Seven Characteristics of Genuine Revival
June 30, 1996
Scripture: Nehemiah 8
I. The Unity of God's People
When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns,
1 all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate.
To be unified means we must not all go our own separate ways. When there is something we can come together on, we should come together on it.
Our relationships are like marbles pinging off one another, but what God wants is crushed grapes. We must be melted together, not frozen together.
Augustine: "To my God, a heart of flame; to my fellow men, a heart of love; to myself, a heart of steel."
Schaeffer: "Lovelessness is a sea which knows no shore, for it is what God is not. In the midst of being right, if self is exalted, my fellowship with God can be destroyed. We must practice an observable and real oneness - before God, before the elect angels, before the demonic hosts, before the watching liberals and before the watching world."
H. A. Ironside: "Satan is the accuser of the brethren: let's leave the dirty work to him!"
Swindoll: "If you really knew everything about the person sitting next to you in the pew, you'd probably get up and move. But on the other hand, so would they."
II. A Return to God's Word
They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.
3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
4 Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.
They stood to read the Law.
We will look at the Law next week. It is the Law that convicts us of sin and turns our hearts to Christ.
III. A Desire for Godly Worship
6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites-- Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah-- instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.
8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
(John 4:23* Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.)
People desire real worship together. It is not just something preparatory to the sermon but the whole of our experience in and before Almighty God that includes the message and our life response to it.
IV. A Deep Conviction of Sin Against God
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
(Ps. 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.)
(Job 5:17-18 "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.)
God has severely limited His dwelling place to those who are repentant.
That same pride that got us into trouble with sin may need the temperance of remembrance to seat humility where that pride once stood.
Augustine: "God has humbled Himself and still man is proud."
The nominalist has traveled a different route from the secularist, but he has arrived at the same destination. Both have refused to come to God on His terms. The nominalist's heart, blinded to the reality of God's holiness will invariably overestimate its own righteousness and, therefore, its ability to please God.
Pascal: "There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who believe themselves sinners, and the rest sinners who believe themselves righteous."
A.H. Strong: "Society is guilty of the greatest sin, which is to be conscious of none."
No one's standard is low enough that they can't crawl under it.
The degree to which I am able to overcome sin in my life reflects the degree to which I am able to appropriate the sufficiency of Christ to deal with my sin.
We must make a faith commitment so complete that we make hell gasp for air.
Current Thoughts and Trends: "By ignoring its own need for repentance, the church nullifies the gospel and invalidates its witness to the lost. Individuals can choose to turn away from sin and pursue God. This volitional reversal of direction is what repentance really means. Conversion is just the beginning. The Spirit-filled believer is engaged in a continual process of moving toward whole-hearted obedience to God by turning away from sin. When God reveals any area of sin in your life, the appropriate response is repentance. Why is it that so often we as believers resist the prompting of the Spirit to repent? Shouldn't the possibility of being cleansed and renewed be attractive to us? Of course, but many obviously prefer to be dominated by the flesh. To repent is certainly hard on one's pride, but how does that compare to the wonderful fullness that Christ offers? Repentance is the path to greater purity, deeper love, new freedom, and sweeter fellowship. All that is worth the pain."
V. An Inner Joy of Knowing God
10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve."
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
Repentance cannot come without tears. At first they are tears of remorse, sorrow agony, and pain. But they soon turn to tears of joy as we come to understand the truth of God made evident in repentance.
VI. The Fruit of Obedience Toward God
13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the scribe to give attention to the words of the Law.
14 They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month
15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: "Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths"-- as it is written.
16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.
17 The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.
Only 13% of Christians are trying to live Christlike. Revival hits when we develop a high "O.Q."
VII. The Power of Prayer With God
1:4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
2:4 The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven,
2:5 and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it."
4:4 Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.
4:5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.
4:6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
4:7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem's walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry.
4:8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.
4:9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
6:9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed." But I prayed, "Now strengthen my hands."
Prayer and action must go together. Pray for your house but lock the door.
Pray Until Something Happens.
Mk 11:17 My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Zacharias: "Prayer is a volitional commitment to the sovereignty of God."
Phillips Brooks: "O, do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle."