Saturday, April 19, 2008

Following the Spirit & Thinking & Learning

During our fellowship meeting, I posted the questions:
  • If we are to follow the Spirit, does that mean we don't have to think?
    Or stating in another way,
  • Can we just be obedient to the Spirit and forget about learning the Bible or pick up any knowledge?
Some contributions are:

K says....
  • I often remind my children that their success is "in-Christ Jesus" and not in their academic performance. But I also tell them that it does not mean that academic performance is not important. How well the perform academically will determine where God can use us.
  • For example: a person decide not to go to school/study (eventhiug talented) but only to depend on God. Because of lack of education or training, that person become a street sweeper. I believe that person can still find success and the most fulfilling life is being of use to the Lord. Where and how God can yoiu person is limited to that person's ability.
  • God will use us to touch the people in our circle of influence and in this example, either street sweeper or a doctor.
  • Similarly, I think it is important that we put our talent to work in sturying the bible or in picking up knowledge for our daily use (profession). Even so, we are not to depend on our acquired knowledge but we depend on God for our success.
  • Living in the Spirit is about intimate communion with the living God who lives in us. This is not something that is achieved in one sitting but come by practise. The more we practise hearing his voice the more we will be able to recognize it and obey accurately. Studying the bible helps us to understand his character better and helps us in our pursuits.
  • Jesus explained how he did it in John 8:28 and also John 5:19 + 30
  • Bottom line is, living in the Spirit is about living the life of obedience (to his voice).
    Here I am not talking about whether we need to ask God for every minute details like should I take a shower, brush my teeth etc. But more on issues where it seems ok to go either way but we just want to choose what pleases Him. Like the issue of getting a Tattoo or even a situation should I buy a $50 or $500 shirt after all God has blessed me with the money. There is no right or wrong answer and different individuals may get different answer depending what God need to work in that person heart.
  • For a person who has a problem of stinginess, God may want to free that person by teaching him how to abound. But for a person who has a problem of liberalism, God may need to help this person differently.
A says....
  • Hmm... is this a trick question?
  • I'm sure that following the prompting of the Spirit and learning the Bible go together.
  • But I seriously do not think that the Spirit will lead us to totally ignore studying the Bible, though there may be seasons for intense studying and there are seasons for less intense studying but if ever there is a spirit that guides or tells the believer to ignore studying the bible or not to pick up any knowledge and not to think... I sure like to cast that spirit out... and likewise, Paul's epistles contain encouragements to exercise Spiritual gifts and be led by God through the Spirit and does not contain any instructions to totally ignore the Spirit, otherwise I don't see why Jesus and Father would even bother to send the Spirit to us in the first place.
  • On a separate note, there are people who do not have high or any academic qualifications but rise to become business owners and subsequently millionaires. And there are also highly qualified professionals who do not have good financial sense.
  • But this does not in any way lend support to the idea that it has to be either following the Spirit or purely relying on knowledge. It just shows that wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
N says....
  • I want to discuss a common thread behind many Christians sharing of their spiritual encounters.
    1. A christian feel an urge to doing something (felt lead to pray for someone)
    2. This christian acted in faith to do that something ( pray for that person)
  • Above consist of a common spiritual experience. Mainly informed by a spiritual conviction, right?
  • 3a.They discover a significant in doing that act. (they realise the person they prayed for earlier needed prayer.. real bad.) This discovery is the result of a logical and thinking process. They happily and gladly share this encounter most likely because they see a rationale in acting on that earlier experience. mmm...
  • 3b. They did not discover a significant in doing that act. (they did not know why but did it in obedience.) They know that they are acting in faith and obedience by responding to a spiritual conviction. This realisation of knowing that they are acting in faith and obedience is a thinking and reasoning process, right?
  • So is it not "following the Spirit is experiential and thinking"
Sister M says ....
  • I totally agreed with Brother K and thank you for yr encouragements. Indeed very practicalin life!
