So, today, we are concluding our shorter series on the Holy Spirit entitled “The Leading of the Holy Spirit.” (If you desire to hear more on this subject, I did a much longer and more extensive teaching on How to Hear from God and Be Led by Holy Spirit at the church in 2015. So, you can either go to our website @ www.highpointmacon.com and listen to it or I will be happy to send you the notes).
However, in this particular teaching on being led by the Spirit, we are looking at a type and shadow of the Holy Spirit that was used in the Old Testament to illustrate how the Holy Spirit leads us—the Cloud that led the children of Israel in the wilderness.
We began by understanding that even though the cloud is what led them in their journey through the wilderness, there was still the need to listen to Moses. Yes, even though the children of Israel were being led by a spiritual thing, this did not mean that they did not need “Moses.” He was an extremely important part of Israel’s direction and guidance in the wilderness. So, we saw that Moses was a type of the Word of God—being the one who both received God’s Word for Israel and delivered it to them. He was also the one who delivered to them God’s law—His commandments, statutes, precepts, etc. So, the lesson we learned is this: Just as the cloud gave Israel direction of where to go and when to go there, they also needed God’s mouthpiece to keep them within the parameters of God’s will for their lives. And the fact is, because they had such a hard time receiving God’s directions through Moses, they were unable to possess their Promised Land. This teaches me that while the Holy Spirit dwells within us to lead and guide us, we do not need to make the mistake of putting Moses outside of our proverbial camp and only being “Spirit-led.” Why? Because the Spirit of God never will operate contrary to the Word of God. They always agree! In fact, in regards to hearing from God and being led by the Holy Spirit, I made the point that just as the Holy Spirit helps us to understand what God’s Word is saying, God’s Word is how we can more accurately discern the leading of the Holy Spirit on the inside of us.
Then, last week, we delved deeper into this supernatural phenomenon where God gave the children of Israel a cloud to follow by day and a pillar of fire to give them light by night, but we learned that even though the children of Israel were being led externally through a supernatural method, this is not the primary way that God leads His children today. No, if we are being led by the Holy Spirit then our direction is not coming from without; it comes from within! Therefore, no longer is the Lord primarily directing by the clouds in the heavens; today, the cloud is inside of us, leading us from within. Amen!
We saw how this is very important to understand because if we are waiting on the Lord to lead & guide us in external ways, we might be waiting a while. Why? Because they are few and far between. However, if we learn to look within, and discern the leading of the cloud within us, we can consistently hear from the Holy Spirit and be led on a daily basis by Him.
So, yes, the Holy Spirit serves the purpose to us today of “leading” us in the way in the day and giving us “light” in the night. And we saw how this is certainly echoed throughout the New Testament where we constantly see verses that teach us how the son and daughter of God are to be led by the Spirit of God.
One passage of Scripture that we camped on last week was Romans 8:14-17 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
And we first learned from this that the key qualifier to being Spirit-led is having a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father—for the context of these verses paints this picture. But we looked at verse 14 and saw how another major key to being Spirit-led is having faith that we are led by the Spirit. You see, when this verse says that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” then that means that if we are a child of God, we are Spirit-led. Amen? So, if this is true then what words should never come out of our mouth? “I have such a hard time being led by the Spirit … I wish I was led by the Spirit like so and so … etc.” We looked at John chapter 10 and saw that Jesus also told us that if we are His sheep, then we both hear & know His voice—and as we do, we follow Him. Therefore, we do well to believe what Jesus said and not what our experiences might have taught us. So, my point was, we need to get into agreement with God and start believing and expecting to be led by the Spirit of God.
We then looked at Romans 8:16 and saw one of the primary ways that the Holy Spirit leads us today—by the cloud within us (i.e. the inward witness). We saw that this inward, co-witness is in us to testify that we are God’s children. Therefore, if that is how the Holy Spirit shows us something so significant, then shouldn’t we expect Him to show us other things in the same way? In other words, won’t He lead us by simply bearing witness in our hearts? So, the same way that we know we are saved—we just know—is the same way we will know what job to take, who to marry, etc. It is an inward witness that convinces us of these things.
