Matthew R. Perry

A Recipe For Revival (Psalm 85)

In Church Life on March 9, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Recipes and I do not get along too well. The extent of my cooking knowledge is praying that the box says, “Microwaveable” … then I proceed.

But when it comes to recipes for revival, that’s a different story. It’s exciting to read how God moved in various awakenings throughout history. The most amazing one is found in Acts when 3000 people came to Christ in one day as Peter preached in Jerusalem. From that, many more revivals and awakenings came to pass as Peter, Stephen, Philip and the Apostle Paul traveled and preached throughout the entire Roman Empire, turning that powerful empire upside down. Though allegiance to Caesar was required (under penalty of death), many turned their allegiance to Christ (and faced the penalty of death).

Revivals have come throughout church history as well. The Great Awakening of the 1730s -40s in colonial America, eventually spreading to Europe, under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in America and George Whitefield in England, brought awakened many to the Spirit’s work — among whom are John and Charles Wesley.

What exactly is “revival”? Stephen Olford says, “Revival is an invasion from heaven that brings a conscious awareness of God.” Vance Havner once said that, “Revival is the church falling in love with Jesus all over again.”

Some say we are past the era of revivals and see little use for them. One lady asked the great evangelist Billy Sunday, “Why do you keep having revivals?” Billy Sunday asked her a question right back, “Why do you keep taking baths?” The message is clear — individual Christians and churches need to set aside time to simply focus on our life in Jesus Christ. That’s the plan for this coming Sunday through Tuesday.

Getting back to our recipes — is there a recipe for revival? Is there something that one can do to conjure it up? We are going to find out that the answer is ‘no.’ We are not the ones who initiate revivals. But Psalm 85 will show us how to prepare ourselves and be ready for when revival comes.

1. A moving of the Spirit of prayer among God’s people.

In the title of this Psalm, we see, “To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.” We’re not really sure who the ‘Sons of Korah’ are, but we see that they clearly have something on their heart — revival and restoration. Where did this come from? This came from the Spirit of God.

You see, we know that all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16). And since God included Psalm 85 in the canon of Scripture, we know that the desire this Psalm expresses was initiated and breathed out by God.

G. Campbell Morgan gets it right when he says, “Revival cannot be organized, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.” It would be silly for us to believe that we are ‘scheduling revival.’ Sure, it’s on our calendar for May 1-3. But revival comes in God’s timing when He sents His Spirit.

Consider that conversation Jesus had with that revered teacher of the law Nicodemus. He tells Nicodemus:

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:7-8).

Jesus uses a play on words. The Greek word for ‘spirit’ is pneuma which can mean breath, spirit, or wind. You do not know where the natural wind comes from — where it begins, moves toward, or ends. It is the same with the work of His Spirit.

Matthew Henry observes: “So ready is God to hear and answer the prayers of his people that by his Spirit in the word, and in the heart, he indicts their petitions and puts words into their mouths. The people of God, in a very low and weak condition, are here taught how to address themselves to God.”

2. A look at God’s favor in the past (85:1-3).

Psalm 85 was likely written just after the people of Israel came back from exile from Babylon. After centuries of unfaithfulness, God took them away from the greatest tangible blessing He granted — their land. So in 587 B.C., God allowed Babylon to come in and take them captive from their beloved Promised Land into a foreign land.

But now they were back. This generation had heard of how God moved among Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, and other godly and obedient kings. They remembered how their parents taught them of God’s wonders delivering them from Egypt, giving them victory as they entered the Promised Land, and so many other ways He blessed His people and their land. But if there was a way to sum up how things were, one just has to look to Nehemiah 1:3 in that Israel was in “great trouble and shame.”

Remember how it felt when you were first saved by God’s glorious grace? The weight of sin that was removed off your shoulders? The new-found freedom that rushed into your heart and mind? I remember — and I was on-fire for the Lord. You couldn’t shut me up about the Lord.

But time and life experiences and various other things often turn the roaring fire into embers. We get more concerned about what people think of us and get more comfortable with those who are like us (read: Christians) — thus we get cool in our relationships and get complacent in our relationship with God and with the lost. Your spiritual life and relationship with God was in “great trouble and shame.”

What do we do? In our flesh, we look at verse 1 and say, “God, give me material blessings so I know you love me and are nearby.” But isn’t it strange how those who are materially prosperous are also those who are most miserable? They have missed the foundation of why God extends His favor. It’s found in verses 2 and 3:

    [2] You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you covered all their sin. Selah
    [3] You withdrew all your wrath;
    you turned from your hot anger.

This is the foundation of receiving God’s mercy and grace — is the forgiveness of our inquities (gross immoral acts) and our sin (that is, our shortcomings of the glory of God — see Romans 3:23). Thus, we are recipients of God’s wrath. Albert Barnes notes that, “[God’s wrath] is the opposition of the divine character against sin; and the determination of the divine mind to express that opposition in a proper way, by excluding the offender from the favors which He bestows on the righteous.”

3. A rejuvenation (85:4-7);

[4] Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
[5] Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
[6] Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
[7] Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
And grant us your salvation.

Notice in verse four the begging of the Psalmist for God to restore us again! Notice too in verse six the psalmist begging God to ‘revive us again!’ One is for a restoration of position — asking God to turn back His people into His direction; the other is for the restoration of passion!

We get comfortable in our position as Christians. “Thank you God for saving me, now I’ll be on my way. See you in heaven…” but acting as if God were an afterthought. The people of Israel before the exile were comfortable going through the motions, all the while blind to their rebellion and sluffing off their sins. They were comfortable in their position as “God’s people in God’s Promised Land.”

Now, in light of both the good and the bad times, the psalmist is asking for a restored position in God’s Land! But also, the Psalmist asks, “Don’t just restore us, Lord — REVIVE US!” What does that mean?

