Asbury Revival vs. Biblical Revival
March 8, 2023
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
When tested Scripturally, the Asbury “revival” is dangerous mysticism and blind ecumenism.
There is a lot of talk about revival these days, particularly the multi-day event at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, that spread to other college campuses. Thousands flocked to Asbury from various parts of the country in an attempt to “experience revival.” It was reported in the New York Times and Fox News. Prominent Christian leaders called it a revival. Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s daughter, said it could be the “last Great Awakening.”

We must test these things, and we have God’s Word as the infallible standard. We are to “try the spirits” (1 Jo. 4:1), “prove all things” (1 Th. 5:21), “search the scriptures daily whether those things were so” (Ac. 17:11). The Bible warns repeatedly about spiritual deception, and particularly so in the last days. “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Ti. 3:12). We are warned about the devil’s subtilty. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or
if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Co. 11:3-4).

God’s Word describes the simple person as gullible. “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent
man looketh well to his going” (Pr. 14:15). At every ecumenical event, every charismatic conference, every contemporary worship music forum I have attended with media credentials, I have met the “simple.” I recall the North American Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelism in New Orleans, 1987, attended by a mixed multitude of 35,000 people from 40 denominations, including a large contingent of Roman Catholics. Heresies abounded and musical mysticism ruled. Speakers included female pastors, nuns, and Catholic priests. There were tongues and prophecies, so called. In a conversation with a participant one afternoon, I asked how he could be comfortable in the midst of such things. He replied, “You need to relax and enjoy what God is doing.” Proverbs 14:15 came to mind immediately!

When tested Scripturally, the Asbury “revival” is dangerous mysticism and blind ecumenism.

Here is how it began:

On February 8, after a regularly scheduled chapel service on Asbury University’s campus, in Wilmore, Kentucky, a group of about 20 students lingered and began to worship and pray for one another. The chapel speaker that day, Zak Meerkreebs, had exhorted the students to ‘become the love of God by experiencing the love of God,’ and closed with a prayer asking God to ‘revive us by your love.’ According to the students, as they stayed and prayed, an unexplainable, surreal peace descended upon the room. As minutes stretched into hours, many students who had gone to class returned to the auditorium when they heard what was going on. They would eventually be joined by faculty, staff, and community members who trickled in to participate in worship and prayer. ... People I have spoken with who entered these spaces describe encountering a ‘sweet presence,’ ‘deep peace,’ or ‘the quiet, heavy presence of God.’ ... Tom McCall, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, described ‘a quiet but powerful sense of transcendence’” (“When a Christian Revival Goes Viral,” The Atlantic, Feb. 23, 2023).

In the many reports of the Asbury “revival” I have read, I have found no emphasis on sin, repentance, the blood of Christ, regeneration, separation from the world, and casting down unscriptural imaginations. God’s love cannot be understood or experienced properly until the sin issue is dealt with. Any “love” that is not defined biblically is a satanic imitation. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 Jo. 5:3).

It has been reported that some students have been “saved,” but what does this mean? Have they been counseled biblically by a sound church? Has their salvation testimony been tested by the Word of God?

The Asbury “revival” is driven by TikTok (over 100 million views), but if it were of God, it would be renouncing TikTok as polluting, addictive, and time-wasting, among other things.

The Asbury “revival” is driven by repetitive, hypnotic, sensual contemporary worship music.

I have found no evidence that the Asbury “revival” has renounced the world’s vain, fleshly pop culture that permeates the lives and minds of college-age Christians. It has not renounced unisex, feminism, homosexualism, transgenderism, rock & roll, rap, fornicating, drinking, drugging, etc.


Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

1. Biblical revival renounces the friendship of the world (Jas. 4:4).

- The worldly Christian loves this present evil world. This verse contains very powerful language, showing God’s passion about His people’s relationship with this evil world, how their love for this world hurts and angers Him.

