On Various Subjects
By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Text: Romans 8:14. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
Introduction: Dorothy Sayers tells of a Japanese convert struggling to grasp Christian theology. "Honorable Father, very good," he said to his missionary teacher. "Honorable Son, very good. But Honorable Bird, I do not understand at all." When it comes to the person of the Holy Spirit, there is often a lot of confusion, misunderstanding and misinformation.
Our text focus verse tells us that we who are saved, are led by the Holy Spirit of God. Actually, it is precisely Holy Spirit leadership, that affirms this identity, both internally and externally. When the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts, it assures us that we are indeed, children of God. When we follow that voice, people take notice and see the spiritual dimension and depth to our lives. If you are led by the Holy Spirit of God, then you must be a child of God!
The Word of God is clear that when we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes to abide within us as a Comforter or helper. Jesus in John 14:16-18 promised this very thing. "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." The phrase "another Comforter," means one of the same kind. Jesus was leaving them (at least bodily) as a leader, helper, companion, and in His place, He would send another leader, helper, companion. As Jesus was with them, the Holy Spirit of God would be with them to help them, encourage them, lead and guide them.
There was a time that when someone spoke of Blackberries, they had in mind those little, black, seedy berries, that grow on vines, not an electronic device. Today, Blackberries are little handheld, wireless, electronic miracles that connect us with the world. There are people in this world who believe that could not live one day without their Blackberry! What is a Blackberry compared to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God? The Holy Spirit is not a device, but a person, presence, and voice, who connects us with God, because the Holy Spirit is God. Earlier in Romans 8:9, Paul makes it clear that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are on the same page. "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."
What does it mean to be led by the Holy Spirit? Perhaps we can gain some insight by looking into the book of Acts and reading about how first century Christians were led.
In Acts 8:29, the Holy Spirit directed Philip to join a chariot in the desert. "Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot." Just before this, in verse 26, it tells us that an "angel of the Lord" spoke to Philip, and instructed him to go to the desert in Gaza. After arriving, it was the Holy Spirit who gave Philip more detailed instruction.
In Acts 10:19-20, the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter, and instructed him to go with three men without hesitation, because He had led them to Peter for the purpose of connecting with Cornelius. "While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them."
Just before this, Peter was given an unusual vision or dream that troubled him. In this vision, the Lord spoke to Peter, and prepared him for the encounter that followed. The voice of the Holy Spirit picked up where the vision left off.
In Acts 16:6-7, the Holy Spirit directed Paul to take the message of the gospel, to Macedonia. Paul thought first to go to Asia. The Holy Spirit said, "No." Then, Paul desired or purposed to go to Bithynia. Again the Holy Spirit said, "No."
Verse 6 reads, "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not."
The voice of the Holy Spirit was clear about where Paul wasn't to go, but what about some direction as to where he could go? Paul kept moving, and no doubt praying for direction. Verse 9 tells us that one night, Paul had a vision or dream in which he saw a man from Macedonia crying out to him to come over and help them by preaching the gospel to them. Paul had his answer!
These verses seem to indicate, that the Holy Spirit spoke to Philip, Peter and Paul, as I am speaking to you now, in an audible way. Perhaps so, .....perhaps not. The Holy Spirit could have communicated to them in their thoughts. One thing is sure, the Holy Spirit led these men in a very clear, specific way. They knew exactly what God wanted them to do.
In Acts 15:28, we see a very different dynamic of Holy Spirit leadership. In this chapter, what is often called the "Jerusalem council," came together to resolve the issues concerning Gentile converts. There were many Jewish church leaders, who essentially wanted Gentiles to become Jews, even be circumcised, to be considered Christians. There was heated debate and prayer involved, but in the end, they reached a conclusion and judgment. Verse 28, summarizes all their debate and final conclusion, as being directed by the Holy Spirit. "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well." Leadership of the Holy Spirit here seems to be working behind the scenes, revealing truth to everyone as they were praying, arguing, pleading and reasoning with each other by the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit spake as they were involved in the process of seeking an answer. It was the Holy Spirit who moved everyone's heart and mind, placing them on the same page, and lead them to the same conclusion.
It was the same earlier in Acts 13, as the church located in Antioch, prayerfully, corporately, sought the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:2-3 reads, "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."
How does the Holy Spirit lead us? It is obvious that He can lead us in various ways. The important thing is for us to seek His leadership, and listen with the intent to obey. Before the Holy Spirit can lead us, we must get ourselves in a neutral position to go or to stay; to speak or to be quiet; to purchase or to save; to lead or to follow; to contest or to submit. In Revelation 1:10a, we find that John, who was exiled on the Isle of Patmos, was "...in the Spirit on the Lord's day." You might say that John was "...in the zone!" The Roman government under Emperor Domitian was able to exile John, but they could not place a ban on the Holy Spirit! How often do we deliberately try to be "...in the Spirit?"
