04 Oct 10/4/18 “True Revival Has a Cost”
I have to be honest with you this evening. I am actually a little intimidated, believe it or not. I used to watch videos of Al Whittinghill and Keith Daniel and Glenn Sheppard many, many years ago, a decade ago. And Al, I think you’re quoted in a book I wrote, and you said, “The church is dying on her feet because she’s not living on her knees,” and it changed the course my prayer life many, many years ago. I put that book down, and I wept. We need the power of God back in our lives.
I will tell you as a living witness that God will take the least likely. If you don’t think He can do anything with your life, let me remind you I was just born right over that hill. I grew up here, an alcoholic, barely graduated high school, no seminary degree—and you can beat yourself up [for those kinds of things]. But I stumbled upon a book (I actually read a lot of books, old books), and it really brought a lot of comfort, because when I was praying about being a pastor and just taking it to the Lord, I read a book, and it said this: Many years ago, 150 years ago, when they were calling a new pastor, they would not—in many cases, of course there are exceptions—they would not ask where he went to seminary. They would not ask what type of degree he has. The main question was: Has he received his baptism of fire? And that’s what I sought with all my heart, with all my strength, and all my soul—the heartbeat of revival. I believe that God is raising up people.
The topic I’m going to talk to you about tonight is genuine revival. What is genuine revival? The irony of conferences like this, of revival conferences, the conference itself—and I think Greg would agree—is not necessarily a revival. What you’re doing is like a farmer—you’re plowing the field, you’re preparing the hearts, you’re getting Christians ready for the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. And you have to till the soil. I used to run heavy equipment, and I would rent a large John Deere backhoe or excavator, and I would tear up the ground. I would tear up the soil. In order for something to be built, you have to tear up that soil. That’s what these types of conferences are for.
But what is genuine revival? We need to talk about that for a minute. It was said many times today throughout the day, but I want to remind you that revival is God reviving His people. It’s God reviving. I love evangelism. I love people coming to know the Lord. I love people repenting. But that’s not revival often; that’s an outworking of revival. Revival is “[God,] wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Ps. 85:6 KJV). God is reviving His people, and what happens when He revives His people is there is a revival of truth, of holiness, of these things we don’t want to talk about anymore but are pivotal to the Christian faith. There’s a revival of truth, a revival of holiness, a revival of brokenness and humility.
So I want to just throw out a few things to you tonight that you can think about. I want you to take this test—and be honest with yourself and with God because He knows. Is worship dry and lifeless to you? Are you just giving God lip service but there’s no heart engagement? Is there restlessness, is there looking and searching but not finding? And you know there’s something wrong, something more, but you can’t quite put your finger on it—the Bible is not living and active, it’s dead and boring [to you]. The Bible is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword. The problem is never with the Word of God. The problem is never with God. The problem is within the human heart. We have to look within.
Isaiah 64:1, I love this verse. Many of you know it.
Oh, that You would rend the heavens!
That You would come down!
I love that verse because it’s talking about “would You rend”—do you know what he is saying? He’s saying, “Would You rip heaven open?” My God, we need to rip heaven open. There needs to be a desperation. There needs to be a downpour of God’s Spirit. We need to pray like the prophets: Would You rend the heavens? Would You come down? And when God comes down, like the brother just prayed, there is a burning fire. The prophets said, “I have this fire in my heart, like a burning fire. I’m weary of holding it back, and I cannot.” Why? Because I have been set on fire by the living God, and that fire cannot be contained. It must go out. It must burn, not physically but spiritually burn in the hearts of others.
And you want to see revival. You want to see God being honored again. That’s one thing that I have a concern with—the direction of our nation. God is mocked, and that’s not a good spot to be. Whatever a man sows, he will reap. We need revival. We need renewing. We need restoration. Isaiah 57:15 (NIV):
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy.
Remember that. God’s number one attribute throughout the Bible is not love, its holiness. We should walk in here with fear and trepidation, being in the holy presence of God. Even the angels cry, “Holy, holy, holy.” Isaiah said, “I’m a man of unclean lips. I dwell among a people that are unclean as well, and I saw the train of His robe. It filled the entire temple.” And as he spoke, the angel said, “Holy, holy, holy,” and that temple began to shake. The presence and the power of God will come down in that place. That is revival.
But there has to be a desperation. God says:
I live in a high and holy place,
but also with those who have a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
to revive the heart of the contrite. (v. 15)
“I will revive the brokenhearted. I will restore the humble. Those who humble themselves in My presence, I will lift them up, I will exalt them. But if you exalt yourself, I will abase you.” Be careful, Christian, this can creep in in our lives. Worship team, pastoring, preaching—be careful. Is it about self-exaltation? Because God’s not in any of that. He’s in humility and in brokenness. He’ll revive that person. “Wilt thou not revive us again?”
I can’t imagine going through life without the heavens not opening. Could you imagine? Could you imagine being a Christian and knowing nothing of the presence and power of God? Folks, that’s in the majority of our churches. That’s why church attendance now on a national level is maybe once or twice a month. See, I remember when the church prayed. I remember when we weren’t in a hurry. I remember when people weren’t saying, “What time are you over?”; they’d say, “How long are we going?”—because of that revival fire. When the fire of God is in you, you can’t shut up. You’re not in a hurry. You want to be with God, not Netflix. You want to be with God, not Facebook, not social media. God is that all-consuming fire.
I tell people, and I’ll tell you tonight. Many of you have heard this who attend here. The hardest part about pastoring, the hardest job for me (ask my wife) is not memorial services—although they’re difficult—not counseling, not seeing families broken up. Those are all difficult. But the hardest thing is for me to see people dying spiritually with living water just steps away: “Here’s the living water.” You can’t force it in their mouth, but here’s the living water. Would you take of it and drink? Would you take a drink? Here’s the living water. The all-consuming God will indwell you, and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit will overtake you, and He shall come upon you.
Interesting, you scholars know that word upon is epi in the Greek. It’s an overwhelming, it’s a coming upon, like bubbling over. That’s what people need. They need the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The downpour nourishes, it restores, it replenishes, it revives, it makes alive. That’s what revival does. It awakens those are sleeping spiritually. I don’t remember who said it earlier, but that was so true—I was going to note it—but somebody who came up here said (Dan, I think it was you quoting somebody), quoting Spurgeon actually, and they said, “What is so exhausting is preaching to a dead church.”
Now let me clarify upfront that this church is on fire for God. There are so many people here that are on fire for God, and I love pastoring and leading a church that is like that. But it’s sheer exhaustion when you try to preach to a dead church. You might as well preach to a corpse. God has to awaken that person.
So I’m just to cover a few things. What is genuine revival?
- Genuine revival begins with desperation.
Well, genuine revival begins with desperation. Here’s where it begins. “Oh, that You would…” What? “rend the heavens.” See, desperation changes the way we act. When you’re desperate you change the way you act.
Many of you know I have a background in health and nutrition, and it’s amazing how many people change their diets as soon as they’re in desperation. The doctor’s report, the phone call. Oh, now I’ll change. Now I’m desperate. How much more for God? And that’s really what I’m trying to do. I believe personal revival is where we’re going to get national revival or corporate revival. It starts with us. It starts in the house. Like, David, you said it perfectly: “If My people…If My people, not the next Supreme Court justice, not the next president. If My people humble themselves, I’ll honor them. I’ll see their humility.”
So there has to be a desperation. And here’s what happens. We want numbers, but God wants desperation. We want big, but God wants desperation. God’s looking at the heart. William Booth, who was quoted earlier, said this:
Thou Christ, of burning, cleansing flame,
Send the fire!
Thy blood-bought gift today we claim,
Send the fire!
Look down and see this waiting host,
Give us the promised Holy Ghost.
