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The Interceders Encourager No. 7

Personal Revival

In one sense, all revival is personal revival, as it is the reviving of many people, one by one. But there is another sense in which it is personal. Preachers become revival preachers when they are revived and preach with a new passion, urgency and reality. In the same way, pray-ers become revival pray-ers who actually prevail with God and bring down the blessing, when they are personally revived.

"Revival, no matter how great shall be its ultimate scope, always begins with individual believers, whose hearts are desperate for God, and who are willing to pray the price to meet Him." (Del Fehsenfeld Jr) It is extremely important, therefore, that we all personally experience the Lord reviving us, and why it is one of the six basic points of The Interceders. We need to ask the Lord, not only to revive all the churches, not only to revive all of us, but also to revive each one of us: not only "Revive us and we will call upon Your name,"(Ps.80:18), but also "Revive me according to Your word",:37)Ps.119:25), "Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way,(Ps. 119:37), "Revive me in Your righteousness,"(Ps.119:40), and"Revive me, O Lord, for Your name`s sake."(Ps.143:11) "Thus says the high and lofty One, who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and lofty place, and also with the one with a lowly and contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly ones, and to revive the hearts of those who are contrite."(Is.57:15)

All believers are in the world, and only too well aware of its attractions. Before personal revival, their priorities are misdirected from the things of God and eternity to the things of the world that pass away. Even though he or she may be active in the Lord`s service, the work becomes mechanical, and is performed more as a matter of duty than of privilege, and the completion of each work is regarded as the reward for achievement.

But that is not the Lord`s intention, and His word makes it very clear that our lives should be full of His presence, His power and His joy. We should be doing His will with a sense of victory, and should be bearing fruit for Him. The unrevived believer is satisfied with less than this, and makes excuses about his or her failure. The turning point comes when the Christian thinks there must be more to discipleship than living "at this poor dying rate," and turns to the Lord in a state of desperation, seeking to know Him in a fresh and vital way.

As the person seeks more earnestly,The Lord reveals areas in his or her life that need changing, sins that need to be confessed and renounced, wrong priorities that need to be abandoned, and new ones established, old aims and ambitions that need to be rejected, and replaced with new ones, relationships that may need to be changed, and new timetables that need to be put in place. As a consequence, a new determination to serve God wholeheartedly emerges, a desire to seek the face of the Lord becomes paramount, the Holy Spirit is honoured in a new way, as He becomes a fresh wind, blowing across the soul, arousing the child of God from spiritual slumber. A renewed fellowship with God is experienced as the believer"finds joy in the Lord" and "rides on the heights of the earth."(Is.58:14) The soul delights in the freedom and liberty of a child of God, and experiences a detachment from, and a deadness to the allurements of the world, allied to a quickened concern to see the world brought to the feet of Jesus.

A new song is put into the heart, and the mouth causes others others to fear and trust the Lord. A new hunger and thirst for the things of God is awakened, the believer cannot get enough of the Lord and His truth. True worship replaces cold and formal orthodoxy, the Lord`s work is done not as a duty but as a delight, a sense of wonder and anticipation submerges any sense of the ordinary or mundane, the heart is filled with the love of Christ, and Jesus truly becomes the believer`s all in all A new vitality emerges, which is enough to face and overcome all the problems of life and all the attacks of the enemy. If the work is true and deep, it will be more than renewal, it will issue in a new desire to win others and bring everyone into the kingdom, a new burden to pray for them, and a new ability to speak out the words of life; a new confidence in the Lord, a new hold upon him and a new boldness in prayer before Him.

God wants us all to get to that place, and remain there; the place beyond consecration and beyond sanctification, the place of implicit confidence. That is the springboard from which we can pray for revival, and the Lord will answer, the place where we are used as channels of revival. Even as I write this, I feel unworthy to do so. I think I know something of what R.B.Jones felt when , writing about the 1904-6 Welsh Awakening, said that some things are too holy to write about.

One of the results of being personally revived is to have our understanding of the greatness and holiness of God renewed. Douglas Brown, who was used to inaugurate the revival at Lowestoft in 1921, said,"Revival begins with a vision, and the vision begins with a new sense of Jesus Christ....Revival is the humbling of self before the... majesty of that consciously present Jesus." Like Douglas Brown, we need to have a deep, firm, life changing experience of God, and this comes about through having no interest in anything but God. People who are like this are considered boring by the world and by most of the Church, but these are the people that God is looking for.

