What does it look like and feel like to be led by the Holy Spirit? If we believe Paul’s writings, then we find that this question is crucial to living the Christian life. He writes in Romans 8:14, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (NIV). Moreover, we find these words in Galatians 5:25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” So how do we experience this walking with the Spirit? Are we concious of this leading or does it run in the background of our lives? Does this involve audible voices or sudden eureka moments? Is being led by the Spirit different than other expressions of God’s providence?
If we are going to get a sense of the Spirit’s leading, we must begin by affirming that the Spirit of God is personal. He is a Person of the Trinity, fully possessing the Divine Nature. What is a person? A person, at least in my simple explanation, is a unique center of will, emotions, thoughts, and habits. A personal relationship involves two or more such unique centers disclosing something of these thoughts, emotions, desires, and habits to one another. So to be led by the Spirit means that we are in a personal relationship with the Spirit. We would expect then some type of personal disclosure from the Spirit, reciprocated with our personal disclosure to him.
But our relationship with the Spirit is unlike our relationship with other human persons. In a relationship with another human person, the other person remains outside of us, and we are never able to fully know the other person (as if we could fully know ourselves). Yet Jesus says, “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17b). So the Spirit is not merely with us but in us. Though we often think of intimacy with the Spirit as something like the conversational intimacy we have with loved ones, it is clear that this image doesn’t do justice to the nature of this relationship. Conversational intimacy – or even the deep intimacy pictured in Picasso’s Friendship – is ultimately only an expression of a with relationship. But we have an in relationship with the Spirit.
There is power in realizing this simple truth. If you are like me, you have wondered why you do not have the kind of conversational intimacy with God’s Spirit that you have with other friends and family members. You consider your faith deficient, and you probably look for experiences that you think will finally make your relationship with the Spirit evident. Is there a prayer practice, a charismatic service, a practical manual, or something else that can finally satisfy your longing and assuage your guilt? Be relieved of this burden. The truth is that a relationship with the Spirit is too intimate and too unique to be contained within conversational, with relationships. We may think that we desire this, but God is already working within us in deeper ways. We need to have our vision enlarged to see the work he is already doing. Next time we will explore what it looks like to be led by one who lives in us.