Friday, February 13, 2015

Waiting for the Spirit's Prompting, Part 2

Exo 25:2  "Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.  Exo 35:5  Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD's contribution: gold, silver, and bronze;  Exo 35:21  And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD's contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments.

A couple of articles ago I wrote of the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and that his first prompting came through the written Word and he never prompts us to do something contrary to the Word nor should we wait for him to move us if he has already told us to do something in the Word.  Another thought came to me as I was considering the above passage with regard to the inward prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Now in Exodus 35 it never says that the Holy Spirit moved them but instead if their own spirit moved them or if they have a generous heart they were to give.  But too often we attribute to the Holy Spirit what is actually just our own heart moving us.  I hear on a regular basis people saying that God or the Spirit told them or moved them to do or say something that clearly is contrary to the Word of God.  So it is clear that in such cases it was just their own minds at work. 

One reason I believe we are way too quick to attribute to the Spirit what our own hearts have devised is because the Spirit’s work in us is not easily discernable if they are discernable at all.  For the most part we can’t tell the difference whether it is our mind or the Spirit producing ideas and since the heart is deceitfully wicked we very easily, and I believe most of the time, attribute to God thoughts that he did not put there.

Another problem with all this is we have the mindset that it is the Holy Spirit’s work to plant thoughts in our mind; that this is how he leads us.  I want to point out what I believe to be a fundamental error in that type of thinking.  While the Bible mentions a few times that Jesus was led or Christians are led by the Spirit, it doesn’t say that this is merely an impression or thought that comes to us.  God spoke in dreams and visions or outright appearances, but I am not aware of Paul or someone ever saying that some subjective thought was the Lord leading them.  Unless we read of the Lord speaking directly to them it seems that for the most part they were just obeying the revelation they already had the best they knew how.  Can the Lord lead us by planting ideas in our heads?  Sure, and I am not saying he never does but as I hope to show that there is a much better way we are led by the Spirit. 

In the above passage in Exodus I believe what God wanted were freewill offerings that were given because the people loved the Lord and understood the importance of the Tabernacle and so gave for those reasons.  To me, this is a better motive than the Spirit planting the idea or prompting one to give.  If I give because God tells me to that is all well and good but is it not better that I give because my heart stirs me to give because I love the Lord and I want to help?  One can become mere duty but not necessarily from a desire to honor the Lord.  Do you give to the church because it is your duty or because it is your delight? 

Let me try to illustrate this.  Often we hear of someone who comes into contact with another person and they will say something like, “The Lord told me or led me to speak to that person about Christ”.  We all know that what they mean is that the thought crossed their mind to speak to that person.  Since it was in their opinion a good and spiritual thought they assume it was the Lord leading them.  But if this is true then all this encounter becomes is the Lord being concerned for that person, not the Christian, and so he prompts him to say what he wouldn’t have on his own; and I see this as a problem.

Let me give another explanation for such a scenario.  Here is a Christian who loves the Lord because the Lord came down while he was a rebel and gave him a new heart and by grace forgave his sins and promised eternity in his presence.  As he has grown in grace under the power of the Holy Spirit, his burden for those without Christ has also grown as has his desire to honor the Lord in every situation.  He is looking for ways to serve the Lord and he “happens” to come across this person and his spirit moves him out of love to speak to him about his soul. 

Has the Lord been part of getting him to that point, both in mind and in the encounter itself?  Yes, but is not the Lord more honored by us obeying because our hearts are prompting us rather than having to be told every move to make? Is there not something wrong with our minds if the only reason we serve the Lord is because he keeps having to “prompt” us?    

Yes, the Lord leads us because he is orchestrating all things, he empowers us, he causes us to grow in him, and he puts people in our paths.  But he does this so that we can freely serve him by coming up with our own ideas.  I would like to think that I am capable of having spiritual thoughts not just because the Spirit has to put them there but because by the Lord’s grace and strength, I am concerned enough to come up with my own ideas of how to obey him.  Just read through one of the many passages like 1 Cor. 16 where we see Paul and others making plans, changing them and making different plans to serve the Lord.  He didn’t need the Holy Spirit telling him every move to make because the love of God compelled him to serve the Lord and others.

So just like the Lord didn’t plant feeling in those Israelites to give whether they really wanted to or not, so I don’t think his usual work is to give us thoughts but he gave us the Word and works in us “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  He gives us new hearts that we might serve the Lord out of love that arises from our own thinking; he doesn’t do our thinking for us.

Don’t take any of this as saying that the Lord isn’t perfect sovereign in every detail.  The greatest mystery in the Bible is his sovereignty and our responsibility and this is my attempt to see both and not just one or the other.

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