The Lord has laid it on my heart to bring you a message
on the subject, "The Need of a Revival." I am using that word "revival"
to mean a spiritual awakening, or a refreshing from the presence of the
Lord. I do not know why the Lord has laid this message on my heart, but
He has—I can't get away from it, so I want us to look into "The Need of
I want to show you,
1. The Condition of the Present-Day Church, as it furnishes a background for the need of a spiritual awakening as we have never faced before.
2. What Is a Revival?
3. The Results of a Revival.
In Hab. 3:2 we find these words, "0 LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: 0 LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy" What a plea from the heart of this old prophet! The prophet Habakkuk, moved with the spirit of fear, was conscious of something unusual in the air around him. He felt that he was on the eve of some great manifestation of God, and he was afraid. He tells us in that sixteenth verse of the third chapter, "When I heard, my belly trembled...in myself.." The prophet began to see his own corruptness and vileness and depravity, and he was afraid. He felt that God was drawing near, and he did not wish to fight against God. My friend, I wish more people were afraid to fight against God.
A revival is the Lord God of Heaven becoming real to His people. He does this by first turning the searchlight of His presence upon the individual's heart until he begins to see his own rottenness and begins to tremble before the Sovereignty of God. Then the prophet cried out, "0 Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy." He did not want to fight God. How many of you are fighting God, in rebellion against Him! Let me tell you, friends, you had better not be found fighting God.
Then in Psa. 85:6 we find these words, as the old prophet gave vent to the cry of his soul, "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?" You don't like a drought when you begin to see things burn up in the fields, do you? Neither do I like to see a dearth, or drought, in the church when everything becomes stagnant and stale—and there is no moving of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of individuals.
A revival is Jehovah God walking in the midst of His people showing them mercy. In II Chron. 7:14 Jehovah God speaks to His people, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Here we have the call of God to His people to return to Him in repentance, forsaking their sins, that He may heal them, that is, save their souls and bless them in mercy. Do you not feel the need of a revival, my friend? All this week there has been such a burden upon my heart, a crying out unto the throne of God's grace, "Lord, give me this people as a trophy of Thy grace."
Let's first look at the background for the need of a revival. When we examine the present-day church, we find that she has lost the reality of Christ. Now, my friend, I am not critical; I am diagnosing the case. Will you sit there and listen? Will you get everything quiet? Don't jump up and say, "Oh, he's criticizing." My fnend, I am not. When a doctor comes in, sits down by the bedside and diagnoses that case, he's not critical—he is not criticizing that individual. He wants to help. So you listen.
The church has lost the reality of Christ today. In Rev. 3:20 we have the picture of Christ standing at the door of the church knocking for entrance, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." The church is represented here as being unaware of Christ's absence. They are going about their worship. They have all the outward form, they have all the shadows, but the substance, Christ, is absent, and the tragical situation is, the church is not conscious that He is absent. The reason I call your attention to this great fact is because folks are not talking about Christ when they come to worship. They—no, let me make it personal—You!—you are talking about the happenings of the week; you are talking about business. You are talking about your fishing trips; you are talking about a program. Or, you are talking about your pleasure trips, your parties, your social clubs. Worship has become just a habit and a form.
The missing note in present-day testimony is the Person and work of Christ. Yes, we have substituted social life and form for the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are very few today in comparison who are enjoying the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, a revival is the Lord Jesus living again in the midst of His people. Will you pray for me as I continue this message? Pray that God will open our eyes to see our need of a revival.
We are living in perilous times because the church today has lost the authority of God's Word. No longer does the average church member mold his life by the Word of God. I have never witnessed such a rebellion against the Word of God as we have today within and without the church and the ministry. Young people are revolting against the authority of the Word in shaping their lives. The wicked self-will of the average person is manifested in utter rebellion against the authority of God's Word. In Christ's day (I want you to get this) the religious world made much of the Word, but they crucified Christ; in our present day they try to make much of Christ, but they reject the Word of God.
