Please excuse the understatement in the next statement: When we become a Christian we are totally changed by the Holy Spirit. Those who have even a partial appreciation for what the Holy Spirit has actually done in the believer will probably be aghast at the depth of such an understatement. Becoming a Christian is a transformation achieved by the Holy Spirit within us where we we become "brand new" (2 Cor. 5:17). We then become Spirit-led followers of Christ. This is no small thing. Before conversion, an unbeliever is led by all different kinds of things (passions, appetites, whims, feelings, ambitions). But so encompassing is the transformation of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we are not only re-identified internally but it becomes obvious to all that we are now re-directed as well. This is not merely an event, but an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit within us. The Bible doesn't say we have been led by the Spirit, but that we are being led by the Holy Spirit. And this leading is not some mere theoretical idea or even a theological topic for indepth Bible study- it is a dynamic power that makes authentic Christianity unique.
But when was the last time you were led by the Holy Spirit? How often do you ask the Holy Spirit to lead you? Do you know what the Holy Spirit is saying to you?
Paul told the Romans that the mark of a true believer was that they were led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14, "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."). To the Galatians he said that true Christians did not live under the Law, but rather they were led by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:18). But listening to and being led by the Holy Spirit is frought with hazards: How do we know it is the Holy Spirit speaking to us and not just ourselves? How can we be sure of what the Holy Spirit is saying to us?
For some Christians the answers to these hazards is to simply avoid the issue all-together or simply reject the idea of any ongoing activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. They appeal to the need to only live by the Word of God (the Bible) and there is no need to seek any further leading or guidance. This phenomenally timid approach to Christianity can look highly religious, very dignified, and very respectful. But could these descriptors be applied to the first Christians?
Hardly! These first century Christians were deeply spiritual and more importantly: Spirit-led. To be sure, they produced the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but they clearly exercised supernatural, spiritual gifts that were literally phenomenal (prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, casting out demons). They were led by the Holy Spirit to go out into remote areas to meet with foreign diplomats to share the Gospel with them at just the right time. They were inhibitted by the Holy Spirit from entering certain territories. They were given dreams, visions, and revelations from the Holy Spirit which served to build up the local church and extend the Kingdom of God. Did this "charismatic" ("Spirit gifted") phenomena cause problems in the early Church? Absolutely! But the apostles didn't then prohibit believers from being Spirit-led, rather they issued instructions that such activity be carried out wisely, maturely, and "in order".
How could Paul prescribe wisdom, maturity and orderliness with Spiritual phenomena? He could do this because of his understanding of "authority". He did not place such gifts or leadings on the same level of authority as the Bible. Neither did he regard such things as equal in authority to Old Testament prophecies (which are from God and without error). He seems to regard the gifts described in the New Testament as being of a different kind of authority. As such, he assumes that it is possible for believers to miss, misunderstand, or misinterpret the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, he says that when someone exercises a gift they feel that the Holy Spirit has led them to share, other Spirit-led believers should evaluate and discern whether this believer has missed, misunderstood, or misinterpreted that leading.
1Corinthians 14:29 ¶ Let two or three prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said.
Paul the apostle would not have stood for the absurd rubbish that is sometimes offered by immature believers who say: "I couldn't control myself- the Holy Spirit just me took over" or "I had to prophesy - I had no choice!" To this, he responded-
1Corinthians 14:32 Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can wait their turn.
Knowing the hazards of being "Spirit-led", I still want to be a Spirit-led believer! I want to hear/sense/feel the voice/impression/prompting of the Holy Spirit. I want to pastor a church that is Spirit-led where we want to hear, sense, feel the leading of the Holy Spirit as a church and respond appropriately- as well as produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.