Revival: Total Release To God
By Henry Blackaby
The following message was given at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference in April 2004 at The Cove, Asheville, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Revival is the return of the life and the presence of God, or the establishing of a fresh, personal relationship to God. When God thoroughly touches a life, the full measure of the life of the Lord becomes ours. You may have a desire in your heart for a fresh touch of God. For some reason, you have allowed circumstances to change your relationship to God. He hasn’t changed, but you need His life to become your life one more time.
As I was thinking about this time together, I went back to the first great revival in the New Testament: Pentecost. Pentecost was the conclusion; what preceded? Pentecost came after the disciples did what Jesus told them to do. We need to see from God’s perspective how He prepared for that moment of revival. What did He do in the life of the disciples? How did He prepare them? Revival waits on the preparation of God’s people in their relationship with God. I see that all through history but especially as I look at the New Testament.
There was a process that Jesus took the disciples through until they came to the point of total release of their lives to His right to be Lord. They had a long way to go from the time He first called them until Pentecost. First God seemed to prepare the disciples, and then they obeyed, and then came the outpouring of His power at Pentecost, followed by the preaching which brought about thousands of professions of faith. But it first had to take hold of the disciples.
The end of the book of Luke, chapter 24, contains some very special instructions from our Lord that had to be in place before Pentecost came about. As we read, beginning with Luke 24:36, I want you to identify what things Jesus said are absolutely essential to be in the hearts and lives of the disciples so that He could pour out His Spirit upon them. This was not a minor moment; it was a pacesetting moment.
Earlier in Luke 24, we read about two disciples walking on the road to Emmaeus, following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus made a full disclosure of His presence to the men, and He did it in an incredible way, so that when it was over, they said, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" Jesus deeply touched their hearts, but in a very simple way. He didn’t overwhelm them. There began to be a stirring in the hearts of the disciples in a way that God chose, and He let these men bear witness. The reality of the living Lord was so real they had to go and tell the rest. These two men came back to the other disciples who had come together, and the two bore witness to what they had encountered. God intended the two to stir the hearts of all the rest. God creates us to be interdependent. He does not create us to be independent. Revival happens this way. God chooses whose heart He is going to touch.
Jesus Appeared to His Disciples
When the two disciples began to bear witness to what they had experienced, the Lord appeared to all of them:
"Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence" (Luke 24:36-43).
Isn’t that a beautiful picture? That is how God prepares for revival. Someone needs to bear witness to an encounter with the living Lord. Don’t get discouraged when you give a testimony and the hearers all get scared. God is preparing them, and He is taking them to the point where they release everything to His right to be Lord. When I am in meetings where people are praying for revival, I see some whose hearts are troubled and doubts appear. The Lord who walked into the midst of the disciples and began to prepare them for the moment of Pentecost, is doing the same thing with us. It looks very ordinary, but God uses ordinary people.
Jesus Opened the Scriptures
"Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
"Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations…And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high’" (vv. 44-49).
How many years had Jesus been speaking to His disciples? About three and a half. Intimacy with Jesus is a prerequisite for revival. You have to go through the process of the Father bringing you to be so intimate with the living Christ that you can say from your soul, "This is the Christ, the Son of the living God" and know that He has then committed to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:13-19).
I am finding in my own life that by the time I come to a great moment when God releases His presence and lets me be there, I can look back and say, "What I am hearing and experiencing is what He already told me. I just didn’t pay attention when He did." It is critically important that you listen to what Jesus says to the disciples. The disciples were in the middle of things that Jesus had already told them about.
Did the Old Testament Scriptures thoroughly and completely describe the coming, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus? Did they give a clear picture? Incredibly clear. Did the disciples all get it? Not at all. How could they have missed it? They were not living in the light of the clear Scriptures, so He had to open their understanding to all the Scriptures, because this was the prerequisite. The full Scriptures also spoke about Pentecost and about everything that was about to happen.
We are in the middle of another situation. The Scriptures have clearly, unmistakably shown us about the return of Jesus. The average person is no more attentive to what the Scripture is saying about the signs of His coming again than they were about the signs of His first coming. But make no mistake about it. The same Lord has given us all the evidence we need to prepare for His final return. But how many of us are living in the light of those Scriptures? How many of us are searching the Scriptures to know the signs of the time in which we live?
