In previous posts, I have begun to lay the groundwork for recognizing and discerning God's presence and leading in our lives (Part 1 is here. Part Two is here). It is essential that we recognize that God does, in fact, have a purpose for each person's life and that he is committed to us knowing that purpose and living it out.
In the two previous posts, I have argued that believers can know God’s will for their lives because he does have plans for each of us. Those plans are not a mystery, nor does he remain passive or leave us to our own devices to discover it. Some of you reading this may come from traditions that embrace this, while others may not. This subject has less to do with what your tradition believes about the Holy Spirit or which gifts he still gives and it has more to do with the promise of Jesus as our shepherd (John 10), the presence of the Spirit within each believer, and reality of the church as Christ’s body (literally).
I will cover each of those last points in subsequent posts. For now, it is important to explore seven key pillars that help us to discern the Spirit’s presence and hear his voice. These seven insights are not original to me. They were taken from a recently published version of a series of lectures by Cornelis Van Der Kooi, who is a Reformed scholar and professor at the Free University of Amsterdam.
The first pillar for knowing God's will: Knowing Mere Christianity
John wrote his epistle in a day when there were all kinds of competing religions, many of those were also combinations of various cultural values and religious ideas (known as “syncretism”). Because of this, John knows there has to be something that clarifies truth from error. Where does a Christian begin to test any idea or experience? For John, the most important and clarifying test is the incarnation of Jesus. This might seem simplistic, but it is amazing how clarifying the belief in Jesus’ full humanity and full divinity can be.
The Apostle’s Creed is similar to 1 John 4 in its simplicity and clarifying power. If you’re not familiar with the Apostle’s Creed it is universally recognized as both (1) one of the earliest statements of Christian faith and (2) a distillation of essential Christian beliefs. In other words, the Apostle’s Creed has, for centuries, helped people of faith answer the question: what are the non-negotiables of Christianity? What does someone have to believe to be a Christian; or, if they reject any of the points, would put the validity of their faith in question? The Apostle’s Creed is a timeless expression of essential belief.
Here’s one translation: