I recently started reading Keep in Step with the Spirit by J. I. Packer, author of Knowing God. The first edition came out in 1984, and it was recently updated for a second edition. It’s a study of the new covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit, dealing with questions that affect the life of every Christian as we seek to “walk in the Spirit”–to live the Christ-centered, God-honoring life for which we were created and saved.
Taking a few excerpts from the Amazon description, it is “not merely a theological study, but a rousing call to encourage believers to implement the Spirit’s directives in their lives.” It is a “radical call to personal and corporate revival”, in which Packer “restates the Christ-centeredness of the Spirit’s ministry, reaffirms the biblical call to holiness, and even-handily assesses the charismatic movement.”
The last part is of particular interest to me. I purchased this book as part of my own extended study into charismatic issues. My personal background is lacking in charismatic-type manifestations. (This is not to say that God has not worked powerfully in my life, or that I’ve had no experiences. But I don’t remember anything that I thought of at the time in charismatic terms.) When it comes to stories of manifestations, my natural inner tendency is to be somewhat skeptical. And since I joined an independent charismatic church last January, I am forced to consider these matters carefully. (To clarify, Hope Chapel does not engage in the sort of chaotic practices that Paul critiqued in 1 Cor. 14. In the main meeting, our charismaticism is mainly manifested in a joyful, energetic worship style. Those who attend are from a variety of backgrounds, with a variety of views about spiritual gifts & prophecy. And the teaching is strongly biblical, and centered on Christ.) (On another side note, I value the fact that Hope is more charismatic than I’m used to, regardless of what conclusions I end up coming to. I think it’s beneficial to be at a church that’s a little more something than you’re used to, within limits–it’s a way of challenging you to learn, to consider, to practice discernment, and to get outside the traditions you hold to just because it’s your background.)
So, I’ve been wrestling with questions related to the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, such as: How we are to expect the Spirit to work in our lives and in the church, what it means to hear the voice of God, how we are to discern the will of God, and how we are to exercise discernment while maintaining an open and humble spirit and an expectation of the power of God. (more…)