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PRAYING FOR REVIVAL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Friday Evening, August 19, 2016


Please turn to Acts 1:8. It’s on page 1148 of the Scofield Study Bible. Please stand as I read it. These are the words Christ gave to the first Christians,

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth”
        (Acts 1:8).

You may be seated.

Some preachers say this refers only to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They say that we cannot expect the Holy Spirit to come down to us as He did back then. Many of them are afraid that their people would become Pentecostals if they told them an outpouring of the Spirit could come today. So they quench the work of conviction and conversion because they fear Pentecostalism. But they are wrong when they say we can’t expect the Holy Spirit to come down in our time. The last eight words of our text show that they are wrong, “And unto the uttermost part of the earth.” A modern translation puts it, “and even to the remotest part of the world.” Since those early Christians did not go to the “uttermost” or “remotest” part of the world, Jesus was speaking to all Christians, for all time. He told them, and us, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” This is proved by what Peter said a little later, in Acts 2:39. Turn to it.

“For the promise [of the Holy Spirit] 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).

So the Disciples went back to Jerusalem, and entered into an upper room to pray. What did they pray for? They prayed for the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised when He said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8). I completely agree with Iain H. Murray. He said,

While Pentecost instituted a new era, the work of Christ in bestowing the Spirit did not end then. And the fuller communication of the Spirit which marks the whole [Christian] age, begun at Pentecost, was not to be constant and unvarying; for were it so, what purpose could be served by praying for more of the Spirit of God as disciples are clearly directed to do? It was in response to the request ‘teach us to pray’ that Jesus said: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). This promise has no continuing relevance for Christians unless there is always more to be received (Iain H. Murray, Pentecost Today? The Biblical Understanding of Revival, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998, p. 21).

Alexander Moody Stuart said, “While the Holy Spirit is always present in his church, there are times when he draws nearer and puts forth a greater energy of power” (Murray, ibid., p. 22).

But we have seen only a little of that since the great revival of 1859, very little indeed. I am convinced that the main reason is the fact that most evangelicals no longer believe that conversions are miracles. Most evangelicals today think that conversions are nothing more than human decisions. They think all you have to do is persuade a lost person to say the words of a so-called “sinner’s prayer.” Just say those words and you are saved! Joel Osteen says that at the end of every sermon. He has people say the words of a prayer. Then he says, “We believe if you said those words you just got born again.” You see, there is no need for the Holy Spirit to perform a miracle! If you said those words “you just got born again.”

This is a return to the ancient heresy of Pelagianism – a doctrine which teaches that man is able to bring about his own salvation – in this case, by saying a few words! Or by coming “forward” in a Christian service – or by raising your hand! “All of you who want to be saved, just raise your hand.” This is raw Pelagianism! A return to that ancient heresy, which teaches that a lost person can save himself by some action, or by saying the words of a prayer. I call it the “magic prayer.” It is actually “magic” rather than Christian. In magic you say certain words, or do certain actions, and those words or actions produce a supernatural result. “Magic” ideas are all through our modern evangelical ideas of conversion as well! For a thorough examination of this problem read David Malcolm Bennett’s book, The Sinner’s Prayer: Its Origins and Dangers, Even Before Publishing, n.d., available at Amazon.com.

Every real conversion is a miracle. Please turn with me to Mark 10:26. It’s on page 1059 in the Scofield Study Bible.

“And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible…” (Mark 10:26, 27).

They asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered, “With men it is impossible.” Man in a state of sin cannot do anything to be saved or even help himself to be saved! But then Jesus said, “but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” The salvation of one person is a miracle from God! We have seen several hopeful conversions this year, one of them last night. Each real conversion is a miracle. Paul Cook correctly said, “The characteristics of revival are no different from the characteristics of any normal working of the Holy Spirit except in terms of intensity and extent” (Fire From Heaven, EP Books, 2009, p. 117).

When one person is converted it is a miracle from God. When many people are converted in a short period of time it is a miracle from God. The only difference is “in terms of intensity and extent.” When we pray for revival, we are praying for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of many people together.

