Summary: God's Holy Spirit will help us as we seek to know the right way to live. He uses God's word to help us but we also have to trust that when we act he will show us the right way to go.
Sermon by Heather Cetrangolo
I wonder whether you can think back to when you were in your late teens (this will be more recent for some of us than others)?
What dreams did you have for your life? How did you picture your future? What sort of things did you hope to do? And have you done them? Have things worked out the way you’d hoped at all?
Have any of you seen a televisions series called 7-Up? It’s a documentary that tracks the lives of about ten people in seven year intervals. It’s fascinating to watch this snap-shot of people aging and to see how each major life-decision affects the rest.
Actually, it’s a little bit depressing. Because in every case, the people interviewed say that life has been a lot harder than they thought it would be when they were in their teens. And the study shows that there are two major life decisions in particular, that seem to limit, the potential for other opportunities: and those are marriage and children.
There’s a song that says ‘love changes everything’, and it’s true. The decision to love someone profoundly affects how we go about making other decisions about study, travel, work and how we spend our time and money.
When I was a teenager my dream for my life was to be a highly successful, highly paid barrister. I wanted to travel, to be financially independent, and to never get married.
You could say that that hasn’t exactly worked out the way I planned … and the reason for that is because at a young age I formed a relationship with Jesus and I gave my life to him … and then that meant that the Holy Spirit came into my life … and his love for me changed everything (and later he brought Adam into my life). This meant that I had to start listening to what the Holy Spirit had to say about my life choices. In other words, it wasn’t just about me anymore.
Some Biblical Examples:
And we see this right through the New Testament – examples of the Holy Spirit guiding the believers to go and do things they otherwise would never have done, and know things they otherwise could never have known – here are some examples from the book of Acts:
- ch9 – the Lord tells Ananias to go to Paul and pray for him to regain his sight
- ch10 – an angel tells Cornelius to collect Peter from Joppa and Peter has a vision in which God tells him to eat unclean animals
- ch13 – the Holy Spirit instructs the church at Antioch to set aside Barnabas and Saul to be sent out as apostles
- ch16 – the Holy Spirit forbids Timothy, Paul and Silas to speak the word in Asia, prevent them from going to Bithynia and gives Paul a vision to go to Macedonia
- Acts 20 – the Holy Spirit testifies to Paul that he will be put in prison
And there are many more examples of the Holy Spirit speaking specific guidance to people.
What About Today?
Now, you might be thinking that, these examples aren’t the norm. That the Holy Spirit doesn’t usually speak to people directly. But that’s not what the bible says.
John 16.13-14 – Jesus says:
“When the Spirit of truth comes … he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
That is, the Holy Spirit will speak what Jesus gives him to speak, to us, and this includes revealing things about the future.
And we knew this from the words of the prophet Joel:
“In the last days [that’s now] it will be, God declares,
That I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
And your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)
The Holy Spirit will communicate with us through words, dreams and visions, and Peter goes on to say in Acts 2:38, that this isn’t just for some people, but for all believers. Paul also tells us that the Holy Spirit gives “manifestations” to every believer for the common good, and that these include wisdom, discernment, prophecy and words of knowledge (1 Cor 12:4-11)
I suspect, that if we were to survey every Christian around the world and ask them, ‘Has the Holy Spirit ever spoken to you?’ the vast majority would say ‘yes’.
But you see we are in the minority, because we are in the west … and our stomachs are full, and we are surrounded by noise and distractions … and a general skepticism towards anything supernatural … and this can lead to a kind of pathetic, uninspiring image of God.