So, we concluded last week by looking at a few ways that this inward witness manifests within us:
We saw that it can be described as a “knowing” (see First John 2:20). So, if you are like, “Ehhh, I don’t know about that” or “Ehhh, I’m not sure why, but there is something not right about that.” Those “Ehhh’s” are oftentimes how the Holy Spirit is co-witnessing with our spirit to not do a certain thing. So, learn to obey those checks in your spirit promptly because oftentimes they are the Holy Spirit leading you not to do something. Again, how many times have we all known we were supposed to do something or knew we were not supposed to do something, and we went against that “unction” and regretted it later? We have all done that. But this is where we need to learn to heed that “knowing” (i.e. those promptings and impressions).
We also saw that the inward witness can be described as the desires of our heart. So, we looked at Psalm 37:4 and saw that God gives us the desires of our heart when we delight ourselves in Him. And we learned that there is another way to interpret this verse: It can be saying that as we delight ourselves in the Lord, we can trust that the desires that are in our heart are given to us by God. In other words, those desires that we have are God-given desires and are, therefore, His plan and direction for our lives. So, the point I made was that as we are genuinely seeking first the kingdom of God—abiding in and delighting ourselves in our Lord—He will give us newly inspired desires that are in line with His will for our lives. Therefore, we can trust those desires as being from Him and follow them as being God’s direction.
Finally, we saw that another way that the inward witness manifests is in peace: We looked at Colossians 3:15 where Paul says, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…” It says in the Amplified Bible— “And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as an umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] …” So, as evidenced by the Amplified Bible’s translation, the word “rule” that Paul used here literally describes a referee or umpire that is officiating something. Paul was saying that we are to let the fruit of peace be the umpire of our hearts, which means that it should call the shots in all of the decisions of our life. In other words, if there is not any peace in a decision we are going to make, then God is not in it. The Holy Spirit will let us know whether it is “safe” to proceed, or you are “out” of God’s will. In fact, we also saw that, along with peace, all of the fruit of the Spirit are indicators of our spirit and the Holy Spirit bearing witness together on something.
So, all of these things—that knowing, those godly desires, and the fruit of the Spirit—are good indicators that the Spirit of God is directing us. So again, believe God’s Word which says you are led by the Spirit and pursue that good relationship of God. Then you can trust that as you are moving forward, doing what He has already told us to do in His Word, that He will guide you in every decision you make, and you will stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Amen!
And again, church, this is the key to walking in all of the promises of God—learning to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. Yes, following the Holy Cloud within us will keep us right in the middle of God’s perfect protection for our lives!
HE’S GOT US COVERED!
In fact, this was another benefit to the cloud that led them by day and the fire that gave them this light: they also served as protection from the harmful elements and other things. Psalms 105:39 says, “He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night.”
You see, the children of Israel were walking through a desert—specifically the wilderness of Saudi Arabia. And many of us know that in a desert, the day is very hot and the night is very cold. So, God gave them a pillar of cloud by day not only to lead them but to protect them from the scorching hot sun and a pillar of fire by night not only to give them light but to give them warmth. Not to mention, that light was particularly useful in the evenings in the desert because how many of you know, there are some dangerous critters creeping around in deserts?
So, this means the Lord had them “covered” both by day and by night. Likewise, the Holy Spirit covers us during the daytime and He is a pillar of fire in the nighttime. And the truth is, we all have these day and night times in our Christian walk. The day times are when the light is present, when things are more comfortable, and when there are not the intense run-ins with the kingdom of darkness. These are the good times. The night times, however, are when darkness is much more present, when we cannot see as clearly, and when it seems like we are being attacked on every side.
But the Holy Spirit has us “covered” at all times! For example, we can see how the Holy Spirit helped the children of Israel before they crossed the Red Sea: In Exodus 14:19-20, we are told— "And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus, it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.”
This is exactly what the Holy Spirit is willing to do for us when we are caught between a rock and a hard place (i.e. between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army): He will stand in the gap for us by perhaps ministering to the one who is pursuing us and turning their hearts away from us. Yes, the Holy Spirit will defend us, if we let Him. As long as we are where He is leading us, we can expect the Holy Spirit’s protection.
But herein lies a good point: What if one the sheep of Israel decided to depart from that cloud by day or fire by night? Yes, what if they left the fold and decided to do their own thing? Would it have been God’s fault if they got burned or snake-bit? Absolutely not! So, why do so many in the church today say that God led them into their particular trial and tribulation? Could it be that we left His covering?
And I don’t bring this up to make us think about all the things that have happened in our past, but rather to cause us to realize that following the Lord’s direction is a key element to avoiding the harmful elements of this world. Amen? We must be Spirit-led, church!
