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CONDITIONALISM OR REVIVAL?



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.



A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

Lord's Day Evening, February 18, 2001

"I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17).

 
What I am about to say is probably the most controversial thing you will ever listen to concerning the subject of revival. Please hear me out - all the way to the end of this sermon - before you draw a conclusion.
When Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as President in 1981 he placed his hand on his mother's Bible. The Scriptures were opened to II Chronicles 7:14, and Reagan placed his hand directly on this text:

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble  themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their  wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their  sin, and will heal their land" (II Chronicles 7:14).

I have seen that Bible in the Reagan Presidential Library here in Southern California. Just above II Chronicles 7:14, Reagan's mother wrote, "A most blessed verse for the healing of the nations."
During the Reagan administration II Chronicles 7:14 was widely quoted as laying down the conditions for revival. Men such as D. James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, and Bill Bright claimed that the "conditions for revival" were given in this verse. Falwell and Bill Bright emphasized fasting and prayer based on the verse.
But no national, Biblical revival has occurred. Twenty-one years have come and gone, and yet we have not experienced a classical, historical, Biblical national revival.
We have to ask ourselves why this is so. And I believe if we do think deeply on this subject we will come to several conclusions:
    1. The verse does not directly apply to New Testament Christianity or to America. God was speaking to the Hebrew people in the Old Dispensation, and "the land" referred to Israel, not America or Great Britain, or any other gentile nation.

    2. Many would quickly agree that point 1 is true, but would say that the "principles" in the verse lay down the "conditions" for revival. But even when this view is held, the principles in the text are not treated very seriously by those who quote it, as I will show.
Let us examine the text carefully. If we do, I believe you will agree that a serious application of its main points has not happened in our time. Notice that the text says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves..." It refers directly to the Hebrew people in Solomon's day. But who does it refer to by application in our day? I contend that it does not refer to church people or to those who proclaim themselves Christians without having experienced genuine conversion. We cannot and must not expect revival to come when lost evangelicals pray and do the other things in the verse to the best of their human ability. A truer and better application of the text would cause many evangelicals to cry out, "We are not God's people at all! This text has no promise in it for me, because I am not one of God's people!"
Lost people, no matter how religious they are, cannot be saved by obeying II Chronicles 7:14. If they could be saved by obeying this verse, it would mean that salvation is by works, by human effort! I say that no lost person can be saved by humbling themselves, praying, seeking God's face and attempting to turn from their wicked ways. I say that no one gets saved by performing these human works! Have we become so spiritually darkened by "decisionism" that we have forgotten this golden text of Baptists in former times?

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of  yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man  should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Salvation is by grace, not by obedience to a "works-righteousness" formula such as we find in II Chronicles 7:14.

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth  the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" 
    (Romans 4:5).

Whitefield, Wesley, Bunyan, Spurgeon, Luther, and all our old Baptists and Protestants would swiftly agree that salvation is by faith in Jesus alone. Salvation does not come to those who "...humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways." No! No! A thousand times no!

"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that  ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
   (Acts 16:31).

A proper application of II Chronicles 7:14 would be to show lost evangelicals
    1. They have not lived up to the conditions of the text.

    2. They cannot live up to these conditions, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8).

    3. Since no lost person can please God by attempting to obey II Chronicles 7:14, or any other law of God, these lost people must throw themselves on Jesus, and be saved wholly by grace (Romans 5:8-9).
I believe that if we are going to preach II Chronicles 7:14 at all, we should preach it as it is - law! It is law to lost people in this dispensation. And it is law that their wicked, depraved natures cannot obey!
What lost person can humble himself? What lost person can pray - really pray? What lost person can truly seek God's face? What lost person has the human ability to actually turn from their inward wicked ways? These conditions in II Chronicles 7:14 will not help lost church members, but will only condemn them further!

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse:  for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all  things which are written in the book of the law to do  them" (Galatians 3:10).

Instead of writing in her Bible, "A most blessed verse for the healing of the nations," President Reagan's mother should have written, "A verse for the cursing of the nations." "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."

"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,  that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).

