Scripture: John 16:12-15
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
What is right? What is wrong? These are questions that many ask today. At times they couple this with a statement that everything is relative. Meaning that they believe that they can determine their own truth and path. These statements have deep roots, roots that unfortunately we all have creeping into our lives, even though we may not recognize it. The philosophy of relativity has roots that stretch back through modernity, through the enlightenment, on down through the ages to the dawn of time.
As Friends we do not speak much about the origins of sin. We do not often get into deep debates over many of the finer points of theology, but this does not mean we do not have theology. Friends have a very broad base of understanding, our theology is not often found in the published works of scholars, but is more often found in practical places. Our theology is in the realm of experience and observation.
No matter what background we have, each of us have a theology. We have come about gaining our understanding of God from many different places. For some of us we have gained it through the study of the works of various scholars and for others we just know things. At times these two very different paths seem to conflict in our minds especially when our personal experiences or testimony of faith and our knowledge seem at odds.
For me personally, I struggle most in the area of war and peace. There is an experience or knowledge that I have as I life in a world of conflict. It is difficult to say I have a testimony of peace when my emotions want to silence the enemies of my nation.
This struggle is one we all face. Each of us has a different struggle a different cross to bear. In this point the philosophy of relativity is real in our lives, because our struggles are our own and ours alone. None of us have the same personalities or gifts. We each have a different way of looking at the world around us. Some of us have similar views, but they are each unique to each of us. Some of us look out at the world around us and we see the creativity of a master artist, while others see the opportunity to amass greater business opportunities for the future.
I mentioned that these thoughts of relativity have deep roots that have wrapped around us each. I said that these roots stretch back as far as the dawn of time. Some have said that Genesis is not history but a theological reflection by the people of Israel on the reality of good and evil. Many of us flinch as I say those word, but remember that we all approach life from different perspectives. History in itself is a reflection, or an interpretation of what took place. What we learn from Genesis is that we have great freedom as humans. The freedom to live and act, we sometimes choose to abuse that freedom by trying to put ourselves at the center of creation and displacing God. This is sin.
As we displace God we begin to do things to bring order back into the world around us. We each have ideas as to what that might look like, using our own perspective or understanding of reality. We draw lines and make claims of truth we use words to shame and convict others around us. But each of those views has an opposite that is just as true.
In today’s passage Jesus said that there are many things that he wants to say but the disciples were not able to beat them at that time. Does that bother anyone else? Jesus is essentially sending the disciples out without being fully trained. His disciples were to go out preaching the gospel and they are sent knowing that they do not know everything. How many of us have thought that we cannot do something because we do not know how, or that we do not have all the answers? These disciples were going out into a community that had centuries of knowledge written down in scrolls, they had theologies that could boggle the mind and Jesus sent them out into that world filled with answers to minister. But He gives them the assurance that he will not send them out alone. He will send them with the Spirit of Truth.
Today we have a world filled with relativity, and a world filled with answers. It is similar to various past ages in one degree or another but also differs in so many ways. We feel like we are walking out into a world unprepared and without answers. Many of us can be gripped by emotions of fear. We have fear because we have abused our freedoms as a society and culture. We have claimed truth but our lives have not been reflecting a better life.
We claim to know God but how well do we know? We claim to know the truth but how do we discern the correct direction?
George Fox lived in a time not too different than ours. He lived in an England that was divided on the brink of civil war. He lived among people that had several truth claims. They had built schools of learning and in these schools theology was the science that trumped all others. Yet in all of that He was hungry for something more. He says. “For though I read the Scriptures that spake of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him not, but by revelation, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit.” (page 9).
In this culture of study and war, of competing truths, George found his hope. He explains it as a key that opened up a new life, and he was drawn into it. He met the Spirit of Truth. This revelation allowed him to know and live a life of hope and peace even in a nation of war. He goes on to say in his journal, “And as the Lord spake, He opened it to me that people and professors did trample upon the life, even the life of Christ; they fed upon words, and fed one another with words; but they trampled upon the life; trampled underfoot the blood of the Son of God, which blood was my life, and lived in their airy notions, talking of Him.” (page 11).
