It’s a funny twist of providence that I paused my series for a day in between the Son and the Holy Spirit. It was not intentional, but it does illustrate something of the way I’ve tended to (erroneously) view the Spirit in my life. While always loving the doctrine of the Trinity, my practice has sadly been to actually neglect the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
I’m not entirely sure why that’s been. Sometimes the excesses of others (the Benny Hinns of the world) scare me away from pursuing the Holy Spirit. And other times a bad application of a good doctrine (like the perpiscuity of the Scriptures) can lead me to think that I don’t really need the Holy Spirit since the Holy Scriptures are clear enough. Either way, I was dead wrong.
It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I attended the WorshipGod ’06 conference hosted by Bob Kauflin and co. at Sovereign Grace Ministries that I really had to deal with Christian brothers and sisters who love the Scriptures, love the doctrines of grace, but who are eager and intent on experiencing the Spirit in their lives in all of the ways he was active in the New Testament. (See some of the reflections I had after that conference here.)
I could post lots of things about what I’ve learned about the Holy Spirit over the past few years, and how I’ve observed his role in new and dynamic ways both in the Scriptures and in the life of the church and in my own personal life. Instead what I’m going to do is just try pose two questions I’ve learned to ask myself in order to experience the Spirit more the past few years and then reflect on how that changes my approach to Sundays in particular and fellowship in general.
1. Am I Seeking to Actually Hear?
One of the positive traits I’ve picked up from my time hanging out with my friends from Sovereign Grace churches is that they have a unique expectancy that the Spirit can and will speak to them at any moment. As you arrive at church on Sunday, as you fellowship with your friends through the week, as you spend time in prayer and confession, what is your default posture? Is it one of expectancy?
Mine wasn’t for a long time. Too many times I thought of conversations with other believers as just that: conversations with people. I never paused to consider or to ask, ‘Could the Spirit be speaking through this person and using this conversation to help bring truth to bear on my life?’ Considering the Spirit as the source of genuine fellowship between believers (again, whether at church or not) helps me to expect great things of conversations. It also helps me to listen better to sermons, and helps me to engage in corporate prayer. Where is God leading? What’s he saying to my heart?
Do I expect that the Spirit will use this or not? If I’m not listening it’s no wonder I don’t hear anything. If I live like he’s not there it’s no wonder I don’t experience the wonder of his presence.
2. Am I Seeking to Hear Where He is Seeking to Be Heard?
You don’t have to be a Christian long before you run into someone who recounts how God, through some twist of providence, ‘told them’ to do something irrational (and sometimes even unbiblical!). That’s a danger that we can run into when we’re expecting to hear from God. We can think we are hearing from him when we’re really, truly not.
So how can we know the difference? God has revealed himself. Part of that revelation tells us where and how he will continue to reveal himself to his people. He has spoken ultimately in Jesus and revealed Jesus to us in the Bible, and the Spirit will continue to bring that truth to life as we read it and meditate on it (the Spirit is the reason the word is living and active). The Spirit will continue to unveil the Father in the face of Jesus in the written word.
He speaks through his people, when they speak truth to each other. The Spirit indwells and leads people so that as they experience truth in the Bible and then speak of it with brothers & sisters, the Spirit makes that experience communal.
He speaks through the means of music and worship. As we rejoice in biblically faithful songs, God’s Spirit takes that truth and affects us in new and fresh ways.
And the Spirit speaks through preaching. He always has. It’s foolishness. As a preacher I can tell you that honestly, just like the apostle Paul could. But God uses it. And when the gospel is preached and people receive it as it really is (the word of God!) it take root and brings fruit (1 Thess 2.13).
So it’s Sunday…
As I prepare myself for Sundays now I try to pray and ask God make me receptive to the prompting of his Spirit–both to listen and to speak. I want to fellowship in the truth of the revealed word with God’s people, fully expecting that his Spirit will indwell his temple and that the God who speaks will make his presence known. I pray that my default disposition everyday–and especially Sunday–would be one of actually listening, with expectation of hearing from the Holy Spirit, who is himself God.
** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **