My Journey Into Revival

A Taste of New Wine

True revival is simply: “When Jesus takes over!”

 

          There are so many good definitions of revival that listing them would occupy a great deal of space. Perhaps the best Scriptural definition, at least according to J. Edwin Orr a noted historian of revival, is found in Acts 3:19 where Peter describes what we call revival as “the times of refreshing [which] come from the presence of the Lord”. To me, revival is simply a time WHEN JESUS SHOWS UP. And when He shows up, He doesn’t take orders from anyone. Not deacons. Not committees. Not denominational bureaucrats. Not even pastors, especially pastors. This is the reason why an insecure pastor becomes very nervous when revival arrives because even though he has prayed long for it, soon a human fear seizes him telling him he has lost control of himself and the situation. In a real sense he has lost control for in revival....JESUS TAKES OVER!

          I want to share with you my personal journey on the road to revival including where I am today and how I got there. God began a work of grace in my life in the Spring of 1982 in Dothan, Alabama. An unusual revival was taking place in that south Alabama city which started as a four-week conference and expanded into a six week meeting because the move of God was so mighty. This work of grace, which the Father began in my life, is nowhere near to being complete, however I am “confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Indeed, revival is a sovereign of grace that must be received by faith.

          As I honestly reflect upon the personal circumstances which precipitated my seeking and finding a revival experience, I must conclude that a life-long hunger and thirst for all that God has was my main motive. I had been a student of the great revivals of history and so I was absolutely convinced that the average church was nearly touching the hem of the garment when it comes to seeing the mighty works of God. As a vocational evangelist for six years I saw that there was so much more that the church needed to experience. I was firm in that conviction. I longed to see God move in awakening power as He touched and changed lives.  I knew that I needed to be one of those lives!

          By most popular standards of measurement, which the religious which the world I operate in, used to measure success, I met the requirements of being a successful pastor. The tenure of my service at the church I pastored was much beyond average. My church was steadily showing growth and a respectable increase in the important statistical columns. I was still in demand as a revival speaker and there was a mutual love between the people whom I pastored and myself. As I occasionally compared my life to others in my profession, I felt good about myself.

          Simply put, I was successful, sincere and as spiritual as anyone I knew well. At my young age I had my whole future in front of me. There was nothing that could keep me from the top, wherever that was, so I thought. Still, I was in a prison. I needed to be set free and when you think you have all the keys to success and none of them will unlock the door to your cell....you get desperate, but the good news is that a desperate person can find grace.

          So, I made hasty preparations, loaded my car and headed south to Dothan. The many interruptions that I experienced were a good indication that the devil was attempting to keep me from a Divine appointment. I drove hard and arrived in time on Monday night for the service at the convention center downtown. Tired and exhausted form the seven-hour drive, I sat through what I characterized as a fairly normal service. Nothing spectacular took place and I remember a haunting thought crossed my mind, “Oh God! I have found the revival I longed for and its nothing new.” I left the service disappointed but looking back on the experience; I’m not sure what I really expected.

          The following morning I attended a pastor’s conference in which a layman taught the Bible. Actually, it was the last day of more than two weeks of intense teaching on spiritual warfare. I was blessed by his simple approach and astonished at the atmosphere of freedom that existed. The presence of Jesus was so real in that place and the Holy Spirit was welcome to illuminate His word. Following this session this layman gave me several sheets of paper stapled together entitled, “Guide to Cleansing and Repentance”. It was a very through worksheet and I spent all afternoon in my motel room working through this guide. The Holy Spirit dealt with me mightily and I was ready and eager to repent of everything that He revealed. The searchlight of His truth exposed the hidden darkness of my life. I discovered that anything that I was willing to call sin and repent of, He was eager to forgive.

          Oh, how glorious was the time we spent together! I experienced both pain and joy as the Spirit revealed the ugly leprosy of my flesh and then touched me, making me whole. I lost all track of time for when the afternoon ended I emerged from my room like a butterfly who casts aside the cocoon of his former life.

          In the fullness of time....Jesus came to me and through a work of His grace I experienced a special “time of refreshing that comes from the presence of the Lord”. Some scales had fallen from my eyes and I drank deeply from the truth of John 8:31, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. I felt intoxicated from the drink for I had tasted new wine.

