Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit


A week ago, we concluded our sermon series on the book of Acts. I asked two people in our church to share about what the series had meant to them. One was an older gentleman who has been a Christian for years. The other was a young woman who has only been a Christian for a couple of years.

The older man stood to speak; he shared of the primacy of the Holy Spirit in Acts. He challenged the church to be attentive to the working of the Spirit. It was a fantastic observation. His enthusiasm was apparent; his remarks were well received.

The younger woman approached the podium. As she shared her story, her eyes began to fill with tears. She shared of how she had recently become a Christian; her life had been transformed by the love of Christ. She, however, told of a tragic event that had taken place shortly after her conversion. Her husband was involved in an affair. To make matters worse, the other woman was pregnant. I immediately considered how she could have turned on God, questioning such an infraction. She could have challenged God’s love for her, if God was really for her. Yet, she shared of how God never promises an easy road. She quoted Acts 20.

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23) I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24) However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:22–24 NIV)

She spoke of God’s provision, God’s grace, and His continual care for her throughout this ordeal. I was moved by such a story.

Following the service, I applauded her courage to share such an intimate story. She could have stayed on the surface, sharing about historical facts or Paul’s trials. Yet she opened her story to her church family. She was real. When I commended her willingness to be real, she seemed confused. “Why would I not be real? Isn’t that what it means to be a church, to open our lives to each other, to live in community?” I affirmed her response, “Yes, it is.”

Too many Christians have learned the opposite. They have learned to hide behind a façade. Exposing who we really are would be too risky. Yet, this is what we are called to do. This is what being a community of faith is all about. She had not been corrupted by years of church culture. She was simply living out what she saw the early church do in the book of Acts. May we too be challenged with such authenticity. And for God’s sake, may we receive her story; may we not pass judgment. May we support her, affirm her, hold her in our care as she continues to “work out” her salvation.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12 NIV)