It has been a passion in my heart to say, "Lord, these men and others missed the first coming of Christ, but it wasn’t because they didn’t have the Scriptures, and it wasn’t because they couldn’t have known. And Lord, what about us?" Would it not be an utter tragedy for our Lord to say, "I told you all of these things. Why are you behaving the way you are? Why aren’t you living out what the same Scriptures are saying to you?"
And it is the same when it comes to revival. Our Lord could say, "I told you about the conditions. Why are you just crying for revival and ignoring all of the conditions that I laid out for you?" It’s not that we don’t know; it’s that we are not paying attention. We don’t want to go through the process. We want the excitement of revival, but we don’t want the prerequisites. But if we are going to be the ones upon whom He pours out His Spirit, we had better understand what the prerequisites are.
Prerequisites of Revival
The first prerequisite is an intimate relationship with the Lord. The disciples spent three years in intimate relationship with our Lord. Some church members don’t respond correctly to Christ because they were not introduced to Him in the way they ought to have been. We have a huge dysfunction at the point of evangelism. Jesus came to Peter and the others, each in a unique way, and He basically said, "Why don’t you leave everything and follow Me?" I believe that is the essence of salvation. We have to leave the old life and become immersed in the person of Jesus Christ. You shouldn’t have to persuade anyone to surrender to the Lordship of Christ after they have made a profession of faith.
I believe the surrender – the release of your life to Christ’s right to be Lord – is what it means to be saved, because the essence of lostness is the refusal to acknowledge that He has the right to be Lord. The essence of salvation is the release of your life totally to Jesus Christ as Lord. We are leading people to believe that they may be saved simply because they made a profession of faith. The question is not, "Did you accept Jesus?" but "Did He accept you?" At the moment of judgment, some are going to say, "Lord, didn’t we do all of these things in Your name?" And He is going to say, "Depart from Me. I never knew you" (Matt. 7:22-23). The key is not whether you can say you know Him; the key is whether He can say He knows you. That means He must have a response from you that releases everything in you to Him.
Then there began the disciples’ pilgrimage with Jesus, and the moment of the outpouring of Pentecost followed that journey of three and a half years. During that pilgrimage, the Father was convincing the disciples of who Jesus is. Keep in mind that the ones that Jesus poured out the Spirit upon were those totally committed and released to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We are asking God to bring revival to churches where most of the members have never heard about that. He can’t trust a first rate kind of revival to those who have not responded to Him as Lord.
Luke says, "As He was alone praying, His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am? …Who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ of God.’ And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day’" (9:18-22).
I believe the Father was saying something like this: "Son, I have convinced these men that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Now you can move on to the cross because I have done a work in their hearts. And beyond the cross is Pentecost. I have convinced them that You are the Christ."
In Matthew’s account (16:13-21), we read that immediately following Peter’s profession, Jesus shared that He would build His Church on this rock. He had just acknowledged to them that flesh and blood had not revealed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. He said that this revelation was given to them by the Father. I believe He was saying something like this: "On the basis of My Father’s activity in the heart of His own, convincing them that I am the Christ, the Son of the living God – on that kind of people, I will build My Church."
Do you know what will happen when He builds His Church on those who believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and who because of that have released everything to Him? The gates of hell will not prevail against it. There are a lot of people in our churches that have not been convinced. They have not been responding because the gates of hell are prevailing all around us. Jesus went on to say, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." He entrusts the keys of the kingdom to His Church!
Everything was not yet in place. Some things still had to happen before the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples’ lives. As Jesus made His way toward the cross, the disciples were bewildered. Jesus took them through Gethsemane with Him. There He said, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death" (Matt. 26:38). The whole essence of His being was standing on the edge of death. He was broken. His soul was full of utter, total sorrow, for He thought He would die, and maybe at that point where He could have, the Father sent the angel to minister to Him. Then Jesus took the disciples through the cross and to the resurrection.
The greatest revival, Pentecost, had to have these prerequisites. I believe often the reason revival tarries is we have none of these prerequisites in place!
Following the resurrection, Jesus opened the Scriptures to His disciples (Luke 24:45). He literally touched their minds and hearts and put in place all of the Scriptures that were required for them to be able to handle what was going to happen next. Those Scriptures became the guideline for what God was about to do. He said, "it was necessary" – all they had been going through was already laid out and had to take place. Then He made this tremendous statement. He said, in my own words, "Of all the people on the face of the earth, you are witnesses of these things." Preceding Pentecost came that witness from the Father.