          I prepared to attend the service that night and arrived gifted with a new pair of eyes. Nothing was new but everything was different! During the worship that followed I saw the same things differently. The Spirit had removed the spectacles of bias and cynicism and I was free to see from a fresh perspective. I was no longer checking for error, I was looking for truth.

          I experienced praise as a garment worn by a liberated prisoner as the words of David rang true in my life: “Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name” (Psalm 142:7). It was thrilling not to be captive to the familiar thought, “What will others think?”, and experience worship as the others around me seemed oblivious to my presence. I beheld a special unity as believers from a variety of background adventured from behind the walls that had long sense divided them. It was refreshing to be a part of the Body of Christ, His church, in worship. No one seemed interested in their individual puddle for a mighty river of transformation had engulfed us.

          I didn’t fully understand what was happening for I didn’t receive all the Light. I still haven’t. However, what Light I did receive was enough to change me. I have since come to realize that when you walk with Jesus in revival you never get all of your questions answered. I had much rather live with unanswered questions than be daily faced with an anemic faith that riddles my life with problems. To me, it’s not even a close call.  For too long I had been content with a theological system that was successful in answering most of my questions but failed to meet most of my needs. Something is desperately wrong with such a theology but I was blind to that reality until my refreshing time spent in the presence of Jesus.

          The session the next morning was even sweeter. A unique thing about revival is the atmosphere it produces. The declared Scriptures become the Word of God falling on the parched souls of those who are hungry to hear. As the Word was preached, it was obvious that no man was in control. God was present and He brought with Him a special anointing to hear more than men were saying.  I felt like Peter with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. I wanted to build a tabernacle and stay but necessity demanded that I go. An appointment awaited me.

          As I left Dothan and pointed my car in the direction of Mississippi, where I was to begin a revival meeting that night, I was unaware of the plans that my heavenly Father had in store during the six hour drive. As I drove I began to reflect upon what had happened. I prayed, praised and testified for the entire time. I enjoyed a level of intimacy with the Lord that I had never known before. It was the highest form of worship that I had ever experienced on a personal level. I will never forget those special moments!

          I was only moments away from my destiny, still intoxicated from the overwhelming aroma of being in the presence of the resurrected Lord, when I was brought to earth by an intimidating thought: “You must preach tonight. You have wasted six hours when you should have been preparing a sermon”.  The intimidation was brief for immediately the Holy Spirit became my advocate as He replied, “Don’t ever consider time spent in the presence of Jesus as wasted!” Oh, what a powerful Word that was and a valuable lesson that I have never forgotten.  It was as if the Spirit reached deep within the treasure chest of God’s truth and handed me a priceless pearl. Indeed, never is time spent in the presence of Jesus wasted.

          Physically, I should have been exhausted but I wasn’t. On the contrary, I was refreshed.  Spiritually, I should have been drained but instead I was revived. Emotionally and mentally, I should have been wearied but I was renewed in my inner man.  The indwelling and infilling Spirit, an experience I had known for years, was overflowing my life with His anointing power. It was a taste of new wine.

          Ironically, at the moment I was still unaware of what exactly had taken place in my life but it would soon be revealed by the Spirit. Following the evening service I went home with the pastor where I was to lodge the next few nights. After a brief time of refreshments and fellowship, I went to bed but so was excited I could not sleep. An overwhelming sensation engulfed me bringing warmth and the light of what had happened. It hit me. I wanted to shout loud enough to wake everyone in the household....”I am free!”

          That was it! The liberating Spirit had visited my life and released me from so many areas of bondage. I was in bondage as a person to so many feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy. I was in bondage as a pastor to imposed expectations and duties. I was in bondage as a preacher to a performance oriented type of worship and works. I finally snuggled my Sony recorder up close to my ear and dozed off to sleep with the words of Evie 1  singing exactly how I felt at the moment:

                

“In this quiet hour, overcome with emotion for what I have been given, just because I asked. How can I tell you what I think of my Jesus? And what He has done for me, just because I asked. I can’t help singing, I feel I’m bursting. I can’t keep it to myself. For the Spirit is moving in me, and has filled me and made me new.”

          The next day would be the first day of a thrilling adventure. I had walked across an exciting threshold. Now the Lord would have to teach me many new things including that being free is not to be confused with irresponsibility. But for now, I was free and at the time that was all that mattered.

