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Some Thoughts on the Asbury Revival

Perhaps you have heard or read by now reports about a revival taking place on the campus of Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. A campus chapel service on Wednesday did not end at its appointed time but rather carried on for days on end. Students lingered and prayed and repented and worshipped. Students from surrounding universities and parents began arriving to experience what appears to have been a powerful move of the Spirit. Traffic jams accumulated in Wilmore as countless others came to Asbury to see what was happening.

I know that people of a more Calvinistic bent tend to be reflexively skeptical about such reports. After all, haven’t we moved beyond the shallow “revivalism” of the past and moved on to more stable forms of the faith?

I do hope that Christians have stable and established faith in Christ. But I do not feel cynical about these reports. On the contrary, I feel prayerful. Hopeful. In fact, I’ve gotten choked up more than once over the last couple days at the thought that a genuine outpouring of the Spirit could be happening among our Methodist brothers. So I’ve mainly been praying two things:

1. Oh, God. Let it be. Let your mercy pour down in genuine revival, and let these reports be true. And let it not end in Wilmore.

2. Pass me not, O gentle Savior. Hear my humble cry. While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by. Savior, Savior, Hear my humble cry. While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.

Maybe you would be moved to pray this way as well.

It is of the nature of revival that we cannot know the true extent of it until days, months, and even years afterward. The distinguishing marks of revival may begin with an outpouring of the Spirit of grace, but that is only the commencement if the work is to prove real and authentic. My colleague Tim Beougher perhaps says it best, “How do you tell if it is really a work of God? It’s not how high you jump, it’s how straight you walk when you land.” Amen to that.

After hearing reports of such movements in his own time, Jonathan Edwards wrote an essay on the distinguishing marks of a true work of the Spirit. His text is 1 John 4:1: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Based on this verse, Edwards offers nine “signs” that are no sure sign of revival followed by five signs that are true evidence of the Spirit’s work:

SECT. I. Signs by which NOT to Judge a Work of the Spirit
1. The work is unusual and extraordinary.
2. It produces bodily or emotional effects.
3. It occasions a great deal of noise about religion.
4. Great impressions are made on the imagination.
5. One means used is setting an example, or following another’s.
6. It is accompanied by great imprudences and irregularities in conduct.
7. It is intermixed with errors in judgment or delusions of Satan.
8. Some who are worked upon at first, later fall away.
9. It is promoted by ministers who insist on the terrors of God’s holy law.

SECT. II. Scripture Evidences of a Work of the Spirit
1. It raises the esteem of Jesus Christ in their eyes.
2. It operates against Satan’s interests by discouraging sin.
3. It causes men to have a greater regard for the Holy Scriptures.
4. It is a spirit of truth, which convicts them of the gospel truth.
5. It is a spirit of love toward God and men.

Edwards follows with a warning to those passing judgment from the sidelines. He writes,

“Let us all be hence warned, by no means to oppose, or do anything in the least to clog or hinder that work that has lately been carried on in the land, but on the contrary, to do our utmost to promote it. Now [that] Christ is come down from heaven into this land, in a remarkable and wonderful work of his Spirit, it becomes all his professed disciples to acknowledge him, and give him honor.”

Lord, may it be.

Day 3 – Friday

Day 4 – Saturday

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