Date: December 7, 2008
Bible Text: Isaiah 64:1-2 | Roger Voegtlin
Series: Transcribed Sermons
I’ve used Charles Finney’s definition of revival several times. I’ll read it again to you now. “Revival is nothing less than a new beginning of obedience to God. Just as in the case of a converted sinner, the first step is a deep repentance, a breaking down of the heart, a getting down in the dust before God with a deep humility and forsaking of sin.” Again, revival is humility. We don’t have much of that. We want to defend ourselves, defend ourselves, defend ourselves. We can make a complete mess of our lives and our family’s lives, and everybody around us. Revival is divine intervention in the normal course of spiritual things. There’s a change. It is man retiring into the background because God has taken the field. It is our getting out of the way. It is the Lord making bare His holy arm, as the Bible says, and working in an extraordinary way.
The first point is, we need revival. There has never been a time when serious Christians did not have a heart cry for revival. Even in the midst of moral and spiritual darkness, there have always been the faithful ones whose cry has been what we read here in Isaiah 64:1 and 2, “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!”
In our day, I really see no hope outside of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to this earth or a mighty spiritual awakening. Our churches, which should be proclaiming the great need for clean living and power among Christians and salvation among the unsaved, seem totally inadequate to meet the need. In general, the lives of those who claim Christ do not differ to a great extent from those around us. I’m sure you work with people who say they are saved. But they drink, they divorce, they go to movie shows, and they are really pleased with themselves that they go to church once a week. Are they saved? Maybe so. But they are not touching the world.
And even we, who say we are different, many times have the same fears, the same problems, express the same doubts, feel the same uncertainty of the unsaved. The peace of God and joy in the Lord are not really evident. The dynamic power of the Holy Spirit is not apprehended by most Christians. There seems to be a moral and a spiritual inadequacy to face the challenges. If there is to be a revival of spiritual life and power, it has to start in the life of an individual. It has to start with you. There’s a great need for personal searching in our hearts.
Sin is spoiling the lives of Christians. Sin. It has to be judged. It’s got to be hated. We can’t be making excuses. Where is the reality? Where is the seriousness? Moms and dads pray, “Oh, God, that my children might grow up to live for You.” But what about you? They won’t without you. Selfishness, which is robbing Christ of the love and devotion He is due, has to be confessed and done away with. Don’t make excuses for selfishness. Ambitions and desires which are hindering the work of God have to be uprooted and thrown out.
A renewal of blessing is dependent on the restoration of communion with God. We must walk with God. It must be real. I believe some of us are praying for and longing for revival in God’s work. But things in general have to change if we are to see a widespread work of God. We need to stop wanting to “look like” Bible-believing Christians and instead, long for reality. We have our programs. We have our Sunday School classes. We have our curriculum. We have our youth groups. We have our Christian school. All is fine and good. But we should never be satisfied without transformed lives. We should never be satisfied without Spirit-filled witnessing. Our church should see lives changed. The result of our services should mean more than somebody saying, “Yes, I guess I’d better do something about it. I’ll walk down to the altar, and I’ll talk to God for a minute. And I’ll walk out, and within a day or two or three, I’ll forget that I ever made a decision.”
I hope we’re looking toward our Preaching Conference. The shame is some people won’t even take time to make it to all the services. We should not only want to be there, but be begging God even now that some great work might be done in our lives. Many times we pray for special meetings, and we pray for the preacher. We pray that people, in general, will be touched when it is us we should be interested in. There’s nothing selfish about saying, “I need to be right with God that I might be the Christian I should be.”
We should be sound in our doctrine, of course. But the Bible’s purpose is nothing less than a transformation of lives. Preachers are not relating God’s Word to people’s lives. They are not showing the demands of God. And when they do, the people in the pew take them as merely suggestions. Many Christians today have to have their television. People will say, “Well, all I do is watch sports.” Even the world was shocked at what happened at the Super Bowl, and not just what Janet Jackson did. The filthy commercials! “All I do is look at sports.” Christians say they believe in their local church, but they’ll bow out any time they can find an excuse—some company retreat or something—anything to get away. Christians are hooked on silly games and worldly plays and programs. We wonder why our children are drawn to the world when we are so in tune with it.