This is why that great Psalm of protection—Psalm 91—begins with the condition: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).
Notice that we are the ones making the decision to dwell in the secret place and to abide under the shadow of the Almighty. It is when we stop dwelling and abiding there that we are opening ourselves up to not being protected from the enemy. Therefore, it is imperative that we stay under His shadow.
Now the shadow of the Almighty describes his protective covering. We know from the Scriptures that God has no shadow of turning and in Him is no darkness at all. So, the picture we see painted here is not of a literal shadow but of a covering provided by His presence above us like the cloud. Notice that the Psalmist says that we shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Therefore, I feel a great analogy that can be used here is of an umbrella: As we dwell in the secret place of the Most-High, we shall abide under His protective umbrella—which shields us from the elements brought on by this world and the enemy. (It also denotes the proximity in which we are to Him because to be in someone’s shadow means you are close to them.)
But here is the point I want you to get today: As you dwell in the secret place, you are, by default, abiding under His shadow. In other words, when we decide to live (because to dwell means to live) in His secret place, we are choosing to abide under His protective umbrella.
And, friends, this shows us again that it is in our control. Yes, it is our decision where we choose to dwell; it is not up to God.
You see, I can stand beside you with an umbrella covering you from the rain, but if you decide to move away from me and do your own thing, it doesn’t matter how much I plead with you, you are going to get wet if you do not stay close to me and heed my instructions. Well, this is the choice God has always given His people—to abide under His shadow or do what seems right to us (which always leads to death.)
You see, it’s like getting too close to water. If we hang around water, we are bound to get wet. Well, it is the same with God: the closer we get to Him, the more wet we get! And this goes for His protection as well. We are to abide under His shadow—meaning we are to get close to Him by following Him wherever He leads us! Now you have to be walking close to someone to let their shadow be on you, right? Well, this describes proximity. It describes being close to Him and abiding in Him.
You see, if we remain, stay, and live close to Him, we are in position to have His provision and protection—not because He doesn’t want to perform His good word to us if we are not doing something for Him—but because we must remain close to Him for Him to be able to do what He always wanted to do.
You see, abiding under His shadow is important! But far too many Christians are doing their own thing and have gotten out from under His umbrella of protection.
So, since being Spirit-led is so vital to our lives, let me give you a few good, practical tips on how you and I can more accurately be led by the Holy Spirit and not miss it:
THE CLOUD OF WITNESSES
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
Now while the word “cloud” here can describe a literal cloud in the sky, the picture that is being painted here is of the “cloud seats” (as they were called back then) in the Roman coliseum, etc. We would call these seats today “upper deck seats.” So, the context here describes the cloud of witnesses that the writer(s) of Hebrews just finished describing in chapter eleven filling the grandstands of heaven, rooting us on as we now run our race of faith here on the earth as they did.
So, what we can take away from this is, we have multiple witnesses that can help give us direction regarding the bigger, weightier decisions that we have to make in our lives.
You see, there will be times in our lives when we will be faced with difficult decisions. These decisions will be hard because there will be a lot of risk involved. For example, the opportunity to change jobs, relocate, or to marry; these are big decisions that we do not want to miss God on.
So how do we make sure we are not missing it when making big decisions? Let’s look at Deuteronomy 19:15: It says, “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits: by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” As Matthew 18:16 & Second Corinthians 13:1 both put it— “…every word shall be established.”
Now I understand that Moses was referring to a specific situation when he originated this often-used verse, but as evidenced by Jesus’ and Paul’s use of this saying, it has a myriad of meanings. And I believe that one particular meaning is that it is also referring to “every word from God.” So, I would quote this verse as saying, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word from God shall be established.” In other words, we have a way to establish (i.e. make firm and solidify) everything that God speaks to us. And what way is this? In the mouth of two or three witnesses!
You see, not only do we have the inward witness, but we also have multiple witnesses that God will use to verify and establish the direction that He wants us to go! Sure, we have the inward witnesses of peace, our desires, what seems good to us, and what we know in our hearts, but there are other witnesses that God has given us so that we can make sure that we are not being led astray by what we think is God.
But let me make this point before we go any further: None of these principles that I am about to share with you will ever replace faith. In other words, faith will always be required when stepping out to follow the Lord.
These other witnesses that we can use to help verify and confirm the things we believe God has led us to do will never replace the fact that we are going to have to believe God. But what they will do is help keep us from making many of the catastrophic mistakes that we hear other Christians make.