There’s a desperation. It’s soul-searching. It’s heart wrenching. Desperation doesn’t come easy. It’s not the mind saying, “Yeah, that’s a good point, Shane.” It’s the body acting it out saying, “God, I am so desperate for you.” I want to bring back the old truths of fasting and holiness and prayer. You might wear grooves in your hardwood floor like some of the old Methodist circuit riders. They would just wait on God. There was a desperation, basically saying, “If You don’t move, we are lost. If You don’t move, we’re desperate. God, I’m so desperate for You.” Anybody desperate? Desperate for God to change your children or your grandchildren or your spouse? Desperation changes everything.
So in the revival of the heart, desperation must be first and foremost. “How long, oh Lord?” needs to be your heart cry.
- Genuine revival is genuine power.
This is a good reminder. Genuine revival always brings genuine power. Now why would I even talk about this? Because there’s a lot of phony baloney out there. People think it’s how loud you pray. “Oh, God, now You hear us!” No, I’m looking at your heart. I could care less about your volume. I don’t care how high you jump; I want to see how straight you walk when you come down. Genuine power. When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you shall what? Receive power. Dunamis (Greek)—the word dynamite. There’s power. There’s anointing. The gates of hell can try to storm us, but it doesn’t matter. Like John Wesley said, “Give me a hundred men—I don’t care if they’re clergy or laity—and we will storm the gates of hell.” Because there is genuine power. Do you have that power? Do you have that fire? Do you have that peace? Do you have that joy?
And let me tell you this. When you have the fire of the Spirit you cannot remain passive. You cannot remain silent. Another desire I have—and I think God gives us different desires for different reasons; instead of judging each other we should just thank God that He gives us different desires—but I have a passion for our nation. I have a passion for how far America has drifted off course. Our family tradition, although we can’t prove it, is that I’m linked with Peregrine White, the first baby born on the Mayflower in Cape Cod Bay. I read the Puritans. I read the Pilgrims. I see how far we’ve drifted and how we need that desperate call for revival, that desperate call for repentance, and the culture war is really about this. The culture war that we’re seeing is they want to silence the voice of truth. Truth, would you shut up? Pastors, you can talk about everything except the controversial stuff. They want to get truth out of the public square, get truth out of the media.
And that’s why there’s a culture war, because truth can’t shut up. You might as well stop Niagara Falls than trying to stop the power of the Holy Spirit going through a man or woman filled with the presence and power of God. That can’t be stopped. It wasn’t stopped two thousand years ago, and it’s not going to be stopped today. Revival often even comes from persecution. Ask Sister Sarah. Why is the church in China growing? Why are they weeping when they receive Bibles? Why are they in all-night prayer meetings? I said to her, “Do you see healings?” “Oh, all the time.” Well, why don’t we see them here? Because we’re not desperate. We’ve got Blue Shield and Kaiser and Visa and antibiotics, probiotics, all the gadgets, and all the goodies.
So genuine revival—remember that—is genuine power, but it’s not power to be loud and weird and crazy. It is Holy Spirit power. It is boldness. It’s boldness for the gospel. It’s dying for your faith. It’s contending for truth in a postmodern culture. That’s what we are doing. That’s the logo we had for this church many years ago: Contending for truth in a postmodern culture. Truth can’t be negotiated with, right? We’ve talked about that before. Truth can’t be bargained with, it can’t be negotiated with, it stands as a lighthouse, it stands as a beacon reminding us to get back to the absolute truth of God’s Word.
- Genuine revival can’t be worked up; it must be brought down.
We can promote it, we can push it, we can get the latest gadgets and the best worship teams, and it’s not going to happen. It has to be brought down from heaven. God’s fire falls on a prepared people, on an altar where there’s a sacrifice, and God will honor that. Genuine revival cannot be worked up; it must be brought down.
I love reading books on revival. One entitled Open Windows says this: “The sacredness and the glory of the experience of revival is not easy to speak on this subject to any group of Christian workers unless they have been prepared by the Spirit to receive the message.”
