The Holy Spirit... Let's Talk!
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth..." John 14:16-17
Let’s spend some time talking about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Of all the amazing things He does, we’ll specifically discuss His role concerning our relationship with God and getting to know Him really well. This short article is not about gifts and miracles and power, but about His role as our Senior Partner to help us know God intimately and one on one.
This is going to be the first article in a series. If I said everything I want to say in one shot, it would be a really, really, long article So, let's break it up into smaller bites.
How many Christians, maybe you are one of them, are frustrated knowing they should have an exciting and vibrant relationship with God, but if they were honest, do not? Have you ever asked, or been tempted to, “Is this all there is? I go to church, I pray and read the Bible, but if He has spoken to me before, I’m not sure I even know it.”
Of course, there are a lot of reasons that could cause that kind of breakdown between us and God. But in this article, let’s talk about just one of those.
I submit we consider that a major factor for our cluelessness at times as far as knowing God well, is a result of not speaking His language! Or worse, questioning whether He still speaks to us individually at all!
I have been fortunate to travel to many different nations for ministry and business. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to try to decipher even a single word when someone is speaking a foreign language. Eventually I may pick out a couple words or phrases or something, but it's a lot of work and pretty tiring.
Well, I am going to submit many of us do the very same with God. Because we are unfamiliar with how He speaks, we work really hard at picking out a phrase or two, a verse here and there. It's exhausting and inefficient. And when we do not take the steps to become fluent in "God speak", it leaves us really handicapped in our ability to know Him well.
Right up front let me get something out of the way.
Reading books about Him including the Bible, as inspired as the Scriptures are, is not the same as having a conversation with Him. Jesus not one time, even remotely insinuated that reading the Bible by itself was what creates a relationship with God.
Many have sought a relationship with God only in this way. Folks ascertain characteristics of God through His writings and confuse the history of said event or speech as the same as a vital day to day LIVING relationship.
To believe I can have my own personal relationship with God just because I know a Scripture verse is the same as reading Macbeth and thinking I have a relationship with Shakespeare! Even if I can accurately determine characteristics of Shakespeare’s personality from his writings, I still do not know him. He’s dead!
“…no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” I Corinthians 12:3 (italics mine)
Yes, God is…well…God. Yet as a living entity, that by necessity means He is a Person. He has presence, personality, and thoughts which He wants to communicate.
He is thinking about you and I right now as much as He was thinking about Peter, James, John and Paul, while they were alive. Understand that God does not live vicariously to and through someone else on someone else’s behalf. I’m not talking about Jesus and our redemption here. That is a different subject all together. I am referring to one on one relationship. He wants to talk to you as much as He did those who went before us. He has never once said that He is going to love you solely through what others wrote about Him. The Lord wants to love you through your own interactions with Him!
God forbid some theologian comes along and proclaims the gifts and ministry of the Holy Spirit, especially when it comes to those endowments that clearly deal with personal speech and inspiration, are gone away since they “passed away with the apostles.”.
So what's a guy to do when he wants to genuinely hear God, but has been told by someone on TV or the internet, maybe their own pastor, that most of what God wrote about in the Scriptures concerning speaking to an individual, isn't even on the menu anymore?
That's like saying English passed away since the Constitution has been written!
Whether they were meaning to communicate this or not, too many prominent ministers have relegated your personal relationship with the Lord to be known through the experiences of others. In other words, they will boldly assert that since we have the Scriptures, that is how God speaks to us now. Read Paul. Read Peter. Interpret Him as a 3rd party and you’ll learn something about God by what they say. If not spoken in those words, it is definitely implied.
How do I know? It's my job to. I have listened to them regularly. I know what is out there.
Well, I think we should consider that we certainly may learn lessons from Paul; but I don't know many of us that have been in a dungeon or beaten with rods, nor has he been caught in a traffic jam trying to catch an airplane on time while the kids were screaming in the back seat!
Friends, this is not a 3rd party relationship that Jesus paid for at the Cross! The Lord was personally with Paul in his tribulations and spoke specifically to him about them, and is there in ours as well.
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" I Corinthians 6:19
Peter doesn’t live in your heart. You are not the temple of the spirit of Paul. You are the temple of God.
God wants to talk to you about screaming Johnny in the car seat as much as He did Paul and that musty jail cell He was in!