  • I personally feel that the more we are with God, we hear n see HIM better. His words are for us to know Him more, assurance of how much HE loves us, ourproblem solver and also to help us built our characters.
  • I believed Focusing unto Him in our life will never go wrong, for God will put us at the Right Place, at the Right Time. The more I talk to God or pray in spirit, the happier i am. I will not know what will happen tomorrow or 10 years down the road, But if Ipray and spend time with God daily, I believe God will take care of me n my family.
Brother A says ....
  • Maybe I should provide a real life example so it's clearer.
  • A pastor once shared that in one incident when there was healing/miracle, there was a person on wheel chair. In an instant he just pulled up the invalid from the chair, who was able to stand immediately, independent of support.
  • And the pastor went on to say that he did not have time to think whether is this the right or wrong thing to do, and what will happen if the person could not stand and just drop down?
  • It happened in a split second and he did not understand why he did it. Don't even have time to discern whether is this God's voice or prompting ... etc... don't have time to think whether is this obeying or not...
  • I guess for such cases, the result will just speak for itself.
  • Such things can happen. But not everyday-everytime.
  • Of course we all learn from experience... during normal situations, we usually exercise common sense right? When we follow the Spirit, we usually back it up with the Word of God right? So back to this statement, if we follow the Spirit, we do not neccessarily don't think.
Brother N says ....
  • I am all for doing things by the spirit in healing, miracles.... I am a Jack Deere fan ( the ex Dallas Professor who discover the power of the Spirit). i am quite convicted of following the spirit.
  • I am just trying to point out that:
    • 1. the process of thinking is already at work when 'the pastor's act on the prompting' to pull up the invalid.
    • 2. thinking is a part of God's design
    • 3. the bible has always been an integral part of nurturing Christian ( I mean.. Christian read the bible.....)
    • 4. Anti-thinking seem like a convenient way for Christian not to read the bible ( Myself included. I actually hate reading..)
  • Pretext: I came across churches controlling Christians by not directing them to decipher/ hear from God and his word but by whatever the pastors say. I came across a cell leader who was convinced that she is to prepare me to enter work force by telling me about dress codes like... wearing tie or something! Tell that to an artist...??? And worse still, another cell leader in a university told their members that he will decided who the members should date! I am thinking that in church:
    • 1. the faith in God often got mis-interpreted for faith in Pastor..
    • 2. abuse are in found in both thinking-focused and spirit-focused situations, but often only mistakes made by thinking-focused Christians are amplified.
Brother A says ....
  • 1. the process of thinking is already at work when 'the pastor's act on the prompting' to pull up the invalid.
    • Actually, the pastor's words was that he had no time to even think.
    • In fact, he even mentioned that thank God it just happened, if he had time to think, he may end up just thinking and the poor guy would still be in the wheel chair.
    • For this case, I am reporting from a 3rd party point of view, I won't be able to analyse and verify if in fact there was any thought from the pastor within that few nano seconds.
    • We can also say that for the pastor's arms to move in order to lift the person from the wheel chair, the brain must have sent signals to the arms and that itself is already a thought...
    • Well... I'm not here to split hairs and lose sight of the bigger picture and that is, the invalid was set free. That pastor has a track record, I'm perfectly fine just accepting his own testimony. It's between him and God.
    • However, I am in no way disregarding your views.
    • Whatever you mentioned are valid.
    • If my memory is still ok... I remember Jack Deere (Dallas Theological Seminary, right?), there was once he came to Singapore almost 10 years ago. In one of those conference at Raffles City. I was there... as an usher ...
  • 2. abuse are in found in both thinking-focused and spirit-focused situations, but often only mistakes made by thinking-focused Christians are amplified.
    • During that conference in Raffles City, I vaguely remember Jack Deere mentioned about the errors in those charismatic & Pentecostal circles who were operating in the move of the Spirit in those circles. Jack came from a conservative background that do not accept speaking in tongues. But by then (when he was in Raffles City), he was already filled by the Spirit and was speaking in a conference that was organised by a Pentecostal denomination in Singapore.
    • Actually, not only mistakes made by thinking-focused Christians are amplified but mistakes made by Christians who were spirit-focused were also amplified. Especially when the Pentecostal move were in its early days. So just in case you're wondering... both got "persecuted" any how.
