This Is Revival
May 5th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
THIS IS REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-05-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor beginning the day of revival. And with me, could we pray? Our Lord, the burden of this meeting is so heavy on my soul. May God, in this day and in this week, grant us His moving Spirit and His saving presence such as we have never known in our lives? Bless the people as they pray, as they invite, as they come, as they open their hearts like a harp to the hands of God. Lord, may we vibrate in our very souls before the presence of Jesus. Bless every song, bless every message, bless every appeal, and when the week is done, may we look back upon it and say, “Surely, in a century of God’s blessings on this great church, there was never such a week as this.” And we shall thank Thee, Lord, for Thy presence and the outpouring of Thy Spirit, in Jesus’ saving name, amen.
On the back of your program you will find the subjects of the messages for the weekdays. Tonight at 7:30 in this auditorium I shall be preaching on this subject: What Shall I Do to Be Saved. Then, tomorrow night, Monday night, What Shall I Do With Jesus Which is Called Christ, and on Tuesday night, The Great Judgment Day; on Wednesday night, The Unpardonable Sin; on Thursday night, The Way Made Plain; and on Friday night, the night dedicated to our young people, Where Can I Find God?
Now, the sermon this morning is entitled This is Revival. I have three texts, one in Habakkuk 3:1-2:
A prayer of Habakkuk.
O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
And the second text, in Isaiah 57:15:
For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
And the third text, in the eighty-fifth Psalm, verses 4 and following:
Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause Thine anger towards us to cease
Wilt Thou be angry with us forever? Wilt thou draw out Thine anger to all generations?
Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?
Revival is a Christian word, it is a family word; it is God’s people who have revival. The lost are resurrected. God says that they are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1]. Lost people need “vival,” they need life, they need to be born into the kingdom of God [John 3:3]. It is God’s people who have revival: the spark into a flame. “And Jesus breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit” [John 20:22]. Revival is a Christian word, it is a family word; revival is a church word, it is an assembly word. As Dr. Freeman prayed in his prayer that appeal of Simon Peter: “Judgment must begin at the house of God” [1 Peter 4:17]. The church can never give what it does not itself possess. We must have, in our own hearts and in the assembly of God’s people, the Spirit of God’s gracious presence, and there must be victory and joy in the Holy Spirit among us. God’s people, the assembly of the saints, must feel first and know first what we would share with the world.
Revival is not only a Christian word, a family word; it is not only a church word, an assembly word; but revival is also a normal word. We are not straining for some monstrous experience alien to the mind of God, but we are seeking to receive from God’s hand a gracious gift that God’s has prepared for us. This is revival; the spirit of contrition and condition. “Lord, forgive me my barren and unfruitful life, forgive me, Lord, my lack of burden and concern. Lord, I’m not what I ought to be, and I’m not what I could be, and, by God’s grace, what I shall be.” This is revival: maybe concerned because we are not concerned, burdened because we’re not burdened, weeping because we cannot weep, crying because we cannot cry, praying because we cannot pray. Revival is not God’s people beating drums and blowing trumpets and marching down the street, but revival is God’s people sobbing and in confession coming back to Calvary.
This is revival: the spirit of travail of souls and agony in intercession, praying for ourselves first of all, for revival begins in us. As Jacob wrestled with God all night long at Peniel [Genesis 32:24-30], so sometimes we must wrestle in prayer. God has said in Isaiah 59:1:
The Lord’s hand is not shortened, withered, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear;
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.
There is no revival without great confession and repentance on the part of God’s people. That’s why the old time mourners’ bench—not that God was difficult to move or was less anxious to save, but that sin is so much in us and so much a part of the frailty of our human lives that it took prayer and wrestling with God to overcome. This is revival: the spirit of intercession and prayer for the lost.
“Brethren,” wrote Paul in the tenth chapter of Romans and the first verse, “My brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1].
[Robert] Murray M’Cheyne on the dial of his watch painted a setting sun, and underneath the words, “The night cometh” [John 9:4]. All of us stand in the way of the judgment of Almighty God, and we know not what hour or what moment we may be called to appear before God in eternity.
In one of the meetings that we had this last week, one of my finest deacons, who is here this morning, said to me, “Pastor, the only reason I was not on that plane that fell from Houston was I finished my work an hour earlier in Houston and came on a previous plane. I had planned to come on that plane.” We don’t know. It is not for us to see, but all of our lives are lived in jeopardy, all of us, and we know not what day or what hour. And when a lost man puts off his peace with God and his acceptance with Christ, he gambles with his soul. We are praying for the lost that they might be saved.
This is revival: the Spirit of unity and oneness in the Lord. The second chapter of Acts and verse 1, which announces and describes Pentecost, starts off like this: “And when Pentecost, when the day was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” [Acts 2:1]. There is an assembly of God’s saints in revival that could not be denied. We have other interests, yes; and we have other responsibilities, yes; but in the day of revival, there is a wanting to come together, to be together, to worship together, to sing together, to pray together, to deliver God’s Word in the audience of God’s people, and to make an appeal together for the lost—all of us of one heart and of one mind in one great convocation.
