The Road To Revival
I suppose first and foremost, that a church fellowship has been called into being in order that, through every one of its members redeemed by the blood of Christ and indwelt by His Spirit, there might be made manifest through the church the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, that whether you be in workshop or factory, home, business, hospital, wherever it may be, whenever others come in contact with you and me they should be conscious that they are in the presence of Christ who indwells us. Then surely, a church, a fellowship is called together in order that through every member there may be an impact made upon a district, and a community. The great responsibility and burden of Chicago weighs heavily upon the hearts of many of us.
Furthermore, a church is called together in order that life may be reproduced in the uttermost parts of the Earth: that there may be a reproduction of the life of the home base in the mission field of the world. I would think that that should be a sufficiently clear definition of the objective of any New Testament Christian fellowship, that we might reveal the Lord Jesus Christ, that we might evangelize in our day, in our particular neighborhood in which we live, and that our lives may be reproduced by the power of the Spirit in the mission field of the world. That is why everyone of us is saved and why God has redeemed us, and we are allowed to live today in order that through your life and mine personally the impact of the indwelling Christ might be felt by other people.
Needless to say, that when that objective is put into practice Satan is on the attack. Wherever there is a work of the Holy Spirit there is a work of the devil. Wherever God moves, Satan counterattacks. There is always conflict and warfare. Let nobody imagine that the ministry of a church or the life of an individual Christian will ever be free from battle, but praise the Lord there is victory available all the time in it.
As we think of our objective and of our progress, surely we are desperately humiliated, for the years pass by and Chicago remains as it has ever been—comparatively untouched. I have heard it described only recently as the world’s greatest center of industry, as about to be the greatest seaport, possessing the world’s busiest airport.
The only description I can give Chicago is that it is the world’s neediest city in desperate need of a spiritual awakening. It is the center of evangelical controversy, of fundamentalist division, of contention and strife in the church of Jesus Christ. It is the center of internal trouble so often in so many different Christian fellowships. It is the center of a great deal of crime and immorality and vice and corruption. It is the center of a desperate amount of sin.
It is a lovely city, but at the heart of it these things cry out to God for remedy, for a cure, for cleansing, for deliverance and an answer from heaven, for only heaven has an answer to the needs of this city. No one could live in it for long without weeping over it. Nobody could minister in a city like this without a broken heart and a sense of the desperate need of the millions of people who mill in and out of this city.
Chicago is a city of tremendous opportunities where nationalities mix and mingle together; a city of racial tension and division. It is a city that presents a tremendous challenge to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in which there is no possible alternative answer but the proclamation of the message of full salvation, and in such a city there lives a group of spirit-filled Christian people who are a company of God’s best, choice saints who share the burden of the need of this place and cry out to God daily and sometimes all through the night, “Lord, wilt Thou not revive us again that Thy people might rejoice in Thee?”
Chicago, therefore, is a very intriguing city in which there is a wonderful group of Christian people with a great burden and in which there is a desperate amount of sin for which the Gospel is the only remedy. It is a city in which Satan is counter-attacking by causing strife and division and contention within the church; a city that is full of movement and tumult under the surface, and at which any moment God could break out in mighty reviving power; a city in which you and I live and have the privilege of ministry. But the fact of the matter is, and I believe I am speaking to many who share this conviction with me, that unless we do have a measure of Holy Spirit revival we are doomed to failure.
Dr. A.W. Tozer, a great personal friend of mine and loved and respected by everyone in this congregation, said this last Sunday in his church, that he gives American fundamentalism one more decade to survive, and if we do not have a movement of the Holy Spirit, we have no answer. The fact of the matter is we have the message, but we have not the authority and the power to shake a city for God. We have the truth but the truth does not grip our hearts as it should do. We have the Bible, but to so many of us it is just a textbook and it has never really gripped our lives to become part of the warp and woof of our character.
We have these things potentially with us. We have all that we need in Christ, and yet somehow Chicago seems to be slipping on untouched and unmoved while the evangelical section of the Christian church battles with each other, contends over this bit of doctrine and that bit of doctrine, divides over this issue and that issue.
