“If my people who are called by my name… ”

Filed under BALTATZIS - ENGLISH, ENGLISH

(SPIRITUAL REVIVAL)

When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2Ch.7:13-14 NKJV).

(Also, parallel passages: 2Chr.6:26-28; 36-38; 1Ki.8:37 39; Hab.3:2; 1Co.11:31-32; 1Pet:5-11; Jas.4:10; Ps.81:8-15).

The Biblical basis of the believer’s real revival

The well-known verse 2Chr.7:14 and the parallel passages of the Bible constitute the Biblical basis of the believer’s real revival, of his preservation in a state of spiritual prosperity and in a steady ascending march. In our days, if you speak to a church on the need for a spiritual revival, you will be, probably, called by the Board of the persons responsible for the church to be interrogated of your impertinence! It is not a topic preferred by those that “govern” the church and that see themselves insulted or humiliated, because they cannot or do not want to admit their part of responsibility for the spiritual lethargy of their church. The existence and the manifestation of spiritual gifts – true or false – the accumulation of money, the material goods and buildings, the miraculous healings, as well as the numerous activities of the church or rather her activism, constitute the only criteria of spiritual prosperity of the church.

Spiritual revival imposes itself today as a necessity, more and more indispensable as the times of the end of this dispensation of grace approach, that being: the religious apostasy, the restoration of the nation of Israel since 1948, the terrific capacity of the superpowers to destroy the globe completely, the increase of knowledge, of technology and of the journeys around the earth as tourists or as astronauts as well as the close return of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of this demonstrates that the night is far advanced; it is, therefore, great time for us to wake up.

The sense of God’s words concerning revival

The principles:

The aforementioned text, as well as some other parallel texts, makes clear the following principles:

  • The first principle: When there is a problematic situation this is, very often, because of the sins of the people that the Sovereign God chastises so that they should not be condemned with the world. I did say “in principle” because we must not confuse the tests that the Lord permits for the development of our faith with the crises that are the consequence of sins and of a disobedient spirit;
  • The second principle: There is no deliverance without repentance, confession, renunciation, humiliation and confidence in Jesus Christ; and
  • The third principle: When the aforementioned conditions are fulfilled, then God, on the one hand, forgives sin and removes its power from the believer and, following the cases even the consequences of sin, and, on the other hand He adds spiritual and material blessings.

The exceptions:

There are some exceptions, of course: God’s specific plans, inexplicable mysteries that seem sometimes to be in contradiction with some declarations and promises of God as well as with the general spirit of the Bible. Two examples can be mentioned: the one of Job and the other of Paul with the thorn in the flesh. It is not, however, the moment to speak about it. It is God who had brought them to the “desert” to be tempted and tried so that their testing be transformed into a door of hope (Hos.2:15).

Definitions of revival: what revival is and what it is not

When someone speaks of spiritual revival, most people think that he refers to evangelism of people and massive conversions. This notion is erroneous! Spiritual revival is for Christians; it is a new beginning of obedience to God. God wakes up those that belong to Him, who are still in life but sleeping and risk dying. “Regeneration” or “new birth” or “spiritual resurrection” is for unbelievers. Paul, addressing the Christians of Ephesus, says: And you … , who were dead in trespasses and sins,…… (God) raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph.2:1-6 and Lu.15:24). Therefore, the believer who is sleepy or asleep is in need to wake up while the unbeliever who is spiritually dead needs to be spiritually “regenerated” or rather “resuscitated.” One cannot “wake up a corpse”.

With regard to the unbeliever

The spiritual “resurrection” of the unbeliever cannot take place unless he admits his sin in his heart, confesses Christ as Lord before God and calls upon his Name, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved … For «whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.»” (Ro.10:9-13). In other words, the unbeliever must believe that God loves him and that He offers him a new life. It is necessary to understand that he cannot have a relation with God because of his sin, that the consequence of sin is eternal death, that the only solution is Christ. He paid completely the debt of his sins while dying in his stead on the cross, He is resurrected, and He is alive today, interceding for him. Attention! This verse does not use the expression “Saviour Jesus” although Jesus is a Saviour, but the expression THE LORD JESUS! It means that it is necessary to accept Christ as Lord of his life. His Lord will give him orders and man must obey Him… It is necessary, therefore, to thank Him for his forgiveness and to obey Him by turning away from his sins to have a personal relationship with Him and to confide in Him his life. This commitment will render him God’s child! His “I” will be submitted to Christ, his LORD!

