Why Does Revival Not Come to the Church?
Why Do the Lost Not Repent?
By Pastor Dan Gayman
America has a sin problem. Most honest people admit this. But although many are willing to acknowledge that we have a sin problem, far too few feel ashamed of the fact that sin proliferates throughout the land and even in our own lives. Only on occasion do heartfelt sorrow and shame flow through our veins. America has not experienced a revival within her churches in more than one hundred years. So I ask you: why does revival not break out among professing Christians?
Pastor Dan Gayman
Why are so many Christians lukewarm? Among the last words Jesus Christ ever spoke are those found in Revelation regarding the church of Laodicea, which most scholars believe is the description of the church at the consummation of the ages, prior to the return of Jesus Christ—in other words—the day in which we now live! Please review these words from Revelation with me: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold not hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:14-22). Let us summarize this prophetic announcement regarding the church with the following conclusions:
Thus far we have been concerned with believers already part of the church who need to repent. Revival is something that must occur periodically. But, repentance unto life and salvation is for the unsaved, those outside the church who have never professed Jesus Christ, but are moving irreversibly toward death, hell, and the judgment of Gehenna. The call to repentance is thus for everyone, believer and non-believer. Those who have already confessed belief in Jesus Christ but perhaps have strayed or lost their first love of God and His truth must confess their sins anew and repent at the foot of the cross. Staying in touch spiritually requires regular dedication and discipline—commitment to daily prayer and feeding of one’s soul and spirit through reading God’s holy Word.
The big question remains: knowing that repentance is necessary for every sinner, why do so few people among the saved come to a stare of spiritual revival, and why do so few of the unsaved experience repentance unto life and become saved from the wrath to come? Please consider this as a possible reason people fail to repent:
Possibility #1) People fail to understand the serious nature of sin. Ezekiel 18:4 declares, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel goes on to say this regarding how our Holy God feels about the sinner: “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? Saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” Ezekiel ends his stern call to repentance with these sobering words in chapter 18:30-32: “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves and live.”
Consider how much Scripture calls us to repentance. Both require the process of repentance, for neither the saved can be revived nor the lost saved without repentance! Meditate upon the words found in Isaiah 59:1-4: “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring for iniquity.”
We cannot understand the dire need for repentance until we understand how much our holy God hates sin! God hates sin so much that He was willing to step out of eternity into time, assume a flesh body of the seed of Abraham, and become a man, that He, by living a sinless life under the law, could become a sacrifice for sin, appease the wrath of God, and provide a pathway for the salvation of His own children. The Bible leaves no stone unturned regarding the serious consequences of sin: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Ro. 6:23). John 1:18 declares, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and truth is not in us.” The Word of God further declares in Proverbs 21:4 that “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked is sin.” Proverbs 24:9 reminds us that “The thought of foolishness is sin:…” We learn this in Romans 14:23: “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Further, James 4:17 reads, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
We understand from I John 3:4 why God hates sin so very much: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” The righteousness of God’s law defines sin. God’s law is a reflection of His own holiness. Sin strikes out at this holiness. The righteous and perfect law of God defines sin and confirms its serious and deadly consequences. Our God created a moral universe! The physical world operates within the prescribed rules of God’s laws. God’s law governs the moral universe and the physical world. Prolonged violation of the moral laws of God will bring chaos and eventual judgment to any person, family, church, community, or nation that refuses to repent, experience a change of mind, and turn to God and His righteousness.
Possibility #2: Believers fail to seek revival, and the lost and unsaved continue in sin without repentance because sin is seldom personalized. Rather than being personalized, often we consider sin in a general sense. Because of our own sin nature, we are not likely to honestly evaluate ourselves. We find it far more comfortable to examine sin in someone else’s life.
Believers and the lost and unsaved fail to see the nature of sin and its deadly consequences. We often overlook the universality of sin. Consider what God tells us in Romans 5:12: “Wherefore, by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” The Bible teaches us that we are born into sin. We are born into this world under a sentence of death and a future judgment because of the sin inherent within each of us. It is only when that sin has been judged and declared forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ that we are declared righteous before a just and holy God.
