Revive Us Again
by Dr. Bob Smith
Dr. Bob Smith is the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas
“Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalms 85:1-6)
I believe the greatest need of our churches today is not more buildings or more buses. It’s not even more people. (Sometimes I think we’ve got too many of the kind we’ve got!) Our greatest need is for revival. For ten years I traveled across America in full-time evangelism. My goal in each meeting was for God to help me to see revival in the preacher. You see, no matter what happens in the church, if revival doesn’t come to the pulpit, it’s not going to last long in the church. Oh, there is such a need once again for old-fashioned, Bible-believing, fundamental, Baptist, soulwinning churches to be revived. We’re still doing the right things, going through the motions, but we’ve lost the joy of it. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”
This Psalm was written shortly after the 70 years of captivity in Babylon had ended. Israel had been far away from God, as far as a backslidden nation could get. This nation of God’s people, who believed in the One true God, had turned to worship idols. Because of Israel’s idolatry, God had raised up the nation of Babylon to bring judgment to sinning Israel. For 70 years they were chastened and humbled before God, and they cried out to Him for mercy and deliverance. For 70 years this backslidden people had endured the judgment of God until their sin of idolatry had been purged from their lives.
Now they’ve just been released from 70 years of captivity and they’re returning to their homeland. But God also wanted them to return to Him, as well. By the way, as you study prophecy, you have to look hard to find America in the future. Oh, yes, I believe a student of the Word of God can show you where she is, but I wonder what our future really does hold for us. As we turn away from God and away from the Word of God to live our own lives and pursue our own interests, I wonder what nation God is preparing to bring such judgment to this land. Don’t think that we’re immune. Don’t think that we are better than Israel and God would not chastise us. Don’t think that because you’re a fundamental, independent, premillennial, Bible-believing Baptist that God won’t chastise us because of our backsliding. Our sin is just as rotten in the sight of God as the sin of any people.
Psalm 85 is a song the people are singing. Scripture tells us that during the captivity, these Israelites had hung their harps on the willows. Israel was a singing people, but long before they were in captivity they had lost their song. Sin and idolatry had stolen it away from them. Now after 70 years of living as captive slaves in a strange, pagan land, they’re released and going back to their homeland, and they’re singing and praising God again. What will it take for us to get our song back? Have you lost your song? You can tell a lot about a person by listening to him sing. I believe we live on the level of the music we listen to. How we sing and to whom we sing reveals a lot about our heart and our relationship with God. Look at the Psalm they were singing. Remember they had turned away from God to idols, and now they are returning to their homeland, to their God, and singing once again. Our worship, our praise, our thanksgiving, our singing ought not just be about Him. It ought to be to Him. Whether we be a choir at church or a person singing a solo or a duet from the platform, we ought to be singing to Him, not just entertaining people.
Notice what they were singing, rejoicing over God’s forgiveness of their sin. “Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people,…” The most singing people in the world ought to be fundamental Baptist people who know they’re saved and can shout on purpose instead of having to shout on credit. Most of the shouting religions don’t even know for sure they’re saved, but these folks were singing and rejoicing over God’s forgiveness of their sins. They understood that when God forgives sin, He covers it, blots it out, never to be remembered again. Notice, “… thou hast covered all their sin.” That verse alone ought to be enough to bring revival! However, we’ve gotten to the place, we don’t act like we’ve got sin anymore. We act like we were born holy and we’ve always been holy. God picked me up out of the gutter. If God gave me the best I deserve, it would be Hell. But thank God because of His amazing grace and His redeeming love, the only thing I’ll ever know about Hell is what I read in the Bible. My sin is not only forgiven, but it’s covered, blotted out, never, ever to be remembered again.
They also understood that when God forgives sin, the wrath of God against that sin is taken away. That’s what it says in verse three. “Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.” Do you understand if you’re saved today, the closest thing to Hell you’ll ever know is right here in this life? After this life, it’s Heaven. It’s glory hallelujah time. When sinners are purified, God is pacified.
Look at their song in verse four. “Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.” They understood that when sin is forgiven, God is no longer angry with the sinner.
Now God’s people are praying for revival. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Notice the word again. I’m not a great student. I’m a country boy that’s been transported to the city. I was born on a farm in Myrtle Springs, Texas. I like what the old country preacher said about this. He said, “I know this is for Christians, because you can’t get revived, if you’ve never been vived.” The Psalmist is saying, “The fire is gone out. Would You light the fire again?” Would you stir the soul again?” Let me tell you a simple definition of revival. A revival is simply coming back to the place as a Christian where God can fill you with His Holy Spirit once again. Revival is getting right with God.
