Here’s an outline of a conversation I had after church a while ago:
“Does the Holy Spirit speak to you personally?”
“Yes”, I said. “Absolutely! He’s been speaking to me and to you during the last 30 minutes, through the Holy Scriptures”.
“No, I don’t mean that. I mean do you hear his voice telling you to do specific things”.
“Yes,” I said. “The Holy Spirit speaks to me and tells me to do very specific things – he points out specific sins I need to repent of – he shows me areas of my life that need change. He tells me where I need to grow more like Jesus; he does it through applying his Word to me – but his ministry is very specific and personal”.
“No, I don’t mean that. I mean the Spirit tells me to go and tell specific people ‘God loves you’; he tells me whether to move to Birmingham or to take this job or that job. Do you believe that?”
“Well, our feelings can be very powerful, and I’m not sure…”
“I’m not talking about my feelings; I’m talking about the Holy Spirit talking to me! So, you’re saying the Holy Spirit is limited to the Bible? You’re restricting the Spirit to Scriptures?”
“Err… I’m not restricting the Spirit to Scripture; he is God, the third person of the Holy Trinity! But the way that he’s appointed to speak to us today is by working on me inwardly to understand, love, and apply the Holy Scriptures that he inspired outwardly. I fear you’re limiting just how much wonderful truth the Spirit still has to show you in his word”.
“So all you can do is read the Bible line by line to know the Spirit? You don’t hear the Spirit’s voice?”.
“I do hear the Spirit’s voice! But it’s as he uses and applies Scripture to me, in rich, powerful ways. Let me show you from Luke 24:27, 32, 45 how the Spirit works inwardly to light up the Scriptures…”
“I don’t want to know what the Bible says; I want to know what you say…!”
“- I’m saying that there is not a Christian I’ve ever met who knows their Bible anywhere near well enough!
– I’m saying I’ve never met a Christian who’s close to exhausting what the Spirit has to say to them through the Scriptures! The trouble with you and me isn’t that the Scripture isn’t relevant enough to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. The trouble isn’t that we’re missing out on “extra” messages. The trouble is we simply don’t know the Scripture well enough, and aren’t hungry enough to listen; we need the Spirit’s help to pay attention to the Word that we already have.
– I’m saying we absolutely need the Holy Spirit; without him, this church will be dead. And I regularly and earnestly pray for the Spirit to fill us, to speak with divine authority to us. But I’m saying that a spirit who leads people (and churches) to be less thirsty for the Bible and to spend less time listening to his voice in Scripture is false.
– I’m saying the only reliable way to discern the voice of the Spirit is as he applies the word of God to us”.
I’m not sure the person was persuaded. But that’s the choice we all face: we can either build our Christian lives on the sinking sands of our own experience or the solid rock of the Spirit speaking through Scripture.