“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God”(1 Cor 2:12).
Let us review what we have learned before we take the next step. When we communicate with the physical world, we use our senses and interpret them with our mind. It is a body-and-soul experience. If we read something, we use our sight (body) and perceive the meaning of what is read (mind or soul). When someone speaks to us, we hear with our ears (body) and understand with our mind (soul.)
Now in the spiritual realm, a similar operation takes place. The spiritual can operate through the body (the five senses), through the mind (impressions, thoughts, images), or directly through our spirit. The fact that God may use our body or soul to communicate with us from His Spirit makes the communication no less spiritual (1Cor 14:2).
Sometimes we try to mystify or “spiritualize” the ability to communicate in the spirit. Spiritual communication was never meant to be unique or special to only certain individuals. Spiritual communication with God was meant to be normal Christianity!
An unfortunate mistake that many individuals make is to associate “how one feels” with spirituality. How you feel is a reaction of the body or mind, but not necessarily of the spirit. For example: Jesus desired to have his disciples keep watch while He was in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The disciples kept falling asleep. Jesus says, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). Notice that Jesus says that the spirit is willing but the flesh (mind and body) is weak or tired. You see, your spirit never tires or becomes weary. Your spirit never is distracted, or unwilling to do those things it was designed to do. It was designed to communicate with the spiritual realm.
THE WORD OF GOD IS SPIRITUAL
Most of us would not like to admit that sometimes we find ourselves bored, distracted, disinterested or too tired to read or study the Word of God. We might go through the motions, but often feel guilty and condemned for not being more eager in seeking the Lord in the Word.
The truth is that while we may not seem to be benefiting in our minds and intellect, our spirit is never tired, bored or distracted. When we study the Bible, we are feeding our minds, yes – but more importantly, we are feeding our spirits. Remember, the spirit does not depend upon the emotions or clarity of the mind.
For example, have you ever had the experience of having the knowledge of a Scripture verse while at the same time being unaware of where or how you learned it? It could have been while reading the Bible or hearing a sermon or message when the mind was not paying attention, but our spirit was hungry for the Word!
The discipline of spending time reading the Word of God cannot be over emphasized and should not be connected to how you feel. The Bible is food to the spirit! The study and devotional time we spend in the Word of God should be a time we eagerly seek, for the sake of our spirit as well as for the mind. The spirit is always willing; it is the flesh that may be weak. Therefore, the spirit always benefits from the Word of God, even when the flesh seems unwilling.
That is not to say that there is no benefit to the mind when we read the Scriptures. For it is clear from the Word that our minds must be renewed. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2; see also Ephesians 5:26).
We must be careful at this point. Many fall into the error of thinking that through the intellectual knowledge of the Word they are able to change. Many try to live by the standards of the Bible through self-discipline and a change of only outward behavior. However, the change that God seeks is a change of heart, a change of our inner nature. That can be accomplished only by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible has power to show us God’s expectations or standards. At the same time, it shows us how helpless we are in our own strength alone to fulfill the standards of the Word of God. We are unable in our natural strength to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus. Yet we have supernatural ability, through the Holy Spirit, to accomplish what is impossible in our own strength!
On the one hand, the Bible reveals everything about us. We may hide our secret thoughts and motives from other people. But nothing is hidden before God. His Word reveals that truth to us: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb 4:12,13).
But the Bible also reveals God’s expectation that we would be conformed to the image of His Son – in other words, that we would be like Jesus. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:28,29).
Finally, the Bible reveals how God will do this work. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12,13).
It is the Lord Himself who wills or gives you both the desire and the ability to do, or the empowerment to fulfill, His good pleasure. His “good pleasure” consists of the plans and purposes for your life. This is God’s grace or favor.
HOW DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT GUIDE US?
As we have established earlier, it is God’s intent that we be led by the Holy Spirit. That means that He is directing our paths. I have heard it said that, “When you walk with God, you get to where He is going.” That rather obvious statement is true, isn’t it?
