In part one of this revival series I started out with setting some groundwork, talking definitions, and more of my personal journey with revival. I’d love to now continue by diving into Scripture. There are some really incredible places in Scripture where we see a pattern for revival. I find myself continuing to come back to these Scriptures in the last months, as God continues to plant this truth deeper within me: That He desires for us to live in a sustained place of life- a new pattern of living that is constantly returning to Center (Jesus!).
Let’s start in Isaiah. King Uzziah was the 11th King of Judah. His name means “The Lord is my strength”, and he actually started out as a good King. He did “that which was right in the sight of the Lord.” Later on in his reign we find that his heart was lifted up for destruction. He went into the temple to offer incense, that which was only the role of the priest, and despite being warned he plowed forward to do this. He was struck with leprosy as a result and ended up dying.
This is a picture of what many of us have lived. Uzziah was a symbol of the nation of Judah- and really, all of us. We saw clearly, we did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, have known the strength of the Lord, but then turned to disobedience. But God doesn’t desire or intend for us to have the same outcome as King Uzziah, remaining “sickly” and “unclean” until the end of our days…
In chapter six we see that it begins with the death of King Uzziah. We could say it begins with the death of disobedience… In order for revival to happen, behavior needs to come to its end. The old man needs to die.
Now Isaiah steps onto the scene. Let me write out the passage for you, it’s too important to try to paraphrase.
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”
And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said:
“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 my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
“Lo, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.”
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
“Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
And He said, “Go, and tell this people…”
You might have already been catching on to this while reading, but those highlighted words (added by me for emphasis) are super significant. In a sermon I listened to by Pastor Eric Ludy he calls it “Woe-Lo-Go”: the essence of revival. Isaiah is a picture of us refusing to be in a backslidden state- seeing the vision of the high and exalted one and being deeply humbled and awakened. Isaiah sees his condition as a result of the clear sight that the Holy Spirit gives of Jesus Christ and His Holy, holy, holiness.
Receiving this vision of the HOLINESS and glory of Jesus should drive us to repentance and transformation. This pattern is the pattern of revival. Something had to die, Isaiah needed to see something, he needed to repent and let go of (put off) what’s holding him back, and then he could be sent.
Let’s quickly turn to another scripture. In Luke 5, still close to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry here on earth, we see the commissioning of Simon Peter. Jesus comes to the lake where Simon and his crews have been fishing all night. It’s morning now and there are many people on the shores. Simon Peter comes back in to shore, and Jesus asks him to row him out so that he can preach to the people. I imagine that Simon was tired, and maybe even annoyed that Jesus was asking him to row back out. But he owed him a favour. As per middle eastern custom, if one person helps in some way (Jesus had very recently healed Simon’s mother), then the other is able to claim a returned favour which should not be refused. So Simon rowed Jesus out and Jesus had a chance to speak to the people on shore. Immediately afterwards, he turns to Simon and tells him to put his net down on the other side of the water and catch some fish. Simon responds in a way that showed a bit of frustration and arrogance, saying “Okay boss. We’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught anything, but I’ll give it a try because you said so.” Here’s a highly experienced fisherman being told by a carpenter preacher how to fish. He casts his net down and ends up with so many fish in his net that it begins to break and he needs to call his other boat crew over to help. He is so struck with awe at who this man in his boat is. His response is one of deep humility. We read that he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”. He was astonished. Jesus responds telling him not to be afraid but to follow him and become a fisher of men.
We know that before the death of Christ Peter, the same Peter that adamantly professed his deep love for Jesus and claimed that he would lay down his own life for His sake, denies Jesus. Later in John 21, shortly after the resurrection of Jesus, we see another fishing scene. Peter and his men had been fishing all night and caught nothing. They don’t recognize Jesus on shore. I imagine that although He had already revealed himself to his disciples two times, they were still struggling with believing Jesus had really risen from the dead. Jesus calls out to them from shore and tells them to put their nets out on the other side, and once again they catch an overflowing abundance of fish. We read that Peter plunged into the water to go to shore. His eyes were opened to see, this is Jesus. He saw his holiness and majesty afresh. And Jesus restores him and once again commissions him, “Follow me.”
