Contributor: Akin Akande
Over the last few weeks, we have considered a number of unique ways God, at His prerogative, can guide believers: Guidance through spectacular means, guidance through prophecy and guidance through vision. We understand that we must not relegate those ways of God’s guidance since there are examples of such in both the new and old testaments. We are, however, cautioned not to be seeking those ways as the primary source of guidance. We, as children of God, must primarily depend on the Holy Spirit and the word of God for guidance. In particular, last week we mentioned the importance of being conscious that our angels are on guard.
This week, we shall consider the place of listening to our (regenerated) heart as Christians.
The heart is what some consider being a mystery. According to Easton Bible dictionary:
According to the Bible, the heart is the centre not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life. "Heart" and "soul" are often used interchangeably (Deut. 6:5; 26:16; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30, 33), but this is not generally the case.
The heart is the "home of the personal life," and hence a man is designated, according to his heart, wise (1 Kings 3:12, etc.), pure (Ps. 24:4; Matt. 5:8, etc.), upright and righteous (Gen. 20:5, 6; Ps. 11:2; 78:72), pious and good (Luke 8:15), etc. In these and such passages the word "soul" could not be substituted for "heart."
The heart is also the seat of the conscience (Rom. 2:15). It is naturally wicked (Gen. 8:21), and hence it contaminates the whole life and character (Matt. 12:34; 15:18; Eccl. 8:11; Ps. 73:7). Hence the heart must be changed, regenerated (Ezek. 36:26; 11:19; Ps. 51:10- 14), before a man can willingly obey God.
The process of salvation begins in the heart by the believing reception of the testimony of God, while the rejection of that testimony hardens the heart (Ps. 95:8; Prov. 28:14; 2 Chr. 36:13). "Hardness of heart evidences itself by light views of sin; partial acknowledgment and confession of it; pride and conceit; ingratitude; unconcern about the word and ordinances of God; inattention to divine providences; stifling convictions of conscience; shunning reproof; presumption, and general ignorance of divine things.”
Simply put, it is the core of a regenerated Christian that God is able to work within and through.
Expounding on the Text
Paul did not say, "The Lord told me" that this voyage will be with much hurt and damage. He simply said, "I perceive" that it will. In his spirit, Paul had an inward perception, an inward premonition, and an inward witness that the voyage would be dangerous. This is the primary way God leads all of us.
Paul did not perceive it mentally. He did not have some kind of "vibration" or psychic experience. Spiritual perceptions are not in the psychic realm. You do not find psychic phenomenon in the Bible. Also, Paul did not perceive this physically. In his spirit (heart) he had a witness.
Lesson for us
The Holy Spirit abides in every (true) Christian and He communicates to us through our spirits (hearts) – not (directly) through our minds. That is why ones spirit knows things ones head doesn't know and therefore one must not be reluctant to follow ones heart. Like Paul, we must pay careful attention to those inward perceptions, inward premonitions, and inward witnesses. Don’t let them slip! Listen to them!
One of the reasons that we as Spirit-filled believers miss it, make mistakes, and fail is because our spirits, which should guide us, are kept locked away in prison, so to speak. Knowledge, or intellect, has taken the throne. Please note that there is nothing wrong with knowledge or intellect but we must submit them to our spirits through the Holy Spirit.
Any person who shuts his spirit away and never listens to it – because the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord – becomes crippled in life and becomes an easy prey to selfish and manipulative people.
One devotional says, “Many times we may sense a prompting from the Spirit, and we override that prompting. The result from this is that we miss God, and the opportunity He has provided us. Don’t feel bad, we all do this. What differentiates us from the world is the fact that we, as Christians, have the soft heart, but we have to work at keeping it pliable. When we sense those promptings, or if we hear Him speak to us, we need to be obedient immediately. The sooner we respond with obedience, the easier it becomes to do so. Before you know it, you will hear Him speaking to you all the time.”
If we, as individuals, had listened to our hearts – to an inward witness, or an inward voice – we would not have done some things we did. But just because we make a mistake, we must not quit. If you would just check up on your inside, in most of the affairs of life, you would know what to do.