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What Does It Mean To Be “Led By The Spirit”?

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July 6th, 2015 | Filed Under: Author, Mitch Kuhn, Spirit, Topical Studies4 Comments | Author:

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Hello E_____,
I’ll be happy to explain what it means to be led by the spirit. I appreciate your questions; they help motivate me to study and write new posts for the website.
Being led by the spirit is often misunderstood and reduced to emotional inclinations or experiences that many people view as evidence of the Spirit giving them guidance. Some people call it “being filled with the spirit” or “the anointing”. I used to call them “promptings”. You may feel some kind of tingling sensation all over your body, or you may have a thought pop into your head that suggests you do a certain action. Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “God told me….”, and then describe some kind of a prophecy or instruction. Others see visions or have dreams they try to interpret.
Any of these experiences can be from a good spirit or an evil spirit. We must be especially careful because Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

(2Co 11:14 ESV) And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

In the book of Deuteronomy, the people of Israel were warned that false prophets would arise among them dreaming dreams and doing signs and wonders. These false prophets use their dreams and signs to convince the people to go after other gods.

(Deu 13:1 NKJV) “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,
(Deu 13:2 NKJV) and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—’and let us serve them,’
(Deu 13:3 NKJV) you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deu 13:4 NKJV) You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.

God is in control of all things and sends false prophets to us to test and teach us to discern good from evil. In our modern times, going after other gods is another way of saying, “believing false doctrine” or “disobeying God’s commands”.

I’m going to give you a few modern day examples of how false prophets use signs, wonders, and dreams to lead people astray. Then I’ll show you how to discern the truth with the scriptures.

Tithing- Many pastors teach that tithing is a command under the New Covenant, which is a false doctrine. To support their false teaching, they will often point to their own financial success or tell stories of people that started tithing and were blessed financially. This is a sign and wonder performed by a false prophet.
The truth about tithing:
Hell- There have been numerous books written by people who claim to have died and gone to hell. These stories are often used to support the false doctrine of eternal torment. These people have genuine experiences and are completely convinced they have the truth. Have you ever had a dream so real it was hard to distinguish from reality? That is the kind of strong delusion God sends.
The truth about hell-
Deliverance and dreams- Many people are delivered from addictions and terrible sins in their life and use these experiences to validate the false teachings of the churches they are attending. Others receive visions and dreams that are used to support false teachings. These signs and wonders are actually the works of Satan to deceive people into believing false doctrines.

(2Th 2:9 NKJV) The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
(2Th 2:10 NKJV) and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

Dreams can be very instructive, if they bring our attention to scriptural truths that are confirmed in the sum of the word and with a multitude of counselors.

(Job 33:15 NKJV) In a dream, in a vision of the night, When deep sleep falls upon men, While slumbering on their beds,
(Job 33:16 NKJV) Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction.

I had a dream back around 2007 that lead me to question the doctrine of eternal torment and lead to me see that all men will be saved. I’ve had a number of dreams where I was in a very tempting situation and right as I’m giving into temptation I would wake up. These dreams were good to remind me to be vigilant and watch soberly for temptation. The scriptures supported these dreams.

I’ve had other dreams that were not very instructive and simply needed to be cast aside as attacks of the enemy. Do not believe every dream you have and take them too seriously. It is easy to be blow about by every wind of doctrine that comes into our mind.

(Eph 4:13 NKJV) till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
(Eph 4:14 NKJV) that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

These very same things happened in the Old Testament. False prophets would dream dreams, perform wonders, or give a prophecy that came to pass. Israel was warned to always trust the Word of God and not signs and wonders.

(Deu 13:1 NKJV) “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,
(Deu 13:2 NKJV) and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—’and let us serve them,’
(Deu 13:3 NKJV) you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deu 13:4 NKJV) You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Notice that it says, “and the sign or wonder come to pass”. The false prophets that God sends do sometimes made predictions that come true, which makes it even more difficult to properly discern. God will answer us according to these idols that have been set up in our hearts, which serves to perpetuate the delusion and causes us to reap what we have sown.

