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Led by The Spirit: How You Can Know Whether The Spirit Is Leading You

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

Samuel Sacrant David, by Francois Leon Benouville

In order to anoint David, Samuel first heard from God

In order to anoint David, Samuel first heard from God

In my previous article, Led by The Spirit: How The Spirit Leads Us, I identified from the Bible different experiences through which the Holy Spirit led the ancient believers—and, I believe, through which He also leads us today.

However, because these experiences are very subjective (meaning that, because they occur in your body and mind, they are not experienced by others), they can be confusing to anyone who experiences them.

Have you ever heard a Christian ask, "How do I know whether a thought (voice) in my mind comes from me, Satan, or God?" Well, in this article, I will provide you with some biblical principles to help you figure it out.

The Spirit Does Not Contradict God's Word

The Spirit Does Not Contradict the Bible

God has given us His word written word, the Bible. He expects us to read it, study it, follow it, and obey it.

  • In Matthew 5:17-19, the Lord teaches that all the words in the Bible will be fulfilled, and therefore we should teach it and obey it (of course, after interpreting it correctly).
  • In John 10:35, the Lord teaches that the BIble cannot be broken: in other words, what it says cannot be legitimately overlooked.
  • In 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Paul explains that all of the Bible is God's word, and therefore all of the Bible matters.
  • In 2 Peter 1:19-21, Peter explains that all of the Bible is God's word, and therefore we must obey it.

We must therefore recognize that, if we receive any spiritual direction or experience that contradicts the Bible, such direction or experience is not from God's Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Divine author of the Bible, and He will never contradict His own word.

The Spirit Does Not Contradict the Gospel

Because the content of the faith has been revealed already, we must recognize that God will not reveal a new gospel (a new message for salvation).

In Jude 1:3, Jude teaches that the Christian faith has been already revealed, and that our duty is to contend for it (to preserve it and defend it).

In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul teaches that anyone who produces a different gospel than the one presented in the Bible out to be damned for all eternity, whether that person be a human or a spirit.

In 1 Corinthians 3:11, Paul teaches that the foundation of the Christian faith (Jesus Christ) has already been set: the identity and teachings of Jesus can never be replaced.

In 1 John 4:1-3, John teaches that anyone who contradicts the truth of the biblical gospel (that God's Son became a human) is a false prophet sent by the Devil (the spirit of the Antichrist).

The Spirit Does Not Discredit Jesus

The Holy Spirit will always confirm that Jesus is the Lord and Christ who resurrected from the dead. He will never deny this truth, and He will never say that Jesus was rejected by God.

In Romans 1:4, Paul declares that the Holy Spirit resurrected Jesus to declare that He is the Son of God.

In 1 Corinthians 12:3, Paul declares that the Holy Spirit always leads a person to recognize that Jesus is Lord.

The Spirit Does Not Contradict The Teachings of Jesus

The Holy Spirit will always confirm the teachins of Jesus and never deny them or try to refute them.

In John 16:13-15, Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit will teach His disciples the truth and so glorify Christ.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus implied that obedience or disobedience to His teachings indicates what the eternal fate of a person will be.

The New Testament Church Held On To This Principle

In the New Testament, it is evident that the early church ran into many people who claimed to be apostles and prophets of the Lord. Therefore, they were taught not to blindly accept the words of these apostles and prophets, but to test the content of their faith and of their words (Revelation 2:2).

What about you? Have you heard anyone teach, proclaim, or propshesy? Do not follow them blindly! Test the content of their faith and their words.

Have you had a spiritual experience that caused you to believe that the Spirit was leading you, or that God was speaking to you? Do not place your faith on that experience just yet! Test the content and teaching of the experience.

The Holy Spirit Has a Real Impact

Apart from the content of our spirtiual experiences (or of someone else's teachings), there are other principles taught or reflected in the Bible to help us determine whether the Spirit of God has truly led us, or spoken to us and through us.

Perceived As Not Generated By You

The biblical pattern is that those who received revelation (or direction) from God recognized the message as something that came from God and not from them.

According to 1 Corinthians 14:30, prophets received revelation. It is important to understand that a revelation is not an idea that is generated by one's mind, but one that was generated by someone else and received by one's mind.

Prophets did not wonder whether the thought was generated by them: they knew immediately that the word came from God to them. You don't see Abraham asking God, "Lord, is this really you?" Instead, Abraham obeyed (Genesis 12:1-4).

If you are having a hard time discerning whether a message in your mind came from you or from God, it is more likely that it came from you. Take as long as necessary to pray about this message, to study the content of the message, and to seek the advice of more mature believers.

Perceived As Significant

The biblical pattern is that God's revelation (or direction) has spiritual relevance.

God doesn't bother believers about irrelevant matters. He doesn't lead you just to make a conversation: instead, He always has an important point.

When He asked Cain, "“Why are you angry, and why is your face fallen?" (Genesis 4:6, LEB), He wasn't just making conversation: He was confronting Cain's sin.

Even if the revelation or direction that you are receiving is meant only for you, that revelation or direction is meant to do something important and spiritually relevant in your life.

God-Focused Results

The biblical pattern is that God's revelation (or direction) results in faith toward God, repentance toward God, service to God, and glory to God.

For example, when the Lord spoke to Saul on the Road to Damascus in Acts 9:1-9, 18-20, Saul converted to Jesus.

It is for this reason that those who speak by God's Spirit declare that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Bible-Based Experiences

Usually, an experience from the Spirit is like other experiences found in the Bible.

Think, for example, about Paul's list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

  • wisdom
  • knowedge
  • faith
  • healing
  • miracles
  • prophecy
  • distinguishing spirits
  • tongues
  • interpreting tongues

Most of these experiences had a biblical precedent in the Old Testament. Those that were new had other precedents: distingishing spirits could be seen in the Lord's ministry (Luke 8:29), and tongues were experienced by the first disciples (Acts 2:4). Only the interpretation of tongues seems to be (at least to me) without a precedent.

Consequently, you should question experiences that do not have a biblical precedent. For example, God doesn't use tarot cards, ouija boards, or black cats to lead us.

Practical and Useful

The biblical pattern is that the message or direction God gives is useful to truly encourage, truly solve problems, and make right decisions.

For example, the vision that Peter saw in Acts 10:11-15 eventually taught him and the church what to do about gentiles who converted to Jesus Christ (Acts 11:17, 15:14).


The biblical pattern is that when God gives a prophecy, promises a healing, promises a miracle, or gives a dream, these are fulfilled and come to pass (Deuteronomy 18:22, 2 Kings 20:9, Matthew 8:13).

Therefore, if a prophet says that Donald Trump will win the elections, and Donald Trump doesn't win the elections, that word of prophecy did not come from God.

Answer to Prayer

Spiritual experiences through which the Holy Spirit leads us can also be an answer to our prayers.

God answers our prayers in many ways, and we should not be surprised when we receive spritiual experiences in answer to our prayers (Daniel 9:21-23, Jeremiah 33:3).

[In my book, Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life, I take more time to explain how God answers prayers]

Two or Three Witnesses

Spiritual experiences in the Bible are usually clearly characterized by at least two or three of the principles above, not just one.

Therfore, I would like to suggest that, just as two or three witnesses could verify someone's testimony (Matthew 18:16), the clear presence of the principles above can help us discern whether our spiritual experiences are from God.

All human beings can have spiritual experiences, but not all spiritual experiences come from God. Therefore, we must compare the message of our spiritual experiences with the biblical message, and we must also implement Bible-based principles to help us discern whether our own spiritual experiences (or those of others) are truly from God.

© 2021 Marcelo Carcach

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