- Consider what friendship with the world is not.
First, James is not talking about the world that God made. “The world as such--the physical structure of the earth, of the mountains, forests, flowers, seas, lakes, and vales--is full of illustrations of the Divine character and it cannot be wrong to contemplate those things with interest, or with warm affection toward their Creator” (Barnes). Second, James is not talking about loving unsaved sinners and wanting to see them saved. Jesus was a great friend of sinners in that sense. He loved sinners and sought to bring sinners to salvation (Lu. 19:10), but He did not love their ways. He was always an enemy of sin and He never participated in any sinful activity. He was involved socially with sinners, attending their weddings and feasts, but He was not a “party guy.” He lived and preached righteousness in every situation. He was a friend of sinners even while being “separate from sinners,” because of His absolute holiness (Heb. 7:26). Matthew 11:19 says that Christ was “a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners,” but this was what His enemies said and it was a slander. In fact, Christ was neither gluttonous nor a winebibber. He was a friend of publicans and sinners, not in that He partied with them and had some sort of “non-judgmental” relationship with them, but in that He loved them and sought to lead them to repentance.

- Illicit friendship with the world refers to the following:
First, it refers to loving the evil things of the world (1 Jo. 2:15-16). The believer is to be “unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27). He is to have “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11). Second, it refers to being conformed to the world’s ways, its lifestyle and thinking and philosophy (Ro. 12:2; Col. 2:8, 20; Ps. 1:1; Jer. 10:2). “It refers to that strong desire which often exists, even among professing Christians, to secure the friendship of the world; to copy its fashions and vanities; to enjoy its pleasures; and to share its pastimes and its friendships” (Barnes). Third, it refers to being more interested in and caught up with the things of this world than the things of Christ (Ga. 6:14; Col. 3:1-2). “This spirit exists in all cases where no worldly interest is sacrificed for religion; where everything that religion peculiarly requires is sacrificed for the world” (Barnes). Fourth, it refers to an unequal yoke with unbelievers (2 Co. 6:14-17). When the believer yokes together with unbelievers in marriage and business partnerships and such, he is committing spiritual adultery. According to this passage, the believer is to have no fellowship with unrighteousness, darkness, the devil, infidelity, or idolatry. That is a very strict and far-reaching standard of separation. “They were to have no part with them in their heathenism, unbelief, and idolatry, and infidelity; they were not to be united with them in any way or sense where it would necessarily be understood that they were partakers with them in those things. ... We are not to associate with idolaters in their idolatry; nor with the licentious in their licentiousness; nor with the infidel in his infidelity; nor with the proud in their pride; nor with the gay in their gaiety; nor with the friends of the theatre, or the ball-room, or the circus, in their attachment to these places and pursuits. And whatever other connection we are to have with them as neighbours, citizens, or members of our families, we are not to participate with them IN these things” (Barnes).

- Spiritual adultery is idolatry. It is to give one’s heart to something other than God, who is man’s Creator and deserves and demands the first place in one’s heart and affections. We are to love God with all the heart, strength, and might (De. 6:5). God is a loving God toward His creatures, and He desires and expects their love in return (De. 10:12). When it comes to the New Testament believer, he is doubly obligated to give God first place in his heart and life, because God has redeemed him with a great price (1 Co. 6:20) and Christ is espoused to him (2 Co. 11:2). To give my affection to this wicked world, which is in rebellion against God and hates Him and which crucified His Son and mocks His holy things, is like a wife that gives her heart to a man who is an enemy of her husband and has done him great harm. It is a wicked and selfish thing. Demas committed this sin and forsook Paul and the ministry (2 Ti. 4:10). Jesus demanded that our love for Him so excel that of even our dearest human relations that it would appear, by comparison, that we hate them. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Lu. 14:26). Albert Barnes says, “It is a deeper crime to be unfaithful to God than to any created being; and it will yet be seen that even the violation of the marriage contract, great as is the sin, is a slight offence compared with unfaithfulness towards God.” Matthew Henry adds, “It is constructive treason and rebellion against God to set the world upon his throne in our hearts.”

- The Old Testament prophets charged Israel with spiritual adultery when they gave their affection to idols instead of to the true and living God and when they turned from obedience to God’s Word to follow the precepts of the nations. See Isa. 1:21; 57:3, Jer. 3:1-11; 5:7; Eze. 6:9; 16:1-54; 23:1-49 (see especially verses 7, 8, 18, 25, 35-37, 49); Hos. 1:2; 2:2-13; 3:1; Nah. 3:4.

- This passage (Jas. 4:4) is a powerful rebuke of the “Christian rock” philosophy, which implies that the believer can have the world and Christ, too. It implies that he can love the world’s sensual music, filthy entertainment, immodest dress styles, foolish pop culture ways (which epitomize the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life), attend ungodly rock concerts and nightclubs and bars, and love God, too. The Word of God says this is not possible. It doesn’t matter how popular a philosophy is, if it is contrary to God’s Word it is wrong!

