David Jeremiah - The Remedy of Revival
Lightning struck on Valentine's Day back in 2012, and Jeremy Lin began playing the best basketball of his life. He almost single handedly turned the Knicks season around. And soon, the rowdy crowds over here at Madison Square Garden found a new vocabulary. And I remember it because I was here during that time. And on the front page of the newspaper and on the front page of the sports page, these titles were given to him. He was called Linsanity, Lintensity, Lintelligence, Linvincible, Linspiration, and Lincredible. And he was something to watch, and some of you remember basketball was exciting again in New York. Didn't last long, but it was there for a while, amen?
Well, since that time in his life, Jeremy Lin has battled injuries, and surgeries, and ups and downs in his career. Took a stop in Carolina, but now Jeremy Lin is back with the Brooklyn Nets. And he openly admits he battles discouragement often in his life. But sports writers have recently been using a word to describe his career. They've been calling it the revival, the revival of Linsanity. What they don't know is that Jeremy Lin is a deeply committed Christian, and his heart aches not for a revival of his basketball career, but for a revival of morality and faith in the world in which he lives.
Well, I'm with Jeremy Lin. I love basketball, and I like him, and I'd like to see him do well. But the kind of revival we need is spiritual. And if we're ever going to see this nation return to its roots and its values, there's going to have to be something that happens within the church that brings people back to God. So, there's a suggested prayer that's in the Bible. You can write down the reference and look it up later. I hope you'll pray it often. It's Psalm 85 and verse 6, and here's what it says. "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Will you not revive us again, Lord, that your people may rejoice in you"?
Now, the thing that I think we all need to know is that, as bad as things are in our country right now, things have been this bad before. Sometimes, we think we've gotten out of the realm where God can help us. How many of you know there is no such place? God can always help us, especially if we come to him in the right spirit. I want to tell you about a revival, first of all, that happened in Bible days. And it's recorded in the Scripture. Did you know that the Old Testament has a handbook on revival, and it's the most unusual book you would ever imagine? It's the book of 2 Chronicles. If you read 2 Chronicles, you'll read about revivals that happened to the people of Israel, and how God broke through their culture to change everything. I want to tell you just about one.
There was this young king who came to the throne during the darkest days of Judah. And one of the wickedest men in all of the Bible, a man by the name of King Manasseh, had been on the throne for 55 years. And he was a wicked man. And during his time, his nation sank into a quagmire of idolatry and occultism. They actually sacrificed humans during that time, and lawlessness broke out, and violence. It was a really bad time in Israel, darker than anything you and I have ever known in our culture today. Enter Josiah, age eight. With his grandfather dead and his father murdered, Josiah comes to the throne of Judah and, remarkably, this young boy had a heart for the Lord. And he began to lead his nation righteously.
2 Chronicles 34:2 says, "He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and he walked in the ways of his father David, and did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left". The revival that took place during Josiah's life is one of the great turnarounds in all of history. It started out, first of all, with the fact that there was in control of this nation, for the first time in many, many years, a humble leader. Since he was only 8 when he came to the throne, he really had little to do with running his nation until he began taking charge at the ripe old age of 16. And we read in 2 Chronicles 34:3, "In the eighth year of his reign," remember he became the king when he was 8, so the eighth year of his reign would make him 16 years old, "while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year, he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, and the wooden images, and the carved images, and the molded images".
This young man who started this revival started it unknowingly by providing the money for the rebuilding of the temple. And while they were rebuilding the temple, listen to these words, "Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law the Lord had given to Moses". Now, how many of you know if you find something, it's because it's lost? And so, the book of the law had been lost to the people of Judah. Can you imagine that, being a religious people and not even having the Bible as we would call it today?
So, while they're ransacking around, rebuilding the temple, the high priest finds this book, and he reads it, and he realizes this is God's Word to Moses. This is the book of the law. And with the Word of the Lord in his hand, Josiah announced a revival meeting. And he called all the people together. And it tells us in the 30th and 31st verse of 2 Chronicles 34 that, "All the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites, and all the people, great and small, and Josiah read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Law and the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord. Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all of his heart and all of his soul".
Well, the people who came to that revival meeting were moved by the sight of their king, and they were burdened for revival, and they joined in his commitment. And the result was amazing. Moral trends were turned upside down. Spiritual zeal was turned right side up. And impending judgment was turned away, and God did not judge the people because they got right before him. This is the kind of revival that's overdue in our nation today. As bad as things are, things have been worse, and God has broken through. As bad as things may be, we are never out of the reach of the loving hand of a merciful God if we will just turn to him as we are told to do so in the Scripture.
So, let me tell you a little bit about some of the revivals that have happened in our nation. This is a fun story, so listen carefully. The good news is that revival is possible, and we have the history to prove it. Like ancient Judah, our nation has repeatedly sunk to the depths lower than anything you and I have ever experienced in our lifetime as modern Americans. And the first great movement of God in this country took place in the 1740s, and it's called the Great Awakening. Have you all heard about that? How many have heard about the Great Awakening? That's not what happens at the end of the sermon on Sunday where you go to church, you know. That's not the Great Awakening. This is a period of time in history, all right?
The colonies were, according to one historian, the most Protestant, Reformed, and Puritan commonwealth in the entire world. That was the early days of this nation. But throughout the 1600s, the spiritual and moral condition of the colonies declined at a rate that alarmed everybody. And that's when God brought revival. There was a Dutchman whose name was Theodore Frilingheusan. And he just began to preach. He preached evangelism, and he saw people coming to Christ. He preached the gospel. And in his services, people would come and they'd hear the gospel, and they would get saved. And he told them that they needed to be born again, and all of a sudden, the message started to spread, and revival broke out.
And there was a man whose name we all know, his name was Jonathan Edwards. And Jonathan Edwards was a young, brilliant man. I didn't know some of this stuff until I researched it. I found out that when he was 6 years old, he was studying Latin. He entered Yale when he was 13, and he graduated when he was barely 15. He was ordained at the old age of 19. He was a teacher at Yale when he was 20. And he later became president of Princeton University. Harvard granted him a bachelor's degree and a master's degree on the same day. And he is best known not for all of his degrees, but for one sermon that he preached. That sermon is called "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". It was a hellfire and brimstone sermon describing what it would be like if you fell into the pit of hell.
I can't possibly recreate what was going on in the church that day, but Edward's voice was suddenly lost amid cries and commotion from the crowd. He paused, and appealed for them to quiet down. Then he concluded, "Let everyone that is out of Christ now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one of you fly out of Sodom," he preached. It is reported that strong men held onto the pews, feeling like they were slipping into hell. Others trembled uncontrollably, rolled onto the floor.
And throughout the night, cries of men and women arose in the village as people begged God to save them and forgive them. Five hundred people were converted that night, sparking a revival that swept thousands into the kingdom of God. That was the Great Awakening. And while this was going on in New England, John Wesley and his Methodists were riding the crest of a similar revival in England. And the powerful George Whitfield was traveling back and forth, first to America, then to England, and he was preaching.
And when I say powerful voice, that's what I mean. Without any amplification, his voice would carry in the wind for a mile, and he could preach to 30,000 people at one time, and they could hear him, and there was no public address system. And thousands of converts filled the colonies. New theological training colleges were born. It was during that time that Princeton, and Rutgers, and Dartmouth, and Brown Universities opened their doors, once again to train missionaries and preachers so the gospel could be spread. What a long way we've come from the original intent for these schools. The effects of the Great Awakening shaped the American political scene, and it set the stage for the American Revolution. That was the first movement of God in our country.
The Second Great Awakening took place in the 1800s. Let me tell you that story. The Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War, Christianity in America spiraled, and then it went into another decline. It seems like we can't ever figure out how to stay where we're supposed to stay. And that's true in all of our lives. We've all been through the ups and downs of our walk with the Lord. Someone once told me that the Christian life is getting up and falling down, getting up and falling down, getting up and falling down all the way to heaven.
Well, during the Great Awakening, there were as many as 40% to 50% of the population that went to church. But by the 1790s, the number was down to 5% to 10%, fewer than the people who go to church even today. So, if you're asking yourself, has it ever been this bad? Yes, it's been worse. Things became so bad that among the students at Princeton, which was founded to prepare men and women for the ministry, only two people in the whole school could be found who professed to be Christians. But then what happened? When they got at the bottom, when they got as far away as you can think, that's when God moves in. When we ruin ourselves in such a way that there's no way for us to correct ourselves, God comes into the picture.
Some students at Williams College hid in a haystack to avoid a thunderstorm. And there, while they were hiding from a thunderstorm, they began to pray. And they committed themselves in that moment to go anywhere in the world, wherever God might lead them, to take the gospel to people who had never heard it. And that was the beginning of the modern missionary movement as we know it now. It's the famous haystack prayer meeting, the Second Great Awakening. And then there's another Great Awakening that happened a little bit later in our culture.
