WHY I HAVE HOPE THAT GOD WILL SEND A REVIVAL
This year we celebrate 200 years of Baptist work in Louisiana. Our convention leaders are asking us to pray for an awakening in Louisiana. In the entire 200 years of Baptists in Louisiana, there has never been an awakening as it has happened in other parts of the country.
In the 1740s a great revival broke out in the nation. The first great awakening had a great influence on Baptists. At that time, most Americans Christians were either Presbyterians or Congregationalists. When revival swept through the Congregationalists, many rejected revival. And they rejected those churches who experienced revival. Some of them joined Baptist churches. But, many of the Congregationalist churches became Baptist churches. They were known as Separate Baptists. Separate Baptists became the bulk of the churches that we now call Southern Baptists, mixed in with the more traditional Particular Baptists.
A Second great Awakening came in 1801 starting in Cane Ridge Kentucky. Then in the 20th century, various smaller revivals broke out in various parts of the country. But none have come to Louisiana.
Revival, awakening, is a time when God’s Spirit moves so mightily among his people that it brings change to society. Christians become so deeply committed to following Christ that they influence others to become Christians and the result is a changed society. In the past, revival changed rough frontier culture, brought compassionate ministries to the needy, is credited with preventing civil way in England. The end of child labor, the building of schools and hospitals, and ultimately the end of slavery can be traced to the influence of revival.
I have read a lot about revivals. Let me say first that God never seems to strike the same way twice. Sometimes it just happens, sometimes it comes after a long extended time of fervent prayer on the part of an individual. Many times it comes when God’s people are brought low because of the hardness of their hearts. To be sure, Scripture tells us that God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble.
The story of Ezekiel is about promised revival. But it is a sad story. God had sent his prophets to Israel calling them to repent of their sins and to humble themselves before God so that he might bless them. But they were a hard-headed, obstinate people. When Ezekiel wrote this book, he was in exile and the nations of Israel and Judea were no more. God used the super powers of that day to bring discipline and punishment against them. Assyria and then Babylon, destroyed the northern kingdom and then the southern kingdom. They took most of the people to Babylon and replaced them with foreigners in God’s land.
The prophets told the people while in exile, keep on living your life. Work, marry, have children and raise families. And most of all, continue to worship God. And when the time came, he would bring them home.
Revival is all about God keeping his promises to his people. It is we who fail God, God does not fail us. I am not sure that we are able to truly repent and return to God without God’s help. Even when we have been redeemed and justified by the blood of Christ, when we get out of sorts with God it takes more than we can offer to be made right with God.
God told Ezekiel that the people had lived impure lives. They worshiped other gods. They were consumed with material things. They were adulterous and promiscuous. They were selfish and self-centered. They cared for no one but themselves. God says that he judged them according to their ways. His response was in response to their sin. His patience had run out. But we must understand that even in this act of judgment, God is still redeeming his people. His punishment is much like the refiner’s fire.
God’s promises were unconditional. He had warned them when the Temple was built that if the turned from his law he would cause the droughts to come to get their attention. Even as far back as the giving of the Law, God through Moses told the people to choose life or choose death. Keep the word of God and choose life. So, this situation should not have surprised them.
We have a hard time understanding the holiness of God. We literally cannot stand in his presence because his holiness would literally destroy us. In those times when an individual found himself in God’s presence, it was a holy terror. Man’s sin violates God holiness and his justice demands judgment.
But the text said that he was also concerned with his holy name. His reputation had been smeared by Israel. In verse 22, God says “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.” (Eze 36:22 NASB) When God called Israel, he called them to be his holy people. When God calls us, we are called to be his holy people. They were called to separate themselves from the other nations. They were not to practice their pagan and immoral acts. They were not to worship other gods. They did all of this and they not only profaned the holiness of God, they profaned their own holiness. So, God brings revival to Israel in order that he might remove the stain against his holiness. In their case, he will gather them from the nations to which they had been exiled. He will bring them home. And he was sprinkle them with water. In other words, he will cleanse them. He will wash them. He will repair the holiness that they had profaned by their sin.
But there is more than just cleansing. He will give them a new heart. A heart of stone is an uncaring heart, a cold heart, one that uses others rather than loves. God loved them and they responded with a cold heart. His repair will be to give them a heart of flesh, a warm heart that loves others and loves God.
Finally, he will put his Spirit in them. When we are out of relationship with God, the Holy Spirit is not in control. But part of revival is that he places the Holy Spirit in his people. Then he promises to bless them and their land and they will know that I am their God.
I believe that God will send a revival to us so that he might redeem his holy name, so that he might repair our own tarnished holiness. What happened to Israel was drastic, they were exiled. All that was left was a remnant. What will God have to do to us so that we will understand that he is God and we are not? What will cause us to stand humbly before him?
God keeps his promises. He will not abandon us nor will he forsake us. When revival comes he will heal our nature, he will renew our holiness before him. He will cleanse us. He will give us a new heart so that we may love God and our fellow-man. And he will fill us with the Holy Spirit who will guide and lead us.
I urge us to pray for revival. Not just for us, but our community, our state and our nation. May we all humbly seek God’s awakening.