In looking at past revivals, such as the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905, the Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s, and the Hebridean Revival of 1948-1952, one of the things that’s characteristic of them all is people being brought to a full realization of their sins and the depravity of their souls. In generaly we have a good opinion of ourselves. We tend to look at the good things we do and the positive aspects of our life and we tend to weigh them against the bad and we conclude that we’re generally in good shape. That’s because our standard of measurement is like a set of scales. We’ve been taught by the world to compare our good versus our bad and if our good outweighs our bad, we’re considered good. There are always some exceptions, for instance, there are certain bad acts that aren’t so easily balanced out, like rape and murder. The problem with this standard of measurement is that it doesn’t match with God’s. Our Lord hates sin. Any sin renders us unrighteous and puts us out of His presence. Only through the saving grace of Jesus Christ, because we come before the Father in the righteousness of Christ, can we approach Him.
When it comes to revival, people begin to see and understand God’s standard. Gone is the standard we use every day, the standard the world teaches us. We see our sins clearly for what they are. And we understand that even one is an abomination to God. I don’t use that word lightly. And this is why I ask the question, “Are we ready for revival?” Are we willing to have God lay bare every mistake, every harsh word, every wrong thought and action so that we see them clearly? Are we truly ready to confront our sinfulness, to understand the true depth of our depravity? If we want revival, this is what we will come face to face with. This is what God will bring to us, whether we are ready or not. And based on quotes like this one, when God brought this type of realization in the past, it was overwhelming:
“When men in the streets are afraid to open their mouths and utter godless words lest the judgment of God should fall; when sinners, overawed by the presence of God, tremble in the street and cry for mercy; when, without special meetings and sensational advertising the Holy Ghost sweeps across cities and towns in supernatural power and holds men in the grip of terrifying conviction; when every shop becomes a pulpit; every heart an alter; every home a sanctuary and people walk softly before God – this is revival!” – Rev. Owen Murphy
Such a reaction is to be expected when one comes face-to-face with God’s truth. For instance:
Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it. Shaphan the scribe came to the king and brought back word to the king and said, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.”
Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Micaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant saying, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the LORD that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” – 2 Kings 22:8-13, NASB
The Scriptures had been lost to Israel from some time. When the Book of the Law is rediscovered during renovation of the temple, Josiah has it read to him. Upon hearing its words and how far the people had departed from the covenant with God, Josiah tore his clothes out of anguish and immediately set about to atone for the iniquities of his people. Among those who aren’t Christians, we would expect a similar reaction. After all, they aren’t walking with the Lord, they are not aligning their lives with His Word, and as a result, the revelation of God’s Word and the holiness of it will hit them like it hit Josiah. But the thing of it is, when it comes to revival, a similar reaction is seen among those who are Christians. After all, one of the problems we face is we don’t give enough weight to our sins. And with revival we are thrown into facing them for what they are. This does not produce a happy, exhuberant reaction. Rather, it produces feelings of sorrow and deep regret for our sins.
A deep realization of sin and a following reaction of deep repentance is what revival brings. It means looking out our record and seeing it as God sees it. Instead of thinking we’re okay, we come to realize just how great God’s grace really is for our sins are atrocious in His sight. And that’s why I ask the question, “Are we truly wanting this revival we speak of?” Do we want to be shown how we really look, which differs very greatly from how we see ourselves now? If we want revival, we have to want this, too. But the silver lining is we should realize that by revealing our true natures, our faith is purified:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; – 1 Peter 1:6-7, NASB
The faithful grow in faith. The lost come to salvation. And the Kingdom is expanded by leaps and bounds. Despite the pain we will surely face as our sins are revealed to us, revival is something we should greatly desire and hunger for.