Led by the Spirit

1. The principle
"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." (Romans 8.l4) The Children of God will be led by the Spirit.
Read Romans 8.1-16
2. The promise
"I will not leave you as orphaned; I am coming to you." (John 14.18-19)." I will never leave you or forsake you." (Deut.31.6 quoted Hebrews 13.5). "He will call to me, I will answer them." (Psalms. 91.15).
"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord " (Jer. 29.11-14a).
" I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." (Psalm 32.8).
How does God fulfill the promise to be with us?
"it is that very Spirit bearing witness withour spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8.16):

  • the Holy Spirit bears witness testifies to us, supplies evidence – that we are God’s children;
  • the Spirit does this through our spirits.

"The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord, searching every inmost part." (Proverbs. 20.27). The Lord guides us and enlightens us through our spirits.
3. The desire of God
Eternal life is not just a gift, but an intimate relationship of knowing God (John 17.3). The Lord rejoices over us (Isa. 62.5). God longs to love us and be in communion with us. Our spirits respond with longing for God (Psalm 42.1-2; Phil. 3.1-11). The Psalms are full of the exuberance of David’s relationship with The Lord.
We seek to be led by the Spirit and to be in fellowship with the Spirit not just for guidance and direction, but to share a love relationship with God.
4. The human spirit
Humanity is made in the image of God (Gen. 1.26-27). God is a spirit (John 4.24). Each human is also a spirit.
Paul describes as "I" that part of him which will depart to be with the Lord (Phil. 1.23-24). There is an inward person and an outward person (2 Cor. 4.16) "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" (2 Cor. 5.17) What is new?
In John 3.3-6, Jesus speaks of being born again of the Spirit. The part of us that is born again is our spirit. It is the human spirit that is made a new and eternal creature in Christ. Eternal life begins when one is born again; it is now (1 John 5.13).
Spirit and soul are not the same. In Hebrews 4.12 there is psuche – soul; and pnuema – spirit. Consider I Cor. 14.4: when you pray in tongues, your spirit prays, but your mind is not fruitful. Consider James 1.21: "… welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls." James is speaking to his "beloved" (v.l9). Why then do their souls [ psuche ] need saving, if they have been born again? Romans 12.2 – renewing of the mind. Psalm 23.3 – restoring of the soul. Our spirits have been born again to eternal life, but our souls are being transformed and renewed daily.
The body must be presented to God (Romans 12.1). Who presents it? We ourselves control our bodies and keep them in subjection (I Cor. 9.27).
The human body:

  • relates to physical things;
  • is to be presented by us to God for use in God’s service;
  • is to be kept under control by us;
  • will be resurrected and changed at the second coming of the Lord (I Thess. 4.13-18).

The human soul:

  • is the place of will, intellect, emotions and memory;
  • relates to intellectual and emotional things;
  • is being transformed and renewed by the Word of God into the image of Jesus Christ.

The human spirit:

  • relates to spiritual things;
  • has been born again to eternal life by the Spirit of God;
  • is directed by the Holy Spirit.

5. Indwelt by the Spirit
The Spirit of God lives within us! (Revelation 3.20 ; Romans 8.9-11). Where? In the inner person – our spirit. God dwells with us and leads us through our spirits. God gives a new heart (inner person) which is soft and responsive to God (Ezekiel 36.26-27) " the one who is in you [the Holy Spirit] is greater than the one who is in the world [Satan]." (1 John 4.4).
Romans 8.14 is a principle as well as a promise. God’s Spirit dwelling within our spirit speaks to us of our sonship and daughterhood. By the Spirit we cry "Father!" (v.l5). Our relationship with God is grounded in the spiritual, for example our worship (John 4.24; Phil. 3.3).
6. Led by the Spirit – The inner witness
The inward witness is the primary way God leads God’s children. I Corinthians 2.6-16.
"My sheep hear my voice" (John 10.27).
God will speak to us through spontaneous ideas or thoughts in our minds. The voice of God is often gentle and quiet (1 Kings 19.11-12). It is often similar to our own thoughts, but we may sense that it comes from the inner person rather than our intellect. It may cause a special response, by which we learn to recognise God’s voice. The voice of the spirit will bring with it strength and encouragement to respond.
God will communicate with us in visual images through the "eyes of the spirit" or vision. There are various types of visions, for example:

  • dream or vision in the night (Acts 16.9);
  • vision received as in a trance (Acts 10.10-16);
  • seeing outside ourselves with spiritual eyes (Acts 7.55-56);
  • an "inner picture" with the "mind’s eye".

