Revival Days Are Here Again
March 14th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM
REVIVAL DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-14-65 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to, and on television you are looking at, the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Revival Days Are Here Again. Several people have said to me, "You know, pastor, that sounds like that song ‘Happy Days Are Here Again.’" Well, I said, "Where do you think I got the title?" That is what it means to me, Revival Days Are Here Again. Listen to this text and see if it does not reflect that same happy, triumphant, glorious spirit:
Then they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.
– and Philip, the deacon and evangelist –
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, and there was great joy in that city.
[Acts 8:4, 5, 6, 8]
Isn’t that a magnificent comment? After the preaching of the word and after the listening of the people, then the Holy Spirit inspired the good physician, who is writing the story, to add, "And there was great joy in that city" [Acts 4:8]. This coming Wednesday night at 7:30 o’clock, in this great auditorium, and continuing through Sunday week, we shall be in the midst of our annual spring revival. And it is a great day. It will be a marvelous time.
When I think of revival, my mind goes back to the years in which those special services brought so many heavenly blessings to my heart. I was converted in a revival meeting; I gave my life publicly to be a preacher in a tent revival set in the midst of the little town in which I grew up. And some of the sweetest memories of my life are in those days when I began holding my first revival meetings.
One of the men in a little quarter-time church – and I have found I have to explain that to some of these youngsters: a "quarter-time church" would be one that had services once a month. They didn’t have enough money, or enough affluence, or enough people to have services every Sunday, so they had a preacher one time a month. And then another [church] one would have him the other time, and maybe another one, another one. I was pastor of three churches one time, all at the same time. Well, that was a quarter-time church and it met in a school house; didn’t have a church house. While I was there we built a little church house, but when I went there, the church met in a school house. But we did have a tabernacle and in the tabernacle we had the most interesting camp meeting every winter, every summer. We went down there and camped around that tabernacle – you could just preach all day, preach all night, pray all day, pray all night, shout all day, shout all night. Didn’t have anything to do; the crops were laid by. Didn’t have anything to do but go to church, pray, and shout, and rejoice, and get religion, and see people saved, and baptize the converts. Ninety-nine percent of you listening to me have no idea what I’m talking about; no idea, no idea.
Well, what I started to say was: the time came for a preacher to be selected for the annual revival meeting and one of those wonderful men stood up. And I was a teenager, but the pastor and the bishop and the shepherd of the flock. And he said, "My brethren in conference assemble," he said, "I make a motion that we invite the far-famed and illustrious pastor, Dr. George W. Truett of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, to hold our revival meeting this coming summer." Then he added, "But in the event that the great preacher cannot come, I make a motion that we invite our young pastor to hold the revival meeting." That was just his way of putting my name in the same breath as the name of the great pastor here in the First Baptist Church in Dallas.
Oh, I never felt so uplifted and encouraged in my life! I knew Dr. George W. Truett wasn’t coming to that little church meeting in a school house. He was president of the Baptist World Alliance, and he was all over the world, representing our Lord and our faith. So I held the revival meeting, and you should have been there! You just should have been there. One dear, old, sainted mother prayed all night long one night. And the next day, you could tell it and you could feel it. "And there was great joy in that city." Happy days, revival days are here again: this is revival, a pilgrimage back to Bethel:
And the Lord God said to Jacob, Arise, and go up to Bethel,
and build thee an altar unto the Lord your God.
And Jacob arose with his family and with his household and went up to Bethel.
And there built an altar to the Lord God who appeared unto him when he fled from the face of his brother Esau.
And there the Lord appeared to Jacob.
[Adapted from Genesis 35:1-9]
That is revival, a pilgrimage back to Bethel. There is no child of God, but that can name Bethels in his life. "When I was saved, when I made a great decision, when I was in conflict in my soul and God resolved it, when I was lost and He directed the way," there are Bethels in all of our Christian lives. And they are high spiritual monuments. "And there Jacob erected a pillar to the Lord and anointed it, and dedicated it, and called the name of that place the house of God, Bethel" [Genesis 35:14-15].
Back to Bethel I must go
Back where the rivers of sweet waters flow
Back to the Christ life my soul longs to know
Bethel is calling, and I must go.
