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Revive Us Again
Hopefulness instead of cynicism when God acts in surprising ways
What do you think about Asbury?
I’ve been asked this numerous times over the past week or so and . . . well, my default position is to say that maybe something is stirring. Maybe God is up to something.
I tend to be somewhat skeptical of emotionalism. I’m reformed in my theology and also believe that God mostly works through a lifetime of ordinary acts by ordinary people. We are formed mostly by a lifetime of sermons, spiritual disciplines, conversations, books, etc. Looking for the next spiritual high can be exhausting.
And yet . . . we want to be the people with open hands toward what God might decide to do in our midst. We should pray for revival. We should pray for that desperate longing for God. We should pray for widespread repentance, first beginning in me. We should pray for zeal for Christ to spill out from our churches and campuses and into the world, where onlookers can see and behold God by turning to Christ in repentance and faith. Yes, Lord, please send this.
We live in a very, very cynical culture. Decades of institutional failure at almost every level—government, media, business, church—has created a kind of numbness beholding anything good. We are also in a social media culture where cynicism has almost become a cottage industry, especially among Christians. Self-appointed prophets look for bad news, almost like it’s a full-time vocation. To highlight anything good the church does invites immediate pushback. You’re naive. You are a water carrier for such and such. You are enabling _____. You are Pollyanna.
We are armed with reams of data: scandal-plagued headlines, bar graphs showing loss of faith in the next generation (a narrative I’ve heard my entire four-and-one-half decades on this earth), and high-profile Christian failures. But again, what if God surprises us? What if Christian college kids on a small campus in Kentucky haven’t let cynicism crust over their hearts and have opened themselves up to a fresh filling of the Spirit of God?
It’s such a beautiful sight, those videos of young people—who don’t understand they are supposed to be jaded by evangelicalism, who belong on the other side of the sociological bar graph—arms outstretched, praising God, repenting, worshiping. What a sight! What a cause for rejoicing! What a holy moment!
I want to be someone who doesn’t miss a work of God amongst us. My father was born in 1950 and so came of age during the turbulent 60’s and 70’s with Vietnam and Woodstock and racial tension and Watergate and the sexual revolution. The world was bleak, so bleak a President rebuked the country for its crisis of confidence. Dad came from a broken home, with no real example of good manhood around him, unchurched. But his sister told him about an evangelist she heard on TV. He went, with his mother, to hear that evangelist, Billy Graham, at the 1971 Crusade. He walked forward. He then got caught up in the Jesus movement.
People ask, “Well if this is a true work of God on this campus there will be fruit.” Well I’m the fruit of that work of God in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I’m that fruit. I’m forever grateful.
Look, is Asbury a revival? An awakening? A moment? I don’t know. What I do know is how precious it is to see young kids on college campuses all over the country crying out to God. We need this. Our churches need this. Our nation needs this. Lord, please send more. I am praying the prayer my friend Nathan Finn is praying:
There is a sense in which we can often be so invested in our cynicism that we miss what God might be doing. I feel this way about a couple of more things. You’ve probably seen the He Gets Us Ads that aired during the Super Bowl. There has been a lot of commentary on right and left about them. My general sense of them is that it is a good faith attempt by folks to get people interested in talking about Jesus. I think of them not even as evangelism, but as perhaps the first conversation you might have with someone who has no framework for Christianity. Some are upset they don’t offer a full-throated systematic theology in a 30-second ad at the Super Bowl. Others are mad that there is too much money being spent. It’s a weird horseshoe theory of right and left who are finding stuff to be mad at. Perhaps you might have done something different if you were putting together an ad for the Super Bowl. Perhaps I would have. But I’m glad someone is thinking about creative ways to introduce a lost world to the Savior. And I pray it, like Billy Graham and his innovative use of media years ago, leads people to Jesus. I feel this way about The Chosen. These things are not the sum total of Scripture and doctrine. But they are a start, a beginning, a conversation to lead people to the truth about the person of Christ.
We should be discerning, of course. Not everything that names the name of Jesus is good and true and beautiful. We need prophets to call out false teaching and sinful behavior. But we should avoid cynicism, and avoid the posture of first finding what is bad. Our discernment needs discernment. We might listen to the voice of the jailed missionary, Paul, who urged the people of God to rejoice (Phillippians 4:4-8).
In the midst of a tired, restless, hurting, confusing culture, is God still saving lost sinners? Is Christ still building his church? Is the Spirit on the move? If we cannot say yes to those questions, perhaps it is us who need to be revived. From Mike Cosper
So true. So perhaps we pray, we seek God, and we repent.
Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.
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