The Day of Revival
March 13th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
Corruption, Decadence, Fear, Judgment, Mercy, Repentance, Revival, Salvation, United States, Wrath, Good News Revival, 1977, Habakkuk
THE DAY OF REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-13-77 10:50 a.m.
The message this morning is entitled The Day of Revival. It is an expounding of two verses in the last, the third chapter of the prophet Habakkuk. This is the text, a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet:
O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, O God, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
What does he mean when he says: "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid"? It is this: he lived between the destruction of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC by the Assyrians, and the destruction of his own nation of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, by the Chaldeans – the Babylonians – in 587 BC. One of them had already happened: the Northern Kingdom had already been destroyed. And he himself was an emissary and a prophet from God to announce the destruction of his own people and of his own nation. That’s what he meant when he said: "I have heard Thy speech, O Lord, and was afraid." In the first chapter of his prophecy, speaking for the Lord God:
Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess it. They are terrible and dreadful,
They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.
However many thousands and thousands of people there are – in city, in countryside, in the nation – they all shall go into captivity; "I have heard Thy speech, O God, and was afraid."
In this first chapter, Habakkuk asked the Lord, "How is it that by the hand of these uncircumcised and blaspheming heathen, You could destroy Jerusalem and the nation of Judah?" And the Lord replied in verse 12, "I have ordained them for judgment; and I have established them for correction."
The same thing did God say to Isaiah when the prophet asked God about the coming of the Assyrian to destroy Samaria and the Northern Kingdom. In Isaiah chapter 10 and verse 5, the Lord answers, "The Assyrian, he is the rod of Mine anger, and the staff, of My indignation."
Because the people had departed from God, the Lord sent the bitter and hasty Assyrian, and the Lord sent these awesome and terrible Chaldeans, first to destroy Samaria – a judgment of God – and finally to destroy Judah. The rod of His anger, the staff of His indignation; and that’s why the prophet says, "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid."
War is a judgment of God and the Lord uses blaspheming nations as the rod of His anger and as the instrument of His judgment. Can I be any less afraid as I live in this present moment and in this present time in the life and history of America? The time between 722 BC and 587 BC is one hundred thirty-five years. And he’s speaking of a war in 722 and of a judgment from God, another war in 587: a hundred thirty-five years. But in my lifetime – in my lifetime, I have seen the scourge of war visit America four times. I can well remember the First World War, fought on the land. I can well remember: I was pastor of this church in the Second World War, fought on the sea, beginning at Pearl Harbor and the destruction of our Pacific fleet. We have lived through the Korean War; we have lived through the Vietnam War; and we are stockpiling atomic weapons for the third one, which will be fought in the skies and in the air.
"O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid." War is a visitation and a judgment of Almighty God. And whether we live or die lies in the imponderables of the Almighty. If God lives – if He is, if there is a God and if this Word is true – America is to live or to die in the judgment, in the imponderables of the Almighty God. And I do not think America can survive in drunkenness, and in debauchery, and in desecration.
There are three things in American life that terrify me. Number one: the decay and the decadence of our cities. New York is but a pattern of all of the cities of America. New York is bankrupt financially, civically, but it was first bankrupt spiritually. And the same seeds of decay and dissolution and decadence that are in New York City are in every city in America. And by the admission of our own city leaders, those seeds are growing in the city of Dallas.
Decay and decadence and destruction in the heart of our great cities: I walked down the streets – through the streets – of New York with a companion, late at night. When we came back to the hotel, I said to him, "New York seems to me to be one vast interminable bar. And the bar not only extends the length of the streets, but it’s in the homes of the people." I went upstairs to my room and while I was undressing, turned the television on. It happened to be in the midst of a panel. The man seated here said, "In the City of New York, there are more than two hundred thousand drunkards – alcoholics – over two hundred thousand in one town of America!" And the man at this end of the panel discussing it said, "There are more than one million family members who are being destroyed by this drug abuse."
There is a judgment of God that is awesome, "Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid." And the rise in this problem is unbelievable; it has now swept vast throngs of women into it: an unthinkable thing of yesterday, the decay and the decadence of our cities. Who would look upon New York as a great lighthouse for God? It is unthinkable, unimaginable! It is a Sodom and a Gomorrah, and it is a pattern for all of the cities of America; we’re following in that way. "I’ve heard Thy speech, God, and I am afraid."
Number two: the thing that strikes terror to my heart about America: the vast increase and the daily increase in crime, and in violence, and in terrorism. It is becoming a way of life in American culture. Women are afraid to walk the streets of our city and men are increasingly afraid. That such a thing could be, that we’d be afraid! The locked door: when I was growing up, I never saw a locked door in a house, in a home. We never locked the door in our house, never in my life! I never saw it until I came to the city.
We live in fear: the curve, the graph, of criminal statistics is furiously rising in every free Western nation and most so in America. Every year there are more than one million boys and girls who are entering careers of crime. How could such a thing be? It is plain: the violence and the crime they see on television drums it into their heads and hearts every day of their lives.
