For those of us in this walk of Faith, being led by the Spirit of Christ is important. It’s a central point of our spiritual/Christian journey. In fact, it’s a central theme of the New Testament and the highlight of the Gospel message. In His humanity, Christ prayed, “Not my mine, but your will be done.” in prayer to the Father.
Christ told his disciples that it was the most advantageous outcome for them that He departs, and the Spirit comes. (John 16:7) Later, He told his disciples to wait in the city of Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, which He called ‘the promise of my Father.’ (Luke 24:49) So we know that this was important but…are we being Led by the Spirit?
In my departure from legalism (which I probably write about too much), I came to a pretty profound realization that my faith was being held hostage by a system, by another flawed human being, by someone who took, and I gave too much power. In fact, I really stopped and asked myself the question, “According to the views of Scripture, am I even ‘saved’?” I still don’t think I was in those days.
I’ve realized now that ‘being saved’ is quite simply having faith in the atoning works of Christ, believing that what Jesus did at Calvary was enough! That anything above and beyond the works of Christ is nothing but legalism and a slap in the face of Christ because anything else is telling Him, “You weren’t enough.”
This prompted me to write the article Legislated Christians…might not be Christians And the question plays into this topic of being Led by the Spirit. For how can we be led by God’s spirit if we are being led by a system, or another human, or a denomination? Now, this may not be the perfect context for this passage, but consider 1 John 2:27;
As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
The word translated into anointing here is the Greek khris’-mah or chrisma, and is where we get Charisma. It references the special endowment of the Spirit. This same word is found in 1 John 2:29 where Scripture says, ‘But ye have an unction from the Holy One and ye know all things.’ in the KJV Bible, and translates again to ‘anointing’ in other translations.
Being Led by the Spirit is just that – being pushed, prodded, inspired, goaded, influenced, compelled, given ideas, wisdom, understanding, intellect. To have a suggestion imparted to you. Not as a puppet master that would pull strings and that all things are out of your control, but that you can feel the suggestion and relent or reject as you see fit.
This is to the degree that John felt it important enough to say, “and you have no need for anyone to teach you.” This doesn’t negate the value of teachers but it emphasizes the most important teacher. It places Christ and the Spirit of God at the top of the list.
We see in James 1:5 the advice that for those of us who are lacking wisdom, or we may even say, direction, not to seek out guru’s and church leaders for that direction and/or wisdom but rather, ask of God. And we do that via the Spirit.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Recently a man was telling me about how he felt compelled by the Spirit to move his family to a new town, take a new job and go a different direction in their lives and careers. He had previously sat under church authorities that took control of such decisions of their congregants and out of habit, he went to the pastor to ask permission for his move and choices.
To his surprise, the pastor simply responded, “What do you think God wants you to do?” The man confessed that he and his wife had been praying and they felt peace with the decision and that it was the right one. So the pastor said, “It sounds like you already have the answer! My blessings go with you.”
In another example, a topic on Facebook came up about Tithing (which I think is a false doctrine for the New Testament church, rather the free-will offerings of Pau’s teaching is correct) and church attendance. One woman who was the wife of a Pentecostal pastor was being challenged about their stance of required attendance. Her response was the most telling (and in her credit and defense, honest!) response I’ve seen in a long time.
“Well, our living is based on the offerings of the church people and if people don’t attend, they don’t pay tithes and offerings so…”
So the question becomes, is this pastor, and his wife, being Led by the Spirit, or led by a system that tricked them into thinking their living was based on church attendance? If their decisions and doctrines are held hostage by dollars, I question whether it is truly being led by the spirit.
DISCLAIMER: Why do I always feel the need to put disclaimers in my writings? Primarily because inevitably I’ll be misunderstood…I am NOT writing against the counsel of others, especially not those who you believe to be authorities (people in a position of trust) in your life. Many of us choose mentors in our lives, people who we give trust and power to help us navigate this thing called life.
Yet, we should never relegate our life choices to another flawed human being because inevitably, people fail, themselves, and us. Years ago I remember being told, “The pastor ruined our marriage because he refused to help.”
