Are We Christians Sometimes The Blind Leading The Blind?

By December 3, 2015Articles, Holy Spirit

That question haunts me: “Are we Christians sometimes the blind leading the blind?” I think we can be if we’ve turned our hearts away from the leading of the Holy Spirit of God. If this idea offends you, you should know that I’m stepping on my own toes first. I mean this question specifically in regard to our pneumatology – what we believe, teach, and practice regarding the Holy Spirit. Before I go too far, you should know that the church I grew up in taught cessation – that the work, power, and gifts of the Spirit were specifically and only for the apostles, and are no longer available for today’s Christ-follower. Additionally, I was taught that the only true access we modern day believers have access to the Holy Spirit is through the written words of the Bible.

The doctrine of cessationism is problematic, because it runs counter to what Church Fathers believed, taught, and practiced. Though I grew up thinking that way, I can no longer reconcile these ideas with Jesus’s promise of the Spirit, and the wider context of the New Testament. There is no question about the power about the Bible, the Word of God, but likewise, there should be no question about the power of the Spirit either. The purpose of the giving of both the Spirit and the gifts has not changed. What we read in 1 Corinthians 12-14 are express instructions for the growing church, to be used for the building up of the body, and as a witness to the reality of God’s Spirit being present related to Jesus’s promise that he would be. Even before Christ dies, as he is explaining that he won’t be physically present with them forever, he does promise that the Holy Spirit WILL come and will live inside – make a temple of – those who believe in him and follow him. In this way, God’s presence isn’t confined to one place, one people, one person (Jesus), but instead is present always with those who love God. The thing the people of God had been waiting centuries for came to pass. And it came about in a way that is more personal, more amazing, more useful for the work of his Kingdom than anything God had done before. So, to then say that God basically hit the “mute button” of the Spirit that he sent to speak a very few years later just doesn’t make sense.

Further, when we consider the whole of the New Testament teaching on this subject, all the ways and functions in which the giving of the Spirit is described, we see that God’s plan is to equip people personally, and as a whole body using it’s various parts to bring glory to God. To say, then, that the Spirit doesn’t speak, doesn’t lead or guide personally or corporately, doesn’t attend to us or comfort us personally or corporately simply doesn’t compute. It would be like God providing you with all the equipment you need to go spend a month in the wilderness, but then you don’t take it with you. The outdoorsman who leaves all his gear behind would not only be foolish, but careless as well. Worse, the outdoorsman who convinces himself he doesn’t NEED any gear is just utterly naive.

Fall Path

I am more convinced than I’ve ever been that the nonsense (disunity within and among various churches, lack of compassion for those with whom we might disagree morally or ethically, etc) we see in modern day Christianity is due to either our refusal (because of what we believe) or inability (because we don’t know how) to walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-17 reads, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Again, I must point at myself first.

I cannot mistreat my kids or my wife and at the same time be Spirit-led. Click To Tweet

I cannot judge or gossip or pridefully boast and at the same time be Spirit-led. If I cannot exercise Christ-like love towards those who think or act differently than I think they should, I am not walking by the Spirit. These verses say that my flesh and God’s Spirit inside me are at odds with one another, and that the Spirit is at work in me to keep me from giving in to my flesh.

Most of us are familiar with John 15, where Jesus talks about the fact that he is the vine, and we are the branches. He says specifically, that apart from him, we are capable of nothing, or at least nothing good. So verse 7 strongly recommends that we remain in “the vine” (God’s love demonstrated through Jesus, and the truth of God’s Word). If we do this, Jesus says that the result of this is that we (Christians) will bear good fruit, which will glorify God, and point people towards Jesus (the vine). He goes on to talk about obedience to God, and even persecution, but that we can stand up under any difficulty because our hope and sustenance come from God. And that is true. But it is not a coincidence that the two chapters that sandwich John 15 (John 14 and John 16) are all about Christian identity being in Christ alone, and the giving and work of the Holy Spirit. Throughout both of these chapters Jesus connects obedience, steadfastness, our ability to love as he loves, trust and faith in God, and numerous other things to the giving, constant presence, and ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Those who would say that God’s Word is the only way that we hear from God are ignoring this context that Jesus is very careful to construct.

For some (myself for many years), when this subject of a presently active Holy Spirit is mentioned, images of people rolling on the floor or chaos in a worship service are what comes to mind. Verses like 1 Cor 14:4o, “doing things decently and in order” are thrown about. Over-emotionalism will certainly be brought up, as if emotions in a worship service are inherently dangerous. In the case of the church I lived in for my first 20 years, the pendulum was swung exactly in the opposite direction to essentially FEAR the work or movement of the Spirit. I think in some cases, perhaps unconsciously, people end up believing that the Spirit of God is somehow disconnected from the will or work of God the Father, like some cooky in-law or conspiracy theorist neighbor. But the Holy Spirit is connected to God the Father in exactly the same way that Jesus the Son is. If these ideas resonate with you, let me gently point out 1 Thessalonians 5:19: “Do not quench the Spirit.”, or Ephesians 5:19 where Paul tells those believers “Be {continuously being} filled with the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit of God is not to be feared. The Spirit is not crazy or reckless. The Spirit will not lead you into unrighteousness. The Spirit will not create chaos or disorder. The Spirit will do precisely and consistently the opposite of those things. Everywhere the work and the fruit of the Spirit are mentioned, good things are happening. Again back to Galatians 5: an express function of the Holy Spirit is to lead those in Christ towards Christ-likeness.

So then, we come to what it might look like to walk by the Spirit. I think it is clear in the New Testament that it looks a whole lot like Jesus’ life. He talks in several places about doing only what he heard from the Father, “being led by the Spirit”. Jesus was prayerful and humble. He was compassionate and tender. He was bold and brave. He could wisely confront, but he was also an incredible listener. In Ephesians 6:10-20 Paul says to put on the WHOLE armor of God, and in verse 18 says “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” When we watch how Jesus walked and lived, it seems very clear that he was in constant connection to the Father through the Spirit in prayer – that the Spirit of God spoke, and he listened and obeyed.  

Then we have these words of Jesus from John 16:4-15:

I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 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. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

In this we find that we have a Spirit who still speaks, who still leads, who still guides, who still corrects, who still draws God’s people toward righteousness. We have a Spirit who will walk with us into any situation, and as we seek him in prayer (whether on our knees or at a moment’s notice) will tell us what to do or say, how to respond as Christ would if he were there himself. And we have a Spirit who will give us power and discernment, wisdom and self-control, joy and peace in the middle of struggle, and an ability to be faithful to God when we feel empty.

The bottom line is that we always have a choice as to whether or not we listen and obey God, to turn our eyes, ears, and hearts toward or away from his leading. So it is with the Spirit. When we say we don’t believe or don’t want what he has to offer, he will not force us. That is not his way. So if you’ve quenched the Spirit, ignored the Spirit, been taught that the Spirit was silent or absent, take a new look. Pray to God in the Spirit, and then listen, and he WILL speak!

About James Wiebe

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