This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Click here to read Part 2.
We all need the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And most of us have a host of issues where we desire the Spirit’s direction: How do I navigate parenthood? What should I spend my free time doing? How should I react to my unfair boss? Should I accept that job offer in another state? How should I pray for my spouse? How can I overcome my anger? How do I share my faith with my neighbor? What kinds of ministries should I be financially supporting? What can I do to have more peace in my life?
Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” If you are a Christian, then you live by the Spirit. And so, our call is to keep in step with him. That Greek word “keep in step” means to be in line, following the person in front of you, keeping in step with his every move. When the Spirit fills your life, this is how he guides you. He leads, but we must actively follow. As we look at the Scriptures, we can see the Spirit functionally guiding our lives in the following ways:
- The Spirit guides us by calling us into relationship with Jesus.
- The Spirit guides us by purging our sinful urges and growing his fruits.
- The Spirit guides us by the truth of his written Word.
- The Spirit guides us by the process of godly discernment.
- The Spirit guides us by bringing consensus with other believers.
- The Spirit guides us by aligning our thoughts with his thoughts.
We’ll unpack principles 1-3 in this post and principles 4-6 in a future post.
1- The Spirit guides us by calling us into relationship with Jesus.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd; and we are his sheep. Jesus said about the shepherd, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:2-4).
In ancient Palestine, sheep would be kept in an outdoor pen. Often more than one shepherd would keep their sheep in the same pen. When it came time to move the sheep, the shepherd would call out to his sheep. Every shepherd had a unique call that the sheep learned – sometimes the sheep would even be named and called out specifically. Only that shepherd’s sheep would come. The shepherd isn’t behind the sheep driving them. He doesn’t have ropes around their necks. He leads them with his voice.
Jesus says in verse 14, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”
When we were lost sheep, Jesus called out to us. His voice led us from death to life, from darkness to life. Our Shepherd laid down his life for us, and we now belong to him. The voice calling out to us comes by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent. He calls us into relationship with him from the start and, if we’ll listen to this same voice, he’ll continue to lead us every day.
2- The Spirit guides us by purging our sinful urges and growing his fruits.
The famous passage on the fruit of the Spirit begins by saying, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The call to “walk by the Spirit” means that the Spirit both empowers us to walk and directs us in our daily lives. Verse 18 says we are to be “led by the Spirit.” The Spirit is actively and personally involved in guiding us through life in an ongoing way. This is a personal, intimate connection.
We see in Galatians that if you walk by the Spirit, you won’t carry out your fleshly urges. Why? Because in Christ, you crucified those sinful passions. Your sinful nature has been put to death, and the Spirit purges those desires from your life. And instead, new urges, new passions grow out naturally from your new heart – like fruit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24).
Keeping in step with the Spirit means walking with him in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. He is walking in this fruit, and we are following him. The Spirit guides us away from sin toward righteousness in him.
3- The Spirit guides us by the truth of his written Word.
The Bible is the Word of God, and so God speaks to us in his Word. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the human authors, is the ultimate author of Scripture. In fact, sometimes when the New Testament authors quote from the Old, they will say, “As the Holy Spirit says…” (Acts 1:16, 4:25, 28:25; Hebrews 3:7-9). Jesus taught that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide his apostles into truth, and from them we have the New Testament (John 14:16, 16:13).
And now as we read the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit guides us to understand and live out his Word. When we read, study, and memorize God’s Word, the Spirit opens our eyes to find strength and guidance for the Christian life. He challenges us, teaches us, encourages us, and comforts us through the truth of his Word.
Rather than randomly opening the Bible and point to a verse hoping to find guidance, we need to regularly and consistently spend time in God’s Word. As we do, we become familiar with the truths of the Bible, and we give God an opportunity to speak into our current situation. The Bible is a treasure chest of riches for the Christian life. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:15-17). Additionally, through time in the Word, you become familiar with the Spirit’s voice, and so you can be more attentive to his voice as he leads you in other ways.
So, here are the first three ways the Spirit guides us. Remember, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” So, seek the Spirit’s guidance!