BrettG, in response to a post of August 16th (Globalized Answers) comments: “Okay, now please help me understand how to ‘listen to what the Spirit is saying’.”
To the modern mind (not that BrettG has a typical modern mind), listening to the Spirit is a bit nebulous and subjective. We prefer a rational or programmatic approach to most everything in life, even our religion and devotion. So, we rely chiefly on reasoned or formulaic answers rather than those generated by processes that are Spirit-induced or Spirit-guided. This is not to say we should forgo reason altogether or that there is nothing to be gained from processes that people in other places have found helpful. The difference is that reasoning and formula can take us only so far and routinely give us expected, uniform answers when what is needed are new and local answers.
The Spirit is not predictable nor is he uniform. He creates new understandings and thus brings into being new kinds of obedience. Because every situation is unique and personalities vary wildly, new answers and new kinds of obedience should be the norm not the exception. It seems to me that listening to the Spirit is a necessity not an option, if we are to respond faithfully to particular contexts and innovate unique solutions via local processes.
In order to listen to the Spirit, I have to … well … stop and listen. This sounds simple, but it is really quite hard. Whereas a ten-step program or formula requires that I merely do step one, step two, step three and so on til I complete ten steps, listening to the Spirit necessitates that I journey down uncharted, unscripted paths. It entails interruptions in my normal and recognizable processes and involves the centering of mind and emotions on hearing the Spirit.
Hearing the Spirit includes …
- living in the hope that the Spirit will speak. When the disposition and longing of my heart are to hear from God, I am open to hearing what the Spirit is saying.
- yielding to the convicting work of the Spirit through which my pride, ethnocentrism, and prejudice are exposed. My experience is that the Spirit’s words are usually addressed first to me and then to wider concerns.
- reading scripture. As I read how God dealt with men and women of the past, I understand better how he speaks today and what he might be saying to me.
- turning down the volume on other voices (TV, radio, music, twitter, facebook) and be still before the Spirit. Possibly I cannot/do not hear the Spirit because background noises dominate and crowd out the voice of the Spirit.
- listening to what the Spirit is saying to my community of faith. While the Spirit speaks to me as an individual, the chances are that he is speaking the same message to those with whom I have relationship – wife, friends or church members.
So once again .. too often and too quick we look for globalized answers before listening to what the Spirit is saying to his church. Don’t rely on globalized answers – rather, stop and listen to what the Spirit is saying. You and I will hear Spirit-formed answers for our particular contexts as we live with hope toward the Spirit, yield our lives to the Spirit, open the scriptures, turn down other voices, and listen to what the Spirit is saying to our faith community.