A church that listens

I think Selwyn’s comments are very concise and accurate. He writes: ” … There is far too much reliance on human wisdom and intuition in today’s Church and not enough dependence on the Holy Spirit. That is not to say that the Spirit will ignore our experience and common sense, but because the path the Church takes is beset by devilish forces, we need to hear the Spirit’s voice to receive guidance and help in out manoeuvring Satan’s strategies.

Nothing is more productive and powerful than a church getting together to listen to God and then, having heard His voice either by a sense of corporate witness or by a prophetic word, rising up as one and saying: ‘We have heard the voice of Jesus. Now let us get to work (and follow His directions).”

Satan is an active enemy – he is constantly developing strategies to get us to turn our eyes and ears away from God. We do not have the intellectual ability to avoid Satan’s traps. We must always turn to God  and seek His help in overcoming what we do not see – what we do not understand. Satan is at his best when he is working with our pride – especially that aspect of our pride which erroneous says that ‘we can reason it out, and develop our own ‘vision statement’ to counteract Satan’s plans’.

Personally, I find it sad that when I start talking to other Christians about the work of the Holy Spirit they often respond in ways which imply that I might be suffering a mental health episode.  There are some fairly easy tests which anyone can employ to discern the difference between delusion  and spiritual reality. Yet, many fail to apply even the simplest of spiritual tests – their flawed intellect, makes the first and last judgment.

John 16:13a (NIV) – “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. … “. This is the key verse for today’s study – it’s also a good verse to keep active within our frail minds.

Your view?

Where are the prophets?

As I mentioned yesterday, it appears to me that it’s hard to find a church, which has the right balance regarding the work of God’s Spirit.

Selwyn writes in today’s study: “The voice of the prophet (through whom God’s Spirit spoke) was often heard in the Early Church …

Where are the prophets of God in the Church today? Will we hear the voice of the prophets in the Church of the future? I certainly hope so.

Some are suspicious of anything that appears supernatural, but it was the supernatural that made the Early Church what it was.

One concern expressed is that there are dangers in opening ourselves to the supernatural. But there are safeguards also. After the Spirit spoke, the church still fasted and prayed before laying their hands on Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:3).”

A common error found in many western churches is the idea that the Holy Spirit ONLY works through the revelation of Scripture, that is, as we read the Bible the Holy Spirit helps us to understand the truth of God’s Word. While the Holy Spirit does indeed work in that way; it’s not the only way God works.

To limit God in any way – is a dangerous activity – it perhaps highlights a fear of God’s power – a fear that our intellect may not be able to understand the full dimensions of God’s majesty.

The fact is that we can never understand the ways of God; and, we ( in the western world) should just learn to accept it.

Any comments?

 

The crux of religion

Selwyn now looks at another aspect of the church at Antioch – the believers’ openness to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It seems to me that an understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit is one of the hardest to achieve balance. Many of the traditional churches have difficulty in finding any role at all – except to mention the Holy Spirit is various creeds. While some other churches become driven by their own agenda and are led astray by their own desire; subscribing messages to the Holy Spirit, which are obviously wrong.  The Holy Spirit never contradicts the spiritual truths found in Scripture. Yet, some groups appear to have forgotten this simple spiritual test.

Selwyn writes: ” … the Holy Spirit was a power providing the heartbeat of their (the church in Antioch) faith. He was the dynamic by which it was propelled. You can hardly tell as you read the book of Acts where the actions of the apostles ended and those of the Holy Spirit began.”

I think it’s also important to understand that the Holy Spirit did not cease His activity at the end of the book of Acts. God’s Spirit continues to work within the community of believers – He continues to reveal the truth about Jesus – He continues to guide us along this narrow track.  You can walk with your eyes open, and you will see signs which guide us along the correct way. Sadly, too many people have a closed mind to the work of the Holy Spirit; and, they wonder why they stumble so often, and lose confidence in the love of God.

Jesus loves you so much that His Spirit is always present – He will carry you through the hard times – even, if you don’t think He is there. Such is His great love for His sheep.

Your view?

If an angel says …

I think that the verse used by Selwyn to illustrate the principle he is writing about in today’s study; is one, we all should be aware of – at all times.

1 Corinthians 12:11 (NIV): “All these are the work of the one and the same Spirit, and he gives to each one, just as he determines.”

I feel that it’s important to understand that the God of the Old Testament – is the same God we see in Jesus as recorded in the New Testament – and, He is the same Spirit who works in our lives, today.