How then do we become those kind of people? We have to quietly wait upon God until He searches into the depths of our beings, and shows us our failure and our need. We need to make an inventory, not of our riches, but of our poverty, to list all our deficiencies, and do it in detail, to mourn over each lack, and be filled with sorrow and shame for our weakness and failings. God has said,"I will go and return to my place until they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face."(Hos.5:15) It is no good praying, or even seeking God`s face, until we first acknowledge our sins, and repent of them.

We need to review our past life, our thoughts, words and actions, and confess everything unworthy of a holy God. A general confession of sin is not sufficient. Our sins were committed one by one, so they need to be repented of one by one. Jim Elliff points out the sins we should ask ourselves about.

1) Are there sins of pride; drawing attention to yourself, self pity, wanting your own way, rebellion against the authorities God has placed in your life? Has there been any bitterness, any anger or sharpness of speech to others? Have you been unforgiving to anybody?

2) Are there sins of speech; any language unbecoming of a child of God, any words that displayed lack of faith in Him, that were no better than a worldling, concerned with the things that pass away?

3) Are there sins of covetousness? Have you been concerned over matters of money and possessions? Have you wanted the latest and the best, and not been content with living simply, and just having your needs met? Have you been ungrateful for what God has given? Have you been guilty of the sin of worrying? Have you been dishonest, telling half truths, in order to appear better than you are, or worse off than you are?

4) Have you been immoral in mind or in body? Have you let impure or immoral things pass before your eyes? Are you exactly the same in private as in public?

5) Are there sins of indulgence, pleasing yourself before pleasing others? Have you been unconcerned over the plight of others who are impoverished or deprived in any way? Have you been uncaring towards those of a different class or religion or race? Have you been concerned about the way that God`s beautiful and wonderful creation is being spoilt and destroyed by the selfishness and brutality of man? Have you been really concerned about your suffering brothers and sisters in the Persecuted Church? Above all, have you been burdened with the plight of all those unbelievers around you who are going to hell?

Life Action Ministries (LAM) suggest using 2Chron. 7:14 as the basis for self examination.

" If my people"

Is my relationship with God the most important thing in my life?

Have I been making this relationship more meaningful every day.

"Who are called by my name"

Do the people that I meet know that I am a Christian?

Do I reflect His holiness, His integrity, His life in my daily dealings with others?

"Will humble themselves"

Do I esteem all others as better than myself?

Do I rejoice when others are praised, and I am overlooked.

Am I quick to admit when I am wrong, and to seek forgiveness?

Am I transparent and open with others regarding areas of spiritual need in my life?

"And pray"

Is prayer really a priority in my life?

Do I pray specifically for those I know who are unconverted?

Do I regularly pray with others for revival?

If revival in my church and community depended on my prayers, would there ever be a revival?

"And seek my face"

Do I desire God Himself more than anything He could give me?

Do I desire to be with Him, rather than anybody else?

Do I earnestly and regularly seek to learn more of the heart, the mind and the will of God?

"And turn from their wicked ways"

Do I really hate all evil?

Have I repented of, and forsaken, every sin that God has shown me, and every part of my lifestyle that is not pleasing to Him.

Have I deliberately removed from my life everything that tempts me to sin?

At the end, Life Action Ministries recommend that you share your heart with at least one other believer who is walking with the Lord, and make yourself accountable to him or her, asking that person to pray with you and for you.

Take time for the Lord to break up the fallow ground of your life. The frosts of Winter are as necessary as the Spring rains to prepare the soil for growing a harvest. God has to break our hearts and soften them before we can be open for the Spirit to bring showers of blessings. We need, therefore, to wait upon the Lord with a quiet and willing spirit, for Him to speak to us in the stillness, and have His way in our lives. He wants us on our faces before Him, so He can reveal to us His thoughts and His longings, and lead us into His perfect will for our lives. We need to pray with Robert Murray M`Cheyne,"Lord, make me as holy as a redeemed sinner can be."