To look successful in our Christian service we use the almighty dollar. Now, you know I believe in the bus ministry. People might say, “You gimmick.” Yes, we gimmick. I believe it’s a tool God has given us. I believe God has given us Bluebird buses to go out and bring people in that they might get saved. I’ve always said that if you disagree, I’m not going to argue with you. You’re just wrong. But it has come to the place where many use money to create the illusion of spiritual success. God is not “needed” in many ministries. All we need is high-pressure salesmanship. Of course, prayer is offered and there is a sermon. But “success” comes from a personality parade. “Success “comes from ignoring sin. “Success” comes from people getting “saved” who absolutely don’t know what they are doing. They are “saved.” They are “baptized.” They are “added to the church,” and they don’t know anything. If we were the typical Baptist church, our membership would be something like 10,000, maybe 15,000. Churches that run 250 or 300 say they have 5,000 members. But there is so little energized prayer. There is so little authoritative preaching. There is so little dependence on God, and I guess I would say, so little belief in God.
In our church we have so many who believe in soulwinning but haven’t lifted a finger to win a soul to Jesus Christ in months and maybe years. People call it soulwinning when they argue religion at work! We have people in our church who say they believe in giving, but they would never, ever step out on a limb and honestly say, “God, let me know what You want me to give, and I’ll give it.” People believe in the Bible family but don’t have it. Something is wrong. Something is wrong with God, or something is wrong with us. You tell me. We have too many people who believe in peace and joy but don’t have it.
I read of a guy who was praying with friends for revival. Week after week, month after month. And finally, just in the middle of prayer, he stood up and said, “This is just so much trash.” He said, “Brethren, we’re waiting night after night, but I must ask myself, ‘Am I right with God?’” Do you see what he was saying? We can go through all this religious rigmarole, and in this case praying for months every night for revival. But we’ve got to ask ourselves, “Are we honestly right with Him? Are my hands clean?” Revival must be related to true holiness.
Second point. Any Christian who wants to can experience a radical, spiritual resurgence independent of all Christians around them. Anybody. Are you listening to me? It’s you. I’m going to end this message with an outline that anyone can, not only understand, but carry out. I have ten simple points that are not original with me.
First, get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself. We have our preconceived ideas, and so do you. That’s why I can preach, and preach, and pray, and pray. And you can “Amen” and smile and be proud of your church—and still lose your kids and not see souls saved and not see the blessings that you ought to see. Something is wrong. Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself. That is the first step toward revival. Complacency is the enemy of spiritual progress. The contented soul is the stagnant soul. When speaking about earthly things, the Apostle Paul could say, “I have learned to be content.” When he slept in the jailhouse, “I’ve learned to be content.” But when referring to spiritual life, he testified, “I press toward the mark.” What a difference. Get thoroughly dissatisfied. Are you satisfied? Do you really think you are a pretty good Christian? I sure don’t think I am.
Second, set your face like a flint toward sweeping transformation, not just little change, but sweeping transformation. Timid experimenters are tagged for failure before they even start. We must throw our whole life into a desire for God. The Bible says, “...the violent take it by force...” I heard about some of our teenage girls reading so-called “Christian” love stories, novels. Mom and Dad, you say, “How could that happen?” You. That’s the only way it can happen. We just seem to think if we have our devotions, have a little family time, go to a good church, and put them in a good school, everything will be okay. “The violent take it by force.” You should know everything that is in their bedroom. You should know everything that they are doing. You. “Train up a child in the way he should go...” You, mother and father. Get serious.
Third, do the simple things to put yourself in the way of blessing. The reality of God is not some magic act that comes upon us. Again, that’s what I believe people think. They think if they come down and say, “God, I know I need to do this...,” everything is going to go, “poof!” No, no, no. You’re just confessing sin. You are saying what you need to do. Now do it! When your girl is reading that kind of book, it shows a complete breakdown of your authority in the home. It’s you. Again, we’re not talking about a magic act. You make a decision and say, “Oh, thank you, God, for speaking to me, showing me that I’m not the soulwinner I should be,” or, “I should get this out of my life.” Then you go home and you make sure it happens. Do the simple things. Put yourself in the way of blessing. There are plain paths. They are marked out in the Bible. Get on the path, and walk in it. Isn’t it simple? You say, “You preach on the same thing all the time. You preach on soulwinning. You preach on being clean. You preach on tithing. You preach on rearing kids. You preach on having a good marriage.” I’m told Spurgeon had 15 subjects. It’s plain. It’s simple. Don’t complicate things.
Four. Do a good job of repenting. Don’t hurry to get it over with. Quick repentance results in shallow spiritual experiences. God smites you at the altar. I can think of times in my life where God smote me. I guess, humanly speaking, you want to get it over with. Let godly sorrow do her work. Until we allow the consciousness of sin to wound us, we’ll never develop a real fear of it. It’s our wicked habit of tolerating sin that keeps us in a half-dead condition. We can’t help our children if we’re not right ourselves. I’m convinced that is why people get so concerned when their kids embarrass them. When that happens, I always say, “That’s great. We know what’s happening. Let’s get with it.” I can honestly say, when my kids got in trouble, I wanted to know what they were doing wrong so I could deal with it. I knew they were not angels. Don’t cover your problems. Don’t cover your children’s problems. Don’t worry if I know about it. Don’t worry if anybody knows about it. Who cares? We’re so proud. We’re so worried about what people think.
