January 17, 2016
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Revival! Just so you know, I’ve been praying for it. What’s revival? The word “revive” means “to live again.” Revival is when God breathes new life into dead or dry hearts. Revivals happen when God moves in an unusual way and dead churches are infused with new life, and people come alive spiritually! Have you ever experienced a revival? I have.
ILL: In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, a revival broke out on the West Coast that spread across the country. It was called “The Jesus People Movement” and it reached Spokane. I was a college student and youth pastor in Eugene. God was moving in an unusually powerful way and students were coming to Jesus. I’ll share a fun story with a Eugene—Spokane connection.
It was the summer of 1971. We had a done a spring break retreat at the Oregon Coast and Jesus showed up! 70 students went, and we baptized 15 in the ocean. Kids were filled with the Spirit and came home on fire. At the next Tuesday Night Bible Study at Noel’s house, the students asked if we could do another retreat as soon as school was out in June.
“Sure,” I said, “what did you have in mind?”
“Let’s ask Billy Graham to speak!” one said.
“I think Billy might be busy then.”
“How about Nicky Cruz,” another asked. Nicky had been a gang member in New York City whom David Wilkerson led to Christ. The story had been told in the best-selling book, The Cross and the Switchblade.
“I think Nicky might be busy too, but Linda Meisner (another character in Wilkerson’s book) is in Spokane—I could check with her.”
I did, and while Linda couldn’t come, she sent Carl Parks to speak and Carl brought the newly converted Wilson McKinley band (this picture was taken at Highbridge Park just down the street in 1971, about the time this story happens). Wilson McKinley (check out the threads!) was a mainstream rock band that had come to Jesus the summer before and ended up being pioneers in Jesus rock music.
So we mimeographed some flyers, and the students started passing them out—all over the state! As I said, our students were on fire, and were inviting like crazy—you could feel the buzz! God was up to something. Our flyer gave the date, place and cost: $5 for this three-day retreat, payable at the gate. Does anyone see a problem? We had no way of knowing how many people were coming.
The day before we’re to leave, my pastor, Don Smith, asked me who was cooking? Hmmm—I hadn’t thought of that. “Have you bought any food?” Nope. Any idea how many to buy for? Nope. He put me in his station wagon and we went to Cash and Carry and loaded up his station wagon with $200 worth of groceries, which he drove up to the camp the next day.
325 people showed up for this retreat at a campground that could hold 150. Carl Parks and the Wilson McKinley showed up on a bus with 60 Jesus People from Spokane. One of the young ladies asked who was in charge and someone pointed to me. “Who’s cooking,” she asked me. I told her that job was still open if she was interested. She and several other ladies cooked at one of the Jesus People communes, so I gladly gave her free rein and pointed her to the station wagon full of food.
Here’s the thing. I was an idiot! When I tell this story to other pastors they always smile and say I’m giving them hope! If God can use me, he can use anyone. The retreat should have been a disaster—instead it was a smashing success because God showed up. The ladies took that $200 worth of groceries and some other money I gave them and fed all 325 of us in a cafeteria built for 150. People slept everywhere—in the chapel, the cafeteria, on floors. None of it mattered because God was moving. Dozens of people came to Christ and were filled with the Spirit, and 75 were baptized in the ocean. It was amazing!
During that time, people were coming to Christ like crazy in our church. We used to say that God’s presence was so palpable, that someone could repeat the Gettysburg Address and people would get saved! God was moving!
So I’m praying for revival! I’m praying that dry hearts are flooded with God’s Spirit, that dead churches come alive, that God moves in a fresh new way.
We all get dry at times. I do, and I know you do too. We go through seasons of dryness and then seasons of revival, and we need both. We learn things from both. But no one wants to live in a drought very long. So here’s:
The Big Idea: When we get dry, we need to be revived by the Holy Spirit! The Spirit gives life!
I’m going to walk you through the Bible on revival. And at the end, we’re going to come before God and ask Him to fill us again with the Holy Spirit.
I want to talk with you about the problem, the promise and the provision.
- The problem: Can these bones live again?
