How can one tell the difference between inspiration from the Holy Spirit and thoughts that are induced by ourselves out of our own desire to convince ourselves that we are doing things that are Spirit-led? The Spirit is described as a ‘still small voice’, which can be strikingly similar to the things we tell ourselves, if we want to convince ourselves of something. How does one differentiate between both, as either of them can fall in line with the Word of God?
We often have a dilemma whenever that still small voice rings in our hearts as we do certain things in life: Is that voice coming from the Holy Spirit? Or are those our own words of assurance? It is possible to mistake our fallible reasoning for the leading of the Holy Spirit. So, how do we identify the origin of what we do and think — and then act accordingly?
Here are some ideas to remember as we unfold an answer to this question:
The Father hasn’t given us the Spirit to be a still small voice in our mind. The Holy Spirit is meant to be the One who causes us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and glorify Him through us. He is much more active than we think in His work upon us because of righteousness (Romans 8:10). The same Spirit who caused the resurrection of Jesus leads us and causes us to obey the Father. He’s not somebody who merely gives us good options to consider, but is our Lord who leads us to righteousness.
The Holy Spirit is meant to be the One who causes us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ
We must remind ourselves that a believer is called to walk in the Spirit, which means he is to be under the control of the Spirit of God. As we walk and yield to the Spirit’s control, we can be sure that He will guide us so that our choices and deeds line up with the Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God. As we walk by the Spirit, we are not going to gratify the desires of the flesh. Our lives are changed and regenerated by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
We have been born into this world with a conscience. Unfortunately, we are tainted by sin, so our conscience isn’t foolproof with regard to righteousness or God’s glory. We can easily fall prey to seemingly harmless suggestions that the devil brings to mind. Sometimes, these God-forsaking thoughts come in the form of our conversations with friends or acquaintances. Our thoughts by themselves aren’t something we can trust with all our heart, so we shouldn’t blindly accept them.
We see an event in Jesus’ life when God allowed the disciples to recognise that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus then revealed His upcoming persecution, crucifixion, and resurrection to His disciples (Matthew 16:21-23).
Peter, who had the best intentions for Jesus, took Him aside and rebuked Him, saying the crucifixion could not happen. Jesus immediately recognised the work of Satan happening behind Peter’s rebuke — He could do that because His mind was set on the things of God. He had filled His mind with the Holy Scriptures that talked at length about the suffering Messiah, and He made it His food and drink to do the will of the One who sent Him.
Jesus immediately recognised the work of Satan behind Peter’s rebuke because His mind was set on the things of God
On the contrary, Peter, at that point, couldn’t recognise that Satan was working underneath his understanding, as he hadn’t yet grasped what the Scriptures said regarding the Messiah. His mind was on the things of man (at this point, he was thinking of a political Messiah who would rescue Jews from the Romans).
That is the key to understanding who is at work in us with regard to all that we are doing. If our minds are set on things above and not on things below, we can be sure that we will be brought to what the Scriptures require of us. This should encourage us to take Bible study seriously, so that we know what God requires of us. Often, people rely on feelings and thoughts that cross their minds, rather than relying on the unchangeable Word of God. That is when they find themselves assailed by a plethora of doubts regarding the veracity of their intentions and actions.
Dear believer, set your mind on the things of God by immersing yourself in the study of Scripture. When you and I imitate our Master, who delighted in the Law of the Lord and meditated on it day and night, we can know for sure the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Just as Jesus could identify a work of Satan in a seemingly harmless suggestion from Peter, we also can have the same sensitivity regarding things in our life. We must delight in fulfilling His will and prioritise it above all else.
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