How to Discern the Voice of the Holy Spirit: 5 Truths from God’s Word
Today I am honored to feature guest writer Bethany McIlrath! Be sure to check out more of her amazing posts at Firstandsecondblog.wordpress.com.
For a longer time than I’d like to admit, I avoided talking about the Holy Spirit because somehow the Spirit seemed weirder, wackier, and harder to explain than God the Father or Jesus Christ. One of the difficulties I’ve had is in accurately expressing how the Holy Spirit works.
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Language is limited.
It’s hard to clarify in just a few words how having a “feeling” about something is different from the “feeling” of the Holy Spirit working.
Saying “The Spirit spoke to me” quickly gets us labeled. It sometimes confuses people who wonder if they’ve never heard the voice of God – though if they’ve trusted the Lord as their Savior, they have. The voice of the Spirit just isn’t like any other voice we know.
Our discernment is also limited.
Sometimes recognizing the Holy Spirit’s work is even more difficult than explaining it.
We wonder if our sense of peace is actually a deceitful optimism, and we struggle to trust any leading in our hearts when we know our hormones are out of whack. We look at our requests of the Lord from every angle, feel everything we can about every known solution, and then strain to see “which option” the Spirit is pointing to.
All that to say – here’s a bit of what God says in His Word about recognizing the Holy Spirit’s voice:
- The Spirit agrees with Scripture.
Jesus said the Spirit proceeds from the God the Father. The Spirit testifies to who God is, who Christ is, and what God’s Word says (John 15:26.) In another instance, Jesus argued that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Although speaking about how He drove out demons, a greater point is that God in the Trinity is wholly united (Mark 3:25.)
If what you feel led to do is contrary to Scripture, the Spirit is not the one leading you in that instance. Examine anything you count as true, including direction for your life, against God’s whole Word.
- The Spirit won’t be tied to things of the flesh.
Being in the realm of the Spirit means we aren’t in the realm of the flesh. The two are diametrically opposed. The Spirit is even at war with the flesh. We, however, are often easily entangled by our flesh – our sinful motives and passions (Romans 8:9.)
When discerning if the Holy Spirit is the one directing you, check how “in the flesh” you are. Are feelings like fear of man or selfish gain motivating you? If so, the flesh is influencing your direction. Deal with this issue before the Lord and continue seeking until what’s left in your heart is not a human, sin-warped motive, but godly conviction.
- The Spirit doesn’t sound like you… His voice is distinct.
Sometimes the Spirit speaks to us in ways we enjoy. Other times, the Spirit convicts us or rebukes us. No matter what the Spirit says, though, the Spirit doesn’t sound like you. John 14:17 highlights how the Spirit is not part of this world the way we are. As we get to know the Spirit personally, we recognize that He is not like us and doesn’t speak the way we do.
To get to know the Holy Spirit – get to know God. Know His Word, know His character, know His work. Because God is three in one, knowing God is part of learning to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit. His voice is unique from yours. His is the one you hear in stillness and in silence. You hear Him in your heart when your mind races or when other voices are shouting loudly because He lives there, steadfast. His voice is distinct.
- The Spirit will require you to ask for help and teach you how to rely on God.
Jesus described the Holy Spirit as our Teacher. And to learn from the Holy Spirit, we need to listen humbly and accept the help and instruction He offers. (John 14:26)
The Spirit isn’t in the business of waiting for us to impress, but is all for giving you what you need so desperately to please and glorify God: the power of God in you. You won’t muster this up yourself! If you’re listening for the Holy Spirit, listen for One who calls you to ask God, rely on God, and be humble before God.
He’ll say “by faith” when we say “by sight.”
- The Spirit speaks with authority.
In a beautiful passage referencing the perfect unity of the Trinity, Jesus explains how the Spirit speaks with authority: He is God. (John 16:12-15) All the Spirit makes known to us is what Jesus wants made known to us. Jesus spoke with authority. The Spirit does too.
As you seek to be led by the Spirit, start by submitting to God’s authority. Listen for messages repeated by different unrelated sources. Look for confirmation in God’s Word. Sort out the sin in your heart that may be interfering. Ask the Lord’s help. And listen – though quiet, the Spirit’s word is as unwavering as God’s written Word.
Becoming familiar with the Holy Spirit and His voice is part of maturing in our faith. The relationship we have with the Spirit is precious. It is by the Spirit we are sealed for salvation. Jesus, our personal savior and friend, sent the Spirit to help us. God says He comforts us and guides us through His Spirit who lives within us. God’s Word says it is the Spirit who fights the sin seeking to rise up in us.
Learning the sound of His voice is imperative for drawing near to God, living like Christ, and taking up as our own the abundance of what the Sovereign Lord offers us. Be still, be diligent in the Word, and get to know Him for yourself.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
**Photo by photo-nic.co.uk nic on Unsplash
A learner at heart, Bethany McIlrath believes that listening to the Lord’s Word and being attentive to all that He teaches her through daily life is a priceless blessing. Eager to share about her Savior, you can find Bethany’s writing on her blog: Firstandsecondblog.wordpress.com. She would love to connect with you on Twitter or Facebook as well.