Thursday, August 1, 2013
The Helper – The Holy Spirit’s role in our listening to God
JESUS THE LIVING WAY
THE Bible is really important in helping you hear God’s voice – but it isn’t enough in itself. Too many people have studied the Bible for years and still missed God’s purpose and kingdom life. Bible-quoting people have supported racial segregation, slavery and a host of other evils and oppressions. Jesus also had some run-ins with some of the more controlling and intransigent first-century Bible scholars and spoke to them in these terms:
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.
The Bible may be central in our faith but it is not the centre – Jesus is. The Bible is written to reveal God and to point us to Him, to illuminate the way, as this well-known verse from Psalm 119 summarises:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
God’s Word lights our path, like the headlights of a car at night. It shows the way but it isn’t the way itself. Jesus defined the way:
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
The apostle Peter, leader of the church in its earliest days, had his own moments with the Scripture-cognisant religious hierarchy. Following a miraculous healing of a crippled beggar, he and John were seized and imprisoned and brought before the court of the high priests’s family, rulers, elders and teachers of the law. Peter, in his defence speech, said this:
Salvation is found in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
– What other ways have you tried? What sort of results did you get?
JESUS PROMISES US THE SPIRIT AS OUR HELPER
To help us deepen our relationship with Him, Jesus gives us someone special who is known in Scripture as the Helper, Encourager or Counsellor. Just before His death, Jesus gave His closest followers these promises about Him:
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, the Spirit of Truth… 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.
I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
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 bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you.
(If you click the links, you can read these verses in another recent version for comparison.)
Based on the promises in these verses, are the following statements true?
- The Holy Spirit is a counsellor (special companion, adviser) to us
- Jesus continues to guide us today by the voice of His Spirit
- The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to bring glory to Jesus
- Experiencing the Holy Spirit’s presence is almost the same as having Jesus Himself physically present with us.
All true, you may say – but in reality the last one sells the situation short. Jesus says in John 16:7 that the presence of His Spirit is better than Him being physically with us. Put this verse together with 16:14 – He is not only WITH us, He is IN us. The Holy Spirit is the means by which Christ speaks from WITHIN us as our constant helper and Counsellor.
LISTENING TO THE SPIRIT
This requires a little teasing out. In the past, your thoughts flowed from your mind. However, thoughts from the Spirit don’t originate in your own thought processes, but from God’s Spirit in your innermost being. So this is not a furrowed-brow try-harder exercise but rather the opposite – quieting the whirl of our thoughts so we can sense the inner promptings of the Spirit.
We are not to be ‘mindless’. God renews our minds, and uses them, too. But there’s a distinction. This is about learning to make room for, and to sense as distinct from thoughts that you generate, the promptings of the Spirit.
As you become more aware of the spiritual realm, it will get easier. Answer these questions as true/false to help you see to what extent you have been unaware of the spiritual realm and have relied only on your mind:
T or F? In the past, reality for me has been in the physical world alone, not physical and spiritual realms combined.
T or F? I tend to have calculated and analytical thoughts, rather than letting the Spirit place flowing thoughts in my mind.
T or F? I base my decisions on my own wisdom or experience, rather than waiting on God for Hios insights, burdens and visions.
T or F? I interact with the Bible on an intellectual level rather than letting God impress special truth upon me by His Spirit.
Here are some tips to help you identify the promptings of God’s Spirit.
- Thoughts from your mind are meditated – but insights spoken by God;s Spirit to your human spirit are spontaneous ideas, words, feelings or images.
- You sense the thoughts coming from your heart, not from your mind.
- The Holy Spirit is less ‘predictable’ and often uses unusual content – insights or instructions you wouldn’t have come up with yourself.
- When it’s from the Holy Spirit there’s a sense of both peace and power.
- When you act on what the Spirit prompts you to do, it brings joy and freedom (never constraint and condemnation).
Remember: God speaks, but it is your job to pay attention to Him and listen for His voice among all the others.