The Day of Revival
March 6th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
THE DAY OF REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-6-77 8:15 a.m.
And welcome again the host of you who are listening to this early service in the First Baptist Church in Dallas over WRR and over KCBI. This is the pastor bringing the message, and as so oft is the case in our preaching through the Bible, the passage before us is in keeping with the tremendous emphasis that the Lord has brought to us at this time and season of the year. We are in the midst of our Good News Dallas Revival, our Living Proof soulwinning appeal. And next Sunday morning, this coming Sunday morning, at this hour our protracted series of services begin; and they continue every night at seven o’clock, March 13 through March 20. The title of the sermon today is The Day of Revival, and it is a text that concludes the great Pentecostal chapter, the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Reading the context, after Simon Peter delivered his message:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.
And fear came upon every soul –
that is Luke’s term for awe, and reverence, and deference, reverence –
And fear, wonder, awe, came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And this is the text for the sermon tonight, entitled Christian Communism:
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
That gave birth to the communist dictum, "From every man as he is able; to every man as he has need."
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favor with all the people.
Now the text: "And the Lord added to the church daily," the King James Version reads, "such as should be saved,"sōzomenous, "those who were being saved." "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved [Acts 2:47]. It is a marvelous picture of a church in revival: "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
Will you look at the mathematics of that just for a moment? "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." A minimum would be one a day; is not that correct? A minimum would be one a day. If the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved, a minimum would be one each day. That would mean there was a minimum of three hundred sixty-five a year; three hundred sixty-five a year. If the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved, a minimum would be one each day, three hundred sixty-five a year. There are hardly one half dozen churches in the world who baptize as many as three hundred a year. There are hardly a dozen and a half churches in the world who baptize as many as two hundred a year. On the North American continent, there are one quarter million churches; yet there is not a handful of them who baptize as many as one hundred a year. Lord, how we need a revival!
Will you look again at the mathematical proportion of the present world in which we are living? A newspaper reporter called me as I was preaching through a convocation, a conference in a distant city, and he said, "What is this that I hear that you have said, that by the year 2000 the Christian faith will become practically extinct in the earth?" I replied, "Do you have a pencil and paper?" Then I said, "Take it, and write this graph. One hundred eighty-five years ago, the world was twenty-five percent evangelical Christian; in 1970 it was eight percent, by 1980 it will be four percent, and by the year 2000 it will be two percent." I said, "Take your graph and follow it down, and then make the decision for yourself." Lord, how we need a revival!
There is a spiritual dearth and drought among God’s people that is like an unendless, and sandless, and sterile desert. I look upon our groups and they remind me in their powerlessness of that little band of disciples to whom was brought a boy that desperately needed deliverance, and they were powerless to deliver him [Matthew 17:14-20]. I look upon our staff: how few people our paid staff wins to the Lord, practically none. Nor is there any need for me to abrade them or to castigate them, they sit there before me powerless; they don’t know what to do, and they don’t know where to turn. How many of them do you see ever coming down this aisle with somebody they have won to the Lord? "Pastor, look, I have won this man, or this youngster, or this college graduate, I have won this soul to the Lord." It is so rare as to be almost none existent; nor is there any need for me to abrade them, I have found it in the powerlessness of their ableness to witness. Lord, how we need a revival!
Nor do I need to abrade our deacons; they sit there before me and look in absolute unableness and unknowingness, they are powerless. How many times do you see a deacon come down the aisle and say, "Pastor, look! This is a family I have brought to the Lord?" There is no need for me to have meetings, or to say words of disappointment or criticism; they don’t know what to do. Lord, how we need a revival!
Many years ago – it was thirty years ago – I sat in Spurgeon’s tabernacle in London, and back of me were two old men who were speaking to each other. One of them said, "Did you ever hear Spurgeon preach?" And the man replied, "Yes, many times. He was my pastor." And the other said, "Well, how did he preach? What was it like?" And the old, old man replied, "I don’t like to criticize our modern preachers, but," he says, "when I go to church now, it seems to me that the preacher just talks and he lectures, but," he said, "when Spurgeon stood up to preach there was power in it!"
