Revival Days are Here Again
March 14th, 1965 @ 8:15 AM
Revival Days Are Here Again
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-14-65 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning sermon entitled Revival Days are Here Again. This coming Wednesday, Wednesday of this week, at 7:30 o’clock in this auditorium, our annual spring revival meeting begins, and it will continue for the days that follow, through the following two Sundays. And in keeping with this spirit of revival appeal, I read from a passage in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts:
Now they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
And 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 8:4-6, 8]
Revival days are always like that, a preacher like Philip declaring the good news of God’s mercy and grace to us, and the people with one accord giving heed to the message that is delivered by God’s servant [Acts 8:6]. And the inevitable result: “And there was great joy in that city” [Acts 8:8]. Revival time brings back to most of us memories of high and holy days.
I was converted in a revival meeting. I gave my life to God to be a preacher in a revival meeting, and some of the sweetest memories of my life go back to the days when, as a youth, I held my first revival services. In one of the little churches that I pastored, a little quarter-time church, a church that had services just once a month out in the country, in one of those little churches one time, a deacon stood up, and as we were preparing to invite a preacher for our annual summer revival, he said, “Brother moderator, I make a motion that we invite Dr. George W. Truett, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, to lead our revival meeting.” Then he added, “But, if the great and far-famed Dr. Truett cannot come, then I would make the motion that we invite our young pastor to hold the revival meeting.” That was his way of encouraging me, and I appreciated it. There wasn’t a chance in five hundred million for Dr. Truett to turn aside from all of the worldwide responsibilities that he had to come to that little, tiny church that met in a schoolhouse, to hold the revival meeting. But in the event that Dr. Truett couldn’t come, his next finest choice was their young pastor.
And when I began, there were people like that dear and sainted mother who stayed up all night long, an aged saint in Israel, and prayed for the Holy Spirit in power to come upon the revival services. And God remembered, and the Lord came down, and God gave us revival. All of those things come back into my heart when I think of revival services. This is revival: a pilgrimage back to Bethel.
And the Lord God said to Jacob, “Arise, and go up to Bethel, and build there an altar unto Jehovah thy God” [Genesis 35:1]. And Jacob arose up with all of his house and all of his family and went up to Bethel, where God at the first had appeared unto him when he fled from the face of his brother Esau, and there Jacob built an altar to the Lord God and called upon the name of the Lord [Genesis 35:2-15]. That is revival: a pilgrimage back to Bethel.
Any child of God has Bethels in his life; places where he met God, places where great conflict and tension and difficulty was resolved, as we saw a vision of angels:
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.
[from “Back to Bethel,” B.B. McKinney]
This is revival: a pilgrimage back to Bethel.
This is revival: the convocation of God’s people, the gathering of the Lord’s own before the high, exalted Majesty of His presence. All of the saints of the household of faith were convened in one place, with one accord, with one heart and soul, with one mind and commitment, on the day of Pentecost when the Lord came down in glory and power [Acts 2:1]. Now, I didn’t arrange the community, the fellowship, the koinōnia of God’s people, but any man who says, “My religion is just for me alone, and I experience it, and I worship just in me alone,” any man who says that has never even approached the purpose, the sovereign elective choice of God for His own in the earth. From the beginning, from the beginning, and as far as this revelation extends, religion, true religion, has always been a shared convocation. Even the Passover lamb was to be eaten by the whole family together. And if the family was too small, it was to be shared with the friends and the neighbors roundabout [Exodus 12:3-4].
There is a purpose of God in gathering His people together. We encourage one another. We listen to the preaching of the Word. There is a visitation from heaven, an answered prayer, when God’s people convene. There is a feeling, there is a moving of the Spirit, there is a power in the presence that we don’t experience any other place as we do when God’s people come together.
