Wednesday, Revival in our Churches
Revival is something we all desire to see. We read of great revivals in history, of spiritual awakenings, of churches radically transformed by the Spirit, and we long to experience the same. Many want the excitement and zeal that marks revival, but few seek the brokenness required. The path to revival always passes through corporate repentance. The Old Testament is full of examples, but none are perhaps as clear as the great revival that broke out in Nehemiah’s day.
Israel was in a period of intense transition. In short order, Nehemiah learned of the disarray of Jerusalem, appealed to Artaxerxes, and lead Jerusalem to restore her outer walls in the face of opposition. It was in the midst of this setting that we find Ezra, the man of God, reading and explaining God’s word to his people. In chapter 8, all of Israel is gathered before the gates of Jerusalem as Ezra and his leaders read and explain the word of the Lord. The results are no less than corporate revival among the people of God. A fresh wind sweeps across the people and a renewal movement breaks out. A close look, however, reveals the importance of repentance to revival.
Upon hearing and understanding God’s word, the people of Israel are truly and deeply affected. The seeds of revival are always planted by a fresh hearing of God’s word. The Scriptures dig deep into the soul of man, revealing our hardness and sin. As Israel was confronted freshly by the law, they were cut to the core.
“On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled; they were fasting, wearing sackcloth, and had put dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the guilt of their fathers. While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day and spent another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the Lord their God.” (Neh. 9:1-3)
We want to see our congregations rise up to action. We want them on mission, sharing the gospel with their neighbors, serving their church and their city. Are we willing to lead them first through a valley of repentance? Israel’s experience with the law of God changed their confession and it issued forth in worship and praise, but it first changed their hearts. Corporate repentance is something rarely seen in contemporary churches. It removes the calluses of complacency and prepares the congregation to be empowered by the Spirit for the mission of the church. Today’s churches too often turn toward campaigns, initiatives, or any number of other fixes to motivate a congregation to action. However, revival only comes when our current hardness of heart is realized and it is abolished. That is what prepares the way for the Spirit to move in our midst. What would it look like for your congregation to experience corporate repentance?
Dear God, lead my church to repentance. Confront us with your holy words, reveal to us our sin and brokenness, so we can offer ourselves up to you as living sacrifices. Spirit, move in our hearts. Awaken us to our corporate sin, the ones we commit as a community, against you, against each other, and against our city. Show us our faults so that we may turn again toward you. Grant us the grace necessary for real repentance.