The leadership of the Holy Spirit is internal. As the children of God, the Holy Spirit is a inaudible voice inside of us who gives peace or withholds peace; gives us liberty, or holds us back. The apostle Paul wanted to go one direction, but the Holy Spirit would not give him liberty, peace, or rest. The voice of the Holy Spirit sometimes speaks to us through our thoughts. Philip was told specifically to join that chariot. Peter was told specifically to go with those three men. How incredible it is to know and understand, that where ever we are as the children of God, we have this Divine helper inside of us! We are truly never alone. Jesus said in John 14:18, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." The word "comfortless" in the Greek is (or-fan-os') from which we get the English word, orphans. God the Holy Spirit is with us, seeking to lead and guide us! How?
Five Ways The Holy Spirit Leads Us
1. The Holy Spirit leads us through our prayer life. The church in Antioch prayed and fasted together, seeking God's intervention and direction! Prayers have a way of changing our hearts or preparing our hearts to hear God's voice. Our prayers can solicit the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Holy Spirit leads us through our time in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit is called the "Spirit of truth." The Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit. II Peter 1:21 says, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The Holy Spirit speaks to us as we prayerfully, openly, thoughtfully read the Bible. John 16:13 says, "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come." The Bible is a living book!
3. The Holy Spirit leads us through teaching and preaching. In Acts 10, when Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius and preached the gospel, the Holy Spirit dealt with their hearts as He had the Jews! Acts 10:44 says, "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." Reading the Word of God is one thing, but hearing it taught and preached is another. The Holy Spirit always accompanies the teaching and preaching of God's Word. Sometimes the Holy Spirit tells us things that are not even directly in the Bible lesson or sermon we are hearing. Sometimes a lesson or sermon confirms what the Holy Spirit has previously said.
Early in my first pastorate, I was preaching on the life of David. The sermon title was, "When God says ‘No'." The sermon was about the time David desired to build a Temple for God, and was told by God through the prophet Nathan, that he couldn't. God said, "Thanks, but no thanks." Little did I know that a missionary was in the audience who was seeking direction from God, concerning whether he should continue a mission effort there in the state, or move on. He told me after the service, that God spoke to him in my message, telling him to shut it down! When I heard that, my knees went weak. I am so glad I didn't have that information before the service! God speaks to the hearts of His people by way of the Holy Spirit, through the dynamic of teaching and preaching His Word.
4. The Holy Spirit leads us through the voices of people. Proverbs 11:14 says, "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." God has placed wise, proven, godly believers in our lives, to help us discern God's voice. We are foolish to ignore the wisdom that can be gained by those in our lives who are spiritually mature and proven. While the most godly individuals cannot tell us specifically what to do, God's Holy Spirit can use their voices to speak to our hearts and minds.
5. The Holy Spirit leads us through circumstances, situations, and experiences. When Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius and saw these Gentiles gathered together for the purpose of hearing the gospel, it moved him and open his heart and mind to the truth spoken by the Holy Spirit. Acts 10:34-35 says, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him." We can never underestimate God's ability to speak to us through experiences and situations we find ourselves in.
The real challenge for the believer, is to sort out the voice of the Holy Spirit from all the competing voices. We see this in I John 4:1-3. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." Everyday the devil is talking to us; our own fleshly nature is talking to us; along with the voice to God's Spirit. It is our responsibility to sort out the voices.
In Acts 21, we find the apostle Paul on his way to Jerusalem. He is determined to go, even though in his heart, he knows that trouble awaits him there. Along the way, several people attempt to change his mind. They do this saying, that they are following the voice of the Holy Spirit!
Acts 21:4 says, "And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem."
Obviously, Paul was not persuaded by their voices to change his plans.
In verse 10-12, we find the same thing happening again. It reads, "And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem."
Wow! What a powerful voice! This prophet added his voice to the others who were genuinely concerned about Paul! What does Paul do? Does he change his plans? Paul disregards their advice, and proceeds to Jerusalem, where he is indeed captured, first by the Jews and then by the Romans. Perhaps this was a warning to Paul of what was in store for him. Paul was ready for the worst.
Verses 13-14 read, "Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done." Paul remains unshaken in his commitment to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit!
To be led by the Holy Spirit is one of the great privileges of being a Christian. We must make sure that we hear His voice correctly. As we grow in genuine Biblical spirituality, we develop the ability to discern the voice of God's Holy Spirit. We can be sure of several things when "trying the spirits" or voices around and within us.Three Ways To Put Voices To The Test
1. The voice of the Holy Spirit will be consistent with the message of God's Holy Word. The Holy Spirit will not lead contrary to the Word of God.
2. The voice of the Holy Spirit will be consistent with His fruit. (which is: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.)
3. The voice of the Holy Spirit will be consistent with the character of Jesus Christ. Jesus is known for His spirit of love, humility, meekness, service, obedience, submission and forgiveness.
Someone said, "A Christian may not always be conscious of the Holy Spirit's presence, but he would not even be a Christian in His absence." We must seek to be Romans 8:14 people, by cultivating lives that are constantly aware and sensitive to the leading of God's Holy Spirit.
What is He saying to you? How is He leading you? "Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear His voice, 8 Harden not your hearts." Hebrews 3:7-8a.