1 Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot
save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
2 But your iniquities have separated between you
and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your
fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.
To many people the secret of revival is not understood and their
lives remain unfruitful. Yet in this Scripture God opens this secret and tells us in plain
language why there is a barrier to revival. It is not because of God being to blame. He
has not lost His touch and is certainly not deaf to our prayers. The Lord says that He
will not respond to our prayers if we harbour sin.
There was once a crusade in Berlin, Germany. It felt as though
revival was so close but there was something which prevented the revival from breaking
out. Somehow, the revival never came.
Just a few days after God begain working in revival power at
Maphumulo (at the beginning of 1967) we visited some brethren in different areas. We
visited a farm of my brother near Dalton. It was hot so we gathered under the shade of a
tree. As we were sharing from our Bibles I noticed a girl standing not far from us and
looking at us. I pointed her out to the others and we called her to come closer and she
joined us. I asked her if there was something she needed. She was totally illiterate, had
never been to school. She then asked me if there was a book called Isaiah in the Bible,
chapter 59, verses 1 and 2. When we confirmed that it was indeed in the Bible she smiled
and asked us to read it to her and so I read to her this text. As I read her face lit up
and she said, "preacher, now I know where my problem lies". She had turned to
the Lord and after that people got converted through her, regularly. But for a while no
one came to the Lord through her anymore and she was greatly troubled by it. She had
prayed and asked God to show her what the reason was and then she dreamt that she should
read Is 59:1 and 2. She immediately also knew what the sin was and she brought it to the
light. As she got home people came to the Lord through her once again. She discovered the
secret of personal revival.
This girl knew the answer to her spiritual poverty. Do you? Are
people coming to the Lord through you? When was the last time you brought someone to the
Lord Jesus? You might say you're too busy with work. But she too worked every day and in
the evenings she led people to the Lord.
early 1950s, Dr Edwin Orr came often to preach in SA. He was a brilliant man of God. He
had six doctorates at that time. He would write books while travelling by train. He was a
specialist on revivals. He used to say that revival starts when people confess their sins
and revival stops when people stop confessing their sins.
I have come to see practical truth of those words. People who have
been used by the Lord while keeping their lives clean, stopped being fruitful as soon as
they stopped to keep their lives clean. Personal revival stops through unconfessed sin.
Once my brother was troubled by his neighbour's goats who would
eat his sugar-cane. He prayed for wisdom from God. He bought ropes, went to his neighbour
and gave them to him saying he bought these for him so that his goats won't be so
troublesome to him and to help his herdsman. He also offered to pay his herdsman for
looking after the goats. The man was touched, saying that he was indeed a Christian. He
conquered evil with good. Another farmer had the same problem with his neighbour's goats,
but he got extremely angry, caught all the goats and impounded them so that the guilty
part would have to pay for them to be released. The local people were extremely angry and
threatened to burn down his farm. He then heard of my brother's solution, went and paid
for the goats to be released and gave them back. He learnt the lesson how to conquer evil.
This world is full of evil and if you repay evil with evil you are
only making matters worse.
A Chinese Christian had the problem that his neighbour would steal
his water to water his own garden. They had very little water in the area. One day the
Christian got up very early, watered his neighbour's garden first and when his neighbour
awoke and wanted to water his garden he saw that it had been watered already. He realised
it was his neighbour, the Christian. He was touched and never stole his water again. He
overcame evil with good as Jesus taught us.
Stop praying for revival and repent of your personal sin, then
your life will be fruitful. The subject of confession of sin is confusing to some. They
feel that the Bible does not suffice regarding confession. Well, for those, hear these men
of God - Bonhoeffer, Calvin and Luther (amongst many others).
Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God
than to a brother? God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of
all disobedience. But a brother is sinful as we are. He knows from his own experience the
dark night of secret sin. Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the
holy God? But if we do, we must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving
ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing
our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution...Who can give us the
certainty that, in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with
ourselves but with the living God? God gives us this certainty through our brother. Our
brother breaks the circle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence
of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of
God in the reality of the other person.
Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration
of Faith in Community
In John Calvin's, "The Form
of Church Prayers" we also see the use of an absolution after the confession. Quoting
from Calvin's Institutes Book 3 Chapter 4 Sections 12 and following we see some of
Calvin's thinking relevant to the absolution. "The power of the keys has
place in the three following modes of confession, -either when the whole Church , in a
formal acknowledgment of its defects, supplicates pardon; or when a private individual;
who has given public offence by some notable delinquency, testifies his repentance; or
when he who from disquiet of conscience needs the aid of his minister, acquaints him with
his infirmity.......For when the whole Church stands as it were at the bar of God,
confesses her guilt, and finds her only refuge in the divine mercy, it is no common or
light solace to have an ambassador of Christ present, invested with the mandate of
reconciliation, by whom she may hear her absolution pronounced. Here the utility of the
keys is justly commended when that embassy is duly discharged with becoming order and
reverence. In like manner, when he who has as it were become an alien from the Church
receives pardon, and is thus restored to brotherly unity, how great is the benefit of
understanding that he is pardoned by those to whom Christ said, "Whose soever sins ye
remit, they are remitted unto them" (John xx.23) ."
Martin Luther was clear on this
subject in saying that though others may not see the need for it he knew that he needed to
whisper his sins into ear of a brother.
DL Moody used to say: "Sin will
keep you from this book (the Bible), or this book will keep you from sin." "The
Word of God is living and active ... it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the
hearts". (Heb 4:12).
If there is a blockage in your life. There is
no personal revival despite all your prayers. Why not take God's Word seriously when He
speaks in Is 59: 1-3?