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What Does it Mean to be LED by the Spirit?

By David A. DePra

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (Rom 8:12-16)

All Christians want to be led by God Ė to be the recipients of Divine guidance. We ought to. We are supposed to seek Godís will. And certainly God will often indicate His will to us. This is all part of what it means to walk with Jesus Christ.

The above passage, from the KJV, seems to speak of being LED by God. In fact, it seems to indicate that being LED by God is an earmark of being a son of God. This is important, for a son of God is anyone who is saved. So, are we to conclude that if I am LED by God that it is an evidence that I am saved; that I am a son of God?

Well, all of that might be true. Certainly if I am saved, God will want to lead me. But a closer look at the above passage tells us that being LED by God isnít really the topic being discussed at all. Indeed, according to the original Greek, the verse in question says, "For as many as are GOVERNED by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."


Now, this really opens things up. For it is one thing to be LED by God, but it is entirely another to be GOVERNED by God. To be LED requires only that we are told what to do, and then we do it. In other words, to be LED only deals with our outer conduct. But to be GOVERNED by God requires that ALL OF ME come under the sovereignty of God. My outer conduct will simply reflect that fact.

This is an important distinction. It is entirely possible to want to be LED by God, yet to not be GOVERNED by Him. How so? Well, it is possible to want to be LED by God so that I can benefit from the results. If my goal is to avoid problems, and obtain blessings, I may turn to God for His leading under the assumption that this, too, is Godís goal. And while this is not, in and of itself, necessarily wrong, it is not the same as being GOVERNED by the Holy Spirit.

The human heart is, after all, quite deceitful. Thus, many Christians, while believing they want God to lead them into HIS will, really want them to lead them into THEIR will. We donít say that in words, mind you, but often it comes down to that. The way we rationalize this is by assuming that Godís will must surely BE our will! So often this is the case. Christians decide what they want to happen, or what they need, and then look to God for His leading, but often will not open to the possibility that what God is after is completely outside of their thinking.

But right here we see the problem. If I want to be LED by God, but am not GOVERNED by Him, it is eventually result in deception. For it is only if I am GOVERNED by the Holy Spirit that I will be truly seeking GODíS will, and not my own. Why? Because when the Holy Spirit GOVERNS me, my faith, will, attitude, and motivation, all come under the work of the Holy Spirit.

The work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal to us Christ and conform us to Christ Ė but neither is possible unless we are brought under Jesus as our personal Lord. Then, we really will be GOVERNED, wonít we? By the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Power to Become

The word, "governed," is a good one. Why? Because God often likens Christ in us through the Holy Spirit to the kingdom of God in us. The Kingdom of God Ė no better word to describe what ought to GOVERN us. To come under the Kingdom of God means to come under Christ Ė and to become someone who lives in harmony with Him, both outwardly and inwardly.

So we now see this great Truth: To be GOVERNED by the Spirit means that the Spirit not only leads me into Godís will, but it means that in the process, I BECOME GODíS WILL.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)

This verse is really describing what it means to be GOVERNED by the Holy Spirit Ė we BECOME the sons of God. Of course, we are born sons of God through the salvation of Christ. But we do need to grow Ė which is nothing more than us BECOMING in fullness what we already are by the new birth. You will note that this is exactly what John is saying. He does NOT say, "If you receive Christ, you will become a son of God." No. He says, "If you HAVE received Christ, you already have the power to BECOME a son of God." This is growth and spiritual maturity.

Governed by the Spirit

A return to the passage from Romans 8 reveals what Paul is talking about when he speaks of those who are GOVERNED by the Spirit of God. He is not talking about discovering how to hear the direction of God in our lives. No. Paul is drawing an obvious contrast between being governed by the FLESH, and being governed by the Spirit. So first off, letís again ask, "What does it mean to be GOVERNED? Ė by either the flesh or Spirit?"

To be governed means to be controlled or directed Ė not in the sense of having no choice Ė but in the sense of what directs traffic in your life. Do our emotions run our lives? Then we are governed by that dimension of the flesh. Does the Truth govern our lives? Then we are governed by the Spirit. But again, donít think of this in terms of looking to either the flesh or Spirit for some kind of mechanical direction. No. And donít think that any of this necessitates that we realize what we are doing. No. To be governed means, "to be driven by." It speaks to what make us TICK. All of that may be quite unconscious.

Most people who are governed by the flesh never give a thought to whether they are governed by the flesh. Not even most Christians. If we FEEL a certain way, we assume that our feeling is a valid indication of the Truth. If we THINK a certain way, usually we set that up as the Truth. But none of it may be of the Truth at all. It is entirely possible for a personís grasp of reality to be in total error. The fact that they think they are right, and walking in the Truth, is not only irrelevant, but to be expected. Doing so is what DECEPTION is all about.