For example, many of us have heard of believers who have received a “word from the Lord” and have stepped out on that word and absolutely ruined their lives. For example, a woman receives a prophecy that she is to move across the country because God has something big in store for her there, and then after she spends some time there, everything in her life just falls apart. Another example is of a guy that believes God has spoken to him to marry another young woman. He tells her that God has told him that they were supposed to get married, and then after much discouragement from their elders, they get married and miserably end in divorce shortly thereafter. These are just a couple of the examples that we desperately want to avoid.
So how do we avoid making these same bad choices that others originally thought were from God? It is through obtaining multiple witnesses. It is through not making any rash decisions when we think we have heard from God—especially on the risky decisions.
So, what are the different witnesses that we have available to us to protect us from making these big mistakes? I have divided them into three categories:
Let’s look at some examples of all three of these witnesses:
Of course, I put God number one on my list of witnesses because He is by far the most important part of our decision-making process. The “God-witness” would include His Word (i.e. the Bible), a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, or any other God-inspired experience.
As we have previously stated, if what we believe God is leading us to do contradicts what the Bible clearly condemns, then we can throw that idea out the window. For example, if someone believed God told them that they were supposed to be with someone else’s husband and they were committing adultery with that man, then it is rather obvious that they did not hear from God, because the Bible clearly is against adultery. So, the Word of God is a witness that keeps us from making major mistakes.
Other “God witnesses” we have would be to hear God’s audible voice telling us what we need to do or, more subtly, the Holy Spirit speaking clearly on the inside of us giving us direction.
But did you know that just having this one witness—the God witness—is not necessarily enough when making major, life-altering decisions? No, not because God can miss it, but because our interpretation of these so-called God-experiences can be flawed. For example, the devil is very proficient in twisting the Scriptures and making them say things that are not true. He does this by taking verses out of context and seasoning them with condemnation, fear, unbelief, etc. He also can mimic God through supernatural experiences such as voices, so-called angelic visitations, etc. because he likes to masquerade as an angel of light—making us think that it is God when it is really just him.
So, although these God witnesses are good and should be held in high esteem when making major decisions, they need not be the final say in the matter.
You know, God is not going to be upset with you if you ask for confirmation during different experiences. He has no problem with you wanting to make sure what you have heard or experienced is of Him or not. He actually likes it and will grant your request. For instance, if you feel God shows you something in the Word or if you feel God speaks something to your heart, ask Him to confirm His Word by giving you two or three Scriptures that back up what you have just seen. He will do it (if it was Him to start with)! For in the mouth of two or three witnesses every Word will be established!
Now let’s look at what I call the second witness—Yourself:
As we spent last week discussing, there is an inward witness that we have within ourselves that is manifested in many different ways. And this witness that we have in ourselves helps us to be established in the direction we receive from God.
You see, if we face these bigger decisions that we believe the Lord has put before us (i.e. things that have a lot of risk involved if we miss God), we would be wise to have not just the God witness, but also to have the witness within ourselves. Why? Because, as I just made the point of, we might receive some kind of supernatural experience that seems like God but if it does not bear witness with our spirit then we need to be cautious. In other words, we can receive a word from God but we also need to have that witness within ourselves in order to confirm what we experienced. God set it up this way! He put that new spirit within us to confirm whether the things that we hear or experience are God inspired or not. This is the second witness!
But, on the other hand, if we feel like the Lord is initially leading us in a certain direction through this second witness and this is a risky decision, we can and should seek another witness such as the first witness we discussed—God. We can do this by asking the Lord to confirm what we are feeling in our heart to do and He might just give us a Scripture or two to confirm this. He might have the Holy Spirit speak gently to our heart what He wants us to do. Whichever way He decides to honor your wise request, it will give you more of a solid foundation to stand on as you step out in faith.
But not only will God confirm these inward witnesses through the God witness but He might send the third and final witness to you—Other people. Let me explain:
If you have a desire to do something that you feel might be from God or if you just know in your heart that you are supposed to do something, and then you ask the Lord to confirm whether this is his plan for you or not, He might not use that first witness. He might use other people as that confirmation.
He might move upon someone to come to you and say something like, “Thus saith the Lord, you are supposed to do this or that!” or He might do it more subtly by sending someone across your path to just make a passing comment that you know to be a confirmation of what you already know in your heart. Either way, God will oftentimes use people whether they know they are being used (i.e. a prophecy) or whether they do not know they are being used (i.e. just a suggestion or comment).