You know what shocked me more than anything—let me just tell you briefly what happened to me. It was 1999, right over this hill on Avenue M 14. I remember the house, I remember the chair, I remember the floor that I ended up on weeping and weeping, and God just pouring into me and pouring into me. And the Holy Spirit just—there’s no way to explain it. It was just unbelievable. Tremendous joy in the midst of pain. The Bible is alive and living and everything’s changed. Now Christians are calling me Jesus freak. Religious. Holy roller. “Whoa, you’re extreme.” No, the problem is you’ve never received the fire. See, that’s normal Christianity. Being filled with the Spirit of God is normal Christianity. What you see in many churches is not normal Christianity. Paul would be appalled. Peter would have some scathing rebukes. James would be like, “What?! Wake up! Wake up, church!”
So it has to be brought down. You have to rely on that. We have to get to a point where we say, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens, that You would come down, that even the mountains would shake at Your presence.” That’s revival, saying, “God, You have to move. You have to move. We are so desperate.” It doesn’t matter what Facebook says. It doesn’t matter if you bring in the best speakers. “Unless You move we will not be built up, and we will not be encouraged. We will not be filled with the fire of God.”
Well, why does this matter? It matters because we must stand in holy expectation and not try to manufacture anything. I mean, I don’t want to rebuke either conservative or charismatic but one of my concerns with hyper-Pentecostal charismatic churches is there is this thought process that you can manufacture the moving of the Holy Spirit if you just get a little, you know, and just start loud preaching and doing things, and “He’s moving!” Well, be careful. Be careful, because again, it’s boldness. It’s testimony. I’ve noticed the closer I get to God the more I want to fall on my face. I want to be in His presence. I want His presence in my life and in my family’s life and in my home.
I’ve noticed too that often quiet, stillness, and waiting upon Him loads the chamber. That’s why we’re waiting sometimes. That’s why worship isn’t maybe what you’re used to. You have to wait. Why? Because there’s a travail taking place. There’s a fighting the flesh that’s taking place. You’re loading the chamber. Many of you have been around a while, and you probably heard that saying that we can be straight as a gun barrel theologically but just as empty. We can be straight as a gun barrel theologically but just as empty.
And I asked security here earlier—they won’t let me do it—but I wanted to bring my shotgun up on stage. To show you it’s nothing. It’s nothing with nothing in the chamber, but if I pull out that 3-inch Magnum and put it in the chamber, see now it’s got power. Now every one of you would be running out of here saying, “What’s he doing?” But what’s the difference? Empty gun, then I load it, and it’s got the power. See, that’s the power of the Holy Spirit.
You can be theologically correct—and I love theology. I study theology. Theology is the foundation of the church. The study of God, theology. Pneumatology, the study the Holy Spirit. You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically and just as empty—and I can spot the modern-day Pharisee just as easy as anyone else, because they love the religiosity. They love their pride, and they love to debate, and they love to just hold their head a little too high. They haven’t been broken by God. It takes broken men to break men. Thank God for brokenness. You should thank God for brokenness.
And don’t give up on this next generation. Everybody is against the millennials. They just haven’t been broken yet. They just have not been broken yet. That’s why this matters. This is so important because we must stand in holy expectation and not try to manufacture anything.
- Genuine revival has a cost: it’s always fueled by humility.
This is so important. This is a biggie, because here’s where the rubber’s going to meet the road. It’s easy to sit here, isn’t it? Air conditioning, listening to speakers. But genuine revival, if you truly want God to fill you mightily, have that anointing, that unction of the Holy Spirit—terms I’m not afraid of because the Bible talks about the unction, the anointing, the empowerment, the enduement. Genuine revival has a cost. There is a cost, I’ll be honest with you. Joel Osteen sermons are not going to cut it in these dire times. I’m just being upfront. I’m not putting anybody down. I’m just telling you the truth. That’s not going to cut it in these dire times.
