Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
Last week we studied the Inward Witness and learnt that it was the number one, or primary way that God mostly leads us as Christians. We also learnt how to develop and trust the witness inside of us. In today’s study, we will consider following or more appropriately obeying the witness. We will from this lesson discover why for most believers it is a struggle to follow the witness inside of us and how we can apply this teaching in our day to day lives.
First we will take a quick look at how it was back in the days of old and now.
THE TIMES OF OLD
In the Old Testament, determining God's will appears to have been an easy task. For instance, the Israelites in the wilderness had only to observe and follow the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They did not have to be spiritual to know when and where to move. Also, when the high-priest sought to find God's will, all he had to do was to cast the `Urim and Thummim' in the Lord's presence and they indicated `Yes' or `No'. (Exodus 28:30)
It was all so simple, because it was external and easily apprehended by man's physical senses.
Knowing God's will appears to be so much more difficult for us in this day and age. The reason is that God wants us to prove for ourselves what His perfect will is (Rom.12:2). The Holy Spirit now lives in a believer to be his Guide, and He replaces all the external means of guidance that existed in the Old Testament. The Lord provided external guidance for the Israelites but inward guidance for us and this demands for our sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit as we see among the early Christians.
• In the Acts of the Apostles, we find Philip acting on the inner urging of the Spirit and joining the chariot of the Ethiopian statesman (Acts 8:29);
• Peter obeying the inner voice of the Spirit directing him to go to Cornelius's house (Acts 10:19,20); and the leaders in the church at Antioch recognizing the witness of the Holy Spirit in their spirits confirming the call of Saul and Barnabas to foreign missionary service (Acts 13:2).
The same Spirit desires to guide each of us today in every decision.
FOLLOWING THE WITNESS
Number 1 requirement is Recognition - recognizing the voice of the Spirit
Most times the inward witness is there but we don't recognize it.
Mostly because we want the Lord to move in some spectacular way—we want some kind of word, tongues and interpretation, a prophecy, or God just to write His mind up in the sky!
“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10:4
SO HOW CAN WE RECOGNIZE THE VOICE OF THE SPIRIT?
We can distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit by the increasing pressure He produces in our spirits and the growing peace He gives to our minds, as we pray over a matter.
"Following after the Holy Spirit leads to life and peace" (Rom.8:6-TLB).
The Devil's voice is usually harassing and often accompanied by threats of judgment, if we do not obey instantly. The Bible says, "... he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa. 28:16).
Faith doesn't get in a hurry. The devil will try to push you. He will try to move you out of faith, move you into doubt, move you into unbelief, and get you away from the leading of God.
God invariably gives us sufficient time to consider and be sure of His will.
THE PLACE OF OUR CONSCIENCE
“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 9:1
The number one way that we receive the leadership of the Holy Spirit is through the inner witness in our spirits and the conscience is the “voice” of our human spirit; it is the conduit by which that leadership comes. Habitually violating the conscience is the surest path to becoming hardened to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
1Timothy 1:19 [NLT] says:
“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.”
It is often not easy for us to distinguish between our own heart's voice and the voice of the Spirit, for our hearts are so deceitful. For instance, when considering a possible life-partner, we can easily mistake the emotional pressure and the "growing feeling of peace and joy at every contemplation of the proposed step", for the witness of the Holy Spirit.
HOW TO LESSEN THE POSSIBILITY OF FALLING FOR THE DECEIT OF OUR HEARTS
• We should examine our motives and make sure we desire the glory of God alone
• We should be prepared to accept whatever He chooses for us
Because it is usually where we fail to yield or where our motives are selfish that we go astray.
God's will may sometimes be just what we like ourselves, but it can also be what we do not instinctively like. We should not think God's will is always the most difficult course of action that lies before us. Neither need it be the easiest course of action.
For instance, when we are in a difficult situation or a tough job, we may be tempted to run away from the place. This can easily be mistaken for the leading of the Spirit. On such occasions, if we are in doubt, it is better to take the more difficult step and to trust God to give us grace to manifest Christ's victory in our situation.
PRACTICAL STEPS FOR DECISION MAKING
Someone once suggested these practical steps, when we need to decide on a course of action, and I think we can practice this:
• Draw a line across a sheet of paper and write down all the reasons for doing a particular thing on one side, and all the reasons against it on the other (like a balance sheet)
• Pray over these reasons daily and revise the list as necessary.
• Be sincerely willing to accept either course of action.
• As you continue to pray, the Holy Spirit will give you a witness in your spirit as to what you are to do. If you experience a growing peace in your spirit about a particular course of action, this will usually be a clear indication of what God wants you to do.
The Bible says, "Let the peace (which comes) from Christ (through the Holy Spirit), rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts - deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds" (Col. 3:15-Amplified).
• We should check ourselves when we lose our peace.
• We should proceed ahead only when we have perfect peace in our spirits.
We all will love to be led by the Holy Spirit. We want to be able to make decisions; great or small and be at peace when we make them as we trust God for His ultimate will to come to pass in our lives. But we really don't need any supernatural sign; or a supernatural writing in the sky. These will be “nice to have” but if we know on the inside of us what God wants us to do; we should just go ahead and do it. It is true that quite a number of us really don’t have a problem with hearing God; but our problem is with obeying God. Especially when what He’s asked us to do is contrary to what our flesh desires. But our consciences keep us in check; that is why we should not make it a habit of violating our consciences.