  • So back to the notion of "If we are to follow the Spirit, does that mean we don't have to think?"
    • Most of us would agree that we need both. Otherwise we have situations that are extreme.
    • While we need both, we still have to be aware of exceptional cases and be mindful that not all exceptional cases are not of God. Paul did mention that we know only in part right?
    • Which is the mistake that Christians of the past were guilty of right? That's why we have splits and denominations after denominations...
      • Group 1: We believe in this.
      • Group 2: But what about that and that which you can't explain?
      • Group 1: We insist that base on the bible, only this and this is God's truth.
      • Group 2: We disagree...
    • One group was overly dogmatic and persecuted others who disagree... the other group reacted strongly against the first group... and we see a divide. Each time when one group gets too dogmatic in their doctrines, we see a new group reacting to it... much like a pendulum effect.
    • In the words of one of my previous lecturer... the Truth lies between the tangent of 2 extremes.
    • But thank God in time to come, we will see more unity as the truth unfolds.
    • We will start to see more churches agreeing, more healing between the "factions" and more unity. Just love one another and keep each other in prayers and the Lord will reveal more of His truths. Like what was mentioned in the earlier emails... sometimes we may not be aware of our own blind spots.
Sister PK says ...
  • It is because we spend time reading the Bible and thinking about Him in our daily life that make us able to react to the Spirit fast under situations like that. The thinking has been done already.
  • It is like a well trained basketball or volleyball team, the team members know where to run to, which position to take and what to do to help each other scoring points. They do all these 'without thinking'because is no time to think when the game is on.
  • It is also relationship, ie how close you are with God. If you are close to someone, just 1 action or expression, you'll get the thing done for him.
Brother AG says ...
  • If i recollect correctly, the qns arise after we touch on the subject of whether tattooing is it allowable in believers.. Somehow from there we got into the subject of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which somehow resulted in the discussion of knowledge as being a negative consequence of the "Fall"..
  • Such a view (knowledge as being a negative consequence of "Fall") is obviously erroneous..
  • So i think it would be a good idea to clear up the misunderstanding on the tree of knowledge of good and evil before we discuss the original question further..
  • First, let me define what I mean by the term knowledge as used in the question:
    • it is the identification, acquisition and classification of information(useful data) – ie. “normative” knowledge..
    • Bcos of the brilliant way God designed our brains, this process happens consciously or subconsciously..
    • [Identification and acquisition of useful data = Information -> Classification of information into meaningful concepts and ideas = Knowledge -> Proper application of knowledge = Wisdom, -> Proper application of knowledge aligned with scriptural and spiritual principles = Godly wisdom]
    • So how did knowledge become the object of contention here..?
    • It is easy to overlook things when we do not read carefully.. Very often when one sees a phrase like “knowledge of good and evil”, one’s focus will immediately zoom in on the word “knowledge”, and presume that knowledge (normative) is the root of the issue...
    • However, if we look a little bit closer, we’ll notice the “of” which come immediately after knowledge.. Gen 3 isn’t talking about “normative” knowledge, Gen 3 is talking about knowledge of good and evil (or what James Montgomery Boice calls, Carnal Knowledge)
    • I believe that the failure to differentiate between “normative” knowledge (the kind of knowledge we are pick up from learning), and carnal knowledge (knowledge of good and evil) is the cause the confusion..
    • Like what Elder pointed out in the HG report that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is a good tree, so the problem is not with the tree..
    • It is interesting to note that even though Eve was the one who got deceived by the serpent bcos she of her “itchy” ears, it was Adam who sinned;
      • “In neglecting the tree of life, of which he was allowed to eat, and eating of the tree of knowledge, which was forbidden, Adam plainly showed a contempt of what God had bestowed on him, and a desire for what God did not see fit to give him. He would have what he pleased, and do what he pleased. His sin was, in one word, disobedience (see Rom 5:19); disobedience to a plain, easy, and express command. He had no corrupt nature within, to betray him; but had a freedom of will, in full strength, not weakened or impaired.” ~extracted from MHCC on Gen 3:6
    • The result of consuming the forbidden fruit; Man gained carnal knowledge, lost his innocence, which led to the corruption his nature (ie. produced a sin nature); corrupting man to the point of death, physically as well as spiritually.
