Suffering from information overload? One study shows everyone is bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data daily. The concerning fact is that the study I quote is a decade old. Do you believe the flow of news has decreased in the last ten years? Even if you discount the internet most of us have radio, TV and other concerns as distractions in our life. Yet amongst this waterfall of information flowing into our minds, we are told God’s Holy Spirit will communicate with us. How do we discern the Spirit of God against other things that pop into our mind? Seeking and discerning the true friend and counsellor who is the Holy Spirit is our topic as we discuss the Third Person: Befriended.
1 John 4:1-16
Speaking Notes – Caveat
These notes are my speaking notes and are provided as an accompaniment to the recording. Please accept that they are not intended to be a published grammatically correct essay. I do hope and pray however they help you move towards Jesus.
Now onto the content…
Before we begin, I just wanted to say that as we meet here every week to worship God we also meet to answer some big questions about who He is, and our relationship with Him. Most of these big questions can not be answered easily or quickly. There are answers to the questions you have about God and His Spirit, but I won’t be able to answer all your questions in a few minutes on a Sunday morning.
As an apprentice to Jesus, which is what you are, it is your responsibility to seek some answers to those questions. It’s what you do with the other 167 hours a week that makes you an apprentice to Jesus. All I can do on a Sunday morning is to whet your appetite, which is what I hope to do.
Then it is down to you to be part of a Life Group, a small group of people who meet regularly to encourage one another in their walk with Jesus. A place where you can ask these questions and seek answers. So if you are not part of a home group or Life group do let me know and we can see about getting you into one.
The other thing you can do is read. As I say I can only whet your appetite, but I take input from many people. I listen to other people speak and I read books. I read and listen with a discerning mind not taking on board everything I read or hear as being absolute truth; but instead considering what I read and hear. Weighing that up against what I read in the Bible and what I know of God. I say that because as we look at God’s Sprint I have taken some input from two books:
Third Person by John Peters
This is a well known and respected book about The Holy Spirit, and one that has influenced me a little throughout the series.
Can You Hear Me? by Brad Jersak
Probably an easier read than Third Person, and one that certainly doesn’t pull its punches.
I don’t agree with everything in these two books, but I have taken input from then and I wanted to commend them to those of you who want to seek to understand God’s Spirit more. For those of you who seek to be His apprentice in the 167 hours a week that we don’t meet here in this building.
Third Person – Befriended
Last week we began an re-introduction to The Holy Spirit and if you were here you would have heard me debunk five myths about The Holy Spirit. Five things that people say about The Holy Spirit that are simply not true. We debunked the myth that:
Myth 1. Holy Spirit isn’t needed we have the Bible.
Myth 2. Holy Spirit is not God and is less than the Father and the Son.
Myth 3. Holy Spirit is a weird and scary “force”.
Myth 4. Holy Spirit makes people do odd things.
Myth 5. Holy Spirit is reserved for super Christians.
And the reason for doing that is because now we are going to begin to look at who The Holy Spirit is, and how as God we communicate with Him and He befriends us.
Because Jesus said that The Holy Spirit is a friend and guide.
Consider these classic Christianese.
Christianese are words that sound super holy but in reality know one really quite understands what someone means by them. The bizzare thing is the word Christianese itself has become Christianese.
But consider these classic Christianese about The Holy Spirit that I am guilty off.
- I have a picture. You have a picture? We have loads in our house, no big deal
- I heard from God. God wrote you a letter? He sent you a text? What does that even mean?
- Or the classic, God spoke to me! What you audibly heard God speak to you? Like you heard Him say “Max”
Is it any wonder that some people get confused by how God communicates with us. When we use words that mean one thing in normal life, but then use them completely differently when we speak about how God’s Spirit communicates.
Don’t get me wrong I believe God can audibly speak to us if He chooses to. It’s just in my experience that is not the normal way God chooses to communicate with us. He is more subtle, more gentle than that and sometimes it can take time to learn how God communicates with you in particular.
I mean how do we really know it is God, what does it feel like, how does it sound?
- Am I just hearing what I want to hear?
- Is this the voice of God’s Spirit or simply an overactive imagination?
- How do I know whether I’m hearing God and not some counterfeit?
- How can I avoid being deluded or deceived?
- Is it possible to verify whether what I heard was truly the voice of God?
- What about those times when I seem to get it completely wrong?
Well I can only give you three things. What I read in the Bible, what I hear from other Christians I trust, and my own experience of the friend who is The Holy Spirit.
How do we hear God.
So let’s do that by me breaking down into three areas how I discern if it is God’s Spirit communicating with me or not. I have always uses theses ideas, but when I read Brad Jersak’s book Can You Hear Me, and his chapter on this I thought he summed it up well when he summarised it like this.
- Test The Source
- Test The Content
- Test The Fruit
Test The Source
Last week because I didn’t want you to wait for me to finish the series to start interacting with God’s spirit I left you with the one line prayer.
Spirit is that you, are you of Jesus?
Because the idea here is. Do the words and thoughts that come into your head when you ask God for guidance acknowledge Jesus as God. 1 Corinthians 12.1-3 says:
1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to dumb idols. 3vTherefore I want you to know that no-one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no-one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12.1-3)
Here are some questions to ask of the thoughts and nudges that come into your head when you pray.
- Does what I am hearing as a thought acknowledge Jesus as Lord?
- Does this nudge acknowledge that Jesus came to rescue us?
- Does this thought delight in the fact that Jesus is king?
In short does this thought, this nudge these words honour the fact that God is God? Or as our reading put it.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.
So if in my prayer I felt that God was saying, “Jesus is a good teacher, but you know what you want to do, do it anyway.” I would know that’s not The Holy Spirit because that thought does not acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and knows the best for my life. So I would then simply prayer something like.
True Lord Jesus, would you show me the true nature of the one who is speaking?
Is it the worlds point of view, a false spirit, or simply my own desires?
So test the source.
Test The Content
Next we test The Content.
Bible inspired by The Holy Spirit
Does what I am hearing lineup with what I read in the Bible, what I hear from other Christians I trust, and my own experience of the friend who is The Holy Spirit.
This book is inspired by God’s Spirit. Does what I am hearing seem to line up with this teaching on how to Love God and Love people? If what I am thinking or hearing does not line up with this I would have to question if it is The Holy Spirit.
Tradition inspired by The Holy Spirit
God has inspired Christians down the years through his The Holy Spirit is what I am hearing or thinking off base with what they have believed. Our faith is a living faith and people can and have been wrong. But if what I believe I am hearing from The Holy Spirit is in conflict with those who have walked the same path as me before, I would have to give some serious consideration about whether it is truly of God or not. I certainly would not rush to judgment.
Experience inspired by The Holy Spirit
Finally with testing the content does what I feel God is communicating gel with my own experience of The Holy Spirit? If Jesus said we would recognise his voice, that in our inner being we would know him, then does what I am thinking sound like Jesus?
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:27)
Some things you know are simply not Jesus.
So if I turn up next week and declare the Lord has told me that we are to shut down the church venues and to go about our lives on own as solo Christians. You would respond, but Max the bible says that we should not stop meeting together that doesn’t sound like the Bible.
If I turn up and says that actually I got it wrong and God is not one but actually three separate entities. You would say, but Max Christians have always believed, “That we worship one God in Trinity.” Are you sure.
We don’t take anyone of these tests and say it meets that criteria so we know it’s from The Holy Spirit. We use our God given intelligence and our minds and God’s Spirit to discern the truth from all of these tests.
We test the source, we test the content and finally we test the fruit.
Test The Fruit
What do I mean by Test the Fruit? Thats sounds like a bit of Christinese. We test to see what are the results. When I acted upon what I heard did the results seem to move on God’s will in my life and those around me?
You see the big issue with testing if we hear from God’s Spirit is that we get hit with such a fear that we will get it wrong that we don’t do anything.
“Well it seems to line up with the Bible and what other Christians believe. It sounds like it is the type of thing God might say. But what if I am wrong?”
Well then you are wrong. There are no guarantees. You are Human and sometimes you will mistake hearing from God and be wrong. That’s OK. I’ve been wrong, The Archbishop has been wrong, Mother Teresa was wong at times, heck even Moses got it wrong. But God still used them, He still uses me, and He can still use you.
It’s not about being wrong, it’s about learning from the times we are wrong. About seeing actually that did not work out, and with hindsight as I look back I see I was more influenced by other people than I was God.
It’s my experience that the more I am willing to act on God’s Spirit and guidance the more I actually discern what is and what is not God’s Spirit speaking.
The Big Idea
So that is the big idea when it comes to being befriended by The Holy Spirit. We
- Test The Source
- Test The Content
- Test The Fruit
We don’t act on any one test, but we use us our mind, our spirit to discern all three.
But perhaps most of we act. We don’t get paralyzed by the fear of failing. We move forward.
Because our faith is faith of movement and risk. Our God is God of the possible. We are Apprentices to Jesus and so we listen to His Holy Spirit and then we go.
Because God does speak to you today.