"The reason why so few Christians know anything about the spirit of prayer is because they will never take pains to examine themselves properly, and so never know what it is to have their hearts all broken up in this way." (Charles Finney)

We need to remember that prayer is no substitute for obedience. As King Saul was told, "to obey is better than sacrifice." It is futile to offer sacrifices, even of the most earnest prayer, while not obeying every prompting of the Spirit, no matter how trivial the sin might seem to be. It is very important to pray genuinely from our hearts, "Lord, I am willing to renounce everything I know to be sin, and everything You show me to be sin, and to do everything You want me to do, however costly," and then do it. As A.W. Tozer said, "Revival will come when prayer is no longer used as a substitute for obedience."

"A revival is nothing less than a new beginning of obedience to God," wrote Charles Finney. "Just as in the case of a converted sinner, the first step is a deep repentance, a breaking down of heart, a getting down into the dust before God, with deep humility and a forsaking of sin."

"Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself," A.W.Tozer taught. Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress. The contented soul is a stagnant soul. Set your face like a flint towards a sweeping transformation of your life. Timid experiments are tagged for failure before they start. We must throw our whole souls into our desire for God. Do a thorough job of repenting. Hasty repentance means a shallow spiritual experience....It is our wretched habit of tolerating sin that keeps us in our half dead condition. Bring your life into accord with the Sermon on the Mount and such other Scriptures as are designed to instruct in the way of righteousness. Be serious minded...There must be a radical change in your habits or there will not be any permanent improvement in your inner life. Close your heart to the world and sin, and open it wide just to Christ and His Spirit. Make restitution where it is needed, pay all debts, and be reconciled with everyone. Believe that as you have been open and honest with the Lord, He will fulfil His promises to you, forgive you, cleanse you and revive you. Then go out in faith, and witness to others of what you have done, and what the Lord has done in your life."

The truth of that is borne out in experience. It was when R.B.Jones testified of his personal revival experience on November 12th, 1904, that the Spirit was poured out at Rhos, where he was leading a mission, and the awakening began there. It was when Jonathan Goforth, following a self examination, put right a disagreement with a fellow missionary, that the Holy Spirit flooded his soul, and his ministry was then transformed. It was only after Evan Roberts, having committed himself unreservedly to the Lord, prayed in desperation, "O God, bend me," that God was able to use him in such a mighty way.

It was after Duncan Campbell, having sought the Lord for so long, prayed that prayer of M`Cheyne, and the Holy Spirit had swept through his personality, bringing cleansing and renewal, that he quoted a psalm in Gaelic, his first language, to a wardful of wounded soldiers."It is doubtful if any of the men understood a word of the language he was speaking, but a stillness came over the ward, and the awareness of God captured the consciousness of each one. Within minutes, conviction of sin laid hold of them, and at least seven of them trusted Christ...The reality of Christ`s presence , through the praise of His servant, had so charged the atmosphere with the fear of God, that these men were convinced of their sin, and gloriously converted." (Andrew Woolsey)

The four steps that Evan Roberts outlined for personal revival are still relevant:

1) Confess every known sin to God, and every known wrong to man.

2) Put away every doubtful thing.

3) Obey the Holy Spirit promptly and completely.

4) Confess Christ to others inside and outside the Church.

Do not think that because you have once known a reviving in your life, that you are now all right.

Perhaps you have maintained the spiritual glow, have kept a pure heart before God, are walking in the light with Him, are keeping a clear conscience before others, are witnessing to Christ everywhere, and seeing the Lord work through you in miraculous ways. If that is so, then praise the Lord. But, personally, I know only too well that it is possible to decline from the heights, and that even though, at one time, the love and the joy of the Lord were very real and wonderful, such conditions can easily change, not overnight, but gradually, so that the love grows cold, legalism can set in, and pride rears its ugly head. Duncan Campbell, even after his experience of the Holy Spirit, already described,over the years lost that close communion with the Lord he had enjoyed, and started to feel proud.Although he had been used in revival, he realized that he was clinging to the decaying threads of a past experience, and striving vainly to maintain a reputation built on them. He had spent eighteen years in a barren wilderness, baffled and frustrated in Christian work and witness. Feeling unfit to be in Christian work, in longing he prayed that God would have mercy on him, and remake the marred vessel. "On his face in his own study, at five o`clock in the morning, he realized afresh the recovery power of the blood of Christ, and in desperation, he cast himself on the mercy of God. He heard my cry for pardon," he wrote, "and as I lay prostrate before Him, wave after wave of divine consciousness came over me, and the love of the Saviour flooded my being." (Andrew Woolsey) "How glad I am," he said later,"that God is a God of new beginnings." That did not mean that Campbell was now `soft on sin`. On the contrary, he still preached strongly against it, but he now knew, from personal experience that there was mercy and forgiveness and cleansing and the chance of a new start for even the worst sinner.

