Occasionally in charismatic circles, you will hear a person or a church described as being “open to the Spirit”, usually meaning that they are receptive to the spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues being used in their churches and individual lives. But even those who are “open” to certain aspects of the Spirit’s ministry may be closed to others. To truly be “open to the Spirit” is to welcome his work in whatever form it comes.
For example, one ministry of the Spirit is to convict of sin, and yet it is quite possible for us to ignore his promptings over certain deeply rooted sins. We may be open to being guided as to where we should live, but not to being called to serve overseas. We may desire the gift of healing, but refuse the fruit of patience. We may be open to him teaching us through a high profile Christian preacher, but not through our own small group leader.
There are many diverse ways that the Spirit can speak to us – through the Bible, through preaching, through the advice of friends, through inner conviction, through dreams and visions, through the gift of prophecy, through suffering, through signs and wonders. And there are many subjects that he wants to speak to us about – our time, our money, our relationships, our witness, our sins, our future, our ambitions, our love for God and our knowledge of God. Are we really listening? Or do we only hear what we want to hear?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, we are warned against quenching the Spirit. Verse 20 reveals that this can happen if we despise the gift of prophecy, an important aspect of the Spirit’s ministry. But I think it follows that we can quench the Spirit by being closed to any of the ways he desires to work in and through us. Of course we will require discernment, as verse 21 reminds us that not all that purports to be from the Spirit actually is, but that does not give us an excuse to retreat into our comfort zones, restricting God’s working in our lives to ways we find acceptable. We must let the Spirit’s fire blaze in our hearts, destroying what is worthless and producing holiness instead. Don’t quench the Spirit, but be open to all he has for you.