Saturday, August 8, 2009

Listening FOR the Spirit, Not Just TO It

This week has been interesting as I have focused on my resolution to bring forth fruits, not just works. One thing, in particular, has come to the forefront for me - the need to listen FOR the messages of the Holy Ghost, not just listening TO the Holy Ghost.

Professor Steven Robinson (BYU) wrote a book of which many members are aware entitled, "Believing Christ". The core concept he addressed is the principle that it is FAR more important to believe Christ (meaning to believe what he actually said) than it is to just believe IN Christ (that he is the savior and redeemer). This distinction is critical, since it is possible to believe "in" Jesus at a theoretical / intellectual / even spiritual level without really believing what he said in the scriptures. A good example of this is related to the concept of fruit, works, salvation, etc. - since it is CRYSTAL clear when one parses the Biblical Gospels that Jesus absolutely did NOT teach of easy grace ("confessing His name is all that is required to separate the saved from the damned") but taught openly and clearly and directly about the importance of our actions - that saying you accept Him but not doing what He said we should do is the most fundamental definition of damnable hypocrisy.

My insight this week about bringing forth fruits of the Spirit and not just dead works is that doing what God wants me to do requires MUCH more than merely living my life naturally amid the hustle and bustle of my life and doing whatever the Spirit is trying to say to me. Generally, if I am not actively listening FOR the still small voice - going throughout my activities consciously trying to hear that voice - the "noise" of my life will overwhelm a still, small voice. On the other hand, if my mind consciously is attempting to hear that voice every minute of my waking activities, I can be inundated with impressions that relate to many things - often in the most strange and random times and situations.

This is very similar to something I realized many years ago that has had a major impact on my life. There are some people who say, "I will anything that the Lord tells me to do." There are other people who say, "I will do anything that is good - unless the Lord tells me not to do it." The first is a passive tool - someone who is acted upon, albeit by God. The second is an active seeker of service - someone who is free to act and become an agent unto herself. I want to become the second type of person, and listening FOR the whispering of the Holy Ghost at all times is a part of that process.

The trick for me is to remember to keep my spirit open to inspiration even as my body is engaged in the normal activities of life - activities that often require extreme mental concentration and focus. Finding out how to do that more continually will be the central focus of my effort this week.


Michaela Stephens said...

Forgive me, but I respectfully disagree with the idea that it is more important to believe Christ than to believe IN Christ. I think that they are both equally necessary and mutually reenforcing.

Other than that, I like the idea that you bring forward of trying to become an agent of doing good.

Ryan said...

They're both important, yes, and mutually reinforcing, potentially... but to paraphrase James, "Thou believest [in Christ]; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."

If you have to start with just one I'd say go for living the teachings of Christ. That's what will actually bring positive change in our lives, and by doing His will we will come to know Him soon enough.

Papa D said...

Thanks for your input, Michaela. There is no "forgiveness" needed (grin); I think it probably is just an initial difference in interpretation of the terms - based on my lack of more detailed explanation.

I see believing in Christ as a subset of believing Christ. In other words, I think it is possible to believe in Christ without understanding and, therefore, believing, what he actually said - or, more accurately, what has been written and attributed to him. The arguments about faith and works is a great example of that. However, I don't think it's possible to believe Christ and not believe in him.

If someone reads his words and believes them, I think there is little choice but to believe in him. At the risk of offending someone, the best example probably is the time prior to the publication of the Gutenberg Bible and the explosion of literacy that followed as people desired to read it.

Prior to that event, "believers" had no real choice but to believe what they were taught by those who could read. That led to what I term "dependent believers", as opposed to the many "independent believers" who now have the opportunity to read for themselves and decide how to interpret and what to believe. These dependent believers believed in Christ - but they lacked the ability to read his words for themselves and choose to believe his words for what they actually say.

Don't get me wrong; I do think it is important to "believe in Christ". I just think "full and intentional" belief requires some level of understanding of what has been attributed to him.

I am NOT saying that those who don't read and interpret his words for themselves are not Christian - absolutely not. That would place me in the same category as those who deny that Mormons are Christians simply because we interpret scriptures differently than they do - which I personally loathe. Both those who "only" believe in him AND those who believe him are Christian in a very real sense; I simply think it is important to study his words and come to believe him - to accept what he actually said.

Papa D said...

Ryan, that passage is one that influences greatly how I see this issue. I think it's instructive that some of the early denominational leaders who leaned toward or advocated easy grace essentially dismissed James as non-authoritative - even though James echoes the Gospels very well. (I personally believe Paul's writings do as well with regard to grace and works, but I think his writings are largely misunderstood and misinterpreted - through a lack of understanding about his target audience and the "dead works" he was addressing.)