Just as we have an assurance that God has plans, purposes and pursuits for us to walk in, we can also be sure that God speaks to or communicates with us. One reason that God speaks to us is to guide us. There are six key ways in which we often receive guidance from God. We will look at those in just a moment.
There are times when God may use several ways to communicate with us in order to assure us that it is the Holy Spirit directing our paths. I have heard it described in this way:
“A certain harbor can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked, and navigation is hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the narrow channel. If the pilot can see two or three lights, he knows he has gotten off course and is in danger.
“God has also provided three beacons to guide us. The same rules of navigation apply… the three lights often must be lined up before it is safe for us to proceed. The three harbor lights of guidance are:
- The Word of God (objective standard);
- The Holy Spirit (subjective witness);
- Circumstances (divine providence).
“Together they assure us that the directions we have received are from God and will lead us safely along His way.”
Of course, it is also important to note that circumstances are not always a reliable indicator of God’s will. They can, at times, cause us to doubt. God may require us to move in faith, even when natural circumstances seem to oppose His direction. If this seems to be the case, then we must have an even clearer and stronger sense of the accuracy of both the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s leading in spite of the circumstances (e.g., Moses, Ex 3; Paul, Acts 20:22-24; Acts 28).
CONFIDENCE BEFORE GOD
Now let us examine the six key ways that God uses to speak to us and guide us.
- HOLY SPIRIT GUIDANCE THROUGH CONVICTION
Holy Spirit conviction means that our conscience is being provoked into judging the rightness or wrongness of an action. The dictionary defines conscience as having “an internal sense of what is right and wrong that governs somebody’s thoughts and actions, urging him or her to do right rather than wrong”.
As Christians, we understand the “internal sense” to go beyond just our conscience. We have within us the work of the Holy Spirit. “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1John 3:20,21).
THE NEED FOR CONVICTION
In John 16:8-11, God reveals the primary work of the Holy Spirit. (The Holy Spirit is not limited to the three actions described in this passage, as we learn when reading beyond verse 11.) The three primary works of the Holy Spirit are to reveal sin, righteousness and judgment. “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).
Then John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, goes on to explain in greater detail these three primary functions:“of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (vs.9-11).
The Holy Spirit always convicts of sin because He is holy (Rom 1:4)! God never tempts us with evil. He does not perpetrate evil or sin as a means of fulfilling His purpose (Jas 1:13). While it is true that God is able to take that which was meant for evil by others and turn it into good (Rom 8:28), He Himself does not perpetrate evil or sin. As pastors, leaders and representatives of Jesus Christ, this means that we must also not perpetrate evil motivations or actions, but instead live be above reproach in every area of life (1Tim 3:1-13).
When Jesus says in John 16:9 that the Holy Spirit convicts “of sin, because they do not believe in Me”, we need to make one thing very clear: It is not just belief in the Person of Jesus, but also belief in what Jesus has said and done for us at the Cross. There are many who would say they believe that Jesus is God, and yet they do not obey Him (Matt 21:28-32; Jas 1:21-25, 2:14-26). Well, if one does not obey Jesus, one really does not believe that Jesus is God!
It is possible to “harden your heart” to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and become insensitive to sin. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30). Those who fall to the place where they become insensitive to the Holy Spirit are no longer convicted of their sin (Eph 4:17-24; 1Tim 4:2).
SCRIPTURAL EXAMPLES OF THE CONVICTING POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:
- Peter makes an arrogant statement that he is willing to die for Jesus (Matt 26:31-35). Jesus prophesies that Peter will deny Him three times before the rooster crows that day. The prophecy comes to pass. After the third denial of Christ by Peter, the Scripture states, “Then he began to curse and swear, saying, ‘I do not know the Man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly” (Matt 26:74,75).