We read in Ephesians 5:18 where He tells us, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” But we fail to read the preceding verses where He tells us to get sin out of our life. He even goes so far as to say, “Don’t even let it be mentioned or named among you. Get busy serving God, and redeem the time, and live in the will of God.” Then we can experience the filling of the Holy Spirit. God’s not going to fill us to continue in our backslidden ways. He’s looking for a consecrated vessel, a dedicated vessel, a clean vessel, a useable vessel, an available vessel. There was a time when they were right with God and on fire for God, but idolatry had put out the fire. Worldliness, carnality puts out the fire of God in our lives.
You can throw dirt on a fire, and it will put it out every time. The dirt of sin will put out the fire of revival in your life and in your heart. Sin separates us from God and His blessings. They once served God, but now they were cold and empty, like so many Christians today who used to serve God. Now after captivity, after God dealing with their backslidden heart for all these years, after most dying in captivity, they’ve gotten over their idolatry and gotten right and come back to God. They’re crying out, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” When we backslide we lose our relationship with God. We don’t lose our sonship; we lose our fellowship. We lose our power. We lose His blessings. We lose our usefulness to God.
When we get away from God, we also lose our happiness, our song, our laughter, and our joy. Do you know the reason there is no excitement in the average church today? It’s because there is no joy. We need revival that will put the joy back in our heart. I’m not talking about one of these foolish revivals of laughter that’s going around, that un-Biblical, un-Christian nonsense where they bark like dogs and laugh. No, I’m talking about a joy unspeakable and full of glory that floods our soul, that comes only when God and His Holy Spirit takes the driver’s seat of our life.
I have the privilege of pastoring an exciting church. In 18 years we’ve seen people saved and baptized every week but one Sunday. But yet, I know my people, and I know there are areas in my church where we need revival. I’ve watched some cool off, then it’s not long until I’m counseling marriage problems or children problems. Some are now doing things they once gave up at an altar for God. Others are content now to do nothing, when they used to be faithful servants. Still others are beginning to miss some services. This grieves the pastor and breaks your heart. You see them beginning to slip and you preach your heart out and do everything you know how to stop it, but there is nothing you can do until they fall on their face and cry out, “Oh, God, Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” I suspect even in this Wednesday night crowd, there are some preachers and laymen, some men and women, some Bible college students and some teenagers that need revival down deep in their soul. You’re not what you ought to be. You’re not what you used to be. You’re not what you could be. You go through some motions, but the joy is gone. Oh, may God bring us back to that place where more than bread to eat or air to breathe, we want His presence, His power, His touch, His breath upon our life. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”
Consider some things with me, some false ideas about a God sent revival.
#1. A revival is not something you can schedule on a calender, nor is it something an evangelist can bring with him in his suitcase. It’s not just a series of meetings and sermons. Now sometimes revival comes when that takes place, but not always. Most of the great revivals in history started before the preacher got there because people began to get right with God and began to pray and cry out for God to change their heart and change their life. A revival is a return to the place where the Holy Spirit of God can fill us with His power and take control of our lives again.
By the way, who is in charge of your life, preacherboy? Who is in charge of your life, pastor, evangelist, missionary? Who is running the show in your life, church member? Before God can fill us with His Spirit, we’ve got to give Him charge of our lives once again.
#2. Revivals do not always produce good feelings at first. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Joy does not always come immediately. In the process of revival taking place, God must deal with us about our sin. Because we’re stiff-necked and hard-hearted and rebellious, God has to deal harder and harder.
When I was a boy growing up, Daddy would first say, “Son.” That ought to have been enough. When it ended up, he grabbed me by the arm and took me to the barn and took the lines off the harness and tore my hide up. It hurt. Sometimes God has to tear our hides up before He can get our attention. Revival doesn’t always bring shouting right away. Most of the time it brings weeping and sorrow and grieving over sin. But you see, we don’t grieve over sin anymore because we’re fundamental Baptists. We seem to think it’s not all that bad if I do it. Learn this truth, friend. Sin is not bad because of its name or the number of sins that you commit. Sin is bad because of its nature. It is rebellion against God. It’s rotten and hellish in His sight. Revival doesn’t always come when we want it to come, or the way we want it to come.
Revival is never on man’s terms. It’s always on God’s terms. God has given us instruction in His Word, “This is the way to have revival.” But we seem to have the opposite in mind. “God, You either do it my way or else”. God is not going to compromise one principle of His Word to send revival to our backslidden souls. If we want revival, then we’ve got to come back to God and His Word and seek revival His way. The most popular verse about revival in the Bible is II Chronicles 7:14. “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.” We preach against the NIV’s and the American Standard’s and all of those other perversions of Scripture, and we should. But when we read our King James we change it. We want it to say, “If My people which are called by My name… then I will hear from Heaven and forgive your sins.”
