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UNITED PRAYER AND THE PROMISE OF REVIVAL

(SERMON NUMBER 21 ON REVIVAL)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Monday Evening, September 7, 2015

“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:18-20).


The context of this passage (Matthew 18:15-20) shows that Jesus was speaking of the church. He speaks here of the authority He gives to a church, “Whatsoever ye (the church) shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye (the church) shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). Dr. Timothy Lin said Christ “never taught us the methods for establishing and expanding a church, nor the techniques for examining and training a Christian. Such omissions are effectively telling the church this message – If [the church] is willing to use the authority given to her, and if she appropriates God’s boundless riches, then the wisdom needed for church growth will certainly become her subjective wisdom instead of an objective knowledge” (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, FCBC, 1992, pp. 89, 90). Then Dr. Lin gave James 1:5,

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God...and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

I have thought about this for many years. Instead of giving us the “technique” of how to make disciples, the Bible tells us to pray for God to give us wisdom. A “technique” that seemed to produce disciples in the past, may not work in another situation. I have been reading a book that claims to teach us how to make disciples. It is very complicated and difficult. But one thing is missing – the book does not even mention how Jesus made disciples. The book says people must be saved first, and then learn how to be disciples. There are many books like that. But that is not how Jesus trained His disciples. He did just the opposite! He trained them to be disciples first, and only then did He breathe “on them [saying], Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22). Dr. J. Vernon McGee said this was when they were regenerated (born again), on Easter Sunday evening. So, Christ first taught them to be disciples, and only then were they converted. I believe this is an insight given to us in accordance with James 1:5.

Another problem relates to baptism. Should people be baptized immediately upon their profession of faith? Many men say they must be baptized immediately because that is what was done in the Book of Acts. Yet there are many things in the Book of Acts that we don’t do today – such as putting handkerchiefs and aprons on sick people to cure their diseases and cast out evil spirits (Acts 19:12). In the Book of Acts people took baptism very seriously. Both Jews and Gentiles who were converted were placed immediately into great danger when they were baptized. That is not true at all in the Western world today. People treat baptism as a very light thing. Therefore it should be postponed until it is conclusive that the person is a true convert. I believe this was another insight given to us in accordance with James 1:5.

Another problem relates to evangelism. How do you get unsaved people to come into the church and be saved? I struggled with that for many years. We tried tracts. We tried the Evangelism Explosion method. We tried the Campus Crusade Questionnaire. We tried preaching on the street. Nothing worked very well. Finally, as I prayed, God seemed to tell me to try a new way – one that no one used. We would just send everyone out to talk to people in casual conversation – no tracts, no Bibles, not even prayer (out loud) – just talking to young people on the street, in the malls, at the colleges. We would simply ask them to come to a party at the Baptist church. We would ask them for their first name and cell phone number. We would then phone them and arrange a ride for them to carpool in to church. We would tell them everything that was going to happen. I would preach the Gospel. Mr. Griffith would sing. Then we would all have a meal together – and a birthday party! It worked! Dozens, even scores, of young people came to the party every Sunday! Yes, most of them would not come back – but some came back each week! Our whole church now has one purpose and motive – to get those who have ears to hear to come with us and become soul-winners themselves!

We lacked wisdom. But we prayed, and God gave us wisdom to use this new method. Our theme verse is, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23). “Bring Them In.” Sing it!

Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.
(“Bring Them In” by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).

But this new method will not work without the presence of God – the power of the Holy Spirit! We are learning the great lesson of our main text. Jesus said,

“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:18-20).

Verse 18 says,

“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).

Dr. Lin gave this comment, “Here the Bible uses the plural form of ‘you’ (‘I say unto you’ – plural; ‘you shall bind’ – plural; and ‘you shall loose’ – plural)...The Lord has bestowed...on His own church the authority that binds and looses” (ibid., p. 91).

Verse 19 says, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” Dr. Lin said, “Our Lord has emphatically reminded us that [binding and loosing comes] through the corporate effort executed [by] the entire church. In other words, only when Christians pray in one accord [in] the entire church, can the church then effectively use and enjoy such divine authority. The church of the last days, however, cannot see the reality of this truth, or remember the proper procedure for the appropriation of God’s power. What a great loss it is! She has the divine authority from heaven, but not the knowledge of its administration, yet she wants to bind the work of Satan, to loose the downtrodden, and to further experience the reality of God’s presence. Alas, it cannot be done!” (ibid., pp. 92, 93).

The power of united prayer is explained by Christ in Matthew 18:19, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” The key word here is “agree.” The Greek word is “sumphōnēō.” It comes from two Greek words – “phōnē” – to give out a sound, and “sumphŏnŏs” – sounding together. We get our English word “symphony” from it. For a piece of music to be enjoyable every musician in the orchestra must obey the conductor. Then each note and chord will be played harmoniously. Dr. Lin said, “A prayer meeting is similar. The only difference between a symphony and a prayer meeting is that a symphony has the harmony of sounds, while a [spiritual] prayer meeting has the harmony of hearts!” (ibid., pp. 93, 94).

Turn to Acts 1:14, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” Dr. Lin said that the Chinese Bible translates “in one accord” as “with the same heart and mind” (ibid.). When everyone in the prayer meeting prays with the same heart and mind, “The prayer meeting will then be successful and other ministries will also operate smoothly” (ibid.).

That is why it is so important to say “amen” from your heart while some brother is leading in prayer. This is seldom if ever heard in prayer meetings in America. I am convinced that is one reason why our churches lose 88% of their own young people – and are unable to win lost people from the world.

But we must not look at other churches. We ourselves need the power of God. In his book Fire From Heaven, Rev. Paul E. Cook correctly said, “Apart from divine visitations [of the Holy Spirit] no real progress could be expected within the life of the church or prosperity for the Gospel.” He also said, “Evangelism alone cannot produce lasting results, unless it is accompanied by a movement of the Holy Spirit” (Paul E. Cook, Fire From Heaven: Times of Extraordinary Revival, EP Books, 2009, pp. 41, 108).

We know how to do evangelism. We know how to get a crowd of young people to come to church. But we won’t have the power to convert them if the Holy Spirit is not present with us. Listen again to Paul Cook, “Evangelism alone cannot produce lasting results, unless it is accompanied by a movement of the Holy Spirit.” The Bible says,

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

Read the Book of Acts and you will see how they prayed, and God sent down the Holy Spirit to convert lost sinners,

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14).

A modern translation puts it like this, “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer” (NASV). Dr. Lin said the Chinese Bible translates it as prayer “with the same heart and the same mind.”

We have to admit that we are powerless compared to the churches in China. What makes them so strong in evangelism? You have seen in the videos how they pray, often with tears, for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. And they pray with one mind and heart.

Robert Murray McCheyne was only thirty years old when he died. But this young Presbyterian pastor saw great revivals in his church. McCheyne said,

The Word of God leads us to expect the Holy Spirit “like floods upon the dry ground” (Isaiah 44:3). Such “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19) and widespread, simultaneous conversions have repeatedly occurred in the history of the Church, as to prove conclusively that extraordinary religious awakenings and simultaneous conversions ought not to be regarded as peculiar to the Day of Pentecost, but as part of the ordinary working out of God’s great purpose of grace: for the conviction and conversion of the ungodly and for ultimately “bringing many sons unto glory,” Hebrews 2:10 (Robert Murray McCheyne, 1813-1843, “The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit”).

Robert McCheyne’s people prayed for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And God answered their united prayers, and scores of lost sinners were converted. Oh, let us all pray, with united prayer, for the God of Robert McCheyne to come down in our midst – to revive us all – and to convert lost sinners to Christ!

Great Spurgeon said that our prayers for the Spirit must be that He will draw sinners to Christ, for pardon through His Blood. Spurgeon said, “We do not want any other doctrine than – Christ lifted up upon His cross...This is the remedy that we believe in. Let others choose sweet music, pictures, [rock music, flashing lights], or human rites; we abhor them and pour contempt upon them. As for us, our only hope lies in [Christ] a substitute for sinners...the glorious truth that Christ Jesus came into the world to seek and to save sinners...The preaching of Christ is the way by which [lost sinners] shall be saved” (C. H. Spurgeon, 1834-1892, “Preparation for Revival,” a sermon delivered on October 30, 1864, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London).

But I can tell lost people that Christ’s death on the Cross is a substitute for their sins – and they will not believe it! I can tell them that the Blood of Christ can cleanse them of all sin – and they will not believe it! I can tell them that Christ is risen from the dead and praying for them in Paradise – and they will not believe it! I can tell them to come to Christ in simple trust and He will save them – and they will not believe it!

Only when the Spirit of God comes down will they believe it! Only when the Spirit of God comes down will they become convinced and horrified by their sin! Only when the Spirit of God comes down will they turn from their false hopes and throw themselves on the mercy of Christ Jesus! Only when the Spirit of God comes down will they find rest and peace and safety in the Blood of our crucified Redeemer! Therefore we must unite our hearts in prayer and supplication for the Holy Spirit to descend to convict, convince, and convert lost sinners in our midst! God can do it! I have seen it! God can do it! I have seen it! Believe it and pray with united prayer until God does it again. Amen.

Send a great revival to us, Lord.
   Send a great revival to us, Lord.
Send the Holy Spirit, promised in Thy Word
   And send a great revival to us, Lord.

Lord, send a revival,
   Lord, send a revival,
Lord, send a revival,
   And let it come down from Thee.

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(END OF SERMON)
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