May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
God brings freedom through revivals. Notice the different freedoms in four of history’s great outpourings. The Second Great Awakening witnesses at least fifty thousand people set free from sin every single week over a one-year period.
During the 1984 Argentina Revival, each night large crowds gather in a designated tent to be set free from demonic bondage. At Azusa Street countless sick people are dramatically freed from all kinds of infirmities. In the British Great Awakening many believers are set free from sin and selfishness to live wholly for God.
All these freedoms are important but the final one where believers are supernaturally empowered to choose for God is very strategic. This is the experience of sanctification Paul wants for the Thessalonians, and it strengthens a revival more than anything else. Take the revival in the Hebrides as an example. Before it starts, a few men pray several nights a week in a barn for an awakening. After five months, the Spirit suddenly comes one evening and sanctifies all of them to choose wholly for God. They understand the supernatural empowerment they experience is a prophecy for the coming revival.
“Yes,” Duncan Campbell explains, “that was the truth they discovered; revival was coming . . . they were going to see men so supernaturally altered that holiness would characterize every part of their being, body, soul, and spirit.”2
If the Spirit’s empowerment for holy living increases revival’s impact, what more should you know about it? As you seek God for the next wave be aware of these facts.
Our Pentecost Has Come
Understand the importance of the Spirit’s sanctifying work in past revivals. Among those outpourings you find believers receiving this supernatural empowerment that transforms choices.
The Moravian Revival and First Great Awakening of the early eighteenth century witness many in the church come to know a new level of obedience. But the history-changing moment for the experience is around 1760. That’s when John Wesley begins encouraging believers in the British Great Awakening to intentionally go after sanctification instead of hoping it might happen to them.
Wesley proclaims this moral empowerment can be received in a moment of faith. It’s at this period in the revival you suddenly notice believers everywhere expecting and experiencing a new capacity to choose wholly for Christ. It comes instantly.
The sanctifying of believers reignites the revival in England and takes America by storm. There, Francis Asbury gets the news that four thousand people are saved on the east cost of Maryland, and a thousand Methodist are supernaturally set free to wholly love God. He declares, “Our Pentecost has come for sanctification.”3
The Spirit’s transformation of believers continues through the revivals of the early nineteenth century. By the time of the Second Great Awakening the popular term for the experience becomes “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” and it surges again.
When you arrive at the end of the nineteenth century a revival is actually named “holiness” because so many believers are being set free from selfish and sinful lives. One American writer at that time exclaims, “I have never seen such an apparent growth in the spirit of holiness. . . .”4
The leaders at the Azusa Street Revival in 1906, calling for a new baptism of power evidenced by tongues, warn believers to first seek God for sanctification. They understand this freedom from self-interest is the safest way to wield the power of Pentecost.
Survey the rest of the twentieth century. You find the experience stretching into the middle and even late decades in a number of outpourings. These include the Hebrides and Asbury Revivals.
Now as you seek another wave of revival, consider this question: Do you believe the moral empowerment of believers is necessary for our generation like those of the past? If your answer is yes, understand it won’t happen unless you ask the Spirit to do now what he does over and over again in earlier revivals.
Expect It Now
In order to know what to ask, look at those revivals and see how the Spirit brings believers to this empowerment. Expect what you see for our day. The Spirit first convicts. Conviction is a supernatural realization that the selfish and sinful choices among believers are wrong. Without it we continue our compromised living and never see
the need for the Spirit’s moral empowerment.
Sometimes this disturbance is unbearable. During the 1908 Manchurian Revival, believers
under conviction strongly object to the closing of a three-hour meeting. They protest, “Please have pity on us and let the meeting go on. For days we haven’t been able to sleep.”5 Whether conviction is that strong or not, ask God to disturb this generation of believers about our compromised living. From conviction the Spirit moves believers to a consecration. Consecration is an intentional decision to want what God wants. It’s not attempting by human effort to do what God wants but it’s a full surrender of the will to want what he wants. If you’re looking for a revival with impact, here’s how consecration needs to happen.
God wants you to be dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). You must want and expect this. Without a consecration of your will to God’s purposes, you won’t choose against sin and selfishness even when the Spirit empowers you. Duncan Campbell says. “The essential nature of sin is my claim to my right to myself. . . . Consecration is my relinquishing of that claim.”6
A decision to want what God wants even when it goes against your rights to self is only half the consecration. God also wants you alive to his power. You must want and expect it. Without surrendering your will to the Spirit’s promptings you won’t risk into supernatural power. Determine you want life in the Spirit.
