[John the Baptist] went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Luke 3:3-4
For years I have been praying daily for revival in America. I’m not sure what I expected it look like. From my years at a charismatic church, I often pictured crowds of ecstatic worshipers, but when the pandemic hit and the world was thrown into such fear and turmoil, I began to envision a different kind of turning to God.
Past revivals have been described as mass repentance – crowds of people falling on their faces, weeping over their sins. As people, including those who had once considered themselves righteous, repented and surrendered to Christ, He changed everything about their lives. Bars and casinos closed for lack of business, as people sought to please God instead of their flesh. The country really took notice!
Recently I am hearing about some commotion in various cities that I hope is genuine revival. In videos of the live events I have witnessed some beautiful worship and jubilant celebration. But when the live streams stopped there, I was concerned that these meetings might not be sharing the whole gospel from the beginning – the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, confession, repentance, and receiving the forgiveness of God through Jesus’ death on the cross. Without these having taken place in a person’s life, these events will just be another concert series creating an emotional high – a very fleeting emotional high.
Then one night I watched a two-hour video of the entire event, where well into the evening a local pastor (finally!) came to the microphone and explained salvation. He started with the good news they’d been singing about all evening – “God loves you and wants a relationship with you!”
Yes… and … I held my breath.
He then gave the necessary bad news: “But something is in the way of that relationship …” [pause]
Yes, yes … say it!
“…and that’s sin.“
The pastor explained how Jesus died on the cross in our place, taking the punishment we deserved, and that His death paid for our sins … if we place our faith in Him.
Ding-ding-ding-ding! I sighed with relief and prayed the crowd had heard and were taking it to heart.
Later, as the singing continued, baptisms were taking place! I could see the pastor speaking with each person before they went under the water. Unfortunately the singing drowned out (No pun intended) the pastor’s words, but I really hoped that he was explaining what was happening. I had been a little unsettled to hear the worship leader ask, “Who wants to be baptized?” and the crowd responding enthusiastically without any further elaboration on the meaning.
As the video progressed, I scrolled through the comments, looking for signs that people were “getting it.” One of the comments reflected my concern. A viewer asked if following this one-night event – after the worship team had moved on to the next city – if there would be any local follow-up. Good question, I thought. Unfortunately I didn’t see an answer.
I may be coming off as a kill-joy, and believe me, I don’t want my joy killed if this is the answer to years of prayer! But in America the church has too often touted a “cheap grace,” not wanting to speak of sin and judgment for fear of offending people.
Jesus never sugar-coated His message, even though when He spoke the hard truths, many people walked away. It was (and is) important to Him that we “count the cost,” knowing that placing our faith in Him is a serious commitment, not just “fire insurance.” I’ve known individuals who have been like the seed in Jesus’ parable (Luke 8:4-15) that fell onto shallow soil or in weeds, and their faith was short-lived. Unprepared for the trials of life or the world’s distractions, they felt they had been “had” with all the happy promises that made no mention of repentance and suffering.
Revival isn’t one or two exciting nights of great music, although that may well be a part of it. True revival is a move of God that changes lives forever. It’s a sort of spiritual surgery, cutting into the deepest regions of our hearts and rooting out the sin that separates us from the God who created us and loves us. The best Scripture I know describing such a move of God was where God warned the nation of Israel that if they persisted in disobeying Him, they would experience His judgment in various forms, including plagues. (Sound familiar?) But then He made a beautiful promise, with a big “IF“:
[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14:
Tomorrow (September 26) two gatherings will take place in our nation’s capital. These will not be concerts or “worship protests,” but a time of repentance on the part of the Church – not pointing accusing fingers at unbelievers! Scripture says, “if MY people…” That’s us, folks! Along with prayers of repentance will be prayers for our nation to be forgiven and healed – beginning with us! Since most of us will not be in the Washington D.C. area, the events will be live streamed throughout the day and evening. Here are the links:
Prayer march with Franklin Graham, 12 noon- 2 P.M. EDT:
“The Return” with Jonathan Cahn, 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. EDT and 6:00-9:00 P.M. EDT
And please, don’t just watch. Even though we are scattered, we can still pray together. In the days of John the Baptist, repentance paved the way for revival. And it still does.