Consider these verses from first the Old Testament in Psalm 14:2-3: “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy, here is none that doeth good, no, not one.” One school of thought that says these verses are only talking about fools as in Psalm 14:1: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God…” I would remind you that this is not true. Romans 3:9-12 provides the proper perspective on exactly who God is speaking to in Psalm 14:2-3: “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Judeans (Jews) and Gentiles (Israel of the dispersion), that they are all under sin; As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” The Bible places all of Adam’s posterity under sin. “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
God and Scripture encourage all believers to a time of self-judgment. I Corinthians 11:31-32 declares, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” Self-judgment avoids chastisement. If self-judgment is not practiced, then God Himself brings the correction. “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Proverbs 3:11-12).
Possibility #3: Repentance unto revival and salvation for the unsaved does not come because sin is covered by pride. Human pride seeks to hide sin. Our hearts are prone to deny and minimize our own sin in imaginable way. Jeremiah 17:9-10 reads, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Proverbs 28:26 reminds us that “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” Brothers and sisters, we simply cannot trust our hearts. Do not lean on your emotions and feelings for direction in making decisions. Only God’s Word can be trusted. Consider how 21st Century America has cloaked sin in soft snowflake language: fornication has become a pre-marital relationship. The sin of adultery is now an extra-marital relationship. Homosexuality is simply an alternate lifestyle. Abortion is a woman’s choice. Miscegenation is the right of self-determination. All too often we package sin in a manner that disguises its ugly and tragic end.
The tragic end of sin also is lost when governments abandon God and legalize sin. When governments endorse such sins as abortion, offer free contraceptives, and fund organizations such as Planned Parenthood, they seek to legitimize sin behind a cloak of respectability. When governments protect gender blending and punish discrimination against these immoral practices, they are actually providing legitimacy to what God calls sin. But remember this: sin is always sin and will never cease from being so simply because it is given legal status and governmental protection. As long as sin legitimized, revival will be stifled and sinners will remain lost and unsaved. Only when the ugly side of sin is exposed to the light of God’s Word does repentance come to the lost and revival to believers who have lost their first love of God.
If you want to see the ugly side of sin, visit a cemetery. Every grave there testifies to the awful end of sin. Death is the fruit of sin. Another place to visit if you want to test the ugliness of sin is a children’s cancer hospital, where you will witness untold sorrow, pain, and death. If you want to see the ugly side of sin, visit an abortion clinic and watch a young girl screaming from pain as her living, terrorized child is sucked out of her womb piece by piece.
If you want to see the ugly side of sin, visit an STD clinic and see how venereal disease leaves young men and women in tears when they discover they are sterile and will never be parents. Or, visit a group of college students on spring break where girls lose all their virtue, young men are turned into sensual maniacs, and dreams of a bright future turn into nightmares. Further, visit any one of the thousands of homes where children cower in the corners of their homes, frightened as they watch their alcoholic or drug-addicted parents scream at each other and commit acts of violence before their terrified children.
Sin will bring you to a high and then drop you into the dungeon so deep and dark that you would wish you were dead. Sin may give you a blast at the beginning, but it will be a bust at the end. It will take you lower than you ever want to go and inflict more pain than you want to bear. Sin is the enemy of God and your number one enemy. Flee from sin and its enticements, which grab you at the beginning, but turn into a dagger stabbing you in the back at the end. Sin often comes packaged in pleasant, enticing wrapping or through the subtle suggestions of a friend, or book, or a sinful Internet site. But remember this: the ultimate end of sin is hell. The final step into sin is reprobation, which takes you into the deep abyss of hell while you wait the judgment of Gehenna and eternal separation from God.
