Chapel 03.14.2017- Revival and Awakening
I want to talk to you for a few minutes this morning about revival and awakening and the reason I want to do that because I have said a few times in public right up here when I first got here, and even in my inauguration people ask me what I pray about for CCU, what I dream about and one of the things that I dream and pray about is that God would bring awakening to our campus that He would start here and do something that spreads way beyond here for His glory, for the sake of His name. And I’ve had a few students say well what do you mean by that, explain that a little bit more because we’re not quite sure where you are going with that so if you will indulge me a little bit to play the part of someone who, I like to preach but I’m a church historian I’m a president and I care deeply about this moment this generation of students and what God will do right now. So, revival. What is revival when we talk about it? We’re a Christian school and Christians can wain our faith can get limp, it can get go asleep there are times when we need rejuvenation Would you admit to that? Mine can. I’m sure yours can as well. And there have been seasons that we refer to as revivals where God has poured out his Holy Spirit on his people this are also called Times of Awakening when His presence is experienced in a powerful way by his Holy Spirit special seasons where we’re awake to God we become aware of Gospel truths in a whole new way. Where as we once may have believed them intellectually they grip our souls and we’re humbled, we’re convicted of our sin, we rely on a new way on the grace of God in Jesus Christ and we find new joy in him. And Christians need seasons like that and when some of these revivals have taken place there is often spill-over effects so that often there will be a great outreach to non-believers because of awakenings where there will be social reform that comes in the wake of some of these awakenings. One writer William Robertson Nicholls said that it is by revivals of religion that the Church of God makes its most visible advance and I think you know this, I think you know that sometimes most of the time God works through the process of day in day out daily disciplines and devotional exercises and faithfulness and obedience but there are times in our lives where God works in the crisis, the moment in an accelerated way and does a work that only He can do to bring things forward. So revival is God’s method of great accelerated change. It’s a sovereign work of his Holy Spirit where Christ visits his people often in large numbers, and you know it. And so you might say to yourself, as I have, does the Church today need revival, and my answer is oh my word, we are in desperate need of awakening, especially the church in the West. We have fallen asleep in so many ways we have lost our life in so many ways we look for life in other things, in the latest program, in the latest book, and we don’t seek Him we have left our first love. Do you know what I’m talking about? Anybody? We have become captive to the world we become prayer-less, we don’t hunger for God’s word we don’t thirst after righteousness we don’t want to seek him, we place our own experience and opinions before the authority of Scripture we’re ignorant of the basic truths of the gospel we’re not grieved when God’s name is reviled we’re not moved at the thought of many people who don’t know Christ, and we’re powerless and it shows in so many ways and we lose our saltiness so that we are not effective as we move out into the world.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said I’m profoundly convinced the greatest need in the world today is revival in the Church of God, and what’s really interesting now he was a great pastor but you have many secular leaders these days saying what we need, the only thing that will be able to get us out of the mess that we are in is some kind of spiritual awakening or revival. A number of years ago the President of the American Bar Association said the only effective response to our nation’s crime problem is spiritual revival and another said the West will collapse without spiritual renewal. And I have to tell you that our condition is not new. You can go to the scriptures and you can see that there are many times of spiritual decline and God has brought awakening in those times so you read through the Old Testament and you read about the time of Hezekiah, the revival that came then, in Second Kings, or the time of revival during King Asa or King Josiah or during Ezra’s time or Nehemiah’s time or Joel’s time and then of course you go to the New Testament and you come across Pentecost itself which was a massive earth-shaking history-shaking awakening and as you read through the Scriptures you’ll keep discovering these expressions of prayer where God’s people are crying out for a new visitation of God the Holy Spirit so Psalm 80 verse 14 return to us oh Lord God Almighty, revive us and we will call upon your name, restore us. Or Psalm 85:6 will you not revive again so that your people may rejoice in you Isaiah 64 oh that you would rend the heavens and come down or Habakkuk 3:1 where the prophet says Lord I have heard of your fame, I stand in awe of your deeds oh Lord renew them in our time, in our time make them known. Or even in the New Testament in the book of Revelation to the church of Ephesus you’ve lost your first love remember the height from which you’ve fallen repent and do the things you did at first. Now one of the things that fascinates me as a teacher of history and church history is as you study periods of awakening you see that there are patterns almost typical patterns that characterize awakenings. Not every awakening has all these features but many of them do, so for example number one there is usually and time of spiritual darkness or dryness or deadness or apathy or blatant sin or nominal Christianity where there is no difference between the Church and the world and church is seen dead, so there is a time of darkness and then secondly number two there’s this conviction that wells up in a person, a leader or a group and this group is aware of their sins and their back-slidden condition and they vow to forsake those things anything that displeases God and they long for a refreshing outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit and there’s this deep dissatisfaction in their soul that they’re missing something. And then third, the third element is that prayer starts to increase. Revival and prayer, you see, always go together, they’re inseparably linked. And then as people start praying to God they discover His Word and they get a vision of God’s glory and holiness and they realize that his holy character means that we can’t stay as we are because his holiness exposes our own sin and we realize how much we need Christ and then there’s this confession of sin, number five and a turning to Christ, this conviction that something’s got to change and tears start to flow off and then there’s a confession of sin and even the destruction of our own personal idols and a turning back to God for forgiveness and a sense that the cross of Jesus Christ is precious because there we find our life and the power of the Holy Spirit is essential because without it we are limp.
