“Wilt thou not revival us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”
“We praise Thee, O God! For the Son of Thy love,
For Jesus who died, and is now gone above.
We praise Thee, O God! For the Spirit of light,
Who has shown us our Savior, and scattered our night.
All glory and praise to the Lamb that was slain,
Who has borne all our sins, and has cleansed every slain.
Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.”
“Revival,” now there’s a subject you don’t hear much about anymore? Why is that? Is it that we no longer do not need revival? “Revival” was a word regularly used in generations past.
· It was something on people’s schedules; they had “revival meetings.”
· It was something on people’s prayer list; they prayed for revival.
· It was something in their hymn books; they sang about revival.
· It was something in the memory of God’s people, recalling what God had done at some meeting that turned into a revival.
Lord Montgomery, that unpredictable British field Marshall, said on one occasion that England went into the Second World War equipped to fight the First World War. That was a polite way of saying that the English were behind the times in battle equipment and strategy when they needed it the worst.
When Sir Christopher Wren designed the great St. Paul's Cathedral in London, he planned a thing of lasting beauty and unfading charm, but did not order it air-conditioned.
When George Stephenson built his rocket engine, it was not a smooth, herculean diesel, but a low-powered hissing machine. In other words, both Wren and Stephenson underestimated the needs of our day, and designed their works only for their day.
Was Jesus Christ guilty, then, of underestimating the need of the twenty-first century? Are the churches over which Christ reigns as Head a cumbersome, slow-moving thing, badly needing a gigantic overhauling, maybe even a government subsidy to get her up-to-date and moving again? No! What churches need is to get back to the cross.
Let’s wrap our minds around this word “revival.” Its really a pretty simple term. “Vive” means to “make alive.” “Re” means “again.” So, together the world “revival” means “to live again.” The dictionary says it means
1. to restore to consciousness or life. 2. to restore from a depressed, inactive, or unused state : bring back. 3. to renew in the mind or memory. 4. become active or flourishing again.
Of the few who say they really want revival, there is a huge “despair” about even its remote possibility. These are the last days of “the falling away,” we are reminded. There we are only a “few” in the narrow way that leads to life, and even fewer who are spiritually minded.
I want to suggest that there is still a place where revival can be found for God’s people. Revival can be found at the place you were “vived,” that is, made alive…at the cross. Was the hymn writer right when he said, “O, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction to me.” Does it? Does it still have a “wondrous attraction” to us?
No wonder there is no revival—there is no cross. “It is my conviction, and at times my sad experience, that as the cross goes out of focus in the Christian’s life, coldness and backsliding set in. If our meditation on the cross be meager, can our love for the Saviour be great?” Fredrick S. Leahy, The Cross He Bore, p. xi-xii.
There are three major reason why Christ’s cross is not presently resulting in revival.
Familiarity. The cross has just become to us our “familiar trademark.” There are crosses everywhere: atop church buildings (the old ones at least), in cemeteries, on roadside, before a baseball player stands at the plate to bat, on relief agencies like the “Red Cross”; on necklaces and earrings. All of these crosses have a numbing effect on the powerful, piercing, pardoning cross of Christ.
Superficiality. The truth is, many people who say they love the cross aren’t attempting to understand its deep truths. The cross has become our eternal insurance policy, and little more.
Apathy. We can say that the cross means everything to us, but our actions speak louder than words. We are what we do, not what we say. Our lack of fiery fervency for our Savior and His cross is what is wrong with all of us. The truth is we can live a whole day, a whole week and never think about the cross. We think about our family, our job, our church, our friends, but how often do we ponder the passion of our Savior? What if after spending some big bucks on an expensive, beautiful ring for my wife, she put the ring on the bathroom counter and carry around the velvet-lined box. Something would be wrong with her value-system.
If you had lost a one-hundred dollar bill, and were looking for it everywhere, what would be the first thing you would do when you found it? Obviously, you would stop looking for it. And the first thing to do when we find peace and fullness at the foot of the cross is to stop looking for it in other places and in other ways!
· Psalm 85 is personal. I am looking for the day when someone will finally take their condition personally. This unidentified person, without name or date, says, “Its me, its me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”
· Psalm 85 is a psalm, a song. Revival is something we should be singing about. Song are words that emblazoned our memories. When we put words to music our mind processes them more quickly and deeply than most any other way.
· Psalm 85 is a prayer. Revival is something we should be praying about.
· There has never been a recorded revival that was not preceded by prayer. That’s what verses 1-6 are—a prayer for revival. It is addressed directly to the Lord. The psalmist was crying out to God. And this prayer was not filled with pious platitudes or vague generalities. It is bone-jarring honest.
· Psalm 85 is a pronouncement of need. The question is, will you declare your need?
