance – The past phrase in verse 8 paints a picture of godly repentance. Repentance is achieved in discovering and admitting one’s foolish (sinful) ways, turning away from those sins, turning to Jesus, and then never turning back to your sin. You cannot turn toward the east without turning your back on the west, you cannot face north without turning away from south, and you cannot turn to God without turning your back on your sin. A generic turning away will not do. The same way you “Count your many blessings name them one by one – Name your many sins one by one.” The only way to peace, joy, love and more is to turn your back on your sin and turn to God. This picture is seen in 2 Chr. 7:14. Here is the starting point for a spiritual revival. Should we take a minute & name sins?
b. Felt in Forgiveness – In the last part of verse 4, we see God’s divine forgiveness. Very little touches the human spirit like forgiveness. In human terms have you ever done wrong, offered an apology, and not been granted forgiveness? It’s like a burr under your saddle or a small ‘sticker’ under your skin. It’s unsettling. But to come to God in authentic-heartbroken repentance and sense his forgiveness is freeing. Sadness is replaced with joy, bitterness is replaced with happiness, and bondage is replaced with freedom. This is how it begins.
c. Focused on Salvation – The first part of verse 9 tells the tale. Salvation is literally bringing a person from death to life. The Bible says before we come to Jesus we are dead in our sins. One thing about a dead man, he feels nothing (I.E. joy, happiness, fear, etc). God’s salvation is offered to those whom the spirit has spoken to. If you know that you are a sinner today, it is because God is speaking to your heart. The wages of sin is still death. When you know this you’ll desire to do something about it. The only thing you can do is JESUS. He’s the answer.
* The nature of an awakening is that the spirit of God ‘quickens’ (awakens) your soul to you spiritual condition and then calls you to repentance where you can find forgiveness. For the person outside of Christ this is salvation – for those who have fallen spiritually asleep in Christ – it is restoration. But for both it is an awakening.
* The legend of Rip Van Winkle is known far and wide. The story goes he went up into the mountains to get away from his wife’s complaining. He helped a man carry a ‘keg’ up the mountain and then the task ended; Rip drank some contents of the Key (liquor) & fell asleep. When he awoke things had changed because as we all know instead of sleeping for a night, he had slept for 20 years. Things were different: the leader of the country was not King George but George Washington and there was someone else going by his name. Things changed & he didn’t know it because he was asleep. Only when he was awakened did he discover the truth.
* The scripture says, “It is now time for us to awake out of our slumber, discard the deep of darkness, and put on the armor of light.” This is the nature of an awakening. We put on Jesus and make no plans to satisfy the flesh. What will you do?