Our world, our country, our community is broken. It doesn’t take much to see this truth. We see it on the news, social media, in TV shows, even commercials show how broken and far from God our world is, we see it right here in our schools (starting at elementary ages), and we even see it in divisions of churches. Much of our world is filled with selfishness, greed, deceptiveness, anger, and foolishness.
I’ll be real honest with you right off the bat this morning. Just because we call ourselves Christians and sit here on Sunday mornings does not mean that we don’t fall into the desires and ways of the world too. It certainly does not mean we have it all together. In fact, if you are sitting here thinking you have it all together, you’re in the wrong place. Church is for sinners, as we all are. It’s for the hypocrites, the liars, the thief, the broken, the hurting. And here’s why?
Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10) Jesus came to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners. (Mark 2:17)
Wherever you are on this journey of life, and wherever you are on the journey of your faith, I believe we could all use a spiritual awakening right about now. It’s easy to just say, they need it out there in the world, but if we are honest, we absolutely need it too.
Over the last several months, we have been having special prayer times for the Revival on the Farm that will be held on June 4-7 with other local churches. And we’ve also been praying for God to not wait until June 4th, but to start changing the hearts in our churches and the church leaders now.
But I feel like if we are really going to ask God for a revival, then we should all know what that really means. When I say revival, some may picture a big tent full of people being led by a fiery, pulpit beating speaker, hands being laid on people and miraculous healings. Some Christians think it’s only for those who don’t know God yet. For others, it has little meaning.
So what is revival? Particularly a Christian revival? I looked in three different dictionaries that all said about the same thing, yet not enough.
A reawakening of religious passion; a meeting or series of meetings led by a preacher to stir up religious feelings or to make converts; an restoration from neglect.
Revival is a spiritual reawakening, getting our attention, waking us up to something we’ve been neglecting. But revival also involves resurfacing a love for God, an appreciation of God’s holiness, a passion for His Word and His church. It’s a convicting awareness of your sin. It’s a spirit of humility, and a desire for repentance and growth in righteousness.
Revival revitalizes and deepens a believer’s faith, opening their eyes to the truth in a fresh, new way. It generally is a new beginning of a life lived in obedience to God. Revival breaks the charm and power of this world, which blinds us, and then it generates a will and power in us to live in the world, but not of it.
But none of this is done by our own power. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we are actually transformed.
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Revival, in many respects, replicates our experience when we first come to Jesus asking Him to be their Savior. It starts by the Holy Spirit creating an awareness in us that something is missing or wrong in our life. In turn, the person responds from the heart, acknowledging their need. Then, in a powerful way, the Holy Spirit draws back the veil that the world has cast over the truth, allowing us now to fully see ourselves in comparison to God’s majesty and holiness, bringing this great awe of who God is and His truly amazing grace.
POINT #1 – Revival Restores our Relationship with God
The evidence of revival is changed lives. Believers are once again spending time in prayer, reading and obeying God’s Word. There’s confession of sin and repentance. Believers begin to powerfully use their spiritual gifts. And true Christian revival is life-giving for everyone touched by it.
Over the years, we’ve seen this kind of transformation in corporate revival in our country. Just recently, we watched the Asbury University Revival. The first revival in America, called the First Great Awakening, swept through the American colonies between the 1730’s and 1770’s. It was part of a much broader movement that was taking place in England, Scotland, and Germany at the time. Many different preachers came and spoke the message of repenting and devoting oneself to God, creating a deep emotional need for relationship with Jesus. Tens of thousands of non-religious American colonists were converted to Protestant beliefs. This had a huge impact on our country’s foundation. We need this again. And I full heartedly believe that God is working on this. He is beginning to stir and start a fire. But we need to be obedient to it. We do have a part in revival.
Over the next serval weeks leading up to the Revival on the Farm, we’re going to spend time defining and understanding revival means and its effects on individuals and communities. Though the word ‘revival’ isn’t found in the Bible, there are many scriptural accounts of significant outpourings of God’s Spirit on His people, times of spiritual reform, times of awakening in the spiritual lives of God’s people. We’ll explore some of these events and discover how we might experience this same revival in our lives and church today.
Today, I’d like to start with the story of King Josiah and the revival that took place during his reign that followed a period of deep sin and corruption. Since King David, a man after God’s own heart, many kings following would abandon God and His will for His people and instead lead them to worshiped idols and pagan gods. But every now and again, there would be someone who did just the opposite.
King Josiah was one of them. His grandfather who reigned 55 years did not follow God’s ways, but instead built pagan shrines, sacrificed his own son, practiced sorcery, set up an idol right in the Lord’s Temple, and murdered many of his own people. Josiah’s father then followed suit, but only ruled for two years before his own officials killed him. The people of the land killed them and made his son Josiah, who was 8 years old, the next king. The nation of Israel was at yet another low point.
2 Kings 22:1–20
Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years…. 2 He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.