But there are other ways to receive this third and final witness such as seeking godly counsel. For instance, if we receive either or both of the first two witnesses, we can go to someone who we believe hears from God, someone we respect, and someone we know will be honest and forthright with us. This is an important part of the third witness that God oftentimes uses to correct us when we are getting off of His path for us. Therefore, we would do good to not only listen to the godly counsel that we are offered, but also to seek out this counsel when faced with a big decision. As the proverb says, in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom.
But there is another important person that God will use to help direct you and confirm His guidance for you—your spouse! Yes, God has put your spouse in your life to help you in this major decision-making process. He has put you two together to make these big decisions together and will oftentimes use them to correct you when you are making a poor decision.
Now this does not give spouses out there the right to go playing “Holy Ghost Jr.” correcting and contradicting the things your spouse has on their heart to do, but it is a viable source of wisdom for us who are married. Yes, we have God which is by far the most important part of being led but we also can have a godly spouse which brings confirmation too. As Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “…a threefold cord is not easily broken.”
So, we have three witnesses that we can use to let every word be established: We have the “God Witness.” We have the “Inward Witness.” And we have the “Other People Witness.” All three can and should be used when making these big and risky decisions.
Again, none of these things will ever substitute for faith. It will always take faith to follow the Lord even if you have all three witnesses on a particular situation. But having two or three of these witnesses most certainly will cause us to have more assurance and security that we are following God’s plan.
You see, a word used in wise financial investing is “diversification.” This word means “to spread your money around.” In regard to investing the experts say that we should spread our investments around and not put all of our eggs in one basket because in doing so, we limit the risk of a financial disaster.
This is just an illustration of what I am talking to you about this week: It is a wise thing to not just invest all of your trust in just one witness because we are always capable of missing it. It would be wise on these bigger decisions to “diversify” and seek two or three witnesses. For in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word will be established!
So, learning to follow the various cloud of witnesses that we have around is a good idea—particularly when it comes to the big and riskier decisions that need to be made in our lives. But there are some other “witnesses” that we need to avoid like the plague. And that’s what I want to end this teaching with today:
NOT FOLLOWING THE CROWD
One of the most difficult things that we face when it comes to being led by the Holy Spirit is the temptation to follow other people & things rather than Him.
Let’s go back over to Hebrews chapter 12 and look at the undisputed greatest example that we have of living a life of being led by the Holy Spirit, our Lord Jesus Christ! He is our greatest example of everything that goes into being led by the Holy Spirit as opposed to being led by other things!
Hebrews 12:2 goes on to say, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of (our) faith…” Now in context, this verse is telling us who the greatest example of running the race of faith was and is, and therefore, who we should set our sights on becoming like. It’s Jesus! In other words, as good as all of those other witnesses listed in Hebrews chapter 11 were and are, Jesus is the ultimate example of someone who walked by faith and was led by the Spirit.
Now a common misconception that people have about Jesus is that, since He is the Second Person of the Godhead, that He actually walked and operated on this earth as God. In other words, people believe He did the things He did and lived the way He did because He was God. This is a grave misconception! No, Jesus did not live in on this earth with any unfair advantage. Philippians 2:5-7 says that He emptied Himself of His Godhead privileges and fully became a man, and Hebrews 4:15 says that He did this so that He could sympathize with us in our weaknesses. Therefore, it is because of this that He was able to be tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.
So, He is our example! He lived His life as a “born again” man (not that He ever needed to be born again, but was born with the sinless, uncorrupted nature that we receive when we are born again) who was also filled with the Holy Spirit. This is why we do not see the miracles occurring in His ministry until He was baptized in the Holy Spirit. It was because, as He testified of Himself, “the Son can do nothing of Himself except that which He sees the Father doing.” (John 5:19) He willingly made Himself of no reputation and lived the same life of faith that we do so that He could be that perfect sacrifice and substitution for us.
So, with all of that said, Jesus is the perfect example of someone who started out walking by faith and who ended His race walking by faith (i.e. the author and finisher of faith). Therefore, we should look unto Him in order to see how He lived and what He taught—everything that went into His life of hearing from God and being led by the Spirit because there was never anyone who did this any better.
