How to prepare our lives for revival
Confession of sin: the second of a three-part series by Baptist minister Don Attenborough focuses on how we might prepare for revival
Read part one here
Confession of sin
Evan Roberts, a man wonderfully used in the Welsh revival in 1905, continually said that what prepares us for renewal and baptism in the Spirit is firstly confession of sin; I believe the same is true when we pray for revival today.
Evan said firstly, “If there are sins, or sins in the passed not confessed, we cannot have the Spirit. Therefore we must search, and ask the Spirit to search us”.
Secondly he went on to say, “If there is something doubtful in our life it must be removed.”
Thirdly he said there must be “…total surrender to the Spirit… we must do all and say all he asks.”
Fourthly Roberts said there must be among God’s people “Public confession of Christ.”
Even Robert’s initial words about confession of sin and holiness of life echo the Apostle John’s in 1 John 1: 7-9. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Revival starts in the heart of God and I believe his heart today is to send a revival on our land such as the nation has never seen before; but our hearts have to be made ready through confession of sin and a return to holy living; this makes us ready for our prayers to be heard for such a fresh move of God. When sin is not confessed and repented of, heaven remains silent on pouring out forgiveness from God. (Matt 6:14-15)
Sin in us must be dealt with and the need in our day in the Church is repentance and a determination to walk in the way of the Lord empowered by his Spirit. We must confess our sin and determine to ‘walk in the light as he is in the light.’ We must pray “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
“If there is something doubtful in our life it must be removed”
If we are honest with ourselves we will know that our lives do not shine out with enough evidence of the faith we say we profess. Sometimes our hearts even desperately desire a deeper relationship with Jesus, yet we remain nervous of the consequences and demands that such a new relationship requires.
We desire that new relationship with Jesus, but whilst the desire is strong the flesh remains weak.
This must change for us all, or we may never hear the words of our Lord when we stand before him, “Well done my good and faithful servant!” I am constantly being challenged about the depth of my own relationship with Jesus and my availability for him.
There are enemies in our soul and God wants to deal with them. There are secret sins, habits and even ways of living we have never seen as being offensive to God.
The honest person will face the light that is our God and wants to get sin in their lives dealt with, sorted out, once and for all. You probably know already what God wants to deal with in your life and you have been holding back in dealing with it. Right now the Spirit of conviction may be rising within you and that conviction reveals God’s love for you and his desire to further bless you life in his service; his heart is to take you deeper into his love.
How much more we love our Saviour when we have truly seen the depth of our sin and recognised again the wonder of the love that has dealt with it on the Cross.
To love Christ more, to go deeper into the light, is to root out every sin the light shows up and receive the forgiveness of the one who loves us and gave himself for us on that Cross! If we doubt that our particular sin and failure can be forgiven, then we need to remember that the blood Jesus shed at the Cross cleanses us from every sin! (1 John 1: 9)
We must know the Spirit of God is in us
Many of us may have been incorrectly counselled over the years. We have been told to confess our sins and believe in Jesus and then count ourselves forgiven and okay with God; yet we may still be in agony of soul over our sin and its consequences; why is this? It is because we have not yet received the Holy Spirit in our lives bringing new birth and assurance of salvation.
We must know deep within that our sin has been forgiven and that we have obtained the assurance of it! Faith then moves on to involve our feelings as we feel the born again from above experience.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. These are feelings? We must not let go of God until we know for certain we are forgiven and saved from God’s coming judgement on the world; we must discover in our innermost being that we are indeed forgiven. We must have the experience, as a friend of mine has many times preached, of ‘knowing in our knower’ that we are right with God and heaven bound.
Duncan Campbell once said, “The greatest emotional upset is when a person is born again!” It is in that emotional upset we discover the great joy and peace of heaven that touches our emotions!
We can only be saved by faith in Jesus, and we live from faith to faith, but we must move through faith into an encounter with the Holy Spirit who fulfils the promise that Jesus made that he and the Father would make themselves known to us. (John 14:21) In that move we will find the Spirit touching our emotions and feelings; the words of Jesus have no meaning unless they mean a ‘feelings’ encounter with him and his Father! We must have the witness of the Holy Spirit within us for he is the guarantee of peace with God; he brings the assurance of faith that motivates and empowers our life in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) When the Spirit of Jesus comes into our lives we cannot fail to know his coming.
If we have no sense of Christ in us, which was the great secret of scripture revealed in Jesus, (Colossians 1:27) then it is a strong possibility that we have only intellectually accepted the gospel message, but have never known the assurance of faith that being born again of the Spirit brings; therefore we may not yet be fully saved at all and remain unconverted and still in our sin.
This is partly why repentance starts in the house of God; it is to bring conviction of sin to the saint and conviction of sin on those who think they are saved and are not, and on those who know they are not saved at all. In the Hebrides awakening there was conviction and repentance in the home, at work, in the fields and on the roadside for many before even coming under the sound of the gospel or hearing the words of a preacher, such was the presence of God experienced during that period.
We must be able to say with Job, “I know my redeemer lives”. We must go on to know without a shadow of doubt that we have been baptised in the Holy Spirit and that Jesus lives in us by the presence of the same Holy Spirit. We must be Spirit empowered for service and the receivers of spiritual gifts or else we are just like earthly soldiers facing an enemy with no weapons to fight with.
Daily rooting out of sin
Many of our churches are preaching a soft gospel these days; they teach so much of the love of God to comfort when there is sin to root out so that God can bless us more. These churches are often the ones packed out. This generation seems to refuses to accept the grim reality of sin. We must again preach the full Gospel. All sin must be rooted out of our lives!