When Josiah was 16 years old, he began to seek the God of his ancestor David. Then, when he was 24 years old, God had moved in his personal life that he began to tear down and clean up all the idols and pagan gods’ shrines and altars, whatever he recognized as not belonging to the worship of the true God. In the process, something is found. By the time he was 26 years old, he began to repair the temple. During those repairs, Hilkiah the high priest finds the Word of God.
8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the court secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the Lord’s Temple!” Then Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, and he read it.
9 Shaphan went to the king and reported, “Your officials have turned over the money collected at the Temple of the Lord to the workers and supervisors at the Temple.”
10 Shaphan also told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a scroll.” So Shaphan read it to the king. 11 When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair.
This “Book of the Law” is understood to be the book of Deuteronomy. It’s unknown exactly how it disappeared, but it’s likely that during the threat of invasion under King Hezekiah (Josiah’s great-grandfather) or during the reign of the next two evil kings, it was hidden in the Temple.
So King Josiah told the priest Hilkiah to go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for him and for all of Judah and inquire about the Book of the Law that’s been found because according to this, we are in deep trouble. Our ancestors have not obeyed these laws, and God’s anger is raging against us. So Hilkiah went to Jerusalem to consult with the prophet Huldah. (Just like Miriam in Exodus and Deborah in Judges, Huldah was a woman prophet. God freely selects whoever He wants to carry out His will – rich or poor, male or female, king or slave.)
15 She said to them, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken! Go back and tell the man who sent you, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this city and its people. All the words written in the scroll that the king of Judah has read will come true. 17 For my people have abandoned me and offered sacrifices to pagan gods, and I am very angry with them for everything they have done. My anger will burn against this place, and it will not be quenched.’
18 “But go to the king of Judah who sent you to seek the Lord and tell him: ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the message you have just heard: 19 You were sorry and humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I said against this city and its people—that this land would be cursed and become desolate. You tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. And I have indeed heard you, says the Lord.
20 So I will not send the promised disaster until after you have died and been buried in peace. You will not see the disaster I am going to bring on this city.’” So they took her message back to the king.
Josiah then summoned everyone, all the elders, the priests and prophets, all the people from the least to the greatest of Judah and Jerusalem to go to the Temple where he read them the entire Book of the Law. In front of everyone and in the Lord’s presence, Josiah renewed his commitment to the Lord’s covenant and pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all His commands with all his heart and soul. Along with him, all the people also pledged themselves to the covenant. And revival began.
Josiah then went from town to town, and everything that represented any kind of false god or idol was removed, smashed, and burned. He then spread the ashes on the graves of those who had sacrificed to the pagan gods. He also did away with the idolatrous priests who had been appointed by the previous kings of Judah. He burned the bones of the pagan priests on their own altars. Everything went. He was not messing around.
He then ordered the people to celebrate the Passover as the Book of the Law required, that had not been celebrated for hundreds of years.
2 Kings 23:22 says,
2 Kings 23:21–25
22 Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem.
25 Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.
As the book of law was read to Josiah, he was shocked, frightened, and humbled. He realized what a great gap existed between his efforts to lead his people to God and God’s expectations for His chosen nation. When God’s Word was found, drastic changes had to be made to bring the kingdom in line with God’s commands.
POINT #2 – The Word of God Should Move Us
Josiah was overwhelmed by God’s holiness and immediately tried to expose his people to that holiness. Revival literally began with a return to the Word of God. The Word of God should cause us, like Josiah, to take action immediately to reform our lives and bring them into harmony with God’s will. Today, many people own Bibles, but few are actually affected by the truths found in it. Mostly because we don’t open the book. And it’s only got worse over the last few years.
Unfortunately, Bible reading plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. A 2022 survey by the American Bible Society wanted to determine the number of active Bible users, defined as people who use the Bible at least 3–4 times each year on their own, outside of a church setting. From 2021 to 2022, the number of Bible users dropped from 50% to 39%. That equals 25 million Americans who no longer consult the Bible even three to four times a year. Whatever the reason for not engaging with Scripture, points to a real need for revival.
Some people say it doesn’t matter that you don’t read the Bible; it’s just another book. I go to church, I listen to Christian music. I just don’t like to read. I’m sorry to say, that’s just not going to cut it. Today, if you are not a good reader or have trouble seeing there are so many options to still be in the word of God. You can find almost every version of the bible on audio.
And the bible is not just another book. In fact, it the most unique book in all of history. It consists of 66 books, written by 40 people over 1500 years. It’s unique collection of ancient books that is bound together by a central theme and a unity of purpose. There’s never been another book like it in all of history.
It proves its self to be true over and over again. Archeologist use it to find people and cities.
It’s full of prophesies where God says I’ll prove that I’m not trapped in linear time, I’ll give prophesies to tell you what’s ahead. There are over 300 prophesies about Jesus alone.
