A Test of the Spirit’s Presence

Truth is a big deal.

It is all too common, in my experience, for church people to hide behind carefully constructed phrases and partial revelations. Under the guise of grace, we withhold truth—which means we choose darkness and Satan’s M.O which ultimately nullifies our goodwill.

Truthfulness requires us to speak-all. To shade meaning is to literally bring the darkness of the enemy into our words.

This should not be.

Those of us who work behind the scenes have a role to play in this. We are not passive conduits passing on information without responsibility. There is no heavenly sanctioned Nuremberg defense that will let us off the hook if we use deceptive methods to communicate the Gospel. Indeed, it is impossible to do so. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot use the enemies tactics to advance the Kingdom of God.

For a Christian, for one who is incorporated into Christ, to engage in deception, is to make truth itself, so far as that is possible, tell lies. It returns one to the lying system of the Prince of this World, where one prevails by darkness, by the obscuring of reality, by erasing it (so far as one is able). This fails to honor the truth that Christ brings, that Christ is —the truth that He says will set us free (Jn.8:32).

The preceding chapters deal with the connection between a Christian truthfulness and Christ’s truth. The New Testament link between the two is brought about by the Spirit when he fills Christians so they speak without restraint. The open speech is parrhesias, which literally means “speak-all” (pan-rhesia), holding nothing back. In the Christian texts, it means the speech of one totally transparent to the message being conveyed, the truth of God’s word. No filter of falsehood stands between the Spirit and the proclamation that issues from the speaker’s mouth. Over and over in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples are said to have openness in their speaking [Acts of the Apostles 2:29, 4:13, 4:29, 4:31, 9:27, 9:29, 1`3:46, 14:3, 18:26, 19:8, 26:16, 28:31] This is both free speech and freeing speech: “As they were in prayer, the place where they were meeting vibrated and they spoke, as liberated (meta parrhesia), the Word of God” (Acts4:31). In the gospel of John, Jesus sometimes does not speak with parrhesia, but in signs and parables, because he has not completed his mission (10:24, 11:54, 16:25). But when he incorporates believers into his body by the power of the Spirit, “the Defender will come, to expose the world’s lie” (16:8).

The early fathers of the church often pondered the meaning of Christian parrhesia. They made it a mark of the free communication with God that Adam had enjoyed and then lost. Origin says that the candor disappeared when Adam tried to hide from God after his sin, having a darkness now that clouded his free address to his maker. Methodius of Olympia said that Adam covered his naked body with animal skins, so he covered his mind’s parrhesia with falsehood. Athanasius said that Adam lost the contemplation of God that was paradise when he lost his “unashamed parrhesia.” But at Pentecost, the Spirit restored the parrhesia that Adam had, the free access to God which makes one no longer hide from truth, to the members of Christ’s body: “Let us, as liberated (meta-parrheisa), approach the throne of grace, to receive the mercy and find grace for our every need” (Heb 4:16). So we know one way to test the Spirit’s presence. Where she is, there is parrhesia. What does that say about the church today? (pp. 308, 309)

Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit © 2000
Garry Wills

Papal Sin is a tribute (otherwise known as a scathing critique) that only someone in love with God’s best can make. Though intended for the Catholic Church, this book is timely, weighty, prescient, and relevant to all Christian communities.
I am fond of this book partly because I am intrigued by the systems we set up and the unintended consequences of our structural decisions. It’s also just really good.

So my challenge is hopefully clear. But it’s not really a challenge. It’s more a call: to submit to the Spirit’s will, to cast off fear and embrace open speech—the language of the Spirit.



2 thoughts on “A Test of the Spirit’s Presence

  1. If were as easy as it sounds on paper, we would all be free in the truth and nothing would ever happen in the dark. However, sin is prevalent in our lives and backs us into the corner of darkness.

    Living in the light and speaking God’s truth requires so much more than just an “ok. I agree.” It requires you to die to self daily. Pushing out the temptations of the flesh– anger, jealousy, hunger for power, etc. and replacing them with grace and forgiveness.

    When our conscience is clear, authenticity and transparency are our go to’s, not our hide from’s.

    1. I agree and would say it this way: our *natural* tendency is to hide. It requires an act of will to step out into the light. But like most things, it gets easier each time we do it.
      We are afraid to look weak and foolish, but that is exactly what unmasks the enemy; that is exactly the power in the cross.
      Imagine a person hiding behind a false construct of importance, we see through it, we lose respect, we don’t trust them. But as soon as they admit to weakness (not in a glib or manipulative way) we are drawn to them, we relate, we support, we defend.
      In the end, the enemy’s lies are self defeating. They don’t work.
      Lying to protect something (reputation, money, power) actually tears it down.
      It’s like trying to tie something up by unraveling it.

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