There’s a cost. Isn’t there a cost to everything? Look at how an athlete trains. I have friends who have trained for the Olympics, played professional sports. They would embarrass us. Training for a crown that perishes. So there’s a cost. We have this idea that Christianity should be comfortable, but there’s always a cost. Somebody said, “Carry your cross, and follow Me.” We know who that was. Jesus did, bidding us to come and die to self.
Here’s what the key is to start this off. It’s always, always, always started or fueled by humility. That’s why I’m so glad, even talking to the men here and talking to brother Greg, because if any of us dared—dared—to come up here and act as if it’s a competition, act as who’s going to preach better, then we’ve already lost.
There’s a story of a young man who just graduated seminary. He was so filled with arrogance. He had his three points, and he actually did an inductive, immediate, and took a different approach to his preparation. His sermon was prepared; it was polished. You could actually put this in a magazine, it was so wonderful. He was going to let them have it. “This is my first day on the job, and I’m going to let them have it.” And he walked up the stairs, and he came over [to the pulpit]. He didn’t really know where to start, and his notes were off a little bit. The Scriptures weren’t on the screen. And just in utter, utter humiliation and failure, he walked down the steps and went and sat down, utterly humiliated, utterly broken. And the old elder next to him said, “Young man, if you would have gone up the steps the same way you came down, you would have succeeded.” If he would have gone up in that brokenness and humility, saying, “God, if you don’t move, I’m lost.”
I know it sounds funny to people, but I pray that when I preach. I say, “God, You’ve got to move.” Many of you know I struggle with dyslexia. I can’t pronounce words very well. I hate to read in public, but I see now it’s through that that God gets all the glory and all the credit. The greater the brokenness, often the greater the anointing, because God will break you, just like olive oil. Where does the oil come from? The olives being crushed. The perfume is from the flowers being crushed and stomped on—and then from that the fragrance of the flower that was beat to death, literally.
I think it was Richard Baxter, Puritan, who said, “I preach as a dying man to dying men.” Most of the pastors know that, especially in this room. You preach, we preach, as dying men to dying men, humble and broken before Him. But just remember, God does the opening; you prepare the soil.
So there is a cost. The cost of humility. Let me just mention why this is so important. We come in, and we judge worship. We judge the appearance of others. We look others up and down looking for any sign of carnality. We are eager to show off our theological persuasions and debate. Christians struggle for power, for prestige, don’t they? They want the prominent positions. They want to be noticed. They want their name on the PowerPoint. God says, “I’m in none of that. You want revival? Humble yourself.” Pastor, you want to grow your church? Empty yourself. Stop worrying about numbers, and start worrying about the glory of God.
So there’s a cost of humility. There’s a cost of holiness. Oh, I could preach a whole sermon on this one. Whatever happened to holiness? It’s not a weird thing. Holiness is coming out from among them, being separate. I look different. What I watch is different. How I conduct myself is different. I want to be filled with the Spirit of God, not filled with the things of the world, so I live differently. I’m holy and set apart for God’s glory. So God says, “I see a broken vessel. I see a humble vessel. I see a man set apart for My glory. I see him working on holiness, not perfection, but I see his heart’s in the right direction. He’s holy, he’s set apart for Me.”
But people often tell me, “But I haven’t done anything wrong.” Well, I can assure you that you have not done everything right. Just saying that statement is full of pride. I like what Dan said yesterday. That really impacted me. You said, “Be careful because an hour or two spent with God can be erased in ten minutes of watching the wrong thing on TV.”
It’s funny when I talk about these things, people say, “He’s radical. He’s radical and extreme.” I write locally for our paper often, in the Victorville paper, and articles for the Christian Post and Charisma News and Hello Christian, and I wrote one locally a few years ago. I just could not believe the backlash. It was something like “darkness should not entertain the church,” and I talked about witchcraft, Harry Potter movies, darkness, casting spells, all those things. That should not entertain the church. We should not be watching these things and enjoying these things and allowing our kids to watch it. That’s dark. That’s demonic.