That question comes from a famous story in the book of Ezekiel, the story of the dry bones. Ezekiel prophesied from 593-571 BC. About 150 years earlier, the northern kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity in Assyria. Now during Ezekiel’s life, the southern kingdom of Judah has been taken into captivity in Babylon. Ezekiel himself was a captive in Babylon. So the nation of Israel is no more—the people are scattered and captive in Assyria and Babylon. Their temple is destroyed, their land is desolate, their people are in captivity. But Ezekiel prophesies that God will restore their nation, and God gives him a vivid and unusual vision. Here it is.
1 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’ ”
The dry bones are the nation of Israel in captivity: “our bones are dried up and our hope is gone.” Can these bones live again? Yes. Ezekiel prophesies and the bones come together in great rattling noise, and then flesh covers them. But they’re still not alive. So he prophesies again and breath comes into them. The Hebrew word here, ruach, can be translated “breath, wind, spirit.” It’s a deliberate play on words—the breath or wind that gives life is the Spirit of God. So life is breathed into them and they stand on their feet a mighty army.
This is a prophecy that God will restore Israel, that this dead nation will come alive again and return to their land—something that seemed completely impossible at the time Ezekiel predicts it, but would happen within a few short years! And the restoration would be physical and spiritual: the people would be restored to their land physically and the Spirit would live in their hearts and make them alive. That’s the meaning of this passage.
But I want to apply it to us. Can these bones live again? The last two weeks, I said that our love can grow cold, that we can wander from God. We can go through seasons of spiritual dryness, where we feel dead and dry. As the Israelites said, “Our hope is gone.” Do we have to stay this way? Can these bones live again? If you are dead or dry spiritually, can you live again? Can the Spirit breathe new life into you? Can revival happen in our church? Our town? Our nation? Can these bones live again?
The answer for us, as it was for Israel is a resounding, Yes!
- The promise: I will pour out My Spirit.
Ezekiel promised that God would give them His Spirit to revive them.
Ezekiel 37:14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.
And Ezekiel wasn’t the only one—many of the prophets made this same promise that God would pour out His Spirit.
Joel 2:28–29 And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
Joel envisions a day when God would pour out His Spirit on all people—not just a few, not just the prophets, but all people: men and women, young and old, our sons and daughters. I love that the promise is an outpouring—not a drizzle, not a sprinkle…a pouring out!
ILL: Invite a volunteer and spray him with a mister, sprinkle with fingers from a bowl, drizzle from a bottle, pour out from a bucket.
God wants to fill us with Himself, with His Spirit, so He didn’t promise a little spray, a tiny sprinkle or a drizzle—He promised a pouring out! Laina said that this reminds her of what happens when a football team wins. They celebrate like this (Gatorade bath). They aren’t sprinkling their coach with Gatorade—they are pouring it out—drenching him! God wants to drench you with His Spirit! Soak you!
Joel said a day was coming when God would pour out His Spirit on us, and that day came.
Acts 1:4–5 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
So the disciples waited in Jerusalem for the promise to come.
Acts 2:1–4 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
God poured out His Spirit on this little band of believers and suddenly, in Ezekiel’s words, they stood on their feet, an army for God! A crowd had gathered, wondering what was going on, and Peter, emboldened by the Spirit, stood up and spoke up!
Acts 2:14–18 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
Peter said, “This is it! This is the fulfillment of Joel’s ancient prophecy! God is pouring out His Spirit on us now!” He goes on to tell the Jesus story and says,
Acts 2:33 Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.
Jesus is pouring out His Spirit upon us. And this wasn’t just for Peter and the disciples or the crowd on that day. It’s for us too.
Acts 2:37–39 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”
This promise—the promise of the poured-out Spirit—is for all who have been called by the Lord. It’s for all of us. It’s for you. Don’t doubt it for a moment: it’s for you! God wants to pour out His Spirit on you. He wants to fill you with His Spirit—the Spirit who gives life.
- The provision: the Spirit gives life.
John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.
The Spirit gives life. It is the Holy Spirit who revives our dry hearts and gives us life again. The Spirit gives life.
