I have had the great opportunity, by God’s grace, to be in a preaching and teaching ministry for 28 years. It seems like such a short amount of time . . . at times . . . at other times it seems like I’ve been in ministry forever (obviously forever is quite a lot longer than I’ve even been alive). And one of the things that the churches of which I’ve been a part have prayed for revival. We prayed, the revival services came, and then we went out being the same people as before — or so it seemed. But how can a church really have revival? What needs to take place for true revival to actually happen to a group of people who claim to be God’s people? Here are a few thoughts that I have about this very thing.
First, I believe that true revival comes when the Holy Spirit comes on a people. We have this very thing taking place in Acts 2 and it should come as no surprise to anyone who reads the Scriptures that this is what happened at Pentecost because Jesus Christ had told the disciples that it would (Acts 1:8). The Bible records this event in vivid terms and says:
Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech. (Acts 2:2-4, HCSB)
Now the disciples had been with Jesus for a little over three years. There is no doubt in my mind that they needed revival. After all, after being with Jesus for that time they may have become dull of hearing. Do you remember how they were when He died? They heard and listened to what He had said about dying and rising again, but they didn’t believe. Then after the resurrection, they began to understand that Jesus Christ really is the One that He said that He is. But it was at Pentecost that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak with the boldness that they never had before. They spoke in tongues (which, according to the Greek langauge, were known languages) as the Holy Spirit gave them the ability. The Holy Spirit came upon His people first and foremost. This is where revival begins.
Second, in order to have revival God’s Word must be preached. We have in Acts 2:14-36 is one of the greatest sermons ever preached. The preacher was none other than Peter the apostle . . . yes . . . the one who denied Jesus Christ three times and heard the rooster crow after he did this. He gave the listeners a history lesson of what the Scriptures said would happen during his day. Then he confronted the men of his day with the truth of Jesus Christ with these words:
Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. . . . God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into the heavens, but he himself says: The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Messiah! (Acts 2:22-24, 32-36, HCSB)
The great thing about the sermon that Peter preached is that he holds nothing back. He tells the “men of Israel” exactly what they needed to hear and it was given him by the Holy Spirit; therefore, it was the Word of God! He spoke of Jesus Christ’s death and of His resurrection. The Gospel — God’s Word unto salvation (cf. Romans 1:16-17). It is this Gospel message that was necessary for those present to hear. They needed His Word to be preached to them.
Third, in order to have revival, you must have confession and repentance of sin. Those in the hearing of Peter’s voice ended up being a changed people. Acts 2 says it like this:
When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: ‘Brothers, what must we do?“ ‘Repent,’ Peter said to them, ‘and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation.’ (Acts 2:37-40, HCSB)
The people heard the Word of God and they asked what they needed to do to be saved. Now remember this about those in the hearing of the apostles, many of them were religious people. Many of them no doubt were members of a synagogue some where, whether it was First Synagogue Harmony Synagogue or Second Harmony Synagogue. They knew what the prophets of old said in God’s Word. They heard the news but they didn’t believe until this point ‘as many as the Lord our God’ called. In other words, they believed the message and they were added to the Church that day because of their belief.
Finally, in order to have revival, there needs to be fellowship with other believers. See how Luke records what happens after Pentecost:
So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together int he temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved. (Acts 2:41-47, HCSB)
People were baptized! People were added continually being added to the Church. The people gathered together on a regular daily basis and they were about the business of tending to each other and caring for each other. Nothing was hindering their fellowship one with another. They devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles. They observed the Lord’s Supper from house to house and they communed together in prayer and preaching and practice.
The religious people of the day were revived. This people who were God’s chosen people, Israel, were dulled in their hearing until the Holy Spirit came on them and revived them. They were dead in their trespasses and sins and then they were brought to life in Jesus Christ. Revival — true revival — did not have anything to do with “a feeling” or “an event” but it had to do with the Holy Spirit, with the Word of God, with the people confessing and repenting of their sins, and with fellowship with other believers.
My prayer is that as our Fellowship at First Baptist Church of Leonard will see God work and move among us as we hold our Spring Revival. More than anything, we need revival — true revival. Some have become dull of hearing while others are yet to hear the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need revival.
O Lord, let it begin with me.