So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
Last Friday’s post, “The Spirit Has Left the Building,” needed more analysis, so I hope to provide that today. I noted in that post that much of the problem we have with the twin church killers of entertainment-based worship and dull routine is largely due to a lack of the Holy Spirit working in those churches. They either try to make up for the missing Spirit by substituting dog-and-pony shows, or they just make do with emptiness (and call it the norm).
I believe one of the greatest mistakes we make in our churches is to assume. In this case, too many churches fall under the assumption of “Here’s our church program for this Sunday, Lord, now bless it!” That’s highly presumptive on our part. Worse, it tells God that whether He blesses our service or not, we’re going to do it with or without Him. What a sad reflection on our churches that we feel we can get along just as well whether God is there or not!
The fix to this is to structure our church meetings along the lines of “Lord, we are not blessed unless we hear what you wish to do this morning.” That humble, godly openness to receiving what God intends differs greatly from the presumptive, “arm of flesh”-based format so many churches adhere to.
This is not to say that a meeting can’t be planned, only that the plans should never stand in the way of what God ultimately desires to do in and through us on any given Sunday. It instead offers an environment of reception, where the church as a whole anticipates what God will do in and through them.
This is the church that makes a difference in the world. It mirrors Jesus’ understanding that the only work worth doing is the work God is preparing for us to do. We do what the Father is doing. As we all know, God is a spirit, so He blows where He will. And that will may not conform to our own. This requires that we be discerning, able to draw near to the face of God to know what He is doing.
Are we daring to draw near? Not always. We Christians talk a good game, but whenever I’ve pressed people in the past, the truth comes out. We’re really not all that interested in seeing what the Lord is desiring to do. It takes time to draw near, and who has that kind of time anymore?
So we should not be surprised when we fail to discern the Lord’s leading, to be deaf to His voice. For all our talk of prayer, I would dare say that few of us pray more than an hour a day. In fact, I suppose that we spend less than ten minutes a day pressing into God to see what He is doing.
Some of us are just lazy. We’ve told ourselves that God doesn’t speak like that anymore, so we toss off a few prayers and go blithely on our way. Although I suspect that if most of us read a book on prayer by E.M. Bounds, we’d get a far different picture of what it means to travail in prayer.
Others only seek their answers in the Scriptures, but—as controversial as it might be to say this—we’re not necessarily going to find a specific word from God in the Scriptures to the need at hand. Jesus knew the Scriptures better than anyone, but he withdrew for prayer for hours at a time in order to receive power for ministry and for seeing what the Lord was doing in the situation at hand. Yes, we will see the face of God in Scripture, but we must also seek His face in prayer.
Here’s one reason why we need to diligently seek God for our raison d’être as a church:
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
The church that actively seeks the working of the Spirit is the church that receives revelation for service. Again, that openness for hearing God direct us toward specific works in the here and now is critical to the functioning of the church. Otherwise, what we are left with is what God has done, not what God is doing. And we need to know what He is doing now.
The church of entertainment and the church of solemn contentment go stale because the Spirit is not there to guide them. In fact, I suspect they don’t really wish to hear from the Spirit because He might ask something difficult of the people gathered there. He might very well tell the people in a wealthy church to sell all they have and give to the poor. Or He may not. But how will we know if we’ve closed off the Spirit?
The church God uses is the one that lives in a state of openness to the leading of the Spirit, no matter the cost. But when we support churches that don’t want any of “that stuff” or are too busy buying disco balls, then we’ve shut down the very conduit of Christian life.