- To love the world is the height of foolishness, because the will of God is infinitely superior to the friendship of the world. The path of Christ is superior to that of the world in every particular. It is a superior way of thinking and a superior way of living. The world does not have any true wisdom. It does not know where it came from or where it is going. It lives for the present and neglects eternity. It lives for pleasure and neglects godliness. It trades the important things in life--such as knowing and pleasing Jesus Christ, walking in holiness, obedience, and temperance, and having an eye to the judgment to come--for vanities. A missionary who was martyred once wisely said, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

-To be the enemy of God is a fearful thing. He is the God who scattered Israel to the ends of the earth and persecuted her for thousands of years for her spiritual adultery (De. 28:15-67). He is the God who killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit (Ac. 5:1-11). He is the God who warned the church at Laodicea that He would spew them out of His mouth for their lukewarmness (Re. 3:15-16). He is the God who will take vengeance in flaming fire on them that obey not the gospel (2 Th. 1:8) and will commit every unbeliever to eternal punishment in the lake of fire (Re. 20:10-15).

2. Biblical revival flows from humility (“God ... giveth grace unto the humble ... humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord,” Jas. 4:6, 10).

- Pride is a characteristic of the world and of the worldly Christian, so grace through humility is mentioned as the first solution to worldliness and an essential element of revival.

- Worldliness is sin, and the only solution to sin is God’s grace, but humility is necessary to receive the grace of God. If the worldly believer will humble himself before God and admit his worldly condition and ways and not pretend that everything is fine in his life and will humbly seek God’s face, he will find grace and that grace will lift him out of the worldly condition. God has respect unto the lowly and gives grace to them (Ps. 138:6; Pr. 3:34). Hezekiah received grace when he humbled himself and confessed the pride of his heart (2 Ch. 32:25-26). Manasseh found grace when he humbled himself in his affliction (2 Ch. 33:11-12). Josiah found grace when he humbled himself before God and admitted the sinful condition of his kingdom (2 Ch. 34:27). Isaiah says that God dwells with “him that is of a contrite and humble spirit” and He revives the spirit of the humble (Isa. 57:15). Thus, the worldly Christian must humble himself before God, confessing his worldly ways and attitudes and acknowledging that God is displeased with him for these things. In contrast, the proud person refuses to admit that his ways are wrong and refuses to accept the fact that God is displeased. He rejects godly reproof and attacks those who try to correct him. He boasts that he is right with God and that God accepts him as he is. He looks on God as a Helper but does not have the fear of God’s holiness.

3. Biblical revival is to “submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil” (Jas. 4:7).

- The devil cannot be resisted through human strength, but when I submit to God, I can resist the devil in God’s power.

- Spiritual victory does not come automatically. The devil must be resisted. He is an aggressive and relentless foe and he cannot be ignored. If I do not resist him, he will defeat me. He does not slumber. He “walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pe. 5:8), and the one he may devour is the one that is careless and worldly and not engaged in the spiritual warfare, the one who is not studying the Bible as he should, lackadaisical in prayer, careless about what type of church he joins, unfaithful to church, failing to walk in daily communion with Christ, casual about sin, putting more value on the temporal things of this world than the eternal things of God. Such a person is like a soldier who sleeps in the midst of a fierce battle.

4. Biblical revival is to “draw nigh unto God” (Jas. 4:8).

- Victory over sin and worldliness is through a close relationship with God. The sinner can draw nigh unto God through Christ’s atonement. And being reconciled, the believer must draw nigh to God at all times. God draws nigh to those that draw nigh to Him. He honors those that honor Him (1 Sa. 2:30). When I seek to be near to God throughout the day, to commune with Him and to please Him, the Holy Spirit is pleased and empowers me and enlightens me, and by that means I am protected from encroaching worldliness. The worldly Christian, on the other hand, is careless about his daily walk with God. He doesn’t maintain a first love for Christ. He doesn’t begin the day with a sweet time of fellowship with Christ in God’s Word and prayer. He doesn’t pray without ceasing throughout the day (1 Th. 5:17). He doesn’t walk in fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 Jo. 1:3) and in communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Co. 13:14).