So what is this psalm, this prayer, this pronouncement about? Well, is not about you or me or any other human being. The Person of revival is God. What does God think about us? What has God done for us? There are six (6) references to God by name and 26 references to God using pronouns (“Thou, Thy, Thine, He, His.”).
1. God Accepts us because of the Cross, v. 1a.
Favor. “Favourable, ” v. 1a. Salvation is not a “doing” proposition on our part; it is a “done” proposition on God’s part. Christ has thoroughly, completely, eternally satisfied every condition necessary for our salvation.
Believers are “accepted in the beloved,” Ephesians 1:6. That is, when God see you, He see you “in Christ.” All of God’s blessings are unconditionally given “in Christ.” Believers are “chosen in Him,” vs. 3, 4.
2. Access to God is by the Cross, v. 1b.
Freedom. “Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob,” v.1b.
In Christ we have favor and we have freedom. This verse tells us God has something to do with delivering those who were captives, setting people free. Real freedom is not doing what we want to do, but doing what we ought to do if we had enough sense to know what we ought to do and wanting to do what’s right. How can we ever hope to every get back to God?
Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” John 14:6.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand...” Romans 5:1.
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” Hebrews 10:19.
We are called to “come boldly unto the throne of grace…” Hebrews 4:16.
3. God made Atonement for our sins by the Cross, v. 2.
Forgiveness. “To the degree that we really see the message of the cross we will be stricken, deeply stricken for our sins, the sins of our church, and the sins of the nation in which we live. To the degree that the cross does not speak to us there will be little mourning for sin and its consequence,” William P. Farley, Outrageous Mercy, p. 25.
The cross tells us what “sin” really is and how bad it is. It is an offense against God, a moral defilement, a spiritual disease, a stubborn defiance, and an acquired appetite. Lewis A. Drummond, The Awakening that Must Come, pp. 50-51, Quoting Evan Hopkins, The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life.
Have you ever seen how Paul saw himself after He was saved? It may surprise you. At first, he said in one of his earliest epistles that he was ”the least of the apostles,” 1 Corinthians 15:9. Later, he said he was “less than the least of all saints,” Ephesians 3:8. Finally, in one of his last letters he said he was the “chief” of sinners, 1 Timothy 1:15.
“A saintly African Christian told a congregation once that, as he was climbing the hill to the meeting, he heard steps behind him. He turned and saw a man carrying a very heavy load up the hill on his back. He was full of sympathy for him and spoke to him. Then he noticed that His hands were scarred, and he realized that it was Jesus. He said to Him, ‘Lord, are you carrying the world’s sins up the hill?’ ‘No,’ said the Lord Jesus, ‘not the world’s sin, just yours!’ As that Africans simply told the vision God has just given him, the people’s heart and his heart were broken as they saw their sins at the Cross,” Roy Hession, The Calvary Road, p.p.65-66.
Recognition of sinfulness. Do you see the words, “iniquity” and “sin”?
Requested forgiveness. “Forgive...cover.”
“These two things happened symbolically in Israel on the day of atonement. Two goats were used in the ceremony. One was called the scapegoat. Upon the head of this creature the sins and iniquities of the people of Israel were placed. It was then delivered into the hands of a fit man, who led it away into the wilderness. There, in ‘a land not inhabited,’ it was set free to wander—forlorn, lost, and alone. The other goat was slain, and its blood taken by the high priest into the holy of holies and sprinkled on and before the sacred ark. In this way the sins of the nation was concealed, covered up (which is what the word ‘atonement’ means) for another year. The sins of Israel were thus ‘carried away’ and “covered up.’ The ceremony anticipated Calvary, where sins would be not just ‘carried away’ and ’covered up’ but willed out of existence by an omniscient and omnipotent God,” John Phillips, Exploring Psalms (Vol. 1), p. 701.
Where does our God cover our sins? Under the blood of His Son. “...the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7. “All of it, every spot, and wrinkle, the veil of love has covered all,” Charles Spurgeon. And so great is God’s covering that He does it by one offering, for all time!
It is by the blood of Christ that we are set free from our defiled conscience, Hebrews 9:14. What do you do with the stains of sin you have already confessed, yet their memory remains? For those of you who drink coffee, even after you have finished, in the bottom of the cup there will remain a small amount. In the morning, it will be a dry, dark stain. The coffee is gone, but the strain remains. When we sin, its like coffee in the cup. When we confess our sin, its like coffee gone, but the stain in the bottom of the cup. Only the healing blood of Jesus can remove the sorry stain that sticks to our conscience.
