America: The Conditions For Revival

Bible Book: 2 Chronicles  7 : 14
Subject: Revival, Conditions for; Renewal; Christian Living

In Mark, chapter 9, we see a picture of some powerless disciples. A man had brought his afflicted son to the disciples requesting help. And the implication of the Scripture is that the disciples did everything in their power to help this man's son. I have an idea that they prayed over him; they blessed him; they touched him; they attempted physical therapy, and perhaps emotional therapy. They ministered to him and agonized over him, but absolutely nothing happened. When Jesus came on the scene there was an immediate healing. After this miracle, the disciples cornered Jesus, and they asked Him, "Why couldn't we help the boy?" And Jesus said to them, "There are some things that can only be accomplished by prayer and fasting.

Now, folks, what we have here is a picture of a powerful Christ, but a powerless church. The disciples represent a church operating in the energy of the flesh. Now, at Eastside, how much do we rely upon promotion; how much do we rely upon organization; how much do we rely upon publicity; how much do we rely upon human creativity and ingenuity; how much do we rely upon human energy and human talents; and how much do we rely upon the Holy Spirit? If you took the Holy Spirit out of the equation here at Eastside, would it really change anything? How much are we relying upon the Holy Spirit and the power of the living God to live the Christian life? How much are we relying upon the Holy Spirit to energize our Sunday School classes; to empower our witness; to enhance our ministry; to make effectual our prayers; to enliven our worship experience? You see, I long to see our church capture the imagination of our city, serving as a catalyst to change the moral and spiritual climate of our society, having a global impact for the cause of Christ and winning thousands of people to Christ here in our own community, and creating such a God-saturated atmosphere that life-change becomes inevitable to people who are touched by the ministry of this fellowship. Now, perhaps those are just terms that describe what happens when a revival emerges, and we're all interested in the results of revival and the influence of revival and the experience of revival. But the conditions for revival must precede the results of revival. So what are the conditions for revival?

In our text for this morning there are four conditions for revival. I want you to see them.

First of all is humility. God says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves."
The second requisite for revival is prayer, and you will see that that follows humility.
The third condition for revival is seeking God. God says, "Those who desire revival must humble themselves and pray and seek my face."
And the fourth requisite for revival is repentance. God says those who want revival must "turn from their wicked ways."

So there you have it, the four conditions for revival.

Now, we're going to look at these four conditions for revival, but we're not going to look at them in order. I have a reason for giving them to you out of order, and I hope this nonsense will make sense by the time we're through. Now, please notice that one of the conditions for revival is,

I. Prayer

If we're going to have real revival, then we have got to pray. If I am to have power with God, I have to live a life of prayer. Jesus said, "...if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 18:19). Have you ever put that to the test?

Dr. James Little tells the story of the 1857 revival in New York City. There was a man whose innermost soul was moved with a deep longing for an outpouring of the Spirit in that great city. The spiritual land around him was arid and parched, and his cry was, "Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south" (Psalm 126:4). Desiring that others should join him in concertive prayer, he displayed a little card in the window of a room on Fillmore Street which read: "If anyone is interested to pray for revival, come in and join me." The first day he prayed alone, then others began to join him until the room became too small. The burden for revival had begun to spread -- until hundreds had caught the spirit of intercession and supplication. And that was the beginning of a mighty moving of God's Spirit.