In 1 John 1:7 we are told, “But if we walk in the light as he (God) is in the light” this indicates our calling; it repeats other scriptures like Romans 13: 14 “…clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ…” and 1 Peter 1: 15-16 “But just as he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
God is light and his light consists of purity, righteousness, truthfulness love and much more; in him there is no darkness at all and there must be none in us!
This process of sin being rooted out and a new life of holiness continually being put on is called, as many of you will know already, sanctification, that which transforms us by the Holy Spirit’s power working in us, into the image of Christ; a process only completed the day we pass from this world to the next. But it’s not automatic. We have to work with the Holy Spirit in the changing process by doing the walking in the purity of life. “His (God’s) divine power”, writes the Apostle Peter, “…has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” There is no excuse!
Are we so walking in the light of God and are we acknowledging what that light is revealing and repenting of it? Is sin being rooted out in us by the Holy Spirit day by day so that we may go deeper with Jesus?
I say again without apology that there needs to be fresh repentance in the church if we are to see revival. Too much of the world is in us and we need to cry out with the Palmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
This is a constant challenge to me, and I ask myself again and again, am I more like Jesus than last month, last year; am I growing in grace and love like him?
A hunger for holiness
Duncan Campbell, a man used in the Scottish Hebrides Islands revival of 1949 to 1952 said, “Revival must be related to holiness and salvation…..There must be a hunger for holiness.” We must give ourselves a spiritual check-up and ask the question, ‘Do we hunger for holiness? Do we hunger for more of Jesus?’
When we walk in the light as he (God) is in the light, then we have true fellowship with Jesus and one another; then we rediscovered again that the ever present blood of Jesus is ready to cover our sin, place our feet on solid rock again and fill us afresh with the Holy Spirit. (1 John 1:7)
This constantly revolutionises and refreshes our spiritual lives; it brings personal renewal and revival! Let’s walk in the light however uncomfortable at first it makes us feel, for renewal and revival depend upon it! The world waits to see the holiness of the living Jesus, revealed in us!
Obedience must also follow faith, genuine repentance and walking in holiness of life! We are commanded to live as Jesus lived in John’s letter. (1 John 2:6) Are we walking in obedience?
Are we walking in God’s plan for our lives? Are we in the centre of that plan where the greater joy and peace can be found to sustain us in the trials of life and in our conflict with Satan, the world, and our sinful nature? (Eph 2:10) Is our desire to be always available for Jesus? Is he the first in our life and are we faithfully talking about him to others?
Did you know we can walk in the second best for years through living for self and not for Jesus? I know that from personal experience, but God waits to “…restore the years the locusts have eaten.” This is his promise to us always, and this text has been much on my mind recently (Joel 2:25)
I have served in the church since I was 15 years old and have preached many sermons. I have undertaken almost every leadership role that Church life requires. I have been a youth leader, worship leader, home group leader, deacon, Sunday school teacher and Sunday school superintendent, a pastor for a number of years, and more.
I have seen spiritual renewal with my own eyes and God moving powerfully in many people; at times I have so felt the presence of God that I desired not to leave that moment and like Duncan Campbell during the Hebrides awakening I have prayed that I might be taken then and there to glory; but I now see a lot of this activity for God as second best for my life because I was not walking in total obedience, yet nonetheless by his grace that activity was blessed; I believe things could have been so different if I had lived as close to Jesus as I should have been.
You may be feeling the same, yet remember the text just quoted and draw near to God so he can draw near to you and thus you can find the years restored to you for further service for the kingdom.
A dream of revival - or the reality of things to come?
As I have said already, I believe Jesus is coming soon and because I know he loves his Church I believe God will not forget our country and will have mercy upon us before judgement day arrives; he will send the rain of spiritual revival. This is what I constantly pray for and I long to see in my lifetime.
Some years ago I had a vision along with many others from around the Christian community in this country; it was of a map of the UK with lights reflecting God’s glory in various parts of our land; suddenly those lights came together all around our coastline and God’s glory shone everywhere! Was this just a dream of revival or was it the reality of things to come? I cannot say, but God is merciful!
Many of you have been prepared by God to hear this message today. Your spirit may be leaping within you as you read these words. God wants to take you deeper and use you in ways that will amaze you! He is waiting for you to say, ‘O Lord, will you meet with me, will you bend me to your will! He wants to root out sin so that your spiritual life may advance; he wants to see your love for him, your spiritual life and your prayer life, reach new depths!
When the prayer meetings in our churches and homes become the most well attended meetings, we will probably be in the midst of revival and yet not realise it; I often think we only know revival retrospectively, when we look back and remember the great things the Holy Spirit did in those times.
I heard one dear saint say, “I think God wants us to live all the time in revival.” That person is probably right as I indicated earlier. I believe the church falls behind in its relationship with God, and that renewal and revival happen suddenly bringing us up dramatically to where we should be in our spiritual lives!
We need to get into a deeper prayer mode and plead with God to root out our sin, and when we have got right with the Lord and assurance of salvation has come again, plus refreshing new joy in Christ has been restored to us, we will need to go on to remind the Lord that he does not want any lost, that he promised to pour water on the dry ground. It is time to shed tears for the nations lost, our neighbours, our friends our loved ones before God’s coming judgement on this world for its sinfulness and rejection of Christ Jesus. God waits to hear our cries for our land that he might pour out his Spirit again in mighty revival!
Those of you who have faithfully prayed over the years for revival are, I believe, about to have your prayers answered, but more prayer is needed. The prayer of faith never gives up. “Call to me and I will answer you and I will tell you unsearchable things you do not know.”
The cost of revival is absolute surrender to God!
The Revd Don Attenborough is a Baptist minister
Picture: If We Confess/Robert Fike/Creationswap