Who you think came after me? Christians. “You’re legalistic!” No, I just want to be filled with the Spirit of God. That’s what I want. I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want to have anything to do with religion. Was that Tozer? I don’t know, but that’s what we want. Desperation. Yes, I’m going to look different, I’m going to look odd, because that’s what holiness involves. You look different. That’s the point. That’s the whole point. There’s a sweet-smelling aroma of Christ on you because you look different. There’s a difference, there’s a distinction. That’s why Paul told the church, “Come out from among them, and be separate, be set apart. Now I can use you.”
So there’s a cost. Holiness has to be a focus. And I use an interesting word here on the cost of holding. Holding. Let me explain that for a minute. I believe in any revival—personal revival, corporate revival—there is a season of testing. “Having done all, stand.” Stand. Hold. And that’s what we’re doing in our culture. God just says, “You hold the line. Hold it. Hold it. I know you don’t see Me moving, and you’re weeping in the morning, praying, I know. But hold it. Hold the fort down.”
Leonard Ravenhill said, “We want a painless Pentecost.” I don’t want ten days in the upper room. I want ten minutes, and let the fire fall. God says, “No, I want to test your heart. Will you wait one day or two days or three days? Even if you don’t see Me moving, do you trust Me? Because having done all, stand, therefore. Stand therefore, and fight the good fight of faith. I haven’t called you to leave the battle. I haven’t called you to trust your feelings. I’ve called you to trust in Almighty God.” That is our only hope. You have to hold the ground. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. That’s why the pulpits can say, “Gay marriage—not okay.” I don’t care what the Supreme Court says. You hold the ground. That’s what’s happening. The churches are not holding the ground. Not with legalism, not being mean, but to say, “That is wrong.”
You see, I made a mistake. I read a lot of early American history, and it was the pulpit who used to direct the nation. The pulpit was the conscience of the nation: Here’s what’s right, here’s what’s wrong. And I stumbled upon Alex de Tocqueville, who came over from France, and they said, “Tell us why America is so great.” He said:
I looked in her boundless prairies and her fertile fields. It wasn’t there. I visited her harbors and her gold mines. It wasn’t there. I searched everywhere. It was not until I went to the pulpits of America, and I heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness that I understood the secret to her success. America is great because she is good, and if she ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.
And a fire lit up inside of me. When the pulpits were aflame with righteousness? Not political correctness? You’ve got guys at the largest churches in our nation saying, “It’s okay, we don’t really read this [the Bible] anymore. Do we need the Ten Commandments still?” My God, do you know anything about the power and presence of God? Do you fear the Lord? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (I just felt bad doing that. Holy moly. Let me pick this up. Sorry, Glenn, I saw you watching that one.)
But it’s contagious, isn’t it? Revival is contagious. Preachers have got to get back to holiness. I love what E. M. Bounds said. Have you ever read E. M. Bounds? Read anything on prayer by E. M. Bounds, and you’ll feel very convicted quickly. He said, “Life-giving preaching costs the preacher much.” What I’m doing right now, it cost the preacher much. “Death to self, crucifixion to the world, and the travail of his own soul. Crucified preaching can only give life. Crucified preaching can only come from a crucified man.” Life-giving preaching costs the preacher much, but life-giving living costs the Christian much. We need to tell people the truth. Yeah, it’s gonna cost you, but it’s going to be the best experience you’ve ever experienced in your life.
So on this issue we quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 often. Of course, many of you know it. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face…” It’s interesting. The more I read through the Bible, and many of you, the older books, I think we’re also missing an important element called fasting. Oh, that did not go over very well. Let me tell you why this is the missing jewel. Fasting is the only thing that will beat up the flesh. You’re starving your flesh, and you’re saying, “No, no more. I’m starving the fuel source to sin. I’m starving the flesh.” It’s not legalism. It’s biblical. Jesus said, “When you pray, when you give, and when you fast.” Paul fasted. Peter fasted. It’s part of that Christian discipline. It helps to discipline the body, and it affects our spiritual life in a very deep way.
