For those of us who believe God is really doing something special with the Asbury revival right now, it can be hard to hear criticism and questions of what is going on. When you believe God is doing something powerful, you hate to hear it questioned. But everything needs to be questioned. God doesn’t expect us to check our brain at the door any time tells us God is doing something. Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 24:23-28,
“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”
We need to test every spirit to see if it is from God. John wrote this in 1 John 4:1-3,
“Dear friends, 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. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
It is good to test the spirits. Many people are saying, “Don’t question this.” I am tempted to say this myself at times…but we have to resist that. People do need to question things and see where they land.
This is key…
The only caveat is, that our testing needs to be done with much thoughtfulness and prayer rather than done as a momentary reaction. You don’t want to base your view on what the Holy Spirit is or isn’t doing based on a knee jerk reaction to a stranger on social media (if you need a good warning passage on this to sober you up, read Mark 3).
How do we test the spirits?
1. Get eyewitness testimony from mature, godly people.
Most of us won’t go there in person but we can pay attention to what those who have have experienced it. I have read many accounts of what is going on at Asbury from various people on various ends of the theological spectrum and I have yet to hear anyone who went say that it is not a revival or that God is not doing something special there right now.
2. Do these events contradict the Scriptures?
God will not fight against himself (again, read Mark 3). If this is from God what we see in it will be consistent with the character and nature of God. We will see it build up the kingdom rather than tear it down.
3. Are we seeing the fruit of the Spirit in it?
The Spirit produces fruit. The fruit of the Spirit are the fingerprints of the Spirit. If this event is filled with and characterized by anger, hostility, impatience, etc…then it calls into question whether or not it is a move of the Spirit. That is not to say everyone involved must be perfect. I am talking about what characterizes the movement in general.
4. Does it produce evangelistic fruit, new disciples and new churches?
This remains to be seen. Not all movements are church planting movements but many movements start as prayer movements that then turn into disciple making movements that turn into church planting movements. It will be interesting to see what transpires. God doesn’t usually move to just do it for the saved. Will the effects of what is happening at Asbury pour out to produce a harvest of new disciples and new churches?
How do we NOT test the spirits?
1. Dismissing it to emotionalism
Some are saying that what is going on is just emotionalism…people stirring themselves up. That because it is emotional (which is true in some cases but not in all) it must be from people and not from God. But the Bible doesn’t make this distinction. Read Isaiah 6. Read Exodus 20 and 24. When God shows up, people get emotional! Would we think it more convincing for God to show up and it NOT be emotional?
2. Saying it doesn’t fit our experience
Others are saying that it doesn’t fit their experience, therefore it isn’t real. Since when does God have to fit our experience? The nature of revival is that it is unusual, not that it is usual. When does God show up in the Bible did it fit people’s experience? Jesus didn’t match people’s experience and the religious leaders killed him for it.
3. Saying it is not from my tribe
The sectarian spirit is alive and well…because this is not “of us” it cannot be real. Don’t forget what Jesus said about the other guy who was casting out demons in his name…leave him alone! Jesus legitimized the man even though he wasn’t “with them.”
20 Characteristics of Movements
In light of the movement in Asbury, I was reminded of David Garrison’s 20 characteristics of church planting movements in his outstanding and highly recommended book “Church Planting Movements.” Now I know this is apples and oranges at this point, as what God is doing at Asbury isn’t a church planting movement but I do wonder…what if that is what it turns into. Only God knows!
Garrison gives 10 universal characteristics of house church movements and 10 usual characteristics. Here they are, so that you can become familiar with them and spot them when/if you see/experience them:
10 Universal characteristics
- Extraordinary prayer
- Abundant evangelism
- Intentional Planting of Reproducing churches
- The Authority of God’s Word
- Local Leadership
- Lay Leadership
- House churches
- Churches planting churches
- Rapid Reproduction
- Healthy churches
Then Garrison gives 10 usual characteristics…not universal but prevalent.
- The Climate of Uncertainty in society
- Insulation from outsiders (Asbury needs to take care to not let people infiltrate and hijack this)
- A high cost for following Christ
- Bold fearless faith
- Family-based conversion patterns
- Rapid incorporation of new believers
- Worship in the heart language
- Divine signs and wonders
- One the job leadership training
- Missionaries suffered
What would happen if we relentlessly pursued God like this? What if we expended the same amount of energy on pursuing God that we did endless arguments with strangers online? What if we surrendered control and submitted to the Lordship of Christ?
What might God do if He saw we were ready and available?