    • Man also developed a conscience, bcos now he knows the difference between good and evil, eventhough he cannot help but do evil bcos of his depraved nature..
    • (for more on this please read Carnal Knowledge by James Montgomery Boice )
    • The consequence of his disobedience, read Genesis 3:16-19,23
  • Now back to the question:
    “Can we just be obedient to the Spirit and forget about learning the Bible or pick up any knowledge?
  • For those believers that just “flow with the Spirit", but pay no attention to knowing scripture.
  • I am willing to put money on the table that his/her concept of the faith is “out-of whack”, he/she is flaky, and in some instances, a “religious weirdo”.. And I must tell you I’ve met quite a few of them (so of them can be quite scary)..
  • Also for believers who don’t believe in getting acquainted with the Word, scripture warn that they are in danger of coming under “religious” bondage..
  • BUT THE [Holy] Spirit distinctly {and} expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding {and} seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach,
  • Through the hypocrisy {and} pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared (cauterized),
  • Who forbid people to marry and [teach them] to abstain from [certain kinds of] foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe {and} have [an increasingly clear] knowledge of the truth.” (1Tim 4:1-3, Amplified)
    and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (Jn 8:32, NASB)
    Set them apart for holiness by means of the truth -- your word is truth.” (Jn 17:17, CJB)
  • (Excerpt taken from Life By The Son, Expostiton Studies in 1 John by Ray C. Stedman )
  • Instrument of Growth
  • Now we come to the last class, the young men. "I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." I believe John placed this last for a very important reason. He has already described these young men as those who have overcome the evil one. He repeats that again, but he adds this explanation, "you are strong, and the word of God abides in you." He put that last because here is revealed the secret of growth. What makes a spiritual child become a young man, spiritually? Why, the Word of God abiding in him! That is the secret of growth. That is what will move him from one stage to another until at last he becomes a father, able to reproduce himself in others.
    Here, then, is the divinely designed instrument of growth, the Word of God. It is absolutely impossible to grow up as a Christian or as a real man or woman, unless the Word of God abides in you. This is why the devil fights the whole matter of Bible study, the building of your life around the centrality and the authority of the Scriptures. Though the devil cannot stop us from being Christians, he can certainly keep us from becoming strong Christians. The way he does it is to introduce false methods, trying to divert our attention and get us off onto spiritual sidetracks. He brings in certain apparent shortcuts which offer to bring us to maturity in an instant. Instant spirituality, instant maturity! That is up-to-date, is it not? He suggests that if you can just get the experience of speaking in tongues, or if you can have visions of Christ, then you will be mature. If you give yourself to exploring the realms of human knowledge, this will bring you to maturity. But all these things are cleverly designed ways to arrest Christian growth. Across the years I have watched these things prevent maturity by diverting attention from the divinely designed instrument which will bring it about, the knowledge of the Word of God.
    Now do not misunderstand that. I am not talking merely about Bible study. There is a very mechanical, wooden approach to Bible study which gets you acquainted with the teachings of the Bible, but that is not enough. This passage, remember, says the Word of God "abides." That means a knowledge of the Bible plus obedience to the Spirit. When the Scriptures speak of knowing the Word of God, it is never merely talking about the instrument of the Bible, it is always the Bible plus the Spirit. It is the Word understood in the light of the illuminating, searching power of the Holy Spirit. It takes these two, together, to produce maturity. We first lay hold of the Word, and then it lays hold of us. Thus the Word abides. It penetrates to the conscience, it lays hold of the will, it exposes the thoughts and the intents of the heart. That is what produces maturity.
  • (Excerpt taken from What to do While Waiting by Ray C. Stedman )
  • In his first letter Peter exhorts us to "desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby," (1 Peter 2:2 KJV). There is a certain quality about the Word of God that is like milk to a baby: it feeds and establishes life.
    In another place Paul mentions the strong meat of the word, (Hebrews 5:12, 5:14). There is something that the most intelligent mind can ponder and which will sustain the most advanced Christian. There is power in it, and strength to be derived from it. It is absolutely essential and fundamental to spiritual growth or understanding of life.
