In the first part of this series, we addressed the reality that the Holy Spirit does in fact guide individually. But how does the Spirit lead? Knowing the genuine is always vital to discerning the counterfeit. Two key biblical principles provide a plumb line for discerning the Holy Spirit’s leadership.
First, there is the wisdom of the Spirit, where the ultimate faculty addressed is your mind. This involves a spiritual illumination of the Word to your mind and at the same time a spiritual invigoration of your mind with the Word. When the Holy Spirit reveals to you the grand realities of truth that connect to the inscribed words of Scripture, you “see” truth. He, as the Spirit of truth, guides you into all truth (John 16:13). He, as the Spirit of wisdom, reveals the knowledge of Christ and enlightens the eyes of your understanding so that you know the riches of God’s provision for you (Eph. 1:17ff). He, as the “eye-opener,” opens your eyes so that you may see wonderful things in God’s Word (Ps. 119:18). This illumination of the Word to your mind causes the invigoration of your mind with the Word, and thus, a renewing in the spirit of your mind (Eph. 4:23).
This wisdom of the Spirit is real for any child of God who seeks God in His Word. When the Spirit bestows wisdom by making the Word of God come alive, and thus revealing the living Word, He is also demonstrating “how” He speaks and leads. Learning the Spirit’s “voice” in connection with the Word as the Spirit makes the Word come alive provides an association for discerning the Spirit’s “voice” in any guidance.
Second, there is the witness of the Spirit, where the primary faculty addressed is your spirit. This involves communication given to your spirit in conjunction with your mind and, at the same time, knowledge given to your mind in conjunction with your spirit. But it is primarily Spirit-to-spirit communication which then works out through your mind. For example, the Spirit bears “witness with our spirit,” the primary level of communication in the realm of your spirit, “that we are the children of God,” the secondary level of communication in the realm of your mind (Rom. 8:16). This is more a matter of knowing than feeling. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are (not feel like) the children of God. This is a deep knowledge on the spirit level, not merely a feeling that may come and go on the soul level.
The Spirit speaking so that you know is pictured in several ways. First, when the Spirit leads, there is a sense of light with no darkness, because “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The Spirit’s leading is clear. There is light. It is not hazy and confusing. Second, when the Spirit guides, there is a sense of life with no deadness, because “the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6). The Spirit’s leading is full of life and vitality. It is not “dry bones.” Third, when the Spirit leads, there is a sense of liberty with no duress, because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). The Spirit’s leading is liberating. There is freedom. It is not a feeling of being forced into something.
For example, consider a preacher preparing a sermon. If he has a notion that he is to prepare a certain message, but as he studies everything is dry and tedious and offers no sense of freshness, that would be darkness, deadness and duress. If it is dry and tedious for him in the preparation, it will be worse for the audience! But if, as he studies, truth comes to life and there is meat on the bones and a sense that the message is the need of the hour, that would be light, life and liberty. If the preacher is enriched in his study, his audience will be blessed by the overflow because it is the work of the Spirit.
Whether we are considering the wisdom of the Spirit or the witness of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit is the convincer, who so convinces that you begin to know something. This wonderful reality is based more on the Spirit’s ability to “speak” than your ability to “hear,” but you must have ears to hear or you will miss the real point.
Sometimes in a matter of guidance, both the wisdom of the Spirit and the witness of the Spirit are involved. However, in some situations there is no witness of the Spirit, because God has already given sufficient light to the mind. But recall that Satan can present himself as an angel of light. So how can you discern counterfeit guidance? In the next article, we will address this vital question.
John Van Gelderen