Referring again to those who do not believe in the active speaking and inspiration of the Spirit in our day, they make a number of statements that simply are not true. One of which is that since we have the written word of God, there is no need of Spirit inspired speech or prophecy today. They contend as well, that to believe God would still speak individually through prophecy or personal inspiration, that there is a claim that somehow elevates said experience to the same authority as Scripture. They cast down instantly the idea that the Spirit still speaks "on the spot", using those tried and true bludgeoning tools of "heresy" and "blasphemy" to intimidate and squelch any idea to the contrary.
There has been a whole lot of confusion over the word "prophecy". This has been detrimental to understanding how God speaks His mind to individuals at specific times. Prophecy simply means, "inspired utterance." That's it. Well, do you not think God can speak "inspired utterance" to you about your children or what new job to take, as much as He told us what the end will be like in Revelations? Though future prediction may be included in it, that is only one of multiple demonstrations and actions that fall under the word "prophecy". You are certainly within the definition of prophecy, inspired utterance, when God speaks to your heart and you say out loud what He is saying to you... about anything.
God can still specifically speak to you about your kids without it necessarily being inserted into the next Apostles' Creed!
The idea that God would not prophecy, or let us know what He is saying in the moment, because said "prophecy" therefore would be elevating itself to the level of the Scriptures, is illogical and unfounded. There are multiple examples in Scripture of prophecy, or God speaking individually to someone about a particular situation, which are not doctrinal and meant to be canonized as the authoritative declaration of His Person and standards.
From Agabus prophesying about Paul's future trials and imprisonment, or his prophecy concerning a famine coming to Judea. Phillip the Evangelist had daughters who would prophecy. Timothy was instructed to wage the good fight for his ministry based on the prophecies spoken over him through the hands of the presbytery. No one ever claimed those presbyters were canonized in the New Testament. The instructions in I Corinthians 14 as to everyone's ability to “prophecy” or be used by God to speak inspirationally to the assembly as to what God may be thinking at that moment; not one time was it even insinuated Scripture was being annotated during those times.
The very Scriptures the cessationists appeal to as to the ending of these things, are replete with examples that specific prophecy "in the moment" is not only valid for today, but must by necessity be taking place. The Lord desires that we have current and "hot off the press" knowledge of what God is thinking at the time.
How would you like to have "hot off the press" knowledge of what God is thinking about you, your job, your child failing in school, at this very moment? Well, you are in good fortune. If you will only learn how He communicates, and who He does this through, there is not a single event in your life you cannot know what He is thinking and have Him tell you what to do about it.
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:17-18 (italics mine)
That sons and daughters would "prophecy" carries no indication whatsoever that said prophecy would result in canon of the Scripture! We do not even have a female author in the New Testament, and yet it is clear, "daughters" prophecy too!
As an illustration, are we going to say that the writers of the Constitution did not have other speech before and after the document of the Constitution? Were they muzzled to silence after the constitution, lest one interpret somehow their conversations of different times and situations challenge or usurp the very document that led to our freedom as a nation?
Well, it's the same in God. How some think it would be different is a mystery to me.
So, God talks. That means He has a language. That of course is no limitation to Him. He knows all languages in all dimensions, and if there ever was a not a word for something, He could instantly make it up. The issue is not God speaking, it is us understanding.
Earlier I used the illustration of trying to understand another person's communication when I could only grasp a word or two. It can be very frustrating trying to figure out a language without someone telling me what the other is saying and what they mean. The solution? Find an interpreter fluent in both languages. Once we have that, we can exchange ideas and grow in our relationship and communication.
God's children are frustrated because they are trying to hear God’s language without an interpreter, even though that very Interpreter, the Holy Spirit, is closer to them than the breath they just inhaled!
"Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God." I Corinthians 2:12 (italics mine)
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." John 16:13-15 (italics mine)
We are in good fortune. The Holy Spirit is sent to interpret for us the languages of God. Certainly, this is primarily through the Scriptures. Yet do not confuse "primarily", with "solely" . There is a way to hear Him regularly concerning our day to day lives. Without the Holy Spirit, trying to hear how God speaks is the same as trying to decipher a foreigner talking to us and having no way of translation.
In the next article, we will get really specific as to the means the Holy Spirit uses to translate for us the things of God. I introduced the term "prophecy" and clarified its definitions in this article. I trust I took a lot of the mystery out of it. We will expound even further in the next article.
It would be one bad parent that brings a child into the world and yet doesn't speak to him or her.
God the Father is greater than any human parent. We can be assured that not only does He speak to His children, He has means to impart more of His understanding into our souls than any person that ever lived. Let's learn how.