I’ve always believed that a leader should frequently revisit his/her own personal values and beliefs to bolster their ability to “walk the talk”. Many motivational speakers used to say to write down your goals and post them everywhere as a reminder of what’s most important. Some people choose a tattoo to serve as a permanent reminder of an important event or person that they want to immortalize.
My wedding ring, in particular, serves a two-fold purpose. It not only signifies to the whole world my covenant with God and my wife but it also signifies 3 areas that I vow to uphold in everything I do. Although my ring looks a bit different, the 3 words are identical. You’ll get the idea here in this image below:
My Greatest Influence(s)
God and everything that entails my interaction with Him is the MOST IMPORTANT lens through which I perceive and engage my life. As a man, secondarily my strength and honor are the things that remind me to live a life of passion, purpose and performance.
So when I encounter a particular situation in life, I try to run it through the personal filter of how a (spirit-led) man of God, full of strength and honor, would approach the solution. Of course, knowing what to do and actually doing that particular thing is the big challenge we all face.
When I find myself struggling to keep these principles as a primary influence in my decisions, it’s not difficult to pinpoint why. (personal example below)
Just as a team or athlete can struggle with performance, we as individuals lose our focus and do things that we’re not proud of or go against our value system. Spiritually speaking, the apostle Paul would describe this in a few ways. A person led by the flesh rather than being led by the spirit would have difficulty in overcoming temptations or serving our (brother) fellow man.
Paul said this to the church in Ephesus: (Message version)
15-19 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!
20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
In other words, seeing with different eyes…hearing with different ears. Sensing with different senses. A spiritual person learns to surpass the talents and abilities of their flesh and utilize a “6th sense” that the Holy Spirit empowers us with. We simply have to acknowledge it’s been freely given to us and learn to utilize it through training and intentional gratitude of that grace gift–or worship the Giver of the gifts rather than the gifts (charismata) themselves.
In all the years that I have coached physical and personal performance, I have witnessed the difficulty associated with trying to do things without the aid of others. Especially when that aid comes from somebody wiser, smarter, more experienced and even a master of the thing they’re helping us with. Sometimes we enlist the aid of experts only to rebuff or ignore their suggestions because it makes us uncomfortable, angry or insecure.
It’s much easier to give up when we lose sight of the original goal. Hard work, frustration, difficult situations, etc., have a way of distracting us and possibly causing us to give up or at least slow down. Napoleon Hill in his classic book, Outwitting The Devil, describes an imaginary conversation with the devil where he interviews the devil and asks him how he (the devil) successfully diverts our (humans) attention away from the important things that help make us successful.
Now when I think of successful, Joshua 1:7-9 immediately comes to mind: 7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Hill describes a few terms like Drifting and Hypnotic Rhythm that become tools to lead us towards mediocrity, apathy and possibly despair and depression. Interesting read that simply reinforced to me the utter necessity of us (humans) seeking out expert guidance as well as submitting to that leadership when it’s given.
Ask someone who has never worked out before what they’re going to do on their first day in the gym. You might get a very confused look unless they happen to have a workout article that they grabbed from a magazine or internet article. Even then, they’ll struggle to interpret how to mimic the pictures they see into a real life movement.
Ask a single parent or divorcee what it’s like trying to manage a home and/or family by yourself. Ask a professional team what it’s like trying to play without your team captain because of a season-ending injury. Ask a corporate team what it’s like to lose staff because of financial layoffs and still be asked to perform the same level of production with nary an increase in pay.
Even introverts who prefer to have more isolated working conditions benefit from both the counsel and assistance of working with others. Unfortunately, some prefer to do things on their own out of stubbornness or mistrust of others. I witness this in the gym all the time.
I’ve even offered to help people who were doing something incorrectly and they said, “Thanks, but no thanks. I know what I’m doing.” It’s unfortunate that this stubborn attitude often leads to either a wasted workout experience or worse…an unnecessary injury.
My point is that the old saying is true. “Two heads are better than one.” And when the other head happens to be God, you can rest assured that some amazing things are going to happen!
So, the filter that believers in Christ are using is a virtual set of glasses that allow us to see things from a godly perspective. Where my flesh might respond to a bad driver with an angry shout, my spirit would just exercise grace and move on to a more important use of my brain power. That’s an important filter and we have unlimited access to it.
Let’s discuss the Spirit-led life.
Under the Leadership of the Holy Spirit
For a Christian believer, we read over a hundred biblical references to a life influenced by the Holy Spirit. For example:
- Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
- John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
- Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
- Proverbs 20:27 The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.