In 1858, another revival broke out that transformed our nation. The catalyst for this revival was a man whose name was Jeremiah Lanphier, who announcer a prayer meeting one day in Fulton Street in New York City. It was to be held on September the 23rd, 1857. He went to that prayer meeting, and there was nobody there but him. But he kept going and kept announcing it. And in a few months, more than 50,000 people a day were gathering for prayer all over New York City. The revival spread from one city to the next, from Cleveland to Detroit, to Chicago, to Cincinnati. And between one and two million people are estimated to have found Christ as their Savior during that great revival.
Out of this revival came some interesting things that we all know about today. The gospel era of D.L. Moody, a singer by the name of Ira Sankey, and a songwriter by the name of Fanny Crosby. The birth of a new phrase in our hymnody. Millions singing lighthearted gospel songs like "Blessed Assurance" and "Revive Us Again". There's more. Almost out of the blue, one of the greatest revivals in Christian history occurred in the first decade of the 20th century. It's hard to pinpoint its origin, but a major epicenter was undoubtedly the country of Wales.
And that's where my ancestry is from. My grandfather is from wales. The person most associated with the Welsh revival was a young coal miner named Evan Roberts. He was a Bible student who took a break from school to return to his home village, where he could preach his first sermon. Within 3 months, 100,000 converts were added to the churches in Wales. And all across the nation, theatres closed, jails emptied, churches filled. Soccer matches were canceled to avoid conflicting with the revival. And Welsh miners, they were so thoroughly converted that their ponies and mules had to be retrained to work without the prodding of curse words. Even the animals were revived.
It seems hard to believe anything like that could ever happen when you look out at our world today. But let me just say this to you. It seemed as impossible to the people who lived at that time that such a thing could happen. And my thought is, Lord, if you did it once, do it again. If you did it two or three times, let us be the next one. Because if we don't have something like that happen in our culture today, our ability to try to fix what's messed up in this nation is not going to get it done. We need an intervention, an intervention from Almighty God like he's intervened in times past in this nation.
I don't remember any of the great revivals that I have talked to you about, but the last great revival I remember vividly. We don't really call it a revival, but it was. It was called the Jesus Movement. How many remember the Jesus Movement of the 70s? Wow. Once again, our nation was falling into difficult times morally and spiritually. I was just starting out as a pastor. We started our first church in 1969, right on the cusp of this period of time. A distressed generation met in what was called ground zero for the emerging youth culture. It was San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, called Hashbury by the hippies. Disillusioned long hair youth adopted counter-cultural values. They turned onto drugs. They dropped out of society. They protested the establishment.
I remember those days. In the middle of the Hashbury bedlam, in 1967, a Christian couple opened an evangelistic coffeehouse called The Living Room. Other Christian coffeehouses soon opened up and down the west coast, and ministries started. Young people began to get saved, and the winds of revival blew thousands of hippies into the Pacific Ocean to be baptized. This was the beginning of the Jesus Movement. If there was a theme song to the Jesus people, it was a song written by Kurt Kaiser, "It only takes a spark to get the fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in the glowing. That's how it is with God's love. Once you experience it, you spread his love to everyone. You want to pass it on".
People sang that song everywhere. We sang it in our youth group. We sang it at camp. We sang it everywhere. This was the song that everybody grabbed hold of. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. We do need another spark today, men and women, another touch of the fire of heaven. America cannot be saved by politics. It's going to be saved neither by Republicans or Democrats or Independents. We need wise and godly leaders, but the real answer to our problems isn't political, it's spiritual. There's a two-fold plan for revival, and here it is. We can't orchestrate it, but we can get ready for it. And the way you get ready for revival is you pray for revival personally.
Remember the verse I gave you at the beginning of this message? "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice"? says the psalmist. Pray for revival. And then secondly, practice revival personally. Don't wait for some big movement to happen, and then say, "Okay, now I'm going to start living right". Start living right before a movement starts. Rededicate yourself to living a life of personal holiness and perpetual revival. You and I don't have to wait for some global or national movement. Let the movement begin in us. If you've lost your fervor for the Lord, if your love for him has gotten cold, if your sin has dampened your spiritual zeal, if the world has seeped into your soul and into your habits, you know what to do. Ask God to forgive you, and repent of your sin, and ask him to renew a spirit of righteousness in your heart. God isn't finished with our country.
I think the main question isn't, is God finished with America? The main question is, is America finished with God? But I want you to know, on the basis and the authority of the Bible, and the history of revival, we are at a place not where we should despair, but where we should look with great anticipation. We're right at the place where God has intervened in every other time in history. This is a period when God wants to move among us. Start it in me, start it in you, start it anywhere, but Lord God, if you don't break through into our culture, we don't have any other option. We are confessing our sin before you today, and we're asking you in the words of the psalmist, revive us again.