It’s been a long time since I have written a blog. Lately something that has been ruminating inside my mind and heart is the extent to which the Holy Spirit functions and should function in the modern church. This topic has come up in a number of my conversations, classes and ministry.
First, in our young adults Bible study at church we have been going through the Gospel of John. We discussed chapters 13-15 over the last number of weeks and in these chapters Jesus encourages and comforts his disciples before he goes to the cross for our sins. He encourages them with the promise of the Holy Spirit. He talks about how he must go so that the Holy Spirit can come and be an advocate for us, a guide, a counselor, and a source of strength and empowerment. At the end of our discussion on John chapter 15 we resolved to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our daily Christian walk.
In youth group we discussed the different ways we can pray. We discovered that in Prayer the Spirit works on our hearts and minds to bring our wills in line with the will of God the father.
Finally in my course on Peter’s Epistles at McMaster Divinity college we discussed the role of the Holy Spirit. The last class our professor brought in a another professor from MAC and this professor discussed how Peter’s Epistles can be applied in our current context. At some point in his lecture Dr. Beech asked: “what is the biggest stumbling block with regards to knowing how to live as Christians in our world?” The answer: Contextualization (that is the process of assigning meaning as a means of interpreting the environment within which a text or action is executed). Dr. Beech argued that many factors play into why this is a problem. He suggests there are many different emphases that need to be considered in order to understand how to live life as Christians in our current context. The major ones he mentions are:
- Spirit, Tradition, Experience, Community, Culture, Reason, Scripture
The problem is that many Christians have a hard time knowing which factors to emphasize over others. Many churches emphasize sola scriptura which means scripture alone. The problem with this is that we are so far removed from the original culture of the Bible that we have difficulty interpreting it. Other churches rely on tradition. An example would be Catholicism. The problem with this approach is that the root of tradition is based on what the church has done in the past in a different context and we aren’t always aware how much our sin plays into our church’s history. Other churches live by experience. The problem with this approach is that everyone’s experience is different and if bad experiences occur; their faith will be tested because their faith is circumstantial. If a church relies too heavily on community they can lose focus of Jesus and develop ideas or traditions that appeal to their community instead of God… often cults form as a result. Churches who focus on reason limit what God can do through means that can’t be explained.
This professor suggested that the early church relied on the Holy Spirit to determine what to do about Old Testament laws, and who could and couldn’t be saved. It relied on the Spirit to give them words in the face of opposition and trial. Now; I would caution that God would never goes against what he has limited himself to in his word. However the Holy Spirit is God so it makes sense that he would guide his church.
So my question is: Do we as Christians rely on the Holy Spirit as much as we should when approaching christian life in our 21st century context? The truth about scripture is that it spoke to a different context. the New Testament was written to a first century audience. We are over 20 centuries departed from that time. How do we get guidance for how to approach the internet, technology, or transportation? How do we learn how to reach people who live in the 21st century context?
I would argue that we need to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. It requires patience and practice to discern his voice. It also requires that we familiarize ourselves with the other tools previously mentioned because the Spirit can speak through them. However the voice of the Holy Spirit is the most important voice to listen to and we as Christians should learn to hear his voice in our heads by spending time with God in prayer and his word(the Bible). Why prayer and his word ? because the Holy Spirit was involved in the writing of Scripture and He never goes against what he has said in his word because he never changes. His voice will never contradict scripture. Why prayer? Prayer is when The Holy Spirit aligns our motives and pursuits with his will-the will of the Trinity-who is God.
Have you discerned His voice? Have you followed it?