Revival is like remodeling your kitchen. It takes longer than you planned, makes a bigger mess than you thought possible, and costs more than you hoped! But as Stephen reminds us in this message, the outcome is always worth the effort.
A Declaration of Dependence
On July 4, 1776 in the city of Philadelphia, one of America’s historic documents was signed. It was called the Declaration of Independence and it marked the birth of this nation under God. The closing words of that document solemnly declared these words, “With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” The 56 courageous men who signed that document, understood it was more than rhetoric. If the struggle for freedom was successful, the best they could ever expect would be years of hardship and struggle.
The Declaration of Independence was in reality a declaration of dependence upon each other and the providence of God.
In our last two sessions we have watched the nation Israel in revival.
It began with a hunger for the word of God – and a willingness to obey it. They were a people who were literally rebibled, for any revival is nothing short of people living out the principles and truths of the Bible. Their revival also involved true confession and a mourning over their sin.
I have defined revival for our study today by simply taking the events of Nehemiah’s revival and articulating what happened their lives with what will happen in our lives when true revival comes.
Let’s read it together.
Revival: a movement of God’s Spirit in the believer’s life that produces both private confession of sin and public obedience to the scriptures; the outward behavior of a revived believer will be marked with God’s pleasure as their highest priority; that priority will undeniably impact
personal relationships, financial decisions and lifestyle choices.
In other words, revival is hard work – persistence, humility, obedience, Bible study.
Revival is like remodeling your kitchen. It takes longer than you planned, makes a bigger mess than you ever thought possible and costs more than you hoped.
Revival is inconvenient, upsetting and life changing.
You cannot plan for revival you only pray for it. You can not orchestrate it or announce that it is going to happen in a series of meetings in the third week of June. All you can do is ask God for it to happen in your life – to awaken your eyes to your sin and to the authority and wonder of his word; to blow on the smoldering embers of your heart so that they burst into flaming affection for Him once again.
And you pray as David prayed, “Oh Lord, revive us again!”
By the way, revival isn’t so much about emotion, as it is about action. In fact, the emotion of revival is soon followed by the action of revival.
Nehemiah chapter 10 reveals the action of the Jewish people; action that proved true revival has indeed come.
I want to point out for you four evidences of true revival. They were evidences back in the days of Nehemiah, and they are still evidences today in the life of the believer.
1) Revival is experienced when you rededicate your feet to follow after God’s precepts!
1:1 Now on the sealed document were the names of: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah.
Skip to 28. Now the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding, 29. are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the
commandments of God our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes;
They had only recently blown the dust off the Book of the Law and heard it read to them for the first time in their entire lives. But after the first hearing, they knew that if it was indeed God’s Book, than it was binding and authoritative over their lives.
It was not an optional guide – it was the will of God.
Is there a New testament counterpoint for this attitude and passion? Yes, in Colossians chapter 3 Paul challenged the believers to allow the word of Christ to dwell richly within them, with all wisdom. (3:16)
The word dwell can be translated, “take residence in you.” In other words, “Let the word of God make it’s home in you – let it move in.
A revival occurs in the believer’s life whenever he puts out the welcome mat for the Word.
The word translated, ‘richly’ . . . let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, is a word that could be rendered “extravagantly.” In other words, it knows no boundaries – you haven’t fenced it in. You don’t say to the word, “Come into my life but stay over their in the corner . . . don’t go in to the family room . . . don’t go in to the bedroom . . . don’t go anywhere except to church with me on Sunday . . . and whatever you do, don’t go to work with me. . .stay there in the corner.
No. Paul said, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you.” Let it loose. Let it have full reign in your life in every compartment and every department of your life.
The people in Nehemiah’s day were saying nothing short of this, “We will allow the scriptures to determine our lifestyle!”
Notice again verse 29b. “We will walk in God’s law . . . we will keep and observe all the commandments of God our
Lord and His ordinances and His statutes.”
A couple of days ago, a reporter for the Cary news called and wanted to do an interview and then take my picture out in front of the buildings. I thought, somebody will probably see my picture and mistake it for a picture they’ve seen on the wall of the Post Office. . .so I said, “No, interview John Thomas and take his picture.” He can go to jail. . .I’ll visit him.
The reporter sat down with John and remarked about the size and scope of our project and as he learned the short history of our church he asked John, “To what do you attribute this huge growth at Colonial?” John said, “Well, it’s our good looking Pastor of Worship, what else?” Actually John told me on the phone about this and then said, “Stephen what would you have answered?” He and I gave the same answer. At Colonial, the word of God is not optional, it’s essential – and people are hungry not for what man says, but for what God has said.
