How does the Holy Spirit guide us? How much does He control our actions? Does He still speak to believers, or was personal communication only for Biblical times?
God does not want us to be confused about this vital area. In talking to His disciples about the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “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” (John 16:13, emphasis added).
Let’s consider four key truths about the leadership of the Holy Spirit:
1. The Holy Spirit will guide us.
Jesus doesn’t promise that the Holy Spirit will control us. He says He will guide us.
Granted, there are times when I wish the Holy Spirit would control me. For instance, when I am tempted. Or when I become so task oriented that I become insensitive. Or when it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I need to study, but everything in me wants to grab my camera and head for the mountains. Life would be much easier if the Holy Spirit would take control of me.
But He is our guide, not our controller. We never lose our ability to choose to follow His leading. As a result, we are always responsible for our words and actions.
2. The Holy Spirit is a trustworthy guide.
The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, helps believers discern between what is true and what is not; what is wise and what is foolish; what is best and what is simply OK. Each day is full of decisions. Most of our decisions concern issues not clearly spelled out in the Scriptures, for example, where to attend school, whether to hire a particular applicant, how much to budget for vacation, on and on it goes.
As you are inundated with the details of everyday living, the Holy Spirit will guide you. He will give you that extra on-the-spot sense of discernment you need to make both big and small decisions. As you develop a greater sensitivity to His guidance, you will worry much less about the decisions you make. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is a trustworthy guide.
3. The Holy Spirit is God’s mouthpiece to believers.
The Holy Spirit does not speak on His own. Like Christ, this member of the Trinity has willingly submitted to the authority of the Father. Everything He communicates to us is directly from the Father: “He will not speak on His own initiative” (John 16:13).
Our heavenly Father has chosen to communicate to His children through the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:12). He is God’s mouthpiece to believers. When the Father chooses to speak directly to you, it will be through the Holy Spirit.
When you think about it, this really makes perfect sense. After all, where does the Holy Spirit reside? In you! And in me! Therefore, He is the perfect candidate for communicating God’s will to Christians. Living inside us, He has direct access to our minds, emotions, and consciences.
4. The Holy Spirit speaks.
The question of whether God still speaks today is one that has spawned numerous books, articles, and lectures. It is not my purpose to present a tightly woven argument about why I believe He still speaks today. Suffice it to say, I do believe God, through the Holy Spirit, communicates directly with believers. No, I don’t write these revelations in the back of my Bible and call them inspired. Neither do I run around telling everybody what “God told me.”
My experience is that the Holy Spirit, at the prompting of the heavenly Father, still communicates with believers today. How does He do that? The Holy Spirit indwells me. He doesn’t need my ears. What He needs is a listening heart and a renewed mind.
The book of Acts records several occasions when the Holy Spirit spoke to Paul and Peter (11:12; 13:2; 16:6; 20:23). It can’t be denied that those men had a special gift and call on their lives. But the same Holy Spirit who indwelt those men indwells every believer. Just as they needed divine direction at critical times in their lives, we need it today.
In his letters to the Christians in Rome and Galatia, the Apostle Paul refers to believers as “led by the Spirit” (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18). If we are going to be led by the Holy Spirit, we can only assume that He is willing (and able) to communicate with us.
How does God communicate with us today? The Lord speaks through the voice of His Spirit, who resides within us. We may have to seek His face for a season; other times, we can sense His direction immediately. No matter what, the Holy Spirit is a trustworthy guide.