The average church member today is governed, not by the Word of God, but by his own opinion. He has substituted a program for the Bible. Man today worships his own opinion. When you preach the Word of God to him in the power of the Holy Spirit, immediately he will say, "Oh, this is my opinion"— "Ah, I don't believe that." He will not have God's Word. Many of you who claim to believe God's Word, when it comes down to brass tacks, you will not have the Word of God to rule over you and shape your lives! Why? Because you are enmity against God: you are not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Rom. 8:7). How we do need men today who will go up and down this country under the power of God's Holy Spirit preaching the Word of God, like John the Baptist and others, until it will echo and re-echo in the hearts of men and they are broken at the feet of Christ crying for mercy!
We have also lost our compassion for the lost, and as a result our tears are dried up. The old-time prayer meetings where men threw their lives in the breach for the souls of men are all but a thing of the past. All through the New Testament it is said that Christ was moved with compassion as He looked upon the multitudes. The Apostle Paul said, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:3).
Where do we find such compassion today? The average church is just a business institution; church membership has been substituted for salvation, and the average person thinks only of getting members into his church, and not of the salvation of the lost. This is a sign that we have lost the prayer chamber and know nothing of the power of prayer, but have substituted banquets, oyster fries, and suppers instead. May God pour out the spirit of prayer and supplication upon us today. May hearts be moved far and near under the power of God's Holy Spirit for the souls of men. That's the prayer of my own heart—may I come to know a compassion for the lost that I have never known. Oh, the need of a spiritual awakening, a refreshing from the presence of God in our midst! Our cry is, "Revive thy work in the midst of the years...in wrath remember mercy."
We do not see lost souls going down to the vortex of Hell without God and without mercy. Seventy-five percent of our present-day ministry, according to statistics, believe that Hell is a myth. Therefore, to them sin is a virtue and God is such loving God until He would send no one to Hell, if there were a Hell. No such doctrine is taught in God's Word! May God help us in this hour! Wake up, friends. Men are going down to Hell.
One night an old man, a hunter, was walking down a section of railroad track, where there had been a great flood. He came upon a bridge across the old creek that had been washed away in the flood. He looked at his watch—only a few minutes until that fast express train would be coming around the curve, rolling across that broken trestle! He began running up the railroad track with lantern in hand. Minutes went by. Faster and faster he ran. Then all at once he heard the crackling of the steel rails on the ties. Somewhere around that curve the express was coming at breakneck speed. On he ran, and as the light of the train flashed in his face he began to wave that lantern frantically. He saw the engineer was not slowing down, and just before the engine passed, he leaped off the rails and flung that lantern into the lap of that engineer, crying, "My God, stop that train!" The engineer knew then there was danger ahead and brought the engine to a stop just as he started over that broken trestle. Oh, my friends, that my voice could go across the ether waves as a warning and fall into your hearts warning you of the danger ahead! There is a Hell. There is a sin-avenging God. Wake up, sinners! Wake up, Christians! May the mercy of God rest upon us.
Then we have lost Holy Spirit conviction of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; therefore, sinners are dry-eyed and unmoved. There is an utter absence of old-time, Bible, Holy Spirit conviction in our midst. There is the absence of the breaking up of the human heart, the plowing and subsoiling and making ready the heart of man for the planting of the seed of truth, which brings forth eternal life. We have substituted the wisdom of men, training, developing, and cultivating the old human nature. This has led to counting decisions for Christ as salvation, which has resulted in folks trying to quit their sins, and reform their lives. This is only religion without life, profession without possession, church membership without Christ. Such stuff cannot even be called religion. Lord, help us in this hour!
Having lost Holy Spirit conviction, the missing note in present-day preaching is repentance. Modern-day preaching, as a whole, does not produce repentance, bringing a sinner down in the dust and opening his heart until he sees himself as he is. In the absence of repentance, we have only a decision for Christ, which is a mental assent, and not a heart acceptance. All of this is Satan's method of trying to make the world religious without Christ.
Then we have lost the reality of blood redemption in Christ and substituted religious movies and all other forms of recreation for religious life, and Christ is not known experimentally among our people. He is not real; He is not a living reality to the vast majority of our church members. Our people do not know Him experimentally as their Lord and their Saviour. What a need for a revival, for God to move in our midst! Acts 3:19, says, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."
This is a very dark background, but, my friend, the darker the cloud, the brighter the rainbow. It is in such hours as this that the grace of God stands out the brightest. Oh, that we could see and feel the need of a refreshing from the presence of the Lord and for Christ to walk anew in the midst of His people! Our one cry is, "Lord, rend the heavens and come down; Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years. Oh, Lord, send us a revival that Thy people may rejoice in thee!"
I know, as I have sat here and poured out my heart to you folks in radio land, many will say, "He doesn't know what he is talking about." Someone said one day, "That preacher doesn't know what he is talking about. Christ is real to the people. Why, we are in the midst of the greatest worldwide revivals we have ever known; more people are being saved today than ever in the history of the world."
My friend, will you listen while I analyze that statement—we are experiencing a great revival of religion on practically every continent and among every class of people, but it is not a revival from the presence of the Lord. What we are witnessing today is not a heart-felt revival. It is Satan trying to make the world religious without Christ. Christ is not becoming real to our people. I know, more people are making so-called decisions for Christ today and joining the church than in the history of Christendom, but it is a false revival! Let me repeat —it is a movement of satanic spirit trying to make the world religious without Christ.
There are two phases to this so-called revival, this false "revival." On one hand, there is the orthodox movement where great multitudes are making decisions for Christ, and are being registered as saved, but the vast majority are not getting to Christ. On the other hand, there is what is called the revival of faith healing, which is purely and simply a manifestation of satanic power. Our people are blinded by the god of this world, Satan, and they cannot tell the difference. May I say again, what a dark background, but what a need for a refreshing from the presence of the Lord! Such a revival as we are having today is not stemming the tide of modernism that is sweeping our pulpits into Hell, as well as our men of the pews into the abyss.
We have looked briefly at the background which manifests the need of a true, heartfelt, Heaven-born, Holy Spirit revival. Let's now see, What is a revival? Well, briefly, a revival is an excitement; it's a religious excitement. It is a great and extraordinary excitement. It's an excitement produced among men. It's an excitement created and sustained by God the Holy Spirit. It's an excitement promoted by prayer that becomes an intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered. It is such a refreshing from the presence of God in which souls are quickened, or made alive, unto God. It is the Lord Jesus Christ walking in the midst of His people until hearts are broken down with weeping and brought to the place of repentance realizing that they are lost and going to Hell. It may be limited or widespread; it may be in the heart of one individual or hundreds at the same time.
A revival in which hearts are quickened, or made alive, in Christ, when Christ becomes real to the human heart, is particularly needed today in a fallen world. Everywhere you turn there is gaiety, betting, gambling, drunkenness, impurity, infidelity, skepticism, books filled with the darkest and most dangerous doctrines. On every hand newspapers, magazines, etc., are crying down the verbal inspiration of God's Word, reducing the Bible to mere fiction. Evolution is widespread, modernism is on the rampage. Movie producers are taking the great old Bible stories and twisting the Word of God and misrepresenting the characters of the Bible to a people who are ignorant of God's Word. The vast majority of our popular novels are Christless and godless, and are filled with infidelity. Immortality is rampant everywhere. The church has lost her spirituality and has been conformed to the world. The church today as a whole is not calling men to repentance.
In the midst of this spiritual darkness we hear the call of God to His people. I wish you would listen to this call, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (II Chron. 7:14). Did you hear that call? You say, "It is all right for the other fellow." But this is a call to your heart, friend. God's call to His people is to humble themselves. "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). In the midst of this darkness today the church is saying, "We are rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," and yet above this we can hear the call of God if we will only listen, "Knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire" (Rev. 3:17, 18).
One of the first manifestations of the convicting power of God's Holy Spirit is to humble man and hide pride from him (Job 33:17). May there come the humbling Spirit in our midst; then will follow prayer. "If my people, which are called by my name...shall...pray." As we listen, we can hear nobody praying. It's a going and a serving and an eating and a banqueting—as a group said one day, "We do not have time for a revival, we have so much church work to do." What a situation we find ourselves in! In Zech. 12:10 we find this great promise, "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications." My that great promise be fulfilled in our midst today, when the Spirit of grace and of supplications shall fall upon hearts far and near. May the Spirit of the grace of God fall upon our hearts now until He will break us down at His feet in prayer.