So I’m not talking about revival as warm fuzzies, okay? I’m talking about spiritual awakening. And then there’s this awakening that comes, and by the way revival is not a series of meetings. I saw a sign outside a church some time ago and it said every night except Saturday revival meetings. Okay? So that’s not what I’m talking about. And revival is not evangelism although evangelism often flows out of revival. Revival is a sovereign work of God what Edwards called a surprising work of God that goes beyond any of our human designs. And it has the spill-over effects not only do people come to Christ who were just hardened before then but you see these social effects that often I mean in American history the revivals brought forth moral reform that helped to overturn slavery, that brought forth movements in prison reform and to change child labor laws and all the rest and then there were often missionary outreach that went on because of this awakened church. There is this recurring pattern you see in revivals. It’s good to know about it. And so when you look at the history of the church you see these periodic awakenings where the Spirit of God comes down and there are showers of unique blessing. You do see it after the book of Acts, you see it sometimes in the middle ages among the Franciscans or Savonarola or during the time of John Hus or Wycliffe. You see it in the reformation, I mean the reformation was one of the greatest revivals in the history of the church which we’re anniversary, it was a back to Jesus movement, a back to the gospel movement, a back to the bible movement You see this revival of the Moravian mission in Europe that took place in the 1800s, or 1700s rather, men named Count Zinzendorf who was a wealthy, wealthy man who had this wonderful big estate and with all the turmoil of Europe refugees poured onto his land and there were Lutherans and Catholics and Reformed and Anabaptists and the United Brethren and when they met together to pray something happened Zinzendorf said. And there was an outpouring of God’s Spirit and it commenced a time of praying to God in fact the prayer meetings from the Moravians lasted for 100 years. Pretty stunning. And they set forth the modern mission movement and they inspired John Wesley to take Christ seriously. And then of course you come to the English revivals during the 18th century where God used preachers like John Wesley and George Whitefield to thunder the word of God throughout England and people say that England was spared a French-like revolution because so many people came to Christ and there was this transformation, spiritual transformation but there was a transformation of morals and manners as well in the wider population, it had wide ranging effects. And then you come to the Great Awakening in North America and you read about how the Puritan generation had now grown cold and those early settlers the spiritual fire cooled and there children were pursuing material wealth instead of Christ and so God poured out his Spirit in the time of the First Great Awakening, what we know as the First Great Awakening, and he used different leaders like Gilbert Tennent and Theodore Frelinghuysen and Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield and then you can go on and read again the Second Great Awakening, the revival of 1859, the Great Welsh Revival of 1904. In fact J Edwin Orr who is one of the great historians on awakenings was describing the awakening that took place in Wales, the little country of Wales in 1904 and he said when the word went out and people were revived churches began to swell with new converts and he said the impact of the revivals was like this, drunkeness was immediately cut in half, many taverns went bankrupt, crime was so diminished that judges were presented, get this, with white gloves signifying that there were no cases of murder, assault, rape and robbery, for them to consider. The police became unemployed in many districts. Listen to this, stoppages occurred in the coal mines, not due to the unpleasantness between management and workers but because so many foul-mouthed miners became converted and stopped using foul language that the horses which had carried the coal trucks in the mines could no longer understand what was being said to them. Pretty stunning, but you get the point. And you can go on and you can look at the Azusa Street Revival or the revivals in North Africa, East Africa and Korea and what you realize is that Christianity is a religion of surprising reversals. It’s a resurrections religion, so that when things appear to be low God often, as his people cry out to him, does a brand new work and he pours out his Spirit in a new way and his work goes forward. And so, because of the Resurrection and because of the Holy Spirit we cannot be despairing ever. We can’t get caught up in this funk of oh the world is falling apart because our religion is a resurrection religion. And God, this is the wild-card in the history of the world, these awakenings, these periods of revival.