It wasn’t the pastor that ruined a marriage, it was the false idea that the pastor was there to fix a marriage and that he had any power and authority over the marriage or that he could fix anything. That was an unrealistic impression of the role of another human, even someone seen as a leader or authority.
The responsibility of the marriage was solely upon the husband, and the wife, and under a Christian context, their mutual ability or willingness to be Led by the Spirit.
About a year ago a very well-meaning young man wrote a ‘shout out’ online to me, thanking me for my work, my writings, my YouTube channel, saying, “Without Ralph, I don’t know where I would be.” This of course was a big encouragement to me, to know I was helping people. But I also remember the fear that came over me. What if I mess up and lead this young man astray?? I wrote to him, thanking him for the very kind words but encouraging him not to look at me, but to the author and finisher of his faith. I might fail, but the author never will.
Scripture teaches us simple principles like the fact that there is wisdom in the counsel of many, that where there is no counsel people fail. (Proverbs 11:14) Special Note: It says the counsel of many, not the counsel of one. No single individual should have sole control of you!
Yet, it makes it abundantly clear (via Scripture) that Christ and God the Father are our only sources for salvation, and wisdom, and understanding. And God gave His Son that we might be saved and by His Spirit we walk in faith, empowered by Him. Even Jesus said, “It isn’t me doing these works, but my Father that dwells inside of me.” (John 14:10)
Are you Led by the Spirit?
Having said all of that, I want to list some questions I asked myself when I began to search myself for what was my driving motivation and ‘unction’ – what was leading me, motivating me, guiding me, directing me. (Scripture says to ‘try every spirit, whether it be of God’ and that literally translates to ‘Look at the motivation driving people who are teaching you to see if they are motivated by greedy intentions or by God’ Who benefits from their teaching and direction?)
This may not fit all but it is a good first step in making sure you, as a Christian, believe and feel you are being led by the Spirit of God and the promise he gave us, that he would dwell in us, as a comforter, as a guide, and a father.
- When challenges and hard decisions come up in life, who do you turn to first to ask the question, “Should I….?” (If it isn’t God, you aren’t being led by the Spirit)
- Do you fear punishment/repercussion from a person if you choose not to accept their advice? (God said he would not Chastise those who ask for wisdom, men who anger when you choose not to accept their advice are leading you for their own benefit.)
- After you make a decision, one way or the other, do you feel at peace about it? Or anxious, worried, wondering what the outcome will be? (God is not the author of confusion but of peace, love and a sound mind)
- If a decision could cost you, do you weight it out, pray it out, think it out, counsel it out, or do you accept the decision of one person? (If your life decisions are being made by a single human being, such as a pastor, you are being controlled, not led.)
Remember, God never promised prosperity, nor comfort, nor a life free of troubles, anxiety, worry, fear, pain, or suffering. These ideas come from the Charismatic prosperity preachers who fool and disillusion people into thinking ‘Follow me and do what I say and you’ll have life abundant’.
In fact, I can’t count the number of times I heard the false promise, “You want that raise on the job? That wife? That home? That car? That bonus? Pray more, Give more. Sacrifice more. Come to church more. Outreach more. Do more. Do. Do. Do….”
Then I look back at the example of Scripture and think if that was a true promise, why wasn’t Paul filthy rich and have wealth, homes, chariots, servants, abundance? Why didn’t Peter have protection and power, concubines, soldiers, castles, and his hearts desires?
The final bullet point for the list above should sound like this;
- Do the things you feel led to do seem more like sacrifices than they do personal gain?
If we were honest, the leading of the Spirit, via Scriptures example, never led people to prosperity, riches, raises, material items, or amassed ‘stuff’. Rather it was always exemplified as giving, of losing, a sacrifice, to lack, and potentially lose the things you want.
Most importantly though, as exemplified in Scripture, you’ll have peace in those decisions. Even in a loss, especially in the loss of life, the examples of Scripture proved that his leading gave them peace in that decision, accepting of their fate, pleased with the outcome, and most importantly, focusing on what came after this life.
If there is one Scripture I could end this article with, nothing seems more fitting than the words of Christ in Matthew 6:19-21;
Mat 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
Mat 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Mat 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.