["Back to Bethel," by B.B. McKinney]
This is revival: a pilgrimage back to Bethel. This is revival: the convocation, the gathering together of God’s people. I didn’t outline this revelation. It was done thousands of years before I was born. But my own spirit, living in its present moment, corroborates the testimony I read in the Word of God. There is a social aspect, facet. There is a commonality of religion that cannot be escaped. It has never existed any other way, never, never. I can worship God on a high hill, or under the chalice of the blue sky, or by myself with the closet door shut, but if I did – and that alone – religion would perish in the earth. There is something about God’s elective purpose for us, that if it abides and if it lives and if it’s handed down to our children; it has to be in a communion, in a koinōnia, in a commonality. It has to be shared.
And when you read the religion of the Old Testament, God’s people were gathered together at the door of the congregation; called "the door of the congregation" because God’s people assembled there to appear before the Lord. And in the New Testament, from the beginning, the disciples of our Lord associated themselves together. And one of the inspired writers said for us "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together" [Hebrews 10:25]. And this is revival: the assembling, the convening of God’s people for a common commitment to pray, to look to heaven, to praise the Lord, to introduce to the Savior our friends, to win the lost; here, to confess our faith before men and angels. This is revival!
I have often said, "You wouldn’t have to have anything at all for the whole world to focus attention upon any revival we ever had here in this church if our people were just to come." There are over thirteen thousand members in this congregation. This auditorium will not seat more than three thousand. And if you had our people, just our people, just to come to do nothing else, and three thousand of them were on the inside, and ten thousand of them were on the outside, you would have every photographer of every magazine and newspaper in the land coming down here to see the phenomenal thing that is happening.
There is strength and there is power and there is impressive publicity and invitation just in the coming together of God’s people. And when we’re not there, we thereby weaken the testimony of our Lord. So Wednesday night our people are to assemble and I want to be there, I want to be here. These are my people, this is my church, this is my Lord – this is our faith, this is our gospel – and I want to be here. And if I were not here, my brethren would feel that I had forsaken them and let them down. So when they assemble, I’ll be there with them. I want to be there with them; my heart is here. They expect me, God looks for me and I want to come. I’ll be right here.
In the First World War – and I remember that so distinctly – in the First World War, after one of those over-the-top attacks, a buddy, a friend was left out there in no man’s land somewhere, when his buddy and friend returned back to the trench. And when he couldn’t find his close friend, he went to the captain and said, "Captain, may I have your permission to go out there in no man’s land and see if I can find him?" And the captain said, "No, it’s too dangerous, too dangerous." But when the fellow insisted, the captain said, "It’s against my will and my better judgment, but if you insist, you can go." After he was gone for a while, he dragged himself back into the trench grievously hurt, wounded. And the captain said to him, "Didn’t I tell you that it was too dangerous to go?" But the boy replied, "Captain, I found him. And with the last strength of his life, he smiled and said, ‘I knew you would come.’" And the boy added, "Sir, I would rather have died than have failed him." That spirit ought to be in our hearts where we are concerned in a commitment like this commitment unto death. "They expect me; they look for me. They count on my presence, and I’ll be there. God helping me in His grace and mercy, I’ll come."
When I was in Baylor, there was a young preacher there who is now in glory, in heaven. There was a young preacher who was very close to me. We were as dear friends as any two young ministers could ever be. He came from one of the big cities in Texas and grew up in a city church, so opposite from my life and my experience. And my first introduction to a big city church was with him. He loved that congregation and the pastor. So he took me with him to a revival service one weekend in that church. I never will forget it. There must have been a hundred people saved, converted that morning.
Well, there was a young woman, a girl – belonged to the Young People’s department – there was a girl whose family belonged to the congregation. And the young people were having an all-night prayer meeting, anticipating the revival service. So when the time came for the prayer meeting, it was also time for the dance at the country club. And the girl wanted to go to the prayer meeting. She was a born-again Christian, but the parents said, "No, you’re going to the dance." So the hour came, and the girl dressed in her ballroom gown. And the parents put her in the limousine and told the chauffeur to take her to the country club and to the dance. And the girl said on the way, her heart grew heavier and heavier. Her Christian friends were at the church in an all-night prayer meeting, and she dressed to go to the country club dance.
The burden became heavier than she could bear, and finally she said to the chauffeur, "Turn the car around, turn the car around and take me to the church." And when the chauffeur took her to the church, she said to him, "now you drive home and you tell my father and mother that I’m here at the church in an all-night prayer meeting." And he went his way to make the announcement to her parents at home. And she found her way into the all-night prayer meeting, of those dedicated young men and women, dressed in a ballroom gown.
Her testimony meant more, meant more, her faithfulness meant more than ten thousand sermons to those young men and women. And I suppose that’s one of the reasons that when I attended the service that Sunday morning, it seemed to me there were at least a hundred people saved. That’s revival: the convocation of God’s people together in a common determination, in a common commitment, in prayer and interest and sympathy and compassion. That’s God’s kind of religion. That’s this Bible’s kind of religion. That is true religion.
This is revival: the offering of a heart for a burden. Dr. Reed sat down by me in the minister’s room, he said, "Pastor, how you feeling?" I said, "I feel exactly as I always do when we face revival." I have – it’s hard to describe, you have to live through it to know. I have a spirit of appeal of looking to God, "O Lord, bless our people, and bless our preacher, and bless this pastor, and bless our staff, and bless this appeal."
I’m studying, as you know, preparing for this long series of sermons on the Holy Spirit, and I have a very decided theological bias. There is a system of theology that you call "Armenian." And Armenian theology is that a man saves himself. But my theological bias is a thousand miles away, in an almost opposite direction. I think without God, there’s not any salvation. And without the convicting, drawing, regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, no man could ever find God, could ever be regenerated, could ever be saved. And to me revival is mostly a casting of ourselves upon the Lord.
I’ve often said many times, I am humbled as I stand in the presence of the youngest Primary or Junior child who says to me, "I want to be saved." If study, or scholastic dedication, or academic appliance of oneself, or any achievement in the whole theological world could get even a little child to Jesus, I would study, study, study and give myself to all of those academic, logical answers.
But there is something else, and something over, and something other, and something beside, and something further that has to take place in a man’s soul before he is saved. He can’t save himself; he cannot. He cannot raise himself from the dead; we cast ourselves upon the mercies of God when we die. "Lord, this grave, open wide for me," and even these who love me best, place me out of sight, Lord. God’s hands must raise me from the dead, if I am to live. It is that same and identical power that must raise us from our death in trespasses and in sins. This is revival: looking to God. "Lord it is a work Thou must do." And when we offer our souls and our hearts to the Lord, God places upon our spirits a compassionate love, a testimony, a divine effulgence, an aura of holiness and helpfulness. And that’s revival, that’s revival.
There is not any logic or argument in this world that could ever take the place of a mother’s love for the soul of her child or a father’s earnest pleading with his son. You couldn’t think up an argument or a logic that could have the power in it of a devoted parent. There’s not a sermon that any man in this earth could ever devise or deliver that has in it the power of a compassionate heart pleading with a lost man to come to Jesus. There’s not any tract that you could ever extend, give out, distribute, that ever has the power of the track of the footstep of a Christian man on the door of the home of a friend, before the door of the home of a friend. There is not any power against Satan in this earth like the simple knocking at the door of a neighbor. That’s revival: the interest that would compel us to go.
About sixteen years ago, seventeen years ago, an artist came to this church. He lived in St. Louis – he also now is in glory – a wonderful Christian man, one of the sweetest and most aesthetically sensitive Christian men that I have ever known; he just blessed my soul. I never saw him but that one time. Well anyway, he wanted to work out with me the windows that I wanted over there in Embree Hall. Dr. Embree gave me the money, personally, for that hall. He said, "I want you to do this prayer meeting hall just as you want it done. And this money is in your name." And he kept it there until a day or two before he died.
So I had the privilege of visiting with that wonderful artist. So we worked through this window, and this window, and this window. I knew practically nothing about it, and I just went along with him. Those beautiful windows; I don’t think there’s any in the world prettier than those over there in Embree Hall. And then we got to the final one and I said to him, "Now this one I want you to make just like I want you to." He said, "I’d be delighted." So I said to him, "Now in the center medallion, I want you to make a church with a spire pointing up to heaven, with a spire pointing up to God. And on this side, I want you to make hands folded in prayer, and I want you to write underneath ‘prayer.’ Then on the right medallion, I want you to draw a picture of a hand knocking at the door, and underneath that I want you to write ‘visitation’." And he said, "O, I think that would be beautiful."
