By Armin Gesswein
God’s Call To Revival
"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chr. 7:14).
It is high time that someone called us to revival again. But who is to do it? If some well-known church leader were to do it, only a few would listen. Even, for instance, when the President of the United States calls for a national day of prayer, very few pay any attention.
God must do it! And that is exactly what He does in 2 Chronicles 7:14. God Himself sounds the alarm.
And He sounds it with such powerful penetration that we would think everyone would act at once.
What is so frightening is that people are hardly even listening – even when God Himself sounds the awakening call.
More frightening yet is the fact that the cup of iniquity that brought other civilizations to their doom is fast filling up. The fires of sin and Hell are leaping across our continent with ever-increasing intensity.
Nowhere in all the Bible does God speak more directly, more plainly, more distinctly than in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Yet we do not listen.
The problem is not with God’s voice. It is with our ears!
Who Gets the Call?
To whom is the call intended? To God’s people. There is only one "if" in God’s statement: "If My people...."
All through the Bible God seems to have but one major problem: His own people who are called by His name. If God’s people are in right standing with Him, no power on earth or in Hell can stop them!
Do we really hear what God is saying? Are we listening?
We act as though God is calling to Parliament or Congress, to the Prime Minister or the President.
But the call is to God’s people, not the politicians. Our nations need a moral and spiritual cleanup, to be sure. But the call is to God’s people, not to the nation; to the Church, not to the world.
To say that God’s people are the key to their nation sounds like a foreign language to many. The fact is that national moral ills will never be cured at the government level.
The Church is the key to reaching the nation for God. Jesus said, "When He [the Holy Spirit] is come [to God’s people], He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).
What Is the Call?
Like a two-edged sword the words come flashing out of God’s mouth, striking both the Church and the world. Unmistakably, however, His call is to us in the Church to: humble ourselves...pray...seek His face...and turn from our wicked ways.
With one clarion call God summons us to revival, and in it He also sounds out the plan and pattern for it! No one ever gave a call like that. Each word rings like a bell.
God’s target is not just a few spiritual saints. It is all His people.
God’s call is down-to-earth, reasonable, practical. It strikes into the moral fiber of our beings. It makes sense. In fact, nothing makes more sense.
The call is to Christians. They are in need. They are to do the four things God mentions.
We did not expect that. We thought the worldlings needed to humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways.
It comes as a shock to many in the Church. "Why, it is the nation that needs to repent for all its immorality and wickedness!" True, but we have the same need in the Church in an even deeper sense, and what is worse, we do not even seem to know it.
Right here is where the whole secret of revival unfolds. We can call it the law of revival, and it can be stated like this:
The Holy Spirit awakens non-Christians to their sins in proportion to the way He first awakens Christians to theirs. When believers deal with their deeper sins against the Spirit, unbelievers will deal with their sins against Christ.
Charles G. Finney, the nineteenth-century apostle of revival, experienced this double working of the Spirit in city after city. He wrote in his Revival Lectures:
"When the churches are awakened and reformed, the reformation and salvation of sinners will follow, going through the same stages of conviction, repentance and reformation. Their hearts will be broken down and changed.
"Very often the most abandoned profligates are among the subjects. Harlots and drunkards and infidels and all sorts of abandoned characters are awakened and converted. The worst among human beings are softened and reclaimed and made to appear as lovely specimens of the beauty of holiness."
Revival Is a Church Word
Nothing is more realistic or sensible. How, for example, can we expect the unconverted to humble themselves if we as Christians are proud and stubborn and unbending? How can we expect them to love the Lord if we have lost our "first love"?
What about our doctrines? They are very important, to be sure. We can, however, fight for correct doctrine and at the same time fight each other as Christians.
We may even be ready to lay down our lives for "the truth," but would we lay down our lives for one another? We ask the Lord to "forgive us our trespasses," but do we forgive one another?
We would fight to maintain that every word in the Bible is inspired, but are we ready to live by every word of God?
Revival is a Church word. Re-vive – to return to consciousness or life – refers to those who have life in Christ. But something has gone wrong, calling for repentance and renewal.
What went wrong? The sins of the world are now in the Church. Therefore, judgment must begin at the house of God.
