This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on Jesus and the Holy Spirit from Luke/Acts preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday March 10-11, 2012.

This sermon is an excellent case study in a vital life skill – responding to things we don’t understand and/or make us uncomfortable. It is hard to preach on the Holy Spirit in a way that will make everyone comfortable – strange since one of His titles is “the Comforter.”

Stranger still is the strong human tendency to listen poorly and react quickly when we don’t understand something. When we don’t understand our fears become the filter for what we hear and preemptively start trying to take the conversation back to where we’re comfortable before we know where it’s starting.

Think about your last several conflicts or times you felt misunderstood. What were your fears and how did they become the filter for what the other person was saying? How did you try harder to move the conversation to your comfort zone than understand what the other person was saying?

Think about the last several times you heard someone debate politics. Can you find those same themes of listening through a fear-filter and moving the conversation to home turf?

Now, think about having a conversation about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. Think about having that conversation with someone who may not agree with you. Think about worshipping in the same church or being in the same small group.

What are your fears? How do they shape the way that you see this person (who right now only exists in your imagination)? What caricatures have you already placed on them? What emotional responses or demeanors do you “know” they are going to have?

You have just articulated your fear filter.

What is your home turf? Do you seek to change the subject because you don’t know what you believe? What phrases start the conversation or get repeated most frequently in your mental dialogue? What passages of Scripture are defining and which ones get explained away? When do you realize you don’t care what the other person says?

You have just defined your home turf or comfort zone.

Are you still talking to a “friend” or have they become an opponent in your imagination?

What is my point? One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to bring unity (Eph 4:3). Another role is to calm fear and give the love/self-control necessary to listen well (2 Tim 1:7). The place where we should most effectively learn this vital life skill is when we are studying the One who enables us to learn it.

My encouragement to you is to begin to learn to listen well to things that you don’t understand and make you uncomfortable. Use this sermon as an opportunity to learn this skill by the Spirit, in the Spirit, and about the Spirit.

After that demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit by blessing your family, friends, and co-workers with what God is doing in your life. Begin to be like the Holy Spirit as you listen to people well enough to translate their hearts to the Father in prayer (Rom 8:26).

As you do this, I believe you will find that your relationships and emotions begin to be marked by the kind of peace that Scripture repeatedly says is a mark of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31, Rom 8:6, Gal 5:22).