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THE JOY OF REVIVAL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 10, 2016

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).


That is an exhortation to pray for revival. The word “revival” has become offensive to some of our people and unpleasant to others. But the word “revival” itself is a sweet and happy word. Here are a list of synonyms, words that have a similar meaning – restoration, recovery, return to life, refreshed. Refreshed – that’s a good one. Enliven – that’s another one that’s good. Who wouldn’t want to be refreshed with a cold glass of iced tea on a hot day? Who wouldn’t want to recover health after being sick for a long time? Who wouldn’t want to be restored to a job he lost? Those are synonyms, words that mean the same as revival – refresh, recover, restore – they are all happy and positive words, words that show us that “revival” should be seen as a happy word too. But the word “revival” has become an unhappy word in our church.

I myself was responsible for that error. In the church split and its aftermath, I spoke several times on revival. But I now know that I did it the wrong way. What I said about revival wasn’t false or wrong. But the way I said it was often wrong. I made it seem hard and painful and certainly not happy and fun! I should have spoken more on the joy and freedom and happiness that comes when there is an outpouring of God’s Spirit in revival.

The church split and its aftermath had a deadening effect on all of us, including me. Please try to understand what happened to me because of the great church split. I said a lot of true things in my sermon last Sunday, “The New Baptist Tabernacle!”. I said that our church became timid, introverted, weak and inefficient. I said, “We retreated into our castle, pulled up the drawbridge and settled down in solitude.” Please try to understand that this happened to me as well as you. The church split and its aftermath made me become introverted, weak and inefficient. I had lost all my friends. Finally I lost the one really close friend I had outside this church. I had no friends here in our church either. The only person I could speak to openly was my good and faithful partner Dr. Christopher Cagan. He became the one and only person I trusted enough to open my heart to – or so I thought. I leaned so heavily on Dr. Cagan that I sometimes called him ten or fifteen times a day to pour out my fears and troubles. It’s a wonder to me that I didn’t lose him as a friend too. If he wasn’t such a good and faithful friend, I would have lost him also. Thank you for putting up with me, Doctor! I had no friend but you after the church split. God bless you, my dear friend, for helping this old preacher! I don’t know how my lovely wife put up with me. I had become a bitter, lonely old man. Ileana, please forgive me!

In “The New Baptist Tabernacle” sermon I also said that the “church kids” were wounded. “They didn’t enjoy being here.” Of course they didn’t! I myself didn’t enjoy being here. I said they became bitter and skeptical. So did I. I said the “church kids” felt that all “the sermons began to sound alike to them.” They did to me as well. I said the “church kids” “no longer saw any hope for our church.” I have to admit I didn’t see any hope for it either. I said “I kept trying the same things, and they weren’t working any more. I didn’t know how to turn the church around.” And then it got even worse. Now “I was facing the possibility of death from cancer. My mind was filled with despair and hopelessness.” And finally, the chemicals they injected in me to treat my cancer caused me to have awful mood swings. I began to fall apart. I rebuked people who were trying to do their jobs. I started to feel that I couldn’t trust myself to say the right things. I felt like a dead man trying to pastor a church full of people much younger than me. I didn’t know what to do. I felt bitter, lonely, half dead and desperate. I actually thought about resigning as pastor of our church.

I was grasping for life like a drowning man when I asked three of our young men to bring their prayer meeting to my house. Aaron Yancy, Jack Ngann, and John Cagan came and we prayed together – late at night in my home study room. Slowly their prayers gave me a little strength and a little hope. Thank you, guys! You’ll never fully know what you did for me. You not only saved my life, but I think you may have saved our church as well! As they prayed with me I began to see a new vision for our church. I began to see that we needed to take some risks, and throw open the doors of our hearts and let God lead us in a new way.

And that’s when I began to hope that we might have a revival. But I still didn’t know how to present revival in a new way. I still gave the same stories about revival that most of you had already heard.

But then something startling happened. One of our young people saw the sermon I had prepared for tonight and read it. That young person told me it was the wrong thing to preach. Dr. Cagan was shocked when that was said to me. But I knew instantly that it was right. I knew I should throw away the first sermon and write a new one. The one I am giving you now is that new sermon.

When I read that paragraph to Dr. Cagan he told me to weaken it. I told him I was not going to weaken it or change it. Why? Because that is exactly what happens when we take off our masks and confess our faults one to another in revival. We may confess that we were wrong. We may tell another person that we hated them, and tell someone else that we were jealous of them. All the things that separate us come down, and joy flows out of it – when we “confess [our] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16). Healed of the hurts, and bitterness, and lack of love, and unbelief, and jealousy, and hatred, and lust, and hardness of heart, and hypocrisy, and pride, and prayerlessness. All of that and more is shared openly with each other in revival. Note that I said, “in revival.” It won’t do any good to do it in the flesh. We must be led by the Spirit of God, and that only happens in revival. We had open confessions in the past that did no good because they were not led by the Holy Spirit.