This seems confusing at first, but what George is saying is that in the world around him, the people were all caught up in being right, and fighting for control over others. They were using their knowledge and twisting words to prove that others should follow them, yet in the process they were trampling life. It did not matter to those that sought power that they were draining their nation and their people of all hope, resources, and life. They thought they were right and they were going to impose their ways on others at all cost.
How do we know what is right and wrong? How do we proceed into the future that is filled with so much chaos? How do we advance the kingdom of God without trampling on the very life of Christ? Discernment.
Jesus said that the Spirit of truth would guide us into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak what ever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
We discern truth by seeking the Spirit. This comes through a rhythm of worship, prayer, and service. The three things that Jesus himself spent his time to training the disciples to do. This rhythm of life allows us to let go of the things that are distracting us from God and it opens our eyes to the things God is trying to do for and through us.
It is a process of prayer, study, meditation, and ministry. For George, he went out to pray in the fields, he would also read and seek understanding in scripture. As he said in his Journal, “Yet I had no slight esteem of the Holy Scriptures, bit they were very precious to me, for I was in that Spirit by which they were given forth: and what the Lord opened in me I afterwards found was agreeable to them.” (Page 20)
God does not leave us alone. If He is guiding us in a direction there will be confirmation in scripture. If we seek him he will find us and meet us. He will teach us and guide us. But we must take time to open our lives to him.
We cannot hear the voice of God if we do not make time to build the relationship with him. We cannot be bearers of light in a dark chaotic world if we ourselves are not focused on the light. We cannot bring hope in ministry if we do not acknowledge the life of those around us.
As we prepare to enter into our time of open worship I want to conclude with a longer quote of George Fox. This is a letter that he wrote to some Friends:
“All my dear friends in the noble Seed of God, who have known His power, life, and presence among you, let it be your joy to hear or see the springs of life break forth in any; through which ye may have all unity in the same, feeling life and power. And above all things, take heed of judging any one openly in your meetings, except they be openly profane or rebellious, such as be out of the truth; that by the power, life, and wisdom ye may stand over them, and by it answer the witness of God in the world, that such, whom ye bear your testimony against are none of you: so that therein the truth may stand clear and single. But such as are tender, if they should be moved to bubble forth a few words, and speak in the Seed and Lamb’s power, suffer and bear that; that is, the tender. And if they should go beyond their measure, bear it in the meeting for peace and order’s sake, and that the spirits of the world be not moved against you. But when the meeting is done, then if any be moved to speak to them, between you and them, one or two of you that feel it in the life, do it in the love and wisdom that is pure and gentle from above: for love is that which doth edify, bears all things, suffers long, and doth fulfill the law. So in this ye have order and edification, ye have wisdom to preserve you all wise and in patience; which takes away the occasion of stumbling the weak, and the occasion of the spirits of the world to get up: but in the royal Seed, the heavy stone, ye keep down all that is wrong; and by it answer that of God in all. For ye will hear, see, and feel the power of God preaching, as your faith is all in it (when ye do not hear words), to bind, to chain, to limit, to frustrate; that nothing shall rise nor come forth but what is in the power: for with that ye will hold back, and with that ye will let up, and open every spring, plant, and spark; in which will be your joy and refreshment in the power of God.
“And, Friends, though ye may have been convinced, and have tasted of the power, and felt the light; yet afterwards ye may feel a winter storm, temptest, and hail, frost and cold, and temptation in the wilderness. Be patient and still in the power and in the light that doth convince you, to keep your minds to God; in that be quiet, that ye may come to the summer, that your flight be not in the winter. For if ye sit still in the patience, which overcomes in the power of God, there will be no flying.” (The Journal of George Fox, page 140-141)
We do not know where all are on their spiritual journeys; we do not know where they have been. We do not have all the answers. But we do have the Spirit of Truth ready to guide us if we are willing to let him. Today, let us seek the truth together, encourage one another, and let us love the lives that God has placed around us and direct them to the hope we have found in Jesus Christ our Creator, Savior, and Friend. Who came to live among us, and to shed his blood for us, and who lifted us out of the chaotic darkness into his glorious light.
*quotes are from: The Journal of George Fox; ed. Norman Penney; Cosimo Classics, New York (2007).