If we can learn anything from studying revivals it’s this: The greater the repentance, the greater the Presence.
I love reading the histories of great works of revival. God is always looking to do this work in His people. He has always done it. He hasn’t stopped. Despite what some well meaning people say, God doesn’t change. The Old Testament is full of revival. God continued to do it in the New Testament. It’s the story of the book of Acts. And in almost every century since the church began, God has revived, renewed, and restored His people; over and over and over again.
God is always looking for people, individuals and churches, to pour His Spirit upon powerfully because He wants to make Himself known. He delights to make Himself known. He wants to live among us, make His home among us, powerfully.
One clear mark of every great revival is a great call to repentance. Many eye witness accounts of previous revivals say this same thing: the greater the repentance, the greater the Presence. God is undeniably present.
But maybe it’s the other way round. It’s not our repentance that draws Him–although this is very important; never to be overlooked, but it is when His Presence comes, because He is so absolutely holy and in the light of His holiness, we suddenly know our desperate need for deep repentance. This happened to Isaiah in chapter 6. He saw the Lord in His holiness, highly exalted, and immediately realized his own human brokenness and dire need for deep repentance. Maybe we should say, the greater the Presence, the greater the repentance!
In revival people can feel God tangibly and sometimes see His glory. A great work of purity and humility is done in people’s hearts. Thousands of miracles take place. Denominational barriers are broken down. Great numbers of people are swept into churches.
Revival affects multiple churches, whole cities, entire regions of a country, and sometimes, revival has moved beyond borders, spreading to many countries. During times of revival it seems God loves to break the nice neat theological and ecclesiastical boxes we like to organize Him into. He REFORMS us. He reforms our thinking by breaking down much of our old ways of thinking and in doing so we see Jesus more clearly.
So, why repentance?
Repentance shows a godly sorrow for sin, a brokenness over sin. True repentance is an antidote to pride. Pride blocks us from God’s Presence. Repentance is the beginnings of humility.
By repenting we express our vital need of God. Our hearts become transparent and sincere, with an ever deepening desire for Him to search our hearts and develop purity in us. Only God can do this work and only when our heart is soft and yielded toward Him. We must be continually ready and quick to repent.
What are we repenting from?
Anything and everything that causes walls of resistance to be built up in us. Pride, offense, and bitterness. Apathy and tolerance of sin. Our many tendencies toward idolatry. Idolatry is any thing or person we give our heart’s attentions to before God–it’s much more common than we like to admit.
Our repentance acknowledges we need His grace, His strength, His ability, and His life to be at work in us; for His glory, not ours.
God looks for repentance in us because He is looking for people He can trust to be carriers of His awesome and holy and powerful Presence–without us thinking we had anything to do with it. Throughout church history, when people started thinking that revival was about them, their goodness, their deserving, their organizational ability, their opportunity, their titles, the revival ceased because man got in the way.
I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols, Isaiah 42:8.