IF MY PEOPLE... The Principles of Revival

Many churches; claiming to be guided by local needs and opportunities; take an ‘as-and-when’ approach to outreach; and miss out. So do those who, otherwise, might have been blessed through them, had things been done in God’s way.
 
The Bible teaches that the purpose of outreach is revival; and that the principles of revival are not flexible; that they are not determined by local hopes, fears and willingness…. but established by Divine decree.
 
Revival is the giving-again of spiritual life. God sends revival to those made ready to receive it; and, through them, to the world beyond. This ‘making ready’ is not something that we sit and wait for, but something which we actively undertake.
 
The principles of revival are clearly seen at 2 Chronicles 7:14; with its four conditions: that people humble themselves; pray; seek the Lord’s Presence, and turn from their wicked ways…
 
…and its three promises, which God will keep when his conditions are met: that he will hear from heaven; forgive their sins, and heal their land. Let us consider some aspects of these conditions and promises.
 
IF MY PEOPLE. In an almost frantically busy world; and in the midst of an increasingly-secular society; so many strident voices clamour for our attention, time and energy; that we risk losing sight of just who we are, in biblical terms.
 
God speaks of ‘My people’, in an encouraging way: that points to his love and acceptance of us. Our loving response to such acceptance; should be to want to live according to God’s will; and to hand our lives over to him.
 
Wise Christians know that this is easier said, than done; and that they need to claim afresh the Lord’s word; given through Paul; at 2. Cor. 1:20, which says ‘All the promises of God are answered ‘Yes!’, in Jesus Christ’. That is a lovely text, but two important things have to be borne in mind.
 
Firstly, it is all too easy to pray, in faith, about our hopes; fears, needs and desires, and to miss the whole point. The text does not say: ‘All our requests….but all the promises of God are answered ‘Yes!’, in Jesus Christ’.
 
Jesus put things into perspective, when he said: ‘Your Heavenly Father knows your true needs (as distinct from your lesser desires) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (get your priorities right) and then (when you live like that) your true needs will be met as well’ (Luke 12:31).
 
The second point is, that it takes a fair degree of ‘holy boldness’ to claim all the promises of God; and confidently await their application in our lives. Such boldness stands in direct relation to us knowing just who we are, in God’s sight - His people, because he said so!
 
In an uncertain world, let us grasp afresh the God-spoken certainty of who we are in Christ, and take strength, and confidence, from that knowledge.
 
‘WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME’. It is significant that, in Hebrew thinking; and Old Testament teaching; name and character belong together. Then, to invoke a name, was to invoke also, the qualities and attributes that belonged to the person in question. Whenever there was a noticeable change in nature, or in the direction of a life, the name was changed accordingly.
 
As it was then, so with God’s people today. As, through faith, we are born again of the Holy Spirit, and the direction of our lives is set God-wards; so our new and spiritual lives, receive a new and spiritual name - ‘Christians’.
 
Now, as we approach God our Father, in our human condition, but with the Name of Christ upon us, he looks beyond our frailty, and regards us as people fully identified with Jesus; sharing in something of his nature, qualities and attributes – as promised.
 
‘If my people, who are called by my name, HUMBLE THEMSELVES…’.
 
Charles Dickens gave a deliberately false picture of humility, when he wrote of Uriah Heap, creeping around, wringing his hands, and speaking against himself, in a self-deprecating manner.
 
True humility is very different. The Greek word, translated ‘humility’ (tapeinos) in our Bibles, signifies being ‘low-lying’, in relation to something or someone greater than self.
 
One part of the ‘Beatitudes’, at Matthew 5., can be translated: ‘Blessed are they who know their need of God’, and that is what true humility is all about!
 
However, properly humble Christians, who are ‘low-lying’ in relation to the greatness of God, do not allow their humility to hold them back.
 
Instead, they move on; and claim the ‘Word of God’, as found in the ‘Letter of James’ (4:10) where it says: ‘Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up’. The Lord exalts, lifts up, those who know their need of him.
 
The more our individual turning to God is fulfilled; by the Lord’s ‘lifting up’ of our lives; the more is added to the gathered-together life of the Church; which is then built up, and made strong and effective, through the indwelling Christ.
 
When we humble ourselves, and express our need of God afresh, the Lord fully responds, by manifesting his love and power in the Church’s life and work; thereby enabling it to give an encouraging witness to others.
 
‘ Humble themselves AND PRAY…’. Historical revivals, including those in the Old Testament, have fervent prayer at the heart of them. Revival is the giving-again of life, by God; and Christ assures us that he wants his people to have life in the fullest measure; even to overflowing.
 
