The Testimony of Revival
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.
12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. 14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, 15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. 16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. 18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.
19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.
When we spoke about Lazarus being raised from the dead, we saw that he was only raised back to natural life. It was a genuine, physical revival of one who was thoroughly dead…but not the same as the “resurrection.” The Resurrection is yet to come. (Lazarus could and would still die, physically.)
But his revival had an impact on the world around him. People were attracted by the “miraculous change” in his life. They wanted to meet him personally, and hear for themselves what had happened. Those who had been there in person, testified to the truth of the miracle. And, the enemies of Jesus were pretty stirred up, too. They wanted to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus. The Truth of Lazarus being raised from the dead meant nothing to them. And the implied power of God, through Jesus, meant nothing to them: they wanted Him silenced!
So, the testimony of the revival was having a definite effect, for good or for evil.
A National Revival in Israel’s History
In 2nd Chronicles 29, we see a genuine national revival in Israel’s history. They were spiritually dead, as a nation. The temple was closed, actually boarded up and heathen idols were set up, literally in every part of Jerusalem (2nd Chronicles 28:24.) The previous ruler, King Ahaz, had even sacrificed some of his children to those gods, at those altars.
But, somehow, in the midst of all that evil, God raised up a young man, named Hezekiah, who had a heart for God. He was Ahaz’s son, buthis mother was a godly woman, the daughter of a priest. The very first thing he did when he inherited the throne from his evil father Ahaz, was to open up that boarded-up temple, and repair the doors.
Then He called on the priesthood to go in and complete the work inside the temple, and consecrate it for worship once again. When they were done, he came personally, leading the rulers of the city (they had to follow him: he was the king!) They brought sacrifices for sin; for their own sins and those of the nation. Hezekiah required the priests to make atonement for the entire nation of Israel (not just Judah.)
They had a worship service, with instrumental music and singing, and public prayer and offerings. Everyone was invited, but not everyone attended. But those who did attend were filled with Joy, to see the relationship with God restored. It was the beginning of a genuine national revival. If we read the next three chapters, we see how the revival spread to the rest of the city. As the revival increased, all the heathen altars were torn down and removed. We can see how the revival spread to the other tribes, beyond Judah, and the people’s hearts were awakened.
Other National Revivals
Throughout history, other nations have occasionally repented of their collective sins and turned back to God. It is rare, but it has happened, especially in the nations in which there had once been a strong relationship with the God of the Bible.
There have also been whole denominations of churches who claimed faith, but which have been swept with a fervor for God. They have become a genuine testimony of God’s Grace and Hope in whatever community they lived. And, just as the testimony of the physical Revival of Lazarus had mixed responses, the spiritual revivals in communities, cities, and nations have had mixed responses.
There have always been some who genuinely responded to God, from the heart, and their lives were transformed. Some persevered in their walk with God for the rest of their lives. Some became distracted by the world and fell away into the temporary spiritual deadness that always results when we stop walking with God. They were saved individuals: their position was permanently established in Christ. But they were no longer experiencing the benefits of that relationship because they chose to “disconnect” at a practical level.
There have also always been those who were excited about the “movement,” but in whom the truth of the Gospel never took hold. They liked the thrill, and the feelings involved, and saw the value of the change in their community, but they failed to respond to the spiritual reality involved: they never got to know the Savior for themselves. He never became their personal Redeemer. Possibly they never even admitted to themselves that they needed a Savior.
“God saves people one by one.” The big “movements,” whether national or local, are exciting, and we are thrilled by the feelings of “belonging” and of “unity.” But the reality is that each individual member of the Body of Christ is linked to the Head of the Body: Jesus Himself. We are not only members of one another: we are specifically members of Christ.
So, comparing the actions we saw in 2nd Chronicles, where the revival began with one man making a choice to turn his own heart toward God and exerting what authority he had in that direction, we can see that personal revival begins with our will. (“The door to the truth is the will, not the intellect.”)
Every person has the right (and the responsibility) to make a decision to give proper attention to God: To approach the throne of God through the Person of Christ. We see from the scripture that He can only be approached by faith, and that the specific “pathway of faith” we are required to follow, passes through the Cross. Romans 3:25 states that Jesus is “the satisfaction of the righteousness and holiness of God (that is what the word “propitiation” means) for us through faith in His Blood.” That is pretty specific!
Jesus made it Personal
In John 14:6, Jesus Himself said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” If any ordinary man said such a thing, it would be the worst kind of arrogance and blasphemy. In Jesus’s case, it was simply the truth!
Also, we can see that the immediate response of the people, after that first step of “going back to the God of Israel,” was to tear down the idols in their lives. In their case, it was physical idols: shrines and altars to false Gods, all over the city of Jerusalem. In our case, it may be that we look over our lives and are convicted that some things in our lives, cherished by us, perhaps, are simply a contradiction to the truth of Jesus.
There may be things (attitudes, actions, habitual sins) that no longer are fitting, if we want to walk with God. So, we “tear them down:” we abandon those practices and habits and actions, and attitudes, and we strive to draw nearer to God, relationally.