Possibility #4: Revival does not come to believers or repentance unto salvation to the unsaved because the guilt of sin is too often transferred as blame to someone else. All too often, the guilt of sin is suppressed by transferring blame to others. This idea certainly is not new! Transferring blame to someone else is as old as the Garden of Eden, where Adam told God, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” God then asked Adam this: “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” Consider Adam’s response: “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:10-12). Adam blamed Eve for their sin.
Transferring guilt as blame to someone else is repeated throughout this land every day as people try to cover up or excuse their sin. In Exodus chapter 32, Aaron blamed the people for his making the golden calf. In I Samuel 15, Saul blamed his failure to obey the command of God on the people. So, the idea of finding a scapegoat to cover up sin is a routine practice. People seldom own their sin!
At quite an early age, children learn to blame their wrongdoing on someone else. They learn quite early that transferring guilt to another is a quick way to avoid the consequences of wrongdoing. Only when the human heart is truly convicted and the conscience is tender toward God does the believer seek repentance and restitution for sin and the unsaved and lost seek repentance unto salvation.
Too often, modern counseling centers on getting people to believe they are the victim. In a typical setting, a person goes for psychological counseling, and before long, the conversation centers on blaming one’s parents or perhaps someone else for their problems. Everyone is made to be the victim. People want to be shielded from any personal liability for their personal problems or lack of success.
Society wants to blame White people for the inability of the Native Americans to extricate themselves from poverty and alcoholism. The poverty, squalor, and alcoholism that proliferate among the American Indian population obviously occur as a result of White people’s poor treatment of Native Americans. It is very common to blame White people for the poverty and misery found in Black ghettos. The inability of the Black population in America to climb the economic ladder, succeed in business, and compete with White people is not their fault. They are merely victims of White oppression. It is commonplace today to impose White guilt as the cause for all kinds of problems. And, if White guilt is not the problem, surely the problem must be “White Privilege.” The problem must be that White people are born into privilege and therefore they are always on top. The idea that lack of ambition, personal drive, and innate intelligence might be factors in poverty, squalor, and economic distress is never the focus of secular humanists.
Possibility #5: Revival is often suppressed in the church because sin is too often suppressed by comparing ourselves with others. In a time of wickedness, it is easy to make one’s own sin look mild and unimportant because of the level of wickedness that abounds throughout our nation. It is too easy to grow calloused and insensitive about sin. Man’s proclivity to minimize sin because of the gross wickedness that we see around us can lead us into the trap of simply tolerating our sin, because by comparison, it seems so casual and small.
When overt, grossly wicked sins abound, such as abortion, sodomy, race mixing, fornication, adultery, drunkenness, gambling, and drug addiction, it becomes easier to simply disregard our own sin, which by comparison to the gross wickedness we see abounding everywhere makes our sin seem casual and mild. In a time of wickedness, we may completely ignore all kinds of sin simply because ours looks so mild and unimportant by comparison. For example, we may totally ignore the sins of the heart, such as pride, avarice, envy, lust, greed, etc… These seem small beside abortion and homosexuality. However, recall the words of Jesus as recorded in Mark 7:21-23: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, and evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” When egregious sins are before our eyes on the television or movie screen, it becomes easier to dismiss our own sins.
Consider the instruction found in Colossians 3:5-10: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry…But now ye also put off all these, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” It is important that we measure all human behavior by the standard of God’s Word rather than by comparing ourselves with others. We dare not allow our emotions, human reason, or the behavior of others to determine how we judge ourselves. We should compare ourselves only against the standard of God’s Word, not the behavior of others. St. Paul warned us in II Corinthians 10:12, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.”
Along with self-control, self-judgment is one of the most important virtues a believer can cultivate: “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (I Cor. 11:31-32).
Possibility #6: We do not see revival in the church or repentance unto salvation among the unsaved and lost because sin is too often measured in a quantitative manner. People convince themselves that if they sin just this one more time, they are not that bad. They talk themselves into believing that unless sin becomes habitual, it is not all that bad. People often believe that as long as they feel in control and can stop sinning, surely their problem is under control. But they forget what we read in God’s Word: “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (I Corinthians 5:6). A little bit of sin corrupts the whole.
