Summary: Message 6 in our Jonah series. This message explores the place of revival in history.
Chico Alliance Church
Pastor David Welch
Jonah Series #6
“Revive Us Again”
Last time we explored the topic of repentance. God orchestrated the greatest crusade in history through the preaching of one man. The Ninevite crusade included every single person in a city of 120,000. He did it though a bigoted man who didn’t even want to see the Ninevites spared. The tragedy is that none of the great spiritual movements in history ever lasted. Historically, a great harvest of souls follows a revival of the people of God. Although the harvest of the Ninevites does not follow that pattern, I became interested in the subject of revival.
I decided to explore the whole subject of revival both in Biblical history and outside of the Bible.
Definition of revival
The sovereign activity of God whereby He renews His people individually and/or corporately in vigor, affecting both sincerity of belief and quality of behavior. Earle Cairns in his book on revival called “An Endless Line of Splendor” summarizing revivals and their leaders from the Great Awakening to the present wrote this about revival…
Revival or renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit in restoring the people of God to a more vital spiritual life, witness, and work by prayer and the word after repentance in crisis for their spiritual decline. The permanent elements in revival are the word, prayer, the Holy Spirit, and a sovereign God who uses man as his instrument.”
The term revival implies restoration of life to something that once had life but died. Most of the grand revivals of history started with the people of God. It then spread to those outside the church. A distinction exists between evangelism and revival. Evangelism is something the church decides to do regarding the lost. Revival is something God decides to do regarding the church.
Revival flows from a specific outpouring of the Holy Spirit on an individual or group with an obvious presence; moving, guiding, enlightening and empowering.
Evangelism, fine as it is, is not revival. After a signally successful meeting, Billy Graham was asked, “Is this revival?” Graham replied, “No. When revival comes, I expect to see two things which we have not seen yet. First, a new sense of the holiness of God on the part of Christians; and second, a new sense of the sinfulness of sin on the part of Christians.”
We might add a third and closely-related indication of revival: a new working of the Holy Spirit in the local church. Why? For two big reasons, among others; first, because the Word of God calls for it; and second, because the world challenge calls for it. Billy Graham
Sometimes I have been asked to meet with one group or another to "plan a revival." You might as well try to plan a lightning bolt as to plan a revival. No one has ever done it yet, and no one will ever really "plan" or "program" a true revival. The Lord God Almighty makes a world, and nobody "plans" it. When He raises the dead, no one "plans" it. And—let me tell you this—when God raises the dead it never comes as the fifth item on the "program." Of that you can be sure! AW Tozer
The Scriptures record numerous revivals among God’s people.
Asa Revival in 2 Chron 15
All Judah rejoiced concerning the oath, for they had sworn with their whole heart and had sought Him earnestly, and He let them find Him. So the LORD gave them rest on every side. 2 Chronicles 15:15
Unfortunately, the revival didn’t last.
Nehemiah / Ezra Revival
After the Jews repaired the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah and Ezra led the people in a great revival.
Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:5-6
Again, the revival didn’t last and Nehemiah returned later to deal with the same sort of evils that existed before the revival.
God moved on a small group of Christ-followers. The Holy Spirit moved anointed that small group of Christians and 3,000 turned to Christ that day and thousands more in the days to follow. The early church experienced phenomenal unity and growth. It didn’t take long for the revival among God’s people to grow cold.
Paul found it necessary to address numerous relational issues in all the churches. By the time John wrote the book of Revelation around 90AD, many once vibrant local congregations churches had fallen into a variety of Spirit-quenching issues. Jesus specifically addressed some of those issues and urged them to repent. I believe that similar issues have plagued the church since that time. The problems in the early churches addressed in Revelation represent problems present in churches all through history.