2 Timothy 3:14-17 NIV
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
When it comes to the spiritual gifts, in all their forms, learning how to follow the Spirit’s leading, or “voice,” is vital. Whether we’re talking about management gifts or miracle gifts, every follower of Jesus needs to learn how to discern the Holy Spirit’s leading in real times, in real places. Perceiving the Spirit’s guidance enables us to express the way of love (1 Cor. 14:1) as Jesus did—seeing what the Father is doing and partnering with him in his work (John 5:19). That is Kingdom Followership 101.
How do we hear the voice of the Spirit speaking, and see what the Father is doing?
Let’s own first that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), guided into truth by the Spirit (John 16:13), led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14), and are encouraged to keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). It seems we are well-equipped to respond to the Spirit’s voice with sensitivity and wisdom.
I’ve found it helpful to ask two vital questions before talking about hearing the Holy Spirit. Firstly, do I have a longing, a deep desire, to hear God’s voice for the things that are in his heart for others as well as for me? Secondly, is that desire to hear God speak for the sake of his glory, the strengthening of his church, and the blessing of others—even if I am not the one who benefits in any way? Even if I am utterly hidden in the process? Getting honest matters if we are going to hear the voice of a God who calls us to cruciformity, self-giving, in our service to others.
While there are many ways to talk about hearing the voice of God (and obeying), in the next few days we’ll look at a few ways of hearing the Spirit—ways of apprehending the Spirit’s guidance, that can help us listen well over a lifetime.
First, we hear the Holy Spirit speak through the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:14-17). The Scriptures are “God-breathed,” and the Spirit is God’s Breath. While Paul was speaking to Timothy about the Hebrew Bible most assuredly, we can apply God’s speaking power to the whole of the canon of Scripture. He was telling Timothy that the Scriptures are a reliable source for entire-life guidance.
The whole counsel of the Bible—when we get it deep in our bones, when it has become a source of strength to us, when it is consistently drawn on for wisdom and guidance, and when it is applied in action day after month after year—will help to keep us on the path to life (Ps. 16:11) and in the narrow way of following Jesus. If we forsake the Scriptures in our spiritual growth, forgetting our need to rely on them, then we lose a large portion of our spiritual hearing. If we will get the word of God into us, however, the Spirit will access it at all the right moments we need it.
It’s like having an internal compass within us. If I sense I am “receiving” some inner guidance from the Spirit that goes against some aspect of Jesus’ teaching, the fruits of the Spirit, the whole counsel of the Scriptures, the unity of the Church, etc., then the Scriptures I have hidden in my heart will tug me toward true north so I don’t go wrong. The word of God, hidden in our hearts (Ps. 119:11), can help to keep us on the path that leads to life.
If we remain immersed in the Scriptures, evidencing the fruit of the Spirit and the character of Christ through applying and living that holy word, we can gradually learn to trust our impressions and perceptions through practice, knowing our inner compass will keep us aligned with the way of Jesus delivered to us by the Scriptures.
Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. I want to learn to hear your voice for the sake of encouraging others, your Church, and bringing you glory. Come, Holy Spirit, help me to love your word, to discern your guidance in my spirit through your word, and cause me to hunger and thirst for its counsel. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What kinds of direction have you received from the Scriptures in the past that came to you in just the right moment? How did it impact your love for, and trust in, the Spirit speaking through the Scriptures?
For the awakening,