6 Characteristics of True Revival

Revival Changes Us

In less than one year’s time, the Welsh Revival of 1904–1905 saw 100,000 people saved. This great moving of God’s Spirit came through the preaching of a twenty-six-year-old preacher named Evan Roberts, who had prayed for revival for eleven years. So many were converted and evidenced truly-changed lives in such a short time span that the nation of Wales even became known for a time as “The Land of Revival.”

In 1932, revival came to North China through the prayers of a single woman missionary, Marie Monsen. It is reported that as God’s Word freely spread, more people were saved (one missionary estimated 3,000 in his town) in that year in North China than in any previous year.

In 1936, revival broke out on the campus of Wheaton College in Illinois. Faculty and students confessed sins of pride, criticism, and cheating, and made things right with one another. Meals slipped by unnoticed as God’s reviving work continued in hearts. Gospel-preaching missions work around the world was the result.

But today is not 1904, 1932, 1936, or any other date of yesteryear’s revivals. This is 2018, and I long for the reviving work of God among His people once again.

I know of no greater need for our nation, our church, or my own life than revival. Indeed, I know of no greater need for God’s work anywhere in the world than revival.

As Leonard Ravenhill said, however, “As long as we are content to live without revival, we will.”

We can go on day after day, year after year, stating our desire for revival but being content to live without it. Or we can ask God for a holy discontent for anything less than His reviving work in our hearts and through our lives.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our theme at Lancaster Baptist Church for 2018 is Revive, and we are asking God to revive us this year.

I can’t give you a specific prescription for revival, although we do know that God has promised to revive the individual who is contrite before Him.

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.—Isaiah 57:15

But rather than “how-to steps,” I’d like to propose six characteristics present in every revival I’ve studied in both Scripture and history. I shared these six points—an acrostic of the word REVIVE—in a two-part message. (You can listen to part 1 and part 2 at preaching.lancasterbaptist.org.)

1. Repent

Revival is the result of a humbled heart. I’m not talking about an acknowledgement that “Yes, I could do better,” but an acknowledgement of and brokenness over sin. This is when we call the self-life, self-focus, and ongoing pride in our hearts sin—and when we see these as the root of our distance from God.

Repentance is the vomiting of self. It is a disgust of sin that involves godly sorrow and turns us to Christ for cleansing and change.

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.—2 Corinthians 7:10

We usually like to skip over anything that has to do with repentance. Yeah, I know I need to be right with God, but I think I’m doing pretty good in my spiritual walk. Yet, when Christ called the church at Ephesus back to their first love, He didn’t skip over repentance. We shouldn’t either.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.—Revelation 2:5

2. Exalt Christ

A revived heart has an overwhelming desire to exalt Jesus more than anything else—including more than the idol of self. A revived heart sees Christ high and lifted up.

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. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.—Isaiah 6:1–3

When revival comes, we won’t be talking about revival, but about Jesus.

Exalting Christ includes loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30) and walking with Him moment by moment so that our life revolves around Him. Colossians 3:4 tells us that Christ is our life. Corporately, too, we are to exalt Christ as we worship with our church family and give the preaching of His Word full entrance in our hearts.

Henry Blackaby said, “Powerful preaching is a hallmark of true revival. Revival preachers demonstrate their commitment to the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures, with bold, urgent, and uncompromising preaching, as they set before God’s people the way of life and death. Powerful, Spirit-filled sermons concerning sin, Christ, and the cross penetrate the hearts of the saved and lost alike with the realities of eternity.”

There is no revival without making Christ preeminent and His Word primary.

3. Value Christ

We show what we value by what we seek first—our priorities. Christ calls us to seek Him and His kingdom first.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.—Matthew 6:33

Thirty-seven years ago, my grandmother gave me a little book titled Disciplined by Grace written by John Strombeck. In it, he wrote, “The Holy Spirit never leads anyone to look at himself and his own accomplishments, but only and always at Christ and His Work.” This is a good picture of a revived heart.

When we value Christ, we’ll not only seek Him, but we’ll make His passion our passion and His mission our mission. We’ll seek after souls for His kingdom personally and regularly.

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.—Luke 19:10

We cannot say we value Christ if we do not value the work that He came to earth to do.

4. Intercede 

I have never heard of a revival that was not preceded by intercessory prayer and did not result in a renewal of prayer among God’s people.

So could I ask you a personal question: how’s your prayer list? Is it indicative of ongoing intercessory prayer for your church, your community and leaders, those you lead and serve?

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;—1 Timothy 2:1

Even more important, how’s your prayer life? Is it consistent? Growing? It is not possible that a revived Christian will be a non-praying Christian.

5. Volunteer 

When Isaiah saw the Lord “high and lifted up” in Isaiah 6, three things happened: First, he responded in repentance (verse 4). (Incidentally, this was also the response of Job and Peter when they came face-to-face with the greatness of God.) Second, he was purified with a coal from off the altar. And finally, he volunteered to serve (verse 8).

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.—Isaiah 6:8

Revival always results in a voluntary spirit of service for Christ. When we see Christ as He is, we realize the privilege it is to serve Him, and we have no greater desire than to remain faithful to Him. We return to a servant’s heart as we remember our eternal reward of hearing, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” (Luke 19:17).

6. Evangelize 

It is no true revival that does not result in lost people coming to Christ. This is true for two reasons:

First, true revival gives a renewed emphasis on the spread of God’s Word.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.—Isaiah 55:11

And second, revived hearts make much of Christ and His mission.

He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.—Psalm 126:6

When revival comes, ministry flows from our hearts to our hands. We not only love the gospel, but, with believing, sincere hearts, we share it. And when that sharing is accompanied by the filling of the Holy Spirit, souls will be saved. It may not happen immediately, but eventually, there will be fruit to the glory of God.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.—John 15:8

Exalt Christ
Value Christ

Do you desire a revived heart? Do you long for the reviving work of God in your life and ministry?

We cannot organize revival, but we can prepare for it. We can humble ourselves before the Lord and ask for His reviving work of grace.

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.—Isaiah 57:15

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