The testimonies of the power of prayer are endless. But I believe the greatest stories on prayer are in this Book. Do you remember Abraham? Do you remember how he is referred to in the Bible? He is referred to as "a friend of God." How would you like to be known as a friend of God? But that's how he is mentioned in the Bible. In Isaiah 41, verse 8, he is referred to as "the friend of God." And in the   New Testament book of James, chapter 2 and verse 23, he is referred to once again as "the friend of God." Now, how do you get to be a friend of God? I'm going to give you a hint. Just read the prayer life of Abraham in the book of Genesis. In the 18th chapter of Genesis, God said, "I'm going down to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because their cry is great, and because their sin is very grievous." And then the Lord said this in verse 17: "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" I mean, it must be pretty nice to be that close to God so that God says, "Shall I hide from my friend, Abraham, that which I do?" You see, God cannot destroy Sodom and Gomorrah until He talks it over with Abraham. Now, that is some walk with God. And so God got with Abraham and said, "I'm going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah." And Abraham said, "Are there 50 righteous people there?" And God said, "No." And Abraham said, "Are there 45 righteous people there?" God said, "No." And Abraham said, "Are there 40 righteous people there?" God said, "No." And Abraham said, "Are there 30 righteous people there?" And God said, "No." And Abraham said, "Are there 20 righteous people there?" And God said, "No." And Abraham said, "Well, are there 10 righteous people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah?" And God looked, and He could not find ten righteous people. And so He is prepared to destroy the cities. And He comes down to Sodom and Gomorrah, and He speaks to Lot. And He says, "Lot, you've got to get out of here, for I cannot do anything until you leave Sodom and Gomorrah."

Ladies and gentlemen, it appears to me that the prayers of Abraham tied the judgment hands of God. Now, that's power in prayer. Here's a man who was called "the friend of God" because of his     prayer life. Let me ask you another question. How would you like for God to say, "Bill, Mary, Sue, Jim, you are faithful." Now, it's one thing for people to think you are faithful. You can fool a lot of people. It's another thing for your wife or husband to think you are faithful. It may be a little bit more difficult for you to fool them, but you could fool them. But for God to say, "Bill, you are faithful; Mary, you are faithful; or, Gerald Harris, you are faithful." I covet that more than I covet anything in the world. But that's what God said about Moses. In Numbers 12:7 He said, "Moses is faithful in all mine house." Now, how did Moses get that way? Just read his prayer life. If a person's prayer life indicates greatness, Moses was one of the greatest men who ever lived. On two different occasions he spent 40 days and 40 nights alone with God in fasting and prayer. No wonder when he came down from Mount Sinai, from the presence of the Lord, that his face was so shining with the glory of God that the people of Israel couldn't stand it. He had to put a veil over his face. God said, "Moses is faithful in all mine house." How did he get that way? Through prayer.

How would you like for God to send an angel to you tonight and say, "Heaven loves you -- whatever men think about you, heaven loves you." That's what God did to Daniel. Now, Daniel had to be devoted to God, because three times a day he set his face toward Jerusalem to pray. When his life was in jeopardy, he stuck to his prayer life. One day he began to pray. And he prayed three whole weeks with fasting, seven days -- one week, 14 days -- two weeks, 21 days -- three weeks -- no food passed his lips. And finally an angel came to him in Daniel 9:23 and said, "Daniel, you are a man greatly beloved of God. Daniel, you are a heavenly man in a godless world." And God gave Daniel a revelation for the ages.

Let me give you another example of prayer -- the apostle Paul. His prayers in chapter 1 and chapter 3 of Ephesians are personal, powerful, plaintive prayers. And listen to his prayer in Romans 9 as he lifts up his voice to the Lord and says, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Now, that, beloved, is the epitome of intercession.

But then, of course, when we think of prayer we must look to Jesus Christ. Because our example of prayer is not found in the prophets or the apostles, but in Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed at His baptism and the windows of heaven were opened, and the Holy Spirit came upon Him, and God spoke, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And, of course, we read that Jesus prayed all night long before He chose the twelve apostles. How long has it been since you have prayed the night through?

So Jesus is our greatest example in prayer. In Gethsemane He prayed as the weight of the world's sins began to crush in on His sensitive soul until his sweat became as drops of blood dripping to the earth. We need today some Gethsemane Christians who will take the burden of this lost world's sin upon our hearts to God. Today Jesus Christ is still engaged in prayer. And how can we expect to have power with God and men if we do not spend time alone with God in prayer? So condition number one is prayer.