If you were to sit down at the dinner table and someone said, “Now do not be alarmed, but just a pinch of dog dung was sprinkled in the food,” you would immediately feel revolt and would not want to eat. Just a little sin sprinkled here and there in your life can bring a tremendous amount of sorrow! If you sin once, what are you? A sinner! Hear the instruction of James 2:10-11: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou are become a transgressor of the law.”
If you steal once, you are a thief. If you get drunk once, you are a drunkard. How many times do you have to lie to become a liar? One time. If you become involved in sex outside of marriage just one time, you are a fornicator. If you sin once, you are a sinner. Whatever happened to God’s command that we “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I Jn. 2:15)?
Possibility #7: Sinners do not come to repentance and believers do not experience revival when their church denies or suppresses God’s law or declares it null and void. We live in a time when modern Christianity has made God’s law irrelevant, declaring that Jesus’ incarnation and crucifixion nailed the law to the cross and made God’s law irrelevant. The spirit of antinomianism has pervaded the church, leaving Christians to believe the law is dull, archaic, and irrelevant.
The modern church spends exceedingly little time teaching God’s law. But in the absence of the law, sin has no relevance. Without the law, sin cannot be defined. Without the law, the guilt of the sinner cannot be established. Unless the guilt of sin can be brought to bear upon the conscience of the sinner, how can he feel the weight of sin the need for repentance? Without the law, there is no sin. And, without sin, there is no particular need for a Savior. Repentance does not come because the sinner feels no guilt for having lived in violation of God’s righteous law. And, revival does not come to the believer who is calloused and insensitive to sin in his life.
The modern Church minimizes obedience to God and maximizes the freedom to live freely under grace. Grace has been abused and misused as sinners seek to use it as license to live in sin. Our holy God declares the penitent sinner holy, but this does not give the sinner license to keep on sinning. When Jesus granted forgiveness to the sinner, He would say, “Go and sin no more” (John 5:14; 8:1). The grace of God that grants salvation hrough faith in Jesus Christ will bring forth the fruits of a converted heart by empowering the saved sinner to live by the commands of God: “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit” (Romans 8:11).
Jesus Himself declared in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Further, Jesus declared in John 15:10, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Consider the words found in I John 2:3-4: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
Ponder each of the Ten Commandments, largely abandoned and discarded by mainstream Christianity, and ask yourselves this question: can I ignore these ten divine commands and really believe that I have been saved?
When we are called to be a new creature in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers us to have a heart that will lead us to obedience to the Ten Commandments. And, when we stumble and fail in our Christian walk, we should have a conscience that will lead us to seek forgiveness by the blood of Jesus Christ and restoration back into the joy of our salvation.
As long as time goes on, each generation of unsaved people must hear the teaching of the law in order to establish their guilt and be convicted of sin. The perfect and righteous law of God accuses, convicts, condemns, and declares the sinner guilty before a holy God. The law is helpless to save. It can only accuse, declare us guilty, and then as our schoolmaster lead us to Jesus Christ as the remedy for our sin. The law can expose our sinfulness, but it can never make us clean. Only the righteousness of Jesus Christ can make us clean.
Believers who have lost their first love of God and are desperately in need of revival, as well as unsaved sinners who are content to continue to live in their sin, will never come to repentance without the preaching of the law and convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because it is the grace of God that alone generates faith, belief, and obedience in the hearts of sinners.
May each of us be inspired to live in godliness, unspotted from the world. And, when we do sin, as we all do, may our consciences be stricken with repentance. We will win others to Christ not by judging them for their sin, but by living as a witness that may inspire the sinner to righteousness. The Holy Spirit must do His part to draw sinners to Christ Jesus. What must we do? We must walk not as stumbling blocks, but in a manner that can win the lost and unsaved in the same way that Jesus won sinners rather than by the judgmental attitudes of the Pharisees, who, profiling their own self-righteousness, drove people away.