On Being Spirit Led, part two
Sometimes when we are in our milk drinking days, early in our walk, we want to know if something is good, so we try to find a verse with it… “Should I dress a particular way? I’ll look for the word ‘dress’ I suppose…” or “Should I read Harry Potter? I’ll look for verses on ‘reading’? Can’t find any, guess I can read whatever I want…” Should I date so-and-so? Should I go to college? Should I join the military?
This is not the way beloved. The Bible is not a text book. We do not grow in our knowledge of what pleases Him by turning His Words into a database. Consider the warning from Jesus in John 5:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”
This is the very same attitude Adam and Eve took in the garden. They were tempted by the idea of obtaining the knowledge of good and evil apart from God. Without much thought they ate the fruit that would, so they believed, remove their need to depend on Him.
Unwilling to come to Him? When we seek power or knowledge without a willingness to come to Him, we find neither. When we turn God’s Word into a formula for living, we do this very thing; we search the Scriptures without coming to Him. As we grow in Christlikeness, how we ask questions, and how we decide whether to do or think upon certain things, will change. We will want to be led, rather than to find justification for what we have loved. We may even begin to consider a lot of our past “rubbish” (see Philippians 3) because being found “in Christ” will be all the more precious to us.
A Timeless Example
Timeless, because this struggle plagues mankind in every generation. Recently, “magic” came up in conversation among some who were willing to admit that God says not to seek out sorcery, yet we are never told not to read popular fiction books depicting magic as enticing and useful and delightful. Their conclusion: Christians who abstain from books glorifying magic are weak. They mention searching for the word magic in the New Testament and not finding it. You find “magician” and “magi” but not magic.
I disagree, and would like to explain. But first, let us remember, it is ‘weak’ brothers and sisters who approach the Word as a text book. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them” you will find formulas…
Deuteronomy 18:9-15 makes us aware that God detests what is typically delightful to our culture. So many words here to describe what He hates, yet because we do not see the word ‘magic’ we might miss what He intends for us to learn.
9 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, a soothsayer, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who consults the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God is going to drive them out before you. 13 You are to be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations, which you are going to dispossess, listen to soothsayers and diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so. 15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; to him you shall listen.
After all this, we ponder: do we listen to this Prophet, who is Jesus? Or do we accept the words of others that seem so pleasant, and lure us into reasoning our way through decision apart from Him? If God hates these in real life, should we love pondering them? Should we consider them good entertainment?
Ephesians as the perfect case study for how the Spirit leads!
Our conscience was once fed by whatever voices we heard, some of those voices chosen ones, others we simply happened upon. Now, having been cleansed in Christ (see Hebrews 9-10), we are no longer slaves to whatever we once submitted our minds and conscience to (John 8; 2 Peter 2:19).
The Spirit renews our minds (Titus 3:3-7; Colossians 3:1-17). We submit to Him as we seek for knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. We hold everything up to the WORD. We put off the old rather than submit to it.
We put on the new, we put on the mind of Christ. This does not happen apart from His Word, but this is not on our own (remember John 5?). This is done with the heartbeat of Philippians 3, pressing on that we may know Him and be found in Him; or in the desires expressed in Psalm 27, in seeking one thing, to be with Him eternally.
To consider how this took effect in Ephesus, turn to Acts 19. As the Gospel (good news) of the Kingdom was proclaimed in Ephesus, did Paul begin by telling everyone that practicing magic, or focusing on magic, or reading of magic was wrong? We have no record of that. Rather, after hearing much truth, the Spirit led these people to hate what God hates. They confessed their practice (of magic), they burned their books, or scrolls.
WHAT?!!!! They didn’t sell them on Ebay? Nope…if there had been ebay, they would have been led by the Spirit to tear down that stronghold rather than pass it along to others. They burned the books rather than profit from something contrary to the Gospel (good news) of the Kingdom. They gave up so much money by burning!!!
So instead of “can I do this? How bad is this? Where is that word in the Bible?” ask better questions: “Does God delight in this? Does this glorify Him? Is it a good gift from Him? Does __fill in the blank___ glorify darkness or Light? Does this usher me into the mindset of pressing on that I may know Him, or to the contrary of that mindset?”
And in this case, is it just a matter of semantics? God brought the Magi to worship His Only Son. This was understood by some as God approving of their sinful practices. However, this does not speak to God’s nonchalant attitude toward their ways, but to the greatness of His mercy. He draws sinners, all kinds of sinners, even astrologers and magicians. Even those who had been seeking knowledge and power apart from Him. So God drew the Ephesians in, revealed Himself, and they walked away from their evil practices.
The Spirit still leads in this way, that we would put off the old and put on the new. There is freedom in Christ to finally love what is good, and walk with Him, and find what our souls can truly delight in. The Spirit still leads us to put to death all that is contrary to God’s glory. He just may lead you to think out your library, your movie collection, or art collection. This is not legalism, because you do not do it to earn favor or work toward ranking in righteousness. You do it because you are walking in the Spirit (see again Romans 8 from last week).
This week, spend a few days immersing yourself in Galatians 5. Not as a text book exercise, but as setting your mind on things of the Spirit, in seeking Him, in a desire to know Him more and grow in grace and knowledge, prayerfully.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash