The Spirit of Guidance
This is the second blogpost in the series Living Under Influence – don’t be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit. You and I are called to live life under the constant influence of the Holy Spirit. He plays an essential role in every single part of our lives as Christians, and we shouldn’t be uninformed about how He works.
In the first message we discovered that He is the Spirit of Freedom. He leads us to a life of freedom, the life we were meant to live, no longer bound to sin. Today we are going to take this a step further and talk about how He is guiding us in that new life of freedom. So, we are taking off where we left last Sunday, at the end of Galatians 5 where Paul says:
Galatians 5:25 (NLT) Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
The Holy Spirit has awakened our spirits, we are set free, we live in relationship with God. There is this whole new world that has opened up to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Now, says Paul: ”let us also follow how He is leading us”. A more literal translation would be “walk in step” with the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is guiding us. Don’t you need a guide? I need a guide. However strong-willed or self-assured you may be and however it may seem like you have it made, we all long for guidance. It’s much easier to go on holiday with someone that actually speaks the local language. And it’s nice to be partnered up with someone that helps you through the first weeks or months of a new job or a new position or school. We all value the advice from people who are a few steps ahead of us far more than our very opinionated peers.
God has assigned the Holy Spirit to each and every one of us as our guide in life.
Jesus told His disciples already before the crucifixion that he was going to be killed, raised to life and then ascend to heaven. “But”, He said, “I’m not going to leave you behind like orphans, I’m going to send the Holy Spirit”.
John 16:5-7 (NLT)
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.
Jesus says that it is better for us that He would ascend to heaven, because otherwise the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. Jesus could only be at one place at the time, but the Holy Spirit would be alive in every believer, directing them and speaking to them.
Jesus says that the Kingdom impact will only get stronger after He would leave.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate, which is a translation of the Greek word parakletos. This word literally means “someone who comes to your aid” and was usually used in the courtroom – which is how we end up with the translation ‘advocate’, but can also be understood in broader terms. This is why you will also see this word translated as Comforter, Encourager, Counselor or Helper.
The Holy Spirit is exactly who we need, at whatever moment in time.
The Holy Spirit is exactly who we need, at whatever moment in time. He is the voice of God speaking the words of encouragement we need to hear. He is the arm around you when you feel alone and the kick in the buttocks, we all need sometimes He is the one through who we can be strong even in our weaknesses. He is the One that will remind us of eternity when we are confronted with sickness. He will show us how to forgive when we really don’t want to but know that we need to and He prompts us to go speak to that one person standing in the corner that needs to hear some words of life.
Don’t try to live your life without asking the help of the perfect Helper and Guide that Jesus sent you.
Jesus goes on to describe the two functions of the Holy Spirit when it comes to guidance: correction and direction.
In order to learn anything, we need correction. Imagine a teacher who would only give straight A’s to everyone in the class, or a sports coach that never works with you on your technique or substitutes. What if managers would never address dysfunctional behavior? Imagine the parent that would never say: “no”. What if your navigation system would not tell you “turn around” when the destination is the other way?
Without correction, we end up getting stuck in the same old mistakes time and time again. We need correction, and we’ll accept correction in all these areas of life.
Why then have we grown allergic to correction on ‘the way that we should live’? Why do we so quickly receive correction as judgement, and do we feel the need to defend ourselves, or point to our right to do whatever the hell (says) we want?
This is how Jesus begins to describe the work of the Holy Spirit.
John 16: 8-11 (NLT)
And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
The key-word here is ‘conviction’. Conviction is a multi-layered word, which carries the meaning of proving, showing, convincing and correcting. What Jesus says here applies both on a meta-level to the whole world, but also at a micro-level of the individual. How Jesus unpacks this is a bit difficult to understand at first, but let’s make an attempt to unfold this.
The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.
I’m always puzzled why we can get so upset about people’s sin where for one, it is not our job to convict people of their sin. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit! and secondly, the only sin that really matters when it comes to people who don’t know Jesus yet, is exactly that! Until they would start to believe in Him and follow Him, that’s the only thing that should really concern us.
Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.
Basically, what this means, is that the Holy Spirit will testify to the One who is righteous, and that is Jesus. So, the Spirit reveals the problem – sin, and then the solution – forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Paul would later call the Gospel the ‘righteousness of God’ as well.
Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
The rule of satan over this world has come to an end. He is already judged; He is already overpowered and the Holy Spirit is the one who brings to the light the schemes and lies of this enemy.
The Advocate does both prosecution and defence. He is prosecuting satan, pointing out his lies and schemes and revealing the righteousness of God. Yet, He comes to our defence when satan is accusing us.
So, this is how the Holy Spirit works in the world on a larger scale. Pointing out sin, pointing to Jesus and the Gospel message and bringing the schemes of satan into the light. And this is where the translation ‘Advocate’ is really helpful. Because and Advocate can either be the prosecutor or the defender. The Holy Spirit functions as both! He is prosecuting satan, pointing out his lies and schemes and revealing the righteousness of God. Yet, for the believer, He comes to our defence when satan is accusing us.
Conviction vs. accusation
This is also how we can easily distinct the voice of the Holy Spirit from the voice of satan – is it conviction or accusation? Because about the very same situation, we can hear two different voices:
Accusation: You are a horrible mess-up and you’ll never be good enough!
Conviction: You are better than this. This doesn’t have to be you.
Accusation: Jesus will be so angry with you. What a way to respond to what He’s done for you. Do you call yourself a Christian?
Conviction: My loved one, I have a different future for you. Stop what you are doing! The emptiness you are trying to cover up, I can fill!
About the very same situation you can hear two entirely different voices. One of accusation (satan) and one of conviction (the Holy Spirit).
The conviction of the Holy Spirits is gentle, but firm. He doesn’t shy away from pointing out the truth, yet He will always lead you to a better way and speak words of life and hope. Therefore, when we are confronted with other people’s failures and faults, let our words be guided by the Spirit as well and be words of life and hope!
The second way that the Holy Spirit is guiding us, is through giving direction. Jesus continues to teach His disciples in this way:
John 16:12-15 (NLT)
“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’
The Holy Spirit is getting another title here, next to Advocate, ‘the Spirit of Truth’. And Jesus points out that when you receive the Holy Spirit, He will help you to understand truth, to apply truth, to distinct a lie from the truth and reveal truth.
There are two ways this applies. Firstly, to the disciples – writing the Bible and teaching the early church. Secondly, to you and me – interpreting the Bible and applying it to our daily lives.
The Holy Spirit guided the disciples
For three years the disciples sat under the teaching of Jesus. They were impressed, their faith was growing and their value system changed, yet there was so much that they didn’t understand. But these were the guys that would write most of the New Testament and be the teachers and leaders of the early Church.
Jesus taught them that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. He would bring to memory what Jesus had said, He would reveal how this applied. He would guide them into understanding what the death and resurrection of Jesus meant, and write it all down. This is why 2 Timothy 3:16 says: All Scripture is God-breathed. The Holy Spirit made sure that everything that needed to be written down would be written down, and that it would end up in our hands in understandable language 2000 years later.
Because of the work of the Spirit, we have in our hands a book written over a period of 2000 years (Moses to John), by kings, farmers, doctors and fishermen, in three different languages including history, poetry, prophecy and preaching – and 100% consistent in all that it teaches and completely relevant to human life all around the world in every age.
The Holy Spirit guides us
Secondly, it applies to you and me. The Holy Spirit is the one that guides us into all truth. He helps us in our Bible reading. Actually, I would go as far as to say that without the Holy Spirit, your Bible reading is close to worthless because you won’t be able to understand it, believe it or apply it! But, through the Holy Spirit, our eyes are opened to the heart and the character of God and the incomprehensible love of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God can change the way we think about ourselves and about others. And then, He will change our lives from the inside out to look more like Jesus. He will help us to put in practice all that the Bible teaches.
Without the Holy Spirit, your Bible reading is close to worthless because you won’t be able to really understand it, believe it or apply it!
So, whenever you open Scripture, invite the Holy Spirit through a simple prayer: “Holy Spirit, will you reveal the truth of God to me as I open Scripture and help me to live accordingly”.
Start the conversation
I’m going to finish with one last thought. Please understand that, if you are a child of God, you already have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. If not, then He is trying to speak to you and move you to this decision. As a child of God, the Holy Spirit is already guiding you and helping you with all of this. What I want to invite you to do, is to become more intentional about listening to His voice. By intentionally inviting Him to guide you,
I believe you will become more aware of what He is saying and what He is doing in your life. Invite the Holy Spirit into your Bible reading and your prayers – ask Him to guide you. But don’t stop there! Ask Him to guide you when you are making breakfast, when you are on your bike, meet a friend, join a meeting, write an email, play with your child, spend quality time with your spouse and when you do groceries.
Invite the Holy Spirit into every decision and every situation, and you will receive wisdom beyond your years. You will truly understand what it means that God is always with you. Start the conversation with the best friend that’s always been with you, but you may have been ignoring.