What does the Holy Spirit do in conversion? First, “when he is come, he will reprove (convict)...of sin” (John 16:8). Paul Cook said, “People are never naturally convicted of their sin; by nature they are self-justifying. A specific work of the Spirit is required. And when the Spirit works, sin becomes abhorrent [horrible, repulsive], leading a person to hate it and forsake it.” As one girl said, “I was disgusted with myself.” That’s as good a definition of conviction as I have ever seen. “I was disgusted with myself.” If you do not have at least some conviction of sin like that, you will not have a real conversion. So we must pray for the Holy Spirit to give conviction of sin to those who are unsaved.

The second thing the Holy Spirit does in a conversion is to make Christ known to the person who is under conviction of sin. Jesus said, “He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:14). A modern translation could put it, “He will...take what is mine and make it known to you.” A lost person will never know Christ personally unless the Holy Spirit makes Him known. But if you are not convicted of sin, the Holy Spirit will not make Christ real to you in salvation.

So, when we are praying for the Holy Spirit to come down in power, we are mainly asking God to send the Spirit to (1) convict the lost person of his awful sin-nature, and (2) we must pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to that person, so he may actually know the power of Christ’s Blood cleansing him from sin. Conviction of sin and cleansing by Christ’s Blood are the two main works of the Spirit of God in a real conversion, as revealed in the 16th chapter of John. Brian H. Edwards said, “Not many Christians today know what to pray for when it is suggested they pray for revival” (Brian H. Edwards, Revival, Evangelical Press, 2004 edition, p. 80).

One of the reasons they don’t know what to pray for is that most Christians today do not see the need of lost people coming under conviction of sin, and they do not believe in “crisis conversion” as our forefathers did. But I have told you that we must pray for the Holy Spirit to come down and convict lost people attending our church. If they don’t come under conviction of sin they will not be saved.

And then, the other reason most evangelicals don’t know what to pray for is that most evangelicals today don’t believe in “crisis” conversion, as our forefathers did. Our forefathers said that a person under conviction was “awakened,” but not yet saved. Our forefathers said that an awakened person needed to go through the agony of turning away from sin, likened to a woman going through labor pains to have a baby. Only in this way, our forefathers said, could a person truly experience conversion (cf. the conversion of “Christian” in Pilgrim’s Progress).

John Samuel Cagan experienced a clear crisis conversion. His conversion was like that of John Bunyan, not like the so-called salvation of modern evangelicals.

      Prior to my conversion felt like dying...I could not find any form of peace...The Holy Spirit began to very definitely convict me of my sin in that time, but with my entire will I rejected all the thoughts I had about God and conversion. I refused to think about it, yet I could not stop feeling so tormented. By the Sunday morning of June 21st, 2009, I was thoroughly exhausted. I was so tired of it all. I began to hate myself, to hate my sin and how it made me feel.
      While Dr. Hymers was preaching, my pride was trying desperately to reject it, to not listen, but as he preached I could literally feel all my sin on my soul. I was counting down the seconds till the sermon would be over, but the pastor kept preaching, and my sins became endlessly worse and worse. I could no longer kick against the pricks, I had to be saved! Even as the invitation was given I resisted, but I just could not take it anymore. I knew that I was the very worst possible sinner I could be and that God was righteous to condemn me to Hell. I was so tired of struggling, I was so tired of everything I was. The pastor counseled me, and told me to come to Christ, but I would not. Even as all my sin convicted me I still would not have Jesus. These moments were the worst of all as I felt as if I could not be saved and I would just have to go to Hell. I was “trying” to get saved, I was “trying” to trust Christ and I couldn’t, I just could not will myself to Christ, and it made me feel so hopeless. I could feel my sin pushing me down into Hell yet I could feel my stubbornness forcing my tears away. I was stuck in this conflict.
      Suddenly the words of a sermon preached years before entered my mind: “Yield to Christ! Yield to Christ!” The thought that I would have to give up to Jesus so distressed me that for what seemed like a forever I simply would not. Jesus had given His life for me. The real Jesus went to be crucified for me when I was His enemy and I would not yield to Him. This thought broke me; I had to let all of it go. I just could not hold onto myself any longer, I had to have Jesus! In that moment I yielded to Him and came to Jesus by faith. In that moment it seemed as if I had to let myself die, and then Christ gave me life! There was no action or will of my mind but with my heart, with a simple resting in Christ, He saved me! He washed my sin away in his Blood! In that single moment, I stopped resisting Christ. It was so clear that all I had to do was trust Him; I can recognize the exact instant when it ceased to be me and it was only Christ. I had to yield! In that moment there was no physical feeling or blinding light, I did not need a feeling, I had Christ! Yet in trusting Christ it felt as if my sin was lifted off my soul. I turned from my sin, and I looked to Jesus alone! Jesus saved me.
      How Jesus must have loved me to forgive the least deserving sinner who had grown up in a good church and still turned against Him! Words seem to fall so short of description of my conversion experience and in expression of my love for Christ. Christ gave His life for me and for this I give my all to Him. Jesus sacrificed His throne for a cross for me even as I spit on His church and mocked His salvation; how can I ever sufficiently proclaim His love and mercy? Jesus took my hate and anger away and gave me love instead. He gave me more than just a new start – He gave me a new life.