- Jesus appears to His disciples after the resurrection, but Thomas is not present. Because Thomas has not seen with his own eyes, he does not believe that Jesus has appeared to the other disciples. Later, Jesus appears to Thomas. Under conviction Thomas proclaims, “…My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
- Peter preaches the Gospel message, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to the Jews in Jerusalem. This produces such conviction that about 3,000 come to know the Lord Jesus. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37).
- Saul (Paul) of Tarsas is on his way to Damascus to continue his persecution of Christians. During that trip, he has an encounter with the risen Jesus Christ that turns his world upside down. “And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads’. So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’” (Acts 9:5,6).
2. HOLY SPIRIT GUIDANCE THROUGH THE BIBLE
The Bible is truly the Word of God and all of it is given by the inspiration of God (2Tim 3:16,17; 2Pet 1:19-21). It is like no other book. It is a spiritual book designed by God to be a source of life, inspiration, instruction, encouragement, correction, direction and guidance for His children. Someone once described the Bible as a personal love letter from God to us. God, and His heart for mankind, are both revealed throughout the Scriptures. For those who do not know God, through Jesus Christ, it is an invitation to know Him. For those who walk with Jesus, the Word of God is our strength and assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
RHEMA AND LOGOS
It is of interest to note that the Bible refers to itself as the Word. “Word” in the New Testament is derived from two Greek words, logos and rhema. The word logos is the written word or an expression of thought. The word rhema is the spoken word, or a word uttered in speech or writing. Both words are used throughout the New Testament.
The significance of the word rhema is that it applies to a single scripture or scriptural principle that is brought to the mind by the Holy Spirit in our time of need. It is as if the Scripture passage is “speaking” to us to answer a question or provide direction or guidance.
Hence, Scripture itself tells us that it is alive and sharper than any two-edged sword, able to discern thoughts of the mind and motives of the heart. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
God is able to speak to us so clearly through the Bible. God speaks in general principles for life (logos) as well as to specific circumstances in life (rhema).
It is important to remember that we must daily be engaged in reading the logos (written) word. It is from this daily reading of the logos that God will give to us His rhema (spoken) word.
THE BIBLE AS LIGHT
The Word of God is light. Illumination of the Word, as we have discussed earlier, is by the Holy Spirit. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). Illumination means that the truth of Scripture becomes personal and real to us. “…that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2Pet 1:20,21).
THE BIBLE AS A MIRROR INTO YOUR SOUL
The Bible reveals the truth about us. We may be able to deceive others. We may even be able to deceive ourselves. Yet there is power in the Word of God to reveal the truth about our lives. The Word of God is compared to a mirror, which reflects back to us where our lives need to be changed (Jas 1:23-25).
This revelation is a work of the Holy Spirit – not to discourage us or condemn us, but to bring us into the light that transforms. God cannot bless what He does not approve. He is a Holy God! His desire for us, when He reveals painful truths about our lives, is to bring us into paths of righteousness so that we might receive the full blessing of God.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2Cor 3:18).
Of course, just knowing the truth is not the same as knowing and doing the truth. We are called to be doers of the Word. By doing the Word of God, we build a solid foundation for our lives. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (Jas 1:23-25).
- HOLY SPIRIT GUIDANCE THROUGH RECALLING SCRIPTURES
There is another way we receive guidance from God, especially when we are at a crossroad of decision. The Holy Spirit will cause us to remember a Scripture story or verse. There are many cases where the disciples of Christ would recall statements that Jesus had made. The recalling of Christ’s words would encourage or give direction to the disciples.
Today, Jesus is doing the very same thing though the Holy Spirit and Scripture. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13).
Listed below are some scriptural examples of statements remembered (emphases added):
- “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly” (Matt 26:75).
- “He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ And they remembered His words” (Luke 24:6-8).
- “And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up’” (John 2:16,17).
- “Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:22).
- “His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him” (John 12:16).
- “Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 11:16).