But the verse doesn't really give "conditions for revival" to those who are truly converted either.
Don't get me wrong. I believe that true Christians should indeed humble themselves, pray, seek God's face and turn from their sins. There is no question that truly converted people should do those things. But doing those things will not automatically produce revival for one main reason: God has no earthly covenant with the United States of America or any other gentile nation.
Did you ever wonder why this rather obscure verse, given in connection with the building of Solomon's temple, has become the main "revival text" of our time? It is really because those who hold to a mechanical form of "conditionalism" do not have many Bible texts to support their view. You see, revival doesn't depend on man. Man does not produce revival by doing things.
The vast majority of evangelicals are lost, as I have shown in my books, Today's Apostasy and Preaching to a Dying Nation. Lost people cannot do anything to help themselves or anyone else. If they ever get saved, it will be solely by grace. These lost evangelicals cannot help themselves or anyone else by attempting to obey II Chronicles 7:14.
But even the very small number who are converted cannot produce revival by attempting to obey this text. True Christians can petition for revival, but they cannot produce revival. God is not a new-age force, to be manipulated. He is not a mere power, but a Person. When we petition Him, He may say "yes," and He may say "no." If we take II Chronicles 7:14 as a "never failing" condition for revival, we make God into a mere force, who can be manipulated by man.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his book Revival (Crossway Books, 1987), gives two doctrines which are necessary if revival is to take place. They are, first, justification by faith in Jesus alone. He said, "There has never been a revival but that this always comes back into prominence" (page 55). Second is the doctrine of regeneration. He said, "It emphasizes the absolute necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit. It reminds us that nothing will suffice except a man be born again, that he be given a new nature. That there is no value in any decision on the part of man unless it is indicative of a change of nature... Regeneration. It stands out in the story and history of every revival that has ever taken place in the long history of the Christian church" (pp. 56-57).
The doctrines of justification by faith alone, and regeneration (and its corollary - conversion) must come back into focus, Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, if we expect an atmosphere in which revival may be sent by God. Dr. Lloyd-Jones further stated:
A revival is a miracle. It is a miraculous, exceptional phenomenon. It is the hand of the Lord, and it is mighty. A revival, in other words, is something that can only be explained as the direct action and intervention of God. It was God alone who could divide the waters of the Red Sea. It was God alone who could divide the waters of the river Jordan. These were miracles. Hence the reminder of God's unique action of the mighty acts of God. And revivals belong to that category...Men can produce evangelistic campaigns, but they cannot and never have produced a revival. Oh, they have tried to do so many times, and they are still trying. Alas, Finney has led the whole Church astray at this point by teaching that if you only do certain things you can have a revival whenever you want it. The answer is an eternal NO! And that is not my opinion. This is a question of fact. Have we not all known and watched and seen these men who have been trying to produce revivals? They have introduced all Finney's methods, they have read his book, they know it by heart and they have tried to do what he teaches, they have tried to make people confess their sins, they have tried to make them conform, they have done everything that Finney said they should have done, expecting revival as a result. They have done it all and have brought great pressure to bear, but there has been no revival. A revival, by definition, is the mighty act of God and it is a sovereign act of God. It is as independent as that. Man can do nothing. God, and God alone, does it...But not only can men not produce a revival, they cannot even explain it, and that again is most important...If you can explain what is happening...apart from a sovereign act of God, it is not revival. If you can possibly explain it otherwise, it is not revival. You see that is true of miracles. If you can explain a miracle it is no longer a miracle...a miracle is the direct, sovereign, immediate, supernatural, action of God and it cannot be explained. And that is the essential truth about a revival. You cannot explain it (pp. 111-113).
God says,
"I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17).

Revival is something God does!

How can you explain what is happening among the Hmong people of Viet Nam? With no Bibles, no missionaries, no church buildings, under intense persecution from the Communists, tens of thousands of these poor, persecuted people are pouring in a great flood into the Kingdom of God. It cannot be explained by "conditionalism." These people never heard of Finney or Bill Bright lecturing them on meeting "conditions." God has come down among them and they are flooding to Christ by the tens of thousands. Only God can do that. There is no human explanation. God says, "I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17). Revival is something God does!
Or how can you explain humanly what is happening right now, tonight, in the People's Republic of China? Millions are coming to Christ under intense Communist persecution. Finney had nothing to do with it. Western "conditionalism" had nothing to do with it. Missionaries have been gone from China for fifty years. They had nothing to do with it. The revival has been made by Almighty God Himself - and no human being can share in His glory! The glory belongs to God alone! God is doing what man cannot do! God says, "I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17). Revival is something God does!
To conclude this sermon, I will make three remarks.
    1. The Old Dispensation gave II Chronicles 7:14. But in the New Dispensation we have John 3:8,

      "The wind bloweth where it listeth (i.e. where it wishes), and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." This text shows that the work of the Holy Spirit is like the wind - independent of any "conditions" man lays down.

      Even prayer itself cannot definitely produce revival every time. Paul said, "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice...And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:8-9). God said "no" to Paul's three intense prayers. God may also say "no" to our prayers for revival. His ways are higher than our ways. God knows what He is doing when He says "no" to our prayers, as He did when Paul prayed so earnestly. Our prayers cannot force God to do things for us.    

