What is a spiritual awakening?The term "spiritual awakening" is used by different people to refer to different types of spiritually-related occurrences. In general, a spiritual awakening is a new revelation, breakthrough, or enlightenment that happens within one's spiritual life. We become consciously aware of something spiritual that we did not know before. The idea of a spiritual awakening is popular in secular movements, such as New Age, and in several different religions. From a biblical point of view, salvation serves as our primary spiritual awakening. More than an awakening, salvation is a change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Prior to salvation, the Bible says that we were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). We were all naturally born into sin, separated from God, and mentally blocked from the things of God: "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4). We all need to be spiritually awakened, or, born again (John 3:3–8).
A note of caution: There are many worldly counterfeits to biblical spiritual awakening, which is by salvation in Jesus Christ alone. Many non-Christian versions of spiritual awakening are rooted in mysticism, New Age thinking, or other religions. While they may have some thought-provoking ideas, these alternative paths to spiritual awakening should not be approached without great watchfulness. A worldly version of a spiritual awakening could in reality be no more than an open door for the demonic (see 2 Corinthians 11:14–15; 1 Peter 5:8).
Salvation, the true spiritual awakening, happens through the power of the Holy Spirit; it does not come through an emotional, mental, or physical behavior we must follow or a state of being we must achieve. Salvation is a free gift of God (Ephesians 2:8–9). Once we are saved, we become spiritually awakened by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Acts 2:38; Romans 8:13–17). We are born again and transformed into new creations with a Christ-centered version of reality, desiring to love and please Him in all of our ways (2 Corinthians 5:9, 17; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3) This major spiritual awakening paves the way for other smaller spiritual awakenings that the Holy Spirit reveals to us in various ways throughout our lives (1 Corinthians 2:12–14). These "awakenings" are essentially the process of spiritual growth and sanctification. They are part of what Romans 12:2 describes: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Spiritual awakening for believers is like a light being shined in a dark room. We are first made alive through salvation. But after that, ungodly things present within our lives, whether they be blatant sin issues that we have willfully hidden or unhealthy thought patterns that we may not be aware of, are exposed by the light of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit also shines a light on God's truth, helping us to know God and to respond to Him. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through prayer, Bible reading, sermons, and other believers, to name a few. The psalmist uses the metaphor of light when describing the Word of God and His ability to teach us through it: "The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. . . Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes" (Psalm 119:130, 135). As we submit our own wills to the Holy Spirit at work within us, we partner with the Spirit to bring light to the innermost parts of our hearts (Proverbs 20:27). Each time He shines a light within us or shines a light on the truth of God so that we see it clearly could be said to be a moment of spiritual awakening. As we seek God and yield to the work of His Holy Spirit, we become progressively freer and more unencumbered in our pursuit of the Lord for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (see 2 Corinthians 3:17–18). By the grace and work of God not only are we saved, we are progressively transformed into the image of God.
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