But before I get to the end here, I want to just share a word that really leapt out to me many years ago. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face.” Go back and look up the word seek in Hebrew. The image you have is of losing your child at the mall. Would you go get lunch and then go look for the child? Well, let’s go eat first. Let’s go run some errands. Everything would change. Everything. You’re no longer hungry, you don’t have to use the restroom, you’re pushing people out of your way: “I’ve got to find that child.” It means “to recover, to find what has been lost.”
So we read and say, “Oh, yeah, that sounds great.” No, you have no idea what that really means. It means, “God, I’m going to go to bed early and turn off the tube and fast and seek Your face. I might not feel like it, but the flesh has got to submit. I’m going to seek You with all my heart, with all my strength, and with all my mind.” And please, don’t beat yourself up. It’s not about perfection. I’m not talking about perfection, I’m talking about the direction of your heart. Is it set on God, to seek Him?
- Pray as if revival depends upon it.
Pray as if revival depends upon it—because it does. We have to get back to where prayer was a priority. Gauge at church this way: Is there as much time given to prayer as there is to preaching? My house shall be called a house of preaching? My house shall be called a house of worship? My house shall be called a house of fellowship and social functions? The house of God is the house of prayer. Actually, if you remember, in context, it’s what was happening in the church that upset Christ. He said, “You’ve made this a den of thieves, but this house is a house of prayer.” Getting back to prayer. That’s why it’s so important. Prayer is communication. You’re communicating with God. It’s rebuilding that relationship, as I quoted Al earlier, that the church is dying on her feet because she is not living on her knees.
You know this, and I know this: when God brings revival, prayer has always been the catalyst. They waited ten days in an upper room, then fire fell. Dan quoted Robert Murray M’Cheyne, his prayer life. David Brainerd, ministering to the Native American Indians, his prayer life. Daniel Rowlands, the Welsh revivals of the 1700s, and going back to when Martin Luther prayed. When Martin Luther prayed, the Reformation was sparked. Even go back to Wycliffe and Tyndale and Hus. Fire was sparked through the prayer room. You know when John Knox prayed, he was so bold, he would go before God and say, “God, give me Scotland for the cause of Christ, or I shall die.” Now that’s prayer!
Who in this room is saying, “God, give me America for the cause of Christ”? Heck, give me California. Just give me L.A. County, where there is more filth and disgust in this area than most of California, with the child sex-trafficking and the perversion. That should get us on our face before Almighty God, crying out for our children and saying, “God, move in this place. Shake the continent.” D. L. Moody shook the continent by his prayers. Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards. Come on, why do we read about them? Because they were men and women of prayer. Amy Carmichael on the mission field. She said, “Everything changed when I started to pray and was filled with the Spirit of God.”
Pray, pray, pray, and when you’re done, pray again. That has to be the heartbeat of prayer. So let me say this in closing. You may feel dead and buried, but don’t give up. Remember, once a farmer plants that seed, he says, “God, now rend the heavens.” God, now rend the heavens.
There’s another revival book where these guys are praying in a room, and one said, “God, Your Word says this. You’re a covenant-keeping God, and Your honor is at stake,” and revival hit that place, because God’s Word will not return void. I truly believe if we seek we will find, if we knock He will answer.
So if you’re dead and buried, and you feel spiritually dead, that can be revitalized tonight. Right now. It’s just a change of heart. This is “God, I was wrong.” And I want to just throw this out there. There’s also the cost of the cross. Have you embraced the cross? Have you repented of your sin and believed? We always assume everybody in the church is saved. Well, no, I’ve found that’s not the case. Many people are playing church. You might be spiritually dead because you’ve never been spiritually alive. You’ve never been born again. You have to repent and believe in the gospel. So “God, come down” must be the desperate cry of your heart.