This is revival: the spirit of hungering and thirsting and wanting for God. The first verse of Psalm 42 is one of the most beautiful in the Bible and one of the most expressive of a heart that is quickened in the presence of the Lord. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my [soul] after Thee, O God” [Psalm 42:1]. As a deer, thirsty, seeks water, so our souls, Lord, long after Thee. Oh, for a great refreshing from heaven, for a visitation from God.
I grew up as a boy in far Northwest Texas, and the farm on which we lived was at the line and in eastern New Mexico. And in those days I have seen drought, tragic and terrible drought. The heavens turned to brass and the earth turned to iron. I have seen, as far as the eye could see, the very earth turned brown and seared, the pastures died. I have heard that cattle lowing for thirst and for water. One time as a small boy—I was barely six years of age—I was standing with my father at the backdoor of our house, and it was raining. And as the rain fell my father began to shout to the top of his voice. He was so quiet and reserved and reticent that his shouting was an astonishing thing to me! And I looked up into his face as he cried his shouts of praise and glory and thanksgiving, and I said, “Daddy, what’re you shouting for? What’re you shouting for?” and he said, “Son, the rain! God hath given us rain!”
Oh, for the floods on the thirsty land!
Oh, for a mighty revival!
Oh, for a fearless, sanctified band
Ready to hail its arrival!
[“Under the Burden of Guilt and Care,” W. Leslie]
The need of the land is revival,
A freshen of grace from above.
Repentance toward God and forgiveness;
More trusting in Christ and His love
The need of the church is revival
More praying for those who are lost,
More fullness of spirit and witness,
More zeal without counting the cost.
[author and work unknown]
This is revival: the spirit of weeping and rejoicing at the same time. What an unusual thing! The Psalm that we read together:
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and
weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with
rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Weeping and rejoicing at the same time! a fullness of Spirit, a moving in souls so deep it cannot be expressed except in tears of joy and gladness.
Every saint, every preacher especially ought to read B. H. Carroll’s My Infidelity and What Became of It. The founder of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, B. H. Carroll: when he was the head of the Bible Department at Baylor University, Dr. George W. Truett, then a student, lived in B. H. Carroll’s home. And in this pulpit, and behind this sacred desk, that giant Goliath of a man, he looked like a patriarch [and] has preached many, many times. B. H. Carroll never delivered a sermon more effective than the one entitled My Infidelity and What Became of It. For the years of his young manhood, scoffing at God, a blatant, blasphemous infidel, and in a revival meeting he found the Lord! And when he came back home and walked through the kitchen and up to his room, a little nephew in the home said to B. H. Carroll’s mother, he said, “Uncle B. H. looked so strange and was doing so unusual.” The little boy said to B. H. Carroll’s mother, “Uncle B. H. came through the kitchen, and he was whistling and singing. He was crying and rejoicing. He was weeping and singing at the same time.” And she went upstairs and looked at him as he lay on the bed with his hands over his face, and the mother pulled his hands from his face and looked long into his eyes, and then exclaimed, “Son, you’ve been saved! You’ve been saved! You’ve been saved!” Weeping and rejoicing at the same time. That is revival [Psalm 126:5-6].
This is revival: the spirit of response and commitment. “I’ve said no to God for the last time. I’m coming. I’ve turned down God’s appeal for the last time. I’m responding. Dear Lord, I come; take me, and receive me, and use me, and bless me.” This is the quickening of the Spirit of God:
I have decided, I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
Should no one go with me I still will follow.
Should no one join me I still will follow.
No turning back, no turning back.
The world behind me and the cross before me.
No turning back, no turning back.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
[“I Have Decided,” S. Sundar Singh]
That is the quickening power of the Holy Spirit, and when someone says that to God, he is saved. We are saved in a great commitment and in a great decision. “I have decided to give my heart and my life to Jesus”: that’s what it is to be saved. “I have decided to dedicate my life to Him and to join God’s people”: that’s what it is to belong to the body of Christ. And the blessing of the Lord is upon that family that decides to respond, upon that couple that decides to come, and upon that soul that makes the decision for Christ. This is revival.
In a moment we shall stand to sing, and as we sing the hymn of appeal, “Out of my bondage sorrow and strife, Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come,” and while we sing that hymn of appeal, a family you to respond, to come; a couple you to respond, to come; or one somebody you, while we sing the song and while our people pray and while we make this appeal, come this morning. Make it now. In the great throng in this balcony round, there is a stairway at the front and at the back, on either side; out of that seat, down that stairway and here to the pastor, “Here I am, pastor, I’m coming today.” The throng of this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” A whole family you, “Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children; all of us are coming today.” Or just a couple you, or one somebody you, decide now; “Lord, I trust Thee for every answer. I may not know, but God knows. And I trust Thee for strength for the way. I am weak, but God is strong. I will trust Thee, Lord, for every tomorrow, and here I am, blessed Jesus, and here I come.”
Decide now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming, “Pastor, here is my hand. I have given my heart to God,” or “I have dedicated my life to the Lord,” or “We have decided to put our lives in the circle of this dear and precious congregation; God’s house, God’s people, God’s church. And our children: we’re going to raise them up in the love and admonition of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4], and we’re coming today, the whole family of us.” As the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, and God bless you and the angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.