Lord send the old time power,
The Pentecostal power
Thy floodgates of mercy
On us throw open wide
Lord send the power, the old time power
That sinners be converted, and Thy name glorified
["Pentecostal Power"; Charles H. Gabriel, 1912]
So we stand as a congregation almost helpless; when was it that you ever came down the aisle with someone you had won to the Lord? "Pastor, look, this is a family I have brought to Jesus." We stand before God and sit in the presence of the Holy Spirit without unction and without power; our words fall to the ground. They are like sounding brass or clanging cymbals; our witness is sterile and our lives are barren. So we come and look up into the face of the Almighty and say, "Great God, what shall we do?" That is what these men cried who were cut to the heart, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" [Acts 2:37]. The Lord is not cruel and unmerciful that He has hid from our eyes what He mandates to us. It is revealed plainly and written here on the sacred page. No child but can understand what the Lord has said and what the great God did command.
I think of something that Basil Manly one time described: there were four men who founded our first Southern Baptist seminary in South Carolina, and named it the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was later moved to Louisville, Kentucky; it was done in the middle of the last century. Those four men were James Pettigrew Boyce, John A. Broadus, Basil Manly, and William Williams; four tremendous men, scholars. The Broadman Press, which is the name of our Southern Baptist Press, the publisher of our Southern Baptist books, was named from Broadus, Broadman, and Manly. John A. Broadus and Basil Manly, the Broadman Press. The seminary was caught in its beginning and initial stage by the ravages of the Civil War, the War Between the States; it looked as though it would certainly die. And those four men, in a covenant, placed their hands like that, over each other’s hands and said, "We hereby resolve that the seminary may die, but we will die first."
And Basil Manly told this story. He said in the furor of the Civil War, there was found a little company, a little band, of Confederate soldiers standing on a hill in the midst of the slain after the battle had swept beyond them. There came riding up to them from the front, an officer; and stopped and looked at the men, and asked, "Where is your general?" One of the soldiers pointed to a prostrate form and said, "There he lies." He said, "Where is your captain?" And another soldier pointed to a man slain and said, "There he is." And the officer said, "Then what are you doing here?" And a third soldier pointed to the slain general, and said, "He said to us that this is a vantage point that we must defend with our lives, and we are doing just what he said. We are defending this with our lives."
What a marvelous tribute of soldiers to the commands of a commanding officer! Standing among the slain, "We are doing what he said." If there was on the part of God’s people a like commitment to listen and to obey the word of our Lord, there would be revival such as this earth never saw or was ever equaled.
What is it that the Lord said? It is so simple, and so plain, and so humble, that when I name it your first reaction would ever be, "What? No earth shaking announcement from heaven, just that?" That’s God! Like the sunrise in the morning, with all of its life-giving power playing on a baby’s cheek and not even awaken the infant. This that God has mandated to us for revival, for power; look at it. First, in Luke, "Tarry until ye be endued with power from on high" [Luke 24:], and look at it in Acts, "Wait for the Promise of the Father" [Acts 1:4]. And look at it in its implementation, in its obedience, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren" [Acts 1:14].
Could I give you a better illustration of our powerlessness and our forgetfulness of these mandates of God than the instrument that I hold in my hand? This is today’s program; this is the calendar of the week. This is the announcements of what the church is to do in this week. We have set it aside for our cottage prayer meetings, for our groups of intercession. You will look at this from one side to the other; you will never hear it mentioned, or never see it announced. Our minds are on something else. We are involved in some other thing and some other program, but we are not doing what God said. The Lord said, "Tarry, and wait" [Luke 24:, Acts 1:4]. And as they tarried and as they waited upon God, they gave themselves in prayer [Acts 1:14]. They believed the promise of heaven that if they waited, and prayed, and tarried, Jesus would keep His promise; and He did. He poured out upon them the great ascension gift of the holy presence and Spirit of God. It was felt, it was with great conviction; it was with an infinitude of power [Acts 2:1-4, 16-18].