Jesus said we are to be in the world but not of the world. The ship is leaking. It is sinking with the water it was made to pass through!
Evan Roberts, leader of the celebrated revival in Wales, often prayed, "Bend us! Bend the Church and save the world." That is the way of the Spirit in genuine revival.
It is sometimes said, "If we could get the worst sinner in town saved we would have a revival." Revival, however, begins at the opposite pole: not with the worst sinner but with the best saint.
The branch which is already bearing fruit the Husbandman prunes "that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2). We should not be alarmed if the best Christians in the Church get concerned first and give themselves to more prayer and to seeking the Lord. Rather, we should be concerned if this does not happen.
Finney also declared: "A revival of religion may be expected when Christians confess their sins to one another. At other times they confess in a general manner, as if they were only half in earnest. They may do it in eloquent language, but it does not mean anything.
"But when there is an ingenuous breaking down, a pouring out of heart in confession of sin, the floodgates will soon burst open, and salvation will flow over the place."
Whatever happened to conviction of sin? Whatever happened to prayer meetings – the hallmark of every great revival? Are we to have revival without prayer and conversions without conviction?
How can we expect a nation to pray when the churches in that nation are forsaking the prayer meeting?
With whip in hand Jesus twice cleansed the temple. With a zeal that was eating Him up He cried out, "My house shall be called the house of prayer" (Matt. 21:13). Today the weakest meetings in our churches are the prayer meetings. The level of prayer is the determining level in all true revivals. John Wesley said, "All God’s works are done through believing prayer." D. L. Moody expressed it so well: "Every work of God can be traced to some kneeling form."
Revivals are born in prayer meetings and continue to be controlled by them. The Jerusalem congregation set the pattern when the members "all continued with one accord[literally, persisted obstinately] in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14).
Commenting on that verse, A. T. Pierson observed: "No revival has ever come about except by such united prayer and supplication; and no revival has ever continued beyond the continuation of that same kind of prayer."
We can experience revival without preaching, but never without praying. Pentecost demonstrates that.
Actually there are two revivals in every revival: first, a revival of prayer and intercession, then a quickening and outpouring of the Holy Spirit in power.
The problem today is not that we have no prayer at all in our churches. That is not true. Nor is it that nothing is happening because we do not have revival. Much is happening.
But we do not have revival because we do not have the kind of praying that brings revival. We do not have strong praying and intercession. We do not have a waiting on God in prayer until the Holy Spirit takes us into His intercession, His travail.
We have not learned to seek and to knock, to do battle in prayer. That kind of strong praying has almost disappeared from our churches.
People say, "The heavens seem like brass when I pray for revival." The brass is not in the heavens; it is in our hearts!
They say, "Sin is too strong today, vice is too deeply rooted." Or, "Revivals are all up to the sovereignty of God."
The Bible, however, very plainly says it is lukewarmness in the Church that prevents revival from happening. It is Laodiceanism, laxity, lethargy.
Worst of all, we do not even know our impoverishment! Like the church at Laodicea that did not even know it was backslidden, Jesus calls us "wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17). Dear God, we ask, is it possible to be all that and not know it?
Today many are saying God is finished with the organized Church. "It’s too far gone." "It can’t be effective any more."
All the churches in the Revelation were "older, established churches." But to every one of them Jesus called loudly: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev. 3:13).
When We Heed God’s Call
What are the results when we heed God’s call? That answer is as clear as the call: "Then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
A leading missionary to China once said, "I believe in revival because it is the only thing which has all the dimensions for all the need."
A church on fire can light up a whole area for God.
Jonathan Edwards said of the revival in Northampton, Massachusetts, that the Spirit of God was so generally outpoured through the town that people ended their old quarrels, bickerings, backbiting and intermeddling with other people’s matters. The tavern was soon left empty, and in many ways every day seemed like Sunday.
After Finney preached in Rome, New York, there was hardly a person in town who had not been converted, and the presence of God was felt everywhere. People would even pray as they met in the streets. Strong men would be smitten with conviction of sin as they entered the city.
Most Christians today know little or nothing about this phenomenon of God’s larger presence and power.
The hour is late, and the need is very great. Are we listening to God’s call? It is time to awake, to seek the Lord until He comes and rains righteousness upon us!
–From Alliance Life