Five. Make restitution when possible. If you owe a debt, pay it. If you owe money, go to that person. I’m not talking about making payments and you know I think you shouldn’t be making credit card purchases you can’t pay for. If you can’t pay a bill, make a very real commitment saying, “I will pay it on this day. It will be paid by this time.” If you don’t do that, you are in sin. If you have hard feelings with someone, make it right. The most touchy person is usually the most prickly person. If you have hard feelings with somebody, go as far as you honestly can to achieve reconciliation. Make the crooked ways straight.
Six. Truly examine yourself while reading the Bible and in prayer. Read the Sermon on the Mount and apply it. Are you in accord with the Sermon on the Mount? Get in the Bible! An honest man or woman will honestly look for what God wants them to do. They get in the Bible, they read the Bible, and they pray, “God, show me my sin.” They’ve got a paper and pencil. That makes you serious. You write those things down. But we want our sin. We want to be able to say, “Joe Blow wronged me. He’s wrong, and I’m not going to talk to him until he apologizes. He didn’t treat me right.” We want to be a failure. I understand that you can’t make reconciliation with everybody every time, because they won’t allow it. But go as far as you can.
Seven. Be serious-minded. There are so many things that draw people away from God. Computers, and the internet, and access to pornography. It was amazing the first time I preached on that. But what about chat rooms? There is so much adultery going on through the internet. I don’t know exactly what chat rooms are except you get in and gossip. You get in and listen to lies. The internet has made it possible for people to spread lies and wickedness. You better watch yourselves. Just the idea of playing on the computer, I believe, is wrong. But whether you watch TV or listen to the radio, there’s not much there that uplifts your life.
Even conservative shows get filthy dirty sometimes. Rush Limbaugh can get filthy dirty sometimes. They like to drag you through the mud. I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to the radio, but I’m saying we better watch ourselves. People of the world used to go to the movie show for a few hours to escape serious thinking. Now many Christians, if not most, live that way for most of their waking hours. No serious thinking. Chat rooms, internet, Rush Limbaugh—who knows what? Anything but to think seriously. The devil’s ideals and moral standards are being accepted without our knowing it. Your climate is not favorable to spiritual growth. There has to be a radical change in your habits or these will just destroy you, and you’ll never have permanent change in your life.
Eight. Deliberately narrow your interests. A jack-of-all-trades is the master of none. The weakest time of my life happened about 15 years ago. When I entered the ministry I was a “workaholic.” I’m not saying you should be, but I liked to work. And then, Sharon calls it my “mid-life crisis,” all of a sudden, I had to learn to sail. I had to learn to ski. I had to climb mountains. I had to bungee. There’s nothing wrong with climbing mountains. I would encourage you to climb a mountain every once in a while. I’ve taken the men mountain climbing. I’m not saying it’s wrong to climb mountains. But the point is, all of a sudden I was climbing mountains, sailing, skiing—and it pulled my mind from spiritual things, and I became very weak spiritually.
Giving your life completely over to God seems to be “dying” to the unsaved, and it did to me 40 years ago. But when we give ourselves up to Him, we learn to pray. We learn the Bible. Wisdom will come, along with power and even miracles. God will manifest Himself in our life, in our family, in our church. Try it. Again, I’m not saying that it is wrong for you to ski. I’m saying, unclutter your life. There’s a need for relaxation every once in a while. There’s a need for a vacation every once in a while. But do you understand the basis of this message? What I’m saying is we’re on the computer, we’re in the chat rooms, we’re running here, we’re running there, and we don’t have a serious thought go through our mind. Even when we come to church, it’s so cluttered, we come and go and it’s like we weren’t even there.
Nine. Begin to witness in a stronger, more consistent way. Get to the place where you put these things to work. Make yourself available to do anything that is needed, and don’t desire to be in a leadership position. Learn to obey. Take the low place until God sets you in a higher one. Truly find out what God wants you to give. Truly, honestly win souls. Truly, honestly work for God. Truly, honestly give Him what He wants.
And then, ten, have faith in God. Begin to expect, and God will not disappoint you. If you wait in faith, God will not disappoint you. Isn’t it simple? You follow this plan, and you will experience revival in your own heart. But isn’t it sad that as simple as it is, most don’t want it. It’s not that it is hard. Most don’t want it or don’t want it enough. But if you want revival, determine to begin the process today, and who knows how far it will spread?