What else can we see?
The responses of the people to the revival in Jerusalem spread fairly rapidly, but that was a national revival. What about the response of people to the physical revival of Lazarus? As we pointed out before, Lazarus had been dead long enough that his body had begun to decay, but his return to life was still a revival, not a resurrection, in that he still died again, physically, and he is with the Lord today. The resurrection of his old body is still yet to come.
But the responses of the people who witnessed that revival are really interesting and something from which we can learn.
- Some people came looking to see Lazarus. It was a “phenomenon” they had heard about and they wanted to see Lazarus for themselves. (What they did with that knowledge once they saw him still varied, but that is why they originally came.)
- Some came to see Jesus. They heard what was done in Lazarus’s case, and wanted to know Jesus themselves. (That is best of all.)
- Some already knew Jesus, and had known of Lazarus’s fatal sickness and his death: they testified of his revival. They publicly declared that, “Yes, he had been dead for four days, and yes, we personally witnessed his revival.” His revival became part of their own testimony.)
- Some were enemies who also witnessed the revival and they hated Jesus even more, because of it! They saw that many people were responding in faith, and they were angry! They admitted that they were losing the “popularity contest,” and they said that their only hope for “victory” was to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.
We can see varying responses to our own salvation testimony as well.
- Some may be cautiously pleased for us, as they see that it has been beneficial in one way or another: They will say, “Yes, I knew him before, and he was a real mess! Whatever he’s got, it seems to be real, and it seems to be working for him.”
- Some may see the change in our life and immediately recognize the need in their own life. They may want that same Jesus for themselves. They may see themselves as sinners in need of a Savior. (That is best response of all!)
- Some, already believers themselves, may testify, because of the change they see in our life, “I know someone who was about as far from God as one could be. He was headed for hell on a greased pole! But somehow, God got through to him, and I want to tell you: his life is totally changed! Jesus Christ has miraculously transformed him into someone who is a blessing to everyone around him!” And, finally,
- Some may be disgusted and repelled. They may mock you personally, and publicly, verbally “shooting you down” in every way they can think of. They may slander you behind your back, lie about you to other people, maybe even attempt to get you fired from your job, or any other wickedness that comes to their mind. Why? They had nothing against you before (although they may have been secretly despising you.)
The Problem is Jesus!
The pharisees had no real problem with Lazarus before his revival: they almost certainly looked down on him, just because they looked down on everyone. (And, if you were friends with Jesus, you were already in trouble with the Pharisees. In John 7:49 they condemned the Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah, saying, “…these people who know not the Law are cursed.”)
They considered themselves to be the “teachers of Israel,” but they made no attempt to know the Truth, when the One Person, who was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, was talking to them face to face. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free!” And He was that Truth, who could set them free from their sin.
When He demonstrated Who he really was, by raising Lazarus from the dead, they were not “happy for Lazarus.” They did not “see the need in their own lives and want Jesus for themselves.” They wanted Him silenced! They plotted to kill Him! And the testimony of that revival was so strong that the only way they could hope to silence it was to kill Lazarus, too!
What is Our Testimony of Revival?
Each of us can testify, “I was spiritually dead, separated from God. Jesus died for me, and I trusted in His blood as the full payment for my sins. He brought me to life, spiritually, and now I want to live for Him.” That is not the Gospel: it only testifies to the effect of the Gospel.
We can be more specific:
For example, I can say, “I was an atheist until I was 18. God used various people and specific scriptures to awaken me to my need, as a lost sinner. I eventually placed my trust in Jesus Christ as my Savor and Redeemer. Now I belong to Him, and I want to serve Him with my life. I often fail Him, but He is still working in my life, to correct me and strengthen me for His service.”
You will notice that there is nothing very specific in there, except three things:
- I was lost
- Jesus saved me
- Now I belong to Him and I want to serve Him.
It can be Short
You will also notice that it was only 73 words. There was no need to go into a long history, explaining my life as a lost sinner, nor my initial confusion about the actual message of the Gospel. If someone is receptive and they want more information, I can give it to them.
If they want to know how they can be saved, I can tell them that, too. In fact, that is my only goal in giving my testimony. My testimony is not the Gospel. It testifies to the effect of the Gospel.
The Gospel can be pretty simple, too!
In 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4, Paul gives it in three parts:
- Jesus died for our sins, in fulfillment of the prophecies (according to the Scriptures.)
- He was buried, really dead, also fulfilling the scriptures.
- He rose from the dead after three days, also fulfilling the scriptures.
And Romans 1:16 says, that message, being believed in, is The Power of God to save sinners!
Your testimony can have an effect on the lives around you. It will be a mixed response, for sure, but it can have an impact…if it is heard. If you hide that testimony for fear of public opinion, then it will not get a bad response from enemies, but it will also have limited effect on others.
We need to learn to live our testimony, for sure, but we also need to be ready to testify verbally, and to confirm the truth of the Gospel of Christ.
Lord Jesus, free our hearts from the prison of our fear. Allow us to joyfully, confidently tell of Your Love and Grace, testifying to the work You have done in our own lives.