To revive means to ‘resurrect; make alive again.’ Ezekiel 37:11-12 in that valley of dry bones, God says to Ezekiel: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’ [12] Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.”

This is the type of revival we need! We must not only ask God to put us in a holy position, but to grant us a holy passion! “Revive us again so that your people may rejoice in you.” When was the last time you had the joy of the Lord in you? Can you say with Nehemiah that “The joy of the Lord is your strength”? (Nehemiah 8:10). We hear of people getting saved, we say, “Oh, that’s nice!” When we ask God to deliver us and give us peace in the storm — and then He does it — we say, “Wow! I feel so at peace!” and act surprised when God follows through.

At a conference at a church in Omaha, people were given helium filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. As with this particular denomination, they weren’t free to say "Hallelujah, Praise the Lord." All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were unreleased.

Some of us need to let our balloons go! Ask God as David did to “restore the joy of your salvation.” When God revives us, we rejoice in Him.

4. A hearing of God’s Word as our authority (85:8-9);

[8] Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
[9] Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.

There’s an old saying, “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.”

The writer of this Psalm wants to hear what God the Lord will speak! He wants to hear His Word. When the Word is proclaimed and the Spirit who authored the Word is on the march, mighty ‘God-things’ will begin to happen. Revivals do not and I will say cannot happen apart of being gripped by the transforming Word of God.

In Acts, you look at how many times the Word of God was preached and you look at the Spirit’s work. Many came to salvation. And yes, many did not! The reaction to the Word of God shows our standing before God and our relationship with God.

The late James Montgomery Boice mentions that, “Historically revivals have [begun] under strong biblical preaching.” With hearing God speak from His Word, we know that from His Word, “He will speak peace to his people, to his saints, but let them not turn back to folly” (v. 8). When God saves us by His Word (the Gospel), peace arrives — salvation comes! God and man are reconciled.

Yet, if you have experience this, heed the Psalmists warning! “Let them not turn back to folly!” Do slack off in the holy race! How dangerous it is when we have experience the “peace that passes all understanding” in Christ Jesus for us to turn away from Him! It is a prime example of how we do not trust him nor fear Him. The underlying issue with sin is the fact that we do not fear God, we do not trust Him, we doubt His promises and His will. We need the Word of God and His Spirit to refresh us with His peace so we may trust and fear and have hope in our salvation.

5. A standing in God’s presence (85:10-11);

[10] Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
[11] Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.

Dr. J. Elder Cumming contended that "in almost every case the beginning of new blessing is a new revelation of the character of God–more beautiful, more wonderful, more precious." And how wonderful when we see the attributes of God come together in such an incredible way. Here we see God’s attributes in perfect harmony! God’s covenant love and faithfulness come together. God’s righteousness and peace come together as well. When all of these perfect attributes of God come perfectly together, then Stephen Olford is right when he says, “Revival is an invasion from heaven that brings a conscious awareness of God.”

But look at verse 11! Faithfulness of God’s people due to their forgiveness of sin and obedience to God’s Word springs up! At the same time, God’s righteousness looks down from the sky. Here is where God and man meet! It reminds one of 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” By grace through faith, our sins are forgiven! With that, God places not His righteousness with us!

6. The result: the blessing of God’s goodness (85:12-13).

[12] Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
[13] Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.

Robert Coleman says, “Revival is that sovereign work of God in which He visits His own people, restoring and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing.” God is a good God! In fact, nothing good is apart from God’s goodness. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

And He longs to dispense His good gifts upon His people. Our problem often is that our attitude is in such a shambles, we are in no condition to not only receive them but, if we do receive them, we fail to give glory and praise to the giver of those gifts. The greatest gift of all is the bestowment of a right condition — heart, soul, mind, and strength — that goes before Him as He makes a way for us to heaven. Christ opened the doors, bridging the gap between heaven and earth. When we are made right before Him, confessing our sin and trusting in Christ alone as our Savior and Master, the way He paved to heaven is the way we travel as we follow Him.

Conclusion

Sometimes we slide away from seeing His goodness and faithfulness in ways we don’t even see. In an e-mail I recently received entitled “Isn’t it strange…?”, it really helped put some basic things in perspective:

Isn’t it strange how a 20 dollar bill seems like such a large amount when you donate it to church, but such a small amount when you go shopping?

Isn’t it strange how 2 hours seem so long when you’re at church, and how short they seem when you’re watching a good movie?

Isn’t it strange that you can’t find a word to say when you’re praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend?

Isn’t it strange how difficult and boring it is to read one chapter of the Bible, but how easy it is to read 100 pages of a popular novel?

Isn’t it strange how everyone wants front-row-tickets to concerts or games, but they do whatever is possible to sit at the last row in Church?

Isn’t it strange how we need to know about an event for Church 2-3 weeks before the day so we can include it in our agenda, but we can adjust it for other events in the last minute?

Isn’t it strange how difficult it is to learn a fact about God to share it with others, but how easy it is to learn, understand, extend and repeat gossip?

Isn’t it strange how we believe everything that magazines and newspapers say, but we question the words in the Bible?

Isn’t it strange how everyone wants a place in heaven, but they don’t want to believe, do, or say anything to get there?

If we want revival, then we have to respond to the Spirit’s moving, understand how God has moved in the past, pray He’d do it again, submit to the authority of God’s life-changing Word, pursue God’s presence, and thus receive the blessing from God! Psalm 85 has given us a recipe for revival. Will we implement these ingredients into our hearts and minds in preparation for God will do?

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  1. Matthew–One of my students liked your sermon so much, he took a lot of it verbatim, and made it into a paper. I’ll be glad to share his email address with you, if you wish.

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