Laurie: On Awakenings, Revivals And The Church
The last Great Spiritual Awakening in America took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And on their June 21, 1971, cover, Time magazine called it the Jesus Revolution.
That was more than 50 years ago, and I see a lot of parallels between then and now. It was a divided nation back then, with racial conflict and a drug culture. Things were very dark.
In fact, a few years earlier, on April 8, 1966, another Time cover posed this question: “Is God Dead?”
What a difference a few years can make, especially when God intervenes. When things are really dark, God’s light can shine brightly. And I think we’re due for another Jesus Revolution.
America needs a spiritual awakening, but the church needs a revival. “Revival” and “awakening” are often used interchangeably, but there’s a distinction.
An awakening is when God sovereignly pours out his Spirit, and it impacts a culture. That is what happened during the Jesus Revolution, and it’s also what happened in multiple spiritual awakenings in America’s history, even predating our establishment as a nation.
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A revival, on the other hand, is what the church must experience. It’s when the church comes back to life, when it becomes what it was always meant to be. It’s a returning to passion.
I think many times we overly mystify the idea of revival. But we don’t really need to, because another word we could use for revival is restoration.
If you were to see a cool old car restored to showroom condition, you might admire it and say, “Wow, that’s beautiful! Someone took time to do that.”
The same thing can happen in a life as well. And that is what the church needs.
Evangelist and pastor R. A. Torrey, who was a friend of Dwight L. Moody’s, gave this prescription for revival:
First, let a few Christians (they need not be many) get thoroughly right with God themselves. This is the prime essential. If this is not done, the rest I am sorry to say will come to nothing! Second, let them bind themselves together to pray for a revival until God opens the heavens and comes down. Third, let them put themselves at the disposal of God to use them as He sees fit in winning others to Christ. That is all. This is sure to bring a revival to any church or community.
In review, Torrey’s prescription for revival is to first get right with God, then get together with other Christians and pray for revival, and lastly, make yourself available to God, especially in sharing your faith.
A spiritual awakening, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is up to God. We can’t organize it, but we can agonize for it in prayer and call upon God to send it. But we can do the practical things that Torrey recommended.
In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, we find a story of national revival. The walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt by Jewish exiles who had returned from captivity in Babylon. And though he had always been there, a new person emerges in this account: Ezra, the priest.
The Bible tells us, “So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. … Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet” (Nehemiah 8:2, 5 NLT).
This was a full-blown revival, a restoration. And you know you’re having a revival when people are hungry for God’s Word.
When the Jews were originally released from captivity in Babylon, Ezra led them, and they rebuilt the temple. Things started out well, but people had cooled off a little. The passion wasn’t there as it should have been. The walls were in complete disarray, so God touched the heart of Nehemiah, the king’s cupbearer, who led the second wave of builders. And as the walls were rebuilt, it inspired and revitalized the people.
Ezra had been waiting for what the Lord would do. He had been studying the Word of God. Ezra also had been praying, and in Ezra 9 we find one of his prayers, which begins, “O my God, I am utterly ashamed; I blush to lift up my face to you. For our sins are piled higher than our heads, and our guilt has reached to the heavens” (verse 6 NLT).
When we look at the godly Ezra, there’s not a lot of sin to identify in his life. Yet Ezra used the words “our sins.” That brings us to an important point: Revival starts with us.
It’s easy as a Christian to look around and say, “Those people are compromising. What about their sins?”
But what about you? What about me? It starts with us and with realizing that God wants to revive us personally. Before there can be a revival in the church, there must first be a revival in each one of us.
Do you need a personal spiritual revival? If you’re not sure, here are a few questions to consider: Was there a time in your Christian life when your passion for Christ was stronger? If so, then you need a spiritual revival.
Was there a time in your life when you read the Bible more faithfully and were involved in church more than you are now? If so, then you need a personal spiritual revival.
Was there a time when you shared your faith more and even looked for opportunities to engage people with the message of Jesus Christ? If so, then you need a personal spiritual revival.
The people of Nehemiah’s day had a great revival, and it lasted for a time. But revivals don’t last forever. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Someone once asked the evangelist Billy Sunday if his revivals lasted. He replied, “No, neither does a bath, but it’s good to have one occasionally!”
I think it’s a good idea to pray, “Lord, revive me again – and again and again.” I know that I need constant revival. We all do. And America needs an awakening.
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