Without knowledge of the Holy Spirit, it will be impossible to follow Him. So, our first task is to make sure that we know Him, not in just a casual way, but to know Him intimately. When we come to Christ asking Him to save us from our sins and make us into a new creation, then He marks us with the seal of the Holy Spirit through faith and then fulfills His promise by giving us the Comforter to dwell with us as long as we are in these bodies (See John 14:26). Although the Holy Spirit or Comforter is with us from the very moment of our conversion, He has limited access until we completely die to self. This is the first step in following the Spirit. So, how do we die to self, has been an often-misinterpreted topic from the beginning. Perhaps the easiest way to see our self is to take a hard look at our desires, our wants, our way, and our will. Another way to look at our self is to compare it with the rights, wants, desires, and the will of a slave. Now you’re starting to get the picture. To die to self, freely surrenders your will, your desires, your wants, and your rights to the living God through the indwelling Spirit. Anyone can make this confession of faith, but following through on it, will take a lot more work. Let’s proceed.
Surrendering your will is like the great exchange. If we give up our will, then it’s essential that we take on the corresponding will of another and we can’t do that until we know what their will is in the first place. We know God’s will from the study of His Word in the Bible and from listening to the indwelling Spirit. A word of caution at this point is essential, “The indwelling Spirit will never contradict God’s Word in the Bible.” The Bible is very clear on this point saying we must test every spirit, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). So, how do we test the spirits? The absolute best way is to compare it with the Bible, which means we need to search the Scriptures to see if those things are so (See Acts 17:11). We can also seek the advice of more mature believers in Christ to help point out Scripture that needs to be prayerfully studied. We have confidence in the indwelling Spirit because He does not contradict but confirms and amplifies the Word of God, often drawing out a deeper meaning and helping us to apply that meaning and direction to our lives, which is the will of God. So, the next step is to learn together how to listen to the voice of the indwelling Spirit.
Let me start by saying the Spirit wants to speak to you, that’s what He does. I found it useful in the beginning, especially for the novice, to begin with, a Scripture that has meant so much to you and meditate upon it in complete silence before the Lord. Quietly roll the verse over and over again in your mind asking God to reveal its deeper meaning and how to apply it to your life. If you begin with Scripture or with just meditative prayer, either way, you still need to learn how to listen. Really listen! This starts by stopping your mind from wandering from one topic to another. You must learn how to empty your mind completely. Simple, quiet praise to the Lord will help. Now comes the real hard part, in total silence and solitude wait upon the Lord. Yes, I said wait. Although this is the most difficult part it is the most rewarding because the Spirit will, in His time begin to draw you ever closer to Him, until the water wells up in your eyes and you begin to hear the still small voice of God touching every fiber of your soul. As God begins to pull you closer to Him let go and quietly go with Him. Don’t run away in fright, which many do in the beginning, but rest in the Lord allowing Him to minister to your soul.
Once you begin to meet with God on a regular basis and learn how to listen to His voice through the indwelling Spirit, then you are ready for the next step, learning how to follow the Spirit or keep in step with Him. A key Scripture text to help in our understanding on how to follow the Spirit is in the letter to the Galatians and specifically 5:16-26. (Please open your Bible now.) The Apostle begins by contrasting the flesh with the Spirit. In the old dispensation, God sought to control the flesh with the law by teaching His children, “Thou shall not!” Not too unlike how we teach our little children today. When they misbehave by violating one of our rules, we quickly render the appropriate punishment. But when they get to a certain age, we stop disciplining them as children and start spending more time encouraging them to use their gifts and calling. We spend more time trying to mold their character. This is exactly how God is now treating his children by telling us that we have come of age, that we can resist the flesh by concentrating on walking in the Spirit. We no longer live under the tutelage of the law but have now been set free by the grace of God to walk in the Spirit. The Bible says, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
To follow the Spirit is allowing Him to go before you in loving service to others. That’s exactly what the Spirit does. He almost always leads us in service to others. This is one of His primary jobs, but first, He teaches you all things (See John 14:26), so that you can teach others, which is part of your service to others. In our service to others, we will learn how to pass on God’s Word in both words and in, deed. You might say, “I don’t know how to serve or how I should serve.” That’s not a problem. We simply step out on faith praying in the Spirit as we go and believe me the doors will begin to open. One opportunity after another will begin to avail itself. If it’s helping others with some menial task, then the Lord will give us the strength to perform well. If it’s doing something a little bit more complicated, then He will give us the wisdom beyond what we thought possible. If it’s encouraging, edifying, or admonishing someone, then believe me the Spirit will give the correct words just at the right time. Remember through each task we are listening not only to the indwelling Spirit but also listening to the needs of the person we are attempting to help. The key to service is listening and becoming pliable in the hands of God.
We can all learn how to follow the Spirit in loving service to others, thus fulfilling the will of God. So, how do we know if we are following the Holy Spirit? This is known in at least two ways. First, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit in our service and relationship with others. The Bible says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians5:22-23). As you study the Bible and listen to the indwelling Spirit you are cultivating this fruit of the Spirit. Secondly, if you are following the Holy Spirit then you have discovered your own unique Spiritual gifts from your study of the Bible. The Bible says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (I Corinthians 12:1). Furthermore, you will use your Spiritual gifts in your service or ministry to others. Make no mistake we have all been given a Spiritual gift for this purpose. These are the two proofs that you are following the Holy Spirit along with your personal testimony of hearing the voice of the indwelling Spirit. Amen
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