I can worship God in a closet with the door shut, and I can worship God on the top of a high hill, and I can worship God under the chalice of a starry sky. But mostly, it has been the eternal and unvarying purpose of the Almighty that we worship God in a community, in a fellowship, in a koinōnia, in a gathering together. And when Wednesday comes and the services begin, my brethren will be here, and I want to be with them. That’s where I belong. They’re my people. They represent my Lord and my church and my faith. And when they pray, I want to be a part of the intercession. And when they sing, I want to be a part of the singing. And when they listen, I want to be a part of the listening. And when invitation is made, I want to be a part, extending an appeal to those who need our Lord and who ought to come into the fellowship of His church. This is where I belong. These are my people calling on the name of my God, and my heart is with them. I don’t want to fail them. I’ll be right here, God willing.
In the days of the First World War, there were two men, two young men who became very close—buddies. And in one of those attacks, one of the buddies, one of the boys, was left out there in no man’s land. He didn’t return, and his friend went to the captain and asked if he might have the privilege of going out there in no man’s land to find him, and the captain refused. “It’s too dangerous. You wouldn’t live to get back.” But the young fellow was so insistent that the captain said, “It’s against my best judgment, but if your heart is set on it, go.”
After passing of a time, the boy came back to the trench seriously, grievously, wounded. And the captain said to him, “Isn’t that what I told you? It was dangerous and you ought not to go?” But the boy replied, “Sir, it was worth it. It was worth it. With his last strength, when I found him he smiled and said to me, ‘I knew that you would come.’ And, Captain,” said the youth, “I had rather die than have failed him.”
These are my people, and this is my church, and these services are my services, and I’ll be here. I’ll come. When I was in school at Baylor, there was a young fellow, a young minister—he’s now in heaven—there was a young minister, and he and I were the closest of friends. And he loved a city church here in one of the big cities in Texas, and I went with him to a revival meeting in his church, one of the most moving experiences of my young life, and I found out that the young people, in preparation for that revival, had held an all night prayer meeting. In the church was a very affluent family, and they had a young marriageable daughter, a young woman. She belonged to the young people’s division. And when the time was announced for the revival meeting, it was at the same time that they were having a ball at the country club. And the young woman, the girl, said to her father and mother she wanted to go to the church and to share in the all night revival meeting. The parents refused. “You are to go to the club and you’re to dress for the dance.”
So the evening came and her parents made her dress, put on her ballroom gown, and put her in the limousine and told the chauffer to take her to the country club. And the girl said that as the car made its way to the country club and to the dance, her heart grew heavier and heavier and heavier. And finally, unable to bear it any longer, she said to the chauffer, “Turn the car around and drive down to the church.” The chauffer turned the car around, drove down to the church. She got out and she said to the chauffer, “Now you drive home and tell my father and mother I’m not at the dance; I’m at the all night prayer meeting here at the church.” And she came into the prayer meeting dressed in her ballroom gown, gave her testimony, stayed all night in the prayer. Ah! No wonder they had services and visitations and conversions that moved your soul. In the service that I attended, I think there must have been at least a hundred people converted. That is revival, the convocation of God’s people.
This is revival: the emphasis upon evangelism, the reminder of our responsibility before God for the lost. It’s easy to forget, these people we do business with, we sell and trade and work, and we’re so enmeshed, we are so enmeshed in the activities of the day, that it is easy to forget our spiritual duty and obligation and responsibilities. We need revival to bring us back to the remembrance of our assignment in evangelism.
What is evangelism? This is evangelism: the burdened heart of a Christian praying for somebody who is lost. This is evangelism: the agony of Christ weeping over a doomed city [Luke 19:41-44]. This is evangelism: Moses standing before God and praying, “O God! If Thou will forgive the sin of this people—; but if not, blot my name, I pray Thee, out of the book which Thou hast written” [Exodus 32:32]. This is evangelism: John Knox, down on his face, praying, “O God! Give me Scotland or I die.” This is evangelism: Billy Sunday praying before God, “O God! Make me a soulwinner for Thee!” This is evangelism: the prayer of the poet:
Set us afire, Lord; stir us, we pray!
While the world perishes, we go our way
Purposeless, passionless day after day!
Set us afire, Lord; stir us, we pray!
[From “Set Us Afire,” Bishop Ralph Spaulding Cushman]
This is evangelism: the apostle Paul crying before God, “O God, I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” [Romans 9:3]. This is evangelism: the words of that same apostle in the ninth chapter of the 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, oikonomian—a dispensation, a stewardship—is committed unto me.
[1 Corinthians 9:16-17].
If I do this thing willingly I have a reward, but if I don’t do it willingly I must anyway, because an assignment, a dispensation, a stewardship has been committed unto me:
For though I be free from all men, yet must I make myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
Unto the Jews I become as a Jew, that I might win the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
To them that are without the law, as without the law… that I might gain them that are without the law.
To the weak become I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
[1 Corinthians 9:19-22]
That is evangelism: wherever people are, and as they are, identifying our souls with them, ourselves with them, our interests with them, our love with them, that we might by all means save some.
In speaking to one of the members of our church about a certain fine and dedicated group who belong to some churches and who have a marvelous, marvelous life, but mostly their ministry is sterile, and it doesn’t result in people being converted, and in the spirit of salvation and evangelism. And we were talking about it and came to this conclusion: they have a too-holy idea, and a too-holy respect, and a too-pharisaical goodness and attitude for people outside their little group, their fold. And you know it’s easy to be that way: “Those sinners over there, and those folks out there, and these over yonder.” “O Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like other men. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. I thank Thee, Lord, that I’m not like even that publican down there on the outside of the door” [Luke 18:11-12]. Oh! How easy it is to fall into a pharisaical attitude toward other people. Lord, deliver us from it!
If I am any better, if I am by any means any better than somebody else, it’s by the grace of God. The Lord was good to me if I am in any wise better than some other man. Lord, what we need from heaven is the compassionate spirit of identification. We are lost, all of us, and God, in His goodness, has been merciful to some of us. And this is evangelism: O God, be merciful to all of us! All of us, Lord, without the loss of one. Save us all. Be good to us all. Be merciful to us all. Grant repentance to us all. O Lord! Remember our need. That is evangelism: the identification of God’s people with the need of the lost all around us. Not removed, not better than thou, but all of us alike looking to God, heavenward. Lord, remember! Save! Intervene! O God, may Thy great arm be bared saving us! That’s revival. That’s evangelism.
This is evangelism; this is revival: the personal testimony, heart to heart, in loving solicitude for God’s lost, and wayward, and prodigal, and indifferent in the earth. There never was a logic or an argument as powerful as the concerned, prayerful heart of a mother for her daughter, or the father for his son, or the parents for their child. You couldn’t think of an argument, nor could you outline a logic, that would have in it the moving power of a mother’s eyes filled with tears, or a father’s quivering voice for his son.
You couldn’t preach a sermon, you couldn’t think up a sermon, you couldn’t deliver a sermon that had in it the power of a compassionate human heart pleading, in love, for somebody to come to Jesus. There is no tract that you could ever present that had in it the power of a track of a footprint on a doorstep. There is no assailing the kingdom of Satan and sin and the powers of darkness that has in it the power of a gentle knock on the door of somebody who needs Jesus.
The Lord came Himself—not an angel, or one of the cherubim, or one of the seraphim, or one of the archangels, but there He was Himself—and He knocked at the doors of the people. And He sat up late at night talking to somebody like Nicodemus [John 3:1-21], and He sought out the soul of a despised and Samaritan woman, and He gave Himself [John 4:7-27]. And in heaven, He still has that heart of solicitude. “Behold,” He said, “I stand at the door, and knock”: and this is in the Revelation, “and if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in, and sup with him, and he with Me” [Revelation 3:20], and those who have caught the spirit of our Master have been like that.