    2. The consequences of holding a "conditionalist" view of revival often bring tragic results. If we believe that God must send revival when we meet the "conditions" two things will often happen:

      (1)   We will be disappointed. When we fast and plead and expect to "make it happen" - and it doesn't - it brings great spiritual depression, anxiety and disappointment. Many Baptists have given up the whole idea of revival because they have been so disappointed after trying to meet Jack Hyles' or someone else's "conditions." It is much better to pray and then leave the matter in the hands of God, as to whether He sees fit to give us what we ask or not in revival.

      (2)   A belief in "conditionalism" tends to promote fanaticism and excessive measures. The main emphasis of the so-called "laughing revival" is a modern illustration of this. When people meet the conditions as best they can, and no revival comes, they try to "make it happen" themselves - often with wild and unscriptural excesses. This has been the case especially with Pentecostals and charismatics in modern times.

    3. The consequences of holding the "Old-school" view of revival, which I am presenting tonight, are much better.

    (1)   If we follow the "Old-school" view, we will believe Jesus when He said, "Lo, I am with you alway" (Matthew 28:20). We will have faith that He is with us even during the dry times, when we see few conversions. Our faith in Christ will not be disturbed even if we have to wait years for a conversion, as great pioneer missionaries like Judson and Livingstone did. These men held the "Old-school" view. Dry periods, with few conversions, never stopped them from;believing, "Lo, I am with you alway."

    (2)   We will also believe that there are special "times of refreshing...from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19). No matter how long we pray, we will never give up the hope that God may send "a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind" (Acts 2:2). We will continue, no matter how long, to pray with the prophet, "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down...to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!"
       (Isaiah 64:1-2).

Now, tonight, we have been praying for you, my unconverted friend. We have been praying that God would come down to you and make you tremble for your sins against Him. We have been praying that God would come down and make Jesus Christ, the Son of God, real to you. Yes, He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. Yes, He rose physically from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, to intercede for you with God. But we are praying for God to come down and make all of this real and vital to you - so that you may enter into Christ and find that "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
May God come down and convert your soul to Jesus Christ by faith in Him! That will be your personal revival and your salvation for all time and eternity!
God says, "I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17). May that be your condition soon, as God's Holy Spirit draws you to Jesus Christ for full redemption through His Blood.
In Europe tonight, thousands of young people are reading an old book, a book written almost eighty years ago by Adolf Hitler, titled Mein Kampf (My Struggle). It is a badly written book, full of racial hatred, especially anti-Semitism. In that book, Hitler blames many of the problems in society on the Jews and calls for their extermination. It was obviously written by a madman. Yet vast numbers of young people in Europe are rediscovering this book and are becoming neo-Nazis. Why is this happening? Because there is a real Devil, and the Devil takes that old book, Mein Kampf, and makes it come to life for young people today. And B'nai Brith, and the United Nations, and nobody else can stop this from happening. They can say, "Never again," but they can't stop the Devil from taking that old book by Hitler and making it live again in the minds of those young Germans today.
Yes, there is a Devil. But there is a God also. And God can take this old book, the Bible, and make it come to life for you. God is stronger than the Devil, and God is taking the Bible and making it flame with life in the hearts of young people in China, in Viet Nam, in Indonesia, and in other parts of the Far East that are currently experiencing revival.
But there is no revival in the Western world tonight. I know of none. I know of no classical, Biblical revival in the English-speaking world. But God can come down again here, if He chooses to do so, and set a million English-speaking hearts on fire for Christ. God can do it again, if He chooses to do so. Let us pray that He will.
Tonight, if you are lost, we pray that God will draw you to Jesus Christ, His Son, so that you, as an individual, can be "translated...into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:13). May God grant you that awakening, and that regeneration, and that conversion!


Scripture Read Before Sermon: II Chronicles 7:14; John 3:8.
Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "Revive Thy Work"
                                                              by Albert Midlane (1825-1909).

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."

THE OUTLINE OF

CONDITIONALISM OR REVIVAL?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17).

      I.  The Old Dispensation vs. the New Dispensation,
               II Chronicles 7:14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:5; John 6:29;
               Acts 16:31; Romans 8:7-8; Romans 5:8-9; Galatians 3:10;
               Galatians 3:24; John 3:8; II Corinthians 12:8-9.
      II. The consequences of holding a "conditionalist" view of revival
               1. It tends to promote discouragement
               2. It tends to promote excessive measures
      III. The consequences of holding the "Old-school" view of revival
               1. It believes "lo, I am with you alway," Matthew 28:20.
               2. It also believes "times of refreshing shall come from the
                        presence of the Lord," Acts 3:19; Acts 2:2; Isaiah 64:1-2;
                        Romans 6:23; Colossians 1:13.