How to be Led by the Spirit

John’s gospel records a number of Jesus’ promises concerning the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of believers. Let’s read a few of them:

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you (John 14:16-17).

But 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 said to you (John 14:26).

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you….I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, he will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you (John 16:7, 12-15).

Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would abide in them. He would also help them, teach them, guide them and show them things to come. As Christ’s disciples today, we have no reason to think the Holy Spirit would do any less for us.

Amazingly, Jesus told His disciples that it was to their advantage that He go away or else the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come! That indicated to them that their fellowship with the Holy Spirit could be just as intimate as if Jesus were physically present with them all the time. Otherwise it wouldn’t be to their advantage to have the Holy Spirit with them rather than Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is always with us and in us.

In what ways should we expect the Holy Spirit to lead us?

His very name, Holy Spirit, indicates that His primary role in leading us will be in leading us to be holy and obedient to God. So everything that pertains to holiness and the accomplishing of God’s will on earth is within the realm of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He will lead us to obey all of Christ’s general commandments as well as in Christ’s specific commandments that pertain to the unique ministry God has called us to. So if you want to be led by the Spirit in regard to your specific ministry, you must also be led by the Spirit in general holiness. You can’t have one without the other. Too many ministers want the Holy Spirit to lead them into great ministry exploits and miracles, but don’t want to bother with the “smaller” aspects of general holiness. That is a great error. How did Jesus lead His disciples? Primarily by giving them general instructions in holiness. His specific leadings for their ministerial responsibilities were rare by comparison. So it is with the Holy Spirit who indwells us. So if you want to be led by the Spirit, you must first of all follow His leadings to be holy.

The apostle Paul wrote, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). It is our being led by the Spirit that marks us as being among those who are God’s children. Thus all of God’s children are being led by the Spirit. It is up to us of course, as free moral agents, to obey the Spirit’s leadings.

All of this being so, no Christian really needs to be taught how to be led by the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is already leading every Christian. On the other hand, Satan is trying to mislead God’s children, and we still have the old nature of the flesh within us that leads us contrary to God’s will. So believers do need to learn to discern the Spirit’s leading from those other leadings. That is a process on the road to maturity. But the foundational fact that is this: The Spirit will always lead us in line with God’s written Word, and He will always lead us to do what is right and pleasing to God, what will bring Him glory (see John 16:14).