(Eze 14:4 NKJV) “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him

who comes, according to the multitude of his idols,

(Eze 14:5 NKJV) that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.” ‘
(Eze 14:9 NKJV) “And if the prophet is induced to speak anything, I the LORD have induced that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel.
(Eze 14:10 NKJV) And they shall bear their iniquity; the punishment of the prophet shall be the same as the punishment of the one who inquired,
(Eze 14:11 NKJV) that the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me, nor be profaned anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be My people and I may be their God,” says the Lord GOD.’ ”

Judgment will come upon all evil and unrighteousness in due time. God will prosper these false prophets and those who follow them for a season, but in due time the judgment will come to show them the true God and his power and glory. In the meantime, it appears that those who see the truth and do righteousness are suffering while the wicked prosper. It is such a powerful temptation to envy the wicked and desire to follow the lies they teach. Lies do not appear to be evil at all when there is such prosperity with those who follow them. That is a part of the strong delusion.

(Psa 73:2 NKJV) But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped.
(Psa 73:3 NKJV) For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
(Psa 73:4 NKJV) For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm.
(Psa 73:5 NKJV) They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men.
(Psa 73:6 NKJV) Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment.
(Psa 73:7 NKJV) Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish.
(Psa 73:8 NKJV) They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; They speak loftily.
(Psa 73:9 NKJV) They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth.
(Psa 73:10 NKJV) Therefore his people return here, And waters of a full cup are drained by them.
(Psa 73:11 NKJV) And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?”
(Psa 73:12 NKJV) Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches.
(Psa 73:13 NKJV) Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence.

Those that increase in “riches”, does not only refer to money and wealth. It is a reference to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. It could be having others speak well of you, or enjoying any other passing pleasure of sin.

(Luk 6:26 NKJV) Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

It is relatively easy to spot evil when it manifests as drunkenness, fornication, or violence, etc. The more difficult discernment is when Satan is disguised as an angel of light. We can do many “wonderful works” and have an outward appearance of godliness, but when it comes time to be judged, this is how Christ will respond.

(Mat 7:22 NKJV) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
(Mat 7:23 NKJV) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

This parable begins the very next verse:

(Mat 7:24 NKJV) “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:
(Mat 7:25 NKJV) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
(Mat 7:26 NKJV) “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:
(Mat 7:27 NKJV) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
(Mat 7:28 NKJV) And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,

We must be diligent to search the scriptures to find the truth and not rely solely on any signs, wonders, or dreams. Christ has harsh words for those seeking a sign.

(Mat 16:4 NKJV) A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.

Our own hearts are deceitful and naturally desire signs and wonders above the narrow way of the scriptures.

(Jer 17:9 NKJV) “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

We must be aware of our own tendency to go after false prophets and to desire the broad road that leads to destruction. The path to life and truth is narrow and difficult, which few find.

(Mat 7:13 NKJV) “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
(Mat 7:14 NKJV) Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
(Mat 7:15 NKJV) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
(Mat 7:16 NKJV) You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

Evil is not always obvious. False prophets will arise among us and they will come in sheep’s clothing. That means they will appear to be a fellow brother or sister, another sheep in Christ’s flock. Paul warned the Ephesian elders of this very thing.

(Act 20:28 NKJV) Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
(Act 20:29 NKJV) For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
(Act 20:30 NKJV) Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
(Act 20:31 NKJV) Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

These false prophets don’t come in saying “there is no God, let’s go worship the devil”. They come in claiming the name of Christ and encourage disobedience and lasciviousness. They encourage others to go down the broad way that leads to destruction in subtle ways that are difficult to discern. As a fellowship, we have dealt with many of these issues in the past. Some issues brought by these false prophets have included:
1. Not needing to fear God
2. No need for leadership in the Body of Christ
3. Teaching that it is fine to keep pagan holidays

God has given us leaders in the Body of Christ, elders among us, who have had their senses exercised to discern these false teachings. At the appropriate time, they will warn us of these lies and tell us to get away from them lest we suffer for disobedience to God and Christ. To those who have not been through these experiences in the past, these warnings will seem to be “overly harsh” or “making a big deal out of nothing”. It will serve us all well to heed the advice of these scriptures and be teachable and humble to listen and search the scriptures to see if what we are being taught by our teachers is true.