Jesus made this clear to Nicodemus when he came seeking answers from Jesus.
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
You must be born again—born of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who gives life. The only way to become a Christian is to be born of the Spirit—it is the Spirit who makes us alive spiritually. So our Christian life starts with the Holy Spirit—He is the one who gives us new life, who causes us to be born again. In the same way, when we go through a season of dryness, it is the Spirit who blows into our hearts and revives us. I love the image of the Spirit as a wind blowing wherever it wants.
ILL: What do you do when you want to get some fresh air in your house? You open the windows and doors, and let the wind blow where it wants. You open up. As long as the doors and windows are closed and locked, no wind is blowing through your house. Things stay stale. Do you want a fresh breeze? You’ve got to open up and let the wind blow where it will.
That’s what I’m inviting you to do in a few minutes: open up and the let the Spirit blow into your life in a fresh way. As long as you are closed off, no wind will blow in your life. I’m inviting you to lay down your fears, your prejudice, your theological hangups, your doubts—whatever keeps you closed up—lay it all down and simply open up to God. Let the Wind blow where it will. It is the Spirit who gives life.
And what will happen to you? I don’t know! We’re all different, so our experience of the Spirit will be different. Paul said that the Spirit distributes gifts to people as He wills. It’s His call. The Holy Spirit will give you what you need. Here some possibilities.
You may speak in tongues or have some other spiritual experience. That happened to this first group.
Acts 1:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
That may happen—and it’s ok. Or you may have some other profound or unique experience of the Spirit’s presence. When I ask God to fill me, I don’t dictate the terms. I just ask, open the windows and receive whatever He wants to give me. That’s up to Him.
You will definitely experience a new power in your life.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
You will receive power to live for Jesus, to be His representative, to tell others His story. How many of you need fresh power?
ILL: One New Year’s Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas.
Guess whose float it was? Standard Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas.
Often, we run out of gas. We have all the resources of God at our disposal, but we forget, run on our own power and run out of gas.
Anybody feel out of gas? Ask God to fill you again! You will receive power!
You may experience God’s love in a new way.
Romans 5:5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
The Holy Spirit pours out God’s love in our hearts. You may simply be overwhelmed by God’s love for you.
And you will be filled with joy!
Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22–23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
These are some of the things that happen to us when the Spirit is poured out in our lives.
So what do we do?
Conclusion: Ask for the Spirit!
Here is what Jesus said:
Luke 11:11–13 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Moms and dads, when your kids ask you for food, what do you give them? Snakes? Scorpions? Rocks? You give them food! It may not always be the food they asked for—it may be chicken instead of chocolate cake, or milk instead of Mountain Dew. But you happily give them food. You love your kids and you want to give them what they need. You want to give them what will be good for them. So if you do that, let’s give God some credit!
How much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? He knows you’re dry. He knows that you need the Spirit. And He gives to anyone who asks. So ask.
We’re going to finish by singing and worshipping God. And I want to invite you, as I have the last few weeks, to feel free to step out and come up front. Make a move towards God. And as we sing, lift your hands and ask Him to fill you.
Here’s the thing. I hope every one of you will ask God to pour out His Spirit on you. I certainly am going to. I’m going to ask God to fill me in a fresh way. I’m going to open my doors and windows and invite the wind of the Spirit to blow where it will. I hope you will too. I hope all of you will—and not all of us are going to fit down front. So you can do this right where you’re standing, and I hope you will. I hope you all will ask to be filled. Ask God to pour out His Spirit on you.
And if you feel a need to make a physical move towards God, then come as we sing. But come or stay, open your heart and ask the Spirit to fill you.
During a revival, things are better. Prayer is easier, the Bible comes alive, church is exciting, people are getting converted and changed all over. Of course, we learn things in the dry times that we don’t in the middle of an outpouring. We learn to live by faith, our trust deepens and character matures. This might explain why we go through alternating seasons of dryness and seasons of outpouring. We need both. But no one wants to live in a permanent drought! So if you’ve been dry, learn from it, grow through it, but don’t settle there! Don’t park in the desert! Ask God to pour out His Spirit on you in a fresh way.