Back in 2000, the FCA leaders of Pearl River Central High School in Carriere, Ms, were discussing plans for the remainder of the school year. "Everyone was writing down goals and plans when suddenly a teacher suggested we reach our school for Christ," said Cary-Anne Dell, a member of the FCA's leadership team. "That's pretty much how it all got started and the Lord took it from there."The plan involved an in-school rally during which FCA members would perform skits and share testimonies about what it means to be a Christian.The 18-year-old Dell, who is a member of Pine Grove Baptist Church, said the FCA members shared their plans with churches throughout the area. "We had people praying for us all over south Mississippi," Dell said. "It was incredible to see how all those prayers were answered."Tim Tolleson, youth pastor at First Baptist Church in nearby Picayune, Miss., said his entire church was involved in praying for the rally. One of his youth, 16-year-old Ben Helger, was also a member of the FCA leadership team."Ben spoke during our Sunday night worship service and in the course of his speech he told us about plans for the rally," Tolleson said. "Our church is known as a praying church and we took up the challenge to lift up those kids."One prayer involved a sound system. The acoustics in the school's gymnasium were terrible, Dell said. "We didn't have a sound system so we started praying. The next day, two churches called the school and offered to provide one."Since the entire event was student-led and student-organized, Lee said the club didn't have to seek permission from the school board. "In other words, they had my blessing," Lee said.A team of 16 students wrote skits and prepared the rallyТall except for the closing. "We just decided that the Lord was going to figure out the closing,"
ThatМs sort of where we have been for the past few months. WeМve been planning for and anticipating what just took place this week at this church. More than anything I have experienced in a long time, I can truly say that God has begun a revival in this church this week. God did a powerful work in my own heart and even this week, people have been saved and IМve had people who are talking about going into ministry or making significant changes in their lives, not because they feel guilty, but because the Spirit of God is at work. Is God not at work in our lives? Can we just praise God for a moment right now for the great movement of His Spirit this week? (Applause)
Yet, even as we praise Him, at the same time, we are aware that this revival is not complete. In some ways, it has just begun. You see, I realize we sit here this morning, a divided congregation. While many were here for the meeting, others of us missed it physically. It may have been your job, or some other hindrance that kept you away, but you just missed it. Today, even though you canМt recapture what you missed, you can catch up spiritually. I want you to listen today because I am going to tell you how to Рcatch upП spiritually speaking.
We are divided even further. Some of us were actually here physically. We may have even been here every night, but even though the meetings are over, our business with God isnМt. We may be still processing what was said. I donМt know about you, but even though I enjoyed Sunday through Wednesday, my head was spinning. There was so much coming at me and so much that I was trying to process, I sometimes felt lost. That may be you. You know there is still business you need to do with the Lord. You donМt need to catch up, you need to finish up.
And then there are those of you who were here and you really did get it. God really connected with your heart and you took care of some issues. But then the rest of the week came and you have found yourself severely tempted or maybe youМve gotten discouraged in that area that you surrendered. You need to be encouraged this morning. You need to keep it up.
ThereМs a good place you can go in GodМs Word this morning to see a picture of real revival and also to learn how we can keep this revival going and even fan the flames. Some might take issue with me. They might say that what IМm about to read to you doesnМt speak of revival, but Рvival.П That is, what I want to read to you now wasnМt a coming back to God, but an initial experience him. Well, they might have a point, but IМll just tell you that the end result is the same: Whether at conversion or in revival, when the Holy Spirit is released and GodМs people are surrendered, some amazing things happen.
And thatМs exactly what happened in Acts Chapter 2. The Holy Spirit descended and all heard the message in their own language, the Bible says. At that point, Peter stands up and preaches. And because the Holy Spirit is moving among them, chapter 2, verse 37 says, Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, РMen and brethren, what shall we do?
Now, thatМs the question of revival. We are confronted with our sin and, in repentance, we fall on our face before God and ask Him, РO God, what is it that You want? I know what IМve beendoing; I now see how IМve been failing you;I see that what IМve been doing, spiritually speaking, has not been working. O God, what do You want.П
And then what happens is nothing short of revival: Peter answers in v 38:
Then Peter said to them, РRepent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.П And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, РBe saved from this perverse generation.П 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
Now, ours hasnМt been quite that dramatic . . . at least not yet. But I have seen some people truly repent over the last few days. ThereМs been some repentance in my own life. IМm hungrier for God than I have ever been. I have sensed His presence in a fresh new way, and IМm here to tell you this morning: I DO NOT WANT THIS TO END!! I want revival to continue!
