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Sep 4 2022 How Does the Holy Spirit Speak Today?


Today we will be looking at the Spirit leading and guiding – which happened often in the early church in the Scripture.

There is some very clear guidance at times:

Acts 8: 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over to this chariot and join it.“

The Spirit said!

19 While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 "But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.“ (Acts 10:19-20)

Same phrase – the Spirit said

All right – as I was reading and studying this – one of the scholars said – what happened here – the Spirit spoke to Philip and Peter through an ‘inner voice’ – that may have happened – but does it say that? Maybe the Spirit spoke – and it was verbal. Does it say that? No – it doesn’t say that either, and I think that is a good thing.

If God gave specific details on how He spoke – our tendency would be to try to recreate that experience in our own lives and that is not a healthy thing.

Jesus said the Spirit is like the wind – it blows however it wishes – but when we try to recreate something in our past or what someone else has said – it is like trying to make the wind blow. God likes to do new things. He doesn’t often repeat Himself! He wants to do something new in each of our lives.

SO, I will give four possible ways the Holy Spirit may speak to us today:

Direct communication – an inner voice – a prompting – it could be a voice – and I have never experienced that – but I don’t want to deny that for someone else.

The Spirit wants a relationship with us – He wants to guide and speak to us through relationship, not through a method. We like methods we can count on – but relationships take a lot of work and effort. And our relationship with God takes work and effort. He wants to lead and speak through relationship.

Second – the Spirit guides us through the reading of the Bible. One way He does this – and this is a different subject – but God speaks to me about ME – but that is not the subject of this message. But how He directs us through the Bible – three things for that:

Personal – based on who YOU are – we are all a little different.

It will be varied – He works in numerous ways and numerous people.

It will also be taught. In my early experience as a follower of Jesus, I was formed in that time in the way I hear and am guided by God. I had examples that taught me – this is how you do it – and that is imprinted on me – early Christian experience - like a child – things from all of our childhoods that we ‘catch’ – or that our kids get from us.

That is mostly good – but we have to allow God to change things as we go. We need to allow Him to make some corrections and to do something new.

When it comes to me using the Bible and God doing things in my own life – I have made a move from trying to find verses that give me specific direction – and that is not bad – but I move toward growing in wisdom which allows me to discern how God works and what He might be doing in specific situations.

3rd – Counsel from others. This can give confirmation or caution. It is not good to look at going in to talk to someone else as “The Answer” – we need to discern – am I hearing God’s voice in this or is this just someone’s opinion?

Fourth – Circumstances. Some are better than others at connecting circumstances with God’s voice. I am less comfortable with this one – it is okay – but it should not be the primary way we hear God’s voice.

Hearing God – Dallas Willard –

Experiencing God – Henry Blackaby

The Forgotten God – Francis Chan

That is the first aspect – He speaks to us personally

The second – He speaks to us as a community. We have to be careful not to presume that the Holy Spirit’s word to us personally is for the whole community. That is okay.

The Holy Spirit speaking to the community in Scripture:

Acts 13:

Now there were these prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen (a close friend of Herod the tetrarch from childhood) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

Now, as I was reading this again – two of the commentaries said – what happened – the Spirit spoke to one of the prophets and that prophet shared that with the rest. Does it say that? No. Might that have been the case? Sure! But maybe God spoke to all of them! Maybe it was a voice that came down and spoke?

What we do know – They heard this, and were united in believing it came from the Spirit –

Where and when? They were worshiping the Lord and fasting

Scholars do agree here – the way this is written – they believe that this was during a worship service where this took place – God spoke in the practice of public worship. He spoke to the whole community about what was going on here.

There are numerous things that took place in a public service – teaching, breaking of bread (next week), prayer, fasting…

3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

SO, what happened, after this initial event – they got together again to fast and pray – to confirm – to seek – and we see that the Holy Spirit speaks when the church is fasting and praying. For me, that was a bit convicting – because we don’t do that a lot.

Back in the day – we would read these books about these prayer warriors – and I get it – you don’t have to get up at 3 in the morning and pray for 6 hours – especially if you have to go to work – but maybe there is a need for prayer warriors today. We must hear from God as we engage in prayer.

They sent Paul out… What does it say – being sent by the spirit.

God wants to partner with us. Not just us coming up with a decision. And the Spirit is not just like a bus driver waiting for our stop – He wants it to be a partnership – a relationship.

Cindy likes this phrase – does it give you joy? What gives you joy?

When we partner with God – not just tell us what to do and we’ll do it – but when we partner with God – it brings Him joy.

When your kids start to work with you – it brings joy!

Acts 15 – Antioch – Paul and Barnabas had gone out on this mission trip – and all these Gentiles are becoming Christians – and the Jewish Christians are coming up to Antioch and debating about whether one needs to be circumcised - …

7 After there had been much debate,

(that’s odd – sometimes we think it should be magic! Boom! But sometimes we have to work hard to figure it out!)

After this there are 3 speeches – Peter, Paul and Barnabas, and James…

22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church

So, this decision was made with a lot of people – “IT seemed good” – do you know what that means? It means it seemed good!

… to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas-- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23 and they sent this letter by them… 24 "Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls,

25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

They had BECOME of one mind – it was not automatic – it was a process – it was something they worked towards.

I don’t know what your marriage is like – and I won’t ask you to talk about it. For us, it is not natural for us to think alike the whole time. Every now and then (70-80%) – we think differently – and it takes work to become one mind.

As a church – it is okay that there is debate and lively discussion and work to become of one mind.

27 "Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:

I won’t get into the rest of the letter – what is important – the Book of Acts is not an assembly manual for Ikea furniture.

This is different from Acts 13 – but in each section God guided and spoke.

They became of one mind with one another and one mind with the Holy Spirit – 4 ways to do that.

Sometimes to become of one mind with others and to discern the Holy Spirit’s guidance might require debate!

Second – it often requires multiple perspectives to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit.

We must learn to work together – it is hard to determine how things must be done – and we need to be open to that.

Third – sometimes it is just counterintuitive –

Right after James’ speech: - This is James speaking…

Acts 15:9 "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles,

What is happening here – we can share our opinion and judgment without it sounding like it is the final word from God. I think we need to learn how to share. It is important for anyone – how to share opinion - -understanding – judgment – understanding that someone may have a better way that you haven’t thought of. This is humility – and like in family relationships – it goes a long way. It is often associated with flexibility – and it goes a long way.

Fourth – and I won’t go through – James’ speech is a brief history of the Old Testament. Stephen’s was like 59 verses – but James is only two verses – there was a theme that ran through the Old Testament like a thread how God would bring the Gentiles into His family.

As a result of that theme – as they saw in Scripture what God had been doing from Genesis 1 through Malachi 4 – recognizing – OH! This is what God is saying.

That is why it is so important to read the Bible as a narrative – a story – because that is what it is! It is not just a “here is what you do in each situation” – and as we have a deeper and deeper understanding of that story – we will begin to see that story in our circumstances.

We look at all that is going on in our world today – but as you understand the themes and threads of the Bible – you will see those popping up. And you will see God at work in what we are seeing today. This is a different way of doing things – but it is how Christians have done it for centuries. This story has been running and we are joining into it! And we are too – we get to join into the story of the Bible. It is not being written about us – but we should continually find ourselves there and that may be one of the most significant ways that God leads us today.


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