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Is God Bringing Revival to Asbury and America?


“The Holy Spirit was tangible in the room. Chains were broken, confession happened, and God was praised as holy, holy, holy.” This is how one student described the Asbury revival, which began last Wednesday at Asbury University in central Kentucky.

This evangelical school of 1,639 students has been known through the years for a number of great revivals beginning in February 1905. A revival that began in February 1970, for example, lasted for 144 hours of unbroken worship services. Some two thousand witness teams went out from the school to churches and 130 college campuses around the nation.

A student confession during the close of chapel in March 1992 turned into 127 consecutive hours of prayer and praise. A student chapel in February 2006 led to four days of continuous worship, prayer, and praise.

The 2023 Asbury revival

Now the Holy Spirit seems to be moving in an extraordinary way again at Asbury.

During a call to confession on February 8, at least one hundred people fell to their knees and bowed at the altar. Since then, the campus has experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was still continuing yesterday.

People have been giving testimonies, reading Scripture, worshiping God, and praying. Students, professors, and local church leaders have been participating. Students from multiple colleges have been drawn to the Asbury campus as well.

Unlike previous campus revivals, people are watching the current movement of the Spirit through the lens of social media. This has drawn a broader audience to witness what is now happening in Kentucky.

Tim Keller on revival in America

In his thoughtful Atlantic article, “American Christianity is Due for a Revival,” Tim Keller cites the classic book Habits of the Heart by sociologist Robert Bellah. According to Keller, the book “showed that the social history of the United States made it the most individualistic culture in the world. American culture elevates the interests of the individual over those of family, community, and nation.”

Here’s the good news, according to Keller: “For two centuries, Americans’ religious devotion counterbalanced this individualism with denunciations of self-centeredness and calls to love your neighbor. The Church demanded charity and compassion for the needy, it encouraged young people to confine sexual expression to marriage, and it encouraged spouses to stick to their vows.”

However, “Bellah wrote that American individualism, now largely freed from the counterbalance of religion, is headed toward social fragmentation, economic inequality, family breakdown, and many other dysfunctions.”

Bellah’s book was published in 1985. Have the last four decades proven him right?

According to Keller, “The modern self is exceptionally fragile. While having the freedom to define and validate oneself is superficially liberating, it is also exhausting: You and you alone must create and sustain your identity. This has contributed to unprecedented levels of depression and anxiety and never-satisfied longings for affirmation.”

Asbury revival student: "He is radically transforming lives"

America needs revival not just because our culture is broken but because Americans need to know how much God loves them. In fact, it is because Americans do not know how much God loves them that our culture is broken.

By contrast, the common experience being shared from the Asbury revival now taking place is a deep sense of God’s loving presence as he draws people to himself. For example, Elena Overman, a sophomore from Dallas, said, “Throughout the past three days, the Lord has revealed himself and his unfailing love and faithfulness to everyone who has stepped through the doors of Hughes Auditorium. He is radically transforming lives. The Holy Spirit is at work in this place and all around the world through our prayers, and he’s not stopping anytime soon. All glory to God.”

On this Valentine’s Day, named for the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages, let’s celebrate both the fact and the reason that we are loved unconditionally by the God of the universe.

The fact of his love is clear: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is literally nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less than he already does.

This is because of the reason for his love. In his essay “Membership,” C. S. Lewis offers this observation: “The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not die for man because of some value he perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners.

“He loved us not because we were lovable, but because he is love.”

"Let it begin in me!"

Lewis is right: God loves you because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Stated bluntly, he cannot not love you.

If you will respond to his love by loving him with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30), you will also “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 31). Your neighbor will learn that God is love by experiencing God’s love in yours.

And you will be a catalyst for the revival our culture needs so desperately.

Please join me in praying for God to bless, protect, and use the Asbury revival to spark revival across our land. And let’s pray, in the words of the old hymn, “Let it begin in me!”

Publication date: February 14, 2023

Photo courtesy: ©Sparrowstock/David Clark

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

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