If we truly desire that abundance of life for ourselves; for our church, and for others, beyond it; then we must, as God requires, pray for it. At the heart of such prayer should be the request: Lord, please send revival’.
 
‘Pray, AND SEEK MY FACE…’. Again, in ancient Hebrew thought, to ‘seek someone’s face’, was to desire to go into his presence.
 
God the Father instructs us to ‘seek his face’; and God the Son promises that, if we truly do so, we shall find; that we shall enter into the Lord’s Presence.
 
Psalm 24, and similar scriptures, says that those who would enter into the Presence of God, must, first, have clean hands, and a pure heart’.
 
Many Christians see themselves as being unclean and impure; and in this, they must be very careful, lest they argue against God.
 
To his followers, then; and to us, now; Jesus said: ‘You are already made clean, by the word which I spoke to you’…(the word which you heard; accepted; believed, and have built your life upon).
 
On the rooftop of a house in Joppa, Peter was told: ‘Do not call anything unclean, that God has made clean’. God the Son says: ‘I have made you clean ’; and God the Father says: ‘And don’t you dare say otherwise!’.
 
The last of these four conditions is: ‘AND TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS’. If we truly know ourselves to belong to God; to be ‘his people’; and if, in the ’name of Christ’ we have some share in the divine nature…
 
…then, through him, we may enter the Lord’s Presence with assurance, tempered by true humility, and be certain about two things.
 
The first is that, we have, already, turned from our wicked ways…and that, even though sin might continue to trouble us, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. In him, through repentance, we remain acceptable to God.
 
The second thing is that, having done, as far as possible, all that we can to fulfil the demands of the principles of revival, the rest remains with the Lord, whom we then trust to keep the three promises made.
 
The first of them is: ‘THEN I WILL HEAR FROM HEAVEN’.
 
1.John 5: 14+15. says: ‘This is the confidence that we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us; in whatever we ask; we know that we have what we asked of him’.
 
We know that revival is very much within the will of God. Therefore, our true prayers for revival will be heard; and responded to, by our God.
 
The second promise is: ‘AND I WILL FORGIVE THEIR SINS’. We may not like to think of ourselves as ‘sinners’; but; deep down; where realism lies; we feel a continuing need of God’s forgiving love, in Christ.
 
Un-repented, un-confessed, and, therefore, un-forgiven sin has a terrible power to bind us; to hold us back from spiritual progress; and to prevent renewal, and its consequent blessings --- but repentance, confession and forgiveness have a far greater power; releasing us into the true freedom of the children of God.
 
Therefore, those who are wise turn to the Lord in prayer, and supplication; are refreshed in forgiving love; and renewed in spiritual vision and energy.
 
This is the God-ordained way forward; in which individual Christians grow in love and grace; and churches grow in power and effectiveness.
 
The last of the three promises is: ‘AND I WILL HEAL THEIR LAND’.
 
This is, perhaps, the most wonderful part of it all, because it appears that God is not speaking of blessing only those who turn to him; but, because of their faithfulness, also of blessing the land, or nation, through them.
 
Just as Abraham’s faith was counted to him, as righteousness, and he became a blessing to many; so that even those who had been strangers, and afar off, were brought near to God…
 
…so, I believe, the faithfulness of God’s people, in today’s needy world, will be a channel through which God will reach out, touch, and bless.
 
We are a people of great hope; filled with enormous potential for good. Our best hopes are expressed, and our potential for good best realized, in and through fervent prayer.
 
There is a lovely prayer in Psalm 85: ‘Restore us again, O God our Saviour. Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?’.
 
And God’s answer is ‘Yes!’, that he will, but only when his people, who are called by his name, do things his way.
 
On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit of God revived Peter, James, John and all the others, and they went boldly out into the city, where they preached Christ.
 
At Acts 3: 17-20, we find Peter speaking to those Jews and Gentiles who were, as yet, ‘afar off’ from Christ. He said:
 
Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer…
 
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send (to you) the Christ, who has, already, been appointed for you - even Jesus’.
 
Surely, no day and age has needed a ‘time of refreshing, from the Lord’ more than in the present; but, as the text says, refreshment is preceded by repentance, through turning back to God.
 
Even the most spiritually beautiful things that the Lord has done, for mankind; have been according to declared principle, and deep-rooted in the practicalities of the human situation.
 
It is both practical, and essential, that revival begins in our churches; for it is certain that we cannot offer to others, that which we do not have for ourselves. Our fervent prayer should be:
 
Lord, send revival, and begin it in us’. Amen.