Philip, a deacon, went down to the city of Samaria and told them what Jesus had done for him [Acts 8:5-12]. And the Spirit said to the church at Antioch, “Separate Me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have called them” [Acts 13:2]. And they went out preaching the gospel of the Son of God [Acts 13:3-52]. That’s it. That’s it.
And the Lord will always give us some. Not all. If I can read the Book aright, the whole world, all, everybody—when Jesus comes, not everybody will be saved. Remember I told you about Spurgeon one time? When a man came to Spurgeon and said, “Do you know if I believed your doctrine of election and predestination, why, why, I just don’t think I’d preach at all, for what’s the use of preaching?” and Spurgeon said, “Oh, no, my brother, the gospel that we read in the Bible of the sovereign grace and elective purpose of God is just the opposite. For,” he said, “I know, by the promise of the Lord, that however difficult it may be, however hard it may be, God will always save some.”
And, you know, I have that assurance in my heart and in my work, and it never leaves me. I am not going to be able to win everybody. That’s right. And there will be some who will say “no” to Jesus, and “no” to Jesus, and they will die in that negation, but there will always be some who are saved. Always God will give us some, so don’t ever give up. Don’t ever be discouraged. Don’t do it. May be a long, long time, but God will give us some. God will do it.
In a service that I held one time, there walked down the aisle a man—oh, an older man, white headed—and when the pastor introduced him, why, another white-headed man, a godly deacon in the church, stood up and said to the pastor, “Pastor, if you don’t mind, could I come and stand by his side?” We kind of do that in the church all the time, but they never had done that in that church. So he asked the pastor, “Could I come and stand by his side?” He said, “This man is my partner in the office.” They were lawyers together, and investment men together, and very wealthy men.
He said, “He and I have been partners,” and he named the years, oh, he named thirty, forty years, “we’ve been partners,” and he said, “I’ve stood by him and we’ve stood together,” and he described some of the things they had been together in and some hard times and some difficult places. But he said, “Pastor, I have prayed for his soul for these” and he named those years; thirty, forty years. And he said, “At last, God’s answered my prayer, and when I see him standing up there by himself, pastor, it just seems that I ought to still be standing by his side. So if you don’t mind, could I come up there?”
Why, I thought that was the most appropriate thing in the world. Think of it. He prayed for that partner one year and nothing happened, ten years and nothing happened, twenty years and nothing happened, twenty-five years and nothing happened, thirty years and nothing happened. You’d think, “Well, I think it’s time for me to quit. I think it’s time for me to quit. Thirty years is long enough!” No! Thirty years and a half. No! Thirty years and three hundred more days. No! Thirty years and as long as we have voice to intercede. And you don’t know. You don’t know. God will give us some, and some of them are saved after a long time of appeal and rejection, and some will be saved the first time they’re invited to the Lord.
We had, in our brotherhood here at the church one time, a far-famed preacher, and I heard him say, he said, “Men, the first time I was invited to take Jesus as my Savior, I did it. I did it.” So we are to all men what God would have us be: to the Jew, as a Jew; to the weak, as weak; made all things to all men that, by the grace of God, we might save some [1 Corinthians 9:19-22].
And we have that promise: God will give us some. O Lord! Do it today! Do it today! May this service be a service of salvation. May this hour be an hour of accepting Christ. May this day, all the services be crowned with those who look in faith to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13; Ephesians 2:8-9]. And may our revival be a continuation of the Pentecostal, soul-saving presence of the Lord among us [Acts 2:1-47]. Revival days are here again. Amen, and God bless them.
Now while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, to look in faith to Jesus this morning, come and stand by me. A family you, coming into the church this hour, a couple you, one you, while we prayerfully and earnestly sing this appeal, make it now. Make it this morning: “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” On the first note of the first stanza, while you’re seated, make the decision for Christ: “Lord, I do trust Thee, and for all that it might ever mean in life, in death, now and forever, I look, Lord, in faith to Thee, and here I am [Ephesians 2:8]. Here I come.” And when you stand up, stand up coming: “Here I am, preacher, here I come,” while all of us stand and sing.