5. Biblical revival is to “cleanse your hands, ye sinners” (Jas. 4:8).

- One draws nigh to God by cleansing the hands. This is essential, for God is holy. “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 Jo. 1:5-6).

- James gives a sharp call to strict obedience. This refutes the popular definition of “grace,” which is actually license to live much as one pleases. A series of commands are given. “In each instance the Greek aorist imperative calls for immediate response” (Frank Gaebelein). The commands are submit, resist, draw nigh, cleanse, purify, be afflicted, mourn, weep, humble yourselves.

- Note that God’s Word is not soft in regard to sin. James calls worldly Christians “adulterers and adulteresses” and says, “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” This is the type of plain reproof that brings conviction and repentance and change. It is the type of preaching that God’s people need, yet so few preachers and teachers today are willing to give such reproof. Soft preaching produces soft Christian living. The softness of evangelical preaching has produced an evangelicalism that is meaningless in terms of sound belief and practice and true holiness. The same is happening among “fundamentalists.” A strong element of reproof and rebuke is absolutely essential to godliness, and this is why God requires it (2 Ti. 4:2).

- Cleansing the hands refers to all of one’s actions. The worldly individual must stop doing things that displease the Lord. He must stop listening to things that are unedifying. He must stop looking at things that are unwholesome. He must stop going to places that do not glorify the Lord. Cleansing the hands requires searching one’s life for those things that displease the Lord: anything that is worldly (1 Jo. 2:16), anything that is an unfruitful work of darkness (Eph. 5:11). I must give God first place. I must ask Him to show me anything in my life that displeases or grieves Him or that has come between me and Him, whether it be a form of entertainment, education, job, an idolatrous love for someone or something, even something legitimate, an unwholesome friendship, neglect of God’s Word, neglect of church, or anything else. There is no shortcut to spiritual revival that does not deal seriously with removing evil things from my life and heart. I must get serious about this matter. I must stop making excuses for my sin.

6. Biblical revival is to “purify your hearts, ye double minded” (Jas. 4:8).

- Cleansing the hands and purifying the heart are intimately associated. The actions affect the heart and the heart affects the actions. See Proverbs 4:23-27. The heart must be guarded with all diligence. The meditations of the heart will decide the quality of one’s Christian life. I must think about the right things. But the actions are also important. By speaking the right thing and looking at the right thing and doing the right thing and walking in the right places, one’s heart can be kept right with God. Such a strict life of holiness is biblical Christianity, not some sort of “Phariseeism.”

- The worldly individual must purify his heart. He must say with the Psalmist, “Let the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight
(Ps. 19:14), and, “the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding” (Ps. 49:3), and, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). The heart is purified by removing evil imaginations. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Whatever is polluting the heart and mind must be rejected, whether it is music, television, movies, video, social media, internet browsing, video games, literature, filthy comedy, unwholesome conversations with friends, or anything else. This is why I gave up rock music and many other worldly things when I was a young Christian. I wanted to grow in Christ. I wanted God’s blessing on my life. I wanted God to use me, and I understood through Scripture that it was essential to guard my thoughts. I stopped watching trashy movies and listening to trashy music and reading trashy books. I lived in Florida and loved the beaches, but I stopped going to public beaches to ogle the girls. These things didn’t all happen overnight, but I surrendered to be a disciple of Christ and to walk the path of holy separation unto Christ, and as He showed me the spiritual and moral dangers in my life I confessed them and turned from them.

- Purifying the heart requires an intimate relationship with God’s Word. It requires establishing a serious daily Bible study/prayer time and jealously guarding this from interference by other things. It requires learning how to study the Bible through courses like
Understanding the Bible for Yourself, available from Way of Life Literature. It requires memorizing Scripture and meditating on Scripture throughout the day (Ps. 1:2). It requires reading books that will help you better understand the Bible and Christian living. Relatively few professing Christians are serious Bible students, but you don’t have to follow the crowd. Charles Spurgeon read many entire sets of commentaries, and some he read multiple times. There are people who have read the entire Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, and many who have gone through the Advanced Bible Studies Series on their own and thus obtained the equivalent of a Bible college education. Carve out time for these things. Studying God’s Word effectively and applying it to one’s life takes time, and if you aren’t willing to put God first in your daily affairs, you will never make much progress spiritually. Examine your daily schedule and find more time for the Lord and His Word. Most people waste a lot of time on things that have no eternal value. Spend that time, rather, on the things of God.

