Have you ever heard a message and one sentence really stood out to you? Such was the case this January when I attended a conference for evangelists. One evangelist was preaching and said something that really caught my attention. I don’t remember the exact wording, but the gist of the sentence was this. We need to stop just preaching ABOUT revival, and start preaching FOR revival. I think in our day we hear a fair amount of preaching ABOUT revival, but do we hear much preaching FOR revival? My dad used to say of Dr. John Rice that his brother Bill would sometimes feel their lives were in danger because Dr. Rice preached so hard. As many know, Dr. Rice saw God move mightily. Could it be he was preaching for revival?
In Acts 2 Peter preached a message that resulted in great blessing from heaven. I think in some measure it is fair to say that Peter was preaching for revival. What were the essential components of that message? As you study the message you will find Peter’s preaching was anointed, biblical and confrontational.
The preacher of the day was a man who knew what it was to fail the Lord. Just weeks earlier Peter had denied the Lord. O preacher have you ever failed the Lord that bought you? Have you ever refrained from saying what the Lord wanted you to say because a particular person was in the audience? Have you caved in to pressure instead of doing right? There is hope for you. Peter trembled at a maid servant’s inquiry concerning his identification as one of Jesus’ disciples. Pages later he is preaching a message with power and you know the result. What was the difference? Peter was “filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Friends, what folly it is to stand to preach if we do not so filled with the same Spirit that filled Peter on the Day of Pentecost. How is that going to happen? Each preacher must first prepare himself. First, he must be totally surrendered to God. Are you willing to preach anything and everything God leads you to preach? How often today preachers trim their message because they fear the consequences. No wonder there is no revival. The unbelief of cowardice is leaving us powerless, defeated and pragmatic. Secondly, the preacher must be totally dependant upon God to work. Since Jesus said, “without me ye can do nothing,” we had better take that to heart. I believe it was D.M. Lloyd-Jones who talked of the tragedy of being in the pulpit alone. O how we must have the dew of heaven upon our lives as we preach His Word! “Christ liveth in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God . . .” This includes preaching. We must put our faith, our reliance, our trust in the Spirit of Christ to enable us, to empower us as the Word is heralded forth.
As Peter preached that day he quoted from the psalmist David and the prophet Joel. He then very powerfully applied the Scriptures to Jesus Christ and then turned the guns on those who were party to his death. Peter very clearly tied his application to the authority of Scripture. The result is well known. God’s Word is a “lamp” to show us the way we should go. The Book gives life. “Thy word hath quickened me.” It is “powerful” to break the hard heart in pieces. God’s Word is the “truth” and gives authority to preaching. The Sacred Page is a sword that pierces “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Yes, the blessed Book is an essential, non negotiable when it comes to preaching FOR revival.
As a child I heard strong preaching on the issues of the day. Many times there was a close tie to God’s Word and the authority of those messages continues in my life until this day. However, I also heard preaching that was not always closely tied to the Scriptures. Sometimes there would be a cute anecdote or humorous spin. Perhaps the audience would be amused or laugh, but when examined closely there was little, if any, tie to Scripture. Is it any wonder twenty to thirty years later some folks are quickly abandoning those positions they heard in those kind of messages. The tragedy is that in many cases the positions are right and can be Biblically supported. God help us to boldly apply God’s Word as we preach God’s Word in an increasingly pagan culture.
Peter did not hesitate to confront the audience with their sins. He thundered forth with the indictment, “Jesus… ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Later, he talks of “Jesus, whom ye have crucified.” Peter not only showed them the shoe fit, he put it on! What was the result of this confrontational preaching? “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart.” Conviction led to salvation and three thousand were added to the church!
Evangelist James Stewart in his book Opened Windows relates a key element in the revival in Wales in 1904. He writes, “I learned first hand that it was the presentation by Dr. F.B. Meyer of God’s standard of holiness that laid the foundation for the revival in that country in 1904. A few pastors, burdened before the Lord concerning the desperate need of their own churches to return to vital New Testament Christianity, sent for God’s servant to come and minister to them. The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon him as he showed from the Word what God expected of His people. These preachers went back to their congregations to raise the standard of scriptural holiness among their people. Very soon, the fire of God began to break out simultaneously in different parts of the country until the whole nation was aflame.”
It was Evangelist John R. Rice who wrote in the Soulwinner’s Firethese words. “No preacher can please God who stays out of controversy. God has a controversy with sin. It is sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. It is sin that is populating Hell. It is sin that fills every graveyard, and fills every hospital and every jail. It is sin that blights every home that is broken by divorce. It is sin that a preacher must hate, denounce, expose!” Well said! Now may we through God’s clear direction and filling preach so.
O preacher, this kind of preaching will take faith. You will have to be convinced the Sprit has led you in your preaching. You will have to trust the Lord to work in hearts and to overcome obstacles. He alone can convince men of sin in a day when sin is being downplayed and even laughed at. You will have to recognize in some cases the result will be not be revival but riot. In Acts 7, Stephen preached the same kind of message filled with the same Spirit, but was martyred. However, even in those moments God can do great things. The great apostle Paul in his unconverted state stood that day as Stephen preached and who knows what impact that message had on his life.
Next time you get on your face to plead for revival. Think to yourself, “Am I preaching FOR revival?” I am convinced that there are some good guys, who in some measure do walk by faith, who do have a heart for revival, who do plead with God for to pour out His Spirit in our day, but they never preach FOR revival. Friend, this is a step of faith we must not avoid. May the Lord give us men filled with boldness who will unapologetically preach as God directs. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”