Then He says, "If my people...shall... seek my face," and in Jer. 29:13 He says, "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." People are so satisfied with their church work today and with the additions they are having until they do not want to seek the face of Christ. Then He says, "If my people...shall... turn from their wicked ways." Sin is so blatant in our midst today, but one of the great outward manifestations of a spiritual awakening is the turning of the hearts of men and women to God from sin, seeking His face. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and unto our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:7). But man does not want to turn from his way; he does not want to forsake his sins. May the God of all grace, and the Father of all mercies pour out His Spirit of grace upon our hearts until we will be willing to turn.
Brother, a revival is not having folks walk down the aisles and take a stand for Christ; a revival is not having hundreds or even thousands of people making so-called "decisions for Christ." A revival is the hearts of men turning to God from their sins, from their wicked ways, from their self-will, and finding themselves in the dust of repentance at the feet of Christ crying for mercy! We don't hear any mourning over sin like that today, do we? No, we don't. "Then," God says, "will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land." May the Lord God rend the heavens and come down (Isa. 64:1).
Now let's notice, in conclusion, some of the results of a revival. In the time of a spiritual awakening, men's minds are clear; they have been quickened, separated from the world and from sinful practices and brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know, if things be stirred up by the Spirit of God, men are made alive unto Christ, and Satan will be stirred up also. The devil will come down having great wrath; he will put forth every effort in the world to keep the sleeping church from awaking and to keep unconverted souls from fleeing from the wrath to come. I know that the world and so-called worldly hurch members will sneer and mock and make fun, and this will frighten the timid individuals; then they will draw back and turn away from Christ, and will be more disloyal than they would have been had there been no awakening. In other words, a revival divides the Esaus and Jacobs, the Cains and Abels.
Then there will be some who will come out on professions and do nothing but talk, talk, talk—not about Christ—but they will be critical of others, and will lead many astray. In such an awakening the devil will do his best to bring about envy and strife, and will cause individuals to take offense where no offense was intended. But, praise God, in the midst of such an awakening God will be glorified. He wll break down all opposition to the progress of His own work. I know the greatest opposition to a Heaven-sent revival will come from inside the church where the self-righteous elder brother will begin to cast stones, and criticize. But, my friend, the only thing we can do is to keep our eyes upon the Lord and move forward. One here and one there will come to know Christ, whom to know is life eternal.
In laboring for a revival we have to make up our minds to one thing—that is, to walk with the Lord Jesus Christ and turn a deaf ear to the critics, to those who laugh at us, because many will trample our names under their feet as the filth of the street. They will falsely accuse us of everything under the sun; they will make every move possible to keep folks fom believing our testimony. But I am for a revival.
Will you join with me in this hour to pray for a spiritual awakening, first in your own heart, and then in your own family, in your own community, in your own church, and look to the Lord God of Heaven to break down all opposition to His own work? It is only in a revival that God deepens the conviction of sin in the hearts of His own people. It is during a spiritual awakening that saints will be bowed down and humbled before God. May the revival begin in our own hearts with a confession of our sins, with a humbling of our hearts before God. I believe the greatest joy this side of Heaven other than being saved myself is that of seeing souls saved. If we could only realize at this moment that our loved ones and our friends are sinking down to a devil's Hell, and "Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming," our one cry would be, "Lord, revive Thy work in our midst, and we shall be a willing people in the day of Thy power."
Now, brother, you are not telling me a thing in the world about the results of an awakening that I haven't faced. We have had it here in First Baptist Church, Algiers, when all hell has turned loose, but praise God, He is able, and out of it some souls will get saved. I believe I am hearing and witnessing the moving of the Holy Spirit again in our midst, because sinners are beginning to rebel against the Word of God and saints are beginning to prick up their ears and listen anew to God's call to repentance.
May God give us a revival. Will you pray with me for such a revival, first, in your own heart? Friends, will you do it? Will you? How many of you will join hands with me in praying for a spiritual awakening, first, in your own heart; then pray for one in my heart. Pray that He will open my heart. Pray that He will give me His message. Pray that I will not compromise with the souls of men in this hour. Then pray for a revival in your church, in your community, and let the results be what they will. Will you? If you will, let me hear from you. Just sit down and write, saying, "Brother Shelton, I will join hands with you in this hour to pray for an awakening, for a spiritual revival in our midst." I will be waiting to hear from you.
--L. R. Shelton, Sr.