Well, in order to learn how Jesus was so successful in being led by the Spirit, we need to look at what He was not led by:
Fear was not something that our Lord Jesus was led by. We see time and time again how He entered into certain circumstances and cities where He would have had every reason to fear, but Jesus was never led by fear, panic, anxiety, and worry. He was always led by faith!
Many believers are led by these things today. They make decisions based on the fear of what might happen or the unknown. As the famous acronym for “fear” says, “fear” stands for “False, Expectations, Appearing, Real.” When we yield to fear, we are not yielding to God. Yielding to God is to yield to faith.
Obviously, Jesus was not led by money either. Judas was, but Jesus wasn’t!
Many take jobs and move to other cities based solely on a pay-raise. They make investments based solely on prices and on what the so-called experts suggest. We should never take a job or make an investment solely based on the money involved. That is an easy way to miss God!
Sure, God wants us to have an abundance, but He most certainly does not want our possessions to have us. As Jesus said in Matthew 6, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
You see, when we are led by money—making decisions based solely on the financial benefit—we are serving money and making it our master. This is obviously a serious matter.
Therefore, when we have a decision to make, let’s seek the Lord for His direction instead of just following the $$$.
Thank God, that Jesus was not led by His feelings because if He was, we would never have had the opportunity to receive His salvation. Why is this? Because He never would have gone to the cross! Believe you me, Jesus did not “feel” like going to the cross! As a matter of fact, He felt like taking Plan B (if there even was a Plan B)! But, thank God, He said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done!” In other words, you could translate this, “Not my feelings, but what you desire be done!”
You see, so many people are led around by what they feel. They will eat when they “feel” like eating. They will get out of bed when they “feel” like getting out of bed. They will give someone a piece of their mind when they “feel” like it. They will give their tithe and offerings when they “feel” like giving. They will dance before the Lord when they “feel” like it. They will stop going to church when they “feel” like nobody loves them there anymore. That is exactly how you miss God—by being led by your feelings!
This ties in with being “feeling-led.” Jesus had plenty of opportunities to be led by His emotions.
In one particular time, news was brought to Jesus that his friend Lazarus whom He loved was sick. Now if this would have been most Christians in Jesus’ shoes here, they would have immediately gone to heal their friend. But not Jesus! He stayed where He was another three days! And why did He do this? Well, I personally believe it was because this was a wile of the devil.
You see, Jesus just came from this area and the Jews sought to stone Him there. So I believe the enemy was trying to set Jesus up to return out of an emotion so that he could have Him stoned by those same Jews. But thank God for the Holy Spirit who led Him to stay where He was for a few more days and then, after Lazarus died from that sickness, released Him to return there. You see, I can see those religious leaders who wanted to kill him just waiting around Lazarus’ home for those three days, waiting for Jesus to return so they could stone Him. But then, when Lazarus died, they left figuring Jesus was not coming after all. And this was when Jesus came in and pulled off the biggest miracle of His ministry! Hallelujah! Thank God for the leadings of the Holy Spirit!
But emotions are what most believers are led by. They get hyped up about something and as soon as the emotions wear off, they seem to just not feel “led” to do it anymore.
Emotions are fleeting and fickle! Just as sure as you got excited about something you can bet the bank that you will not feel that way forever. Therefore, we need to learn to know if we are being led to do something instead of just making an emotional decision; and then if we are convinced that it’s God leading us, we need to stick with it till He tells us to move on and not when our emotions have worn off.
This is a big one! Most Christians lean to their own understanding and intellect on every decision they make. They think everything has to make sense but we need to understand that God will lead us to do many things that make no sense at all. We are to lean on the Holy Spirit and not our understanding.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Notice the first phrase in these verses— “Trust in the Lord.” Throughout the Word of God, we are told to “trust” Him. You see, being led by Him is one of the greatest ways to trust Him because we have to step out in faith on the witness that He gives us in our spirit.
Then notice that Solomon says, “with all your heart.” He did not say, “with all your head.”
The next phrase is very interesting. It says, “and lean not to your own understanding.” The word “lean” denotes putting all your weight on something or relying on something else for support. You see, God gave us a brain to use but here, He is simply telling us not to put our total confidence in our own understanding. We are to use our head but we are to put our ultimate trust in His understanding and not our own.
When he says, “In all your ways” this denotes not in just what we consider the important “ways” but in all our ways. This includes our trips to the grocery store, drives out of town, vacation plans, etc.