Condition number two is repentance. In the King James version of our text, God says, "my people must turn from their wicked ways." To turn is to repent. All of you have seen and heard this demonstration of repentance. I'm headed in this direction, and this is the direction of sin. This is the direction of self-will. This is the direction of wickedness. This is the direction the devil would have me to go. But when I repent, and the Greek word for repentance is "metanoeo" which means "to change or to turn around," I am going in this direction. This is the direction of righteousness, the direction of truth, the direction that God would have me to go. And so what have I done? I have made a U-turn.

And in order to symbolize repentance I want to use this terminology.

II. U-Turn

I don't believe the great emphasis of this phrase, "turn from their wicked ways," is speaking about robbing a bank or committing adultery. Certainly, those things do not please the Lord. But if you'll take the context of this passage of Scripture, you will see that He is saying, "Look, if you will humble yourself and pray, then I will reveal things to your heart that grieve and quench the Holy Spirit." As I pray and draw closer to the Lord, I realize how far I am from Him. As I get closer to Him, He begins to show me things that quench the Holy Spirit; things I didn't even know were in my life before I began that period of prayer. Most of us are so far from the Lord in our day-by-day life and activity that we don't even realize those hidden sins of the heart that grieve and quench the Holy Spirit. Let me illustrate it like this.

Several weeks ago I was on the treadmill at our house only a few seconds when I felt something in my right tennis shoe -- an unknown object under my big toe. There were two choices that I could make. Either stop the machine, get off, remove the irritation, or else choose to ignore it and endure until I had run the amount of time that I had allotted. I chose the latter. I shook my foot and tried to send the little agitator away, but soon it returned to the ball of my foot. It was definitely interfering with my running. I shook my foot again, hoping for relief, but it returned to pester me under my heel. By this time, the "boulder" was demanding my constant attention and I could think of little else. It seemed like an eternity before I had run the 20 minutes that I had scheduled. I turned off the treadmill and immediately took off my shoe and shook it. Out came the irritant -- a tiny gray stone no bigger than the head of a match. How could such a small object cause so much trouble? The same thing is true when we, as Christians, allow even a tiny sin to remain in our lives. We too have two choices. Either to confess and forsake it and get things right, or to delay, try to ignore it, and tolerate it. But soon that little sin will cause much trouble and greatly affect our spiritual lives. And, you see, the closer we get to the Lord the more those hidden sins of the heart are going to show up.

But we need to turn from anything that would hinder revival, or that would hinder the fullness of God's Spirit in our lives. Listen to what the Bible says in Psalm 34. "Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it ... The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." In Isaiah 55:7 the Bible says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." And listen to these words from James, chapter 4. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness." Some of you here need to make a U-turn today. There is a change that needs to be wrought in your life.

III. Seeking God

God says that those who are interested in experiencing revival must "seek my face." At this point, we're not seeking His hand. We're not seeking something from God as much as we're seeking Him. In Hebrews 11:6 the Bible says that "...he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Have you been seeking God diligently? Earnestly? Consider for a moment another passage. It is Jeremiah 29:13: "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." Any man in the Bible who ever amounted to anything, in the Old and New Testaments, sought God's face until he found it. When the blessing came to the patriarchs, to the prophets, and to the judges of the Old Testament, they invariably were the results of waiting upon the Lord and seeking His face.

Do you remember what happened in Isaiah, chapter 6? In that chapter we have the record of the prophet Isaiah as he saw the glory of God. The chapter begins with these words: "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple...." Well, when Isaiah saw the King, the Lord of hosts, something happened. It wasn't very long until he said, "Here am I, send me." And Isaiah went forth endued with power from on high, and God blessed him in a wonderful way. And what we say of Isaiah, we could also say of Ezekiel, Daniel, Jeremiah and others. And then, coming to the New Testament, let me just tell you about Peter.