This is going to be a little humiliating, what I read here. I thought I forgot about it. My wife—you know you’ve got to love wives—reminded me about it last week. It was about eight years ago. I actually wrote a book, Desperate for More of God, and this is in the book. I was praying for revival like we are now. I was desperate for it like we are now. And God hit me with a right hook. I remember sitting in the chair, and I couldn’t stop writing, and when I was done, I was done. It was as if He was saying this:
Shane, you don’t want revival. It will ruin your schedule, your dignity, your image, and your reputation as a person who is well-balanced. Men will weep throughout the congregation. Women will wail because of the travail of their own souls. Young adults will cry like children at the magnitude of their sin. With strength of My presence the worship team will not be able to continue. Time will seem to stand still. You won’t be able to preach because of the emotions flooding your own soul. You’ll struggle to find words but only find tears. Even the most dignified and reserved among you will be broken and humbled as little children. The proud and self-righteous will not be able to stand in My presence. The doubter and unbeliever will either run for fear or fall on their knees and worship Me—there can be no middle ground. The church will never be the same again. Do you really want revival?
I can honestly say tonight that I do, because those of us who are conservatives don’t like to be too fanatical, those who are fanatical don’t like to be too conservative, but I don’t care about my image. I want the glory of God.
And I will tell you, when real revival breaks out, there’s always a word spoken against it. It’s not pretty. It’s not clean. My God, God is breaking people. He’s revealing sin. He’s showing them their need, their desperate need for Him. You think that’s clean and pretty and quiet? God help us.
So I believe many times my own theology prevented revival. I don’t want people to see me crying up at the altar. Are we getting too carried away? I don’t want to be labeled charismatic. God says, “You can’t have it both ways, sir. If you really want revival, prepare yourself, prepare your people, and I will answer.”
It begs the question tonight, are you dying spiritually? And the irony is that those who mock revival are the very ones who need it, and often it’s those who have the most theological background. They have theology but not fire. I don’t care if you preach as well as Billy Graham and have a PhD in church history, do you have fire? Do you have this all-consuming passion for God?
I mean, God’s dealt with me on this so many times. I used to think men were kind of—I don’t want to use the wrong word—but feminine, maybe? Because my background is bench pressing four hundred pounds, steroids, my own injections, bodybuilding world. Real men beat up people. They fight. They drink a lot. I’d say, “I’ll never raise my hands.”
That’s why we need to be careful not to judge people, because sometimes when we’re raising our hands we’re saying, “God, you delivered me. You set me free.” If it was not for the grace of God I would be drunk in Lancaster. I would be dead. I would be buried in that cemetery. And raising hands is just acknowledging “God, I acknowledge You. I depend upon You. I’m nothing.” It’s a step of humility. And I’m not telling you to do that. I’m just telling you about a personal struggle I’ve had to go through.
Because as men sometimes we think worship is for women. Have you read David? Have you killed Philistines and have you ever—we’ll leave it at that, but that was a man’s man. These men—Elisha called down fire from heaven. These men were worshipers. See, I believe men also need to start leading in this area. Men need to be the worshipers. Our wives, our children need to see us on our face before Almighty God and crying out to God and saying, “Lay hands on our children.” See, I remember when they used to lay hands and say, “Devil, this one’s not yours. This one’s not yours. I’m staying up all night. I’m turning off Facebook, and I’m going to spend time with God. You’re not taking our nation. You’re not taking our children. You’re not taking our families.”
And I truly believe that. Pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They’re prayer! That’s how the prodigal son is going to come home. I talk to parents all the time, “Would you fast? Would you pray for your kids?” Oh, I don’t have time for that. How bad do you want it? My God, where is the church of the New Testament, when we were on fire for God, when we knew God was going to answer, He had to answer? We are desperate for more of God.