Are the Prerequisites in Place in My Life?
"You are witnesses of these things." Could you describe your life that way right now? You and I are praying for revival. Are these prerequisites in place in our lives? Do we have sufficient relationship to the living Christ and to the Scriptures that we have a passionate, urgent, immediate witness to these things? Are we in continued obedience until God chooses to pour out His Spirit?
After Jesus had said that they were witnesses to all of these things, He said, "I send the Promise of My Father upon you" – in other words, "I am now going to pour out My Spirit. I am going to ask My Father to release the same Holy Spirit that was upon Me to be upon you." And then comes that prerequisite to all revival: He said, "but tarry" (v. 49). They tarried in prayer together in one place until God chose to release His Spirit on the whole group. He did not release His Spirit individually, although every individual experienced the fullness of the Spirit.
God has a covenant people. When Jesus sat at the Lord’s Supper, He said in effect: "I am introducing you to a completely new covenant. You are a covenant people. I called you to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people belonging to Me." God chose to pour out His Spirit corporately as the people gathered together in one place in prayer waiting for God to do whatever He chose to do. They had no reference point to Pentecost. But they did have a reference to the Scriptures. And they did have a reference to being together in one place.
We have lost the corporate life of the people of God, and we have become so self-centered that we want everything to happen to us individually. God could come specifically to individuals. But when God is about to bring revival, it comes on the corporate gathering of the people of God. Many pastors do not have any time in their life where they are praying with other pastors or praying with others on a regular basis. We want to casually and carelessly cry out for revival once in a while, hoping that God hears us, and that seems to satisfy. But when you go to the prerequisites that precede revival, there comes a moment where you, along with others, release everything in your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and you stand together, you pray together, and you wait together and you ask God to pour out His presence among you and to fill your lives with His presence, even the Holy Spirit.
Prerequisites in the Canadian Revival
Before the Canadian Revival, the first thing I did when I went to Saskatoon was to come alongside of Pastor Bill McLeod and several others. We made a covenant we would pray together every week, and we did. How long did Jesus ask the disciples to pray? "Tarry ye…until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Wait on the Lord until He chooses to pour out His presence upon you.
Bill had been praying long before I arrived there, and I just joined him. We prayed for a year and a half together. What a glorious time it was! I can still remember Bill calling me with excitement in his heart and saying, "Henry, that for which we have been praying happened on Sunday!" And that set in motion the moving from Ebenezer Baptist to St. Timothy’s Anglican to University Drive Alliance and then to Third Avenue United. God chose to pour out His presence upon us.
As I look back upon that, I see that in addition to our praying, there was a good foundation of Scripture. Bill McLeod, greatly used of God in the revival, has a good grasp of Scripture. It is very similar to what we read in Luke 24:45: "He [Jesus] opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures." Then Jesus said, "You are witnesses of these things…I send the Promise of My Father upon you, but tarry in the city…until you are endued with power from on high" (vv. 48-49).
Did God know when He was going to bring that moment of Pentecost? Did He know how long it was going to be? He certainly did. Acts 2:1 tells us, "When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." Somehow the entire group had released themselves totally to Jesus Christ as Lord. They were now simply doing what He asked. They were ready to be witnesses. Was Peter ready? Listen to him in Acts 2:14-39. In that sermon he was bearing witness to the Scriptures. Where did he get the understanding of those Scriptures? Jesus had given it to him. I believe Peter took everything that Jesus had opened to his understanding and just poured it out. And the sharing of the Scriptures that had been poured into him, now being touched by the power of the Spirit of God, began to turn lives upside down.
Have You Released All to Jesus?
Can you say without a question of a doubt that you have released everything in you totally to Jesus Christ as Lord? Have you released everything in your life, in your marriage, in your church? Have you ever met Him sufficiently to be able to say by the heavenly Father’s activity in your heart, "Jesus is the Christ; He is God’s only provision as Savior for a whole world"?
Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, and He has a right to receive from you the only kind of response that is worthy of Him, and that is, "Lord Jesus, I release everything in me to everything in You." That is an absolute prerequisite to whatever God does next. Do you want to see a complete change in how God uses you? Do you want to see the outpouring of the Spirit of God in your church or in your home? Out of your response to Him, with what you have seen God do in your heart, have you heard Him say, "You are now witnesses of these things, but you still lack something. You need to take time with My people until I pour out My Spirit upon you."
