Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: the leading of the Holy Spirit

Confused churches

Louis Riel, the 19th century Métis leader, was troubled by the things he experienced from the churches of his day. He read in the Bible about a Church of Jesus Christ that was characterized by love and peace. What he saw in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches was oppression and pride. The churches seemed to be the source of the mistrust and prejudice that separated native and white, French and English, Protestant and Catholic.

He saw the problem: neither Catholic nor Protestant embodied the true faith in Jesus Christ that worked by love and compassion. But he could not find a solution.

Over the years since then a majority of people here on the Canadian prairies have given up hope of finding such a church. Yet there are still hundreds of denominations and small independent groups claiming to embody true Christian faith, indicating that some people still have a longing to experience the loving fellowship promised by Jesus: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Gospel of John 13:15)

How does one find such a church? I am going to give a list of characteristics of the true Church of God as given by Menno Simons in the 16th century. But this is not an intellectual exercise. The multiplicity of churches is the fruit of people trusting to their own reasoning. It is only by trusting fully to the leading of the Holy Spirit that one can find a way through the conflicting claims. It helps to remind ourselves that the boasting of men does not enhance the truth – and is not a characteristic of the truth.

The true signs by which the Church of Christ may be known.
By Menno Simons, written in 1554

  1. By an unadulterated, pure doctrine.
  2. By a Scriptural use of the sacramental signs.
  3. By obedience to the Word.
  4. By unfeigned brotherly love.
  5. By a bold confession of God and Christ.
  6. By oppression and tribulation for the sake of the Lord’s Word.

I plan to write a little more about each of these signs in upcoming posts.

But what do I do when I come to the real test?

In my later youth I was given a lengthy aptitude test based on questions with multiple choice answers. I looked at it, decided I would ask myself at each question, “How would I answer this if I had a real interest in mechanics?” And lo and behold, the test results said that I would be best suited to a career as a mechanic. I asked for another chance to take the test and this time I asked myself, “How would I answer this question if I had a real interest in accounting?” and now the test showed that I should really study to become an accountant. I suspect that most people who take such tests manipulate them in some such manner, probably without realizing they are doing so.

There are similar tests to help Christian young people discover their talents and interests in order to determine the purpose and direction of their life. What happens when the test says one thing and the Holy Spirit says something else?

The same goes for tests to determine our temperament. What do I do if the Holy Spirit asks me to do something for which I am completely unsuited by temperament? It might help to remember that the four temperament theory is based on ancient Greek thinking about which bodily fluid has the greatest influence on our nature: blood, phlegm, black bile or yellow bile.

There are even tests to show whether I and the person I am thinking of marrying are compatible with each other. How helpful is it to know the results of that analysis when conflict arises in a marriage? Look around, how many really happy marriages are the result of finding the most compatible partner? Husbands and wives grow to resemble each other over the years, that is a result of commitment and of little sacrifices made day by day. The Holy Spirit is the great enabler to help us make the changes needed for our mutual happiness.

Moses was a prince in Egypt and according to Josephus a great military leader in the Egyptian army. He was sure he had just the right abilities and aptitudes to deliver the Hebrew people from their suffering. It didn’t take long to discover that was not going to work. He spent the next forty years learning how to be a shepherd, then God called him to go back and lead his people out of Egypt. Now Moses knew for a certainty that he was not the man for the job, still God insisted that he go. And so he went, and this time it worked.

Let’s not think that we are smarter than Moses, or that intensive self-examination will reveal God’s plan for our lives. That is God’s territory. We will do much better to chuck all the self-help books and just listen for God’s voice. And when we hear, we must do what He asks, however improbable or impossible it may seem. The purpose after all, is to glorify God and help other people, not to preserve our self-esteem.

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