Revival is not a calendared event in a church. It is not an evangelistic crusade, although evangelism is an expected result of revival. It is not confined to a place or a time outside of the human heart.
Revival is best defined as what happens to God’s people when He is present. It is truly the birthright of every child of God…
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ
What happens when God manifests His presence in an experiential way among His people? In the first decade of the twentieth century, believers around the world encountered the presence of God in a well-documented, global event. Here is one description, drawn from the revival in the Khassia hills region of India in March 1905:
Shillong is a fashionable Hill station, and the seat of Government; a difficult place in which to lead a truly spiritual life. Here a large proportion of the Christian community consisted of young people born of Christian parents, instructed in Scripture truth, yet who had never come into living touch with a personal Saviour…
Many felt that the Glory of the Infinite God was actually visible in the building. Special prayer had been offered up here as elsewhere. Attendance became larger and expectancy grew. Then one night while a not very prominent member of the church was leading in prayer, he prayed for the Spirit and pleaded so earnestly, as if his soul was parched with thirst, and faint with hunger. Then others began, while he still prayed, to pray in whispers, which went on to loud cries, and the greater part of the congregation burst out in piercing cries for mercy; while others shouted with ecstasy at the sight of a Saviour “able to save.” . . .
Another young man, a Christian, but irreverent, felt great terror. The trifling, jocular way he had so often used in handling the holy things and words of God, appeared now in its true light. Fear and trembling seized him. He felt as if some unseen hand was twisting him, and for days was unable to leave his bed He arose a thoughtful, earnest, God-fearing man. . . .
Many present in the chapel that night–witnesses whose word can be relied on–state that they saw clouds hanging over the brother who stood praying at the commencement. To some the clouds appeared so dense that the light of the lamp was not visible. Others saw them as fiery clouds. After that came reviving and precious times; wayward and prodigal children coming home crying for mercy…
The presence of God… He is the author, source, and sustainer of life as He intends it to be.Source: Helen S. Dyer, Revival in India: Years of the Right Hand of the Most High (New York: Gospel Publishers, 1907), 35-36.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9:6-7
Christmas is not always a happy time.
- For some, it is a reminder that they feel terribly disconnected and alone.
- Many first responders, medical staff, “essential personnel,” and military service men and women will miss some or all of the holiday gatherings with their families, who will miss them deeply.
- When someone dear has died, this day will be reminder of the absence. Grief can resurface, barricading the heart from joy.
- And there are other losses, crises, and hurts that can kill the traditional spirit of celebration… an unhappy marriage or divorce, a family tension or conflict, unemployment, illness, and countless other forms of human pain and suffering.
Isaiah was a sensitive man who was weary of living in such a world of hurt and loss.
Isaiah lost king Uzziah after a prosperous 58-year reign. Admired for his efforts at religious reform and his personal devotion, Uzziah had impacted a nation—and a young man named Isaiah. Uzziah’s passing cast a long shadow over the future of the nation. Isaiah’s hero and spiritual leader was dead.
Isaiah began to seek God more than ever during dark and disturbing times. The world seemed as if it was reeling out of control. Then God gave Isaiah a powerful vision of His glory and power (Isaiah 6). Later, in Isaiah 9, God revealed details concerning a future Messiah who would restore order to a chaotic and corrupt world. Convinced of the rule of God in his life and in the world around him, Isaiah was transformed by the Christmas Revolution!
Let me say it again: Isaiah was gripped by a vision of the kingdom of God ushered in by the birth of a child – it would color the rest of his life and work.
You may feel life is reeling out of control and the world is a dark and painful place. And it is. You are not wrong about that. Isaiah saw it too and longed for change… real hope that Someone was going to come and reshape, reform, renew, and recreate all of life! Peering through time to observe what God was doing behind the scenes in human history, Isaiah saw the child… and he penned a poetic song describing the Son of God upon whose shoulders all authority will rest: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!
That child was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, but He is near you at this moment. He lives and He is not hiding in some far away corner of the universe. He is no Santa Claus, but He does see you always. He knows you.
The world you are living in can be filled with hope and light by opening the door to your heart. What do I mean by that? “Opening the door” includes…
- placing your trust in Him for salvation from sin and death (John 3:16-17),
- yielding to Him the reins of your life… He wants to change you from the inside out (Matthew 11:28-30, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29),
- letting Him come into your needs (Matthew 6:25-34),
- letting Him speak and obeying what He says (Matthew 4:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17),
- taking responsibility for your sins, then seeking and accepting His forgiveness — His death on the cross was God’s way of wiping away your sins… Jesus died in your place (1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Ephesians 1:17, 1 John 1:9), and
- falling down before Him in worship (like the wise men). Rising from the dead, Jesus became Lord over everything that would be Lord over you (Philippians 2:9-11).
The King is here. He patiently waits for you to get that. It’s the bottom line of the Christmas Revolution.