(Heb 13:17 CLV) Be persuaded by your leaders, and be deferring to them, for they are vigilant for the sake of your souls, as having to render an account, that they may be doing this with joy, and not with groaning, for this is disadvantageous for you.

The scriptures command us to NOT believe every spirit, but to try (test) the spirits to see if they are from God. Teachers and leaders are sent to simply point out what the Word of God says, and then set an example of obedience.

(1Jn 4:1 NKJV) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

We must study the scriptures for ourselves to see if what we are being told by others is true.

(Act 17:11 NKJV) These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

If we think that being “led by the spirit” is just following our own emotions and inclinations, we will often mistake a lying spirit for the spirit of God. It is IMPOSSIBLE to discern truth from lies in our own hearts and minds without the sum of God’s word as our guide.

(Psa 119:160 CLV) The sum of Your word is truth, And all of Your righteous ordinances are eonian.”

This is particularly difficult with false prophets in our midst, because they do appear as sheep among us as we have affection towards them. God will send other people to manifest this spirit of a false prophet, which is a physical example of how a lying spirit will arise in the heart and mind of each and every one of us. Just as we must cast out false prophets from our midst, so too we must cast these lying spirits out of our own mind. God starts with physical examples and then uses that understanding to show us our own inward issues that must be dealt with.

(1Co 15:46 NKJV) However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.

(Rom 1:20 NKJV) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

God has ordained that his people function as one body, the Body of Christ. If we try to discern the truth of God all by ourselves, we will be deceived and not walk the narrow way. This point is made three times in Proverbs.

(Pro 11:14 NKJV) Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

(Pro 15:22 NKJV) Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.

(Pro 24:6 NKJV) For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.

There are many other scriptures that emphasize the importance of being in close contact with other followers of Christ.

(Pro 18:1 NKJV) A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.

(Heb 3:12 NKJV) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
(Heb 3:13 NKJV) but exhort one another daily, while it is called “TODAY,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

We are given further instructions in Ephesians about how to walk the narrow way, which is how we will walk when properly being lead by the spirit. The spirit leads us down the narrow way.

(Eph 5:15 ESV) Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
(Eph 5:16 ESV) making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
(Eph 5:17 ESV) Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
(Eph 5:18 ESV) And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
(Eph 5:19 ESV) addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
(Eph 5:20 ESV) giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
(Eph 5:21 ESV) submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The opposite of being led by the spirit and walking in the spirit is to fulfill the lust of the flesh.

(Gal 5:16 NKJV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
(Gal 5:17 NKJV) For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
(Gal 5:18 NKJV) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

In this case, the law is referring to the law of sin and death.

(Rom 8:2 NKJV) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

When we are being led by the spirit, we are being set free from serving the flesh and being caused to serve God in the Spirit.

(Rom 8:12 NKJV) Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

This is a walk of faith and not of sight. When we judge matters by our own physical sight and carnal understanding, we will not be able to see or understand the things of the Spirit of God.

(2Co 5:16 KJV) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
(2Co 5:7 NKJV) For we walk by faith, not by sight.

When Christ began his ministry, the Jews were looking for a conquering king to set them free from the physical oppression of the Romans. They were judging by sight and not by faith; they did not understand that Christ had come to change their hearts and minds, not their physical circumstances.

(Luk 17:20 NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;
(Luk 17:21 NKJV) nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

People today struggle the exact same way; they look for grand outward signs, big buildings, health, wealth, and prosperity. Or maybe it is more subtle, desiring to be exalted in this life, basically wanting the flesh to prosper. We often want to “feel” and “experience” God and think we are not being led or filled with the spirit when times are tough and we’re just enduring through tribulation.
God certainly does provide the physical things we need and will heal us to the extent that he deems profitable for us. However, God is not in the business of blessing and prospering flesh. His primary objective is to teach us to walk in the Spirit, and he will cause great suffering in the flesh to accomplish that.
This is the essence of Matthew 6.