So when they put in those windows, he had leaded all those little old pieces just as you see them over there. And what I was trying to convey to our souls is that the church that points toward God and that lives in power in this earth, is the church that clasps hands in prayer and knocks in visitation at the door. That is revival. That’s revival.
This is revival: the gift of the spirit of evangelism. What is evangelism? Evangelism is our Savior in agony as He weeps over a doomed city [Luke 19:41-44]. This is evangelism: Moses standing before God and praying, "Lord, if Thou wilt forgive the people their sin," Then he never finished it. "But if not, blot my name, I pray Thee, out of the book which Thou hast written" [Exodus 32:32]. That’s evangelism!
That same thing was said by the apostle Paul.
I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
And then the next chapter that Dr. Reed quoted in his prayer,
My heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is that they might be saved.
[Romans 9:3, 10:1]
This is evangelism: John Knox down on his face in Scotland praying, "O God, give me Scotland or I die." This is evangelism: Billy Sunday saying, "Make me a great soulwinner for God." This is evangelism – the burning prayer of the poet:
Set me afire Lord,
Stir me, I pray!
While the world perishes
We go our way,
Day after day.
Set us afire Lord,
Stir us, we pray!
["Set Us Afire, Lord" by Ralph Spalding Cushman]
This is revival; this is evangelism. The word of the apostle in the ninth chapter of his First Corinthian letter:
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, an oikonomia,
– a stewardship, a dispensation, an assignment –
is committed unto me nonetheless,
Nonetheless. If I do what I do, preaching the gospel with a great heart and a yielded spirit, I have a reward. But if I don’t have a yielded spirit, and if I do it against my will, I have to do it in a way for oikonomia, a dispensation, an assignment, a stewardship from God
,is committed unto me.
Though I am free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain some.
To the Jews, a Jew that might win somebody who is a Jew;
To them that are outside the law as a heathen, that I might win them that are outside the law.
To the weak I have become weak, that I might gain some that are weak: I am made all things to all men, that by all means I might win some, win some, save some; that I might save some.
[1 Corinthians 9:16-22]
Just a little while after the defeat of Hitler, some of us were in Europe and staying at the Imperial Hotel that has since burned down. Staying at the Imperial Hotel in London, there was a little family there, a fine Britisher and his wife and their children. And talking with them, he had been through the days of that terrible agony and had been evacuated at Dunkirk, at Dunkirk. And as we talked about the evacuation at Dunkirk, when those men – all that was left of the entire British army – when those men were surrounded in that small pocket of land at Dunkirk, anybody that had anything that would float disregarded his personal safety, disregarded his life, disregarded all things and rowed his little tub, or rowed his little boat, or sent his little motor launch, or whatever he had that could float, they sent it across the English Channel and picked up those men on the shore and carried them back to England. And they saved in that operation, more than three hundred thousand men. And as I talked to that man, he was one of them. He was one of them.
Disregard the bombs that were falling, and the artillery that was bursting, and all of the effort of the Nazi army, the people of England – on anything that would float across the channel – bringing those men back home. Can you remember those magnificent days? No wonder Churchill called it "our finest hour." That is the spirit of revival, and achievement, and salvation. That’s it.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring ones, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the Mighty to save.
["Rescue the Perishing," by Fanny J Crosby, 1869]
This is revival; and do you notice? "That I might by all means save some, save some" [1 Corinthians 9:22], one of the tragedies and sorrows of life, that you have to say it that way, "save some." For according to the Word of God, there’ll never be a time, not until the Lord comes and sets up His kingdom of righteousness on the earth, there’ll never be a time when everyone is saved, never. But according to the elective purpose and sovereign grace of God, some will be saved.
A man, someone, one time, went up to Charles Haddon Spurgeon and said, "If I believed as you do in the election of God and the sovereignty of God, if I believed as you do, I’d be so discouraged, I don’t think I’d want to preach at all."
And Spurgeon said, "Why man, it’s just the opposite. It’s just the opposite." He said, "I know according to the revelation of the Word of God that however difficult or however dark or however the foes or however anything, I know when I preach that God will give me some." There will be some elected to eternal life. There will be some whom the Spirit will call. There will be some who will be saved.