God says, “There are five things My people have to do if I’m going to visit them with a Holy Ghost revival.” Boy, the first one is hard for us fundamental Baptists. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves,…” Most of us have so little humility. If somebody gave us a badge for being humble, we’d gladly wear it. If My people humble themselves.
“…and pray,…” Uh, oh, there’s the killer in the average Baptist church. “…and pray,…” I can get a crowd with a dinner. I can get a good crowd with a conference. But you call a prayer meeting and you have to work hard to get enough to qualify for Jesus’ presence, ‘where two or three are gathered together.’ Someone said, “The crowd on Sunday morning reveals the popularity of the church in its community. The crowd on Sunday night reveals the popularity of the preacher in the church, but the crowd at prayer meeting reveals the popularity of Jesus Christ in our lives.” We want revival, but we want it on a garage sale basis — cheap. We’re just not willing to pay the price. I was in Mexico one time and heard a salesman saying, “Cheap crosses, cheap crosses.” The cross didn’t come cheap, and revival doesn’t come cheap, either.
“…humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face,…” We seek His blessings, but He says, “…seek my face,…” Paul didn’t say, ‘Oh, that I might know your blessings.’ Paul said, “That I may know him…” Seek His face. The world in lust looks at a woman’s body. A man in love looks at the face of his wife. A Christian in love with Jesus wants that face-to-face relationship. Seek My face — a love relationship with Jesus.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways;…” Leave them behind. It’s not just saying what you did wrong, but it’s breaking ties with it. Israel did not get their song back as long as they held on to their idols. It took them 70 years to turn from their wicked idolatry, but now they’re coming back home, singing again to the one true God. “…turn from their wicked ways…”
“…then…” Circle it. Then, not until, “…then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” We’re fighting homosexuality and abortion and un-Biblical unions. We’re preaching and skinning, and we ought to. We want them to turn from their wicked ways, but what sin are you holding on to today that you’re not willing to turn away from? And we want revival? Why should God answer our prayers, when we don’t think our sins are all that bad? We are no different than these backslidden church members who don’t think their sins are all that bad. They have no understanding of the Word of God and evidently we don’t either, or we’d realize how rotten sin is to the sight of God, even our sins, preachers and leaders. “…turn from their wicked ways…”
Realize that a revival requires a return to God. Let me just give three or four things quickly in reference to this.
#1. Revival is a return to Christ as our first love. Now I have to be careful or I’ll get in the flesh over this. I’ve heard right here in this service several cell phones going off. At Dr. Hyles funeral I sat in the auditorium. Three cell phones went off during the funeral, and people pulled them out and answered them, and carried on a conversation in the auditorium during the funeral. We come to church and leave our cell phone clipped on. Let me ask you. If you were going deer hunting, would you climb up in your deer stand with your cell phone on? No, it would scare off the deer. There wouldn’t be a deer within 50 miles of my deer stand. Deer hunting is important enough to turn off your cell phone, right? But you come to church with your cell phone on, and it rings, and you get up and leave church to answer it. You’re not coming to church to meet with God. He’s not first in your life. Somebody is more important than God because we clipped it on our belt and left it on, where we can hear from them. We may never hear from God. I hate those phones. One went off not long ago during the invitation on Sunday morning. I said, “Sir, it’s God telling you that you ought not come to church with that cell phone on.” We talk about wanting a relationship with Him, but we can’t even get through a church service without the phone pulling us away. What’s worse is we leave God to answer some dumb salesman, or some crazy neighbor or friend that’s not even in church. You say, “Preacher, I’m a doctor.” Then put the thing on vibrate. Sit at the back, and when it vibrates, slip out the door before you answer it. I promise you, there is nothing happening in my life or in my church more important than God visiting with me in the midst of a preaching service. We are never going to have revival until we turn that dumb thing off and tune in to God. I’m talking about a return to Christ. I’m also talking about having enough respect for the house of God and the Word of God to turn off your phone for an hour and tune in to what’s going on right here. We’ve left our first love.
I promise you when I got married and got to spend some time with my bride, the phone wasn’t going to interrupt me. If your love relationship with Him is what it ought to be, you’ll make sure the phone doesn’t keep you from Him. If there is going to be a revival, there has got to be a return to our first love. It’s got to be Jesus. It can’t be gadgets. It’s got to be Jesus. It can’t be a fad. Fundamentalists are fools for fads. We forsake the Word of God and the methods of God for the latest fad coming out of California, or somewhere else. Stick with the Book and the methods of God and the programs of God. Revival is a return to Christ as first love.
#2. Revival is a return to the first Book. There are people in our churches who read through the entire newspaper every morning. I promise, if you’ll read through a newspaper, the size of the newspaper in Louisville, it would be nearly equivalent to reading through the New Testament every morning. Let me tell you our sin, we who are fundamental Baptists, the preacher’s sin. We read all the books about the Bible. Now we’ve got all the programs we can put on our little computer, to read all the commentaries and sermons others have preached. Our sin is going to what others say about the Bible and not to God and what He says about the Bible. When we return to our first love, we’ll return to the first Book — the final rule of authority in all matters of faith and practice, the Supreme Court of the Christian life, and there is only one Judge sitting at that bench.
#3. Revival results in a return to the first work. The first work is that of reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we don’t return to Jesus as our first love and return to the Bible as our first Book and return to the first work, that of reaching people with the Gospel, what purpose do we have to exist as a church? Jesus didn’t establish the church so we could have weddings and funerals and baby showers and wedding showers. He established the church and empowered the church and commissioned the church to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. The Great Commission of Jesus Christ tells us that the first work is evangelizing and then baptizing those we win, and teaching those we baptize. We have no right to exist if we haven’t returned to Him as our first love, or if we don’t return to Him as our first love and don’t go to the Book as our first Book and go back to the first work.
Jesus said, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 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 2:4-5) You say, “Preacher, I don’t know what that means.” We major on the first part of it. The first love and the first work, but we forget the “or else” part of it. Revelation 1:20 tells us the the candlestick is the church. I think what He’s saying here if we, as a church, don’t return to Him, if we don’t have revival and return to Jesus as our first love and the Bible as the first Book that we love, and to the first work, He’ll yank our charter. I think there are a lot of churches running around with Baptist church on the name, but they’re not His church. He’s removed His candlestick. Yes, they’re having church so called. They’re meeting. They’re having services, but He’s not the first love. The Bible is not the first Book, and they’re not given to the first work. The need today is for God’s people, not the world, not the infidel and in-for-Hell, but for God’s people to cry out, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Revival is a return to the first love, the first Book, the first work.
#4. Revival is a return to right living which is holy living. Holy living is not extraordinary, but normal for the Christian life. Prayer is a part of revival. If you’re going to have revival, it’s got to start with prayer, not praying for others, but praying for yourself first. Isn’t it easy to pray about someone else’s sins? It’s so easy to kneel at an altar and name every sin old Brother So And-So has. It’s not going to help me.
I was preaching a campmeeting down in Georgia one time. A little old woman came from out of the mountains. Her Bible had a string tied around it because it was just worn out and in pieces. Her husband came with her, and he got right with God that night. He said, “Preacher, I just drew a circle, got in it, and said, “God, the problem with our church is inside this circle. Would You straighten out that sinner inside this circle? Would You forgive me?” If we’re going to have a revival it’s going to be connected with prayer that first turns its attention on our own careless, carnal lives. We need to pray as David prayed in Psalm 51, “Forgive me,” as he prayed in Psalm 139, “Search me,” as David prayed in Psalm 51:2, “Cleanse me.” When true revival comes, God’s people will not only want forgiveness, they’ll want cleansing from their sins. Most of us just want God to forgive us as we go on in our wickedness. Cleansing washes it from us. How can dirty Christians have fellowship with a holy God? To walk with God there has got to be agreement, and the first thing we’ve got to agree on is sin. The first thing a sinner and God have got to agree on in the matter of salvation is sin. We’ve got to know that we’ve been cleansed by the blood of Christ first and foremost. This brings forgiveness of our sin and covers our sin in God’s sight.
Secondly, there needs to be the kind of cleansing that we do when we clean up our old rotten life, the dirty corners, instead of kicking it under the rug. Get it out of the house. Clean up. Turn from their wicked ways. We can’t ignore our sin and have revival.
Revival will result in a desire for God to use me. “…Here am I; send me.”
There are some visions we need on the road to revival. I’m not talking about this spooky, charismatic vision type stuff. I’m talking about the Bible type where it says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish:…” (Proverbs 29:18) The Biblical interpretation of that verse is this: Where there is no divine revelation from God, the people perish. We need some understanding from the Book. We need to see things once again through God’s eyes, through the Bible picture that He paints for us. As Bible believers there is one fundamental rule. We don’t go to Hollywood for our Bible knowledge. We go to the Book. Now I’m grateful when God will use anything to get somebody saved or get them interested in salvation.