          The changes which revival brought to my life were both immediate and numerous. In my personal life the Spirit continued His liberating work in freeing me from many inhabitations’, insecurities, etc. Many of these were entrenched and brought deep roots with them upon removal. The Scriptures, which I had always loved and believed entirely, became alive as the breath of God blew across them. There was a new and obvious anointing on my preaching. I enjoyed ministry to others for I actually became an instrument of the grace of God. This refreshing approach replaced the dreaded moments of feeling inadequate when meeting the problems that people faced in their lives.

          One of the most obvious changes that took place was in the area of my theology, or rather how I viewed that theology. My personality and temperament is such that I demand a great amount of order and organization to my life. The order and organization is the control mechanism that I need to be in charge and prevent chaos from sitting on the throne of my life. Also, I was trained to think theologically so that everything fit and made sense. My view of theology corresponded completely with my view of how one is to keep their closet: “A place for everything and everything in its place”.

          However, once you begin to walk with God in revival you soon begin to see Him do things that did not fit in any cubical space provided by your theological system. There was so much about Him I had been too blind to see and so much that I needed to learn. Once the blinders were removed I had to make room for a new Jesus, One that I did not know much about. He was the same Jesus that I had known since I was a child, but a lot bigger than I ever dreamed. Over the next year, I allowed Him to examine everything that I said I believed. My beliefs and doctrines went through the crucible and in the end I discovered that my theology was basically sound, it was my system that was too small. For a person who demands order to give perspective to his sanity, to have Jesus tamper with your belief system is a fearful thing!

          I was in for a few other surprises as well. I thought everybody would be open and excited about the work of God that I experienced. After all, most everyone I knew prayed earnestly for revival to happen in his or her lives and churches. However, when I began to share with enthusiasm what I had experienced, I soon discovered that people showed more skepticism than excitement. In fact, some were suspicious while others were fearful perhaps that the whole thing was “some charismatic experience”. Some were skeptical, even openly critical. I learned through the experience that everyone has their own idea of what revival looks like and if any move of God doesn’t fit their preconceived ideas....they reject it. And, they reject you. Everybody who talks about revival isn’t for it! In fact, the majority of people who pray for revival have no idea what they are asking for anine that!!d would actually fight against it if it came! Imag

          As a result of that experience, God brought me to a place where I found it necessary to make a personal commitment. I have made up my mind that I am going to align my life with His truth regardless of whom that separates me from or identifies me with. That sounds like a simple statement to make but it took a lot of soul-searching and brokenness to arrive at that address. The implications are far reaching.

          In the years since my personal experience at Dothan, I discovered why revival is so sporadic. Everyone prays for revival but few have their prayers answered. Why? Simply because some are willing to pay the price to receive and others are not. Some receive revival as an act of grace through the instrument of faith while others require God to act in compliance with their traditions and expectations. Those people do not receive.

          When all is said and done, revival is controversial because it is personal. Revival is an encounter with the holiness of God and since no one struts in His presence, dealing with sin is a requirement.  During such personal encounters with His presence there can be no restricted areas, no locked doors. His omniscient eye will leave no stone unturned, untouched or unchanged. When you walk with Him in revival, you forfeit the right to restrict His Lordship. When you start drawing lines you stop walking in fellowship with the Spirit.

          In conclusion, personal revival is indeed a work of grace that must be received by faith. For me, it has been expensive and I must admit that I haven’t always enjoyed it but it has been worth it. It is an immediately release and relief to be forgiven and cleansed from the works of unrighteousness. However, when the Spirit continues to probe in order to remove the deep roots of sin, the joy turns to pain. Also, when revival becomes a part of your life, you are no longer a civilian who enjoys life in the comfort zone. You become a soldier engaged in a battle that is both demanding and dangerous. The issues are serious, the stakes are high and the margin of error must be minimal.

          When I returned home from Dothan, the glory of the Lord was so real. I went to the office of a friend for the purpose of sharing my new joy with her. Unfortunately, she was away from her desk so I quickly scribbled a note which read, “I have been in His glory...He is Lord!” I did not realize the full impact of its anointed message until later. Actually, I forgot all about the note. However, the words had such a ministry to her that she placed the note beneath the glass that covered her desk. Later she cross-stitched the message and gave it to me as a gift. It hangs on the wall of my office and constantly reminds me that I am to walk in His presence daily and be continually refreshed by the taste of His new wine.

 

 


1  Lyrics, “Just Because I Asked” by Ron Harris and sung by Evie on her recording entitled Mirror.

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