I have chosen for our subject the “Pathway to Revival,” and I want to make it perfectly clear that you understand what revival is. It is quite fantastic to announce to anybody in the paper that one is going to hold a “revival” in a church. The revival that will take place in this church does not work like that. Revival is the sovereign act of God; it is not something that God sends down. Revival is not a mass movement. Revival is the movement of one individual along certain clearly defined tracks in the Word of God, which inevitably brings into that man and through him all the fullness of God the Holy Spirit. That is revival.
Of course, in a sense one man is followed by another and another and another. What begins with one can spread until a whole mighty movement of God sweeps through a city. That does happen; it has happened; it can happen again. But it does not begin with large talk and great propaganda, and much advertising and the expenditure of big sums of money.
It can begin in your heart right now if you are prepared to pay the price of it. There is no need for any of us to plead, “Lord, send a revival.” It can begin and start at this moment as I minister to you in this pulpit in the lives of those who are prepared to face the terms and the conditions and take steps to walk in the path that leads to revival: That to me is the most thrilling background against which any preacher can preach.
May I therefore, from this 6th chapter of Isaiah, show to you perfectly clearly what are the steps to a revival, for this story in these eight verses is nothing more than that of a personal revival. It is the story of a preacher whose life and whole ministry were completely transformed. This man had been in the ministry for years. He had been preaching, talking to the people, proclaiming the Word of God, but this chapter tells us of something that happened in that man’s life that completely revolutionized his ministry.
The place where revival has to begin is in our pulpits today and in our Christian leadership. It is time those of us to whom God has entrusted responsibility recognize that we are not here to put on a program; we are not here to lead the people; but we are here to be men of broken hearts, bleeding hearts and a wounded spirit and contrite heart; men upon whom God can trust the Holy Ghost for we are giving Him the glory.
Let me ask you please, therefore, to look with me as we watch how revival really struck Isaiah in his own life. I am going to do it in rather an unusual way, because I am going to do it backwards. I want to show you the outcome of revival in this man’s life and then trace back that fact to the root and the source of it until we have found the very place and spot where it first began.
I notice that this story concludes with a man with a sense of vocation. In the 8th verse we hear him cry, “Lord, here am I; send me.” In response to the call of Almighty God, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” this prophet leaps to his feet. Every faculty that he possesses; every part of this man is absolutely ready to respond to the call of God. There is no lethargy, uncertainty, or indifference, or any kind of weariness about him. He is tingling with life, pulsating with energy and with power, and he is on his feet and says, “Lord, I am ready; send me.” God has called and spoken to him; He called him not to do a successful thing or go into an easy ministry to see many conversions and crowds of people blessed, but to go and speak to the people and tell them that their hearts have been hardened and that judgment is coming.
He was to be sent out into a desperately tough job. With every sense of calling and divine energy within him, this man just leaped before God and said, “Lord, I am ready; I want to go; send me.” That is where we want to be, and where moment by moment, day by day we wish we were. That is the condition in which I believe we long to live. We reach it perhaps at the end of a missionary meeting, but it gradually fades out over one-half hour over an ice cream or a cup of coffee. We have it for a short while in the thrill of an emotional message and for a few moments after church. We feel somehow that we would go anywhere and do anything for God. It only lasts for a few moments and then it is gone.
God has to say to us like He said to His people Israel, “Thy goodness is as the morning cloud; it just vanishes away.” We have been stirred in the depths of emotion and intellect and so on, but somehow or other it has never been a permanent condition with many of us, and yet here is this man set free from all lethargy, weariness and all sense of inability, ready and eager to respond, leaping to the call, “Lord, here am I; send me.” It is the call of a soul set free, and the sound of a man who deep down in his heart knows that by the grace of God at last he is ready. That is where he got, and that is where, by the grace of God, we want to get, but how did he get there?
In the 7th verse of this chapter we read, “Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” God had touched his man’s life again; a live coal from the altar had been taken and touched his lips and suddenly this prophet was conscious that something had happened within him, that had cleansed his heart.
I do not know whether many of you were listening to the broadcast service this afternoon from the studio in connection with Mid-America Keswick, but how my heart thrilled again to be reminded, as Mr. Wildish spoke, that sin needs and has a double cure. Every time we sing that lovely hymn “Rock of Ages, be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power,” how many of us sit in church week by week, and we have been forgiven sinners but we have been powerless as children of God.
Isaiah leaped to his feet to respond because he knew that there was a moment in his life when God had spoken to him and touched him, and there was also a new sense of cleansing. He had a spiritual spring cleaning in his own soul, and he was conscious that the blood of Jesus Christ had cleansed from all sin. I am not concerned now at the moment about any people who may be seeking to detect heresy in what I am talking about, nor am I here to argue with you about a second work of grace, nor anything of that kind. I am concerned about an experience that you and I need to know, and it is offered by the blood of Jesus Christ, and it is the whole message of the Gospel.
I am not preaching sinless perfection, nor saying that any man will be ever completely free from sin as long as he lives in a body yet to be redeemed, but I am saying that the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of God, the Holy Ghost can get into your life, if you are willing, and can clean you up and give you a spiritual spring cleaning, and that is what the church of Christ needs.
Don’t get angry or cross with me and say that this is not the sort of thing that we teach. We don’t stand for that. Don’t you? Well, I do, and the Word of God stands for that, and some of us have never pressed in to possess the cleansing, the effectual permanent cleansing of heart that God the Spirit can give. Listen to the language of this great hymn written some years ago by [Charles] Wesley:
“Oh, that in me the sacred fire
Might now begin to flow;
Burn up the dross of base desire
And make the mountains flow.
Refining fire, go through my heart,
Illuminate my soul;
Scatter thy life through every part,
And sanctify the whole.”
Do you believe that to be possible? Is that mere talk, mere sentimental language, or is it the cry of a man of God for cleansing? Do you mean to tell me, beloved, that the Gospel of Christ, the death, resurrection, ascension, the downcoming of the Holy Ghost, all that has taken place to leave you and me still hankering after worldly things and sinful things, still sinful in habit, in thought, and desire? Has all that happened simply to enable you and me to say, “Of course, my sins have been forgiven and I am on my way to heaven, and I believe this, that and the other thing”? Oh no, surely the blood of Jesus Christ has been shed to deal with the guilt and power of indwelling sin that by the power of an indwelling Spirit the flesh might be kept in subjection.
Isaiah leaped to a sense of calling and vocation because God had touched him, and is it not just the very lack of such an experience that makes us so lethargic in Christian work? Isn’t it the lack of a real experience of inward cleansing that makes us so indifferent and careless and slipshod and hesitant in our Christian testimony and work?
There are moments when we are all on top, but the next moment we are right down in the depths. Why is it that I did not witness to that man to whom I had the opportunity to speak; to that person who is along side of us? God was telling us to do it. Why? Because deep down in our hearts there was a lurking sense that we are only hypocrites and that we are not real; that we can use the language and talk about it, but deep down in our hearts there has been no real deep cleansing because the soul has never been set free and the heart has never really been delivered and there has not been that inward coming of the Spirit in power to cleanse—we are hesitant in our testimony and afraid in our speech. We are reluctant in our witness and our lips are silent because it is out of the heart that a man speaketh and the heart has not been cleansed.
Ah, but here is a man who leaped in the sense of vocation because God has set him free. I am here to suggest to you that some of us need God’s second touch. We desperately need the double cure. Yes, we have the pardon and forgiveness, but, O God, have we got the power? Have we really claimed it by the virtue of the blood, that by the power of our risen Lord we have claimed that second touch of deliverance from the power of sin that we might be made clean?
A new sense of cleansing—go back a step further. How did the man get a new sense of cleansing? Because he had a new sense of sin. What a paradox! Verse 5, “Woe is me!” says Isaiah, “for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.” You see there had come in this man’s life a moment when he saw himself as God saw him. For years he had been preaching and talking, but he had never seen himself. There was a moment when suddenly his whole life was exposed to God, when as it were, he stood in the presence of a holy God and he saw God’s holiness and his own sinfulness. He saw sin as God saw it, and because he saw that he recognized the desperate need in his life for cleansing and revival.
Let me speak this to you lovingly and earnestly, have you ever seen yourself like that? God grant that you and I may see ourselves as God sees us. Beneath the mask of evangelical fervor and language, beneath a mask and curtain, the cloak of the language and the orthodoxy of the teaching that we give out, there can be lurking passion, hidden deceit and pride, and self-ambition and self-righteousness—all sorts of wretched, devilish things that go on inside behind the curtain that we draw over it, all that we might present to people the impression of fervor and honesty and earnestness and keenness for God. Oh that God by His Spirit might just draw aside the veil that you and I might find ourselves exposed utterly, a soul naked before God.