Now I say that because I know that the tendency will be for it to die. Left to ourselves, our selfish hearts, aided by the ever-present world and the ever-crafty tempter, will tend to leave the altar, forsake our commitments. It even happened in the book of Acts. Did the early church stay in this state of spiritual bliss? One writer said that the following chapters of Acts show that they didnМt.
Sincerity sometimes gave way to dishonesty, joy was blotched by rifts in the fellowship, and the favor of the people was overshadowed by persecutions from the Jewish officials. LukeМs summaries present an ideal for the Christian community which it must always strive for, constantly return to, and discover anew if it is to have that unity of spirit and purpose essential for an effective witness.
I do not want us to lose what we have. In fact, I want us to fan the flames of revival. So just how can that happen? I believe it is possible and we have the example of it given in these next few verses. You see, revival really can continue if we will answer two questions about revival. The first is this:
DIVISION 1: WHAT WILL IT MEAN?
That is, if revival continues, what will it mean in our community? What happens in a town or in a county in which revival occurs. Well, will you notice what happened in Jerusalem when revival came? In the first place, revival brought reverence. V43 says, Then fear came upon every soul and many signs and wonders were done through the apostles. May I ask you a question: When was the last time the world feared the church? O, I know the world mocks the church; I know the world accuses the church; I know the world laughs at the church; I know the world attacks the church; I know the world invades the church; I know the world even ignores the church. But when was the last time the world actually respected and even reverenced the church. They did in Acts chapter 2.
In fact, when this verse says that manywonders were done through the Apostles, at least part of what that verse talks about is described in chapter 3. There Peter and John go up to the temple and heal the crippled man who sat begging alms. When every one gathers around for a look, Peter starts preaching again! He once again boldly accuses the people of crucifying Jesus and tells them that it is by the power of the risen Christ that these things are done. Well, you knowthat didnМt go over too well in the High PriestМs office. He sent people out to arrest Peter and John. He tells them, РPeter and John, stop preaching in that name.П
They answer Him, РNo! We have to obey God rather than man.П
Well, the High Priest wasnМt used to being told Рno,П so he begins to threaten them. РHey, weМll kick you out of the temple.П
РThatМs ok,П Peter may have said, РIМve got a temple in heaven not made with hands.П
РWeМll beat you.П
РThatМs ok.П Peter may have said, РJesus left me an example and IМll just follow in his steps.П
РWell, weМll kill you.П
РThatМs ok, for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.П
DonМt you imagine as these leaders tried to intimidate the apostles they found the tables turned. As these men demonstrated the awesome power of the Holy Spirit, the intimidated became the intimidators, and great fear fell on all the people!
ThatМs what happens when revival comes. But there was something else that happened. Not only was revival manifested in reverence, it was manifested in revelation. Notice that phrase again,and many signs and wonders were done through the apostles. Now, I know what you might be thinking. РWell that was back then. That was a special time in the church and God just doesnМt work that way anymore.П Well, I just have to disagree with your assessment. First of all, God is not bound by any time period and God can do anything He wants to do when He wants to do it! And besides that, IМll have to tell you, God has done some signs and wonders this week!
I read through those testimony sheets we filled out on Wednesday night and really received a blessing! IМll be sharing a few of them with you this morning in the message. IМm only using those who gave their permission, and I will not be telling you any of the names. This first one, though, is from a teenager. She wrote
Before this week, I honestly believed that I was doing pretty good in my Christian walk. Man was I ever wrong! I am 17 years old and thought of myself almost like a super Christian because, compared to most 17 year olds, I am a lot different. The idol cup and Luke made me realize that I spend way too much time watching TV. Then on Monday night the Рput off . . . put onП sheet made me realize how bad and sinful I really am. AS I began to check the boxes (of the sins committed) one after another and barely left any blank, I realized how much I need to improve. The Louie Giglio video made me realize how small I am compared to God and how I need to grust in God and How I should feel privileged that God wants to spend time with me. Instead of me feeling as though I am doing God a favor, I now realize that I am the one who is truly privileged! We serve a mighty awesome, wise, and powerful God!
