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Advice To The Students At Asbury College

You experienced something, something significant. The question you have to ask yourself is this; what comes next? I want to help you process that.

Corby Stephens
Corby Stephens
8 min read
Advice To The Students At Asbury College
Photo by Bree Anne / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Hey, how’s it going? Have a seat. Can I buy you a coffee? Listen. As someone who has walked with Jesus for a while now, and who had his own personal revival of sorts while in college, I wanted to share three thoughts with you as you begin to navigate life going forward. No, I’m not going to criticize the event or your experience. That’s not my job. I do know that you are going to hear a lot of voices from every side talk about this thing. I’m not even going to talk about the event itself. You experienced something, something significant. The question you have to ask yourself is this; what comes next? I want to help you process that.

Repentance is the measure of revival.

There is nothing wrong with emotion. God is an emotional being. Since we are created in His image, so are we. Having said that, one’s level of emotion is not a gauge to measure one’s level of devotion. Revival in the future cannot be conjured by emotion. In the case of revival, personal or corporate, repentance is the measure.

Don’t get me wrong, repentance is an emotional experience. When you recognize that your thoughts and ways are contrary to God’s thoughts and ways, when that hits you and you recognize the need to change and your own weakness to do it yourself, you might feel sadness, fear, shame, anger,  embarrassment, or all of the above. When you then recognize the goodness of God, His love for you, His heart for you, His forgiveness through Jesus, the availability of His power through the Holy Spirit to transform you by renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2), you might feel joy, relief, peace, love, and any number of other emotions.

Just remember that revival is rooted in repentance, and repentance asks, “Lord, I’m yours; what do you want me to do?” Remember Acts 2? When the Spirit fell on those first disciples and they went into the temple courts proclaiming the wonderful works of God and Peter preached about how those people crucified Jesus? Peter explained to them who Jesus was (the long awaited Messiah) to Jews who were at least observant if not fully devoted to God. The result was them asking the question; what should we do, brothers? In other words, they recognized their sin and responded to Jesus with a desire to be changed. That is the heart of repentance. Chase that.

Repentance is a daily part of following Jesus.

In my opinion, repentance is one of the most under-taught concepts in the church. I’m not saying we need to be in a constant state of sackcloth and ashes. But neither should we be in a constant state of “everything is awesome with Jesus all the time.” There is a middle ground. In Luke 9:23 Jesus said,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

If you want to be a follower of Jesus, one of the daily practices you should have is to deny yourself, to take up your cross, and to intentionally follow Jesus.
Remember that game, “Follow The Leader”? If the leader walks, you walk. If he stops, you stop. If he crawls, you crawl. If you go off in your own direction in your own way, you are no longer following the leader. You need to deny your own desire to go your own way, pick up your cross (imitate Jesus), and follow Him. This is a daily act of repentance.

In the 2019 Book of Common Prayer, in the Morning Office there is a prayer used to confess sin. (To grossly oversimplify what the Morning Office is, it’s a kind of devotions that can be done individually or as a group.) The prayer goes like this.

Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and apart from your grace, there is no health in us.

O Lord, have mercy upon us. Spare all those who confess their faults. Restore all those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to all people in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may now live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of your holy Name. Amen. (p. 12)

The same prayer is repeated in the Evening Office. The day starts with, among other things, repentance, and it ends with repentance. It’s like breathing; good air in, bad air out. What happens if you don’t breathe? You die and need to be revived.

In the Morning Office, after that prayer, one of the things that can be said/prayed is this. I love this.

Grant to your faithful people, merciful Lord, pardon and peace; that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (p. 13, emphasis added)

“Serve you with a quiet mind.” I had never really connected that dot until I started practicing the Daily Office . When we are hanging on to some “secret” sin, when we try to hide it from others and we think we are hiding it from God, it takes up space in our thoughts. It weighs on our minds. It makes so much noise that we can’t think properly about Jesus let alone serve Him properly. But when we clean house, when we get that garbage out through confession and repentance, our minds become quiet. Well, quiet-er. Do you deal with anxiety on the daily? Stress? Depression? While repentance alone won’t cure those, it can provide significant relief, even peace. A quiet(er) mind day by day.

This is a mountain-top experience. Don’t live on top of the mountain.

