During one of my long drives to Thompson last week I listened to audio messages by Leonard Ravenhill, Paul Washer, Bill McLeod and Brian Long. These fiery preachers share an uncompromising message about a desperate longing to return to God and experience real and lasting revival.
The message by Bill McLeod was entitled, “The Return of God’s Glory” is a sobering message regarding the departure of God’s Glory from our lives and our churches and how we must have it return. All week long I wrestled with this message and the question “has the glory departed?” At our “Deeper Life Network” meeting on Saturday evening the discussion and prayer was “yes, we do need the glory of God!”
Bill McLeod was a pastor in Saskatoon who for several years led his church to pray for revival. In 1971 their prayers were answered and we have documented what has been termed the “Canadian Revival”. Over the course of two years this move of God was experienced in every province in Canada, every state in the USA and all over the world. From this experience Bill traveled in Canada and abroad for several years in full-time revival ministry, challenging believers to a deeper walk with God.
The message that Bill shares carries weight and comes from a man that knows the deep workings of God in the lives of man. He shares several accounts of the things that happened in in his ministry and during that time of awakening.
We live in a time when we constantly hear about revival movements and people praying for revival and the presence of God to be manifested. This probably comes from a legitimate desire and longing to see our world impacted by God. This past year I believe that God has been working in my own life to produce a deep yearning for a move of God. During my life I have experienced these times before when there was a real sense of God’s presence that had an impact on people from backsliders to the ungodly. Back in the mid 1980’s when God deeply touched my life it was during a time of revival and awakening in our church when many lives were impacted for His Kingdom.
Revival has always been controversial in that people just do not like to be shaken up and forced to deal with the sinful obstacles in their lives. When God begins to deal with the hearts of man, we can quickly be made to feel uncomfortable in the rut of dead religion, having a “form” of godliness but denying the real power of God. Conviction is not an easy feeling to shake when the almighty puts His finger on the things that have long been hidden within.
With all the desire and talk of revival comes the question, what does real revival look like? We have had several recent “revivals” that seem to be a lot of smoke and sometimes mirrors. At no other time in Christendom have we seen such a pursuit for “revival” meetings and conferences where people are seeking experiences. Unfortunately, many times they return from these meetings unchanged and sometimes disillusioned.
I have concluded that much of what we see today does not bare the marks of something that is a move of God or at least not to any great degree. You see today churches are often full of people, even having multiple services to accommodate the crowds. They have lights and smoke and well-tuned instruments. People will stand for an hour during concerts of worship and I would like to say that they really are worshipping God, however singing, clapping hands and participating in a celebration of joy and victory is rapidly being replaced with the muttering of a few familiar words while observing talented musicians on a large stage. I can still remember when the glory of God would fall on the congregation and for several minutes people would spontaneously shout, clap and even weep in the presence of God. I long for those days again.
We have substituted the Glory of God with counterfeits. Music and sound and programs and dynamic communicators and media and technology. They have for the most part replaced the real work that God does and wants to do in the hearts and lives of His people. What happened to the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit where you didn’t know what was going to happen in the next moment? Perhaps rather than standing for an hour listening to loud music we would be quietly sitting, hesitant to even move because the sovereign presence of a Holy God was gently resting on the people of God. Where is the spontaneous prayer that erupts in unison from hearts that are desperate for a taste of the living water of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps just like king Saul had given up on the arrival of the prophet Samuel and took matters into his own hands we have done likewise. (1Sam. 13). And the glory has departed. And we do not even know it.
I believe that the Apostle Paul had something to say about this when he was forced to substantiate the legitimacy of his ministry in 2Corinthians 3 (NIV):
3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
In this passage we learn about important truths regarding the “revival” ministry of Paul the apostle and the “surpassing glory” that needs to be evident in the church today:
- Revival is about People’s Hearts (vs. 2-3): The tablets of human hearts is where God does his work and changes lives. That God is working sovereignly in the lives of people bears testimony of real revival.
