3 Principles for Understanding the Spirit (Repost)

(This content was originally posted at coreytrevathan.com).

Understanding the Spirit’s leading in your life can feel intimidating. You may also believe that it is an impossible task. There are many people you may feel have gotten it wrong and maybe you could say the same for yourself. We all have been apprehensive to follow through with “urgings” in our life to do certain things because we are uncertain as to their source. Is this God stirring something inside of me or just indigestion?


“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12

We are timid to talk about the Spirit’s leading in our lives and understandably so because the stakes are high!

So even though there is mysticism involved in your faith in Jesus, (“his ways are higher than our ways”) I will attempt to demystify discerning the Spirit’s leading with three principles.

These principles will help us to know what is true and understanding the Spirit is knowing what is true.

  1. Understanding the Spirit happens within the context of the Spirit.

If you are uncertain as to whether the direction you are taking is “of the Spirit” ask yourself this question, “Is it true to God’s mind?”

1 Corinthians 2:10a (NIV) these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Apostle Paul is writing to a church that had the Spirit, but did not have the Spirit in charge. To help get them back on track Paul has to remind them of the things God has revealed through His Spirit.

  • A message of wisdom.
  • A mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

God revealed through Jesus how He would reconcile sinful man to himself. Now the Spirit turns what might be foolishness to some into the wisdom of salvation for those who accept the message.

1 Corinthians 2:10b-16 (NIV) The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

Paul points out that nobody can fully fathom the thoughts of anyone else. How much more necessary, then, is the work of the Spirit if the thoughts of God are to be known.

Have you ever had someone tell you what you were thinking? “I know what you’re thinking.” To which you would say, “No you don’t!”

In other words, who better to understand our own thoughts but ourselves.

You are the utmost authority on you!

The same goes with the Spirit, as the Godhead three lives in me who better to understand God but God.

He is the utmost authority on Himself!

I know what you might be thinking (I know; I know). “How does this principle help me to discern the voice of God in my life? So God can understand God, but I want to understand God. How does this help with my fear of doing the wrong thing?”

Well that’s it! You don’t have to be afraid to discern the mind of God because God has given you His Spirit for that very purpose.

“With the Spirit you have an ability to commune with God, understand his will, and make sense of the foundational truths of Scripture.” – Wendle Willis

Knowing what is true is not simply having the Spirit but having the Spirit in charge.

When we yield to the Spirit He helps us to understand what God has freely given through Jesus Christ. God reveals to us the good news of salvation through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection with words taught to us by the Spirit.

  1. Understanding the Spirit happens within the context of God’s word.

So when you want to know if you are being led by the Spirit ask yourself this question, “Is it true to God’s word?”

Acts 17:10–12 (NIV) As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

The Bereans became believers because they listened to what Paul taught about Jesus and then went back to God’s word to see if what he said was true. This is a good principle for both Christians and and those who are searching. In fact, if you are not accustomed to using God’s word this way you probably still practice fact checking with Google. When I served as a youth minister I had a kid who would always use his i-Pad to fact check my lessons in real time. If I gave a pop culture reference he would look it up immediately and if what I said was inaccurate, he would make sure to correct me.

Use God’s word like you use Google.

The Bereans were yet Christians but they took the time to consult with the Law and Prophets. What they discovered was God’s word confirmed what the Spirit preached through Paul. With God’s word they answered the question, “Is this the voice of God?”

The Word of God and the Spirit of God work together and not against each other.

  1. Understanding the Spirit happens within the context of God’s community.

With this principle, ask yourself this question, “Is it true to God’s people?”

In the early church, Scripture reading was not a private activity. When the Word of God was read it was read aloud. There are some factors as to why this was the case. For one, not everyone had access to individual copies of Scripture as we do today. Having copies of the Bible is an incredible blessing. We should, today, read God’s word in private and in public. The problem with each person having God’s word is that we may read something into it that is not there or come to a strange interpretation that is unique to us. We may believe that God has spoken to us with a personal revelation but may not take it to the community of believers to see if it is true.

The Bible was read in community and discerned in community.

If a teaching or an urging of the Spirit seemed strange to them then they tested it against the church.

For us today we have access to not only the local body of believers but also to the universal church. We can weigh what appears to be the Spirit’s leading in our lives against early church leaders and contemporary teachers.

Use these three principles to “invite all your wisdom” in seeking to understanding the voice of God in your life. God empowers you with His Spirit to discern His voice and He gives you access to His Word and His community.

You’ve got the tools. God provides the help. Walk in faith and be led by His Spirit.

Jovan preaches for the Littleton Church of Christ near Denver, Colorado. To learn more about discerning the Spirit you can listen to a message Jovan preached entitled “truth 2 Truth” on June 5, 2016.


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