So let us make sure we are fully yielded to the Lord, and there is nothing hindering the flow of the Spirit through us. "When we wait upon God in passionate, pleading, persistent prayer for revival, the first work of the Holy Spirit, in response to our prayers, is to convict us of hindering sins and attitudes, and to assist our repentance. As the Holy Spirit shows us ourselves, we must respond by obedience to His every prompting. As we obey, our lives become clean, clear channels for the Holy Spirit to flow through. God flows through the points where we yield."(C.J.Clarke)

"I think again of those people in the Hebrides," wrote Duncan Campbell. "How they longed and how they prayed and how they waited and how they cried:`O God, rend the heavens, and come down,` and all the time God was handling them, all the time God was dealing with them, and the process of cleansing went on until the moment came when angels and archangels, looking over the battlements of glory, cried "God, the vessels are clean. The miracle can happen now." I believe with all my heart. It is the deep conviction of my soul, that they are ever gazing over the battlements of heaven, and waiting for a prepared people....Give me a people on their knees, seeking to be rightly related to God, and when that happens, we will soon know the impact of God realization in our country....If you want revival, get right with God. If you are not prepared to bring the last piece, for God`s sake, stop talking about revival. Your talking and praying is but the laughing stock of devils. It is time we got into the grip of reality."

Before the revival came to The Congo in 1953, the missionaries there had been convicted by the Holy Spirit of their many failings in relation to God, to each other and to the local people. They had come to true repentance, and known the cleansing of the blood of Jesus, so that they kept short accounts with God, and were walking in the light. Consequently, when the Holy Spirit fell on the people, bringing terrible conviction of sin, the missionaries were able to recognize this as the holy fire of God, which had been constantly burning in themselves, and so they were able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. They were vessels, sanctified and meet for the Master`s use when the day of His power came.

That is why this issue of the Interceders Encourager has been written. My prayer is that the Interceders will be right with God, completely consecrated to Him, clean vessels, sanctified and meet for the Master`s use, so that the Holy Spirit can flow through us, and His power can be released.

The angels are waiting.

"Lord, are my hands clean, is my heart pure?

I close with verses from a wonderful hymn, the finest hymn that Henry Francis Lyte ever wrote,

and a hymn by Charles Wesley. It is still January, so we can use this New Year hymn.

Let them challenge and inspire you, and bring you to the place where you should be.

"Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee;

Destitute,despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shallt be;

Perish every fond ambition, all I`ve sought and hoped and known;

Yet how rich is my condition. God and heaven are still mine own.

Let the world despise and leave me; they have left my Saviour too;

Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like man, untrue;

And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom , love and might,

Foes may hate and friends may shun me; show Thy face and all is bright.

Take, my soul, thy full salvation; rise o`er sin and fear and care;

Joy to find in every station, something still to do or bear.

Think what Spirit dwells within thee, what a Father`s smile is thine;

What a Saviour died to win thee; child of heaven, shouldst thou repine?

(Henry Francis Lyte)

Let me alone another year, in honour of Thy Son,

Who doth my advocate appear, before Thy gracious throne;

Thou hast vouchsafed a longer space, and spared the barren tree,

Because for me my Saviour prays, and pleads His death for me.

Time to repent Thou dost bestow, but O the power impart;

And let my eyes with tears o`erflow, and break my stubborn heart.

Today, while it is called today, the hindering thing remove;

And lo, I now begin to pray, and wrestle for Thy love.

I now from all my sins would turn, to my atoning God;

And look on Him I pierced, and mourn, and feel the sprinkled blood;

Would nail my passions to the cross, where my Redeemer died;

And all things count but dung and dross, for Jesus crucified.

Giver of penitential pain, before Thy cross I lie;

In grief determined to remain, till Thou Thy blood apply;

Forgiveness on my conscience seal, bestow Thy promised rest;

With purest love thy servant fill, and number with the blest.

(Charles Wesley)