4. HOLY SPIRIT GUIDANCE THROUGH CIRCUMSTANCES
In Acts Chapter 16, we read about a set of circumstances orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. First, Timothy joins Paul and Silas on one of Paul’s missionary journeys. They are traveling to the churches with a message from the apostolic leadership in Jerusalem. Paul had a plan to preach the Gospel in an area referred to as Asia. (This is not the Asia we think of today. This region was part of the Roman province of Asia, usually termed Proconsular Asia. We know it today as Asia Minor, where the nation of Turkey is located.)
Just as they are prepared to go into Proconsular Asia, they are forbidden by the Holy Spirit to continue their travel plans. It is not clear exactly how they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go into Asia. It is very likely that circumstances were such that they were unable to travel as planned. “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6).
Now, there are the plans of man and the plans of God. It is normal and natural to make our own plans. But we need to be ready to abandon our plan when God’s plan is revealed (Prov 16:9). There are times when our plans align with God’s plan. It is wonderful when that happens. There will also be times when we have to give up our beautifully worked out, well thought out plans and replace them with His plan. Our plans may occasionally be successful, but His plan is always successful!
Notice that instead of waiting for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the ministry team continued with a plan of their own. “And after they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:7). Again they were prevented from fulfilling their own plans.
Why wouldn’t the Holy Spirit allow them to preach the Gospel in these areas? Apparently, in God’s strategic timing, the Gospel was not ready to be preached in this area of Asia. But the time had come for the Gospel to be preached in what is now known as Europe! “So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:8-10).
BE KINGDOM MINDED
But why, it may be asked, did the Holy Spirit forbid Paul’s apostolic team to preach the Gospel in Proconsular Asia? We cannot fully know all of God’s reasons for redirecting Paul and his team. God’s ways are often higher than our own (Isa 55:9). We can, however, understand after the fact that the Holy Spirit knew that the people of Europe were ready to receive the preaching of the Gospel – and that Paul was well fitted for that assignment. We also see that the Holy Spirit was preparing another servant, Peter, for the assignment in Proconsular Asia (1Pet 1:1).
In the final analysis, we must see our efforts as benefiting the Kingdom of God – rather than an individual church or a ministry plan. To be Kingdom-minded is to have the mind of Christ. To be Kingdom-minded means to recognize that we are all co-laborers in the harvest field of God. To be Kingdom-minded means we serve God as our King, not our own plans. Our obedience and loyalty are to Him! “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1Cor 3:7,8).
God has a plan and strategy that has been designed for you as a minister of the Gospel. You are an important part of His larger Kingdom purposes. You are called to rest in (trust in, be faithful and diligent in) that to which you have been called. Do not make the mistake of looking at what others are doing in ministry and comparing yourself to them. Seek God’s perfect plan for you and your ministry!
- HOLY SPIRIT GUIDANCE THROUGH MESSNEGERS
At times, God the Holy Spirit uses messengers to convey guidance and direction to our path. God’s purposes and plans are not always clear to us. His strategies are often beyond our ability to comprehend. Therefore, God uses the Holy Spirit to send messages to us through His messengers. Some of the messengers He uses are angels and prophets.
The world has portrayed angels in very strange and fanciful ways. Nevertheless, angels are real beings, created by God with great power and authority. We are never to worship angels, as is the practice of some.
God has used angels in many ways throughout biblical history. He continues to use them today. Angels have been used by God to safeguard us, defend us, direct us, and at times protect us from evil that may befall us.
God has created the angels to minister to Himself, as well as to minister to those of us who have inherited salvation through Jesus Christ. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14).
Here are a few examples of angels that have been sent to minister to believers:
- An angel releases Peter from prison. “But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out…” (Acts 5:19).
- An angel directs Phillip to the Ethiopian eunich. “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, ‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza…’” (Acts 8:26).
- An angel directs Cornelius to get Peter. “About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, ‘Cornelius!…’” (Acts 10:3).
- Peter is released from prison again by an angel. “Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, ‘Arise quickly!’ And his chains fell off his hands” (Acts 12:7).
