“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).
Well, if you know me even moderately, you’ll know that I am not prone to jump on the latest bandwagon of spiritual happenings. Now, though I am skeptical, that doesn’t necessarily make me a skeptic. The things that happen in the church can be tested by the Scriptures. That takes discernment of the Scriptures and time – we simply cannot hurry this process along. Just because something unusual is happening in the church doesn’t automatically make it a move of God. As John writes in his first letter, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
As we make our way through this Mission Festival month at Grace, we have had our sensibilities sharpened to the power of God at work through the proclamation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It, and it alone, “is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16). We sang together yesterday, “O may his holy church increase, his Word and Spirit still prevail…” And we trust that God will do it, for “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psa. 24:1).
This all leads me to what is happening at Asbury University in Kentucky. This place holds a very special place in my heart. I grew up as a “Methodist” kid and have been following keenly the ecclesiastical shaking that is taking place in her midst. When I was in the 11th grade, our youth group took a road trip to visit Asbury.
No doubt you have heard or read about the revival that broke out last Wednesday during chapel at Asbury. There is no end of opinions, which is why I hesitated before offering my worthless take on the matter. But I’m more concerned about how we interpret these things than the actual thing going on, though I will have a few things to say about that as well.
Revival is not anything new. We see it in the pages of Scripture as thousands are added to the church daily. We’ve read of the Great Awakening in England and America in the 18th century, and the very different revival that spilled out into the wilds of America in the 19th century. If you want to take a deeper dive into revivals, I commend two books to you: “Revival and Revivalism” by Iain Murray, and “On Revival” by Jonathan Edwards.
We don’t know whether this is a true revival of God or not – time will tell, as the fruit of repentance is borne out in the lives of those affected. And even if this is a true revival, we don’t know if this is a local phenomenon or will have sweeping effects across the nation (and even the world). Again, time will tell.
Like some of the previous “revivals” – I would put these in the false categories, and if you read the two books above you’ll understand why – like the Brownsville Revival or the Toronto Blessings, there are many who are now clamoring to attend this current revival to “catch” the outpouring that is taking place. God simply doesn’t work like this, and we end up being more of a Simon Magus (Acts 8) who, after experiencing the power of God, went to the apostles and asked, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” We must never forget, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
So, what are we to do with this? Pray that God would truly be in the midst of this work, and that through it there would be a great renewal in the Methodist Church. We too often think of revival as something that happens outside the church, but the Scriptures always point to revival “in” the church. And second, continue to pray for your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, your classmates, etc., that the Holy Spirit would quicken souls, cut out hearts of flesh, and that many would come in repentance and faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. And may He begin that work in our own lives first!