Some today think, well they just wrote it afterwards. But we know that the first Greek translation was done 250 years before Jesus was born. How could they know where He would be born, that He would die of crucifixion when crucifixion didn’t exist as a capital punishment yet, how could they know He would be betrayed by 30 pieces of silver 250 years before hand.
Then Jesus came and did all sorts of miraculous things to prove He’s not just a guy talking. And He said I’m going to prove it to you who I am. I’m going to die and come back in three days. No one can do that. But He did. He died and all those who were with Him for three years ran and hid (as we all would have done) confused thinking they had it all wrong.
And then something happened that made all of these guys come back and be martyred for this believe system. Why? What could they possibly gain from it? All but John, died an awful death for this belief system and they knew that would be the case if they followed. But they did it anyways because they said, “I saw Him die and I saw Him come back.”
The Bible is a book of real stories written by real people. It’s a book of eye witness of what happened. It’s a book written by people but inspired by God all the way.
You may ask “How could such an ancient Book still be so relevant today?” It’s such an old book. If we were talking about an old manual for building a computer from the 80’s, I’d be concerned because the manual would talk about vacuum tubes and data cards and old technology that doesn’t help us at all today.
But because we’re talking about guidance for what we believe, how we live, and what is always true, I’d actually prefer a guide that’s been tested and proven over time. Every generation has its own biases and ideas, and culture changes so fast, but God’s written Word has been proven true for every generation for the last 3,500 years! (That’s how long the Bible’s been around – or at least parts of it.)
Some complain that the Bible must have changed as it has been passed down throughout the years—like a theological version of the child’s game Telephone where kids sit in a circle, and the first child whispers, “I’ve got a new puppy named Willow,” and by the end of the circle the last child says, “Ima’s guppy sleeps under his pillow.”
Please understand that’s not how we got our Bible. While there are thousands of copies of the Bible today, the scholars who work on our modern translations go to the very oldest manuscripts first. Fortunately, we have very ancient manuscripts to rely on—with some fragments that were copied in the same century that the originals were first written.
And even though studies are showing less people reading it, the Bible still ranks as the “world’s best-seller.” Every year more than one hundred million copies are sold! And even more, the Bible (either in part or the whole) is being read today in more than twelve hundred languages. The Bible is being sold today in the languages of 97% of the world’s population and is being read in almost every country and island on earth.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you need to be in the Bible every single day. Imagine eating only on Sunday and going with nothing except water the other six days every week. You might survive, but you wouldn’t be very healthy, and I don’t think you’d be very happy. Just ten minutes every day in God’s Word will make all the difference.
POINT #3 – God Speaks to us through His Word
Prayer, of course, is simply us speaking back. I find it amazing that through God’s Word and our prayers, we get to have a two-way conversation with God, submerged in truth and life.
One of the many differences between God’s Word and our word is that from our perspective, we have at best seventy to ninety years for our words to be proven true. From His perspective, He has generations, and really all of eternity for His to proven true. He can make a promise to you and fulfill it through your great, great, great grandchildren, and He will still be proven true.
The Word is the primary way God talks to us. If you want to know God’s will for your life, we need to be people of the Word. Read it. Memorize it. Study it. Know the Word. And above all, do what it says.
Scripture is central to Christian revival as it comes to be loved and obeyed by men and women caught up in the experience. Revival doesn’t have to rely on the rhetoric of the preachers. It can and does flourish with the simple reading and preaching of Scripture as people are transformed by its witness.
So much of the Bible talks about its importance. Psalm 119 is both the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. It has 176 verses and almost every verse mentions God’s Word. It’s unsure who wrote it, but likely Ezra the priest did after the Temple was rebuilt as a repetitive meditation on the beauty of God’s Word and how it helps us stay pure and grow in faith.
Such repetition was common in the Hebrew culture. People then did not have personal copies of the scriptures to read like we do today. So they memorized God’s Word and passed it along orally. So to be able to memorize this 176 verses, the Psalm is broken down into 22 sections, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet and each verse beginning with the letter of it’s section.
The writer asked a question in Psalm 119 that may trouble you. How do we stay pure in a contaminating environment? We can’t….on our own. But by reading God’s Word and doing what it says we can.
I would love to see our whole church reengage with Scripture. Churches that engage with Scripture together create a shared experience across generations, so that everyone, like King Josiah, may turn to the Lord with their whole heart, soul, and might. So I challenge you to be in God’s Word prayerfully every day this week. Perhaps you’ll need to set your alarm fifteen minutes early or take your Bible with you on your lunch break.
If you could talk directly with God for fifteen minutes every day, wouldn’t you jump at the chance to do so? Just try it. If you don’t get anything out of it, at least you tried. But I believe it will be the beginning of a daily conversation you will want to have for the rest of your life because it will bring God’s truth to every area of your life.
When we devote ourselves to Scripture, we will experience a revival of faith in our lives together.