In North Carolina it seems that there is a season when churches have what they call revival services. Each time we go through this season, I think a lot about revival. The questions I have been asking are: What causes revival? How do we know when revival comes? What does revival look like? And what are the results, or fruit, of revival?
The starting point in my study has been looking at the revivals of the past and comparing them with what we see today in “revivals.” Today we see a lot of shouting and praising God. We see people jumping up and giving testimonies of how good God has been to them. This is not necessicarily a bad thing, but it is not what we see when we look at the great revivals of the past.
While it is true that there was, in some cases, a lot of noise, they did not start with rejoicing and praising God. The noise of the great revivals of the past was crying and lamenting over sin. People fell on their faces in tears crying out to God for mercy and forgiveness.
In Isaiah 6:1-8 we see personal revival breaking out in the life of one man, Isaiah.
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his1 train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one2 cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole3 earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (Isaiah 6:1-8)
In this passage we find the answers to all of my questions. It started by getting a vision of God. Isaiah saw God in all of His glory. Romans 2:4 tells us that the goodness of God leads us to repentance. When we see God in all of His holiness (goodness) it reveals our badness (lack of true holiness) and leads us to repentance. This repentance is what causes true revival.
When we see God as He really is we can respond in one of two ways. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 speaks of two kinds of sorrow. The first is the sorrow that works, or causes, repentance. The second is the sorrow of the world that works death. The first is being truly sorrow for having offended God and recognizing our guilt before Him. The second is being sorry that our sin has been found out and wanting to excuse it just to avoid punishment.
We know that revival has come when we see godly sorrow. We see this in Isaiah when he cried out “Woe is me! for I am undone.” You will notice that he not only confessed his own sin, but also the sin of his people. This is what true revival looks like. There will be an acute sense of our sinfulness and broken and repentant hearts.
In true revival there will be a crying out for mercy and forgiveness. Repentance will be clearly seen in those who are revived. They will turn from their wicked ways. They will search the Scriptures to learn what God expects of His people. They will change their lives to match what they find. Then, and only then, God will make us fit for His service and remove our iniquity.
One of the most important results of revival is that people hear the call of God. In Isaiah 6 Isaiah hears God say “Who shall I send, and who will go for us?” When this call is heard, those who are revived will volunteer for the mission at hand. This does not mean that they will all surrender to what we call “full-time ministry.” It means that all will surrender to minister for God where He has placed them.
If we want real revival we must first seek to know God. We must see His holiness and our sinfulness. We must have godly sorrow and repentance. We must be willing to do what God desires regardless of the cost.
Revival is expensive, it requires all that we have. The end result of true revival is that God is glorified, souls are saved, and then there is great rejoicing in Heaven and on earth.