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WHY NO REVIVAL IN THE WEST? - PART I

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, November 8, 2009

“If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of…?” (Judges 6:13).


This is the beginning of Gideon’s inquiry. You will notice, by reading the rest of the chapter, that God did not answer Gideon’s questions. I think that God did not answer him because He knew that Gideon already understood the reason that Israel was under bondage to the Midianites. He had doubtlessly heard a prophet, at least by second hand, who gave God's answer,

“And I said unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice” (Judges 6:10).

When we look at the current situation in the churches, we are as dismayed as Gideon. We ask,

“If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?"
       (Judges 6:13a).

We answer with the words God gave the prophet, “Ye have not obeyed my voice” (Judges 6:10).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

God knows that the Christian church has been in the wilderness many a long year…yes, we have been in bondage, we have been in fear, we have suffered persecution and derision, and it is still going on…There has been only one major revival since 1859 (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway Books, 1992, page 129).

That is a clear picture of the present state of the churches, especially in the Western world today. And we should ask God the reason for the sad state of our churches. We should ask, as Gideon did,

“If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of…?”
       (Judges 6:13).

This inquiry of Gideon divides naturally into two questions.

I. First, why then has all this befallen us?

Why has there been so little true revival since 1859? Why have we been in such bondage for the last 150 years? Dr. Lloyd-Jones said,

May God give us grace to examine ourselves, and be honest with ourselves…Do we realize that God’s displeasure is upon the church? Why has there been such a long interval since God came down amongst His people in revival? Why this appalling long period? Why are things as they are? Why is the church counting for so little? (ibid.).

Some say it is because human nature is so wicked today. But that cannot be the reason, because human nature has always been wicked. Human nature is no more wicked today than it was in the time of the Inquisition, in the Middle Ages, when our Baptist and Protestant forefathers were burned at the stake for their faith! And yet, in that dark period, God sent revival! So, why doesn’t He send it now?

Others say that there is no revival because we are in the great end-time Apostasy. They will tell you that this Apostasy prevents revival. But that cannot be true either. Make no mistake here. I am a Dispensationalist. I believe in Bible prophecy. I believe that we are in the beginning of “the apostasy” (cf. II Thessalonians 2:3). But Bible prophecy shows that no amount of apostasy can stop revival when Almighty God sends it! What could be a worse time of apostasy than the Great Tribulation – with the Antichrist himself ruling the world? And yet we are specifically told in the Bible that the greatest revival of all time will occur in the very midst of this most monstrous apostasy of all! An unprejudiced reading of Revelation 7:4-10 shows that the greatest of all revivals will occur during the very height of the greatest of all apostasies! The Scofield note correctly says, “The Great Tribulation will be, however, a period of salvation. An election out of Israel is seen as sealed for God (Rev. 7:4-8), and an innumerable multitude of Gentiles (Rev. 7:9), are said to have come ‘out of the great tribulation’” (Scofield Study Bible, note on Revelation 7:14). I think this should end the idea that the Great Apostasy stops revival!

Furthermore, at the revival of Pentecost, Peter said,

“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call”
   
 (Acts 2:39).

Now, either that verse is true, or it is not true. You can either accept what it says, or you can reject it. Do we believe that “the promise is unto…all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” – or do we reject it?

The greatest revival in the whole course of Chinese history is going on right now in the People’s Republic of China – and in other parts of the Third World. The Communists themselves have not been able to stop the work of God in China and Vietnam! Today, thousands are coming to Christ in the Arab world. The Muslims themselves are not able to stop them! And if the Communists and Muslims cannot stop revival in Asia and the Arab world, and the Antichrist himself cannot stop revival in the Great Tribulation, why should we think that the apostasy in Western nations is what stops revival here today? No, apostasy is not what stops revival in the English-speaking world. We must look elsewhere to find the answer to Gideon’s question,

“If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?”
       (Judges 6:13a).

The true reason for the disappearance of revival in the mid-19th century was a change of belief about conversion that occurred in that period. Iain H. Murray points out that

Man is more lost than he understands and the older evangelism [of the 18th and early 19th centuries] believed that the first objective in gospel preaching is to bring men to despair of themselves…the first real impediment to conversion is the absence of conviction of sin…The preacher’s first duty is to address that fact by awakening the conscience to the meaning of sin, and to sin not simply as a wrong action requiring forgiveness, but as an evil principle governing man’s very heart. A sinner’s knowledge of his own inability is therefore part of the knowledge which leads him to recognize that what he needs is a new nature. That is why Nettleton and the [18th and early 19th century] brethren believed that the new measures [introduced by Finney would ruin true evangelism and stop true revival] (Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism, Banner of Truth, 1994, page 370).

This great book, especially chapter 14, should be read and re-read by those who want to understand Gideon’s question,

“If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?”
       (Judges 6:13a).

The answer is simple, and is explained in the 14th chapter of Murray’s book: revivals stopped occurring after 1859 because Finney and his followers insisted on instant “decisions for Christ,” rather than the old, Scriptural way of allowing the Holy Spirit to do His convicting work, making people deeply aware of their ruined state, and their terrible inherited guilt, before real conversions could occur. Finney and the new preachers insisted on immediate decisions for Christ without the Holy Spirit’s work of convincing people of their sin, their ruined natures, and inherited guilt from Adam.