Remember, Peter was saved along with the other disciples. Peter was a great preacher, but the day Jesus was betrayed he backslid, lied, and denied the Lord. What a miserable, wretched failure he was. After he had realized the extent of his sin, Peter quit the ministry and declared, "I go a fishin'." When he quit the ministry, the rest of the disciples said, "If Peter can't measure up, and if Peter is going to quit, we'll quit too." And the whole "kit and caboodle" got into a boat and went back to the fishing business. But bless their hearts; they now had lost the knack of fishing. They had been fishing for men so long that they couldn't fish for fish with any success. Then the time came when Jesus appeared to them. You will remember the miracle that was performed, how they gathered around Jesus and had breakfast together, and how Jesus dealt with poor old Simon Peter and brought him back from his backsliding. And then Jesus said, "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high." Peter, along with the rest of them, said, "I'm going to do your will. I know my weakness and my need. I'll no longer depend upon my own wisdom and strength. I know that I must have that power from on high." You know the rest of the story. When Pentecost came they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. What happened to Peter? As a result of his waiting on God he was filled with the Spirit of God. And in Acts 2 we read, "But Peter, standing up with the eleven, (He was too excited to sit. It was the custom in those days for teachers to sit down and teach, but Peter didn't sit this time -- he stood.) lifted up his voice, and said unto them... "by wicked hands you have crucified this one...whom God hath made both Lord and Christ." Peter preached a mighty sermon. As a result, they cried out, "What shall we do?" Then he saw thousands come forth and trust Jesus Christ on that glorious day. Peter, backslidden Peter, came back to God, then waited on God, then saw the face of Jesus, then went forth as a flaming servant of the cross and saw multitudes saved because of the power of God upon his life.

Now, let me tell you what God says in Proverbs 8:17 about seeking His face. He says, "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me." I think it is already too late for many of us. We have waited and wasted many years. We have sought information from wise men and books, but we haven't sought God's face nor gotten God's power. We have waited too long. We need to seek His face now. "...and those that seek me early shall find me." Now, there is one more condition for revival, and that is,

IV. Humility

In our text, this condition comes first, but we have it last. And what an ordeal this is. To the natural heart it is the hardest of all problems, the severest of all service. It is the subordination of "I" and the exaltation of Christ. However hard, however severe, it must be done. There can be no progress in our quest for revival until we get to the place of humility. To humble ourselves is not merely to confess our sin and failure of the past. It is to admit as well our present utter inability to be anything, or do anything, pleasing to God in the energy of the flesh. We must move out of the way so God may have room to work according to His way -- how, when, and where as He shall choose. The Bible says that "...God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 4:6). This is both a terrifying, as well as a satisfying statement. For God to resist a man, a church, a nation is a terrible thing. No wonder the writer of Hebrews exclaims, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living

God" (10:31).

You remember the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, "...God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." Five times over the Pharisee uses the personal pronoun "I." He was proud and haughty, and as a consequence, his prayer never reached heaven. By way of contrast, however, the publican, standing afar off, did not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, "...but smote upon his breast, saying, God  be merciful to me a sinner" (verse 13). And Jesus, commenting on this man's brokenness, declared that "...this man went down to his house justified rather than the other." And then He added: "...for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (verse 14).

Well, now, we say that we want revival. We want to see a movement of God. We want to see this old world turned right side up for the cause of Christ. Well, it can happen. It has happened before and it can happen again. A physician will pay the price and go to school for many, many years in order to be prepared to alleviate the hurt of humanity. An athlete will pay the price and go through much rigorous discipline in order to win a corruptible crown. An entrepreneur will pay the price and go through difficult experiences and personal financial loss and innumerable challenges in order to start his own business. A concert pianist will pay the price and spend many long hours practicing the instrument while others are engaged in social activities and finding many ways to amuse themselves. But success comes at a great cost. And revival will not just happen. There are conditions that must be met. Are you willing to pay the price?


Now, do you remember I said that we have sort of jumbled up our outline, and we have not taken these conditions in the order in which they appear in the Scripture? And we have done that purposefully in order to develop an acrostic for the outline. And as you will see, if you take the first letter from each of our points, it spells PUSH. Next Sunday we're beginning a three-month emphasis upon prayer. And this acrostic is something that I borrowed from some missionaries in Pakistan who are laboring under great pressure and persecution. But the acrostic PUSH stands for this: Pray Until Something Happens! Amen