(Mat 6:31 NKJV) “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
(Mat 6:32 NKJV) For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
(Mat 6:33 NKJV) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
(Mat 6:34 NKJV) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The Gentiles are symbolic of people that do not know nor follow God. It is the opposite of being God’s people. Christ is telling us to focus on being obedient and doing the will of God, then he will grant us the physical things in this life that he knows we need.
You will notice in the writings of the New Testament that physical health is mentioned on occasion, but it is brief and fairly rare. The focus is on the spiritual matters within.

(3Jn 1:2 NKJV) Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

(1Ti 5:23 NKJV) No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.

(1Ti 4:8 NKJV) For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

One of our biggest challenges as carnal beasts who are becoming spiritual is to learn the narrow way of being diligent about physical matters in our life while keeping our focus on the spiritual. If we completely neglect the physical, we will be disobedient, and if we focus too much on it, we will be disobedient as well.
We must work, care for our families, and care for our own bodies. However, our focus must always be on how these physical circumstances are meant to cleanse our hearts and minds and provide a good witness to others for Christ.
The spirit of God causes us to do many things, and will sometimes take us into circumstances to have our faith tested. Here is an example of Christ being led into the wilderness to be tested.

(Mat 4:1 NKJV) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

The true value of faith is demonstrated when it is tried by very difficult circumstances. It manifests if Christ is in us, and brings great glory for the Father.

(1Pe 1:6 NKJV) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
(1Pe 1:7 NKJV) that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

Christ was tempted in three ways in the desert:

Mat 4:3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

Christ was fasting and hungry, but was given a full measure of the Spirit of God to see that there is more to life that physical food. He saw the Word of God as his food as well.
In the same manner, we will be tempted to satisfy our flesh in disobedient ways when we have strong desires. When God has given us a sufficient measure of faith, we will be able to deny the flesh and walk by faith rather than sight.
2. Notice that the devil now tries to use one scripture to deceive Christ.

Mat 4:5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
Mat 4:6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘HE SHALL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE OVER YOU,’ and, IN THEIR HANDS THEY SHALL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU DASH YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’ ”
Mat 4:7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘YOU SHALL NOT TEMPT THE LORD YOUR GOD.’ ”

We too will be tempted to disobey Christ by seeing one verse of scripture that seems to justify the disobedience. We cannot rely on only one verse; rather we need to have everything established by two or more witnesses of scripture.

(2Pe 1:20 CLV) knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture at all is becoming its own explanation.”

(Mat 18:16 NKJV) But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY WORD MAY BE ESTABLISHED.’


(Mat 4:8 NKJV) Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
(Mat 4:9 NKJV) And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
(Mat 4:10 NKJV) Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ ”

We will be tempted to worship the flesh and even the devil himself in order to gain success in this life. Remember that Satan often disguises himself as an angel of light, so this temptation can come in the most subtle ways.
Being led by the spirit is a process that requires effort on our part, knowing that it is God who is working in us to accomplish his good pleasure.

(Php 2:12 NKJV) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
(Php 2:13 NKJV) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Seek a multitude of Godly counselors that rightly divide the Word of God and bear good fruit that demonstrates their obedience.
Study the Word of God yourself and be sure to always look at the sum of the Word and never make a decision or doctrine based on one verse.
Finally, pray for Wisdom and it will be granted to you.

(Jas 1:5 NKJV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
(Jas 1:6 NKJV) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
(Jas 1:7 NKJV) For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord

We Welcome Your Comments

  • Mark

    Mitch,thank-you for the inspiring study.Good to have you back in the saddle again. I missed your Spiritual insight in concern of the truth and knowledge of the Word…

  • MitchellKuhn

    Thank you Mark! It’s very good to be back doing studies. I certainly missed it.

  • Pete

    Excellent Mitch. Very helpful to keep this in remembrance and not be lead astray by the pulls of the flesh and our innate deceitful hearts.

  • MitchellKuhn

    Thank you very much Pete. Amen!