Revive Us Again!
News spreads fast these days.
Sometimes that can be an advantage. Like if there’s a tornado barreling down on your city, and you see warnings blowing up social media and run to your basement. But sometimes the ridiculous speed of things these days can compel us to throw aside all caution and forget to use discernment. This is especially so in evangelical Christian circles. Far too many Christians and, sadly, even pastors, will splash a virtue signal all over the viral world before examining all the evidence, or without carefully weighing words, or without giving the event any time to actually prove itself one way or another.
This is what I am afraid is happening right now in regards to events transpiring at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY. Headlines are popping up everywhere claiming “Revival Has Broken Out.” Well, if so, praise God! But, methinks we ought to use words a bit more carefully. When a young man in our church family makes a profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, we all rejoice. Of course! But we all also proceed with caution because we understand a true gospel root always produces true gospel fruit. We look for marks of regeneration, long-term heart and life change. This in no way dampens our enthusiasm for conversion, nor does it prevent us from encouraging the professing person to grow in the graces and feed his new faith. But, it does help us as a church practice biblical discernment. It does help us maintain a biblical view of what it really means to be saved. And it does actually imbue the young man making the profession with a sobriety about the matter, as well. It takes time, you see, to rightly assess the soils of people’s hearts. Men looked right at Jesus as He was preaching and healing, and professed faith in Him, only to soon gnash their teeth at Him (see John 8:31-48).
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (Matt 12:33).
Assessing a genuine reviving work of Holy Spirit God among us might take a little more time than just a few days. O, don’t misunderstand me. I pray that God is powerfully converting sinners at the gatherings at Asbury. I pray Jesus Christ is being exalted. I pray the Word is being faithfully exposited. I pray the saints are being renewed in their affection for Christ. I am not rooting against it. I am for revival.
But only time will tell.
An overnight social media storm does not a revival make. Scores of people from all over the land arriving at Wilmore does not a revival make. My assessment or belief or skepticism does not a revival make. Revival, as Jonathan Edwards so forcefully argued in the 1740s, is a sovereign work of God. Period. It cannot be orchestrated or manufactured by us. Nor can it be sustained by us. And, as Edwards reminded the society of his day, what will kill it more quickly than anything is pride.
I am already seeing pride creep into the social media posts regarding Asbury. Trying to break records for the longest worship service and sermon. The claim is it’s a 200-hour continuous worship service, but well known Christian apologist, Alisa Childers, arrived early last Sunday morning and only about 20 people were in the Asbury Chapel. They were praying silently and some were visiting socially, while a lone girl played a guitar and sang unamplified. This does not strike me as a “continuous worship service.” No doubt, crowds are huge in the evenings, but the hype is already approaching what we would have to call an outright falsehood.
See Alisa Childers’ very solid assessment of the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wA6RjmFp2Rk
Brothers and Sisters, again, please do not think me unnecessarily critical. That’s not my intent. I only seek to warn us as Christians to employ biblical discernment. To avoid bandwagon and social media mob mentality. To test the spirits (1 John 4:1). To understand what biblical revival is and what it leads to.
Here are a few thoughts you may find helpful:
- How local church-centered is this “revival” or ongoing gatherings? The Bible does not say Asbury University is “the pillar and buttress of truth.” The local church is where God’s wisdom is displayed to the angelic beings (Eph 3:10). Is faithfulness to the local church increasing among these students experiencing revival?
- Are local churches around Wilmore starting to fill up on Sundays? Seeing increased salvations? Baptisms? Attendance at discipleship meetings?
- Are these college kids starting to get outside their own walls? Christian college students are notorious for wanting to only hang out with other college students. But this is not God’s will for His people, the Church! A revived Church sees the generations mingling gloriously (Titus 2).
- How many of these students are starting to go lead Bible studies and worship services in local nursing homes? How many of these students are visiting widows and orphans? James 1:27
- Are these revived students pouring into pro-life pregnancy centers to volunteer in droves?
- Are these students prayer walking their neighborhoods? Evangelizing their neighbors? Sharing the gospel in coffee shops? Starting evangelistic Bible studies on secular campuses? Helping campus ministries such as CRU or FCA? Leading the church’s efforts to reach their cities for Christ?
- How many of these revived students will go to the mission field, and sacrifice their comforts to take the gospel to those who have never heard? Will their feet be beautiful? Romans 10:15
- How many of the young men attending will answer God’s call to preach and pastor? 1 Tim 3:1 And how many of those pastor boys will be content to simply invest their whole lives into a people in a small town in Iowa? Or Utah? Or in the poor regions of Appalachia?
- How many of the young women wanting and experiencing revival will embrace God’s design for them to be a godly wife and mother? To see their home as their mission field? Titus 2:4
- Will these students labor to see godly laws once again govern our land? Will they elect leaders locally and nationally who love the Lord and see themselves as God’s servants beholden to His Word? Will they seek to apply a biblical worldview to all of life, and renounce atheistic worldly philosophies that are not according to Christ? Colossians 2:8
- Will those in leadership at Asbury start teaching the crowds that there is no such thing as a “holy pilgrimage” to Wilmore? God is omni-present. He can be accessed by faith in Christ where ever His people are. He can and will revive His people right where they are. No gas money required. You don’t get revived, or more of God in your life, by attending a chapel service. The ordinary means of grace are always what God uses and calls His people to pursue every day. Worship is not about a place, but rather a Person (John 4). Worship is our lifestyle (Ps 150; 1 Cor 10:31).
Will this revival have any lasting effects for God’s glory in Christ upon our communities? I pray so! But only time will tell. Even the greatest awakenings and revivals throughout history have typically not lasted more than a few years, or at most a decade. But when God moves to convert sinners and bring their dead souls to life, and to deepen the faith-commitment of His people, the fruit is always biblical. True contrition. Deep conviction of sin as God defines it in His Law and Gospel. Lasting commitment to healthy New Testament churches. Self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. Missionary zeal. And above all, the glory of God who is extolled as absolutely sovereign and worthy of all praise.
We need to pray for the students and faculty of Asbury. The social media pressure they must now feel to “keep this going” is a sure-fire temptation to lean unto their own understanding. If this is a true move of God, it will require no human ingenuity or creativity. Indeed, true revival kills pride and self-righteousness. Works righteousness is denounced and the righteousness of Christ alone prevails. May it be so in Asbury. And in Corydon. And to the uttermost parts of the earth.
We praise Thee O God! For the Son of Thy love,
For Jesus who died, and is now gone above.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Hallelujah! Amen.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Revive us again.
Edited 17 Feb 2023
This 45 minute podcast is the most biblical assessment I have seen yet. It's worth your time to watch and listen. https://youtu.be/EU_lJcLmFe4
by Keith McWhorter