I was asked a few days ago to watch a short YouTube video of Beth Moore telling of God leading her to brush an old man’s tangled hair in an airport. The story is a moving one told with lots of humor and energy. Anytime someone tells you of an experience they have had you are faced with a huge challenge. If you question anything about what is said it seems that you are calling the other person a liar or deceiver and I have great hesitancy in making such a judgment about anyone else. While I was moved deeply by the action of brushing the old man’s hair that obviously needed it and certainly understood the inner turmoil about doing such a thing in an airport with a huge crowd of people around, the part about God carrying on the conversation with her about the whole thing is troubling to me.
Let me be very clear on what I’m talking about on the whole matter. I want to follow Jesus in all aspects of my life, both public and private. I have no doubt Jesus would serve anyone in need. He washed the dirty feet of the disciples both to get their feet clean and to teach them a huge lesson about humility. But it is interesting to me that Jesus didn’t wash their feet out in the temple courts with people all around to observe. He chose instead to wash their feet when he was alone in an upper room with the twelve. Even when Jesus did big deeds of healing in a crowd it was more typical for him to go directly to the person and heal them and then walk away before other people knew what he had done. Think of the time when the man was laying beside the pool waiting day after day for someone to help him into the pool. He went directly to the man even though there was a crowd of hurting people around and engaged him in conversation. When he healed him he told him to rise, take his pallet and walk. When the man was stopped and asked about his actions he said the man who healed him told him to rise, take his pallet and walk. They asked, who it was and he didn’t know. Jesus didn’t give him a card. He didn’t call the crowd to tell them what he had done or what he was going to do. Instead it was later in the temple court when Jesus sought the man out, privately to tell him not to sin anymore lest something worse happen. It was Satan during the temptation of Jesus who tried to convince him to go upon the highest point on the temple and jump down so his angels could lift him up so he wouldn’t dash his foot against a stone. He even quoted Scripture to Jesus to try to convince him that what he was wanting him to do was God’s will. Jesus could easily have reasoned, what a good thing this would be. Everyone would see him. The newspapers would write about it. People would be drawn to him quickly. But he refused saying to Satan, “It is written you shall not tempt the Lord your God.”
I believe we are led by the Lord and by His Spirit as Christians. After all Paul said if we are led by the Spirit we are God’s sons in Romans 8:14-17. Later in Galatians 5 he will point out that one who is led by the Spirit will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. There have been many times in life that I’ve felt there was something I ought to do and that God was leading me to do so. But I’ve never had God to talk with me or carry on a discussion with me as to exactly what he wanted me to do in a given situation. I’ve had lots of times when I was seated by someone on an airplane that had a problem that I was able to help with and went away feeling that God had led such an event to take place. I’ve even had times when I felt God leading me to do something that I didn’t want to do. On one such airplane trip I was headed home from a mission trip to Ukraine and was tired to the bone when a young lady sat down beside me that obviously wanted to talk. She had some major problems and had evidently chosen me to be the sounding board. I didn’t want to talk at all. I wanted to be left alone so I could rest. But it was one of those times when I felt led by God to talk with her and hopefully it did some good. But my experiences have never been anything comparable to what was described in the video. I’ve not heard God’s voice. He hasn’t spoken to my heart in such a way that I was told exactly what to do and where to do it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not of the opinion that if it hasn’t happened to me it hasn’t happened to anyone. But when something seems so out of character for anything I’ve had happen or anything I’ve ever read about in Scripture I began to have some doubts and questions. Something that came to mind was an event in the life of Paul, Silas and Timothy and probably Luke. It is recorded in Acts 16:6-10. “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Did you notice that the Holy Spirit was guiding them all along. But as he led them, it wasn’t with such detail that they were given a road map of what to do. Each time they tried to enter an area to preach the Spirit was saying “No”. Then in Troas he had a vision of the man from Macedonia. They got ready quickly to go there, “CONCLUDING THAT GOD HAD CALLED US TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THEM.” You don’t get the feeling with Paul’s actions that the Spirit’s leading was such that he was telling him exactly what to do at every given point. If you throw in the fact that in 2 Corinthians 2 Paul talks more about that trip and says that while he was in Troas he was looking for Titus and couldn’t find him and that God opened a door for him to preach to the people of Troas while there but he was so distraught by not finding Titus they left and went on to Macedonia.
Before writing this I re-read I and II Timothy as Paul discussed with this young preacher his work in preaching the gospel. He told him to fan the flame of the gift the Spirit had given him. But as you read through it you don’t get the feeling at all that Paul expected the Spirit to tell him exactly what to do in given situations. Instead Paul said he was hoping to come to him soon but if he was delayed he had written this so that he would know how to behave himself in the house of God which is the church of the living God. (I Timothy 3:15)
One of the primary works of the Holy Spirit is to guide into all truth. The Scriptures are the God breathed word of God.(2 Timothy 3:15-17) But if you accept the testimony of everyone who claims some marvelous experience with the Holy Spirit, it is amazing what they each have been led to believe and teach from that Spirit. My Pentecostal friends are as sincere in their belief of the Spirit’s guidance as anyone can be and they believe the Spirit has led them to the knowledge that there is only one person in the godhead and that is Jesus. My Assembly of God friends are just as honest and sincere, yet they believe the Spirit witnessed to them that God is three in one that there is one God made up of three personalities. My Mormon friends are honest, sincere and devoted to God completely and they believe the Spirit led them to accept the Book of Mormon as God’s revelation alongside the Bible. Truthfully, I could go on with that list for a long, long time. I don’t doubt the honesty or sincerity of anyone of them. But it is surely obvious that one can’t determine what is true and real based on anyone’s experiences. People have marvelous experiences who believe all kinds of strange things, even those who don’t believe in God at all have those experiences.
Well, that is more than enough for one post. I’ll move further with it next time.