Knowing the Spirit – Discerning God’s will

I find it extraordinarily difficult to know when it is the Holy Spirit prompting me as opposed to some cockamamie idea that I may have cooked up. Why is this? When the Apostle Paul writes, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord),” he seems to have a pretty good grasp on differentiating between his ideas and those of the Spirit.

On a similar note, I often weary of trying to figure out what God desires of me on a given day, in a given circumstance. It seems that perhaps the Spirit could flow through one in such a fashion as to make decision-making especially in light of His will more intuitive.

In the flow of the Spirit seems to me a good description of what it may mean to “walk in the Spirit.” I think of Deuteronomy 5:33,

“You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.”

Perhaps part of the problem is that we are so little familiar with the commands that God gave. It was these commands, after all that formed the “way” that God enjoined us to walk.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 tells us that this is synonymous with the words of Christ in Matthew 22:37.

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Indeed, this seems to be a theme:

“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Joshua 22:5

“I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn” 1 Kings 2:2-3

Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! Psalms 81:13

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Psalms 119:1

Nor does this idea of walking in the way of God by keeping His commandments seem to be temporary or limited to the Old Testament times. Isaiah tells us it will be this way in the last days, and 1 John reveals that sin is defined by breaking the Law.

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the Torah, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:2-3

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness…. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 3:4; 5:3

So, while I pray for God to make His Holy Spirit more familiar to me and His leading more evident, in the meantime, I will diligently labor to know His commands more intimately in order that by testing according to His words I may discern what is His good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

8 thoughts on “Knowing the Spirit – Discerning God’s will

  1. How true. I think the process of sanctification is much more “concrete” than we often think. The tendency of American Christianity is to spiritualize things so much that God’s Word almost ends up being of no practical value.

  2. The practical value becomes my feelings – although many would call the God’s leading. That is a dangerous tension to live in.

  3. Have you read “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard? (I’ll be surprised if not!)
    However, if you haven’t, get it! In typical Willard fashion, he leaves you with practical guidance on discerning the voice of the Lord, while at the same time doesn’t “tell you what to do.” Well worth the time to read and even re-read.


  4. At the time I wrote this post I had not yet read that book. It is now one of my favorite books on the topic. I also love Dialogue With God by Mark Virkler, and Knowing and Doing the Will of God: Daily Devotions for Every Day of the Year by J. I. Packer.

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