I feel the same way as that great predecessor in our Baptist pulpit. Not going to win them all, and I could grieve and weep over that, not going to win them all, but we’ll win some. God will give us some. When I preached this at the 8:15 hour, why, it looked as though, "Well, Lord, You just forgot us today," and we just kept on singing and extending the appeal. And there was a woman, an older woman, who just broke down and in many tears came. And we knelt together, and she said, "God has spoken to me today. God has spoken to me today, and I want to confess my faith in Jesus, and I want to be baptized and, in His grace, follow the Lord all the way." God will give us some, give us some. Sometimes we just pray and wait; it seems the rest of our lives sometimes. Sometimes seems as though they’ll never be saved. Maybe they won’t; maybe they’ll say "No!" to Jesus until they die in that negation and rejection, maybe so. But maybe God will save them, if for no other reason, because of our importunity.
In preaching in a service one time, there was a fine-looking man, older man, white-headed man, came to the preacher and gave his hand to the pastor. And when the pastor introduced him, he was one of their fine citizens in that city; and affluent and a lawyer in a famous firm. And when the pastor introduced him that day, he’d accepted the Lord as his Savior, and he stood there to be received by baptism into the church. Well you know, here in our church, every once in a while or often, I have people come and stand beside a friend or member of a family. Well, they didn’t do things like that in that church.
And when that man was introduced, why, another man stood up in the congregation and he said, "Pastor, as you know," and he called his name, "we’ve been partners in the law firm and in the oil and investment world, we’ve been partners.’ And I’ve forgotten how many years he said, between thirty and forty, "we’ve been partners." And he said, "Pastor, I’ve prayed for him all of these years. All of these years, I’ve prayed for him. And now, pastor, if you don’t mind, I’ve stood by him through these years and now that he’s been saved, could I come and stand by his side now?"
Oh, that is so fine and so splendid a sentiment. And as I looked at them, those two fine men standing there together, I thought: Oh, what if that Christian deacon had prayed ten years? "Well, it’s too discouraging, I think I’ll quit." What if he’d prayed twenty years? "I don’t think he’ll ever be saved, I’ll quit." What if he prayed thirty years? "This is so long, thirty years, I think I’ll quit." What if he’d prayed thirty years and three hundred days? "It’s too discouraging, I think I’ll quit." I’ve forgotten how many years it was, but however many years between thirty and forty years he prayed for his friend – and what a heavenly day to stand by his side in the kingdom of the Lord. That’s it.
And of course, many times people will respond on the first invitation. We had a far-famed and illustrious preacher speak to our brotherhood one time. And I remember what he said. He said, "The first time I was ever invited to take Jesus as my Savior I did it. The first time I was ever asked to come to Christ, I did it."
"I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" [1 Corinthians 9:22]. We’ll never win them all, not until the Lord comes, but we’ll win some. God will give us some. And in that we are en-heartened, and encouraged, and rejoice, this is revival. Glorious days are here again, "And there was great joy in that city" [Acts 8:8].
Now while we sing our appeal, somebody you this morning to take Jesus as Savior, somebody you to put your life in the fellowship of God’s church, a couple, a family, a child, a youth, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your soul, make that decision now. While we’re seated here, while we’re seated here, decide for Christ, "Lord, when I stand up I’m going to stand up and move toward Thee." In that balcony there is a stairway on either side at the front and back, and in this press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Preacher, here I am and here I come. By God’s grace, I cast my soul on the Lord. May He forgive my sins and save me to eternal life." Or however God shall say, make it now. Make it this morning. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
REVIVAL DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Brings back memories of revival days
A. My first revival meetings
B. My conversion
II. This is revival
A. A pilgrimage back to Bethel (Genesis 31:3, 35:1-15)
B. God’s people together (Acts 2:1, Hebrews 10:25)
1. Common prayer and commitment
C. The offering of a heart for a burden
D. Looking to God
E. Personal testimony, effort
F. Spirit of evangelism (Luke 19:41-44, Exodus 32:32, Romans 9:3, 10:1)
1. John Knox
2. Paul (1 Corinthians 9:16-22)
III. Receiving from God’s hands those He has elected to respond
A. Some will respond (1 Corinthians 9:22)