What happened when the Spirit of God immediately came upon the disciples? They were ready. His Lordship was undisputed. The moment that He released His Spirit upon the disciples they began to preach the Good News. What happened then? Thousands began to come under the impact of disciples who were now filled with God’s Spirit. Revival is what God does to His people. Once God has His people where He had these disciples – when the Spirit of God is so real and personal and powerful – when they speak, people are saved. You can see the multitudes beginning to be stirred by the presence of God in the life of His people.
As I look back over those ten years that followed revival in Saskatoon, I am thrilled that not only was I there praying before, and not only did I have the privilege of going through those times, but I was around for ten years after that to see what God was going to do next. It was like Pentecost! Once we were in the relationship with God, we then had the thrill of proceeding to share the Good News. The first place I went, the town drunk got saved and that turned the little town around. Every place we went, people were saved and would cry out for a church.
Later people asked, "Henry, how large do you have to be before you can start a mission church?" I said, "You are asking the wrong question. The question you ought to ask is, how large do you have to be as a church to be obedient?" The key is obedience – not size, not funding, not personnel – it’s obedience. Those disciples who had been with Jesus for three and a half years had been through the essence of God’s plan to redeem; they had been obedient to wait until the outpouring of the Spirit of God had come upon them. Then that little group began to see God bring thousands of people to faith in Christ. By the end of the fourth chapter of Acts that early church in Jerusalem may have had 25,000 members. How could that ever happen?
Reviewing God’s Pattern
Those of us who are praying for revival, should keep in mind that God has a pattern. He says there are some prerequisites that need to be in place. You need to have a significant relationship with the living Christ. You have to walk with Him significantly enough until God has convinced you that He is the Christ the Son of the living God. Then you have to let Him help you understand that you have to learn how to deny self and pick up a real cross and follow Him. That will take you through a Gethsemane experience. That will take you through Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." And read the first phrase of the next verse: "I do not set aside the grace of God." I don’t receive all of this and then set it aside and try to do the work of God in my own strength.
Revival is a moment when God has prepared you concerning Jesus, and you have released everything in your life to His right to be Lord, and He has begun to entrust you to be a witness unto Him. Then He says, "Now get with the rest of My people, and pray, and be together in one place with one heart and one mind until I pour out My Spirit upon you."
Would to God that there would be a great number of us who will be waiting before God with His people until He pours out His Spirit. I don’t believe God is going to disappoint us. You need to understand that all God’s preparation is for global redemption. It’s going to take you to the ends of the earth. It’s going to take you discipling the people of God, leading them to the same kind of encounter.
There are some of you who have conditions in your own personal life that are there because you have not yet surrendered every ounce of your being to Jesus Christ as Lord. But God has begun to draw you to Himself. He’s trying to get us ready. Where are you in that process? Are you at a point in your life where you need to say, "The Father is convincing me that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that being so, I now know how to release all my life to Him in my ministry, in my family, and in my church." You may be ready to pray, "Father, with all of my heart I want You to know I am releasing everything there is in me to Jesus Christ’s right to be Lord in my life, and I know where it may lead. The Scriptures are going to open. You’re going to confirm that I am a witness of all of these things in my life, and I will wait with Your people until You pour out of Your Spirit upon me and upon Your people." Or you may have to say, "Father, I don’t know all that I need to do, but I know I don’t want to stay where I’ve been. I want to be different, and so I come to You and ask You to do a work in me to change my life."
The first sample of revival had prerequisites to it. Are they in place in your heart? As a couple, are they in place in your home? As a couple, are you ready to take one another’s hand, and one of you pray, "Oh, Lord, we yield unconditionally our home to You. You have the right to be Lord. There is something You are about to do, and we yield our home to you."
The outpouring of His presence comes after He touches us and we obey Him. The Lord was taking His disciples to a whole new relationship with Himself. It began with His Lordship, and the release of their lives to Him, and He took them to a whole new level of relationship. That is what revival is. It is a whole new level of relationship with your Lord. Little did those disciples know that when they released their lives to the Lordship of Christ that it was going to take them from one level to another until they were ready to receive an outpouring of God’s Spirit. And the world would feel the impact of the revived people of God.
– Used by permission of Blackaby Ministries International.