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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, August 20, 2017

“O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

“Revive” – the Hebrew word means “to quicken” – to repeat His mighty saving works on behalf of His people… “In the midst of the years” – “In the midst of this punishment of Judah… the prophet begged that God would remember mercy…God’s power had not been seen in a long time” (MacArthur). Thus, the words of Habakkuk have great significance in our time. We have not had a national revival since 1859. And local church revivals have disappeared, so that there are no classical revivals in our churches today.

Dr. Ebenezer Porter, in 1832, pointed out that Finney’s “New Measures” were filling the churches with unconverted people. Dr. Porter said, “The danger of our churches now is, that unconverted men in great numbers [are admitted] to their fellowship, hoping they are Christians…Another century will disclose the calamitous results” (E. Porter, Letters on Revival, 1832, pp. 147-148). It was in the aftermath of receiving unconverted people by the tens of thousands that real revivals became a thing of the past. Unconverted people became so prevalent in our churches that many preachers themselves, coming out of this darkness, were unconverted themselves. Finney’s “decisionism” thus destroyed the idea of God-sent revivals. It is in this context that the words of the prophet Habakkuk become important to us again,

“O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

As our church began to do away with the “new measures” decisionism of Finney, we had to reconstruct the old evangelical idea of revivals. We learned to spend a lot of time preaching the Gospel and then listening to the testimonies of those who responded, correcting their errors, going over and over the Gospel with them until they came under conviction of sin and truly trusted Christ, thus becoming “new creatures” in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 5:17). At first out attempts to prepare people for revival were hampered by those who had false conversions. As we preached on God’s wrath, on Hell, and on real conversion in Christ, many of these people left our church abruptly. Others stayed, but when we preached on awakening themes, they would grow angry, attack the pastor, and bring confusion to the church. But gradually they were “weeded out,” so our church was cleansed from these religious but lost individuals.

Yet the fact that a revival emphasis produced such outbursts and rebellion caused that the saved people in our church became fearful of revival. Yet I knew we had to continue this emphasis. And we continued. God began to show us things that had been long forgotten in our churches. At last, during the past three weeks, we finally had revival meetings somewhat like those of the past. Here are some of the things we learned in those three weeks.

1.  Genuine confession of sin is extremely important; particularly confession of sin to one another and praying for one another is necessary.

2.  Thanking those who have helped us was equally important. Many were blessed by it and restored.

3.  Allowing and encouraging newer converts to pray aloud brought life to our meetings.

4.  Repetitive singing of godly old hymns brought life to the meetings. Hymns such as “Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean” [the main hymn of the 1904-1905 Welsh revival was a means of grace to us], as well as “Fill All My Vision,” Charles Wesley’s “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” “More Love to Thee,” and “Teach Me to Pray.” We sang “Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean” over and over. Once we sang that one hymn for nearly thirty minutes!

5.  The godly women in our church were allowed more freedom to pray. Two of our ladies were given a “spirit of prayer” – with tears, and many prayers for the backslidden and for the lost.

6.  Learning that the preparation for revival by confession and prayer has value even if no great revival follows. As Brian H. Edwards said, “If there is still no revival, we will at least have done our duty and God asks us to do no more than that. The outcome is His. The preparation is ours” (Revival: A People Saturated With God, p. 123).

7.  God’s power comes to people who pay the price. People who actually turned from sin, and those who decided to be in church by standing against relatives who tried to stop them, etc. These were the ones who were revived and these were the ones who were saved!

8.  A slightly different emphasis in the meetings brought life [such as the pastor praying individually with people who came to him, and an all night prayer meeting, followed by breakfast on the final day of the revival].

9.  A new emphasis on how the Devil works in revival, to quench the Holy Spirit, or resist the Holy Spirit.

10.  The Gospel itself needs to be preached in the meetings, even though most of the people are already saved. This puts Christ at the center of the work rather than the Holy Spirit. We must be careful to keep Jesus at the center of everything in the meetings.

These were the main things we learned, or were reminded of. We did not have a “gully-washer” of revival. But we did have the strongest revival we have had in the past 42 years! Praise God for the many souls that were converted! Praise God for the many Christians who were revived! Praise God for the joy many sad Christians experienced! Amen! Please stand and sing hymn number 19 on your song sheet, “Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean.”

Here is love, vast as the ocean, Lovingkindness as the flood,
   When the Prince of Life, our Ransom, Shed for us His precious Blood.
Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise?
   He can never be forgotten, Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion, Fountains opened deep and wide;
   Through the floodgates of God’s mercy Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers, Poured incessant from above,
   And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me all Thy love accepting, Love Thee, ever all my days;
   Let me seek Thy kingdom only And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory, Nothing in the world I see.
   Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me, Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
   And Thy grace my need is meeting, As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring Thy great love and power on me,
   Without measure, full and boundless, Drawing out my heart to Thee.
(“Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean” by William Rees, 1802-1883).

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Scripture Reading and Prayer Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Isaiah 64:1-4.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean” (by William Rees, 1802-1883).