- Paul, about to be shipwrecked, is assured by an angel. “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve” (Acts 27:23).
From these few examples of the many in Scripture, we see that God will frequently use angels to accomplish His purposes.
In the simplest terms, the role of the prophet is to hear from God and speak for God. The prophet was also required to speak what was on the heart of God to the government and community leaders.
In the Old Testament, prophets were the ones who anointed kings. Accounts of Old Testament prophets such as Eli, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah and Elisha are well known. Many of the Old Testament books were written by minor and major prophets. The New Testament references many Old Testament prophets. However, New Testament prophets seem less common than in Old Testament times. Only three individuals are recognized as prophets in New Testament times:
- Jesus: “So the multitudes said, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Matt 21:11).
- John the Baptist: “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).
- The prophet Agabus: “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea” (Acts 21:10).
Why are there fewer references to the office of the prophet in the New Testament? Perhaps the reason is because the Holy Spirit operates differently today than in Old Testament times.
As stated previously, in Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit was “on” or “with” a person. Today, the Holy Spirit lives “within” the believer! God’s Spirit now speaks directly to the spirit of a believer. This new and living way has been opened up to us by Jesus Christ and His completed work at the cross of Calvary (Heb 10:20).
THE PROPHETIC TODAY
While the role of the office of prophet may be limited today, the role of the prophetic has not been limited in any way. There are nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, as described in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Three of those gifts have to do with the prophetic. In verse 10, the gift of prophecy is listed. The gift of tongues, when combined with interpretation of tongues, is considered to be prophecy also. “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (1Cor 14:5 emphasis added).
The prophetic (what God is saying) is such an important part of the life of the Church today. Therefore, it is essential that we learn as pastors how to be good stewards of the gift of the prophetic in general.
The prophetic has both a Holy Spirit component and a human component. The Holy Spirit is never wrong or inaccurate. However, the human part or component is subject to error.
Let us examine the three parts of the gift of the prophetic word:
- Revelation. The prophetic begins when God speaks revelation and a person receives that revelation. The revelation is spiritually discerned – heard or seen.
- Interpretation. The second phase of the prophetic is the interpretation of what is spiritually seen or heard. Often this is a human interpretation of the revelation – our understanding of what is heard or seen. It is obvious that human error may occur at this point. This is because our interpretation is often subject to human limitations of understanding.
- Application. The final step is the application – what we are to do in response to what is heard or seen. This is the action that one takes based upon the interpretation of the revelation. Since this is limited to a human understanding of what should be done in response to the word, the application can also be subject to error.
Since two of the steps of prophecy – the interpretation and the application – are subject to human error, you might wonder: Is prophecy safe? The answer is yes – when you apply a very important principle: Prophecy should confirm what you already know to be truth. In other words, a valid prophetic word today will act as a confirmation of what God has already revealed to you. Prophecy should build you up in your faith concerning what has already been revealed. “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (1Cor 14:3).
Of course, a valid prophetic word will also never disagree with what has already been revealed in the Bible, the written Word of God.
A LESSON IN APPLICATION
A clear example of the three steps or parts in a prophetic word – revelation, interpretation and application – is found in Acts 21:10-14. A prophet by the name of Agabus comes to meet with the Apostle Paul. Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Agabus brings forth a prophetic word by demonstration in verse 11: “When he [Agabus] had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”’
Agabus had a genuine revelation from the Holy Spirit. Agabus interprets the revelation correctly, describing with actions what will happen to Paul. In verse 12, we read that those who are present try to discourage Paul from going to Jerusalem. Their application of the prophecy is to discourage Paul from going to Jerusalem, but Paul with confidence and assurance states, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (v.13).
The revelation was correct. The interpretation was correct. But the application by those who heard the word was not correct. Paul knew this, because the Holy Spirit had already revealed what was ahead for him. Paul says, “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24).