You can argue about whether God still does signs and wonders if you want to, but, my friendthatМs a sign and a wonder! And when revival genuinely comes, the church begins to see and live in the glory of God and that begins to impact the community. God begins to act and His glory is revealed and lives are changed.
Which brings me to the third evidence that of revival in the community. Repentance. If revival continues it will eventually work its way out in community wide repentance. ThatМs what began happening in Jerusalem. God was at work. Chapter two ends by saying in verse 47, And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Hey! Their baptistries were not dry. People were coming to Christ. There was an impact on the community.
In this sense, Peace Church, we have yet to experience revival. The last time I checked, Bucks was still open for business. The last time I had a conversation with a policeman, drugs were still being sold in Wilson. The last time I was in the gas station just down the road, I still had to consciously turn my head so that I wouldnМt be accosted by pornography. On the way to church this morning, even though I live less than a mile from here, I passed many homes where people were not going to church to worship. When revival hits a community, the community begins to repent and change happens.
And the change in the community is a reflection of the change in the church. If revival is to continue, not only must we understand what revival means for the community, we must understand what it will mean for the church
In the first place, continuing revival will be manifested in our unity of faith. Notice how v 44 begins. It says, Now all who believed. You want to know the greatest problem in the church today. It is not a lack of doctrine, its a lack of faith. Most Christians just donМt really believe. O, we say we do, but we really donМt.
Now in its ultimate form, there are many who, like Ryan said the other night, just arenМt saved. TheyМve never trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Can I just share another testimony with you?
I was lost a couple of months ago . . . didnМt know what to believe. I had many false idols, including a lot of bad things. I recently found God in my life . . . I started doing devotions and going to church on a weekly basis. At the conference it confirmed my faith and I knew what I had to do and that as to give my life to Jesus Christ.
IsnМt that awesome! You see, the first evidence that revival has occurred is faith. And not just this kind of initial faith. Others of you know the Lord, but you arenМt living out that faith. Listen to this testimony:
This conference found me in sin, worshiping idols, ungenerous and unforgiving. I was living in darkness but pretending to walk in th elight. Sunday I was released from my sin and suddenly everything moved very quickly. I have begun giving the Lord my obedience. God layed on my heart to donate my savings which had become an idol. I plan to call family members and other I have hurt over the next few days in order to have a clear conscience before the Lord. My heart has been changed and I feel compelled to obey the Lord and trim my life of all excess. Thank you to you all and of course God Almighty!
You see, when revival come, our eyes are so fixed on God till we have to obey. Even though the thing we are disobedient in may seem small to us, it isnМt the little thing that bothers us. ItМs the disobedience. We just canМt bear to hurt our fellowship with God. We move in faith because any other course of action seems un bearable.
But not only is revival manifested in the unity of our faith, it is manifested in our fellowship. Notice what v 44 goes on to say. It says Now all who believed were together. I tell you, the early church did a lot of hanging out. They went to church together; they ate together; they prayed together; they did everything together. ThatМs what happens when revival comes. You want to be with GodМs people.
It was this past Wednesday. We had been to church more in the last few days than we had in a long time. ThereМs one thing IМve discovered about Life Action: They donМt do short services, Amen? But they donМt care! They know and they have helped me discover: When revival comes, the clock gets crucified! It was amazing to me that this past Wednesday after that 2 hour + service, when it was over, people were hanging around. Did you notice. I walked up to one couple who were just sitting there in the pew and they said. РWe donМt want it to end!П When revival comes, there is fellowship. It means the preacher doesnМt have to beg you to come to church. You want to be here.
O yes, and when revival comes, it is manifested in our finances. Notice the rest of v 44 and 45:Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. You get the feeling that money just wasnМt that important to them anymore. They freely gave because they were convinced that they had a big powerful God Who could meet any need. Listen to this testimony:
This conference found me as an untithing, depressed new mother of a baby. I was depressed because I couldnМt be a stay-at-home mom due to financial obligations. God has been calling my husband and me to tithe for months, but I didnМt want to. I wanted to put that money on my debt. Last night God called me to tithe the biggest tithe and the first. I know this is a start even though itМs not goin to my debt. I feel much better and I know God will bless me in His due time. I may not be able to be a stay-at-home mom now, but if IМm patient and manage His money and His things as He wants, HeМll answer my prayer.
So lets just summarize this, ok? If I want revival to continue, I have to understand what revival means in the community. It will mean that the community will begin to reverence what God is doing because His power is being revealed and that power will call them to repentance. It will mean that in the church, faith will become action, fellowship will be prioritized . . .