It suffices, therefore, to begin his new life with a simple but sincere confession: “Oh God, I know that I am sinner! I believe that Jesus took my place when He died on the cross. I believe that His shed blood, His burial and His resurrection were for me. I now receive Him as my Saviour and as Lord of my life. I thank Him for the forgiveness of my sins, the gift of salvation and the eternal life as well as for the assistance of the Holy Spirit, thanks to His merciful grace. Amen.”

With regard to Christians

“…if My people who are called by My name…” This expression means that revival must begin from the house of God. When Christians are indeed revived, they become conscious of the judgments that are going to fall on unbelievers, on apostates or backsliders etc., and then they begin to work for God, exhorting unbelievers to give their heart to Christ. They are deeply afflicted by the misfortune of unbelievers and they make all they can to share the happiness that they enjoy in the Lord. They sow God’s Word, they water it by their prayers, their tears and sometimes by their sufferings and God adds His blessing and makes that seed push and grow. Then, their ministry will result in conversions that will be the result of the believer’s effort, of God’s providence and of the activation of God’s Word by the Holy Spirit.

God’s Spirit in the believer can manifest His power and His spiritual gifts when he stops blocking Him by his sin and by his resistance to God’s reproofs. There can be no spiritual revival without repentance and humiliation of the believer before the Lord. Just as in the case of a sinner who is converted to Christ the first step is repentance and faith, it is also so for the believer – but from another starting point – who is being revived to pass through an experience of deep repentance, of a contrite heart, of deep humiliation and of dismissal of all known sin. The conversion of a sinner and the believer’s revival pass for both of them, according to the case, from their obedience to the truth (1Pet.1:22). This is the only way man can purify his soul. Obedience in sincerity and in good will! Obey in what? Obey by repenting and by confiding himself to God and by applying faith in all his words and promises! Obey not solely in words but also in acts and in truth. Our society does not award medals for our integrity but God does give. It is necessary to admit sincerely and humbly the truth in our heart (as it is written in Ps.15, verse 2) in everything we are and do. That each one, as he is written in the Bible 1Kings 8:38, “…knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple” (1Ki 8:38).

All people do not have the same plague; the plague of each one differs!

A certain believer says:

  • “Yes, Lord, I have sinned; what I did was not just, what I said was a lie, an exaggeration, a subterfuge…”

Another says:

  • «Yes, Lord, I make promises and I do not keep them … and I lose my credibility…».

Another says:

  • “Yes, Lord, I reacted in a quick-tempered and brutal manner…; I allowed the impulses of my soul to drag me. Lord, what I feel is a feeling of bitterness and vengeance…”

Another:

  • “Yes, Lord, my attitude was not honest; my attitude was selfish…; because of my selfishness, I don’t take care of my family as I ought…”

Another:

  • “Lord, I am very often convicted by the words that Jesus pronounced: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…”

And each, according to his case, will say:

  • “Yes, Lord, I am proud and vain glorious; my pride or my so-called dignity doesn’t allow me to ask for pardon and I am not ready to forgive other peoples’ offences; I don’t confess my sins expeditiously before You, before my very fellow men and to my family’s members and I avoid making the necessary restoration. Lord, my greatest difficulty is to ask for forgiveness from those that I offended.”; or
  • “I am not always ready to acknowledge successes and values of other people”; or
  • “I tend to slander and to have conflicts… a tendency to gossiping; I return injury for injury instead of blessing”; or
  • “My eye is not pure and simple… Yes, Lord, there is a decline of piety in me…;”; or
  • “I neglect to order my life and make what is just and pleasing to you”; or
  • “My heart doesn’t overflow with gratitude for the forgiveness of my sins”; or
  • “I do not apply myself to the study and meditation of Your Word; I allow my work and my worries to absorb all my time; I often wonder where my treasure is! I disregard to have a daily altar at home”; or
  • “When I am in a difficult situation, fear seizes me, I cast worried looks around and I forget that You, you are my God”; or
  • “I have never presented myself as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to You, which would be my reasonable service. I do not try with all my heart to discern what Your will is”; or
  • “My behaviour concerning the management of my money reveals that You, Lord, You do not have the first place in my life; I humbly confess that I avoid to give back money or other things that others have lent me”; or
  • “Yes, Lord, I waste too much time before the TV. I confess that the world and the things of the world attract me. I like jokes and pleasant silly talks and I avoid discussions, which concern You in order to avoid being considered a fanatic. My conscience accuses me often of sins of omission”.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139:23-24).

