Just this week a good brother blessed me with a copy of a classic Christian book on revival that I did not have. Yet even better than receiving the book was the content within it. Only two chapters into it I found myself nodding and agreeing (from Scripture and experience) with much of what he was saying.
Realizing he lacked spiritual power, he simply worked harder and increased his efforts, which made him increasingly tense and forceful - "a poor substitute,"he says, "for the Spirit's gentle penetrating power." Yet, during this season of spiritual dryness, he invited some missionaries from the East African Revival Movement to speak at an Easter conference he had organized. And from that week on, everything changed. Their strong emphasis on a personal implementation of the basics of the Christian faith, and in particular, the healing powers of openness, transparency, and repentance made a profound impact on his life. And as Hession wrote in the preface to the 1973 edition, "This little book expresses the truths that lie at the heart of revival, simply because it is the product of revival." Enjoy.
"We want to be very simple in this matter of Revival. Revival is just the life of the Lord Jesus poured into human hearts... Whatever may be our experience of failure and barrenness, He is never defeated. His power is boundless. And we, on our part, have only to get into a right relationship with Him, and we shall see His power being demonstrated in our hearts and lives and service, and victorious life will fill us and overflow through us to others. And that is Revival in its essence.
If, however, we are to come into this right relationship with Him, the first thing we must learn is that our wills must be broken to His will. To be broken is the beginning of Revival. It is painful and humiliating, but it is the only way... The Lord Jesus cannot live in us fully and reveal Himself through us until the proud self within us is broken.
This simply means that the hard unyielding self, which justifies itself, wants its own way, stands up for its rights, and seeks its own glory, at last bows its head to God's will, admits it's wrong, gives up its own way to Jesus' way, surrenders its rights and discards its own glory - that the Lord Jesus might have all and be all. In other words, it is dying to self and self-attitudes.
As we look honestly at our Christian lives, we can see how much of this self there is in each of us. It is so often self who tries to live the Christian life... and self, too, who is often doing Christian work. It is always self who gets irritable and envious and resentful and critical and worried. It is the self who is hard and unyielding in its attitudes to others. It is the self who is shy and self-conscious and reserved. No wonder we need breaking! As long as self is in control, God can do little with us, for all the fruits of the Spirit (they are enumerated in Galatians 5), with which God longs to fill us, are the complete antithesis of the hard, unbroken spirit within us and presupposes that it has been crucified...
Brokenness in daily experience is simply the response of humility to the conviction of God. And inasmuch as this conviction is continuous, we shall need to be broken continually. And this can be very costly when we see all the yielding of rights and selfish interests that this will involve, and the confessions and restitutions that may be sometimes necessary. For this reason, we are not likely to be broken except at the Cross of Jesus. The willingness of Jesus to be broken for us is the all-compelling motive in our being broken too. We see Him, who is in the form of God, counting not equality with God a prize to be grasped or hung on to, but letting it go for us, and taking upon Himself the form of a Servant - God's Servant, man's Servant. We see Him willing to have no rights of His own, no home of His own, no possessions of His own, willing to let men revile Him and not revile in return, willing to let men tread on Him and not retaliate or defend Himself. Above all, we see Him broken as He meekly goes to Calvary to become men's scapegoat by bearing their sins in His own body on the Tree.
In a pathetic passage in a prophetic Psalm (a Messianic Psalm about Jesus), He says, "I am a worm and not a man" (Psa 22:6). Those who have been in tropical lands tell us that there is a big difference between a snake and a worm. When you attempt to strike at them the snake rears itself up and hisses and tries to strike back - a true picture of self. But a worm offers no resistance. It allows you to do what you like with it, kick it or squash it under your heel - a picture of true brokenness. And Jesus was willing to become just that for us - a worm and not a man. And He did so because that is what He saw us to be -- worms having forfeited all rights by our sin, except to deserve hell. And He now calls us to take our rightful place as worms for Him and with Him. The whole Sermon on the Mount with its teaching of non-retaliation, love for enemies, and selfless giving, assumes that that is our position. But only the vision of the Love that was willing to be broken for us can constrain us to be willing for that.
But dying to self is not a thing we do once for all. There may be an initial dying when God first shows these things, but ever after it will be a constant dying, for only so can the Lord Jesus be revealed constantly through us (2 Cor 4:10). All day long the choice will be before us in a thousand ways. It will mean no plans, no time, no money, no pleasure of our own. It will mean a constant yielding to those around us, for our yieldedness to God is measured by our yieldedness to man. Every humiliation, everyone who tries and vexes us, is God's way of breaking us, so that there is a yet deeper channel in us for the Life of Christ. You see, the only life that pleases God and that can be victorious is His life - never our life, no matter how hard we try. But inasmuch as our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His, we can never be filled with His life -- unless we are prepared for God to bring our (self) life constantly to death. And in that, we must co-operate by our moral choice."
Hard words for the modern day person -- steeped in psychology and not Scripture -- to accept. In the Bible, there are not many passages that speak specifically of revival, but one does confirm what Hession has said here. It is found in Isaiah 57:15-16. There God speaks through his prophet and says: "This is what the high and lofty One says -- He who lives forever and whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to REVIVE the spirit of the lowly and to REVIVE the heart of the contrite." And the context that follows suggests that this "contriteness" and "lowliness" stems from a remorse over their sin, wickedness and selfish greed.
That's what we need to see. Revival does not come to those who think they are fine just the way they are. It does not come to those who believe they have what it takes or have their act together. It does not come to the proud, the holier-than-thou, the self-satisfied, or self-sufficient. It comes to those who have been broken and humbled by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and thereby made contrite by seeing the ungodliness and sin that exists in their soul, and their desperate need for God's grace in Jesus.
It comes to those who KNOW they are entirely lost without God, spiritually dead without Jesus, and powerless apart from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It comes to those whose inner awareness of personal sin and need causes them to fall on their faces in humbled lowliness and plead for that which they cannot produce, or receive, except by the graciousness of God who gives them what they could never deserve. It is the lowly and contrite whom God revives, not the proud or haughty or self-contented. Or to use a more contemporary term, it does not come to those who have a wonderful, glowing and undeflateably good self-esteem.
God ever calls us to come before Him in prayer. With what shall we come? Requests that He notice how good we've been doing in our Christian walk? Hopes that He sees what fine specimens we are? Or with honest transparency that openly confesses our sin and lack and our desperate need for His grace? It has often been said that, "To be full of God's Spirit you cannot be full of yourself." It's true. For God does not dwell with the haughty and self-satisfied, but the lowly and contrite -- "to revive the spirit of the lowly, and revive the heart of the contrite."
With prayers for personal and corporate revival, Pastor Jeff