And then the best part happens. The joy and love and tenderness and renewed friendships that come out of sharing with each other and praying for each other are like Heaven on earth. I know. I’ve seen it happen. If I could go on a time machine back to any other time in my life, I would go back to the First Chinese Baptist Church in the summer of 1969, into the presence of God during that time of revival. Hearts were melted and joy flooded our souls as we took off our masks, confessed our sins, and prayed for each other. We were led by the Spirit of God to do that.

The other day John Cagan said to me, “You want to see revival because you’ve tasted it – and you want to taste it again.” True – but only half true. Our text tells us to pray for things that we know nothing about, things we have never seen or “tasted.” It says,

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).

We don’t have to “taste” revival before we pray for it. We can know what it is by reading about it. We can pray for it even though we have never seen a revival. I had never seen a revival when I prayed for it the first time. I read about it and wanted it, even though I had never seen a revival yet.

Now, see, I have confessed my sins and shortcomings to you in this sermon and last night. It didn’t hurt me. And it didn’t hurt you. It helps you to know who I am. It helps you to know what to pray for when you pray for me. It helps us to know each other, and love each other more.

Here is a part of an e-mail sent to me by a guy named Rod. He sends a monthly donation to help our Internet mission. Rod said,

     To a “Courageous Old Man”:
     Dr. Hymers, I believe your plans for a “new” Baptist Tabernacle are inspired of God. As I listened to you speak, on “The New Baptist Tabernacle,” I couldn’t help but think you had an epiphany [an awakening, a visitation of the Holy Spirit]. Well done, thou good and faithful servant,
     Your Brother in Christ, Rod.

Thank you, Rod. Your e-mails always make me happy!

I want you dear brothers and sisters to have an “epiphany” too. That is why I want you to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our church. It’s not just to have more conversions and get more people. That will come later, when our church is happier than it is now. Don’t be afraid. Don’t wait for me to say, “Let’s have open confessions now” – or even “Let’s pray now.” We have become so regimented and regulated that no one dares to pray unless they are told to pray. That’s what happened last Sunday night. At the end of my sermon I asked Aaron and John to pray. Then we sat down and waited – and waited – and waited – for close to 15 minutes. It was so quiet you could hear your own heart beating. No one spoke. No one prayed. Certainly no one gave a testimony or confession. One brother wrote me an e-mail and said, “You didn’t tell us to pray.” Do I have to tell you to pray? Are you that afraid to break the so-called “rules” and start praying? Do you have to wait for one of the deacons to start the prayers in the Wednesday or Thursday night prayer meeting? Are we that constricted and regimented? Are we that cold and frightened? I’m not going to tell you when to pray. I’m going to let God tell you that. I’m not going to tell you when to confess sins and make things right with each other. I’m going to let God tell you that. God must make that happen if we are to have a “New Baptist Tabernacle.”

This morning John Cagan gave a great sermon. I helped him some with the grammar and syntax, but the thoughts were his own, and we were blessed by it. At the end of the sermon John said,

The church has something that the whole world needs. The church has Jesus Christ. Christ is the real attraction. But people cannot see Christ. Because Christ is in Heaven. So lost people have to see Christ’s holy image in you and me! (“Forget the Past and Reach for the Prize!”).

That will come true among us as the Holy Spirit comes down, and we take off our masks, get real with each other, and pour out our prayers and praises to God. We will each have our own epiphany then, and Christ will fill all your vision and all my vision, “that all may see Thy holy image reflected in me.” Please stand and sing our theme song for this summer. It’s number 7 on your song sheet. Please sing the last stanza only.

Fill all my vision, let naught of sin
   Shadow the brightness shining within.
Let me see only Thy blessed face,
   Feasting my soul on Thy infinite grace.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.

You may be seated.

In my sermon last Sunday night, I said, “Revival usually comes first to those who are already converted. But they don’t have a real awareness of God’s presence in their lives. They come to church out of habit, but they have no living sense of God’s presence. They pray, but it feels like they are just saying words. They have no sense of God actually hearing them. They don’t feel that their prayers will be answered. They do not sense that God is listening to them...Their prayers may sound powerful. But they have no inner conversation with God. Often in revival those who seem to lead in prayer...are the first to realize that their ‘sins have hid his face from [them] that he will not hear’ (Isaiah 59:2).