4. God’s Anger has been Satisfied at the Cross, v. 3-5.
“Wrath...fierceness of thine anger...cause thine anger toward us to cease...anger with us for ever?...draw out thine anger to all generations…”
Fierceness. It was only the work of Christ on the cross that perfectly satisfied God’s wrath against sin. God’s anger is not capricious, arbitrary, or petty. God’s wrath is His righteous reaction toward sinful behavior that contradicts His holiness. God’s wrath is never unpredictable, but always predictable. because it is provoked by evil. Liberal theology declares that there is in God no such thing as anger occasioned by human sin. John Murray said, “God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of His wrath.” Think about it. God made the children of wrath the children of His pleasure. You see, man was alienated from God by sin and God was alienated from man by wrath. And by Jesus Christ, sin is overcome and wrath is averted. Now, God can look on man without displeasure and man can look on God without fear.
“Because He is an infinite God of infinite holiness, all sins committed against Him are infinite in magnitude. Only a gift of infinite value could turn away the infinite wrath of God. And only God Himself (in the Person of His Son) could make such an infinite gift,” Ray Pritchard, In the Shadow of the Cross, p. 112.
“And, having made peace through the blood of His cross,” Colossians 1:20.
Instead of pouring out His wrath on us, God poured all of it out of His Son, and now there is none to be poured out on us...ever...here or hereafter!
5. God fills what is Absent by the Cross, v. 6.
What’s missing in the lives of people today, yes, even God’s people? Joy! Joy in what? Our luxuries? Our privileges? Our health? Our family? What does verse 6 say? “That Thy people may rejoice in Thee.”
Revelation 4:11 says we were created for God’s “pleasure.” Ephesians 1:5 adds that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world according to the good pleasure of His will.”
Now, listen. We can only find real pleasure when we have our pleasure in God. We will be most pleased when we rejoice in the God who takes pleasure in us!
Do you have “the joy of the Lord” in your life at this moment? You don’t have to announce the joy of the Lord. You don’t have to fake the joy of the Lord. You can’t work up or pray down the joy of the Lord. Is Jesus, as one old saint put it, “honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, and joy in the heart”? Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad,” John 8:56.
Look at verse 8. “I will hear what God the Lord will speak….” That is the result of revival. This means we receive God’s word; we rejoice over the Word; we respond to the Word. When people are truly listening to God, obeying God, you will have “peace.”
6. God Answers Antagonism by the Cross, v. 10.
Real revival is not primarily about getting our dirty lives cleaned up or transforming the wicked world around us, but it is “that thy people may rejoice in Thee,” v. 6.
If we really understand this Psalm, we will see there is confession of sin.
And there are deep, life-changing concepts of God. And, yes, even the contemplations of the work of Christ on the cross hundreds of years before Christ lived and died.
“Mercy and truth are met together….” v. 10a.
John Phillips tells us this phrase, “met together” is one word in the Hebrew and occurs 15 times in the Bible. In every instance it has a hostile meaning. Mercy and truth are at odds. When God’s mercy would say, “Pardon the sinner,” God’s truth says, “No! Punish the sinner.” God’s mercy says, “God is love!” God’s truth says, “Yes, but God is light!” So the two, mercy and truth, meet together. Everywhere else, where the word is used, it has the meaning of hostile intent. God cannot administer mercy at the expense of truth. He cannot uphold truth at the expense of mercy. But they have met together now at Calvary. There righteousness and peace have kissed each other. God can now uphold both His mercy and His truth, but His righteousness and His peace.”
Now, because of Christ, mercy and truth are no longer at odds.
“Righteousness and peace have kissed each other,” v. 10b. What started out as an antagonistic relationship has now resulted in an eternal marriage! “Mercy and truth met” and now “righteousness and peace have married!
Real revival is not simply making an occasional trip to the cross to get our sins forgiven. Neither is revival tarrying at the cross. Revival is being tethered to the cross. You have probably seen a “tether ball,” it is a ball tied to a pole by a rope. No matter how hard or in what direction you hit the ball, it will returns to its original location because it is tied securely to the pole. If we will stay tethered to the cross, we will be in the place for constant revival.
A young, wealthy, athletic cricket player in England could not dismiss his responsibility to share Christ. He yielded his life, gave away his fortune, and became a missionary across two continents. When people asked him why he had given up so much for the sake of the gospel, he answered, “If Jesus be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him,” quoted by Robert Coleman, Dry Bones Can Live Again, p. 41.
I want us all to pray a short, two request prayer to God.
First, “Turn us, O God our of salvation…” v. 4. That’s the New Testament concept of “repentance.”
Second, “Wilt Thou not revival us again…that thy people may rejoice in Thee.”
While we know and understand and believe that revival is the sovereign work of Almighty God, we also know that does not diminish our responsibility to humble ourselves before God and seek revival.
Stephen Olford says, “Revival is an invasion from heaven that brings a conscious awareness of God.”
Vance Havner once said that, “Revival is the church falling in love with Jesus all over again.”