I’ve shared this in a past post, but it’s still significant to me each time I reflect on it. In Matthew when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, he includes this in his prayer, teaching us as believers to pray the same:
“May Your name be made holy…”
The above scriptural examples are exactly a picture of what this prayer means. This is a prayer to ask Jesus to make His holiness and glory known to us, in such a way that causes us to not walk away unchanged. It’s the prayer that, when answered, requires a response on our part: Seeing, acknowledging, repenting, going.
When I see the holiness of God, it reveals my own unholiness. I see how WORTHY He is. I recognize my own unworthiness. I see how I have been seeking my own glory instead of His. Like Peter, I’m brought to me knees and say, “Woe is me”. “Lo”, the sin is purged. And then I’m not just revived to pray and read the Bible more, but to be SENT! To “Go”. I see His goodness and worth afresh and just want to share it with everyone else.
This kind of revival is the essence of what causes the Church to function as it was intended to.
What’s the vision that needs to be seen? The Lord, high and lifted up. Jesus on the throne.
In Proverbs 29:18 we read “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” What is that vision? It’s Jesus. If you don’t know why you’re here, if you don’t know who and what it’s all about, you will be weak, passive, tired, unmotivated, and fail. JESUS is the vision: for the individual, the marriage, the family, the Church. It we lose that vision, we lose it all. All that we’re doing is empty.
“Everything about Isaiah 6 is a parallel of the Church of God. We are meant to become vessels to carry this vision: Jesus. We are to see the vision and His holiness. Then we are to recognize afresh the value of the shed blood. Then we are to recognize that the reason we were given this isn’t so that we ourselves can just hold onto it for our own comfort and satisfaction, but so that we could spend ourselves just the same way He spent himself for us. THIS is revival.” -Eric Ludy
In the Church today we have “counterfeit visions” that are hindering revival. We think that by having these things high and lifted up that we will see growth and health in the Church. But as long as “Uzziah” or anything else sits on the throne, there can’t be revival. We can also have incorrect ideas about revival that hinder the work that God is able to do. Pastor Eric talked about a few of these that I’d like to share:
- Denominations: our differences because of things we think we do better or believe “more correctly”…we’re good at taking our doctrinal distinctions and putting them on the throne. And they become our identity. Is that supposed to be our identity? What’s supposed to be our vision…is it our doctrine?? Our knowledge of the text of Scripture?? Or…the One who fulfills all of Scripture?
- Misunderstanding what revival is supposed to look like. Correct doctrine (though a derivative of having correct sight) is not what will bring revival. Having “unity of the body” at the center and striving towards it will not bring revival. Emphasizing and encouraging the use of spiritual gifts and service within the body will not bring revival. You can really fill the blank in with anything…the long story short is that none of these things are wrong. They are all actually good and biblical things, but at the end of the day we need to wake up and recognize that there are things that are right, but not Centre. And when something that is right becomes Centre, it actually becomes wrong. The only way revival and growth and health in the Church can happen is if it starts in the innermost of each person’s heart- an encounter with Jesus.
- Seeing revival as an event. Revival isn’t supposed to be an event, but the state of the Church. When we are living healthy, we are living revived.
- Desiring the bi-products of revival more than the vision. There are certain things that we expect and often see after revival, but we must remember that these are bi-products of something greater. Confessions and conviction of sins, prayer that is fervent, incredible levels of evangelism and more people coming to Christ, a new passion and burden for lost souls, more vibrancy and enthusiasm during worship, an awakening, stirring, and increase in use of spiritual gifts. These are all great things and often bi-products of revival, but THIS shouldn’t be what we’re seeking after. JESUS needs to be the vision. We need to desire a vision and encounter with Jesus- one so great that lives are transformed from the inside out. The body grows healthier and stronger from the inside out.
I want to share one more quote from Pastor Ludy that I found really meaningful.