Another, who takes care of the work of the Lord, perhaps, will say:

  • “I often speak on the necessity of spiritual revival but I myself am not really revived. I have abandoned my first love for You; yet, I don’t want that others note it”; or
  • “I have the tendency to appear to others more spiritual than I really am… I succumb to the temptation to make a good impression to my listeners by literary expressions, beautiful constructions of my sermons and clever jokes in order to invite their attention and praises but, actually, I confess that I am hardly interested in the spiritual well-being of my listeners: I preach on love, mercy and God’s grace without having in advance upset their conscience by their guilt! Have mercy on me, Lord! How is it possible that I exert the authority of Your Word to touch the conscience of my listeners when my own conscience condemns me?”; or
  • “My preaching is without power because I lack Your unction! I heal my listeners in a superficial manner while they die of the cancer of sin. I often speak of the things concerning the Bible and You but I do not preach Your Word and Your will that can touch their conscience…”; or
  • “I speak of revival as if revival were a miracle and were going to fall from the sky without the believer having fulfilled some conditions, as if all depended on Your intervention without the Christian’s active involvement”; or
  • “I often invent excuses not to respond to the requirements of your work and “disturb” my comfort, my family habits and my leisure. I admit that I do not have the heart of a faithful servant, the heart of a prayer warrior”; or
  • “I don’t have a burden for those that perish… and I neglect to testify for You and use the spiritual gift that You have given me. I don’t pray as I ought for the problems and the needs of others and for my church”; or
  • “I am too reticent to solve conflicts and too slow to forgive other people; on the contrary I have the tendency to ‘cover up’ conflicts so that they may be forgotten”; or
  • “What interests me is not what You think of me but what others think of me.. Oh Lord, I confess that I who proclaim and preach Your Word, I tend to tell people what they want to hear and sometimes to manipulate the supernatural…”; or
  • “I do not have the courage or the boldness to condemn their sins, make them anxious about their souls and condemn the modern tendencies of the church; on the contrary, I have the habit to say always “yes” to please them, to ensure my popularity, not to alarm them by the eternal consequences which will result of their disobedience”; or
  • “I make compromises that blemish my position before You”; or
  • “I do not look for collaborators who are, indeed, spiritual and who love truth and transparency above anything else but for rich or high positioned people on whom I could exert my influence…”; or
  • “I am a double-minded man, unstable in my ways”; or
  • “I don’t have the interior testimony that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is in my life”; or
  • “I strongly fear that often my proud and undisciplined soul uses strange fire in my preaching by resorting to psychology, sociology, human reflections, etc.

Change me, I implore you, Lord, according to your Word!

Revival, therefore, can be compared to a return to faithful obedience to Jesus. When this return takes place, then, the believer expresses himself like Job: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6); “Teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more” (Job 34:32).

Revival –whether collective or personal– is the re-establishment of the NT standards:

To wait for a collective spiritual revival does not constitute an excuse not to enjoy a personal revival before. Actually, there is no collective revival without personal revival. Collective revival begins usually with revived believer. The spiritual revival is God’s work that restores a person or a church by the standards established in the NT. Which are these standards or norms? Let’s mention them very briefly:

  • “… And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mrk.12:33). To love God, therefore, and his neighbour in this manner is not a sacrifice; it is an obligation!
  • “… And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Lu.14:27).
  • “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Mt.10:38)

It is true that we are saved by God’s grace. Is, however, the fact that we are forgiven and saved by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus that relieves us from the obligation to love our Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart? Don’t you know that he who transgresses the greatest commandment commits the greatest sin? Can we be worthy of Jesus and be His disciples without wanting to carry our cross and follow Him? If these standards or norms are not put in practice by the believer, here is the consequence: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Re.3:15-16). What means I will vomit you out of My mouth?” Salvation, chastisement or perdition? Judge for yourselves! One thing is certain: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb.10:31).

