Last week I talked about Christian "works", why they are NOT required for salvation but how the absence of any at all proves the salvation wasn't real. I also discussed what are the type of works we, as believers, should be doing and the type we shouldn't be doing. If you want to check it out, here's a link to the Post: Christian works, the good, the bad, and the ugly!
The main point I made last week was that if you do a certain thing or "work" that the Holy Spirit did not initiate, God considers that work to have zero value. The only things we do that will have eternal value are those things initiated by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Why? Why can't we just do a bunch of good works on our own? Doesn't God accept them?
Well, they aren't bad in and of themselves, but God actually burns them up on Judgement day
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
God wants a relationship. He wants us to talk with Him and to hear back from Him. That's the key.
Then why bother to do anything, you might say? I'm saved and on my way to heaven. This is just all too hard to figure out.
There's three reason why you might want to rethink that.
1. Rewards. Yes, you'll make it to heaven, but you'll miss out on so much when you get there. There are countless Scriptures which speak of the rewards for saints. I'm not just talking about crowns and ribbons. I'm talking about levels of responsibility in the ages to come, future jobs, houses even.
2. Fulfillment in this life. God didn't just save you so you can go to heaven. He saved you because He wants you to take part in building His kingdom. He has things He wants you to accomplish that only you can do. And believe me, these things will give you purpose and enrich your life beyond anything this world has to offer
3. Pleasure at pleasing the Lord. If you've been walking with the Lord for awhile and you have zero desire to please Him in any way, then I would question your salvation experience. However, if you've spent time with God, getting to know Him, you can't help but want to do things that please Him. Just like a husband or a wife wants to please their spouse or a child wants to please their adoring parent, you will feel the same way
So, here is the pivotal question. How can we be lead by the Holy Spirit? (By Someone we neither see, hear, or touch?).
First of all, let me say that I don't have all the answers. I'm on this journey right along with the rest of you. I fall flat on my face quite often, and I have the bruises to prove it. However, I have been walking with the Lord for many years now, not as long as some of you, but I feel like I was forced to take the crash course when I started because I was so far behind! Whew! It's been an incredible journey!
So, all I can do is tell you what has worked for me. In the Old Testament, people didn't have the Holy Spirit constantly with them like we do. Therefore only a few heard from God and only at select moments. We are so fortunate to have the Holy Spirit with us at all times! I'm not sure, however, that many Christians realize what a privilege that is.
Get to know the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit is not an in-your-face type of person. He is easily offended and grieved when we do things that upset Him. He doesn't shout, condemn, berate, lose His temper, or leave us. But He will withdraw if we continually sin against God.
Cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit
Like any relationship, if you ignore Him, the relationship will go nowhere. It's vitally important that we remain in constant contact with the Holy Spirit. If it's easier to think of Him as God living inside you, then do that. If a dear loved one calls you on the phone and there's no ID on the caller, but you pick it up anyway, as soon as you hear their voice, you instantly know who it is, right?
This is how you recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit. You get to know Him very very well. How do you do that? By talking to Him and listening in return periodically throughout your day. If you spit out a few prayers in the morning or over a meal and then never talk to God during the day, you will never learn to recognize His voice. Sorry, but this is the only way to truly hear from the Holy Spirit. It takes work and time and that's exactly what God wants. He wants us. He wants a relationship with us. Sure, He could just send you an email each day and tell you what to do, or He could send you a book that maps out your entire life day by day, but then, you know what? You'd take those emails and that book and you'd never, or hardly ever, talk to Him. Admit it. I know I would. How often have I begged Him to just send me a memo. I would do whatever He wanted if I could just know clearly what it is!
It's important to talk to God all during your day. I can't emphasize this enough. At work, in the grocery store, at school, doing housework, cooking...whatever, just talk to Him. Thank Him for the gorgeous sunset, ask Him for wisdom for a certain situation, tell Him when you're sad or afraid. It's like having your best friend with you throughout the day. Don't be shy!
Here are ways the Holy Spirit has spoken to me
This is not an all inclusive list. I'm only going to list the ways I believe I've heard from the Holy Spirit
- Perception - this is just a sense of something that goes beyond your natural senses. It could be the desire to do a certain thing or head in a certain direction, drive down a certain road. You perceive in your spirit that this is the right or wrong way to go.
- A leap or jump in my spirit. This usually happens to me when I hear someone say something or give me advice or I'm listening to a sermon and whatever I've heard is God's will and it makes the Holy Spirit excited. His excitement bleeds through into my spirit and I can almost physically feel it leap.
- Signs. This is a cool one. God has a sense of humor and I believe He loves to show us signs just to see if we are paying attention. You might be praying about something or asking for wisdom on an issue, and all of a sudden you see something.. could be a road sign or something on TV or a book, and you know in your spirit that this is God giving you an answer. Example from my life. For years I went up on the hill behind my house and prayed for the salvation of my children. One day about five years ago, I was walking along, praying as usual and I heard an inaudible voice (see below) say to me. "Turn around." I ignored it. It spoke again. "Turn around." So I stopped and turned and across the entire sky behind me was this full, huge, rainbow. It was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen and I could see the beginning and the end. And I knew God was telling me He promised to save my kids and He would keep that promise.
- A sense that something's not right. This is more than perception above. This is a feeling of evil. This has happened to me on more than one occasion when I've entered a store or restaurant or home where I'm assuming there are many demons there, or perhaps witches...etc.
- What we might call a "gut feeling". A knowing about something or someone. You've all had these before. It's a sense in your gut that you should or shouldn't do something or you should or shouldn't go somewhere. It could also be about a person, whether they are truthful or not or good or bad people
- An inaudible voice that comes from my spirit and not my head and tells me something that I wasn't thinking at all. I mentioned one example above, but I've had this happen to me more than once. This is sometimes a hard one for me to discern because there are many voices in my head all the time. (comes from being a writer). How do I know the voice isn't from me? Because it comes from my gut area and because it has nothing to do with what I''m thinking.
- Coincidences. There are no coincidences in the life of a Christian. If you hear yourself saying, "Wow what a coincidence" then stop and pay attention to what the Lord might be telling you.
- Through Scripture: Have you ever just flipped open your Bible and it lands on a verse that you needed to hear right at that moment? The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible, so He loves to speak to us through it. So many times when I'm reading the Bible, a verse will just leap at me from the page (and my spirit leaps too!) and I know that's something God is trying to tell me.
- Through visions and dreams. I've not experienced this much myself, although I did have a dream about a month ago where I heard the Lord tell me something about my son that was very encouraging. Many people in the body of Christ experience dreams and visions that can be personal as well as things they must share with other believers.
Have you experienced any of these or can you think of any more ways the Spirit has spoken to you?