In what ways does the Spirit of God lead us?
Since it identifies us as sons of God (Rom 8:14), being led by the Spirit of God should characterize our lives. Paul’s teaching assumes that all believers are led by the Spirit (Gal 5:18). The Spirit leads us both rationally (through our minds) and mystically (through an inexplicable awareness). The former needs to be emphasized and is more easily explained. If we are not willing for be led by the Spirit daily, we will not likely be sensitive to His leading in “special experiences.”
The Spirit of God and the Word of God both reflect the same source and must agree. Generally, therefore, the Spirit leads through the clear directives of Scripture. Thankfully, He not only directs but also enables our walk (Gal 5:16-18).
The more we walk in the Spirit, the deeper will be our acquaintance with “the things of the Spirit of God” (1Co 2:10-16). As the Spirit unfolds to us the mind of God, we learn through the Word of God the principles by which God works. Increasingly, therefore, the principles of Scripture will guide us. Daily subjection of our will to the Scriptures cannot be distinguished from the leading of the Spirit in our lives. To more fully know the mind of God through His Word is a life-long challenge. The Spirit leads us rationally by enriching our minds with the practical knowledge of God. As we submit, He both directs us and enables us to please God.
One of the greatest difficulties in life is to be honest with ourselves. That is why the mystical leading of the Spirit is difficult to discuss. Too often we attribute our own preference to the leading of the Spirit. The Spirit of God superindends our circumstances and often directs us through them, but always in keeping with the Word of God.
Two verses in Psalm 25 instruct us in knowing God’s ways. Verse 12 emphasizes reverence for God, acting to please Him. Verse 10 points to meekness. The meek humbly submit to God and totally depend on Him. Who could boast about possessing these qualities? To hear a voice behind us “saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isa 30:21) is always an evidence of God’s grace. Nevertheless, this is not something for which we need to beg God. He desires to lead us through His Word (rationally) and to prompt us as we are sensitive to His will (mystically). Self-consciousness and self-occupation will not produce this. In many ways, this is a sacred secret between the soul and God. We obey His written Word and, through the Spirit, He takes care of the rest.
Is the Spirit’s leading relevant to assembly meetings?
We worship by the Spirit (Phi 3:3, JND); we work by means of the Spirit (1Co 12:4-7); we walk together with others by the Spirit (Gal 5:25). The Spirit’s leading is essential in every aspect of our assembly life and service. If our assembly meetings do not display the sovereignty of the Spirit (“the Lord the Spirit,” 2Co 3:18) in directing them, we have nothing more than mere ritual and empty form. The substance, timing, and coordination of our worship, prayer, teaching, and preaching must result from the leading of the Spirit. This will be very limiting to those of us who know little of His leading in our daily lives.
Specifically, how does the Spirit lead us in our gatherings?
A highly respected elder once responded to this question by saying that the Spirit’s leading is the application of scriptural sense. As large a subject as this is, a few scriptural principles will cover most situations. Every one has an obligation to prepare to contribute as guided by the Spirit (1Co 14:26) and in keeping with his Spirit-given capabilities (1Co 12:11). A servant mind (Phi 2:5) recognizes that this functioning is not about self (1Co 13:4, 5), but to glorify the Lord (1Co 1:29, 31) and to help others (1Co 12:7). We function as part of a priesthood (1Pe 2:5) and therefore all that we do must coordinate with others (1Co 14:29a). We recognize the value of the discernment of others whom the Spirit has gifted (1Co 14:29b). All is done with courtesy and consideration for others (1Co 14:32). We act in response to a touched spirit that is genuine (John 4:23), an overflowing heart (Psa 45:1).
Observing these principles with a prayerful and submissive heart will cover most of the circumstances. The mystical prompting of the Spirit will handle the rest.
What are the marks of the Spirit’s leading in a meeting?
In light of the foregoing principles, our participation should make it easier for and encourage others to participate. What we have contributed should often become a building block that amplifies others’ contributions. If a deadening silence follows our participation, quiet submission to the Lord may produce an awareness of a wrong condition in the soul. If there is honestly no awareness of wrong, then we commit this to the Lord with a humble admission that we have tried to please him. A feeling of depression or elation that follows our participation may not be the most reliable guide. Being willing to wait God’s time for encouragement is essential. He will give the needed encouragement in His own way as well as through others, which is most valuable when it comes from respected believers.
We must move in the presence of God and not live for or by the praise of men. We nonetheless value others and want to move in fellowship with them.