God said, “Return to Me, and I will return to you” (Mal. 3:7). How can you know when God is bringing revival? You will know you have truly returned to God when God draws near to you (James 4:8). The Asbury revival was described this way: “It was as if the campus had been suddenly invaded by another power.” To those at Asbury College, there was no question when God manifested His presence on their campus. During the revivals under Jonathan Edwards, people came under great fear as they realized Almighty, Holy God was in their midst and He knew every sin they had committed. Yet Edwards’s biographer noted: “The sense of fear which Edwards describes was not an irrational hysteria, it was the effect of truth brought home powerfully to the conscience.”8 It was obvious when God’s Holy Spirit was at work in people’s lives during those revivals, for people could not hide it if they tried. Charles Finney, who witnessed many powerful outpourings of God’s Spirit, observed: “It would probably not be possible for one who has never witnessed such a scene to realize what force the truth sometimes has under the power of the Holy Spirit.”9
If you and your church are missing God’s presence and power, you can be sure you have not met God’s requirements. When you experience God’s coming in power, you will never be the same. If you remain unchanged, whatever happened was not an encounter with God. Simply saying a prayer does not mean you have returned to God. Signing a card, confessing transgressions before your church, weeping, or praying with your pastor does not mean you have returned to God. If you do not experience God’s presence and know He has returned to you, get on your knees and ask Him what you still need to do in repentance.
God is waiting for you to draw near to Him. Repentance and revival, however, are not just reformed behavior. Revival has not taken place unless a change of heart and character has occurred. You cannot transform your own heart; God must do that: “‘Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart’” (Jer. 24:7).
When your love for the Lord compels you to obey Him and when your heart’s consuming desire is to please Him, that is the indication that the love relationship has been restored. Read the following verses from the book of Ezekiel and watch for ways God said He would revive and restore His people:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:’” “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord GOD, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!”
“‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by.
“So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken it, and I will do it.” (Ezek. 36:22-36)
These are some of the things God does when He brings revival:
- He reveals to us the holiness of His name.
- He cleanses us from all impurities and substitutes for His presence.
- He removes our hardened heart and gives a tender one in its place.
- He renews our spirit and gives us the desire to obey Him.
- He saves us from sin’s bondage.
- He restores what was taken away during His discipline and judgment.
- He removes our disgrace.
- He causes us to view our evil behavior in the same light God sees it.
- He rebuilds our broken lives.
Blackaby, Henry T., Claude V. King, Richard Blackaby, and Anne Graham Lotz. 2009. Fresh Encounter: God’s Plan for Your Spiritual Awakening Revised. Nashville, TN: B&H Books.