Romans 8:14 says, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
Every believer in Jesus can learn how to be led by the Holy Spirit instead of by their physical senses and circumstances.
“Learn to be Led by the Holy Spirit” is the third of four thoughts on how we can better prepare our hearts to hear from our Lord. Portions of the following were adapted from Kenneth E. Hagin’s book Following God’s Plan for Your Life.
Notice that I said learn how to be led by the Spirit. Knowing how to be led by the Holy Spirit does not come naturally right after a person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. Just as sheep have to learn to recognize the voice of their shepherd, so we have to learn to recognize the voice of our Lord.
The first thing we need to learn is that God leads us through our spirits.
John 4:24 says that God is spirit. He is not a physical being. And Heâ€™s also not a intellectual cloud or â€œGod Conscienceâ€ somewhere in the cosmos like many new-agers believe. Therefore the primary way He speaks to us is through our spirits instead of through our carnal flesh and mind.
And to further back this up…
1 Corinthians 2:11 (NASB) says…
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
And Proverbs 20:27 (NASB) says…
The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the innermost parts of his being.
Both of these passages tell us that itâ€™s our spirit that really knows whatâ€™s going on inside us and itâ€™s through our spirit that the Lord communicates to us.
Letâ€™s take a look at (learn about) three of the main ways God leads us so that way we can better recognize His voice when He communicates to us.
1. The first and foremost way God leads us is by an inner witness.
Romans 8:16 (NASB) says…
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.
The inner witness (also translated as testifies) is like an inner knowledge of agreement. Itâ€™s when you just know that something is right. People sometimes call it a hunch or an impression.
Usually specifics (like exact words or images) are not conveyed with the inner witness but somehow you know exactly what it means.
Romans 8:16 tells us that itâ€™s with this inner witness that we know we are saved — we just know that itâ€™s true because the Holy Spirit gives us that inner knowledge of agreement. And itâ€™s with this same â€œknowingâ€ that God can and wants to lead you.
2. The second way the Holy Spirit leads us is through the inner voice or â€œstill small voice.â€
The main difference between the inner witness and the inner voice is that the inner voice actually has a voice.
1 Kings 19:11-13 says…
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
There are three Hebrew words make up the phrase “gentle whisper“:
dÄ•mamah- whisper, calm, silence
daq- thin, small, fine, gaunt
qowl- voice, sound, noise; lightness, lighthearted
Combining these Hebrew words gives the impression that this method of communication is very light and airy, easy to be drowned out.
Also notice that in verse 11 it says â€œthe Lord saidâ€ but in verse 13 it says â€œa voice said.â€ I believe it was written this way to clearly show us the distinction between the inner voice and the Lord’s more direct voice (which we’ll talk about next.)
Many Bible teachers suggest that the inner voice is actually the voice of your spirit which we call our conscience. The idea is that just as your physical body has a physical voice, so your spiritual body has a spiritual voice. And although we cannot hear our spirit voice with our physical ears, we can hear it through our conscience. Although the Bible does not clearly explain how the inner voice works, it is clear that there is a distinction between it and the Lord’s more direct voice.
Usually when the inner voice speaks it actually conveys real words with coherent thoughts, not vague impressions like the inner witness.
3. The third way God leads us is through the authoritative voice of the Lord.
Although usually the authoritative voice of the Lord will not be audible, sometimes it can be.
Acts 9:1-7 says…
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
In Saulâ€™s experience, the authoritative voice of the Lord was audible because the men with him heard the sound. This voice was very clearly the Lordâ€™s as Jesus declares in verse five.
The inner witness, inner voice, and authoritative voice of the Lord are the three main ways God speaks to us. There are other ways also but these three are used most of the time with most people.
So know that we know about them, how can we develop them? How can we recognize the inner witness and inner voice so well that they are more clear than another personâ€™s voice talking right next to us? As I meditated on that question the following three things came to mind:
We need to…
- Ask for forgiveness for anytime we may have grieved the Holy Spirit.
- Ask God to restore our sensitivity to His Spirit.
- Act immediately in faith when we sense His inner witness, inner voice, or authoritative voice.
Yes, you will make mistakes and not â€œhearâ€ correctly from time to time but thatâ€™s how we learn. Just like it took years in the physical world for you to learn how to communicate with perfect listening and speaking skills, so in the spirit world it will take a while before we can correctly discern our Lordâ€™s voice from all the others in this world.
But as you â€œpracticeâ€ (acting immediately in faith when you sense what you believe is His voice) it will become easier.
Just remember that we have this promise that we can know our Lordâ€™s voice.
[The shepherd] he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.