These may come to us spontaneously or be a response from God to a specific prayer. We are to "watch" – be alert for what God is doing and saying (Habbakuk 2.1-2). We may also discover God’s direction through study and careful analytical thought. Luke compiled his Gospel (Luke 1.3) through careful investigation and planning – yet it is the revelation of God.
We may find God’s paths through careful thought and study if we commit our work to God (Psalm 37.5-6; Proverbs 3.5-6). But our heart attitude must be one of submission and dependence. Don’t make an idol of the intellect. Rather, serve God with all of your mind – this is part of the greatest commandment (Matthew 22.27-38). While praying or studying, remain open to spontaneous thoughts or ideas from the Holy Spirit.
Trust the voice of your spirit. 1 John 3.9 – it is not the inward nature that sins. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will teach us and remind us of Jesus’ words (John 16.13). "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." (John 14.23).
"Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3.16). "For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’" (2 Cor. 6.16). Jesus dwells in us, by the Spirit (Rev. 3.20). "What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people." (John 1.3b-4). The Light of the World lives in your spirit.
Confirmations and safeguards for the inner witnes

  1. Peace. Gal. 5.22; Phil. 4.7; Rom. 8.6; 1 Cor. 14.33; Col. 3.15.
  2. Scripture.
    Our perceptions should be tested by the Bible. It is our job to check (I John 4.1-3) and the Holy Spirit has been promised to guide us as we seek the truth. "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good" (I Thess. 5.19-21).
    As we read and hear the Bible, it will be built into our lives. The Holy Spirit will draw on the things we have heard to speak to us and reveal God’s direction (John 14.26).
  3. A teachable spirit.
  4. The Conscience
  5. Wise counsel (Proverbs 11.14).
  6. Spiritual gifts – Prophecy, a word of wisdom or other spiritual gift may be used by God to confirm something we have perceived in our hearts.
  7. Revelation usually relates to our own lives. God speaks to us in our hearts concerning things which are within our own lives, authority and ministry.

7. Led by the Spirit – the inward voice of the conscience
The conscience is informed by Scripture and made alive by the Spirit.
"I am speaking the truth in Christ I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit " (Romans 9.1). "Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people." (Acts 24.16.) 2 Cor. 4.2 – the conscience is able to judge the truth. Willful rejection of the truth causes the conscience to be "seared" – no longer sensitive (1 Tim. 4.2).
An example of the role of the conscience – 1 Peter 13-16. Hebrews speaks of the blood of Christ as cleansing the conscience (Heb. 9.14) – an uneasy conscience is a warning. Paul exhorted Timothy to hold on to a good conscience (1 Tim. 1.19).
What God shows us about ourselves or asks us to do won’t always be comfortable. Let’s be responsive to what we perceive in our consciences and not stubborn (Psalm 32.9).
8. God speaks sovereignly

  1. The voice of the Spirit – Sometimes God speaks as though with an audible voice, e.g. Acts 10.19; Acts 11.12; I Samuel 3. Our response? "Speak, for your servant is listening" (I Samuel 3.10).
  2. Dreams and visions – (Acts 2.17; Acts 29.19; Acts 9.8-12; Acts 10.1-3,9-11; Acts 29.19; Hebrews 13.2) God does give dreams and visions. Sometimes they are symbolic. Scripture records visions of angels and even of Jesus himself.
  3. Prophecy and other gifts of the spirit