- Cleansing the hands and purifying the heart is a continual process, not a one-time thing. It would be wonderful if you could surrender everything to Christ once and for all and never have to worry about backsliding and worldliness again, but it doesn’t work that way. There are many strong enemies, particularly the world, the flesh, and the devil, and they are persistent. Danger is always present. The church at Ephesus was a model church, but Christ had to rebuke them for leaving their first love, and He warned them that if they did not repent, they were in danger of further backsliding and judgment (Re. 2:4-5). The believer that lets down his guard and stops cleansing his hands and purifying his heart has already taken the first step of backsliding.

- We must not grow weary of this process of spiritual growth. Cleansing the hands and purifying the heart of those things that displease the Lord is wearisome to the flesh. It gets tiresome. While the world is pursuing fun and living carelessly, according to its own pleasure, the disciple of Christ is pursuing holiness and living cautiously, according to God’s pleasure. He has to deny himself and die to self and resist the natural impulses of the flesh. He is not at liberty to live as he pleases.

- The “
double minded” person is one who professes Christ but also loves the world. He is unstable. One day he seems to be on fire to serve the Lord, but the next day he is enflamed with the things of the world. When he is around spiritual people he talks about spiritual things, but when he is around unbelievers he talks about worldly things with equal fervor. He seems to be at home in the church and in the world, but Christ said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (Mt. 6:24). James says that the professing believer who loves the world is the enemy of God.

7. Biblical revival is to “be afflicted and mourn” (Jas. 4:9-10).

- The worldly Christian is in love with the things of the world. He looks upon life as a party to be enjoyed. This is the Christian rock philosophy. Tony Campolo wrote a book entitled The Kingdom of God Is a Party, and he was referring to this present life. But this is not what the New Testament teaches. James says, “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness”! The kingdom of God will be established when Christ returns and we will “party” then, but when Jesus established the Lord’s Supper He said, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Mt. 26:29). This present church age is a time to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. It is a time when God’s people are living as strangers in a foreign land, when they are living in the enemy’s territory. It is a time of spiritual warfare. There are great blessings in the Christian life, but it is serious business. In the kingdom of God, the saints will have new bodies, and there will be no indwelling sin nature to pull them down and impel them toward spiritual backsliding. There will be no devil walking about seeking whom he may devour. There will be no wicked world system tempting the saints to disobey God. Then we will enter into the joy of the Lord (Mt. 25:21, 23), but in this present time we can expect suffering, groaning, and travailing (Ro. 8:18-23). Then we will enter the glorious liberty of the children of God, but presently we are in the “bondage of corruption” (Ro. 8:21). Then we will live by sight and enjoy the fulfillment of God’s promises, but now we live by faith and wait on the fulfillment (Ro.s 8:24-25). Thus, the solution to worldliness is to afflict oneself every day before God for one’s sin and to mourn and weep in longing for the mercy and power of God. To walk in the light requires confession of one’s sin (1 Jo. 1:8-10). To fulfill God’s will requires denying oneself, dying to self, and picking up one’s cross daily.

- When James says, “
let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness,” he is talking about worldly laughter and carnal joy. He is talking about renouncing the pleasure associated with indulging the lust of the flesh. The worldly Christian is exhorted to stop partying with the world and rather to mourn for his sin and to repent of his worldly ways. It is those who sow in tears in this present world who will reap in joy in the next (Ps. 126:5-6). Jesus said, “Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. ... Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep” (Lu. 6:21, 25). “Afflicting the soul is meant; an inward mourning and weeping over the plague of the heart, the impurity of nature, and the various sins of life; after a godly sort” (John Gill).

- Observe how that James emphasizes the necessity of repentance and confession by means of repetition: be afflicted, mourn, weep, mourning, heaviness, humble yourselves (Jas. 4:9-10). Nothing in the Bible is there by accident. When something is repeated, it is because God is emphasizing a point.

- This is the essence of spiritual revival. We don’t have to wait for a “revival” to come as it has in a few instances such as the first “Great Awakening” early 18th-century America. It is God’s will that each believer and each church have continual revival through daily repentance and confession and obedience and separation.

- Worldly Christians look upon these things as morbid and boring and “legalistic” and “Pharisaical,” but this is biblical Christianity.


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