In my church tradition, this past Sunday we observed the event in Jesus’ life known as The Transfiguration. It takes place on a high mountain or hill. You can read about it in Matthew 17. In the emotional high of witnessing that moment, being a part of that experience, Peter asks Jesus if He wants him to build three tents (shelters) for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah to camp in. Peter wanted to stay there, in that moment, for as long as possible. Can you blame him? In the personal presence of the Son, the Law, and the Prophets? There is a life-changing sermon in just that observation. In that moment, God the Father shows up and says (I’m paraphrasing), “Listen up! Pay attention, and do what My Son, whom I love, tells you to do.”

Jesus didn’t come to exist permanently in that state on the top of that mountain. It was a moment in His life and the life of those three disciples. But they didn’t stay there. They didn’t live there. Nor did it become the standard by which they measured all future experiences. In fact, this event is never referred to again. But man-oh-man I’m sure they remembered it. Jesus took them farther. In fact, Jesus took them to the Garden of Gethsemane which is near the bottom of a valley outside Jerusalem. This is when and where Jesus prayed to the Father that if there was any other way to accomplish His will to do that. This is when and where Jesus was so anxious that the capillaries under His skin burst and he sweated water and blood. The next mountaintop would be Calvary where He would be crucified. Some mountain.

My point is that you will be tempted to keep this high going. You might even be told that this is the norm, the standard by which all Christians should live. You might compare all future spiritual experiences to this moment. In my opinion that is a huge mistake. I’m not saying to forget it or discount it. Not at all. My advice is that you use this experience as a landmark, a milepost.

When the Israelites were in the desert and making their way into the Promised Land, God would do amazing things in and through them. Instead of stoping and staying there, they would build up a pile of rocks as an alter, a landmark. God told them that when their kids and descendants saw those landmarks and asked what it was, to tell them about what God had done. They were reminders.

You will need reminders like this. Just as the disciples experienced the Transfiguration, so too they experienced Gethsemane and Calvary. Peter, who wanted to build three tents, publicly denied Jesus three times! Jesus graciously restored him after the resurrection. Peter had many more mountains and valleys in his life. I have no doubt that while in the valleys he looked up to the mountains and remembered what God had done and could do. Like Peter, live for Jesus. Expect valleys. Don’t live on this mountain. Listen to Jesus because He has work for you to do.

Bonus advice; the parable of the sower.

I know I said I had three pieces of advice for you. This last thing isn’t so much for you to live out as it is for you to observe in yourself and others who experienced this with you. Head over to Matthew 13 and read Jesus’ parable of the sower. In the parable, the word of God is compared to seed scattered of various kids of dirt.
Some of the dirt is so hard and compact that the seed cannot take root. Some of the dirt was shallow and rocky so that if the seed took root, it would grow but quickly wither in the heat of life and die away. Some dirt already had insidious thorn bushes growing in it so that they grew in the same dirt, they overwhelmed the seed that was growing and choked it off. Finally, some dirt was in great shape. It had been cleaned and prepared for fresh seed. The seed took root, grew, and reproduced.

I’m going to loosely adapt that parable to what happened at Asbury. Some people in and around this moment in time have such hard hearts that they will not accept this. I’m talking about believers now. Some people in that hall witnessed what happened and couldn’t accept it. Others there have a faith that is shallow, unprepared. They will get caught up in the excitement of it all. But when any kind of persecution or questioning comes, they won’t have the strength to stand and this will fade away. Others will let this take root, it will grow, but life will become so distracting that this will just become a distant memory with no lasting impact. Finally, there are those, and I hope you are among them, who have been prepared for this by the Lord, and this will take root, grow, and bear lasting fruit in your life for the kingdom of God. My first three bits of advice are intended to help you do just that. So, yeah, I guess this is a fourth piece of advice. :-)

This experience is not the end. It’s not even permanent. It’s a beginning. It’s a step. It’s a landmark. Keep your soil healthy by adopting a practice of daily repentance. If you do, and you keep following Jesus first, one day you will be able to turn around and give others the same advice. You can be like Paul who in 1 Corinthians said “follow me as I follow Christ.”

I hope you enjoyed the coffee, and I hope you take the advice to prayer. If you found this helpful, please spread it around. See ya later.



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