The prophecy confirmed what the Holy Spirit had revealed to Paul prior to Paul’s encounter with Agabus. When the emotions of the application of the prophecy were causing others to possibly miss the plan of God, Paul was steadfast in his decision to go to Jerusalem. He already knew what God had told him to do.
- HOLY SPIRIT GUIDANCE THROUGH HIS PEACE
“For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace…” (Isa 55:12).
Of all the ways in which the Holy Spirit guides us, there is one aspect that should always be present: the peace of God. God is not the author of confusion, fear, anxiety or desperation (1Cor 14:33). He is the God of peace; nothing is impossible with Him. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Col 3:15). In other words, let the peace of God be a primary influence that tells you when to take action or not to take action.
It is God’s desire for us to grow in sensitivity to His peace and presence within our lives. As we grow in our relationship with Him, we do not necessarily need to put out a fleece (Judges 6:36-40) or have a sign (Matt 12:38-42) in order to follow His leading. We can rely on Christ’s abiding presence and God’s peace to guide us.
It is important to realize that Satan cannot counterfeit the peace of God or the love of God. When we learn to trust and be directed by God’s love and peace, we will not be so easily led astray.
How can we walk in the peace of God? It begins with seeing and believing that you serve a big God. Remember, there is nothing that is impossible with God! Absolutely nothing! (See Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37; Philippians 4:13.)
God has also made a promise that He will never leave you nor forsake you! God sees you as a son!
Finally, in the light of who God is to us, we must take all anxiety and fear and make a conscious decision to lay them at the cross of Calvary. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6,7; see also Isaiah 26:3, 1 Peter 5:6,7).
The peace of God – together with the Holy Spirit’s conviction, the Bible, Holy Spirit recall of scriptures, Holy Spirit orchestration of circumstances and Holy Spirit messengers – provides us with a powerful assurance that we are working with God and not just for God. This allows us to walk with a greater confidence in our relationship with God, our calling and our ministry.
THE GOAL OF BEING SPIRIT-LED
Let me encourage you that you are to be a voice for God and not an echo. This means that you must be able to discern His voice. You must have the confidence in your call and ministry to proclaim what He says and to carry out His instruction and direction. You have a spiritual ministry and calling.
SEEKING FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Now most of us start out in ministry as echos! That means that when we start out, we often copy or imitate those who are our mentors or examples to us in ministry.
When I started out in ministry, I would imitate the way other pastors dressed, walked and spoke. I would rehearse the messages I had heard from others and try to preach or teach those messages as if they were my own. I was an echo! It seemed easier to be an echo than to develop my relationship with God and learn to hear from Him.
Herein lies the problem. If we develop the habit of seeking the direction of man (books, tapes, TV, radio, friends), then we will not be asking, seeking and knocking for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes a statement relating to the promise of the Father: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:9-13).
If you desire more of the Holy Spirit, you will have to look to and rely upon God, not man; you will have to seek the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of men and this world (Matt 6:33).
After His resurrection, Jesus appears to His followers and restates the promise: “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me’” (Acts 1:4)
Finally, Jesus says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“WITNESSES TO ME…”
When we apply this scripture, we most often apply it in an evangelistic sense: We will be empowered for “witnessing.” While that is a true statement, it is also very limiting.
If I am to truly be a witness to Jesus, that means I will testify of what He says and does. That is not limited to boldness in evangelism. It also implies that the witness is active, personal and now!
I am a witness to Jesus because I daily talk to Him and He talks to me, through His Holy Spirit.
If you want to be a voice for God – and be assured that is God’s plan for you – then you must also expect the Holy Spirit to do what He has promised that He will do in His Word!
That means you will not resort to your own strength or plans to accomplish God’s will. It is as if you were to say, “God, unless You show me what to do, I will not move. Unless You give me what to say, I will not speak. Unless Your presence goes with me, I will not go on” (see Exodus 33:15).
Being a voice for God is what you were called and created for. Seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened; ask and it will be given to you!