I agree with Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones that the Apostle Paul gives us an example of a real conversion in the last two verses of Romans 7. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said these verses describe Paul’s own conversion. I agree. Paul said,

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

That is conviction! – when the sinner gives up on himself and is disgusted with his sinful heart that has enslaved him. But then Paul said,

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25).

That is conversion – when the tormented sinner is delivered by Jesus Christ the Lord! It is here, for the first time, that the sinner, who has been made to see that he is a hopeless slave to sin, finally turns to Jesus and is cleansed from sin by His Blood. One of the greatest tragedies of our time is that most evangelicals never allow anyone to go through these two all-important experiences. At the very first twinge of conscience, or maybe not even that, the decisionist will have them say a sinner’s prayer. I believe that is the single most important reason we have had no nation-changing revival in America since 1859.

So, these are the things you must pray most for if you want our church to experience a revival. First, pray for God to send His Spirit to convict lost people of sin. Second, pray for God’s Spirit to reveal Jesus to them and draw them to Him, for pardon through His death on the Cross, and cleansing from sin through His precious Blood!

Pastor Brian H. Edwards said that revival prayers are focused on “the converted, the anxious (awakened), and the unawakened” (Revival, Evangelical Press, 2004 edition, p. 127). Why are revival prayers focused on the “converted” as well as the “anxious” and “unawakened”? Because those who are converted can be backslidden. At the First Chinese Baptist Church the revival started among saved people who had sin in their hearts. They began to confess their sin openly, with tears, in front of everybody. Some had bitterness toward others in the church. Some had allowed secret sins to come into their lives. They had excused their sins, saying they didn’t matter. But as the Holy Spirit came down, they were broken hearted. They realized they were cold and dead in their prayers. They realized that they were bitter and angry toward others in the church. Others refused to do something they knew God wanted them to do.

There may be a Christian in our church who refuses to obey God on something. This can hinder revival! When revival came to Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky in 1970 hundreds of truly converted students felt they had to confess… publicly. They stood in line, sometimes for hours, waiting to get to the microphone in the chapel so they could confess…their [disobedience] and ask for prayer.

The man who was leading the Asbury meeting did not preach. Instead, he briefly gave his testimony, and then issued an invitation for students to talk about their own Christian experiences. There was nothing particularly unusual about that. One student responded to his offer. Then another. Then another. “Then they started pouring to the altar,” he said. “It just broke.” Gradually, inexplicably, students and faculty members alike found themselves quietly praying, weeping, singing. They sought out others to whom they had done wrong deeds and asked for forgiveness. The chapel service went on for eight days [24 hours a day].

This is exactly what happened at the First Chinese Baptist Church as well, about the same time as the Asbury revival. It went on for hours, as the young Chinese people confessed and prayed. Open confession was common in the 1910 Korean revival. Today open confession by Christians, with tears, is common in China, in the great revival going on there. Evan Roberts cried, “Lord, bend me,” as he yielded to God and became a leader in the Welsh Revival of 1905. How about you? Will you pray for God to bend you? Sing “Search Me, O God.”

“Search me, O God, and know my heart:
Try me and know my thoughts:
And know my heart;
Try me and know my thoughts;
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”
   (Psalm 139:23, 24).

Spirit of the living God, Come down, we pray.
Spirit of the living God, Come down, we pray.
Melt me, mold me, Break me, bend me.
Spirit of the living God, Come down, we pray.

That can happen in our church if God sends down His Spirit in a revival. “Search Me, O God.” Sing it softly.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart:
Try me and know my thoughts:
And know my heart;
Try me and know my thoughts;
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”
   (Psalm 139:23, 24).

Amen.


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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