Can I just stop right there and say that some of us do not prioritize the fellowship. You see, your church family comes before every other commitment. That means that your church family will come ahead of your travel soccer or baseball team. That means that your church family will come ahead of your place at the river or at the beach. That means that your church family comes ahead of your favorite TV show or your favorite sports team.
When revival comes it is revealed in the church: Faith becomes action, fellowship will be prioritized and finances will be surrendered. ThatМs what revival means, and before revival continues, we have to understand what it means, but there is another question we have to answer if revival is to continue. Not only do we have to understand what it means for revival to continue, we also have to ask,
DIVISION 2 - WHAT WILL IT TAKE
That answer arises from v 42 of this text that after those 3000 people repented, they did four very specific things which caused revival to continue. V 42 says, And they continued steadfastly in the apostlesМ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. First it says thatthey continued steadfastly. Literally it says in the Greek, that they Рdevoted themselvesП in the apostles doctrine and fellowship. I looked up that word and one source said that to Рcontinue steadfastlyП emphasizes the persistent and submissive perseverance and tenaciousness of this group collectively oriented toward specific goals. Now the goals of this group were the apostles teaching. One commentator wrote of this, that
the apostlesМ teaching probably included an account of JesusМ life and ministry, his ethical and practical teachings, warnings about persecution and false teaching, and the christocentric Old Testament hermeneutic. But at its center was the gospel message. And so today, to devote oneself to the apostlesМ teaching means evangelism as well as edification.
If you sum it all up, these new converts made a conscious, decisive, persistent, tenacious commitment to follow what God was showing them through the apostles. And thatМs what we must do if our revival is to last. We must make a decisive commitment! But not only must we make a decisive commitment, we must also look for a
. . . discipling relationship. I saw something when I was studying this passage, recently, that I had not seen before. Notice that v 42 says, And they continued steadfastly in the apostlesМ doctrine and fellowship . . . Now what I noticed that I had never seen before is where the comma is placed. It comes after Рfellowship,П indicating that РdoctrineП and РfellowshipП go together. Now I may be making too much of this, but it suddenly struck me. WhatМs going on here is discipleship. Yes, the new believers were taught, but they were taught, not in some sterile classroom, or in some online computer course. They were taught face to face. There was a relationship involved. It was doctrine and fellowship. Listen! If youМre here today and youМve just made a decision for Christ, the best thing you could do is sign up for Life Concepts and allow yourself to become involved in a discipling relationship. That, more than anything else, will provide the accountability and the teaching which will make revival continue. ThatМs what it takes! It takes a decisive commitment and a discipling relationship for revival to continue, but it also will take . . .
. . . devoted fellowship. It says, And they continued steadfastly in the apostlesМ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread . . . Now I know that Baptist hadnМt been invented yet, but I got to believe that they must have had some Baptist in them somewhere, because these people liked to eat together. Both vv 42 and 46 talk about breaking bread and eating food. They shared life together. They went over to each otherМs houses and cooked out. They shared their lives together.
You see, I rather suspect that many of us have been empty. WeМre lonely. We think that weМre stressed because we need to get home and veg out and watch tv, when what we really need is to share our lives. I feel sorry for some of you who arenМt connecting. You refuse to go to Sunday School or to invite others over, yet you wonder why youМre so empty. Hey, if you want revival to continue, you need to eat some ice cream together!
ThatМs one reason I love our staff retreats. I think the time we spend hiking together or eating dinner together is so very important. It builds trust and love between us that sustains us when weМre facing difficult situations here. God never intended for the Christian life to be lived alone. Revival continues when we pursue devoted fellowship, a discipling relationship and a decisive commitment. But you canМt leave this last one out. Revival continues when there is
. . .dependent prayer. Note the last phrase of v 42: And they continued steadfastly in the apostlesМ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer. These people prayed. Someone has written that the vitality of the (early) church was a measure of the reality of their prayers.
