The disgruntled man left the church not long after our conversation. He wanted to be given a position of ministry within the church, and felt wronged (yet again) when he was denied. However, his story about the ultra-spiritual marriage counselor always stuck with me. I think in some way I was intrigued by the idea that God would give someone such amazing discernment, and yet something about the idea of easily predicting the downfall of people’s marriages seemed very arrogant and rash. On top of that, TELLING PEOPLE that you can predict the downfall of marriages in less than an hour seemed boastful and not in keeping with the true work of the Holy Spirit (reconciliation and comfort among many other things).
It got me thinking, what does it mean to be a spiritually-sensitive person? In many Christian circles, being sensitive to the Spirit means hearing God speak to us on a regular basis. I would agree that listening for and hearing the voice of God in our lives is a crucial part of staying in step with the Spirit. God can speak to us in a variety of ways. Not least through prayer and the reading of the Scriptures. God can also lead and guide us through our fellowship with other Christians. Just this morning I received an encouraging email from a dear brother who said the Lord had put me and my family on his heart. That was such a blessing. However, things get a little murkier when we try to discern the voice of God through every circumstance in our lives. For example, why did the light turn red when I was late for church? Is God trying to stop me from going to church today? Probably not. Not every event that happens in our lives has great significance. Sometimes...oftentimes...life just happens. Spilling my morning coffee on my shirt or getting cut off on the freeway is not a sign of God’s displeasure with me. How I respond to such events may say something about my busy, overcrowded and chaotic life, however.
Living a life of holiness is often thought of as being a sign of spiritual-sensitivity within the church. Certainly, there is the call in Scripture to “keep oneself unspotted from the world” as Peter tells us. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His commands. Living a life of purity as “people of the day” as Paul calls us, is a crucial element of our Christian witness, and it is the outworking of the inner change brought about by the presence of the Spirit in our lives. But it’s important to remember that our desire for holiness ought to be tempered with the fact that we are still called to live among and minister to people who do not automatically share our Jesus-centered ethic. My personal holiness can be used as a weapon against those who I ought to be seeking to reach out to in love if I’m not careful. Arrogantly proclaiming that I would never see that movie or go to that bar or be seen with those people can easily be become more about my spiritual pride and haughtiness if it’s not done in love. Paul tells us that we are “ambassadors for Christ” called to proclaim a message of “reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians 5. Our personal holiness can work as a draw or a deterrent to the gospel depending upon how it is perceived by others.
Which brings me to my main point about what I believe it means to a spiritually sensitive person. Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit for us in Galatians 5:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
If we want to know if a person has a deep, sensitive relationship with the Holy Spirit these are the sorts of attributes we should expect to see as we observe their daily lives. Chief among all the fruits is of course love. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that without love, the beautiful and selfless agape love of God, we are simply a “resounding gong, a clanging cymbal” and ultimately all of our good deeds amount to nothing. In God’s economy, it would be much better to hand someone a cup of cold water motivated by the love of Jesus than to speak forth lofty prophecies and words of knowledge without love in our hearts. Love IS the supreme manifestation of God’s presence and power in our lives. I personally believe that all of the gifts of the Spirit are in operation in the church today. But all of the gifts whether they be speaking in tongues, prophecy, hospitality, teaching, healing, etc. should all be motivated by and used in a spirit of love.
There isn’t time here to speak in detail about each of the fruits, but I just want to add a few words on the rest of list Paul gives us. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of God. I love spending time with joyful people. Joy is so infectious and draws others to us. A big part of growing in the Spirit is learning to find joy in God regardless of the circumstances in our lives. This is an area I desperately long to grown in. Conversely, those who constantly bicker and complain and find fault with everything and everyone (even their brothers and sisters in the Lord) prove that they have yet to grow in this area. Regardless of how wise or discerning they think they are. Peace is also one of the fruits, and a sign that we are in tune with the Spirit of God. Does our presence in the room bring a calm and comforting vibe, or do people get a bit uncomfortable and constantly excuse themselves when we are near? Kindness is a rare commodity in the days we are living in. Looking the check out clerk in the eye, smiling at them, asking them how their day is going...Letting that person merge at the last moment, slowing down to let them in...every small or great act of kindness is a sign that God’s Spirit is at work in our hearts.
These are the attributes that should come to define the person who is spiritually sensitive. They don’t generally materialize overnight and that’s okay. Most of the good things that happen in this life don’t come about quickly. We all live by the grace of God every moment of our lives. Let me say that I long for God to work miracles and perform signs and great wonders in our day. But most of all, I long to be a person who brings forth these wonderful fruits of God’s Spirit every moment of my life.