“…We will encounter Jesus afresh. The blur will be removed. We will see him high and lifted up. We will be transfixed by His glory. We will be awed by His grand love. We will be thunderstruck by His victory on the cross. We will be thoroughly amazed by the absoluteness of His triumph. And every little thing that might threaten to block, hinder or slow His triumphal entry into our inner sanctuary, to take His seat of authority, we will hastily, zealously and passionately bulldoze out of the way, lest anything might rob from what we are beholding. Our lives will become singular in their focus. The Holy Spirit will have us and the Holy Spirit will show us more and more and more of Jesus.”
The cause = Jesus. The effect = revival. When you behold the Person of Jesus, everything in your life should change. If you lose Jesus, you lose your compass and place something else in the North position, making something subsidiary the focus. When Jesus is at the center, everything comes into alignment.
After these last months of reflecting, praying, and studying more deeply into this topic of revival I’m quite strongly convinced that unless the Church has this “Woe-Go-Lo”, captivated with a singular vision of Jesus Christ, unless every single one of us has this vision, we will remain weak. Our worship will be empty and displeasing. We will remain in disunity as a result of not having the singular vision of Jesus on the throne. We will be unable to fulfill our commission as the body of Christ because we do not have Jesus at the head. If we see the glory and beauty and holiness of Jesus afresh, we will be moved to adore and worship- in words, in song, in life. Our lives will be a pouring out for the glory of Jesus. All of the things we wish to see in the Church- all of the bi-products- come as a result of seeing Jesus.
It starts with me and with you. After weeks and months of being frustrated and discouraged and disheartened, God freshly gave me this reminder. He brought me to my knees as I saw His glory and holiness and worthiness afresh. He showed me areas in my life that were not right or in need of His sanctifying work, and I was able to repent, surrender, and be sent. I finally understood this truth that we, as disciples of Christ, are meant to live in a state of revival. A state of life and growth. The Church is meant to stay ALIVE with the central heartbeat being Jesus and His glory. Revival is returning to that which gives us life. Returning full force to the centrality of Jesus. The spirit of God doesn’t come and go and come and go… No, if we are in Christ then we have the Spirit of life in us and are meant to continue to bear LIFE. God desires for me to stay clean, pure, healthy, continuing to exercise that which I am taught, and bearing fruit. It’s only after I have been personally searched and examined and revived that I can seek to go after revival for the Church as a whole.
“It’s not about reaching a high or having a bomb blast revival and then fizzling or crashing back down. We need to establish a new pattern of living- a behavior pattern- that is a constant. Not where we have to elevate our sensitivities only to see them drop, but to see God elevate us to the place where He intends for us to live and then STAY there….and constantly refine and sanctify in that state. Don’t ignore and neglect and continue letting the hard soil compact…till it up. Plant seeds and water. Don’t go back to old patterns. Don’t go to the mirror and immediately forget what you have seen. Don’t esteem the fruit but then never actually abide to bear.”
I have an exciting newsflash for you: we don’t need to live like the Israelites!! I’ve been studying the Old Testament through their journey in the desert and i’m absolutely stunned how time after time again they continued to sin, rebel, fail and forget. God continued to reveal His glory and holiness and power to them and they still continued to fail. But I understand that they are a picture of you and I without the Holy Spirit. The law was impossible to keep by their own willpower or desire. We now have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and our position in Christ allows us to access ALL that we need for victory. Let’s not continue to wander in the desert when we can enter into His promise by faith, and remain in a state of LIFE and growth and flourishing.
I know this has been an incredibly long post already, but if I can encourage you with one last thing… go and spend time with Jesus. Don’t distance yourself from this topic thinking that you don’t need revival. We all do. Pray for Jesus to give you a revelation of His holiness, majesty, power and worthiness. Ask Him to search you and reveal where you are found wanting. Don’t wait another minute to do this because this lifetime is so short. Don’t you want to live fully and completely for the glory of Jesus? Don’t you desire MORE than what Christianity has become in our culture? Don’t you long for victorious, bold and triumphant life? I know I do. I hope to write more on this topic of what it looks like to have Jesus as the vision, the Center of all things… but for now, may the Lord have grace and awaken us. One person at a time, one marriage at a time, one family at a time, one Church at a time, one Nation at a time. I believe that this is a prayer that is in alignment with the very heart of God- a prayer that He longs and desires to answer. I’ll be praying for you, my friend.