I think the United States of America is standing at a crossroads. We have never been in worse shape morally. Crime continues to explode. Families continue to splinter. The fabric of society continues to unravel.
What we need in America today, and for that matter, around the globe, is a far-reaching, heaven-sent revival.
Revival is a word that we bandy about a lot. We use it often in the church. Some churches will even announce their “revivals” ahead of time: “Revival – this week only. Monday through Friday. Starts at 7 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m.” They may be having some great meetings, but if it is a genuine revival, then it is not something they start or stop. A revival is something God supernaturally does.
As I’ve said before, a revival is when God’s people come back to life again. An awakening, on the other hand, is when a nation comes alive spiritually, sees its need for God and turns to him.
The word “revive” means to be restored to its original condition. It reminds me of people who like to restore old cars. They will find an older Corvette or Thunderbird or something else and then work to make the car look like it did originally. And they are sticklers about original paint and original parts.
In the same way, to be revived means to get back to God’s original design. Revival has been defined as “nothing more or less than a new beginning of obedience to God.” Revival is the spark, if you will, that starts the engine.
Any genuine revival that has ever happened in human history has brought about repentance in the lives of people, a change in the community and evangelism en masse.
We need a real revival – not just an emotional experience, not just a tingle down the backbone. We need to see God work because our nation needs it as never before. We don’t need some “new” thing; we need to get back to the very standards God has given us, and we need to practice them.
I like what the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls’” (Jeremiah 6:16 NKJV).
In the days of the early church, the one that Jesus started, the Christians turned their world upside down. The church of today, which is much larger than the first-century church was, has considerable resources and incredible technology to utilize. Yet it seems as though the world is turning the church upside down. Why? Because we need a revival. We need to be revived before God.
In the book of Revelation, this is what Jesus said to his own church:
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!” (Revelation 2:2–4 NIV)
It’s clear these Christians weren’t lazy. They were discerning. They were hardworking, persevering believers. They were not growing weary. They were out there making a difference. Jesus was saying, “That’s great. But we have a problem here. You have left your first love.”
In spite of all their activity, they had lost that first passion when Jesus was all in all. So Jesus gave them the three R’s of revival: Remember. Repent. Repeat. He said, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” (verse 5 NKJV, emphasis added).
I am not saying that works will save us, because that is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9 NIV).
Works don’t save a person, but they are good evidence that he or she is saved. If we have truly met the living Jesus, there will be works in our lives. As John the Baptist said, we need to bring forth “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 2:8 NIV), fruits that are consistent with a life that has truly come to know Christ.
Repentance means being willing to change. Repentance means being sorry enough to stop. The Bible says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV).
God has given us his prescription for the healing of a nation, and it includes repentance. He said, “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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).
God is essentially saying, “My people need to take these steps. My people need to pray. My people need to turn from their wicked ways.”
The church needs a revival, but we must each ask ourselves this question individually: Am I personally revived? As we look at revivals in the Bible and in history, we see they often began with an individual.
While the church needs a revival, America needs an awakening. There are times in human history when God has intervened, when God, in his grace, has stepped in during a very dark time, a time when there was a moral breakdown, and brought about a spiritual awakening. It wasn’t orchestrated. It wasn’t a campaign planned by people. It was a work of God where he poured out his spirit. That is what we need in America today.