In my last post For Susan: Developing a Christian World View, I included a bullet point about being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I feel a need to expand that topic. First a little background about my religious training.
I am not a Pentecostal minded person. I was brought up in a denomination that spent more time explaining what the Holy Spirit, did not, could not and would not do, than it did in explaining the involvement of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. They only begrudgingly admitted to a concept of "the indwelling of the Holy Spirit". I do not remember this topic addressed in any length. I do remember that the "gifts of the Holy Spirit" were not for "today". I Cor 13:10 was used to proof text this belief. At the time I accepted that explanation and put the matter out of my mind.
As I grew in my faith, especially the last 7 years or so I have reexamined my thinking and come to the realization that a large part of Jesus's remarks in John chapter 16 are a preview of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. The role of the Holy Spirit is described in advance of his arrival.
- He will convict the world concerning sin
- He will convict the world concerning righteousness
- He will convict the world concerning judgment
- He will guide you into all the truth
- He will glorify Me (Jesus)
- He will take of Mine (Jesus) and will disclose it to you
I'm not going to say that the Holy Spirit can't do the miracles that we read about in the New Testament today. I believe as a matter of logic and faith, that He CAN do them. IF He is doing them is another story. On that topic, I'm a skeptic. My skepticism is based on observation. What I see in some of the churches does not compare favorably to what I read about in the Bible.
My first objection is because of fraud. See Benny Hinn as an example. If you saw the Steve Martin movie "Leap of Faith", you saw examples of things that were based on Benny Hinn's "ministry". I never read about miracles in the Bible that required an up front cash payment.
My second objection is due to people claiming one thing and doing something I can't find a biblical example for. For example being "slain in the spirit", "holy laughter", "angelic tongues", "gradual healing" and "divine revelation".
There are exactly two biblical examples of being "slain in the spirit" they occur in Acts 5. Ananias and his wife Sapphira decide to lie about an act of giving to make themselves look good. The Holy Spirit struck them dead. I believe God can slay people, when He does they don't generally head off to Cracker Barrel afterwards.
"Holy Laughter" isn't in the Bible and its not an act of worship. Speaking in tongues has to be the most misunderstood and abused "gift of the spirit". The Bible clearly teaches that it CAN happen, when it does happen it occurs in a specific context. Not saying that it can't happen Biblically, just saying I haven't seen it. Anyone who lays on hands prays and claims "you will get better and better, over time", has not preformed a miracle. It might be an answered prayer. It might be the immune system. We don't know and neither do you.
My favorite is divine revelation. If someone says, "thus saith the Lord", the Lord better have said it. If He didn't, the speaker is guilty of a capital offense. IF someone is giving a "message from God" and that message contradicts scripture, we have a liar on our hands. If that person makes a prediction in the Name of God or gives a sign and it doesn't come to pass they are by definition a fraud.
There is a verse in 1 John 4:1 that instructs us to "test" the spirits, because not all spirits are from God. I believe that this corresponds with instruction found in the Old Testament concerning prophets. Deut 18:19-22 speaks about how to know who is and what should be done concerning a false prophet. Hint, it involves getting stoned and I don't mean Boulder Colorado style.
I'm ready to believe right now that the Holy Spirit does miracles today. I hope He does. It would be a great encouragement to me to be part of or witness a legitimate "gifting". I haven't seen any that are according to the Biblical pattern. That doesn't mean He isn't doing them. I'm not calling anyone who has been part of a fellowship that practices those things a liar.
What I read in scripture about what the Holy Spirit does for us is as amazing as any of the "gifts". Jesus says He will convict us, guide us and disclose what belongs to Jesus to us. Maybe we should spend time asking for and working on those things we are promised. I believe spiritual discernment is on the list of things that all believers can have.
This post's aside note: I realize I remained true to my upbringing and spent the majority of my time talking about what the Holy Spirit isn't, or at least what He doesn't seem to be doing right now. My intent isn't to define something in terms of the negative. I believe that the Holy Spirit does amazing things. If we believe that the word of God is living and active and sharper than a two edged sword and that the Holy Spirit discloses that to us and convicts us and guides us, and that He lives inside of us and can direct our hearts and minds, we are claiming something far more incredible than jibbering incoherently or flopping around on the floor.