I'm always amazed at some of the things I hear people say God told them to do. I hear them say "I feel "led of the Spirit" to do this or that.
It becomes painfully and sometimes destructively obvious that they are not being led by the Spirit of God but are being led by emotion or their natural nature. Almost invariably the end result is heartbreak and tragedy.
Because of this I wanted to share with you some very foundational things that need to be in place before you can be assured you are being led by the Holy Spirit rather than being led by emotion or the flesh.
The Bible says, that when we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.( Gal. 5:16) When people are not walking in the basic things of God like prayer and reading the Bible then they will not be walking in the Spirit.
When they are not walking in the Spirit then the leading that they will get will not come from the Spirit but it will come from either their flesh or their emotions.
Romans 8:14 says,
" For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."
The Greek word for led here is "ago" and actually acts as the root word for agon which is the Greek word to describe a wrestling match of intense agony. It is the word we get our word agony from.
This makes it plain that if we are going to start learning to be led by the Holy Spirit then we are going to have to be engaged in a battle between our flesh and our own natural desires and the things of God like reading the Bible, worship, and prayer.
We know there is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. The Bible says, that the flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with one another. I say then:
"Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Gal. 5:16-17)."
The word for contrary here According to Weusts Word Studies describes an intense conflict between mortal enemies such as two opposing armies engaged in trench warfare. They are dug in for a long drawn out battle where neither side is going to easily surrender.
This makes it apparent that if we are not doing these things, then in all likelihood, whatever we think we are hearing from God is probably not from the Spirit but from the flesh and thus we are not being submitting to the Spirit.
To walk in the Spirit we're going to be the kind of people that get up in the morning and spend a good long time in prayer and meditation in the Bible.
Then we go about our day worshiping Him, and listening to praise CD's and listening to the Bible on CD and spending quality time with your fellow believers at church and other activities.
We are keeping our selves in tune with the Spirit. We are laying down our rights in favor of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us. We want His will and not our own.
If you do these things then you are more than likely hearing from God and being led by the Spirit. If you are not, then the opposite is true and it is probably not a good idea to follow that leading.
If we're living an undisciplined life of only occasional time spent being quiet before the Lord, we better take what we think we're sensing in our spirit and seriously run it through some tests before acting on it.
If we are going to start learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit then we need to learn how to tell the difference between the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7) and just a emotional calm that comes over us at times when we cease striving.
In years past, saints of old called this "praying through". It is a place of sweet intimacy with the Lord that comes when you have prayed about something to the point that you sense the peace of God.
It is a place of deep inner peace. It is not the same as just having a calm emotional state. It is a spiritual calm. It is much deeper than just a lack of emotional or mental turmoil. It is a peace that passes all understanding.
This is one of the signs that you are sensing the leading of the Holy Spirit in what you are seeking guidance about. It does not mean that you might not still struggle with something but in the end you have a sound assurance that God is in control.
As you become more mature spiritually you will be able to tell the difference and allow the peace of God to be the ruling agent in your spirit.
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful ( Col 3:15)."
We need to understand that God does not lead where it is in disagreement with the Bible. There may be times that God leads us where the Bible is silent, but there will never be a time where God leads contrary to what is revealed in the scripture.
Here are some common things I have heard that is obviously not in line with the scripture.
"I'm being led by the Spirit stay home from church to watch the football game."
Uh, wrong! You lost on Jeopardy baby! The Bible tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:24, 25). It is obviously somebody wanting to do what pleases them and not God.
"The Lord told me to leave this church."
It all depends on why they are leaving. Many times people leave because of conflicts with other members or the leadership of the church. If it is motivated by this type of thing then it is not God because the Bible tells us to forgive each other and bear with one another in love. (Eph.4:32)
Many times God brings those conflicts and issues in your life to cause you to work through them and not to run away from them. If you leave without working out the problem, then rest assured God will bring the same problem before you wherever you go until you walk through the trial rather than trying to avoid it.
"I am moving out of town to take a job that pays more money"
There are times when this can be of God but it all depends on the circumstances. If they already have a job that is providing for their family then the leading may be false.
Are they hearing the Holy Spirit inside to go minister to other people or are they being led by the desire for riches or promotion?
Many times God puts us in situations that are tight financially to teach us to rely on Him for provision rather than upon ourselves. Many times God wants us to prosper and bloom right where we are planted.
The motivation of the heart needs to be seriously looked at before you can claim you are hearing the Holy Spirit clearly in this. Hebrews says that the Bible discerns the thoughts and intents of our hearts. (Heb. 4:12)
"I am leaving this church because someone else is leaving."
I have heard this many times and I always think to myself, why were you here in the first place? Were you called to this body of Christ or were you following men?
The Bible says that a local body of believers in knit together. (Eph. 4:16) and that God uses each member to supply what the other members need. When God called you to that local body of believers you became an integral part of that body.
If you leave for reasons that are not spiritually minded, you cause a wound to happen to those that Jesus loves. Leaving a church to follow someone else is not spiritually minded towards those that God called you to.
I am not one that believes you have to get a Pastor's permission before you make decisions in your life. I think that mentality comes from spiritually abusive leadership models and churches.
I do believe though in getting wise counsel from a multitude of counselors. (Prov. 11:14) Your pastor should be regarded in your life as someone who gives wise counsel and as such, should be one of the resources you turn to in order to discern if what you are sensing from God is in fact being Spirit led.
He has devoted his life to following God and has been on many journeys in how the Holy Spirit leads us that you probably haven't been on. He is also commissioned by God to be a watchman over your soul. (Heb. 13:17)
God always confirms His leading with signs following. I had a person tell me once that "Where God guides, God provides." I have found this to be true.
Remember God is not impatient. It is OK for you to take time making your decisions. In fact, if you are driven to make the decision immediately then it is probably a good sign that another source is leading you rather than the Holy Spirit.
When I was struggling with whether or not God was leading me back into ministry after going through the pain and tragedy of divorce, I wrestled, waited and placed the decision in God's hands. I did not want to be living in something that was not meant for me again.
God confirmed His leading with 3 prophetic words given to me by 3 different people at 3 different churches all of whom did not know me previously or know each other.
I also received good advice from those in my circle that were godly and mature believers in Jesus who all had some type of ministry experience, including my pastor at the time who gave me opportunity to start ministering in the Word once again
So what I have shared with you is not something that I just preach, I have and do practice it to this day.
David wrote in Psalm 18
He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places.
When you have all 4 of these signposts operating in a situation then you can be rest assured you are being led by the Spirit. You can be confident like King David that your feet are as sure as the feet of a deer climbing a high mountain.
Pastor Duke Taber is the Senior Pastor at The Vineyard Church in San Carlos Ca. He is an alumnus from Life Pacific College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He is a husband, father, and grandfather.
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