In past revivals, after conviction and consecration, the Spirit then brings to believers faith to ask. If you desire a life with impact, when the Spirit stirs you to believe for sanctifying power, then ask.
How do you ask? As you seek this moral empowerment, John Wesley says, “Expect it by faith, expect it as you are, and expect it now.”7
Believers of the past use different words when asking. They pray “sanctify me,” “fill me,” “bend me,” and “cleanse me.” But the words aren’t what matter; it’s the expectation. In nearly three hundred years of revivals those petitions of faith see answers. And the answer is fire!
Listen to descriptions of this empowered life that starts in a moment of faith. From the seventeenth century a believer declares, “From about half past ten at night, to about half after midnight, Fire. Forgetfulness of the world and all save God.”8 “I may say with humility,” an eighteenth century believer shares, “it was as though I was emptied of all evil and filled with heaven and God.”9 Look at this nineteenth-century person explaining, “All vain ambition, all distracting solicitude, all pride and self-will, and all fear . . . were gone.”10 “Resentment, hostility, hurt feelings—you name it. They all dissolved. Evaporated. Went,” is a testimony out of the twentieth century.11 Now it’s our time to seek this fire. As believers we must ask God to sanctify us so the next revival radically transforms the culture.
Bend the Church
That’s one reason “Bend the Church, and save the people” is the slogan of the Welsh Revival. It means people are saved when believers are supernaturally bent to God’s will. John Wesley agrees, saying, “wherever the work of sanctification breaks out, the whole work of God prospers.”12 If it’s true the moral empowerment of believers is that important to revival, how does it affect God’s move? It protects from temptations. Revival attracts attention, money, and loyalty. These things often tempt leaders and people to pursue self-promotion, self-enrichment, or self-indulgence. But if we relinquish our right to selfish choices and the Spirit moves us to choose for God, revival is protected from pollution by self-centered motives.
Evan Roberts, the popular leader of the Welsh Revival, in a personal letter writes, “I wish no personal following, but only the world for Christ.”13 His intentions and desires are wholly for God. The revival is safe from self-promotion. Moral empowerment also propels a revival forward by sacrifice. Self-indulgent believers refuse to take the costly actions needed to advance a revival. It can then stall out. But when we consecrate our choices to God’s will and we choose sacrifice when the Spirit empowers us, revival keeps surging forward.
Look at the British Great Awakening. Three months into the revival George Whitfield invites John Wesley to preach in the open fields. This outdoor preaching goes against all the order and decency of the Anglican Church. If Wesley chooses to go, it’s a deadly blow to his reputation as an Anglican priest. He wrestles with what to do because the Spirit is also moving on his consecrated will.
Wesley reports his choice, saying, “The following Monday at four in the afternoon, I submitted to being more vile, as I thought it, and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation . . . to about three thousand people.”14 A sacrificed reputation propels revival forward! Do you want a culture-changing revival? Then seek God for an outpouring of sanctifying power. More important, if you personally desire to live wholly for Christ, ask now, by faith and as you are.
If you’d like to read more about revival and how you can be involved in a powerful work of God, I wrote about it in my book, Revival Rising: Preparing for the Next Great Wave of Awakening. You can find it in the Seedbed store.
2. Duncan Campbell, The Price and Power of Revival (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1962), 61.
3. J. A. Wood, Perfect Love (Noblesville, PA: Newby Book Room, 1967), 272.
4. Ibid., 277.
5. Jonathan Goforth, By My Spirit (Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House), 42.
6. Campbell, The Price and Power of Revival, 55.
7. Wood, Perfect Love, 87.
8. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joy Unspeakable: Power and Renewal in the Holy Spirit (Wheaton IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1984), 106.
9. Wood, Perfect Love, 168–69.
10. Ibid., 164.
11. Geoff Waugh, Flashpoints of Revival: History’s Mighty Revivals (North Charleston, SC: BookSurge Publishing, 2009), 78.
12. Wood, Perfect Love, 213.
13. Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street: An Eyewitness Account (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1980), 38.
14. Clare George Weakley Jr., ed., The Nature of Revival (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishing, 1987), 80.