The point which Selwyn raises in today’s study – is one, I fully agree with: God continues to guide His people through supernatural methods; however, they are occasional rather than normal.

In addition, the messages we may receive through supernatural means MUST align with God’s Word as recorded in Scripture – we are told to test everything – and the foundation of any test of the truth, is God’s Word.

‘The most Christlike Person’

I don’t have a difficulty with the relationship of Jesus, Father and Holy Spirit – as representative, of the Three Persons, which Christianity has accepted for the last eighteen hundred years – as the Holy Trinity. It is the best representation of a mystery – that we cannot understand – this side of the grave.

If you look at it another way – the Bible shows us something less than 1% of God’s nature – but it is enough to get us safely home. Any representation of God will fall short of the total nature of His Being – what we see – is like looking through a window, which has thick dark glass. There are two extreme views: one, is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is just a different mode of  the one ‘Person’. The other is that there are three Gods working in unison with each other.

The Holy Trinity as defined in the Nicene Creed, falls somewhere between these two views – each Person has a specific role as illustrated in Scripture  – but there is only one God. Yet, at the end-of-the-day, the Holy Trinity is impossible to understand; be on your guard with people who say they can understand this mystery. Usually, what they mean is that they understand the ‘definition‘ as given in the various creeds; and, they have some idea of each Person’s role as illustrated by Scripture. They don’t, and they can’t understand the full nature of God and how He works.

I agree with Selwyn’s conclusion; and to maintain the context, I’ll reproduce it in full.

“One writer says, ‘The Holy Spirit is the most Christlike Person in the universe.’ He is. We can abandon ourselves to the Holy Spirit knowing that He accomplish nothing in our lives that is not in harmony with Jesus. The name of Jesus provides the opening through which the Holy Spirit flows. When we have been redeemed by Christ, and take on His character, God’s Spirit and power become operative in our lives. Don’t ever be afraid of the Holy Spirit. He comes in, not to detract from Jesus, but to direct our attention the more to Him.”

However, Scripture is the best place to go – to gain a reliable understanding of the Holy Spirit; and these three excerpts, I think, cover this area well:

John 14:15-18, 25-26 (NIV): ‘ “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” ‘

John 15:26 (NIV) “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 16:5- 15 (NIV): ‘ “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

I think the above verses, taken from John’s Gospel, give us a good idea of the role of the Holy Spirit; Jesus returns to His glory and does not leave us, as orphans – His Spirit comes and is available to us, to help us understand Jesus’ words, and to guide us in a truthful way – in exactly the same way, as if Jesus was walking with us. The main purpose of  God’s Spirit within us,  is to help us testify to the world, the truth about Jesus.

What do you think?

Going down deeper

In today’s study, Selwyn looks at the role of the Holy Spirit.

It’s important to believe that the Holy Spirit is God – in every conceivable way. In the New Testament, we find the Holy Spirit is also referred to, as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Jesus. In the very first chapter of the Bible (second verse), we first meet the Holy Spirit: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”

In one of our Creeds, many say: “ I believe  …  in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. … “.

There is but one God, besides Him there is no other. The Holy Spirit is God, who is to be worshiped and glorified. I recently, heard a Christian minister say, ‘we don’t worship the Holy Spirit’. Such a statement, demonstrates an attempt to define the unknown nature of God, based on very limited information given to us in Scripture. We just don’t know enough about God to make any definitive statement about the Trinity in general, and even more so – the Holy Spirit.  

In John 14:15-18 (NLT), we have Jesus telling the apostles: ‘ “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans – I will come to you.” ‘

Jesus, especially in John’s Gospel, often takes us in a circle: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In one section He tells the apostles that the Father and He, will come and live in them [if they obey God’s commandments]; in another area – He says that the Holy Spirit – will live in them; and, on other occasions, He will say  – ‘I will come to you.’ How, this all happens is a mystery – no one (in a general sense) will fully understand this mystery, this side of the grave.

I believe it’s important to understand that the Holy Spirit is God and not a personification of His power.If you are feeling somewhat confused about all this – then turn to Jesus in prayer, and ask for a  level of ‘contentment’ regarding the mystery of the Trinity, which will help you to follow in His footsteps, and not to be distracted by time-wasting discussions on debatable matters.

In summary, I thought Selwyn’s conclusion to be very good: “The believer who sees himself or herself as someone who can make it through the Christian life relying on their own experiences or understanding rather than on the Holy Spirit, hasn’t begun to comprehend what Christian living is all about.”