Some thoughts on what is occurring at Asbury University:
What is happening right now at Asbury University in Kentucky is of course still ongoing – now having lasted over a week. So it is hard to say anything definitive on this event. Like most believers I hope and pray that it is a real revival sent by God and that it will have a huge impact not just there but beyond as well.
Much has already been written about it, and plenty of first-hand reports are available. Here I will just do two things: quote from one person’s personal account, and then examine some of the great insights and truths that one American pastor and revivalist wrote about as we seek to assess revival.
As to the contemporary account of what is going on at this school, Jared K. Henry was there a few days ago and this in part is what he said about it:
I jotted down a few things that stood out to me in the time of testimonies:
“I thought I was zealous for the Lord, but I have never been more satisfied.”
“Revival isn’t hype, it’s ordinary people who are hungry. Revival isn’t hype, it’s ordinary people crying out for a move of God.”
A man who was referred to as Pastor David came to the podium to speak. He asked the question: “What is happening here?” His answer involved the following points I jotted down as he spoke:
“No screens, no cool building, no celebrities. Just a Malachi 4 promise. No glitz; all God.
The ticket for entry into this space is to be honest about our broken need for Jesus. We are seized by honesty. Confession, repentance, and reconciliation follow.
We are seeking the Freedom of the Spirit with the order that God brings. Asbury is only a steward of this move of God. We are checking our preferences at the door. We have to die to self.
The Spirit can only fill that which makes itself empty. Reconciliation is taking place here. There is no room for grudges here.
Let’s be unrushed. Just waiting on the Lord. It’s okay to just observe. But if you feel a nudge from the Holy Spirit, err on the side of faith and pray.
Awakening is not the same as going viral. Put your phone down. Be present here in the presence of the Lord.
Holy love is the authentication of real spiritual awakening. Don’t look at this as abnormal, but as normal. This is what church ought to be.”
He then read from Nehemiah 9:5-18 and made some comments on that passage of Scripture. After his comments he invited everyone to spend time praying with 5-6 people around them across the auditorium.
This was followed by a time of worship that involved the songs: “Lord, I Need You” “Goodness of God” “I Surrender All” “It is Well” and a few other songs. All together I spent over 3 hours in that sacred space. It didn’t feel like that long. Just still moments.
Here are a few of my observations:
1. Jesus was the focus. There were no introductions or titles of people. No other causes were touted. The University students and leaders were careful not even to promote the school. It was all about Jesus.
2. It was a constant Gospel invitation. We were invited to repent. To believe/trust in Jesus. To confess our need for Him. To seek Him above everything else. To put our faith in Him. To surrender our lives to Jesus. To allow God to sanctify us. To seek holiness. To experience cleansing.
3. There was freedom in the Spirit and a clear order. I appreciated those stewarding the time for the freedom they allowed in the Spirit, but also an acknowledgement that the Spirit brings order. I never felt afraid something crazy or absurd or something that would disrupt spiritually would take place.
4. There was an evident seeking of Jesus among the people gathered. While I’m sure that not every single person was seeking, I quickly went from being a curious spectator to an engaged worshiper. It seemed the only natural thing to do. People were hungry, ready, and passionate about worshiping Jesus. It was refreshing to be in that atmosphere.
5. Fringe quacks were not permitted a platform. Some people with large flags showed up and were asked to leave with their flags by staff at Asbury University…. https://jaredkhenry.blogspot.com/2023/02/asbury-university-revival-2023.html
Scripture tell us to test all things, and that includes various religious experiences and manifestations. God can certainly be at work in these situations, but Satanic counterfeits can also occur. Spirit and flesh can easily mingle. So real discernment and wisdom is always needed as we try to assess any such movements and occurrences.
One person who really was an expert in all this was Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), the great American theologian, pastor and revivalist. He saw revival break out around him. These activities were embraced by some and condemned by others. Edwards spent a lot of time writing about how to distinguish true revival from false revival. I penned two articles on this a few years ago, so here I will just quote a bit from each one.
In the first article I said this in part:
[Edwards] played a key role in the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 40s. His church in Northampton, Massachusetts witnessed some of the first revivals during 1733 to 1735.
As such he had a lot of firsthand experience with revival. In 1741 he published the short but important work, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God Applied to That Uncommon Operation That Has Lately Appeared on the Minds of Many of the People of New England: With a Particular Consideration of the Extraordinary Circumstances with Which This Work is Attended….
As to the nine negative or indifferent signs which may or may not indicate the Spirit of God, he says that we should not limit God and put him in a box; we can expect some physical manifestations to occur in revival; “rash acts and unconventional conduct” may occur; and so on….
As to the five biblical signs of true revival, they are:
-The operation exalts Jesus
-The Spirit attacks Satan’s interests
-The Spirit exalts the Holy Scriptures
-The Spirit lifts up sound doctrine
-The Spirit promotes love to God and man
As to this last mark, he says this in part:
“There is counterfeit love that often appears among those who are led by a spirit of delusion. . . . What is the surest character of true, divine, supernatural love that distinguishes it from counterfeits that arise from a natural self-love? It is the Christian virtue of humility that shines in it. Divine love above all others renounces and abases what we term ‘self.’ Christian love or true love is a humble love. . . . In that person we see a sense of his own smallness, vileness, weakness, and utter insufficiency. We see a lack of self-confidence. We see self-emptiness, self-denial, and poverty of spirit. These are the manifest tokens of the Spirit of God.” https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/06/19/jonathan-edwards-on-true-and-false-revival/
In my second piece I looked at his classic work, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, published in 1746. As I wrote there:
Some of the signs of what may or may not be true marks of God include:
-The religious affections are very great, or raised very high.
-They have great effects on the body.
-There is an appearance of love in them.
-Comforts and joys seem to follow awakenings and convictions of conscience, in a certain order.
-They much dispose persons with their mouths to praise and glorify God.
And some of the genuine signs of the real work of God include:
-Arise from those influences and operations on the heart, which are spiritual, supernatural, and divine.
-Primarily founded on the loveliness of the moral excellency of divine things; a love to divine things for the beauty and sweetness of their moral excellency is the first beginning and spring of all holy affections.
-Attended with a reasonable and spiritual conviction of the judgment, of the reality and certainty of divine things.
-Tend to, and are attended with, the lamblike, dovelike spirit and temper of Jesus Christ; they naturally beget and promote such a spirit of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness, and mercy, as appeared in Christ.
-Soften the heart and are attended to and followed with a Christian tenderness of spirit.
-The higher gracious affections are raised, the more is a spiritual appetite and longing of soul after spiritual attainments increased.
I quoted from Rhys Bezzant who said this:
Affections represent the deepest part of a person. All of me is drawn towards God or is repelled from God. All of me is impacted by sin, including mind, will and feelings, and all of me needs rescue. Edwards’s great work, Concerning the Religious Affections is not simply a handbook on healthy church life but rather a philosophical tool of analysis to determine the roles played by reason, will, emotions and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of revival. https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/06/22/jonathan-edwards-emotion-ecstasy-and-experience/
So as we think about and seek to understand what is happening at Asbury – and other places – keeping in mind the great spiritual insights and theological wisdom of Edwards will always be quite useful. All true Christians long to see a mighty move of God that will have a lasting impact both on the church and on the world.
Let us pray that this is what is taking place at Asbury. As Psalm 85:6 states, “Revive us again, O God!”
Even Fox News is reporting on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88lq3_aaHu0
I don’t think Sky News would report on revival if it broke out here!