And they are taught that they are animals! Why should it be an unusual thing when you teach a child that he descended from the ape, and the monkey, and the beast that he acts like it? As though that should be a surprising thing, when they are taught they are animals.
And the tragedy of American life can be seen in things like this; there is an attempt on the part of the school board of the Dallas Independent Public School District, just to have as a reference work, a book presenting the creation view of where we came from, that God made us – as over against the impossible, and unprovable, and unbelievable theory and hypothesis that we just happened to come up through animals, that our ancestors are anthropoids and simians. The infidel preachers lead the violent attack against using the book just for a reference work, not the school board!
To my amazement in Russia, I found that the first instrument of the communist to destroy the faith of the people is to present evolution! When I visited the great, famous Kazan Cathedral, it was turned over to so-called scientific proofs that we came from animals! I was happy to know, when those Russian preachers came to visit us here in our church in Dallas, they had read, in Russian, that little book, Did Man Just Happen? I have seen it written out in longhand, smuggled, leaf at a time, into Bulgaria. I have seen it in Romanian. I have seen it in East German, in the German language, distributed in East Germany. This little book, Did Man Just Happen?, is a presentation, scientifically and biblically, that God created us in His image. And by the way, all of you who listen on radio and television, our Criswell Bible Institute will give it to you for nothing. They will send it to you for nothing – free! Just write the Criswell Bible Institute, Box 10, Dallas, Texas, and they will send it to you as a gift, just dedicating ourselves to the truth of Almighty God.
There’s a third thing that brings fear to my heart about America. "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid." Not only the decay of our cities, not only the awesome rise of criminal statistics, but also the dissolution of our homes and of our families. The rivers of tears that flow out of the misery of our people: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: what a man soweth, that shall he also reap" [Galatians 6:7]. When we sow to the flesh, we reap corruption.
Every day more than three thousand homes in America are dissolved in divorce. We have six percent of the world’s population; we have more than fifty percent of the world’s divorce! There is no nation that has fallen into the spiritual degradation as the United States of America! It is corrupt at its heart, and is becoming increasingly; evidently, corrupt in its secular life.
To me, the greatest history of all time is Edward Gibbon’s, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. In that awesome story of ancient Rome, he gives five reasons for the destruction of the empire, and not one of them is external – all of them are internal – it fell, it corrupted from the inside.
And the same thing is happening to America. Let me give you an instance. This is not from some northern town, this is from Dallas. Each week toward the end of the week, in one of our daily newspapers, there is published a little magazine called: The Guide – tells you what you can do in Dallas on the weekend. So the issue this week, the front cover, the main article is entitled: "What To Do On Sunday Mornings." Well I was immediately interested, what do you do on Sunday morning?
So I thought my goodness alive! There’s going to be a picture of the First Baptist Church; there’s going to be an announcement of what we’re doing in our great revival. "What to do on Sunday morning?" So I looked at it eagerly, and this is what I found: first of all it says if you get up on Sunday morning and you’re hungry, there are seven bakeries that are open for you, and it lists the name and the address of the seven bakeries. Then if you didn’t want to go to the bakery, it lists nine places where you can eat brunches; nine places where you can go and eat a brunch. Then it lists three newsstands – where you can buy, I presume, pornography and all kinds of sexual books – three downtown, where you can buy all of that stuff. Then it lists two flea markets where you waste your money on junk. You can go there on Sunday morning. Then it lists the Gray Line Tours, 9:30 o’clock, leaving one of the hotels. Then it lists the Dallas Zoo; then the Historical Wax Museum; then the Chapman Auto Museum.
Then it lists the golf courses that are open on Sunday; and then the public shooting range; and then the motorcycling on trails in the certain place; and then the model airplane flying at a certain place; and then basketball at a certain recreational center; then you can meander through DeGolyer estate. Then you can hike at certain places, you can bike at certain places, you can jog at certain places. You can bird watch at certain places, you can walk your dog at certain places. You can go sit in a park at certain places, and you can go fly a kite in certain places.
Then I came to the last part, and it read, "Oh, yes, there’s one other possibility," And I thought, "Well, bless God! There’s one other possibility. We can go to church, can’t we? We can call on the name of the Lord." "Oh yes, there’s one other possibility: you can spend your Sunday mornings writing songs about what bummers Sunday mornings are. Some people have gotten rich doing it, we hear." And that closes the article.
You’d never know there was a church in Dallas. You’d never know that God lives. The secularization of our society and the godlessness of our culture is entering every spectrum and every piece and part and parcel, of modern American life. We are becoming a nation of practical atheists.
Then sing, "God Bless America," Why?
Then say, "One Nation Under God," What?
"O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid" [Habakkuk 3:2]. There’s a judgment day coming, "The rod of Mine anger and the staff of Mine indignation" [Isaiah 10:5]. What did the prophet do? Hearing the word of the Lord; "O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid!"
Look: it is entitled, "A Prayer of Habakkuk the Prophet." And he prayed:
"O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath" – in judgment – "remember" – pity and grace and – "mercy." He prayed for the intervention of God. He prayed for a great revival. "O God, revive Thy work in the midst of the years," [Habakkuk 3:2].