It was so much “easier” to get people to “come forward” than to go through a groaning, frightening inner experience of their guilt, and their ruined and rebellious inner natures. Why bother with preaching and counselling to make people see that their very natures are utterly ruined and helpless? Why bother with all that when you can simply get them to come forward and pronounce them saved?

The old (18th and early 19th century) method of probing the sinner’s heart until he knew his very nature was evil, was given up – and Finney’s new method, of getting them to come forward and pronouncing them saved, overwhelmed the old method. As a direct result of this change, evangelism was ruined, and revivals virtually stopped after 1859. Awakening and real conversion came to be swiftly replaced by superficial “decisions” for Christ – without dealing with man’s inner sin, inherited from Adam. People were put on an assembly line, induced to run down the aisle, and then were pronounced saved. This is what stopped revival and ruined the churches. After a few decades of this “assembly line” approach, the Congregational, Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches were filled with people who had not been convinced of their sinful nature, nor truly converted to Christ.

This new approach, which Finney popularized, filled the Protestant and Baptist churches with millions of unconverted people. We have never gotten over it. And God has never again sent the mighty revivals He did throughout history before 1859. It was in the 1859 revival that the old methods were used for the last time in a major way (Chapter 14, Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism, Banner of Truth, 1994). Every serious student of revival should read and re-read this highly enlightening chapter. Click here to order it from Amazon.com.

Gideon asked,

“If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?”
       (Judges 6:13a).

The answer is that evangelicals, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, substituted human “decisions” for real, inward-probing, Spirit-convicting conversions. And that very same error is carried on to this present day in nearly all of the churches.

Even the Calvinistic churches today have a subtle form of “decisionism.” They tell people to make Jesus the Lord of their lives, and believe “that” He died to pay for their sins. We call this “Lordship salvation” and “doctrinal belief.” But these methods of modern Calvinism are just as hollow and man-centered as the other less subtle forms of “decisionism.” Where is guilt? Where is conviction of sin? Where is real union with Jesus Christ? Where is real conversion? Alas! They are absent from modern Calvinistic evangelism! And don’t you dare dismiss me as an “Arminian.” I totally reject man’s ability to contribute anything to his own salvation! When it comes to conversion, I stand squarely with the Puritans, with Whitefield and with Spurgeon.

Modern “decisionism,” in all its various forms, is the reason “all this has befallen us,” and the churches are so powerless today. They are literally filled with lost people as a result of superficial “decisionism.” “Just get them down the aisle, and baptize them,” so say many modern evangelicals. “Just let them believe the Westminster Catechism and accept them as God’s elect,” so say modern Calvinists. But these “decisionist” methods have ruined our churches. This is the answer to Gideon's first question, as it applies to us,

“If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?”
       (Judges 6:13a).

II. Second, where are all God’s miracles, which our fathers told us of?

That was Gideon's second question,

“And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of…?”
      (Judges 6:13b).

A little reading on the subject of the history of revivals shows us how far we have fallen short of Biblical conversion and revival in our day. I will take at random some descriptions of revival from the pages of Christian history. It seems to me that a thinking person, after reading some of the accounts of these great revivals of the past, will be forced to ask himself,

“And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of…?”
      (Judges 6:13b).

To answer Gideon’s question, as it is applied to us today, we must learn from the historical records what God did in revivals in the past. As the Psalmist said,

“I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11).

By remembering and studying what God did in past revivals, we learn that revivals always begin with a terrible conviction of sin. Brian Edwards makes this clear in his book, Revival! A People Saturated With God. Everyone interested in true revival should obtain a copy of this book, published in 1991 by Evangelical Press, 12 Wooler Street, Darlington, County Durham, DL1 1RQ, England. Brian Edwards wrote,

