Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Waiting for the white smoke of intimacy.

The world's media is camped out in a damp St Peter's square waiting for white smoke that tells us 115 select men have heard God speak on behalf of millions. These are moments of high drama and intrigue, but what if God intended that all of us could hear his voice and know his plans?

Way back when, Moses groaned at the needs around him, wishing that all God's people were prophets- he might finally get some peace! What Moses hoped for is now open to all of us. It used to be the chosen just few, on behalf of the many. Even after Jesus ascended, his anxious disciples drew lots to find a replacement for Judas - shifting the burden of hearing God away from nervous men and onto the luck of the draw, knowing a gracious God would work this way on behalf of weak people who couldn't fathom his heart.

Everything changed at Pentecost. Never again would true believers need to draw lots or hedge their bets. Suddenly, full of the Spirit of God,they were able to make decisions as though they could actually sense what God himself was saying. Instead of lots, they boldly said, 'it seems good to us and the Holy Spirit' as they released and appointed leaders. Leaders recognised by churches, received by the people, appointed by the Spirit- not just picked and enforced by the few.
This breathtaking clarity shouldn't be a surprise to us. Jesus had taught them that all his sheep can hear his his voice. Paul showed us that this had become the common practise of the churches when he said to the Corinthians that they can all prophecy one by one.

Isn't it dangerous? That's always the fear and the accusation. Yes, that's why denominations prefer control, it's safer than a free for all. But for those who are brave enough and will come in close enough, the New Testament paints a picture of mess and immaturity, that grows up into beautiful Godly intimacy and unity.

The fear is that anything goes and God's voice is lost amongst the background noise of ideas and opinions. But the first disciples devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the word of God, longing for his true voice. In doing so, they discovered that the Holy Spirit is the best teacher, always willing to remind us of the truth of God's words - and so something wonderful begins to happen- Ordinary believers hear and obey, Gods kind of order is established not mans control or chaotic disorder from differing viewpoints. In relationship with the shepherd the sheep grow safe and well, strong and mature, responsive obedient, and remarkably unified.

So even as we pray for our Catholic friends that God will still work through their traditions, we long with a New Testament freedom for clouds of white smoke over the lives of all true believers in Jesus who are growing up in hearing his voice together.


  1. Steve, that's very weird, I was thinking about this very thing when your post popped up on Facebook. I was thinking about Paul's vision at Troas of the Macedonian man beckoning him. Do you think that the fact that the vision was: a) necessary and b) compelling, suggest that Paul's experience of God's personal direction was less obvious and frequent than we sometimes imagine? Genuinely interested in your thoughts on this one...

  2. Hi Geoff, great to hear from you. It was certainly compelling. They got ready at once to leave knowing with certainty that it was God calling them. It seems the had been prior direction too, earlier in ch 16 we are told the Holy Spirit prevented them from entering Asia. We don't know how he did that, whether through words, dreams, circumstantial providential means? I think the picture in Acts is that we can expect God to always be speaking and directing. Jesus often got away to hear the Father. However, it may not always have such dramatic repercussions!