Rejecting Revival (Why We Don’t Have Revival)

Rejecting Revival
Robert Wurtz II

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 55:6–8 KJV)

The old timers used to say, “Be careful that you don’t miss God!” It was a way of reminding people that God moves in His own timing, and we must be sensitive to His dealings. He is a sovereign God; which is a way of saying that He is all-powerful and can perform His will at will. He doesn’t need permission from anyone — though He often moves in response to prayer.     

Our passage in Isaiah 55 has a clear context wherein God is dealing with His people by His grace to bring about His purposes with them. However, there is a timeless truth here that we do well to grasp. Isaiah admonishes us to seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. The repeated key word is “while.” The implication is that God draws near at unique times bringing opportunity to restore or establish a meaningful and experiential relationship with Him. People become, “God conscious.” Some simply say that there is an “awareness of God.” This means we are suddenly aware that God is near and dealing with us.  

Once we know that God is near, we must respond to His dealings. He has created us in such a way that we know (on the inside) when this is happening. Theologians sometimes call this faculty an “a priori” knowledge of God. When God comes near we become conscious of our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness. There are a number of times when God was moving in the book of Acts, and it was said that “fear” came upon the people and that they walked “in the fear of God.” When the Holy Spirit healed and delivered people it was said that “great joy” was in that city. When God is near both the fear of the Lord, and the joy of the Lord can coexist without contradiction. 

God works to change our minds to agree with Him and His ways. God and man cannot walk together unless they are in agreement. (Amos 3:3) This is axiomatic.  Individuals must turn away from their wicked and unrighteous ways and acknowledge their sins. In other words, they must return unto the LORD. If a person is willing to do these things’ God will have mercy upon him (…) for He will abundantly pardon. 

Missing the Day of Visitation

There are times when God visits people sovereignly. We have to be ready to respond to God when He decides to move… not the other way around. Notice again, Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. God initiates contact. There may have been many prayers going up to ask for God to come near, but it is always God’s sovereign choice to move.

For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:43–44 NKJV)

The destruction of Jerusalem came roughly 40 years after this prophecy as the terrible consequence of the unbelieving Jews rejecting Jesus. He came for a “visitation” — from the Greek episkopos meaning “to look over” or “examine.” John the Baptist came to make straight the path for Jesus through the preaching of repentance. Most refused to cooperate with what God was doing; that is, to repent and turn to Christ.  

It is one thing to recognize what happened to Jerusalem, but it is quite another to see ourselves in Luke 19:43-44. When God decides to come near, who can say whether He will move in that way again? The book of Hebrews warns us that if we hear His voice, we must not harden our hearts. We cannot risk passing up an opportunity to seek the Lord during the times of His unique visitation. 

This is not to say that we cannot go on preaching the Gospel and God will honor His word; but there are unique times when God visits people with what some have called “revival” and they must respond. 

Danger During Revival

Sometimes God moves on an individual level, or He will move among churches. He may even bring revival to an entire nation. The time would fail to tell of the first and second great awakening when God moved wonderfully. Every moving of God has a purpose. Only God knows all the reasons why He sends revival. However, we can rest assured that if we miss God’s visitation, there will be serious consequences. This is true for nations and for churches. For example, some suggest that John Wesley’s preaching and the revival that came to England in those days helped avert the revolution that took place in France. What if England had missed her visitation? 

For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another. (Isaiah 48:11 KJV)

When God begins to move, the enemy springs into action. He uses all kinds of means to stop a revival. This is a primary reason why we see so little revival in our times. Either men are worried about who is going to “get the credit” for what God is doing; or they try to use revival to promote themselves or “their ministry.” That is how utterly corrupt things are in our times. What did God say? For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it.   

Carnal people are a great hindrance to revival. Pastors fear how their congregations will respond if God chose to use some other person other than them to speak to the people. Church members sometimes view revival as God’s approval of a minister and may seek to replace the former pastor. These are the types of reasons why God and churches are often at an impasse. Politics is one of the primary reasons churches have lost out with God in modern times. Leaders and carnal church members simply refuse to get out of God’s way.

Sometimes the church members seek God in repentance… but the leaders remain in carnality. In fact, “spiritual leaders” are often the last people on earth to repent. They are determined to keep up appearances (to make things look all right whether they are or not). Again, this is often because of politics. No minister wants to give people ammunition that can be used against them at election time — so they cover their sins and carnality. This is quite different than men like Daniel who would cry out to God on behalf of the people and number himself among those who need revival. 

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. (Daniel 9:4-6)

If we only had Daniel for an example. we would conclude that ministers ought to be the first in line to repent when God visits His people. The very desire to seek the Lord comes from God. It is Him initiating a visitation. This is different than people who attempt to manufacture revivals. What is worse is that we have suffered a complete “redefining” of revival. What happens? People are keen on prophecy and healing revivals… and if a few people repent it is called success. The healing revival emphasis has been going on in America since the 1950s. None now live who know what a “book of Acts” revival looks like. Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994), author of Why Revival Tarries, often lamented the absence of genuine revival in the English-speaking world.   

