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What is Revival?

Recently we have heard reports of revival at Asbury College where students have been praying, worshiping, repenting, and lingering in God’s presence for about two weeks. People were hearing about it on social media and traveling from all over the country to experience God, in an atmosphere of hunger, faith, worship, and repentance.

Much has been written about the subject of revival, though we don’t find the word mentioned in Scripture. We do however see the theme of the activity of God working in to revive, renew and restore His people. The Scripture does use the word revive and it is something that the saints of old pleaded for in prayer.

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth, you will bring me up again. Psalm 85:6 ESV

The Hebrew word translated to revive in English is ḥāyāh and its used 283 times in Scripture. It’s meaning to save, sustain, spare, or restore life. It is used by God to describe his saving or restoring work in the Prophet Isaiah:

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15 ESV

Dr. Martyn-Loyd Jones defines this unusual activity that he called revival in his book titled Revival. He wrote:

Revival is “a period of unusual blessing and activity in the life of the Christian church….The essence of revival is that the Holy Spirit comes down upon a number of people together, upon a whole church, upon a number of churches, districts, or perhaps a whole country. That is what is meant by revival”. Martyn-Lloyd, Jones, Revival page 99-100.

A revival by definition is the mighty act of God and it is a sovereign act of God.” Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Revival, Pg. 112

Revival is a gracious and sovereign work that the Holy Spirit brings into the lives of God’s people. It is usually accompanied by a heightened awareness of God’s presence and of our need for him, repentance, a return to Scripture, and fervent and extended prayer. It’s a time when God gets the attention of His people and stirs the hearts of His people to seek His face. It’s a time when the people of God respond to God’s goodness and worth by adjusting their lives to God’s will and ways.

When Moses prayed to the Lord asking God to show him His glory, God answered and caused His goodness to pass by him. God proclaimed His name to Moses and the glory and goodness that Moses experienced led to a deeper knowledge of God (Exodus 33-34).

Martyn-Lloyd Jones connects that narrative to what God does in the lives of His people in revival. He wrote:“The supreme blessing that comes to the Church in a time of revival is this deeper knowledge of God in his goodness towards us.”Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Revival, Pg. 227

Jonathan Edwards wrote about the effects of revival during the great awakening that he was instrumental in:

“This work soon made a glorious alteration in the town. So that in the Spring and Summer following it seemed, that is to say, the town, seemed to be full of the presence of God. It never was so full of love nor so full of joy and yet so full of distress as it was then. There were remarkable tokens of God's presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought to them. Parents rejoicing over their children as newborn, husbands over their wives and wives over their husbands. The doings of God were then seen in His sanctuary. God's day was a delight and His tabernacles were amiable. Our public assemblies were then beautiful. The congregation was alive in God's service. Everyone earnestly intent on the public worship. Every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth. The assembly in general were from time to time in tears while the Word was preached. Some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbors.”

Jonathan Edwards: Works, London 1840, Vol I, p. 348.

That sure does sound like the effects of revival to me.

How can we participate in revival?

1. Turn the Lord in repentance acknowledging the sin that has kept you from sweet communion with Him.

Repeatedly in Scripture God calls his people to return to Him both in the old and new covenant. Here are two examples from both:

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:12-13 ESV
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 2:15-20 ESV

2. Linger in the word of God until your heart is warmed by its truth and beauty and act upon what the Lord is calling you to do.

Read Nehemiah chapter 8 & 9 and see the beautiful repentant response of the Israelites after hearing the Torah read to them. And being convicted of their sin, they confessed their sins to the Lord who is a “God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Nehemiah 9:17 ESV).

3. Wait on the Lord in prayer.

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