Let me just focus for a moment on collegiate revivals or collegiate awakenings on American campuses. So this historian of American revivals, J Edwin Orr has made the point that in the First Great Awakening there were many many schools who were established because of the revivals that took place. Many of the schools on the East Coast were the fruit of this awakening. And during the Second Great Awakening many of these schools experienced continual awakening such as in 1787 Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia the students were concerned about the moral state of their college and they met for prayer, but they were threatened by other students who hated Christianity. Now this is in the 1700s. And so they locked themselves in a room for fear of the other students. The president got wind of this and he called the group into his study for continued prayer, and then they began to pray and things started to happen. The Spirit of God came upon them, they recommitted their lives to Christ, they committed to one another to mutual watchfulness and fervent fellowship and mutual counsel they formed these tiny societies or prayer cells for ongoing prayer and this began to spread to Harvard, and Brown and Dartmouth and Middlebury and Williams and Hanover College and they would have days of prayer where they would seek the Lord, and where He blessed in unique ways. There was Williams College in Massachusetts. The scene was an anti-Christian demonstration. Anti-Christian demonstration in 1806. Some of the Christians decided to meet secretly out in a field to pray. They started under a maple tree and there was an afternoon shower, a thunderstorm, and it drove them to seek shelter under a haystack, and there they prayed and began to ask God for things they had never asked before. They began to pray that God would use them to reach the unevangelized world for Christ and that group began to grow and some of them began to volunteer for missions and they formed the very first American Board of Missons, of foreign missions in American life. And it was out of that prayer meeting that the American Missions Movement started. There were the revivals of 1858 and 1905, the Wheaton Revivals of 1936, or the Baylor Revivals of 1939 or the Bethel University Revivals of 1949 where the student awakenings in Southern California in 1947, it went on for years. Now I just want to end that little survey there because it was in the 1970s, I was affected by that, and as a high school student, long ago, far away, in the time of Abraham Lincoln, and all that, I was in a secular school, and someone said, and I was an intimidated Christian, you know, and a lot of people were making fun of Christianity, and somebody said you know you should start praying with another student and ask God to do something in your school, it was Deerfield High School Northern Illinois, and so two of us began to pray and we said, Lord, we’re weak, we’re nothing, but we want to honor you today, and to make a long story short over the course of two years God added to our number and by my senior year we had a hundred people praying every day before school, and we saw many many people come to faith in Christ, we saw the number one drug dealer converted, we saw the number one athlete in our school converted and it just began to have this effect that nobody could orchestrate and you saw God’s power at work in a unique way but the hinge was when God’s people say we want more, we’re hungry, and they begin to fast and pray and ask God for a new refreshment and they’re open and when God convicts them of sin, this always happens during revivals, people say well we are going to put aside our old ways, our doubtful habits, we’re going to obey the Spirit promptly, we’re going to confess private sin privately, and public sin publicly, we’re going to confess and make restitution for things we did wrong and declare our faith in Christ openly and then times of refreshing and refreshment came.
It’s interesting that the church historian Ken Latourette says that, and he’s emphatic about this, that the world-wide spread of protestant Christianity in the nineteenth century was in large part an expression of a series of religious awakenings, and that takes us to just here we are today Here we are doing college, you are as a student, I am as a president, and I approach my short season and I say Lord, I don’t want to do the normal thing, I mean the normal is normal but this is our time in history, Lord would you be pleased to move in a whole new way everywhere, but have mercy on us and start here. Begin awakening us to who you are, bring us back to yourself, pour out your Holy Spirit on the students of Colorado Christian University as the Korean’s say, Lord do it again, do it again and begin here, and not for our sake, but for the sake of your name, for the sake of the kingdom of God, for the sake of the nations who don’t know Christ. Start something here that would go way beyond here for your glory Lord, do it again. Help us to return to our first love so that we can be true light and true salt in our time. Does this resonate with anyone here today? So, let me leave you with this this morning, I just want just wanna, as they say ‘splain it to ya, I just wanna, so you know, so you understand when we throw terms around, revival and awakening, what we’re thinking about. We cannot manipulate revival. This is God’s gift to the church, but as G Campbell Morgan put it, revival can’t be organized but we can set out sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow on his people once again. And so I wanted to say to you let’s set our sails out. Let’s seek him in a new way. Let’s perceive the grim situation that we’re in like in Revelation 3, the Church of Laodicea, we think we’re rich and Christ says no you’re not. I know you’re deeds, you’re neither hot nor cold. You say you’re rich, you’re wretched, pitiful, poor and blind, but be earnest, repent. Here I am, I love this, I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in. That’s Jesus talking, in the first instance, to the church that has shut him out, saying I want to come in and I want to be here and I want to be glorified. So, may I ask you, we had this thirty day season of prayer before my inauguration, for those of you who took part thank you so much, my hope is that’s not an end but it’s a beginning, that this is a spark where we ask him, we beg the Lord to draw near to us yet again in a new way and do for his glory what we could never do ourselves, that we prepare the way of the Lord, and as we do we’re aware that we may have to repent of known sins, and we will have to return to his word and to the great truths of the gospel, and come to a new appreciation of his holiness and his majesty and the reality of our sin and of his wrath and of the wondrous grace of the cross of Jesus, and of the glory of the message of salvation that we can be justified by faith through Christ, and of the glorious truth that we can be reborn by the Holy Spirit of God and so with the psalmist I invite you to pray.