I had a phone call last week from a person that got saved 20 years ago in our ministry but had never really done anything with their life. They said, “Preacher, we’re in this church that took us all to see that movie, ‘The Passion of Christ.’ I was amazed because when I got saved, you painted the picture of Calvary in more vivid details than they showed it.” Where do you get the understanding of what Calvary was like? Not from Hollywood, not from a Catholic, but from the Book that paints the complete picture and tells the complete story. There are some visions we need on the road to revival. The first one is the vision of the crucified and exalted Christ. Yes, He came. Yes, He died. Yes, He was buried and yes, thank God, He arose again, but it didn’t stop there. Before He came down here in the form of a man, He was God. He was God eternal and God holy and God everlasting from that way in eternity to that way in eternity, everlasting.
Now then, He’s in Heaven. He ascended back to the Father and the vision we ought to have of Him is painted by John in Revelation 5:6. “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” Seated at the right hand of God, the King of glory, God eternal, holy, holy, holy, God because of us is now in the form of a man that’s been crucified. He appears as a bloody Lamb that’s been to the slaughter. Did it ever occur to you that the only man made thing that I know that’s going to be in Heaven are the scars in His hands and feet and brow and side? We need a vision of Christ exalted. Angels fall down before Him. Seraphims and Cherubims stand amazed in His presence with their face covered, and we treat Him so carelessly and flippantly. He never died for them, never gave one penny for them, but He took on our form and came down to this old wicked world and died in our place and endured the wrath of God against our sin in His own holy person, so you and I wouldn’t have to go to Hell. We need a vision of Christ exalted, high and lifted up, as that Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
We need a vision of sinners perishing in the lake of fire. Yes, we believe in Hell, but we don’t live like it. We don’t act like it. We don’t preach like it.
I was in a lawyer’s office one day and he leaned across the desk and said, “Preacher, what ever happened to Hell?”
I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “Nobody ever preaches about it.”
I said, “Let me tell you what’s happened to it. The Bible says, ‘Therefore hell hath enlarged herself,…’ (Isaiah 5:14) There are more people going there every day, but we don’t preach about it. It’s not politically correct anymore.” John, once he got a glimpse in Revelation of that lake of fire, was never the same again. We need an understanding, a Bible vision of sinners perishing in Hell forever and ever and ever. Most everything we know about Hell came from the lips of Jesus Himself. Jesus said in Mark 9 that if your hand offends you, if your hand keeps you from getting saved and causes you to go to Hell, you’d be better off to cut off your hand and go through life with one hand maimed than go to Hell where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. If your foot offends you, if your foot hinders you from getting saved and living for God, you’d be better off to take an ax and cut off your foot and go through life lame and hobbled, rather than going to Hell with two feet, where the fire is never quenched and the worm never dies. Then He said that if your eye offends you, if your eye keeps you from getting saved, you’d be better off stick your fingers in the socket and tear your eye out and throw it to the ground and go through life with one eye and get saved, rather than go to Hell with two eyes, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. Yet, we’re coming to the place where we’re following the lead of the liberal Baptists that are taking the fire out of Hell, and now it’s just separation from God. Friend, we need a vision of the lake of fire and lost sinners perishing in Hell.
Lastly, we need a vision of a church that’s empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, a revived church. You say, “Where do I get that vision?” Acts 2 lets us know that it was a powerful church, where souls were won daily. Acts 4, it was a church in unity and unselfish in their giving. Acts 13, it was a church were men were being called out to the ministry. Does that describe your church? A church on fire with the power of God, a church where souls are getting saved daily, a church in unity that is unselfish and sacrificial in its giving, a church where men are being called out to preach the Gospel and go as missionaries, or is it a church that just meets? It had a lot of cell phones go off, but God never shows up. No longer are there wet spots at the altar from the tears of God’s people. You seldom have to worry about the baptistry heater burning out because you don’t ever use it. You don’t have to worry about repainting because there are not enough coming to church to make hand marks on the wall, or wear out the pews. Folks, it doesn’t have to be that way, if we’d come back to Him. Churches don’t have to be dead and dried up and sour-pussed.
“Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Boy, it’s wonderful when God shows up. It’s wonderful when people weep their way back into His fellowship. It’s wonderful when husbands and wives are getting right with each other and committing to raise their families for God. It’s wonderful when adults as well as children are making their way to the baptistry to get ready for baptism because they got saved. It’s wonderful when 10 and 15 and 20 and 30 young men and young ladies are surrendering their lives to God for His special use every year. It’s wonderful. It can happen, but not until God shows up. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Rejoice in Thee, not in things. Rejoice in Him. It’s about Him, not us. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”