The Holy Spirit is vital in your life as a believer. The truth is you cannot live a successful Christian life, or any part of the Christian life, without the help of the Holy Spirit. He is that important to your life as a Christian. I can look back over my life and see a trail of futile attempts to do things in my own strength. As you can imagine I failed miserably because that was never God’s intention and why he sent the Holy Spirit to be our helper. One of the ways the Holy Spirit helps you is by leading you, but what does it mean to be led by the Spirit? This is another one of those transformational truths that you must grasp if you want to live the life God desires you to live.
What does it mean to be led by the Spirit?
In case you are not sure let me define what it means to be led by the Spirit. This means to be prompted, instructed, or directed by the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 4:1 we see an example of Jesus being led by the Spirit. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. On this occasion, Jesus was prompted and directed by the Holy Spirit to go into the wilderness. This was a normal part of Jesus’ life while he walked the earth. He was led by the Spirit, to demonstrate to us how that type of life looks.
Two reasons why being led by the Spirit is so important:
1. It defines who you are.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” – Romans 8:14
Being led by the Spirit identifies you as a child of God but this also means the opposite is true. If you are not led by the Spirit, you are not his child. Paul is making a very strong statement on the identity of a true child of God. The definitive marker of God’s children is they are led by the Spirit. Notice he didn’t define it by how much you read your Bible, pray, or go to church. All these things are wonderful and necessary, but people do these things all the time without the Holy Spirit being present in their life. What sets you apart as a child of God is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within you, which allows you to be led by him.
2. It defines whose you are.
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” – Romans 8:16
The Spirit does not just define who you are, it also defines whose you are. The presence of the Holy Spirit in your life comes into agreement with your spirit allowing you to know that you belong to God. That’s why you can be confident in your relationship with God and your eternal home in heaven, because of the Holy Spirit within your heart.
What are the benefits of being led by the Spirit?
For a moment let me switch from the reasons to the benefits that come from being led by the Spirit.
1. He frees you from the curse of the law.
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” – Galatians 5:18
There are only two ways you can attempt to live the Christian life, either in your own strength or by the Holy Spirit’s strength. When you attempt to do this all yourself in effect you are living under the curse of the law. Your greatest efforts to live right will always fall short of God’s commands for your life. Not because your intentions are bad, but because your sinful nature is too strong. This is where being led by the Spirit comes into play. If you simply follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, he will help you to live up to the standards of the law. When you come into agreement with him in this fashion, this frees you to live because you are allowing the Spirit of God to live in you and through you.
2. He will help you make better decisions.
The reality of life is we have so many choices and decisions to make every day. This is one of the best aspects of what it means to be led by the Spirit. You can know what steps you need to take. Imagine for a moment how your life would change just by following the leading of the Holy Spirit. There are great examples throughout the scriptures of men and women being led by the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts for example is filled with them. The Holy Spirit was directing where to go, what to do, and when to do it. He was actively engaged in leading every aspect of their life. This is what he desires to do in your life. If you will listen, he will help you make better choices and lead you on the paths he wants you to walk in.
3. He will keep you from falling into sin.
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:16
I can say this without any reservation. If you will live your life being led by the Spirit, he will keep you from falling into sin. The reason people fall into sin is not because the Spirit of God is not there to help them, it is because they neglect or reject his assistance. We must all understand the pull of the flesh is great and to overcome it you need a power that is greater than your flesh. The Spirit of God is that power and when you are led by the Spirit, he will help you overcome the desires of your flesh.
How do you know the Holy Spirit is leading you?
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
Since we are called to be led by the Spirit, how do you know it is the Spirit who is leading you and not just your own impulses? That is a great question, and I am glad you asked. We are reminded in 1 John we need to test the spirits to know they are of God. Let me help you discern when you are being led by the Holy Spirit.
1. He will lead you gently but firmly.
The Spirit of God is all-powerful, but he doesn’t lead with aggression. He will lead you gently but firmly. Let me give you some practical examples to help you.
If you are watching something that is not good for you, he may lead you to turn it off.
If you are in a conversation with someone that is not healthy, he may prompt you to step away and stop the conversation.
He may lead you to speak to someone and share the gospel with them.
He may put a thought in your heart to pray right now and for a specific thing.
There are so many times the Spirit of God speaks to you, and you must pay attention to those gentle but firm directives because they may be from the Holy Spirit.
2. His leading will always be in alignment with God’s Word.
As important as those gentle directives are you still must test them. One of the best tests is to see if they are in alignment with what God has said in the Bible. The Holy Spirit will always operate within the boundaries of the Word of God. He will never lead you to do something that will contradict what is in the Word. You can be certain if the impulse to do something does not align with God’s word it is not the Holy Spirit.
3. He will always glorify the name of Jesus.
When you are led by the Spirit the glory of your actions will always go back to Jesus. He will never lead you to do something that will not bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus. If the action or decision you are considering would bring shame to Jesus’ name, you are not being led by the Spirit.
As you are thinking about what it means to be led by the Spirit here is one last thought I want to leave with you. If you are not sure, ask.
There is nothing wrong with asking for confirmation or getting counsel when you feel you are being led by the Spirit to do something. I would even say the bigger the decision the more counsel and confirmation you need. When the decisions impact your life and those around you, then get more counsel. There is safety in that place.
Even though we are to be led by the Spirit, this does not mean we should be lone rangers, running off with every impulse of the Spirit. If you are going to live a life led by the Spirit you must be rooted in prayer, grounded in his word, and connected in fellowship with other believers. When these things are present in your life you are in the best position possible to be led by the Spirit and you can know God is leading you every step of the way.