Modulating from Corporate to Personal Discernment
The last sermon that I preached is posted on my blog. The topic was cultivating conditions for hearing the Holy Spirit in the corporate church. In my reflection on the development of the Church in the opening chapters of Acts through chapter 13, I observed five conditions that were present when the leaders in Antioch clearly heard the voice of the Holy Spirit (13:2):
1. Believe that God still speaks today.
2. Purity in the church. No known sin is tolerated.
3. Unity of the church.
4. An expectancy that God was going to move; or better put, knowing that God is always working and seeking to join Him there. (This idea was well developed by Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God.)
5. Corporate spiritual disciplines that positioned the people to receive the grace that God is always pouring out.
The message has stayed with me and I’ve had several people let me know what they heard God saying to them (or us) that morning. I mentioned several times in the sermon that it could be applied personally as well as corporately, which was the focus of the text. With a bit more reflection, here’s what I’ve come up with as a personal application of the five points I offered:
1. Active belief in God’s intention to speak and act in our world. I’ve combined points 1 and 4 from the message here because I believe they are essentially the same thing. We must approach God in active faith. Hebrews 11 tells us that those who would come to God must believe that there is a God (loaded statement – I believe such faith encompasses an understanding that God is who He says He is and that He is actively working in His world) and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (v.6).
2. Purity in your life. Of course you sin; we all do. You’re still a work in progress. Keep short accounts with God. Confess your sin. Most importantly, repent from any known pattern of sin in your life. Do not embrace it if you intend to hear the Holy Spirit speaking in your life. I John 1:5-2:6 speaks powerfully to this issue.
3. Do not allow unforgiveness, resentment, or bitterness to take root in your heart. Pray the Lord’s Prayer with integrity, “…forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us…” “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:15 NLV).
4. Finally, engage in regular spiritual disciplines such as prayer, silence, solitude, and in critical situations, consider fasting. God rarely speaks in the busyness of our lives. His voice is almost always quiet – the “still, small voice.” You must separate yourself from the diversions of your agenda if you are to know God’s. Spiritual disciplines do not earn favor with God; rather, they put us in a position to receive the grace that God is continually pouring out towards us.
I want to hear God’s voice in my life. I find when these principles are in alignment that I begin to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying and where He is working in the world. And that is where I want to be.