How NOT To Follow the Holy Spirit
Do you ever wonder if maybe you made a mistake and missed out on a blessing because you resisted it thinking perhaps it was some kind of temptation from the enemy? At times, when we let our emotions get too involved in something, it makes it more difficult to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit — especially when we, in our flesh, don’t like the way He seems to be heading. Sometimes our flesh battles against God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:7). But when we surrender ourselves to God’s will, when we look to His Word and live accordingly, recognizing the Spirit’s lead becomes easier as we grow in Christ.
Now, with that being said, there are definitely some ways in which the Holy Spirit does not lead. False teaching, being ignorant of His ways, being spiritually lazy, and over-emphasizing the so-called “miraculous” have deceived many into being led to follow the world, or the flesh, or even the enemy while thinking it was the Holy Spirit. And, as one can imagine, this has brought about an incredible amount of pain and heartache into people’s lives. I have listed a few things to be cautious of, some ways the Holy Spirit does not lead us.
He Does Not Manipulate You:
Jennifer LeClaire, a writer/blogger for Charisma’s online magazine, stated in a recent article, “An apostle I worked with once pressured everyone in his church to get into flipping houses. I personally lost about $100,000 under that controlling mandate. Another woman in the church went bankrupt. Many others lost small fortunes and saw their credit ruined. It wasn’t the will of God at play! That was man’s will hoping for the tithe that came off the flip!”*
Granted, she eventually recognized the deception, but there are several troublesome things I find with this. Although she was duped, she still recognizes this charlatan as an “apostle” Did she really learn anything that matters spiritually and eternally? She describes the person as “pressuring everyone in the church” to invest in his money-making scheme. He fed like a parasite off of their offerings ruining their credit and causing bankruptcy. This was clearly a man manipulating and not the leading of the Holy Spirit, yet she continues to attribute legitimate “apostleship” to this snake of a man.
The Holy Spirit does not guide us by manipulating us through another person. When someone comes to me and says, “God told me to tell you” or “the Holy Spirit wants me to tell you” I almost always respond with, “Thanks. But I’m going to go ahead and wait until He ‘tells’ me.”
John 16:13 says the Holy Spirit will lead you and guide you. Leading and guiding is no way related to controlling, manipulating and enforcing. God doesn’t manipulate, He doesn’t have to. He is not an overbearing and controlling God who twists arms and demands people surrender by saying “Uncle.” It is true that the conviction of the Holy Spirit may feel like pressure at times, He will stretch you and help you grow. He may even allow you to feel His grief, His pain, but in the long run, He won’t force you in the way that an abusive dictator would.
He Does Not Direct You To Sin:
More than once I have heard men in charismatic circles say that “God told” them to divorce their wives and marry the woman they’ve been having an affair with. That’s nothing but foolishness and selfishness. According to Scripture that is clearly sinful, it is wrong. The Holy Spirit directs us away from sin, He does not draw us toward it. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, He doesn’t encourage it.
Let’s take a look at just a few verses: John 16:8, “When He comes, He will convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.” Galatians 5:16, “I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” And James 1:13-16, “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither does He tempt anyone. But each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. Then, when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and when sin is finished, it brings forth death.”
We need to stop blaming all of our sins on Satan. We are vile, depraved and wicked enough in ourselves that we don’t need to point to outside sources for blame. And we especially need to stop blaming sin on God, on the Holy Spirit (as in the example above).
He Does Not Direct Us Through Inanimate Objects:
The days of the fleece test and casting lots are over. You might recall that in the Old Testament there was a time that they put out fleeces, and the moisture (or lack of moisture) would determine God’s direction. In the Old Testament, they would also cast lots for a sign of which way God would have them go. However, in the New Testament, God speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:2) and through the inspired Scripture.
In fact, the Bible directs us NOT to seek out signs. We should not look to signs of any kind for proof of the Holy Spirit’s leading. If you’ll recall, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees when they asked for a sign. God had His reasons and His ways for the Old Testament method(s) that we may never fully understand this side of eternity, but even Gideon knew he was at risk of making the Lord angry when he asked for a second sign regarding fleece (Judges 6:36-40). What God wants from you is an authentic relationship. The enemy can perform false signs, so trust Scripture and Jesus Christ.
He Does Not Twist Scripture:
When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he continually twisted Scriptures in an attempt to get Jesus to act contrary to His Father’s will. Satan took Psalm 91 completely out of context in hopes that Jesus would throw Himself down from the high place. But Jesus had a thorough understanding of the entire counsel of God (the entire Bible as each part relates to all of the others) and responded authoritatively with, “It is also written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God'” (Matt. 4:7).
We need to be diligent students of God’s Word so we don’t rationalize our wrong decisions on a false leading from a faulty interpretation of our own human making in order to fit it in with our desires and sinfulness.
He No Longer Uses Prophets:
Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Please take special notice of what this verse does not say. It does NOT say that as many as are led by the “prophets” of God are the sons of God. No, it DOES say that as many as are led by “the Spirit of God” are sons of God.
If one insists on using the term “prophet” today, which I am uncomfortable with, in the New Testament we see prophets equipping you (Ephesians 4:11-12), not leading and guiding you in your every decision. The reason for this is that leading and guiding you are now the job and function of the Holy Spirit. A host of charismatic leaders and preachers receive daily requests from people via emails, text messages, letters and other social media venues, begging, pleading, and offering to pay for prophetic words over their lives. This is not how God wants you to seek Him out. He wants YOU to seek HIM out, not have someone else to it for you. The whole concept of modern day prophecy leads down a dangerous road that can, and does, lead to idolatry.
Are you a Christian? If so, then live your life like one. Read God’s Word, pray, love others and the Spirit will lead you and use you. There’s no mystical secret behind it all. If you’re living your life for Christ, God’s will will find you, you won’t have to find it.
* “4 Ways The Holy Spirit Does Not Lead You – And 1 Big Danger” by Jennifer LeClaire on charismamag.com.
[Guest Post by Dr. Jeff Hagan, President at True Grace Ministries and Theological Institute]