By using the terminology “Acknowledge Him” we can see that the Holy Spirit desires to be acknowledged in every decision we make and every direction we take. The word “acknowledge” here was used in Genesis when Adam “knew” his wife Eve. So, this word describes a closeness and an intimacy. This is what the Spirit of God desires to have with us.
And last but not least, we have the promise of when we trust in Him and acknowledge Him in all of our ways. It says, “And He shall direct your paths”—not He “might” direct your paths, but He “shall” direct our paths when we trust Him and acknowledge Him. The word “direct” means “to make smooth or straight.” You see, if we are led by the Spirit of God 100% of the time, we would never get food poisoning, we would never make a bad investment, we would never get ripped off, etc. When we learn how to develop that close relationship with the Holy Spirit and are aware of Him in all of our ways, He will make our paths smooth and straight as opposed to hard and difficult.
Jesus was definitely not led by opportunities either. There were times where His followers wanted to make Him king. He even had opportunities to defend Himself when He was falsely accused. But it is very obvious that these kinds of opportunities were not God’s will. They were just circumstances, and circumstances (whether good or bad) are not to dictate our direction. This is an easy way to miss God!
So many believers live their lives following whatever their circumstances dictate. If things are going bad, they quit moving in that direction. If things are going well, they continue moving in that direction. Our circumstances are not always an indicator of whether we are in God’s will or not.
Some Christians will go to events and accept invitations based solely on the opportunity. The devil can inspire very well-meaning Christians to ask you to do things just so he can cause you to stumble. Opportunities are not always God!
Now back to my original question: What was Jesus led by? In other words, if Jesus was not led by fear, emotions, feelings, opportunities, or His own understanding, what was He led by?
Of course, we know that He was led by the Spirit, but there was one specific way that the Holy Spirit led Him that I want us to wrap this teaching up by looking at?
One of the most important lessons we can learn from His life was in three words, that He was “moved with compassion.”
This is such a powerful phrase and most people often overlook this, but our Lord performed many different miracles and good works after He was “moved” with compassion. In other words, whenever He was moved with this compassion (i.e. deep love) the gifts of the Spirit followed and He did great things. Another way of saying this is that He was “led by love.”
In First John 4:19 we are told that “God is love.” This little powerful phrase holds such a wonderful revelation! God does not just have love; God is love! He is the embodiment of agape—unconditional and unfailing love! If you’ve seen pure love, you’ve seen God clearly! If you’ve experienced unconditional love, you’ve experienced a piece of God! Now here is my point: If you’ve felt love, you’ve felt God!
You see, the problem that many Christians face is that when a thought or idea comes into their heart, they do not feel like they know if it is God. In other words, they have a thought to go pray for someone, but they do not know if it is God leading them to do that or if it was just them thinking this up on their own.
Well, let me give you one major indicator if it’s God or not: If its love; It’s God! If it is not pure, genuine love then you better think twice about it. You see, since God is love, then it stands that when we have compassion just well up in our hearts for someone or for something that it is God “moving” us with “compassion.” And you can bet that if we follow that compassion that there is a miracle on the other side of obedience!
The apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 12:31, “But earnestly desire the best gifts, and yet I show you a more excellent way.” A way to what? A way to desire the best gifts! The greatest way to be used in the gifts of the Spirit is to flow in love. The best way to flow in God in general is to flow in love since God is love! Where love is there God will be also!
You see, we need to understand that the vast majority of people (even good, well-meaning church people) are not led by the Spirit. And the devil is going to make sure you are faced with people who are going to tell you that you are going the wrong direction when you are following the cloud. Yes, people that you might love and trust will try and talk you out of following the leading of the Holy Spirit. You can bank on that!
Now that does not automatically mean that we are right and they are wrong. It can be that we are the ones who are missing it and they are the wise counsel that we need to keep us from making a mistake. However, if we know that we have heard from God and we are convinced that the Holy Spirit is leading us to do something, then we must obey God and not man. So, it comes down to discerning whether what we are feeling led to do is the Lord or whether it is just us.
But let me end by giving you one more tip that is also vitally important:
GUIDED BY THE GREEN LIGHT
However, what we need to understand that God does not want us to sit around and wait on Him to spell out everything He wants us to do. I know this to be true from personal experience and through the examples of others. I have seen many well-meaning and sincere Christians who have sat for years, waiting on God to tell them where to go and what to do and are still waiting today.
You see, the common denominator with all of these manifestations of the inward witness? They all require action and movement on our part!