Revival is rededicating the path of your feet to follow after God’s precepts!
Secondly, Revival occurs in the life of a believer who rededicates their family to a lifestyle of Biblical purity!
Notice verse 30. and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.
While our culture is different than this culture – obviously our parents do not pick out their children’s spouses, although the older my children become, the more attractive that idea becomes to me, the timeless principle that transcends cultures and generations is this statement: “We will accept the importance of godly relationships!”
The New Testament counter-passage is 2 Corinthians 6:14
Turn there – 2 Corinthians 6
2 Corinthians 5:14 “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”
In Paul’s day, the concept of an unequal yoke was used in relation to marriage. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers would mean simply, don’t marry an unbeliever.
Some of you are already married to unbelievers – Paul makes it very clear in I Corinthians 7 that the believing spouse is not to send away the unbeliever in hopes of starting over and marrying a believer.
In that case, you stay and become a testimony to the saving grace of God – Paul called it a sanctifying presence in the home for the sake of the children and hopefully their salvation.
You say, why shouldn’t a believer marry an unbeliever? Paul goes on in that passage to turn the question back to the one who would argue such a separatist view of marriage by saying, 15. What does a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16. Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My
people. 17. “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
You could apply that principle of separation to the business world as well. Don’t become bound in business with unbelievers. Now obviously, each situation calls for wisdom and biblical application. We live in a world with unbelievers and we do business with unbelievers every day. In fact, even in the world of relationships, if you don’t have them with unbelievers, how will you ever reach them for Christ. God intends us to be salt and light.
The point is that you need to ask God how and where to draw the line in personal and business relationships.
Like the financial planner who called me a few months ago asking advise about handling the investments of a religious cult. He was troubled in knowing that by helping them financially he would indirectly be aiding them in spreading their propaganda. So he turned them down. And by turning them down, he turned down what could have been to him great financial gain. I admired him for his courage and his conviction.
I wonder how many business owners sell alcoholic beverages and then teach Sunday school; I wonder how many business owners would have the courage to place Bibles in their waiting rooms and play Christian music on their speaker system.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that one of the reasons revival has been hindered in our generation is because we as believers no longer wrestle and agonize over the issues of godly distinction. We have thrown out as legalism any convictions of holiness or piety.
If pressed, could you name at least 5 things you and your family do not do or do that just about everybody else around you does or doesn’t do and if asked, the only answer you could give is, ‘Because I am a Christian.”
Talk about sounding strange! You gotta be kidding. What do you want us to be, fanatics? Yes!
God’s word says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate!” Do you know what that means? Do you know how your life is different from an unbeliever? Do you know how to apply godly separation in your walk? My friend, if you do not know at least 5 ways that your life is different than your unbelieving neighbor you are probably in need of revival!
Chuck Swindoll quoted Keith Miller in his commentary on Nehemiah:
READ KEITH MILLER
I had a military pilot tell me some time ago about learning how to fly. At one point while he was in the cockpit of his fighter plane, flying at night in order to learn to depend on his instrument panel, when the instructor told him to close his eyes and fly by his instincts. So he closed his eyes and began to pilot that plane by how he felt. After about 3 minutes the instructor asked him . . . how do you think you’re doing? He responded, we’re doing great! The instructor said, “Open your eyes.” When he opened his eyes he discovered that they were flying upside down heading straight toward the ground.
It is possible for the believer to become infected with societal vertigo – “I’m doing great!” But in reality be heading for a collision.
Revival is when a believer pulls out of his collision course by once again focusing on the instrument panel of God’s word.
Revival affects your feet and it affects your family.
Third, revival is when you rededicate your faith to trust in God’s providence!
Go back to Nehemiah 10:31
31. As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego the crops the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.
They just signed their names to this declaration and stated that they wouldn’t do three things that the rest of the world did.
Number 1 – we won’t do business on the Sabbath.
Number 2 – we won’t plant crops on the seventh year
Number 3 – we will forgive any debt against us by a fellow
These were unique to the nation Israel. Paul made it clear in Galatians chapter 4 that believers are not bound to special days or festivals. Every day of the week is holy to the New Testament Christian.
But the principle is timeless.
Jews were to trust God to provide for them. Can you imagine not planting crops every 7th year? Can you imagine wiping every loan off your books that others owed you. In fact, can you imagine even loaning anybody anything on the 6th year? On December of the 6th year?
You see, this was God’s built in curriculum on faith! And every Israelite had to enroll. This course on trust in God’s provision could not be audited or skipped.