Eugene Bartlett, author of the Gospel hymn, Victory in Jesus, penned the famous line: 

“I heard about His healing… 
of His cleaning power revealing… 
how He made the lame to walk again 
and caused the blind to see. 
Then I cried dear Jesus 
come and heal my broken spirit… 
and somehow Jesus came and brought 
to me the victory.” 

At the time of this writing Bartlett was paralyzed over half his body from the stroke that would soon take his life. I have to ask, with our nation going down the toilet; with our churches cold and carnal; do we really need a healing revival? Do we really need a personal prophesy revival? Do we need a prosperity revival? What did God say? Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. This is what God is after. Unfortunately, for Israel, they rejected God’s dealings until there was no hope. I’m reminded of the sobering passage:

Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more, according to all the abominations of the nations, and defiled the house of the LORD which He had consecrated in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:14-16)

What happened? The leadership and the people continued on in their sin — making excuses — listening to the ones who “healed the wound of the daughter of my people slightly” — mocking the ministers and prophets who had the voice of God truly in their mouths. The crowd would celebrate the compromisers, but reject people who preached the truth. Sound like today? Indeed, it does. Nevertheless, who can say what God will do? If perchance He moves again to grace us with revival, may we be swift to respond, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 

A Ready Mind (episkopos: feeding the flock)

A Ready Mind
Robert Wurtz II

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter 5:1–4 KJV)

Our passage takes us back to some of the final words of the Lord Jesus in John’s Gospel, who in restoring Peter after His great fall, charged  him with the care of His flock. The flock is made up of saints (sheep and lambs) at whatever stage of spiritual growth they are found in. In fact, Jesus basically told Peter that if He truly loved Him and wanted to demonstrate the fact, he would look after the sheep and lambs He was entrusting him with. 

Peter reminds us that the will of God for him in taking care of the flock is the same for all who function in that capacity. In that way one could insert their name into John chapter 21 and hear the Lord ask, “do you love me?” and the follow up remarks, “if you do then you will feed and tend my flock.” In 1 Peter 5:2 we read, Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof. Feed, here, could be better rendered “tend” the flock. For ages it has been the pattern of shepherds to lead their flocks into grazing lands that are safe and well suited for grazing. Psalm 23 comes to mind. The Great Shepherd prepares the “table” even in the presence of enemies. Peter is telling the elders who labor in the word of God to do the same thing. They are to prayerfully labor in the scriptures to provide sustenance for the people — but more importantly lead them in the areas of biblical emphasis necessary to keep them growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

Second, Peter says taking the oversight thereof. This simply means “to watch over.” The Greek word for “oversight” is episkopos epi (over) skopos (look or watch). If we pray for the Lord to “watch over” us and our families, what do we mean by that? We are asking the Lord to guard and protect us. The elders are charged with watching over the saints. But there is more. Peter adds, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. In other words, don’t do the job like a hireling who would rather be doing something else but feels stuck doing it. If a person has to force themselves to prepare sermons and watch over the saints they definitely have not been called to the ministry. 

Moreover, if they only preach if they are likely to be paid they are definitely not a shepherd (pastor). Why? Because they don’t have a shepherds heart. A shepherd does not need to be compelled or constrained, but they do the job willingly. In fact, the Greek word for “willingly” is hekousios and it could be translated as “voluntarily” or “because you greatly want to.” It is a word only used here and in Hebrews 10:26… “If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge…” Peter then qualifies his remarks, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. God has ordained that all who labor in the word should live of the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:7-11 is one of several places in the New Testament that address this fact. Unfortunately, a piano player is ten times more likely in 2015 to receive of the Gospel than a Bible teacher. It would be fraud to do such a thing in the world (James 5:4). How much more in the churches of God? Nevertheless, a true shepherd will do their job in spite of this fact and as unto the Lord. They don’t labor among the flock for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.

The most challenging of all things that Peter stated is, Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. The responsibility of all shepherds is to point the people to Jesus Christ. They are to disciple them to Him — not themselves and not a “ministry.” My sheep hear my voice and they follow me, said Jesus. Peter warns the elders not to usurp the Lord’s place in the peoples’ lives. It is of Satan to want to sit in God’s seat in the midst of the congregation — yet men do it and preach it and write books on how to do it. Amazing! Rather, the elder is called to be an example of how to follow Christ, the Great Shepherd. Can you see the contrast? Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. Don’t Lord over people… lead them by example. It’s not enough to say it, it has to be done in reality. Actions and words have to match.

For those willing to obey this pattern we have this promise, And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. In other words, don’t look for your reward here on earth. The world rewards with carnal possessions, popularity, and pleasure. These must not be our reward. If one is pursuing these things, one is in the wrong line of work. Worldly rewards are fading away. They are temporal. The rust and moth may corrupt the worldly rewards of those who labor for filthy lucre; but for those who work voluntarily, willingly, and of a ready mind there is the promise of a reward that will never fade away.     

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