And that Day of Pentecost and revival is but a pattern of all God intended for His people. Pentecost was not intended as the big end of the horn, but as the little end of the horn. Our Lord said, "Greater works than these shall ye do; because I go to My Father" [John 14:12]. The Lord in the Bible says, "He does not give the Spirit by measure" [John 3:34]. God is not limited, nor has He poured out the Spirit in just small proportions; it is an infinitude, it is an immeasurable gift. It is just that we do not take Him, we do not tarry before Him, we do not pray; our intercessions are dittoed, they are clichÃ©d, they are repeated in the same meaningless patterns. Lord, how we need revival!
Will you look once again: doing what God said, obeying His great mandate, following the outline He gave to the apostles [Acts 1:8]. "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all, they were all, with one accord in one place" [Acts 2:1], all of them. The apostles were there, all of them; eleven with Matthias recently added to make the twelve [Acts 1:26]. The laymen were there; how do you know the laymen were there? There were only twelve numbered with the apostles, "and they numbered one hundred twenty" [Acts 1:15]. So take twelve from a hundred twenty, and that, the laymen, were there. The women were there; they are especially, and particularly, and significantly named. Christianity is a woman’s religion, always has been, is now, ever will be. The young people were there, "How do you know that, pastor?" Because Simon Peter said, quoting Joel:
This is that which was spoken by Joel the prophet; In that day, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh. . .and your young people shall see visions, as your old men shall dream dreams.
They all were there; present, with one accord before the Lord.
You know, I have said for the years of my life, if our people did no other thing except just that, that they all were present, it would be the most astonishing thing the modern world ever saw. Well, what do you mean? I mean this: it would be such a phenomenon that every newspaper in the land would have a reporter sent here, every magazine in America would have photographers here, just that one simple thing. There are something like 19,000 members in the church – cut it in half, 9,500 – just take half of them; 9,500, and 3,000 were in the auditorium, and 6,500 were out in the streets getting as near to the door as they could come; listening to P.A. systems all around. Just that one humble thing of being present, coming, and these reporters, and these photographers, and these magazines, and these newspapers would be here looking at a phenomenon that you never saw in your life; thousands of people present – trying to crowd into the sanctuary of the Lord – just that thing that is written here in the Book.
Obeying the Lord, they prayed. Obeying the Lord, they were present. Obeying the Lord, they were preaching and presenting their witness to the grace of God in Christ Jesus. He said, "Ye shall be witnesses, proclaimers, heralds, speakers" [Acts 1:8]. And there in Pentecost, this great first day of revival, there stands Simon Peter [Acts 2:1, 14]. This is the man who had cursed and sworn that he did not even know the Lord [Matthew 26:69-75], had apostatized; look at him now, and he wasn’t alone. The Book says, "Peter, standing up with the eleven" [Acts 2:14]. And he presented a plain and simple message; it has three parts [Acts 2:14-39]. If I could outline it homiletically, it has three parts and concludes with an exhortation. Number one, point number one: he speaks and he presses the wickedness of men, the depravity of the human heart. And there is no man in this earth but stands on common ground with us, when the preacher speaks of our lost souls, and our depraved spirits, and the blackness of sin in our hearts; that’s the first point, the wickedness of men [Acts 2:23].
The second point, the center of the sermon, he speaks of the grace and mercy of God, who sent to us Christ Jesus, David’s Son, and marked Him out, pointed Him out. The Greek is horizō, marked Him out as the Son of God [Romans 1:4] by the resurrection from the dead [Acts 2:24-32]; that’s his second point. First, that we are lost in our sins; second, that God in His grace and mercy sent the Lord Jesus, whom He verified and authenticated by His resurrection from among the dead; and third, the third point: it is by this Man, the Lord Jesus, who has been exalted to the right hand of the throne of God, in whom all of the future lies, all of it; if there is any hope for the world, it is in Him. If there is any hope for us, it is in Him. If there is any hope for our souls, it is in Him [Acts 2:33-36]. Then his fourth and concluding word: cut to the heart, convicted by their sins, realizing their lost estate and condition, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" [Acts 2:37]. And Peter replied, "Turn, turn, turn, this is the way you have been going, turn. This is what you’ve been doing, turn. This is how you’ve been thinking, turn. This is how you are,"
Turn, and be baptized, every one of you – eis – because of the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit . . . And with many other words did he exhort and testify, saying, Save yourself from this lost generation.