This is verified in John 16:13 when Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. Well, you cannot guide something that is not already moving, can you? Saints, you can sit on a boat and try to turn the rudder to the left and to the right but if the boat is sitting idle, it’s not going to turn. But if you take that same boat and get it moving a bit and then turn that same rudder ever so slightly, you will begin to turn the boat. But, with this example, all you are essentially doing is guiding the boat.
So, for the Holy Spirit to “guide” you, then the assumption is that you are already moving. Moving where? Moving in the direction that is already laid out to you in God’s Word! For example, this principle is well-illustrated throughout the Book of Acts where the Holy Spirit guided them as they went.
You see, they had taken the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus seriously and were actively going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature—thus making disciples. They had this word from God and they ran with it! Of course, there were times when the Holy Spirit had to stop them from going into certain areas and/or redirect them. But this is the pattern which God desires us to follow as well: He wants us to act on what He has already said and what is written in His Word and then He will redirect us or change our course as needed.
But, like I said, the mistake so many people make is that they are waiting for God to tell them what to do and doing nothing in the meantime. You could say they believe God is the “God of the Red Light.” What I mean is that they believe that they need to ask the Lord for His direction and then they sit there waiting for the light to turn green before they start moving.
Friends, again, this is not God’s plan for us. He wants us to act on the principles and admonitions found in His Word and then expect Him to give us more specific direction as we are moving. Here is a good truth: In order to get God’s specific direction, you first need to be doing His general direction (i.e. His Word).
Now, on the other hand, there are Christians who have no clue that God actually wants to lead and direct them. They just do whatever they want expecting things to work together for their good. That, of course, is the other ditch that we want to avoid as well because we cannot expect the fruit of the wrong decisions we make to be the will of God for our lives. God has a good, acceptable, and perfect will, and it is up to us to understand what His will is (Ephesians 5:17).
So, here is my point today: God wants you to first act on His Word—the More Sure Word of prophecy! Make sure you are following His will for the church in general—going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature. Speak words of edification, exhortation and comfort into your neighbor and, by all means, heal the sick, cast out demons, and bring His kingdom with you wherever you go. And if the Lord tells you to slow down, turn this way, or gives you clear direction in how to accomplish this, by all means, obey what seems good in your heart.
Know that He will keep you on the path He has for you and He will guide you into all truth. But again, in order to be guided, you have to be moving.
He is the God of the green light, saints! So, go therefore! Walk on the path God has for you and if He prompts you to turn to the left or the right, know that He is directing your path and ordering your steps. Just enjoy right relationship with God—abide in Him and let His Words abide in you—and then trust that He puts His desires in our heart. Then just do what seems right and good in your heart. Amen!
For example, how many of you know that when your children come to a certain age, you do not want them asking you if they should do this or do that. No, you want your children to grow up and start making wise decisions for themselves.
In fact, this is a lesson that pertains to the subject we are currently studying on Wednesday nights: In Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
So, in this situation, Paul did not exhort them to pray about it or seek God’s direction on it. No, he just said, “Give as we purpose in our heart.” In other words, do what you have on your heart to do. You see, we already have God’s Word concerning giving. You don’t need the Lord to tell you to do that because He already did. But what we do now, while seeking to fulfill the admonitions and principles in the Scriptures, is follow our hearts. Why? Because it is through the witness that you get in your heart that God is going to lead you in what to do.
Now I am not saying that we should never seek the Lord’s will regarding decisions we are to make and paths we are to take, but my point is, we need to also avoid over-spiritualizing everything and just simply follow the impressions the Spirit drops in our heart.
So, my point is—if you are a child of God, filled with the Holy Spirit and are delighting yourself in God, you can trust the desires of your heart. Begin to move and act on those desires—trusting the Lord that even if you make a bad decision, the Lord will still accomplish His purpose for your life. Sure, acknowledge the Lord in all your ways by asking Him what He would have you to do but then don’t just sit there and wait forever for Him to write it on the wall. Trust that He put those desires in your heart and then do those things that you purpose in your heart to do.
And when it comes to the bigger decisions, follow the cloud of witnesses that you have around you. Utilize the God-witness, the witness in yourself, and the witness of wise counsel around you. But be careful not to follow the crowd; only follow the cloud—that is, the Lord’s direction given to you.
Church, the cloud is within you! Follow those leadings, promptings and impressions! He will never lead you astray, but always into your Promised Land. Amen and amen!