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Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.
Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
God does a “new thing” when He comes into our lives. We are cleansed and changed from within, immersed into His body (the church), and led into a life of mission and purpose.
How do I respond to or cooperate with His Presence?
As a young college student I attended Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin Texas, where I was befriended by a deacon. He was a big man, a single adult, and an African-American serving in a predominantly Anglo congregation.
He often drove by the campus to pick me up for church, peppering our conversation with valued advice and quotations that echo in my mind to this day. One of his favorites was “Donovan, if can do your best, why settle for less?” I took his words to heart.
However, I have found that pursuing God’s direction often involves mopping up problems as they surface, then moving forward again. God’s will is rarely experienced as a sequence of error-free decisions or attempts. I must stay sensitive to His voice.
Let me encourage you to pursue God’s will — experiencing the “new thing” of God’s mighty work in your life– but be very forgiving of yourself and those around you when failure rears its head. Create an environment where failures and mistakes are okay: they are simply part of the price paid for taking new ground!
Read Isaiah 6:1-8
In the TV series Mission Impossible, Jim Phelps received his secret mission assignments from a mysterious voice on a tape recorder. Listening carefully, Phelps would hear the voice say “Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it…”
Wouldn’t it be great if God sent out tapes like that? Yet, God has His own process for revealing our mission. He has a purpose for your life for you to discover and fulfill. He doesn’t ask for your ideas or plans; He asks you to seek Him! How can you discover your mission in the heart of God?
Get to know God personally. (vs. 1-5)
Do you have a spiritual hero? I believe Isaiah carried a deep respect for Uzziah, who reigned 52 years as a godly king. When Uzziah died, Isaiah’s hero was gone. Great uncertainty must have filled his heart, wondering what would happen to the nation with the passing of this great man of God.
Perhaps for the first time in his life he was placed in a position of seeking to hear from God on his own—with no help from a spiritual leader. When we lose our spiritual bearings, we should follow Isaiah’s example: he goes where God is. He seeks Him in the temple. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can seek God in prayer anywhere. In James 4:8 we have this promise: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
When Isaiah encountered God, what did He discover? First, he experienced God’s holiness. Isaiah writes that he saw the Lord sitting on a throne. He saw God in human form! How is this possible? Years later, the apostle John explains that Isaiah actually saw Jesus Christ on that day in the temple—a pre-incarnate appearance of the Savior (John 12:41).
Isaiah felt the building shake as the angels proclaimed that God is holy. Isaiah was experiencing the presence of a pure, unstained, uncreated, perfectly good Being: a holy God!
Isaiah immediately became conscious of his own sinfulness. As we draw near to a holy God, we can expect to become increasingly conscious of sin in our own life. In much the way that bringing the lights up in a dimly lit room exposes details we had missed in the darkness, so exposure to the holiness of God will cause us to become painfully aware of our own sin.
As you seek God’s face for specific direction in your life, do not be discouraged when the feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy erupt. Expect this to happen as you approach a holy God.
Be honest with God totally. (vs. 5-8)
Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me” as he begins to confess his sin in detail. He is broken over his sin. He does not try to hide it or dress it up. He exposes his sin before God. If I want to hear the heart of God, it is vital that I confess every sin that comes to mind.
In some cases, repentance may mean going to someone and asking his forgiveness for an offense. It may mean returning or paying for something stolen years ago. When John the Baptist preached the Jesus-endorsed message of repentance, the first question new converts often asked was “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:10, 12, 14). John called these actions the “fruit” of authentic repentance (John 3:8).
Confession leads to cleansing. In the moment of repentance, an angel grabs a coal from the altar (a place where things died for sin) and touches Isaiah’s lips. His sin is purged. He is forgiven. He is clean!
Obey God carefully. (vs. 8)
The cleansing cleared the way for communication. Isaiah suddenly begins to hear the voice of God saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” I believe God had been speaking all along, but Isaiah was out of touch and failed to hear the heart of God.
God’s heart to speak to a generation that is disoriented and devastated by sin is consistent and does not fluctuate. As Isaiah began to align his life with the heart of God—dealing thoroughly with sin and self-centeredness in his own heart—then he began to hear God.
Isaiah’s heart cry–“Here I am, send me”–was the beginning of a lifetime of responsiveness to God’s heart. No longer were two wills vying for control of Isaiah’s life. Now there was only one: Isaiah set his heart to obey God carefully for the remainder of his life.
In Mission Impossible, Jim Phelps had to quickly review the details of the mission, before the tape self-destructed at the end of the message. Phelps and his team had to come up with a plan. They were always on their own.
While God does not send out tapes that self-destruct, I like his method of making mission assignments much better. Unlike Jim Phelps, I don’t have to come up with a plan—God already has one. I’m not on my own either—God goes before His people to accomplish everything He asks them to do. This is Mission Possible!