That concluded the sermon. Then the story of the context that I read:
They that gladly received his word were baptized; and that day, that beginning day, there were three thousand added to the church [Acts 2:41] . . . And the Lord added daily to the church those who were being saved [Acts 2:47] . . . And they continued in the apostles’ doctrine and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers, with gladness and singleness of heart [Acts 2:42, 46].
It always follows just like that. When a man gives his life to God, it is just like that: there is gladness and singleness of heart. When a man brings his family to Christ, it is always just like that: there is gladness and singleness of heart.
Last Sunday night I baptized a Jewish man from the Bronx who with his wife moved to Dallas, were wonderfully converted last Sunday morning, and I baptized them Sunday night. Wednesday night at prayer service, he said to me, "These are the happiest days I’ve ever known in my life. I cannot describe it."
Strange thing: a Christian Jew said to a Jewish leader, "I have found the Lord. I have been baptized. I’m a Christian Jew, and I’m so happy." And this Jewish leader looked at him with long and searching glance, eyes, and said, "You do not know how much I envy you." My brother, all of these were Jews, all of them. And the Lord opened the door of faith to the Gentiles [Acts 14:27].
One of these men who found the Lord, going back to his assignment the next day, to his work in a group of men who were uncouth, worldly; ridiculing him said, "So you got religion? So you’ve been converted? So you’re down there at the church?" He replied in a wonderful way: "All I can say is that since I gave my heart to Jesus, I have peace and gladness in my soul that I cannot describe." The great God of the universe put this thing together, and when He did He made it right and glad and happy. When a man is in tune with the Almighty, when a man gives his heart and his life to God, there is gladness, and happiness, and praise in his life: this is revival. Lord, do it again, one more time; do it again!
Could we pray? Would you like to kneel? If you would, we will just all kneel in the prayer. Our Lord who looks down from heaven, forgive us our prayerlessness. Forgive us that we overlook the great mandates and commandments of God and thus busy ourselves with trivia, with minutiae, with things that hardly matter. And our Lord, forgive us our inability and unableness to deliver from the oppressions of Satan, and the possession of evil spirits, because we have no power to deliver. Our Master, we confess to Thee the sterility and barrenness of our lives. We win so few to Jesus. Our testimony, even when it is offered, is done in such anemic proportions. But our Lord, our eyes are upon Thee, and as we kneel in Thy presence, we have it in our souls to do better. By God’s grace we shall do better, and this is our commitment to Thee as God’s church and the Lord’s people this sacred hour. And Master, let it begin in me; then let it continue in our staff; let it find brilliant repercussion in our deacons; let it overflow into the great membership of the church; and beyond may there come revival. "And the Lord added to His people daily those who were being saved" [Acts 2:47]. Do it again, Lord. Do it again; let our eyes see it, let our hearts feel it, let our souls share in it. We praise Thee, Lord, for the answer, in Thy saving name, amen.
Now may we all stand together? And while we stand and sing our hymn of invitation, somebody you to whom the Holy Spirit has made appeal this precious hour, would you come? A family you to put your life with us in this dear, and praying, and repenting, and soul-searching church,; as the Spirit of heaven would press the appeal, answer with your life. "I want to take the Lord as my Savior, and I do it today." "I want to be baptized as God has commanded in His Book [Matthew 28:19], and here I am." "I want to bring my life into the fellowship of this congregation." Whatever God shall press to your heart, answer with your life. I’ll be standing down here, come and stand by me, and may angels encompass around as the glory of the Lord did Elisha [2 Kings 6:17], as you come, while we sing. Do it now.