When Jesus headed out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, He “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Matthew 4:1). Then, when the time of testing was complete, Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). These two verses provide helpful headings for us when we consider how the Spirit operates in our lives: He leads us and He empowers us.
The Spirit Leads Us
When Jesus prepared His disciples for the Spirit’s arrival, He told them,
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever. — John 14:16
In Greek the word translated as “helper” is a combination of the words that mean “walk” and “alongside.”1 Jesus promised to send a counselor who would walk alongside His people.
The word another means another of the same kind. He would be like Jesus — except the Spirit would always walk with and live in God’s people.
So how do we keep in step with the Spirit? What does His counsel sound like? How do we even know His voice? Let me give you four critical ways the Spirit of God guides us in life.
HIS GUIDANCE IS CONSISTENT WITH SCRIPTURE
The Spirit will always be consistent with the Scriptures. As Jesus explained the Spirit’s role to the disciples, He told them,
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. — John 14:26
One of the Spirit’s primary roles in the disciples’ lives would be to teach them, reminding them of the words of Jesus.
He even referred to the Helper as “the Spirit of truth” and explained,
He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. — John 16:13-15
How do we discern the voice of the Spirit? He will sound like everything you hear Jesus say in the Gospels. The Spirit wants us to know the mind of Christ.
The Spirit of God loves the Word of God.
I had a young man approach me at church and ask me how he could learn to hear from God. I told him to read the Scriptures every day until his thoughts instinctually flowed along the channels of the revealed Word of God.
“No, I want to hear from the Spirit,” he clarified.
I told him that the apostle Paul called the Scriptures “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV). This description beautifully encapsulates what Peter explained:
No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. — 2 Peter 1:20-21
The Spirit of truth breathed out these words through the authors of this book.
This young man was learning that hearing from the Spirit required becoming familiar with the Word.
If you want to hear the Spirit’s voice, know His mind, and receive His guidance, then soak your mind with the words He inspired!
Sometimes in church culture there is a tension between “Spirit-led people” and “Bible people.” The Spirit does not know that distinction. Again, the Spirit of God loves the Word of God.
This is great news for those who want to know the mind of God. When you sit with the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit of God is far more excited about you understanding them than you are. And when the wind of God blows in your heart as you fill your mind with the thoughts of God — look out. That’s where lives change!
Several years ago I read a book entitled Fire, which told the harrowing tales of some of the largest forest fires in America’s history.2 While describing the awesome power of these blazes, the author unpacked how a fire can reach such epic proportions. He called it the “fire triangle” because all fires need three elements in order to stay burning: fuel, heat, and wind. If you have those three, then the fire triangle is stable, and the blaze will keep going. Lose one of them, and the fire will go out.
So it is with our fire of passion for God.
It must have the fuel of God’s Word in our minds. It must have the heat of our affections for God. And it must have the wind of the Spirit blowing through our lives. Just reading the Book without the Spirit guiding us could make us arrogant people (1 Corinthians 8:1). That was the problem of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day and it’s the problem of all legalists today. We need to have a heart that loves the Lord. But if the wind doesn’t blow, the fire of our love cannot continue to burn.
The Puritans used to talk about the spiritual life as light for the mind and heat for the heart. We need the Spirit to give us both illumination and affections.
This is why, every time I sit down to read God’s Word, I pray that He would open my eyes to discover wonderful things in His law (Psalm 119:18). The wonderful things are there, but I am asking Him to open my eyes to see them. Then I ask Him to “incline my heart to [His] testimonies, and not to selfish gain” (v. 36).3
I need God to move my heart to make these instructions become love. So I ask for the wind to blow into my devotional moment with Him. I can build the altar. I can make time to stack up the fuel of His Word in my mind, but I need the wind to blow in order for that fuel to become the fire of affection and action.
How do you know the voice of the Spirit? He will sound like God’s Word.
Conversely, He won’t sound anything like your flesh.
Watch the Video
- Strong’s Greek Concordance, s.v. “3875. paraklétos,” Bible Hub, accessed October 4, 2021, https://biblehub.com/greek/3875.htm.
- Stephen J. Pyne, Fire: A Brief History (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2001), xv.
- I am indebted to John Piper for this encouragement.
Excerpted with permission from Rest and War by Ben Stuart, copyright Ben Stuart.
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Let’s get into the Word! If we want to know the Spirit, hear the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and live by the Spirit, we need to read the Word of God and be familiar with what He has said. Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily