I’ll start by saying I’m a Cessationist. Cessationism is the view that the “miracle gifts” of tongues and healing have ceased—that the end of the apostolic age brought about a cessation of the miracles associated with that age.
So how does the Holy Spirit operate in the lives of Christians today? In 1 Corinthians 2:14 we read, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” How is anything “spiritually discerned”?
To begin with, we should define the term “spirit.” Spirit refers to a person’s mind, their consciousness or personality. So the Holy Spirit, being one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, is a mind, a center of consciousness.
Human minds are introduced to God’s mind through reading his word. From that point on, the person who has read the Bible knows God’s mind. And knowing God’s mind, they have received the communication from God that he has made available to us. So a Christian can rightly say, “The Holy Spirit has revealed such-and-such to me,” in the sense that they meditated on the word of God, and realized what it says about that particular issue. That is how a matter is “spiritually discerned.” The Holy Spirit does not “speak out loud” to people audibly, or in their mind. Likewise the Holy Spirit does not communicate with Christians by giving them physical sensations in the body when they pray. Rather, communication with the Holy Spirit is solely through a realization of what the Bible teaches. And it is mentally/spiritually made known to the reader by God, that what his word teaches is the truth.
This means communication with the Holy Spirit is not scientifically testable. It cannot be tested through a process of repetition and observation. Communication with God is a mental/spiritual/immaterial process, not a physical one. And this fact preserves free will, because someone who has read the Bible, and thus received spiritual communication from God, can choose to deny that any such communication took place. No one can point to a physical reality that resulted from the communication, thus forcing the person to admit it happened.
So we are given a broad outline of how God communicates, but are left without all the details we would like. For example, how does God make it known to the human mind that his word is truth? What mental/spiritual/immaterial process authenticates God’s word to the reader? As with so many other questions, God gives us enough knowledge to justify faith in him, but withholds enough knowledge so that anyone looking for an excuse not to believe, will be able to find one.