    Many Christians are confused about the need to study the word. They think of it as kind of an option, something to do if you are especially religious. But that is not what it is for at all. It is for those who want to find out what life is all about. It is not just for the religious but is the revelation of the way things are -- in life, in death, in the universe, the physical universe as well as the world of ideas, thoughts, and the social life of man. It touches everything. You never can understand life unless you understand the Word of God. That fact is basic, essential, and fundamental to the whole Christian message. Therefore, we are not talking about something that ought to interest only the religious; it ought to interest anyone, anywhere. That is the character of the Word of God..
  • If you have the time, you might be interested to read this article as well The Way God Guides by Ray C. Stedman )
Brother AG says....
  • If we are to follow the Spirit, does that mean we don't have to think?
  • My qns to the above qns is; does the Spirit operate by possession..?
    • If there are no periods of blackout, memory lapses, or any other symptoms associated with possession, then, we must conclude that during the period when one follows the Spirit, one is conscious..
    • So if one is conscious and has control of ones external faculty; can i speculate that the way the Spirit guides is through a gently exertion (could be influential or suggestive) on ones thought faculty (cognition), which ultimately guide ones action..
    • However, since the subject under the Spirits guidance is conscious and has full possession of his/her external faculty.. The subject's actions are still under the domain of his/her own cognition; which is free to either accept (yield to) or reject the Spirits promptings..
    • In other words, if one is following {under to influence} a spirit and is not thinking; one is technically under possession...
  • Can we just be obedient to the Spirit and forget about learning the Bible or pick up any knowledge?
    • Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
    • Amo 3:3, KJV
    • I think the verse above says it all..
    • Anyway, how does one be obedient without first knowing what to obey..
    • God's chosen medium to reveal Himself is through His Word {Scripture, Logos, Bible}.. How obedient can one be, when one refuses to acknowledge the way God chosen to reveal Himself..
    • It is interesting to note that the Christian Bible has been translated in many different languages, making it the most accessible (ie. allowing one to understand it's content) book in the world..
    • The muslims koran on-the-other-hand, is mostly in arabic.. Yet the muslim, who's native language is not arabic, will literate himself in arabic, so that he can better know his god.. What does it say about his (the muslims) faith (ie. his sincere love for his god).. Conversely, what does it say about the faith of the christian who says it's unnecessary to know more about the bible...
    • So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God Rom 10:17, KJV
    • We have a gracious God.. Even if a believer is illiterate, it still does not put him at a great disadvantage, bcos if he is sincere about his faith, he can alway ask someone to read it for him.. If he is sincere about his faith, he can seek out places (and media) where the Word is being preach, taught and expounded.. If he is sincere about his faith, he can knock on the door of a house group that devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (in case you are wondering, i took the last part from ~Act 2:42
    • (Btw, the book Romans was written in a time when Johannes Gutenberg haven't inverted to press yet, so hearing the Word would actually be more practical than reading the Word)
Liat says ....

If you are close to someone, you will be

  • a) sensitive to what the person may say
  • b) think and feel alike such that when a event happen, both will react the same ways without consultation.
  • c) trust enough to speak out - be the channel or spoke man. eg. prophesies

This applies to the relationship between us and Jesus.With practice and constant communications, we can be sensitive to His leading or prompting. Our mind are opened to receive from our spirit connected to His spirit.
We have the mind of Christ.

Because our thinking mindset is so imbeded in us, we don't have to think- appear not to have to think - just reflect action.e.g. extending help automatically when a child fell down.

There may be not much point analysing whether it go through the mind or not...

The keys are:

  • a) be sensitive to hearing from God through prayers and obedience ... by experience, we learn to know who is speaking to us ... ourselves, God or Devil.
  • b) learn to think like Him through reading the Bible and talking to Him.
  • c) practice and practice through obedience to become habits and reflect-actions.
  • ... the grow process will make us be like Christ - think, feel and act like Him when we just need to nudge from Him.

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