Over the weekend I spoke at a conference in Seattle, Washington area that focused on “Jesus, the Bible and the Holy Spirit” and during an informal discussion on our final morning together, one of the participants asked a question about the Holy Spirit. His question was about how we engage with the Holy Spirit and how the Spirit leads and interacts with us in both an individual and a corporate sense.
Here’s my response:
First of all, I would say that everyone is capable of being led by the Holy Spirit. The only real question is, “How much are you open to being led by the Holy Spirit?”
In other words, we can be led by the Spirit as much as we like, and our experiences with the Spirit are limited only by our own willingness and desire to be led.
Some of us are skeptical of the Spirit’s ability to speak to us or to lead us. Those people will be prevented from ever experiencing the Spirit due to their own inability to accept the possibility of being led by the Spirit.
Others are afraid of releasing themselves to the Holy Spirit. They would no sooner relinquish control of their life to the Spirit than they would let go of the steering wheel of their car while it was going 85 mph down the freeway. Why? Because they are fearful of what it would feel like to be out of control.
This is honestly a bit laughable to me now. [At one point, I was completely in agreement with this feeling, but now I have changed my perspective]. The reality is: God loves us. God wants nothing but the best for us. To surrender control of our lives to the Spirit of God is the best – and the safest – place we could possibly be.
The only real danger we might face is simply this: God might not do things our way.
This is what most of us are too afraid to risk.
But, once we really trust that God is good and that God loves us, then we have an opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. Once we begin to experience the leadership of the Holy Spirit, it becomes easier and more natural for us to let go and trust God.
You and I can experience as much of the Spirit as we are open to receiving or experiencing.
This is often expressed in us and through us in a variety of ways. Paul mentions several different types of what we would term “gifts of the Holy Spirit”, but in a very natural way they are usually classified as:
*Hearing God’s Voice.
This can take a variety of forms like:
-Words of Wisdom [Where you know what to do in a certain situation that defies logic]
-Words of Knowledge [Where you know things supernaturally that you didn’t learn on your own]
-Words of Encouragement [Where you hear something spoken in your heart that is intended to encourage another person]
-Words of Life [Where you literally speak words to people that they need to live and to think in new ways]
This can be expressed as:
-Teaching [Where you simplify and explain spiritual truths in practical ways]
-Tongues [Where you speak a language not your own to point others to Christ, or to pray to God in a heavenly language]
-Discernment [Where you understand the meaning of things that are not obvious to others]
-Healing [Where you pray and receive a miraculous answer that reverses an illness, sickness or injury]
-Loving [Where you supernaturally receive God’s heart for everyone around you]
-Serving [Where you spontaneously respond to the needs of others proactively and with joy]
-Giving [Where you eagerly share your resources with people who have not been blessed as you have been]
-Hospitality/Sharing [Where your generosity overflows in the form of welcoming people into your home and your property is freely given away to bless others]
The second half of the question that was asked dealt with how we can experience the Spirit in community. This is a key component of the entire idea.Keep in mind: God is relational. To be even more specific, God is community. The Trinity is an everlasting love affair between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They love one another. They submit to one another. They point to one another. They humble themselves and defer to one another. We are invited into this synergy of love and affection.
So, the Father glorifies the Son. The Son only points to the Father. The Spirit points to the Son. The Son goes away so that the Spirit can take His place and then the Spirit shows up and points us back to the Son, who glorifies the Father…who exalts the Son…who sends the Spirit….etc.
This is what our ekklesia [or our gatherings together] should look like.
Paul alludes to this when he sketches out the Body of Christ for us in 1 Cor. 12. This is where we see everyone [that’s us] receiving different and unique gifts that are from the Spirit but intended to allow us to be a blessing to one another. Everyone’s gift is not for building themselves up. The gifts are all for building everyone else up.
As we all use our gifts to come under one another and bless each other, Christ is directing us [as the Head of the Body], and we are all growing nearer to Him and learning to submit ourselves more and more to His loving thoughts about us and our brothers and sisters.
However, this only works in a room full of people who are individually submitted to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. If we are resisting the Holy Spirit in our personal lives [out of fear or out of doubt], then we will never know what it’s like to be in a room where Christ is the Head and everyone in the gathering is using their gifts to bless one another in love.
This is why being led by the Holy Spirit is essential to the life of the Body of Christ.
Sadly, many of us never experience this intended reality. We settle for a sermon and a song.
But, we don’t have to. It’s very possible for us to actually live out this Spirit-led reality today.
How do I know? Because I’ve been doing it for over 11 years now.
Many others have tasted this reality too.
If you’re interested, I’d love to help you start a gathering like this. Or, just get together with some friends and start learning to collaborate together on allowing the Spirit of God to lead your life and then the life of the Body of Christ in your area. [You don’t need my help to do this].
If you’ve experienced a gathering like this, please share your experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear your stories.
Keith Giles is the author of several books, including the forthcoming “Jesus Unbound: How the Bible Keeps Us From Hearing the Word of God”, available July 4th, 2018.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”. He is the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.
Please, join me at one of these upcoming events:
*The Nonviolent Love of Christ: How Loving Our Enemies Saves The World, with Joshua Lawson and Keith Giles on Saturday, June 16 in Portsmouth Ohio. Register here>
*Crucifying Our Politics with Keith Giles on June 24 in Cleveland, OH. Register here>
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