Often revival begins when [someone] who is a good Christian feels that his sin has caused him [not to have a] holy and tender sense of God’s presence... I will [give] an account of a great revival. How did it start? It started in a prayer meeting on Saturday night. There were the usual prayers, but no sense of God’s presence in the meeting. Then one [person] broke down and wept. This was a very unusual thing...He confessed openly before the whole congregation ‘that he had hardness of heart.’ As he spoke with tears in his eyes, ‘the conviction spread until people were crying all over the meeting.’ These were all converted people, but [his] open confession made them realize that they too had hearts that were hardened...and it was at this point that the Holy Spirit fell on the meeting...A girl that was known to be a good Christian...was convicted of the sin of cheating. [A] young man was convicted of jealousy, a small thing to many, but it terrified him...A big, strong [man] was wringing his hands with tears streaming down his face. This man had led many to Christ. But he had a fault to confess, and he could find no peace until he stood and confessed it...When Christians take off their masks and get real with each other, as they are led by God’s Spirit, it produces a new tenderness and love in the church. Old jealousies, fears and [angers] are replaced by real compassion and tender love and it produces new joy and happiness in a church.” Brothers and sisters, I think that this is what we need in our church. The lost people who come will sense our love. “Fill all my vision, that all may see, Thy holy Image reflected in me.”

I saw things exactly like that in the late 1960s at the Chinese Baptist church. God became real to us. I was reminded of Job 42:5, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” But we cannot pray for revival to come to our church unless we are willing for it to come to us personally – unless we “confess [our] faults one to another, and pray one for another” (James 5:16).

This is what happened in the great Welsh revival in 1905. This is what happened at Asbury College in Kentucky in the mid 1960s. This is what we see in China today. This is what I personally saw in the Chinese Baptist church when I was a member. It was just open confession of sin – sins of bitterness against another Christian. Sins of jealousy. Sins of pride. Sins of boasting. Sins of hatred. Sins of lack of love. Sins of hypocrisy. Sins of lying. Sins of hardness of heart. Sins of prayerlessness. Sins of lust. It was just open confession of sins, weeping, and people going to each other and asking for forgiveness for not loving them. We can’t make that happen. It has to be the work of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t stop praying for God to come down to us, and refresh us, and restore us, and give us joy! I believe that if something like that doesn’t happen in our church we will not be able to have a “new” Baptist Tabernacle. Prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the most important thing to pray for in our church at this time.

Revival is not an option for us. It is not something to just talk about, and even pray for sometimes. This is an inner city church. We are literally surrounded by demonic forces and evil. As I was talking to Aaron Yancy the other night, another call came in on my phone. I clicked the receiver and said, “Hello.” There was a pause. Then a horrible sounding voice said, “This is the Devil. I am coming to get you.” It sent a chill down my spine! We will never survive the evil forces. We will never conquer the principalities and powers of darkness. We will never prevail against the Devil – unless God comes down and visits us with His presence and power. And our prayers will be weak and ineffective if we don’t hunger and thirst for the living God to come down in our church.

Therefore I say to you what I said last Sunday night – “Don’t stop praying for God to rend the heavens and come down among us. It is us who need that now, not visitors or new people. It is us, not them, that we should pray for most at this time. Don’t stop praying for God to move us to ‘confess [our] faults one to another, and pray for one another, that [we] may be healed.’ Healed of our coldness [lack of love, pride, and bitterness, and other sins of the heart and mind]. We must have that kind of openness with each other, and only the Spirit of God can make that a real and loving experience. The barriers between us will come down, and we will have God’s power and presence. I want Aaron Yancy and Jack Ngann and John Cagan to pray for this to happen in our church. Aaron first, then Jack, then John...” (prayers).

Jesus came down to earth to suffer and die on the Cross to pay the full penalty for our sins. But you must turn away from your sinful lifestyle. You must repent and trust Jesus. Only He can wash away all your sins with His Blood. Only He can save you from the flames of Hell. Only Jesus can save you from your sin. If you want to be counselled you need to see Dr. Cagan and make an appointment for him to counsel you. Or you can phone him at his home office during the week to set up an appointment. Or you can speak to him about an appointment tonight.

Please stand and sing hymn number 7, stanza 3.

Fill all my vision, let naught of sin
   Shadow the brightness shining within.
Let me see only Thy blessed face,
   Feasting my soul on Thy infinite grace.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.

Everyone please stand and pray for God to send down His Spirit so Christ can be magnified in our lives and in our church (prayers). Please stand and sing all three stanzas of hymn number 7.

Fill all my vision, Saviour, I pray,
   Let me see only Jesus today;
Though through the valley Thou leadest me,
   Thy fadeless glory encompasseth me.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.

Fill all my vision, every desire
   Keep for Thy glory; my soul inspire,
With Thy perfection, Thy holy love,
   Flooding my pathway with light from above.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.

Fill all my vision, let naught of sin
   Shadow the brightness shining within.
Let me see only Thy blessed face,
   Feasting my soul on Thy infinite grace.
Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
   Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine.
Fill all my vision, that all may see
   Thy holy Image reflected in me.
(“Fill All My Vision” by Avis Burgeson Christiansen, 1895-1985).


If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Isaiah 64:1-3.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“O Breath of Life” (by Bessie P. Head, 1850-1936).