Tomorrow I’m off to drive around the state of California for the next few days, with a BridgeBuilders presentation tomorrow afternoon in the Bay area, and a retreat over the weekend in Oakhurst, CA. Then I have some business meetings with various people as I meander back to Southern California early next week. I’m excited, except for all that driving. I’ve got to save up my favorite podcasts to help pass the time. And on an unrelated note, we have begun to post a Russian translation of He Loves Me, for those interested. You can find out more about all our translated materials on our new International Page. But that’s not what I really wanted to write about.
I love the exuberance of youth. It isn’t easy to create exuberance and passion, and young people have it in abundance, but with it often comes misplaced confidence, and that can spell a ton of trouble. And no, I’m not talking about age here as much as I’m talking about experience on this journey.
Often I overhear someone say, “I have the Holy Spirit to guide me, so I don’t need the Bible or anyone else.” I clench a bit when I hear it. Ahh… Youth! Love the passion, but you’ve got to know they’ll end up strewn across the rocks some day having chased down something they thought the Spirit was speaking to them, only to find out it was their own passion or too much pizza. The more people pretend to be certain about some God-told-me information, the more I suspect that they are still a bit green on this journey. Yes, God will scoop them up, help teach them that humility is a wonderful key to living his life, but I would save them from that crash if I could.
Even Paul, the Apostle said, that he only knew what he knew in part, a “poor reflection as in a mirror.” (I Corinthians 13) And remember their mirrors were not the perfectly flat, highly polished surfaces we have today. They were more metallic, like looking at your reflection on a sheet of metal. He’s specifically talking about prophecy and how well any of us actually discern what God wants. I relate to that. I very rarely think that I’ve heard anything God says with absolute certainty. I have inklings on my heart, growing convictions that seem to nudge me in a certain direction. Some of them even turn out to be the Spirit’s leading, while others prove in time they weren’t. So I’m with Paul on this. When it comes to following the leading of the Spirit a bit of caution and humility go a long way to helping us get it right.
In a fresh reading through the book of Acts in the last few weeks, I have been blessed at how the early believers found their sense of direction. Often a turn of events brings them back to Jesus to seek his mind. One of those times is in Acts 15 where the young believers are fighting over whether or not Gentile believers must observe Jewish rituals or not. The focus was on circumcision as some argued that it was an important sign of the covenant that all male believers had to undergo. Paul, of course, disagreed. So some of those more mature on the journey got together to hash it out. You can read the details, but what I love about these moments in Acts was that they looked for three things to line up to have some certainty about what God might be saying.
They looked for how God had seemed to lead and spoken in their circumstances. The looked to the Scriptures, both the Old Testament, as well as the things Jesus said and modeled that eventually became our New Testament. They would zero in on those insights that seemed most applicable to their situation. And, they talked it through with each other until they came to some measure of agreement. Only then, when all three lined up, did they have the confidence to reach a decision together.
I find myself living the same way. Yes, I look for the nudges and insights of the Spirit to guide me in decisions I make. But I’m never certain of those leadings alone. I also search the Scriptures and think about what Jesus and the early church modeled to see if that lines up as well. (I don’t go looking for proof texts to justify my point of view, because that will only lead me back to myself.) And I find myself talking about it with people God has put into my life as we kick around what might be him and what might be Wayne. (Of course it is important on this last consideration to be talking with those who are truly learning to walk in humility with God, not just people who want to scratch your back by saying what you want to hear. Also make sure they are people on the journey of being shaped by Jesus, not just Pharisee types who merely follow rules and rituals and want to find some principle to guide you.)
I have the most confidence to move ahead when all three of those line up. One alone isn’t sufficient, though I’ll let my best understanding of Scripture veto any decision I’m going to make. Instruments on an airplane measure a number of variables, and when they all line up, you know you’re on course or the glideslope for landing. And, yes, I realize many have not yet learned how to search the Scriptures outside the false religious interpretations that long held them captive, but that is no reason to discount their value. It may be incentive enough to learn how they become an important piece of the puzzle of making God’s life more certain in you.
But don’t fly with only one input when you don’t have to. God has not only given us his Spirit, but also his recorded revelation and other brothers and sisters who can help us see more clearly what God might be doing in us. I’m thankful for all three.