The shaping of the Spirit is both an individual and a corporate experience. As we go through our Christian lives we find that the Spirit is intent on shaping us…
- As individuals – each individual is unique… born of the Spirit… shaped by the Spirit. How is he shaping you?
- And as churches – every church is unique, has it’s own shape, purpose and destiny. How is he shaping your church?
In order to experience the shaping of the Spirit we must personally and corporately:
- be open to the fresh winds of the Spirit – Jesus reminds us that “the wind blows where he wills…”, and cannot therefore be dictated to; this means we need flexibility and fluidity.
- be aware of the need to hear and respond to the Spirit’s voice “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches…” or “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” Revelation 3,4, NLT. We need to listen and understand. If we don’t the church will die.
- be dependent on the Spirit. When Zechariah was pondering the rebuilding of the temple he was reminded by the Lord that it will not be by “might (force), nor by power but by my Spirit.” Zec. 4:6. The work of God cannot be achieved by human ingenuity, strength etc. but by the Spirit.
- be aware that God’s ways are different to ours. God doesn’t work by our rules etc.. e.g. Jericho, David and Goliath etc.. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord, And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…” Is. 55: 8,9. NLT.
As we study the Scriptures we discover the progress of vision/revelation/interpretation/understanding/action, something that was always a challenge for the people of the moment.
In the book of Acts it’s right there from the start, it’s all about the Spirit and transition…
- Firstly it took place in the crucible of Roman occupation – God frequently works in and through our confusing, trying, even painful moments!
- Secondly, the Spirit was for all flesh. Much of Old Testament prophecy related the outpouring of the Spirit on Jewish flesh, they understood, looked for and accepted that, but there was expansion, now all flesh and in every strata of society!
- Thirdly, there was transition from tabernacle and temple as the place of God’s dwelling, to the people of God as the building.
- Fourthly, a move away from the forms and structures that they had known, loved, and cherished as the fresh wind of the Spirit began to blow mightily among them.
- Fifthly, there were new experiences (tongues, wind, fire, falling on, buildings shaken, visions, trance/revelation, prophecies, angelic intervention, signs and wonders), new ministries (men and women), new community, new locations, new styles of meeting.
And yet/even then…
In the first few chapters of Acts the church was in danger of remaining a Jewish sect, so God shakes it up and reframes it through suffering causing believers to be thrust up country and across the water to Phoenicia, Cyprus and to Antioch which would become a new apostolic base as the gospel takes on a new phase.
- Note: Shaping frequently comes in the context of some sort of difficulty, trial, conflict, pain…. “Pain” said C.S. Lewis “is God’s megaphone.” If you are in a time of difficulty… listen!
Still later they still weren’t sure that they should go to the Gentiles and Peter gets a vision which he struggles to understand, but responds in obedience to the Spirit’s voice – obedience is important.
There is always a danger of settling, of building on and glorying in the past, our history, the way we have always done things, even as charismatics open to the Spirit we can still argue, ‘we’ve not done it that way before’! The challenge is to hear the fresh voice of the Spirit, to listen to and interpret what he is saying, and work out how to respond.
Our problem is we want to map it all out with certainty, but it’s never like that with God! Faith would not be required.
Risky, yes. Out of the comfort zone, definitely..
What about you, your church?