God is readier to give us revival than we are to receive it

If we come back to the text under study, we realize that there is a simple connection of thoughts: God declares that He is ready to give us spiritual revival if we fulfil certain conditions, that is, if we humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. It is, therefore, useless for the believer to spend long hours, imploring God to send him a revival, if he does not have the intention to change. We cannot revive ourselves, we cannot humble ourselves because flesh cannot produce humility and we cannot fulfil all the other conditions but if we make the right choice within our heart and give God our sincere consent, God will do it! Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Pr.4:23) and Faithful is He who calls us (to revival) who also will do it! (1Th.5:24). If, therefore, the intention to change does not exist, it would be even preferable not to pray. Prayer without decision to change of life is useless. God doesn’t hear wishes or simple desires but decisions! You can pray for a revival until the day of the judgment, but, if you don’t have the intention to change that is to repent, to humble yourself, to confess your sin, to put your life in order and to put your trust in God, that is useless… What hinders God’s blessings? Sin! “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isa.59:1-2). What triggers revival? Obedience: obedience demonstrated by repentance and confidence in God… It is necessary, therefore, to complete this truth by the following truth: It is true that we need to read the Bible and pray to maintain our Christian life in a good condition, but it is even more true that if we do not have a Christian life in good condition we will not be able to maintain a life filled with the understanding of the Word of God and with prayer.

Revival exalts God’s Word and results in evangelism

The history of the church proves that in all cases where God woke up his people, the gospel has been put in evidence. One can say that revivals prosper on God’s Word and that the Word is exalted during revivals. Of course, it is possible to have evangelism without revival, but you cannot have a true revival that doesn’t lead to evangelism.

Search and find

Let’s look for and let’s find dear friends, each of us what is the plague of our heart; what is the thing or situation that we must undergo or accept that would be the most painful for us. Otherwise said: Let’s find the biggest obstacle, according to God’s will, that prevents our revival (1Ki.8:37-39); let’s insist on it, let’s not try to escape from it or cheat or make an escape by using our intelligence. “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD; let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven…” (Lam.3:40-42).

Personal revival

I am not an expert in collective spiritual revivals but I have had a personal spiritual revival many years ago: it has marked my life in an indelible manner.

Forgiven, happy and in peace; weakness and thirst spiritual

Now, a personal note, a part of my testimony in broad outline: After my conversion, my life had been changed radically. God had removed the heavy burden of my sins and of my guilt and had put on me the light burden to remember that my sins and my guilt had been forgiven and forgotten. I felt that I didn’t walk but that I had wings and that I flew! Salvation was my new song. God’s salutary grace was my permanent testimony. It was nearly impossible that someone stayed with me for a few minutes without being evangelized. I was very happy. My only desire was to make other people happy by means of God’s salutary grace!

In spite of my interior spiritual progress that also appeared in my exterior life, there was, yet, a kind of sadness in my heart. I felt that I was weak, not being able always to resist my temptations and my weaknesses and I didn’t have the spiritual capacity to understand easily His Word, discern His will and serve Him efficiently. I was not always able to make what I wanted. I was, therefore, thirsty for spiritual power, maturity and fruitfulness. One day, as I walked in the street, the conviction of the Spirit and God’s fear were so intense that I said to the Lord: “If You send me to hell, Lord, You will be right, but please, Lord: mercy…”

Neither the efforts of other Christians to comfort me by telling me that “it is normal” nor “we are weak and fragile human beings” nor “we have Jesus who forgives our sins” etc., nor the souls that were converted through my testimony could comfort my heart. I was convinced, according to the Bible, that there was something more for me. Now, as I look back, I see that God prepared me, by means of my “spiritual sadness and thirst”, for a higher spiritual level.

Consecration: a victorious defeat never to forget

One day, January 6, 1954, thirteen months after my conversion, I went to the second Evangelical Church of Athens. The Pastor preached on Genesis 32:24-32 concerning Jacob’s wrestling with God’s angel. What impressed me was Jacob’s words to the angel: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” After the service, as I was leaving the church, I saw on a small table of Christian literature a book titled “Absolute Surrender” by Andrew Murray, that I immediately bought. The message that I had heard that morning and the book that I had bought, but especially my thirst for a fuller life in Christ incited my soul to do what it did. My spirit and my language repeated continually: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

I lay down in the evening but I could not sleep. At midnight, I got up and began reading the small book “Absolute Surrender” that I finished until dawn. The result of what I had heard that morning and had read that night was a complete exam of myself; a spontaneous exam without being conscious that the Holy Spirit was working in me. I did not have that moment in my mind the words of the Bible that say: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? ––unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2Co.13:5).

I was guided to a meticulous exam of my own heart and life according to God’s Word as well as to a test of my life concerning my duties and responsibilities. My attention was centered on one point: I knew well that, if I accepted to lose what I feared or if the Lord imposed me what was the most painful thing in my life that would mean, in my case, a life destroyed from a certain point of view. It was then, for the first time, that I became conscious that I was keeping a key in my hands – without the knowledge of my conscience – a key that hindered the Lord to bless me further. What dilemma! What agonizing choice! What crisis of conscience! My only reward, if I accepted my “destruction”, would be a conscience in state of peace with God, a conscience enjoying God’s approval, a conscience that had put its confidence in its Saviour…

Having identified my problem I abandoned everything in order to maintain a pure heart and a good conscience accompanied by a sincere faith towards God. It was then, for the very first time, that I understood that verses Rom.12:1-2 are intended for believers, who have already been forgiven, saved and been born again. I perceived that they are addressed to brothers in Christ! “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Ro.12:1-2).

Other verses that the Holy Spirit used to encourage and convince me to take that step of faith and obedience were the following:

  • “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Mt 13:46);
  • “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” (Mt.25:21).

I, as a sincere Christian, presented myself – everything that I was and I had – to Him like a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. I did my part: I refused anything that could become an obstacle in my spiritual life and I offered Him my reasonable service, that is, what I owed Him. When the obstacle that blocked the action of the Holy Spirit was rejected, I understood, in the first place, that the Lord required of me to do what I had already done; otherwise, I would have been a thief of things that belonged to Him; in second place, I would not have loved Him as I had to; and, in third place, I was convinced that it was there the condition “sine qua non” if I wanted to be continually renewed in my interior being and make progress in my spiritual life.

That day of my abandonment to Him was for me the day of my most glorious defeat never to forget.

The spiritual result: “lights and perfections”

Tired as I was that morning, I fell asleep. When I woke up late in the morning, I felt very tired but there was in the bottom of my heart a feeling of peace of a man that had done his duty! Nothing more than his pure and simple duty. It was nearly noon, of January 7, 1954, when I sat down to read my Bible. As I was in the process reading it I was astonished, for the first time after my conversion, by the clarity that had the words and messages of the Bible! I could understand God’s Word easily and in depth! Spiritual light and spiritual intelligence had flooded my spirit. The knowledge of Christ, of His love, of His providence, of His will had filled my existence. Besides, and especially, a deep love for the truth. I was so happy that I began to jump and to sing and to shout for joy… to the point that I said: “If it continues that is going to break me… I cannot stand it anymore… I cannot support this joy, my Heavenly Father!” The following day, while leaving my home to go to the University, I raised my eyes towards the blue sky of my beautiful country and I said to God: “Good morning, my Father!” I can never forget that short prayer of reverent intimacy and tenderness!

That experience has been transformed, with the passage of the years, into a deep, permanent and holy optimism. The light that had been shed in my spirit, joined to a daily study of the Bible, has been transformed into a source of light and into a serious spirit as well as into a capacity to use His Word efficiently following the needs and the circumstances. Then, I understood what it means “to brag in the Lord.” I bragged humbly that the Lord had saved me, that the Lord had blessed me, that the Lord had sanctified me, that the Lord had given me light etc., etc. That spiritual experience corresponded, actually, to the starting point of a continual sanctification. I also understood that God will never do for us what He requires that we do! Blissful those that understand these glorious truths and put them into practice!

In conclusion, I can guarantee you, on the basis of God’s infallible Word, that if we keep repenting and keep being converted from our sins, there will be abundant spiritual rains in our life and healing of our “land”; yes, days of refreshing from the part of the Lord; yes, blessings upon blessings! The Lord Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil and give victory against sin and evil passions; spiritual gifts, joy, peace and above all eternal life! Are we going to give Him our consent to realize them in our life?

God bless you abundantly! Amen!

 

John BALTATZIS

ΔΙΑΔΩΣΤΕ ΤΟ ΑΡΘΡΟ ΣΕ ΦΙΛΟΥΣ ΣΑΣ