- Revival comes from God and is Spiritual Ministry (vs. 4-6): God is the source of revival, not man made programs, technology, great music, state of the art facilities, or dynamic communicators. We must not get distracted by these things as they can prevent God from moving sovereignly. God is a spirit and must be worshipped in the spirit and in truth (John 4.24). Ministry must happen at the spiritual level and go deep within and not just appeal to our flesh and physical senses. You can always determine if what is happening is spiritual and real by the fervency of the prayer time. If people are not praying and seeking God then what is happening is shallow. This is true without exception.
- Revival produces Life (vs. 6-7): When the Spirit of God is present He is the source of an abundant life that cannot be manufactured by human means. The letter [form] kills but the Spirit gives eternal satisfying life (John 4.13).
- Revival is the manifestation of God’s Great Glory (vs. 7-11): God’s Glory is defined as the manifestation of God’s presence. It is the evidence that God is present and working. In the New Testament we have a glory that is far greater than the glory revealed in the Old Testament when God’s law was articulated. This glory is manifested through the Holy Spirit in many ways: spiritual fruit (Gal. 5), spiritual gifts (1Cor. 12), divine guidance (John 16.13), and divine works (Mark 16.15-19). We are in desperate need of this Great Glory today as there is little evidence of it in our ministry.
- Revival brings Righteousness (vs. 9): The law [form] cannot make us righteousness in God’s eyes. It only brings condemnation. The ministry of God has an end result: people are made righteous. In our eyes this may seem unimportant. In God’s eyes this is everything. Righteousness represents our RELATIONSHIP with God. When we are unrighteous we will lack the confidence that we need to approach the holy throne of God and find mercy and rest (Heb. 4).
- Revival Endures (vs. 11): Revival brings lasting results that continue into eternity. People go forth and change the world. The fruit that is produced does not cease and lives are changed forever.
- Revival is something that we POSSESS [we have] and produces Great Boldness (vs12): You do not have to go searching for revival as it is something that has been engraved in the lives of those who are truly called of God. The only place it can be found is within and it comes by seeking and laying a hold of the throne of God. With such a glorious manifestation of god’s presence in our lives how can we not be bold?
- Revival brings Revelation (vs. 13-16): Only the Lord can remove the veil that covers our HEARTS. When we turn ourselves completely to him [surrender]. This spiritual veil will prevent us from contemplating the glory of God. Without revelation we cannot know our [spiritual] Lord. We also cannot know one another spiritually.
- Revival brings Freedom (vs. 17): Where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. I have never met anyone who does not want to or need to be set free. The world and physical body that we dwell are prone to bondage. The devil is a tyrant whose only objective is to cause slavery and death. Freedom is cause for great celebration and joy. How I long to be in company of a host of the redeemed that with all their strength praise the Lord for his saving mercy.
- Revival results in Transformation (vs. 18): We are changed into his image with INCREASING glory! As we move forward we look and act and think like our Lord more and more as we undergo this transformation. We sin less and love more and the presence of God in our lives is INCREASING.
So you see revival and the Glory of God are NOT OPTIONAL. In fact in the ministry of the New Testament leaders it was the standard and the evidence of true Christianity. I believe that we once again are in need of the Glory of God to return to our lives, families, and gatherings. We need a “desperate response” to a desperate situation.
In 1966 Pastor Bill McLeod had been faithfully shepherding Ebenezer Baptist Church for four years. Through this time he brought in evangelists, musical quartets, speakers, and more, but saw himself and his church make little spiritual advancement. In desperation, he shut the doors, closed down the events, and brought the church together so they could pray for revival. The Wednesday night prayer meeting slowly grew from a mere 25 to finally 175 (more than the church membership), and for many, many years they persevered in this manner not knowing what marvelous things God had in store.
Finally, Pastor Bill invited two evangelists, Ralph & Lou Sutera, to speak to his congregation. With much anticipation the first night of the meetings came, but nothing happened. The first night passed, the second, the third, but on the fourth night, October 17, 1971, God in His sovereignty came in revival. Without human means or explanation, the revival spread from church to church, community to community, city to city, and not long after from province to province.
With the worship of God being refreshed in hundreds of churches, and thousands being transformed with the display of God’s glory, a core group formed to serve pastors and churches while the revival continued. Pastor Bill, the Suteras, Harold Lutzer, and others of this group administrated meetings across the country, supported pastors, and managed financial support. In 1972 this group officially became the Canadian Revival Fellowship.