(This content was originally posted at thepalmerperspective.com.)
The Holy Spirit has been described by ancient Celtic Christians as the Wild Goose. He is not bound to our experiences of him nor can we try to tame him by putting him into our theological cages. The wild is scary. Most people arguably prefer a God who is predictable. “God’s got nothing up-his-sleeve.” He won’t suddenly urge us to do something that stretches our faith, will he? Ok, so just for fun, say that He does. How do we know that God’s Spirit is calling us into a new adventure or whether or not the path that I am choosing to take is on course with His path? If there is such an idea as “discerning the Spirit” how can I understand if my urging or calling from God is really from Him or something (the something is what really scares us, spooky right?) or someone else?
In a prior blog post I wrote about 3 Principles for Understanding the Spirit. The first thing to know is that if you are a follower of Christ then God has given you His Spirit so that you can understand His mind. This article and the one referenced are an attempt to demystify the Spirit’s leading in your life.
Through His Spirit, God helps you to understand what is true and understanding the Spirit is knowing what is true. In His Word He provides guardrails for keeping us on track. The Spirit and the Word work together to help us in understanding what is true.
Before we begin I must dissuade you from untruths with three statements.
No, God does not want you to be happy.
No, God does not want you to be comfortable.
No, God does not want you to be offended.
These untruths are commonly used by followers of Christ as litmus tests to whether or not God is leading them. Happiness, comfort, and hurt feelings are not His way of revealing His will to you.
With that being said. Here are 5 truth tests for discerning the Spirit
- You are led into the presence of Jesus.
In the Apostle John’s first epistle, John writes to believers who are in conflict with some people among them as to whether or not Jesus (God) really came in the flesh. John told them to “test the Spirits.” A prophet was deemed to be false if he did not acknowledge Jesus as God in the flesh.
If you think you are being led by God’s Spirit but you are discouraged to believe in the incarnate Christ, then your urging is not from God.
When the Apostle Paul wrote the church in Corinth he shared with them that he chose to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ crucified. Sometimes in our Christian circles people will say that they want to study “deeper” topics from God’s word. From my experience that usually means looking into obscure passages or wanting to know what the book of Revelation means. In your context it may mean that people think that the preacher preaches too often about Jesus and the grace found in His crucifixion.
For Paul the crucifixion was deep. It is God’s way of exerting His power over life and death by rescuing us from the deep despair of our sin.
We never move on from the cross but into a deeper and more profound understanding of the cross.
It is more than fine to want to study difficult passages in the Bible or more complex theological content, just not at the expense of leaving behind the central event of our faith – the cross of Jesus Christ.
Are you moving away from the cross? If so, then you are not following the Spirit’s leading.
- You maintain the unity of the Spirit.
Christ followers have been united by God’s Holy Spirit. We do not create unity but instead choose to keep it (Ephesians 4:3). In a world where our differences divide, the church unites despite its many differences.
The Corinth church had the Spirit but they did not have the Spirit in charge. They believed they were charged to divide themselves over who had the greater gifts; who was practicing greater tolerance; and also, who was following the most esteemed preacher – amongst other things.
Our modern churches today can seem almost giddy in finding creative ways to divide. This has encouraged among us not only church orthodoxy police but also thought police. A person that searches for reasons to divide or causes for controversy will find them. In the process they may find themselves perpetually offended, uncomfortable, and unhappy. They may leave that local body or at worst take constituents with them when they depart.
Are you able to worship with other believers? Can you work in cooperation with followers of Christ who do not believe everything as you do? Still searching for the right church and its now 10 years later since you began your search?
The church you are looking for may not exist. It is possible that your search has more to do with you than the right church you seek.
If you are finding yourself wanting to divide from others believers, then you may not be led by the Spirit of God.
What do you think about these two truth tests for discerning the Spirit? What are some others that could potentially make the list?