Summary: In this lesson we boil it down to the #1 and only way to know if the Holy Spirit is leading you.
Have you ever felt as if the Holy Spirit was leading to perform some action for God? Maybe you felt as if the Holy Spirit was leading you to partner with some ministry, or to believe some doctrine, or to go aid a certain person. While the way in which the Holy Spirit leads us can be debated at some other time, there is no doubt that He does lead us. Paul is unmistakably clear on the matter when he said,
But let me ask you this, when you felt that the Holy Spirit was leading you, how did you know it was the Holy Spirit and not Satan?
Satan also has the power to fill our hearts and influence our actions as well. For instance, Peter asked Ananias in Acts 5:3, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?” Ananias, along with his wife Sapphira, were influenced by Satan to take a particular course of action, to lie to the church, and ultimately lie to God (Acts 5:4).
Now back to our question, how did you know it was the Holy Spirit and not Satan who was leading you? Before you say, “well that’s easy, the Holy Spirit is good and Satan is evil,” consider that Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that even “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Since Satan’s leadings can seem to be good and from God, we need to “test the spirits” or leadings, “to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). How do we test the spirits?
One way is to rely on one’s feelings to determine whether Satan or the Holy Spirit is leading us. However, feelings, no matter how strong they may be, are not a sound way of determining whether something is right or wrong. The proverbialist said,
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Just because something “seems right,” or feels right does not make it right. While warm fuzzy feelings may seem to provide legitimacy that a leading is from the Holy Spirit, remember 2 Corinthians 11:14, our good feelings may very well be a disguise of Satan.
Another way to test the spirits might be to rely on an authority figure such as a pastor or a prophetess who can give a word from the Lord to determine the spiritual source of our leading.
A word of caution is in order here. Just because a person seems to have authority from God, or the Spirit in their life, does not mean that they do. Jesus said that there will be many who prophesy in His name and do many mighty works in His name and yet He will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Note that Jesus did not say, “I don’t know you now.” No, He said, “I never knew you.” There are many religious authority figures, which, by their works seem to have the Spirit of God with them, yet they have never been in fellowship with the Lord. In the words of Paul:
“Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Therefore, relying on the religious authority of man is also a flawed method for determining the spiritual source of the leadings or promptings of our hearts.
The #1 way to tell if the Holy Spirit is leading you is to turn to the scriptures, to your Bible. The scriptures are the only reliable place we can turn to determine the spiritual source of the leadings of our hearts, and that is the scriptures. Listen to the words of Paul,
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Since the Scriptures are breathed out by God, or “given by inspiration” (KJV), they alone are the only reliable source by which we can determine if the Holy Spirit or Satan is leading us toward some action. If we feel a prompting in our heart then we must test it by the scriptures. If it squares with scriptural teaching then we must wholeheartedly embrace it. But, if a leading does not square with scripture then it is from Satan and should be shunned.