Trusting God for provision has a way of reminding you that He is ultimately the Provider.
Along that same line is this last evidence of true revival:
Revival is when you rededicate your finances to acknowledge God’s priorities!
In chapter 10 and in chapter 12 as the walls are dedicated and the choirs sing with great joy, the people sign this declaration that they will devote whatever necessary to maintain the house of worship!”
32. We also placed ourselves under obligation to contribute yearly one third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33. for the showbread, for the continual grain offering, for the continual burnt offering, the sabbaths, the new moon, for the appointed times, for the holy things and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God. 34. Likewise we cast lots for the supply of wood among the priests, the Levites and the people so that they might bring it to the house of our God, according to our fathers’ households, at fixed times annually, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law. Skip to verse 39 – the last phrase sums up their actions and attitude: “Thus we will not neglect the house of our God.”
I agree with Warren Wiersbe who wrote on this passage, “Where there is true spiritual revival, it will reveal itself in the way we support God’s work, beginning in our own local church.”
I am convinced that the most sensitive nerve in a persons body is the nerve that runs from their heart to their back pocket.
I also believe what Winston Churchill said years ago; “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is something profoundly revealing about my soul in what I do with my money.
Jesus Christ said it all when he put it this way, “Where your money is, that’s really where your heart is.”
This past month I read with interest and sadness an article in a Christian magazine by Larry Burkette. I confirmed it a few days later when I as at an event that included one of his staff members. In this article, Burkette said that the average caller to his ministry for financial advice, and he receives tens of thousands a year, that average caller profile is in their eary 40’s; 2 children; an annual household income of 40,000; they have a mortgage on their homes of 125,000; they owe 20,000 in automobile loans; 6,000 on educational loans and carry 7,000 to 10,000 on their credit cards.
Christianity Today, June 12, 2000 p. 47
The average believer is in desperate need of plastic surgery.
Revival is a surrender of your soul, a surrender of your wallet, a surrender of your family, a surrender of your will, a surrender of your all, to your great and wonderful, holy and gracious God, who has lavished upon us His wonderful grace.
There are some things revived believers just can’t do!
- A revived believer can’t stay selfish.
- A revived believer can’t keep silent
- A revived believer can’t remain sorrowful
If you turn over to chapter 12
The choirs are proceeding along the wall. The declaration has been signed and the people have vowed to keep their God and worship of Him their highest priority.
I love verse 43, tucked inside all the pomp and circumstance of this great occasion. “And on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.”
The joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.
The people had returned to joy. They returned to joy.
Revival is the restoration of joy.
I’ve wondered what to call our series through the book of Nehemiah – I discovered it here. The people of Jerusalem have been restored – but it was more than walls and gates and bricks and choirs being restored.
It was the restoration of joy.
David prayed, “Oh God, restore unto me the joy of my salvation!” (Psalm 51:12)
That’s revival. And a revived believer cannot stay sorrowful or silent or selfish.
Because their heart is filled with affection for God and His people. His cause and His will are center stage. His word is no longer optional, it’s essential!
How can we experience revival?
A man once came to Gipsy Smith, the well known English evangelist a generation ago and asked him how to have a personal revival. Gipsy asked him, “Do you have a place where you can go to pray?” “Yes,” was the reply. “Then here’s what you are to do. Go to that place, and take a piece of chalk along. Kneel down there, and with the chalk draw a complete circle all around you and then pray for God to send revival on everything inside that circle.”
But I warn you, revival may just cost you everything.
Of the 56 men who signed the declaration of independence that hot day in Philadelphia in pursuit of national freedom:
12 had their homes sacked and burned the enemy
9 died as soldiers in the war
2 lost their sons in the war
1 man had 2 sons captured and never heard from again
5 of them were captured and tortured until they died
They did indeed pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
Can we as soldiers and ambassadors of the cross do any less?
Oh that God would revive us again to do nothing less that pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to the cause of our eternal Lord and our sovereign King.
“It has never ceased to amaze me that we Christians have developed a kind of selective vision which allows us to be deeply and sincerely involved in worship and church activities and yet almost totally pagan in the day in, day out guts of our business lives and never even realize it.”
Swindoll goes on to add, “We won’t care if anyone else in the world lives by this. We will live by it. It will be our guide. We won’t shrug our shoulders, yawn and say, “It doesn’t matter” when our kids want to mix and mingle with the crowd.” Our homes will be distinct. Our philosophy of life will not be like that of those who live outside the walls. This is our promise to You, O God.”
Charles Swindoll; Hand Me Another Brick, Nelson p 162, 163