Christians are not immune to the sin of arrogance. While we are called to develop humility as we follow Jesus, the propensity of our sinful heart is to find creative ways to maintain our pride … and justify it.
As I am currently reading through the book of Acts, I came across the following verses this morning. Listen to what the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesian pastors.
Acts 20:22–23 (NLT): “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.”
What was Paul telling the pastors?
He was saying that He was going to Jerusalem … and the Holy Spirit was leading him to do it.
Left to itself, we might not think much of these verses until we get to the next chapter. Listen to what the believers were telling Paul.
Acts 21:4 (NLT): “We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem.”
Did you catch that? The believers at Tyre we’re telling Paul NOT to go to Jerusalem – and they were claiming that the Holy Spirit led them to that conclusion.
Now, as we consider the verses that I have set before you, we can come to four possible conclusions:
- Paul heard from the Spirit and the believers did not.
- The believers heard from the Spirit and Paul did not.
- The Holy Spirit spoke to both Paul and the believers but one or both of them misinterpreted what He was saying.
- The Holy Spirit was sending mixed signals.
I absolutely cannot go with option 4. So, that leaves us with one of the first three options – someone thought they heard from the Holy Spirit but they didn’t or they misinterpreted what He said.
This is the danger of individualistic Christianity.
I periodically hear folks say: “The Spirit told me…” or “The Spirit is leading me to…”
Essentially, this is a way to shut down all debate and to appear holy before others. After all, if I say definitively that the Holy Spirit told me to do something, I am essentially saying that whatever you say to disagree with me would be to disagree with God.
This, my friends, is placing ourselves in a dangerous and arrogant position.
We wholeheartedly agree that the Holy Spirit can and does speak to us. But Jesus has not called us to live individualistic Christian lives. We are called to be a part of the body of Christ.
IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE: It is within our church families that we can determine if we have truly heard from the Spirit and if we have properly interpreted what He is saying to us.
But, all too often, Christians simply say that the Spirit told them something … and they aren’t interested in what other believers have to say about it.
… which is a clear sign of spiritual pride.
James 4:6 (NLT): “… ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”
Can the Holy Spirit speak to you and me? Certainly, if we are followers of Jesus.
But how can I know if He has spoken to me and if I have properly understood Him?
I will need to pray about it and bounce my thoughts off other believers.
I must ask other believers what they think.
I must ask other believers to pray with and for me to properly understand what God’s Spirit might be saying to me.
If we aren’t willing to listen to other believers (and possibly be corrected by them), then we’re not filled with the Spirit. We’re saturated with pride.