That is the condition of fullness of blessing and the condition of cleansing. Are you prepared to come out from your darkness and out from your corner and get out into the light and stand before God? That is the condition. Honesty, sheer naked honesty with the Lord; absolutely ruthless honesty with sin and with self—a determination to turn from the whole business and to get right out into the very presence of a holy God—dare you do that?
A new sense of cleansing because there was a new sense of sin. Have you ever known what it is to have an interview with the Lord like that? Perhaps at a service, more often in some quiet corner in your own home, when you have felt His holy gaze looking you through and through as He gazed upon Peter, as He looked time and time again into the souls of men and have seen yourself exposed before God? Nobody experiences the power of God until there is a moment when they have stood in the light honestly before God exposed to sin. Are you prepared for that?
At the root of it all—a new sense of God. Verse 5, “Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Here is the thing that got him on the pathway to revival and to blessing. What did he see? He had seen the Lord seated upon a throne, but that would not surprise Isaiah; that is what he would expect to see. He had seen Him high and lifted up, but Isaiah would expect that; that is the kind of God he had always worshipped. Oh, but there was something that that man saw that day that caused his heart to stand still and shook him to the very core, and made him altogether different through all the days of his life.
What was it? “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” He had never seen God like that before. What does that mean? Isaiah had always been accustomed to a temple with varying degrees of the consciousness of God. There was the outer court of traffic and busyness and service; there was the holy place of ministry in which, as it were, the presence of God was more felt and more real; but deepest of all there was the holiest of all into which only the priest could go once a year for there was the Shekinah glory.
This man had been brought up in the idea that God’s holiness was gradually dwindling down. There was the outer place, the court, the holiest of all, and there was the increasing sense of God’ presence and God’s power—the quenchless flame of the very presence of God in the holiest of all. But now, after this man had been in the ministry for years, he was struck by the fact that God’s train filled the temple, every section of it and every corner of it. The posts, we read, of the threshold move not merely the veil over the holy place, but the posts of the threshold; the house was filled with smoke; the whole place was covered and filled with the glory of God.
This man discovered that the presence of this holy God, His presence and power swept right over the temple, over an area which Isaiah had never thought was so near to the heart of God. There was not one inch of that temple that was exempt or excluded from the glory of the Shekinah.
Ah, that is the discovery that has burned its way into my own life and heart again and again recently. How do I interpret that for you and for me? There is no such thing as the division between what you call spiritual and secular. I cannot preach in a pulpit and pay homage to God in a church on Sunday and then go and have a vacation from a spiritual life for the rest of the week. I cannot imagine that simply within the walls of this building God is here in His power and in His holiness. He is also in my home, in my apartment, business, street—His train fills the temple.
The presence and the power and glory of God cover every area of my life and experience. You cannot escape it. That vision tells me that there is no division of my personality into different degrees of sanctity. You and I are made up of spirit, soul, and body, and says the Apostle, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” and Jesus fills that temple. If you belong to Him and you are His child, He has a right to every bit of your body, of yourself; it is His. What are you doing with it? How are you treating the body that is His temple? What have you done with it this week?
Your habits and thoughts, actions, movements, and the things you have looked at, read, heard, and the people you have spoken to and what you have spoken about, it has all been in the wonderful, all glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Well might that temple shake with the glory of His presence! Well might you and I tremble and fall upon our faces and cry out to God for mercy as we realize His presence in every part of our life. Do you see this—a new sense of God everywhere, a new sense of the presence of Christ controlling every part of my life, my body, soul, spirit all His? A new sense of that brought this man down upon his face in a new sense of sin.
That is what I need. That is what you need—just to recognize the greatness, the omnipotence and power of this living Lord Jesus and to fall at His feet like that. For out from that vision of God there came that vision of self; and out from that vision of sin in God’s faithfulness, there came the vision of cleansing and the experience of deliverance, and then there was the cry, “Lord, here am I; send me.”
Very well, my friend, that is the path to revival. Are you going to step on it? Are you going to begin walking on it? Have you the consciousness of the presence of the Lord filling the temple of your body? Come humbly before Him with a sense of the sin that brings you to trust Him for cleansing and to say to Him, “Lord, here am I; send me.”