The Spirit’s Calling

Matthew 1:18-25 ESV

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel’

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”

Can you imagine being in the shoes of either Joseph or Mary? Would you so easily believe an angel and do what the angel said, believing the angel was sent from God? I think it took enormous faith for both Mary and Joseph to believe the angels sent from God and to accept the messages that the angels were giving to each one of them individually. For they certainly knew how they would each be perceived by the people and the possible consequences of such faith with regard to the results of that faith.

First Mary had to believe that she was being impregnated of the Spirit of God and that she was going to bear a son, the Son of the Most High, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. And then Joseph had to believe that Mary’s pregnancy was not of man but of the Spirit of God, and that the baby to be born would save his people from their sins. He had to believe that this was to fulfill a prophecy of Scripture that said a virgin would conceive and bear a son, and he shall be called “Immanuel,” meaning, “God with us.”

And this isn’t about a nice little story that we tell once a year in remembrance of the birth of Christ. This is something that really happened to two flesh and blood people like you and like me. So, what if it was you? If you were visited by an angel tonight and told something of the nature of what these angels told Mary and Joseph, would you believe the angel God sent to you? And would you act on faith to what the angel said? For faith in Jesus isn’t just about inviting him into your heart to be your Savior.

Faith in Jesus Christ is ongoing. We walk by faith and not by sight. Every day of our lives we walk by faith if truly we are of the faith and we are not just giving lip service to the Lord. And the Lord has something to say to us every day, and he has specific callings for each one of us, too, that are for us individually, and that we are only going to know if we are willing to listen to the Spirit’s voice within us and to follow the Lord in obedience. And the Lord may use many different means to speak to us and to show us his will.

For, when we read the Scriptures we will learn God’s general will for all of us who follow Jesus with our lives. But how will we know his specific callings on our lives unless we are willing to hear him speak more directly to us individually? For example, the Scriptures do not say, “Sue Love, this is what I want you to do.” So, how am I to know God’s specific assignment that is just for me? We all have the Spirit living within us if we are Christ’s by genuine faith in Christ, and the Spirit speaks to us individually.

So, we need to learn to listen to the Spirit’s voice and to discern the Spirit’s voice so that we aren’t listening to other voices thinking it is God speaking to us. And what the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts is not going to be contrary to what the Scriptures teach. For example, the Scriptures teach that the fruit of the Spirit is… and “self-control.” So, if it is the Spirit speaking to us, he is not going to lead us to do something where a spirit overtakes us and we have no control over what we are doing. That is what demons do.

But we need to not put God in an institutional religious box. And many people do this. They come up with their own man-created doctrines and they will not listen to anything outside that box they have created for themselves. And many people, thus, have totally shut off the Spirit’s voice and so they listen to “dead men” instead, i.e. to the old theologians of the faith who have written lots of books explaining what the Scriptures teach. They listen to them and what they say but they will not listen to the Spirit of God.

But Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us to counsel, guide, direct, rebuke, correct, instruct, teach, encourage and strengthen us in our walks of faith. Therefore, if he is to teach us all things, then we are to listen to him. And yes, we must test the spirits always to see if they are of God, and we are to test them against the teachings of the Scriptures, but in full context! But we are not to be those who are quenching the Spirit because the Spirit of God does not fit in with our religious box we have made for ourselves.

So, test the spirits against the truths of the Scriptures in their context but do not shut out the Spirit’s voice, for it is the voice of the Spirit which is going to lead us in the very specific ways in which God has designed for our individual lives. So be like Mary and Joseph and be willing to hear God’s voice speak to you individually to show you what God has for your life specifically. And then obey the Spirit’s voice in doing what he shows you to do, even if what you are being called to do is outside the box of institutional religion.

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 ESV).

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

Words by Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907
Music by George C. Stebbins, 1907

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!
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