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Spirit and Truth

At a university conference on business, Fred Smith, a successful executive and editor, followed an engineer to the podium. The engineer, in his speech, had remarked, “ I am a scientist. I deal only with hard facts—things you can see and feel. ” When it was his turn to speak, Smith said, “ I don’t mean to be discourteous, but most of life is made up of soft facts. I respect hard facts, but when I take the long view, I notice that the rocks and the riverbank do not control the water that flows in the stream; the water forms the rocks and the bank. All matters of the spirit are soft, but they ultimately control. Armies, formulas, and scientific technology do not guarantee that a civilization will survive. That is up to other factors. The soft is just as factual as the hard, but more difficult to deal with. ” (Empowering Your Church through Creativity and Change, Marshall Shelley, General Editor.) [1]

In John 4:23-24, Jesus said, “True worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit and they the worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth.” Some say that truth and Spirit balance each other, but, a closer examination teases another thought to life. Both elements are not independent of each other, as though you could have truth without the Spirit and be formalistic; or you could have Spirit without the truth, and be fanatical. Since neither formalism nor fanaticism are good, then, so the thinking goes, it is preferable to have both of them as a counterbalance to each other.

Both hard facts and soft truths make up the structure of the church today. The hard facts of the oneness of the Godhead, of the deity of Jesus Christ, of the new birth experience, of holiness and separation from the world and the soon return of Christ all exist as non-negotiable tenets of faith for the church. Different in shape, less intense in practice, however, are the subtle truths that have a much softer feel to them. Christ’s words concerning worshipping the Father in Spirit and truth and the new birth immediately suggests the supernatural the Spirit of God moving in synchronization with the hard facts of truth, as in the Spirit baptism, the operation of the gifts, anointed preaching and teaching, inspiration in writing and singing, and the direct leadership of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

 A study of the operation of the Spirit in the New Testament God directly guiding his church through the influence of soft truths. Healings, angelic visitations, earthquakes, powerful prayer services, conversions, anointed testimonies and sermons, wisdom, revelations of future events and the word of knowledge abound. One instance was clear instructions from God by means of the Spirit in the change of plans to go to Bithynia. They ended up in Troas in accordance with the Macedonian vision. These cannot be construed as hard facts. The only universal hard fact is that every born again believer must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (John 3:1-8; Acts 2:1-4; 10:46; 19:5).

Look at John 3:8 in the NIV. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” In other words, no believer can base his or her experience or relationship to God on pure mental, cognitive processes. A personal, subjective relationship must exist between a person and God. The hard facts of gospel truths must work in tandem with the soft truths of spiritual manifestations. The hard facts of the gospel represent the skeletal structure of the church, but the soft truths of the Spirit functions like the soft tissue of the church. These two elements are not opposite but equal; they are totally interdependent, integrated, each vital to the other’s viability.

Jesus operated in soft truths that defined the way He conducted Himself and ordered His ministry. He and His disciples ate corn and healed on the Sabbath, He ate in the house of sinners, He allowed a woman to touch his feet and wash them with her hair, he conversed with the woman at the well, He touched dead corpses and healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. These actions were condemned by the hardline Jewish hierarchy, but were in perfect congruency with the Spirit and intent of God. In fact, in His encounter with the Jewish leaders over eating corn, Jesus closes with an astounding statement. “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27. To declare that the Sabbath was subservient to man, and not the other way around was a soft truth of the highest order.

The ultimate example comes to light in the exchange between Jesus and His disciples concerning His identity. Simon Peter expressed the hard fact when he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This forever established the absolute deity of Christ, and Jesus did not deny it, but applauded Simon Peter for his insight. This is where the soft truth comes in. Jesus did not say first to Peter, “You are correct. You know who I am.” His first words to Peter demonstrated that He fully recognized the method (soft truth) of the revelation before He responded to the substance (hard fact) of the revelation! “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17. Finally, he said that the revelation of the deity of Christ was the rock upon which the church was built. This does not minimize the substance of Christ’s identity, but it does give great credence to the way it was revealed.

How important was this incident in the life of Peter? Remember when Peter saw the vision of the sheet being let down from heaven filled with all kinds of unclean animals? The door to the Gentiles swung open wide, not because of prophetic passages in the Old Testament foretelling it, but because Peter had learned to allow the Spirit of God to lead him. All the way to the household of Cornelius, Peter undoubtedly encountered resistance from his own brethren for the act he was about to engage in. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,  Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Acts 10:44-48. Still, the Jewish leaders balked. Even their “ringside seats” at the conversion of the Gentiles left them unconvinced. Later, the early church convened a general conference to fully vet out the controversy. Only then did they officially welcome the Gentiles, although racial and religious bigotry continued for a long time.

What excitement awaits the church in the twenty-first century as the soft truths of the Spirit of God moves, reveals, prompts, suggests and inspires the people of God? The hard facts will never change; the soft truths will continually change. They represent the focused will of God for the present time, place and person. If the infilling of the Spirit is a doctrinal necessity, shouldn’t the operation of that same Spirit become a functional necessity? We’ve only just begun!


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