And itМs the same way today. And at the risk of sounding negative, let me just be very plain with you: Some of you have been on spiritual welfare this week. IМm not talking about your giving. IМm not saying that youМre on spiritual welfare because youМre not tithing, although, in a sense, if you arenМt giving, you are. If you refuse to give, yet you nourish your soul and let Brad minister to your teenager, you are on spiritual welfare. But, IМm not talking about your giving, IМm talking about your praying. Maybe I should say it like this: Some of us have been on spiritual РprayerfareП this week. You see you have come and experienced a mighty work of God, but it wasnМt because you personally prayed for it. Even though you heard it announced that we were having prayer before the services on Wednesday and Sunday, you still didnМt come. You didnМt meet privately or in a small group at any other time either. Now I am glad you have experienced Revival and IМm not trying to make you feel guilty, but it is very true that it is very likely that you would not have been moved if a remnant of people in this church had not sought the Lord. IsnМt it time to get of prayerfare and seek God?
If revival is to continue, weМve got to seek God in prayer. While there are many of you who canМt attend on Wednesday nights for the prayer meeting, I am convinced there are a whole lot more of you who could if you would just make the effort. This is the greatest secret to continuing revivalТconstant prayer.
So what about you? Do you want revival to continue? I know you do, but are you willing to pay the price?
Have you persistently, submissively, perseveringly and tenaciously determined to follow christ the way he has called you to follow him in this time of revival? Have you already given up on your commitments? Do you even remember what they were? If revival continues it will be because you seek godМs grace to be persistently, submissively perseveringly and tenaciously committed to seek god as you have been seeking him. If you turned off the tv before, turn it off again; if you spent an hour on your knees spend an hour again. If you havenМt started these kinds of habits start them now! Make a decision through his grace.
And have you become a part of the Discipleship process in this church? If not, why not? Listen, you will either become accountable to someone else in your life or the chances are very good that your commitment will eventually die. Need proof? Just go read James 5:16 where he tells us toconfess our faults one to another and pray for one another so that we can be healed. Many of us, before we leave this property this morning, need to sign up for Life Concepts.
Have you decided to tenaciously follow Christ and have you become a part of discipleship. HereМs another one: Are you connected to Sunday School and Life University in this church? What about MenМs Fraternity (if youМre a man of course) or the WomenМs fellowship (if youМre a woman). Do you have some Christian friends who are really sold out to God with whom you can fellowship. (YouМll find those, by the way, in Sunday School, Life University, or discipleship)
Last, are you involved in intentional, extended, personal daily prayer? Are you involved in the prayer ministry of this church? You see, if revival is to continue, we must have decisive commitment, discipling relationships, devoted fellowship, and dependent prayer.
Max Lucado writes,
Questions (about our faith) can make hermits out of us, driving us into hiding. Yet the cave has no answers. Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship. He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many. When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries, when we mix, mingle, confess and pray, Christ speaks.
You see, while revival starts with you praying individually, РLord, revive me,П real revival continues when we, as the body of Christ, learn to seek Him together. It continues when we decide to devote ourselves to Christ and one another; It continues as we drop our guard and agree to become involved in discipleship. It continues when we are more devoted to the body of Christ than we are to anything else in the world. It continues, most of all, when, through prayer, we seek Him together. ThatМs when revival continues.
Well, You remember how we started. The FCA of Pear River Central High School wanted to reach their school for Christ, so they decided to have a special assembly for their school. But what started as a special presentation by the Pearl River Central High School's Fellowship of Christian Athletes turned into a full-fledged revival that has transformed the Carriere, Mississippi school and left school administrators astounded."It was the most incredible thing I've seen in all my years as an educator," said Pearl River principal Lolita Lee. "The meeting couldn't be stopped. You could tell something spiritual was happening in the lives of those students."The revival started during a special program sponsored by the Carriere, Miss., school's FCA and attended by nearly 90 percent of the school's 670 students. The program was originally scheduled for one hour, but when the bell rang, Lee said there were more than 100 students standing in line to pray and make spiritual decisions. So Lee did something that she said probably doesn't happen in normal public school settingsТshe let the service continue. And continue it did for more than four hours. Through three class periods and lunch, students wept, prayed, sang and made amends with one another."It was heart-stopping," said Lee, a member of Lees Chapel No. 1 Baptist Church. "When I realized how many students needed to pray, I went ahead and let the program continue."Following a hastily arranged telephone call to the school superintendent, Lee went back to the gymnasium where the revival was taking place. "Who was I to say to these students, 'Hey, you aren't important. Go back to class.'"And nearly one month later, Lee said the results of the revival are manifested in the hallways of Pearl River Central High. "I've had teachers and staff tell me how much better the students are," she said. "This has been a wonderful thing for our kids.П