      It is often the form that this conviction of sin takes that troubles those who read of revival. Sometimes the experience is crushing. People weep uncontrollably, and worse! But there is no such thing as a revival without tears of conviction and sorrow.
       In January 1907 God was moving in a powerful way in North Korea, and a Western missionary recalls one particular scene: “As the prayer continued, a spirit of heaviness and sorrow for sin came down upon the audience. Over on one side, someone began to weep, and in a moment the whole audience was weeping. Man after man would rise, confess his sins, break down and weep, and then throw himself on the floor and beat the floor with his fists in perfect agony of conviction…Again, after another confession, they would break out in uncontrollable weeping, and we would all weep, we could not help it. And so the meeting went on until two o’clock A.M., with confession and weeping and praying.”
       He went on to describe a meeting a few nights later when many…were brought to a deep conviction of sin: “My last glimpse of the audience is photographed indelibly on my brain. Some threw themselves full length on the floor…Every man forgot every other. Each was face to face with God. I can hear that fearful sound of hundreds of men pleading with God for life, for mercy. The cry went out over the city till the heathen were in consternation.
       Scenes like these are typical of almost every recorded revival. There is no revival without deep, uncomfortable and humbling conviction of sin (Brian Edwards, Revival! A People Saturated With God, Evangelical Press, 1991, pp. 115-116).
       Revival in China in 1906 was “marked by the wholly unusual conviction of sin.” In 1921, in the revival that began in the East Anglian fishing ports of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth [England], strong fishermen were literally thrown to the floor under conviction, until one eyewitness reported: “The ground around me was like a battlefield with souls crying to God for mercy” (ibid., p. 116).
       When God came to Cornwall [England] in 1814, the people…were in great distress over their sin…During this “meeting”…hundreds were crying for mercy at once. Some remained in distress of soul for one hour, some for two, some six, some nine, twelve, and some for fifteen hours before the Lord spoke peace to their souls – then they would…proclaim the wonderful works of God.
       In the first half of the nineteenth century [in America] God used the ministry of Asahel Nettleton in revival for over thirty years, and during his preaching scenes of deep conviction were commonplace. One observer described a meeting at Calway near Saratoga Springs in the summer of 1819: “The room was so crowded that we were obliged to request all who had recently found relief [who had been converted] to retire below, and spend their time in prayer for those above. This evening will never be forgotten. The scene is beyond description. Did you ever witness two hundred sinners, with one accord in one place, weeping for their sins? Until you have seen this, you have no adequate conceptions of the solemn scene. I felt as though I was standing on the verge of the eternal world; while the floor under my feet was shaken by the trembling of anxious souls in view of a judgment to come. The solemnity…was interrupted only by the sighs and sobs of anxious souls…I only add that some of the most stout, hard-hearted, heaven-daring rebels have been in the most awful distress” (ibid., pp. 116-117).
       At Cambuslang [Scotland] – and the experience was by no means exceptional in the story of revivals – men and women suffered such agony and distress over their sin that some would faint or cry out under the burden (ibid.).
       So universal is the work of conviction in revival that Jonathan Edwards puts it at the top of his list in describing how the sinner is converted: “Persons are first awakened with a sense of their miserable condition by nature [and] the danger that they are in of perishing eternally…Persons are sometimes brought to the borders of despair, and it looks as black as midnight to them a little before the day dawns in their souls. [Several] instances there have been, of persons who have had such a sense of God’s wrath for sin, that they have been overborne; and made to cry out under an astonishing sense of their guilt, wondering that God suffers such guilty wretches to live upon the earth” (ibid., p. 119).

So, from these examples, we see that there can be no revival without deep, piercing conviction of sin. And they must be left under conviction until God Himself draws them to Christ.

Can there be real revival today? Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that it is possible. He said,

But it may well be that your position is… “All that ended in the Apostolic age, therefore it has nothing to do with us.” My reply is that the Scriptures are also meant to apply to us today, and that if you confine all this to the Apostolic era you are leaving very little for us at the present time…In the New Testament we have a picture of the church, and it is relevant to the church at all times and in all ages.
       Thank God, the history of the church proves the rightness of this contention. The evidence is abundant. The long history of the church shows repeatedly that what we find in the New Testament has characterized the church always in periods of revival and reformation. This is why I have always maintained that next to the reading of the Bible itself, to read the history of revivals is one of the most encouraging things that one can ever do.
       Take the situation with which we are confronted today. Look at the task, look at the state of the world, look at the modern mentality. Without believing in and knowing something of the power of the Spirit, it is a heart-breaking task. I certainly could not go on another day but for this…The situation would be completely hopeless. But that is not the case. What we read of in the New Testament is equally possible and open to us today; and it is our only hope (Martyn Lloyd Jones, M.D., Preaching and Preachers, Zondervan, 1971, pp. 314-315).

And so we end with Gideon’s question again,

“If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of?”
       (Judges 6:13).

All of this has befallen us because we have sinned. We have turned away from the old paths of conviction of man’s Adamic nature, emphasizing the sinner’s depravity, and guilt and hopelessness, without having a true knowledge of Jesus Christ and a real conversion; just letting people go with a mere “decision.” If we turn back to the old ways, and give up our modern manipulations – to get people down the aisle, or to get them to believe the Westminster Catechism – and go back to the old, Biblical way of heart conviction and thorough conversion to Christ, we may once again see God’s power in our midst, such as the people in mainland China are experiencing today, and as the elect will experience revival in the midst of the Great Tribulation.

So, let us continue to pray for an outpouring of God’s spirit in revival on our church. Jesus said we “ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). God bless you as you continue to fast and pray for real conversions and real revival!

If you are still unconverted, we are fasting and praying that you will come under heavy conviction of sin, and be drawn by God’s Spirit to Jesus, that you may be saved from sin through the Blood He shed on the Cross to redeem you from sin and Hell. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Judges 6:1, 6-13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“O Breath of Life” (by Bessie P. Head, 1850-1936).


THE OUTLINE OF

WHY NO REVIVAL IN THE WEST? - PART I

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of…?” (Judges 6:13).

(Judges 6:10)

I.   First, why then has all this befallen us? Judges 6:13a;
Revelation 7:4-14; Acts 2:39.

II.  Second, where are all God’s miracles, which our fathers
told us of? Judges 6:13b; Psalm 77:11; Luke 18:1.