9. Warnings

  1. We are sometimes blessed by an audible voice from God or "word from God" through prophecy or other gift of the Spirit. But don’t chase after these things. God gives them when needed. It is in our own spirits that God has promised to communicate with us. A word from God" should be tested and will usually confirm something we are aware of already, or perhaps give some detail, a warning, or an extra step.
  2. Prove everything by the Scripture (see 4. above). If what you seem to have discerned seems contrary to Scripture, think again! Or maybe your understanding of Scripture is faulty study and ask for advice.
  3. Do seek advice and counsel (Proverbs 11.14), but advisers and counselors may often point to the Bible and to wisdom gained from good experience. You cannot require a counsellor to have a "word from God". That’s up to God.
  4. Submission to authority. God has established authorities (Romans 13.1-2). Children are to submit to parents (Co1.3.20), spouses to each other (Eph. 5.22-24), people to elders of the church (1 Pet. 5.1-5) and elders to each other (Eph. 5.21). Workers and employers, citizens and governments – all are under some authority. God’s people are to be submitted to each other. We all need trusted friends to check us and confirm our paths.
  5. But sometimes we must disagree with authority, when our disagreement is soundly based. Then we should act firmly, but respectfully and from a humble attitude. Study the behaviour and attitude of Daniel in chapter 1.
  6. Don’t get fleeced! Gideon’s experience with the fleeces (Judges 6.39-40) is not a model for Christian guidance by the Spirit. Gideon was not a prophet, priest or king. In those times, the Spirit was not present with the rest of the people such as Gideon. But God dwells in us.

10. When we may not hear

  1. When we have not obeyed what the Spirit last said to us.
  2. When we ask something that is not our business to know or which is beyond our understanding (e.g. Judges 13.18). Concentrate on "what?" and "how?" rather than "why?".
  3. When we ask from wrong motives (James 4.3). "O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?"

11. Be still and wait
The Holy Spirit will give us ideas and thoughts spontaneously throughout the day. But we need to regularly spend time to be quiet before God, to talk with God and to hear what God is saying to us. "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46.10). How? This too is something to be learned. But here are a few idea

  • find some place away from distractions and reasonably comfortable
  • let go of striving and relax
  • the attitude of faith says that God is hearing us And responding to us whether we particularly "feel" it Or not
  • Jesus is the one who is our centre of focus, not ourselves (2 Cor. 3.18; Heb. 12.2). Begin your time with God with love and worship of Jesus.

Waiting on God (Isa. 40.31) means to hope strongly, to trust with firmness and constancy of mind. We wait steadfastly and patiently.
12. Righteousness and peace
If we wish to walk hand-in-hand with God and to be led by God’s Spirit, we must be in good relationship with God. The peace of God is to guide us in all our decisions, but we cannot have peace if we are in conflict because of unrighteousness and sinfulness. It isour responsibility to ensure we are in a place where we can hear the Spirit of God.
" Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other." (Psalm 85.10). "Be reconciled to God …" (2 Corinthians 5.20) "Examine yourself and only then eat and drink " (1 Corinthians 11.28). " Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace in peace because they trust in you." (Isaiah 26.3). See also 1 John 1.9, 2.1 Hebrews 10.19-22
13. Listening must be learned
The inward witness of the spirit is of course subjective. Therefore we must learn to recognise the voice of our spirit and hear and respond to the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is a teacher. The Spirit has been sent to lead us into all truth. If you respond to the Spirit, the Spirit will teach you gently, carefully and well.
A mentor, a mature Christian friend, can be helpful particularly as we grow in public ministry in response to the Holy Spirit.
14. Training ourselves to be led by the Spirit

  • Meditate on Scripture.
    "This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful." (Joshua 1.8) – prosperity through meditation on the God’s words.
  • Think on good things (Philippians 4.8-9).
  • Feed your inner man / woman. The new birth is a birth of your human spirit. Your human spirit is indwelt by the Spirit of God and is informed constantly by God, but it nevertheless needs to become a stronger and more authoritative voice in your life by being fed on good food.
  1. Give priority to what the Bibletrully says and be "doers of the word" (James 1.22).
  2. Pray in tongues – Prayer in tongues is prayer from your spirit and strengthens your spirit. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves " (1 Cor 14:4)
  3. Obey the voice of your spirit. – God communicates to you through your spirit, for that is where God is (1 John 4.4). Train yourself to respond to your conscience and the inward witness of your spirit.