Discerning not Deceived

When it comes to the recent events at Asbury University, many are calling it a genuine revival of the Holy Spirit. Others have not been so quick to label it as such. Those who are slow to praise this “move of the Spirit” have upset many other Christians who would say it is “better to be gullible than to be cynical.” I suggest to you that the Christian position is, “better to be discerning than to be deceived.” So now that the dust is settling from the events in Asbury, (no, not gold dust from the ceiling vents as you’ll find at Bethel Church in Redding) we can better evaluate this “revival” with biblical discernment. 

Discernment is not a popular word these days, which explains why there is such a lack of it in the land. To discern requires passing biblically informed judgments. It requires taking the time to observe what is happening and then asking the Lord for the insight to rightly understand events according to Scripture. But popular or not, God’s redeemed are to be a discerning people:

Philippians 1:9 - And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,

No one, including myself, wants to deny or speak against the work of the Spirit.  But the reality is, everyone loves to speak of love, but do we truly want a discerning love? Most don’t, since discernment can reveal that something is not right, good, or of God. In other words, discernment leads us to pass judgment, and if there is one unforgivable sin today, it is being judgmental. Not so many years ago, the most often quoted verse was John 3:16. Now, everyone, from the atheist on a college campus to the lesbian “pastor” of United Universalist Church quotes Matthew 7:1 “judge not” (albeit out of context).  

“Thou Shalt Be Nice and Accepting” is the world’s Greatest Commandment. But we are called to have our love abound more and more with “all discernment.”

In accordance with 1 John 4, we will not bow to the pagan gods of Judge Not. Using the Bible as our standard, we test the spirit of Asbury College to see if what we have is a work of the Lord. Three Biblical questions to use for righteous judgment: is the holiness of God honored, is the true full gospel preached, and is sinful rebellion exposed and repented of? If it does not meet these standards, then you have no revival. With the discernment the Lord has given me, I believe Asbury fails on all three accounts.

  1. The Holiness of God must be honored.  When Isaiah faced the glory of the Thrice Holy God (Is 6), he cried out, “Woe is me, I’m undone!” When God granted Israel repentance through Ezra, the people cried out and repented of their sin. No stories of glory clouds and exorcisms while people bounce up and down in ecstasy. No worship services led by openly LGBTQ.  

  2. The Gospel must be preached. From the first message that started it all, to testimonies from students in attendance, to first hand reports from inquiring minds, it was unanimously reported that there was no clear and consistent proclamation of the gospel, repentance, or the holiness of God.  

  3. Rebellious, presumptuous sins must be repented of. In addition to LGBTQ worship leaders (which God calls an abomination), the school as a whole holds a compromised position and practice towards homosexual students. They ordain women pastors, encourage speaking in tongues as a sign of being baptized by the spirit, teach holiness perfectionism, and welcoming false teachers like Mike Bickle. None of this has been repented of.

One more clear example of concern. Rev Zach Meerkreebs preached the first sermon that the school identifies as starting the revival. A word search of how often certain words or phrases occurred produced the following results: Love-140; God-27; Feel/Feeling/Felt-20; Experience-19; Jesus-19; Sin-0; Repentance/Repent-0; Gospel/Good News-0; Holiness-0; Hell-0; Tacos-3. It is not wrong to speak of and emphasize the love of God. We are the objects of His love! Hallelujah! But our love must abound in knowledge and discernment. It must be a holy love, defined by God and with God as the chief object. What we love, what we seek, matters.   

Many American Evangelicals proclaim with glee that the very generation seemingly swept away by perversity and running from the church is now being used by God to usher in a revival. Of course, even one sinner saved moves our heart to great gladness, and God can certainly raise up a generation to seek His face. But consider what discernment reveals. This generation has been groomed by the world to be enslaved to their emotions. The generation known for safe spaces and social justice has been trained to have little to no godly discernment. They have been lied to, told to, “Follow your heart”, but they were never told that the heart is “deceitful above all else, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9), therefore Jesus says you must be born again (John 3:3).  

Do not fear using discernment, for we must labor to not be deceived by a spirit of this age. We need to fear a holy God, proclaim the gospel to all nations, and repent of the wickedness of the flesh. This conversation matters, for we all long to see the Spirit work in both ordinary and extraordinary ways. We must test the spirits, for when we live in a land under God’s judgment, the people long for hope and revival.  We are not to be people swept away by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14), and we must be on guard against ear tickling apostasy.  Lord willing, we will see revival in the land.  May it start with us.