To be governed by the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit is doing everything in us that Jesus said the Comforter would do when He came. But not just, "out here." The Holy Spirit wants to do all of those things IN US PERSONALLY. The Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, will guide us into all Truth. But this means He must expose our error. The Holy Spirit will likewise seek to reveal to us Jesus, and to take all that is of Jesus and make Him real in us. This too will require the removal of all that hinders the work of the Spirit. Yet all of it adds up to setting us free from being governed by the flesh, and from being governed by error. The end result is that we are GOVERNED by the Spirit Ė we not only DO the will of God, but we are in the process of BECOMING the will of God.

Now note: Paul said, "Those who are governed by the Spirit of God are the sons of God." Does this sound optional? No. It sounds like Paul thinks that if you are saved, the Holy Spirit will be in the process of bringing you under the GOVERNMENT of God. It sounds as if the Holy Spirit is going to be seeking to make JESUS LORD of us personally. How else would being governed by the Spirit work out in us?

The Spirit of Adoption

Paul says we have not received the spirit of fear, but of adoption. In other words, to be governed by the Spirit is NOT a matter of being threatened by punishment, or even promised a blessing, that you might fear losing if you donít obey. No. To be governed by the Spirit speaks of RELATIONSHIP Ė we are to be governed by our relationship as sons to our Father.

To be governed by our relationship with the Father means that our motivation is reverence, love, and righteousness. Thus, rather than seek a THING called, "Godís will," we seek God Himself. His will is automatically revealed when we see Him. Or to say it another way, rather than seek a THING called, "Godís leading," we seek a PERSON, Jesus Christ Ė we seek a revelation of Him that satisfies our situation. And any choices we need to make come along with that revelation.

I would never say that it is wrong to ask God to speak His will to us. But never do this as a THING separate from seeking God Himself. God doesnít want to simply give us orders. He wants to give us HIMSELF.

One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is to seek first direction from God, but to neglect God Himself. In Truth, it is often God who puts us in situations where we have need of help, so that we will seek HIM as the solution. But if we think the solution is nothing more than information about our situation, or facts about what we ought to do, we are probably going to be met with silence from God. No. God puts us into difficult situation so that we will seek a revelation of Jesus Christ that will not only meet the situation, but which will carry us to victory in the midst of it. Christ is the goal. Not info, or some, "leading."

If you find yourself in a difficulty, and have prayed much to God, only to receive silence as the response, this may be the answer. It isnít that God wants to withhold from you His will. It isnít that God wonít tell you what to do. And it certainly isnít as if God doesnít care. But the problem is that your focus is on the wrong goal. You want the NEED met Ė or what you THINK is your need met. But God wants to use the difficulty in your life to bring you to the place of need! He wants to create the need! Why? So that only a revelation of Jesus will do. So that you will seek JESUS Ė seek a revelation of Jesus; seek the life and victory of Jesus. The rest of Godís will in the matter will come with that.

Remember Jesus said, "Seek you first His kingdom (His governing of YOU) and His righteousness, (the maturity of His life in you), and all these things will be added." Sure. But how many of us actually do this in practical, everyday difficulties and circumstances? Do I seek first God Himself Ė and His will over me Ė in everything? Well, Jesus said that doing so is the ticket to everything else we want, and everything else we need.

Imagine if God, "gave us His will," but we werenít surrendered to His will? Imagine if God LED us into His purpose, but we had done nothing to know Him? Imagine if God gave us power and authority, but we had done no surrendering to His power or authority Ė to the governing work of the Holy Spirit? It would be disaster. That is why God doesnít do this Ė despite the fact that many false teachers claim to have power and authority. God wants US Ė He wants to govern every dimension of our being by His Holy Spirit. THAT is His will. The rest of what goes on can come only as this central goal is progressing.

But again, the Jesus Christ does not govern by imposing His will upon yours, under threat of punishment. No. We have not received the spirit of fear. We are sons and daughters. Thus, while it is true that there are no options God gives other than His will, His will is always best, and good. It is only a testimony to our ignorance, or self-will, that we think the will of God is harsh. No. We have the Spirit of adoption; the Spirit of son ship. This is a relationship, not of slave to master, but of son to Father.

To be GOVERNED by the Spirit of God means that everything about me not only comes under the work of the Spirit, but I am changed to where my relationship with God becomes more and more real. I become governed by who God is to me, and who I am to Him, rather than by the flesh.

Do you want to be LED by God? Then you must surrender to Him and become GOVERNED by Him. There could be no better goal and solution.

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