Sunday, December 16, 2007

Inspiration

Most Christians would agree that the writers of Scripture were inspired by God when they wrote the autographs. While we may argue whether the Holy Spirit dictated the actual words, or the thoughts and ideas, inspiration in some form is usually not debated. Inspiration is a critical aspect of Scripture, imbuing it with a divinely-appointed importance for the church. We know what God has said because we believe that what we have received was inspired by our God. Scripture is the very words of God – in some form.

But few Christians today would claim to be inspired in their daily lives, or in their church lives. To claim to be inspired is a claim that will receive considerable scrutiny if not out right rejection by the vast majority of Protestant Christendom.

While I don’t know that we should claim inspiration for every idea or thought that travels through our minds, I am equally doubtful that we do not receive inspiration as we attempt to live and minister as God would have us. If we believe that God in the Holy Spirit is active in the world, if we believe He is active in our lives, why is it that we shy away from acknowledging that Christians are inspired, and inspired in the same ways that the church fathers were?

How many of us have heard of, or have actually experienced the working of the Spirit in our ministry and every day lives? How many preachers, how many counselors, how many shepherds have found the right words, of either comfort or instruction, come to them at just the right time? How many of us have experienced a passage of Scripture, or a turn of verse, seemingly appear from nowhere just when we need them?

I believe God continues to inspire Christians today. I don’t know that He reveals new truths, but revealing previously unknown ideas is not the full definition of inspiration. Jesus tells His disciples to simply go, and God will not only provide their needs, but will also bring to their minds the words they have heard. Do we not believe that God does essentially the same things for us today?

Those who were promised divine inspiration were those who lived in, and conversed with God on a regular basis, and those who were engaged in God’s work in the world. Inspiration is not promised to those who do not seek God, who wish to use the inspiration for their own gain, for those who are not engaged in the work of God. In contrast though, it is clear that New Testament Christians were promised the presence of God in ways more manifest than simply having the Spirit. The Spirit worked in them, and with them to provide the right words, the necessary food, the physical protection, and the spiritual guidance.

If that is what God did for first century Christians, why do we believe He does less today, especially in light of our own or others’ experiences that He does. Is it not inspiration when we experience the movement of God in our lives? I can think of no reason to believe that the power that works in us is different than that which worked in the disciples.

If we pray for guidance, if we pray for assistance while ministering, and we believe and experience the Spirit’s leading and help, we must believe the Spirit provides such things to us. If the Spirit does those things, we experience inspiration in similar ways that those who wrote Scripture experienced it. In short, we are inspired.

This realization has implications for the way we live our lives. It is no longer sufficient to simply hope we can remember passages, or that somehow we will come up with the right words or the right act for a situation. We must understand that we actually have God with us, inspiring us with His Spirit. This is heady and scary stuff, but the conclusion is inescapable. Our words and our behaviors are inspired – prompted, guided, shaped by God’s manipulation of our memories, our emotions, our hands, and our tongues. The effect is the same as that experienced by the writers of Scripture, and those of whom we read in the New Testament.

When we realize this, when we get our minds around the reality of God with us in this intimate way, it should cause us to be more cognizant of who we are, of who lead us, and for whom we speak and act. We truly become the hands and mouths of God, expressing God’s words, and doing God’s work in our daily worlds. This is not cause for bragging, but for increased humility. It should cause us to live closer to God, to change our minds so that they seek His will more closely, to speak with God more deeply and more frequently.

The next time you’re tempted to say that someone’s behavior or speech is inspired, you might just be right.

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