Building up fallen altars, gathering the people at the door of the tabernacle in holy convocations, calling the people to repentance and to faith: "O Lord, in the midst of the years, send revival." Revival will save a nation: it saved Judah in the days of good king Hezekiah. Revival saved England in the days of the John Wesley’s. While France, across the channel, was buried and bathed in their own violent blood – in the French Revolution – England was experiencing a great revival under John and Charles Wesley. It is corrupt at its heart, and is becoming increasingly; evidently, corrupt in its secular life.
To me, the greatest history of all time is Edward Gibbon’s, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
And the same thing is happening to America. The Guide – tells you what you can do in Dallas on the weekend.
So I thought my goodness alive! There’s going to be a picture of the First Baptist Church; there’s going to be an announcement of what we’re doing in our great revival. "What to do on Sunday morning?" So I looked at it eagerly, and this is what I found: first of all it says if you get up on Sunday morning and you’re hungry, there are seven bakeries that are open for you, and it lists the name and the address of the seven bakeries.
Then it lists the golf courses that are open on Sunday; and then the public shooting range; and then the motorcycling on trails in the certain place; and then the model airplane flying at a certain place; and then basketball at a certain recreational center; then you can meander through DeGolyer estate.
You’d never know there was a church in Dallas.
Then sing, "God Bless America," Why?
"O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid" <. [Isaiah 10:5].
Look: it is entitled, "A Prayer of Habakkuk the Prophet."
"O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath" – in judgment – "remember" – pity and grace and – "mercy." [Habakkuk 3:2].
Building up fallen altars, gathering the people at the door of the tabernacle in holy convocations, calling the people to repentance and to faith: "O Lord, in the midst of the years, send revival." Revival will save a nation: it saved Judah in the days of good king Hezekiah.
Revival will save a city: God said to Nineveh, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed!" [Jonah 3:4], and they repented at the preaching of Jonah. And from the king to the least of the beasts, they clothed them in sackcloth and sat in ashes, and God spared the city. Revival spared the great city of Antioch in the days of the emperor, Theodosius. They were under an edict to be destroyed. And John Chrysostom – John the "Golden-mouthed" – preached the gospel, and the city turned in repentance to Christ; and the city was saved and spared. Revival will save a church and a denomination. When I wrote that book entitled, Why I Preach That the Bible Is Literally True, the liberals in our denomination took it hard. And they said, "Criswell has set back the Southern Baptist Convention twenty years by that book!"
Why I Preach That the Bible Is Literally True: I would to God, I could have set the convention back one hundred twenty years, to the day of the great revival between Finney and Moody, when every week there were more than fifty thousand lost souls won to the kingdom. I wish I could have set it back two hundred twenty years – to the great awakening under George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards – laying the foundation for the republic that we call the United States of America.
In fact, I wish I could have set the convention back two thousand years to the day of the great Pentecostal revival in Jerusalem, and in Antioch, and in Ephesus, and in Corinth, and finally, in Rome itself. "O Lord, O God, in the midst of the years, send revival. In the midst of the years, make it known; in wrath, remember mercy."
And revival will save us, it will save you! Revival will save a life and a man’s soul; I know, you see, I was saved in a revival. The spirit of intercession, of soul winning, of appeal, of visitation, of invitation, of commitment, of reconsecration, that is revival – I was saved in the midst of a revival.
When people come before God and bare their souls naked before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do, and we say to God, "O God, I’m not what I ought to be, I’m not what I could be, I’m not what, by the grace of God, I can be and am going to be"; that is revival! "Lord, Lord, I ought to do better, and I shall by Thy grace."
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that He cannot hear:
But your sins have separated between you and your God, and your iniquities have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.
That is revival; people baring their souls naked before the Lord, "God, be good to me. In wrath, remember mercy. Forgive me. Help me, Lord, to do better; I can; with Thy grace, I shall!" This is revival: praying for the lost:
See that man? I know him and he’s not a Christian.
See this family? I know them; they’re outside of the church.
See this youngster? He’s growing up as though he lived in a heathen land.
See this child, untaught in the grace and mercy of Christ?
God help me as I encourage them to turn their faces God-ward and their hearts Christ-ward.
That is revival: the burden of souls upon our hearts. This is revival, as Jim Churn prayed just now: "O God, for an outpouring of the Spirit your heart, down that stairway and to the pastor, "Here I come. Here I am." The throng in the press of people on this lower floor, "God has spoken to me and here I am. Here I come. This day, I am accepting Christ as my Savior." One of the men who is now in the church said to me when I went to him, others had talked to him about the Lord, and when I went to him, he said to me, "I have said no to God for the last time. I’m coming. I’m coming." If God has invited you, spoken to you, would you answer with your life? "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." The family, a couple, or just one somebody you, make that decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up walking for God, coming down that aisle, walking down that stairway, "Here I am, pastor. I’ve made that decision for the Lord." Do it. Make it now. Come now, on the first note of the first stanza, while we stand and while we sing.