- Isaiah 30:21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
- Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
- John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
- Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
- 2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
- Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
John Piper said over 30 years ago in a sermon on the Holy Spirit:
Galatians 5:25 states concisely what our next step (after salvation and receiving the Holy Spirit in order to walk as a new creation) should be. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Paul is in full agreement with Jesus that it is by the work of the Holy Spirit that we have been given new life. “Even when we were dead through trespasses God made us alive together with Christ . . . We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5, 10;Colossians 2:13). Just as God once said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, so he “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Now Paul, in Galatians 5:25, draws an inference from how our new life in Christ began: if it began by the Spirit, then all our subsequent life ought to be carried out by the Spirit (see Galatians 3:1–5). If it was by the free and sovereign power of the Spirit that our new spiritual life came into being, then the way that new life should be lived is by that same free and sovereign power. “Walk by the Spirit” means do what you do each day by the Spirit; live your life in all its details from waking up in the morning until going to sleep at night by the enabling power of the Spirit. But what does that mean, practically speaking? How do we “walk by the Spirit”?
That’s good stuff right there. And simple. The filter by which we experience life can be many things both good and bad. Resentment and unforgiveness can cause us not to trust people. Insecurity can prevent us from helping others or acknowledging when others experience success because we envy their good fortune. Greed can cause us to mistreat others or make objects out of people because we are on a quest to possess more at any cost. Insecurity can cause us to manipulate and control others because we are unable to seek out what is REALLY best for others.
Allow me to use a personal example of insecurity from my coaching experiences. I saw many clients struggle with their teenagers over the years I was training young athletes. I started reading parenting books so I could better understand what was happening in hopes of avoiding some similar things in my life.
Sadly, I watched many parents lose the respect of their adolescent-turning-adult children and many times these young children grew up only to discard their parent’s religious preference later on as well as choosing a lifestyle that was detrimental to their future (alcohol/drug abuse or promiscuity, for example). No parent ever wanted that for their children but conversely didn’t know the best way to trust and allow their children to make their own decisions.
Jesus–who was not insecure–showed trust to all of us even in our sinful decisions and always kept the door open to come back (prodigal son). When they come back, they come back on their own decision and not as a guilty prisoner with no choice. This is empowering rather than suffocating for our children to experience.
Jesus always looked past the sins of others when He instead saw the potential light in them (Hebrews 12:2). Sin was the enemy, not the sinner. As a new parent, I have seen how my own insecurity can occasionally manifest when my young children make mistakes and I freak out rather than lovingly correct them or love them through the mistake (potty training, anyone?!). Instead of letting them learn on their own, I can feel obligated to force them into better decisions. Of course, that always undermines the recipient of our correction/punishment and potentially leads to resentment and/or rebellion.
As I mentioned above, when we realize we are getting off track and making flesh-centered decisions, it doesn’t take long to realize that we are not maintaining an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, our comforter and guide. Remember the fruit produced by an ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit yields love and kindness, rather than angry fits of rage or insecure manipulation.
Anyway, let’s get back to the star of our show. The Holy Spirit is a totally different kind of filter that only has our best interest in mind. He also produces long-lasting love, joy, peace, kindness, and self control in us that we don’t personally accomplish. He accomplishes that in us simultaneously when we are engaging Him, trusting Him and submitting to His leadership.
When I have personally trusted more of my thought life to Him, I have been utterly amazed at how ridiculously awesome I have felt. The sense of peace was indescribable. The love I was a recipient of was tangible and encouraging. This is just my individual experience but it has truly been one of the most enjoyable and transformational parts of my life. It’s something that can be experienced over and over but it takes our willingness to partake of it.
So before we confuse the matter with doctrinal rules, let’s stay grounded in the text from above.
What kind of “You” are you giving away?
If you know enough about Jesus to know he claimed to be the Son of God, then you also are probably aware that He lived a life of pushing his flesh to the side in order to allow the Spirit of God to have full dominion in his world. I would unequivocally state that Jesus gave his all to being spirit-led.
If we claim to be a “Christian” then we also lay claim to being a disciple of Jesus. This means that anything He would do, we should consider doing. The spirit (no pun intended) behind his actions would seem radical to many people so it’s important to analyze his actions through the cultural times and circumstances. When Jesus told the disciples to carry a sword, the people at the local airport metal detector station might have had a problem with that directive.
Of course, when our fruit resembles something other than a Christ-like virtue, the world gets extremely confused by our actions. Where the Holy Spirit is wisdom personified, He would most certainly lead us towards righteous thoughts and actions. When sin or evil manifests itself through us, we are then acting with the full blessing of our flesh which runs counter to the desires of the Spirit.
Look at Romans 8:13-17:
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Jesus seemed pretty adamant that our obedience to God’s will for our life through observing the law was the path towards a prosperous life. Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection then fulfilled the law and grace closed the gap between God and His creation. Now that the temple veil had been torn in half, the opportunity to meet God face to face via the Holy Spirit as prophesied by Ezekiel in chapter 36:26-27 was fulfilled:
A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you . . . I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes.
Seems pretty straightforward to me that we truly have a helper now to guide our thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, many of us have had difficulty in letting go of our previous nature. We often regress into old thought habits that yield bad results. Where the old man would act from his flesh and seek selfish gain, the new man was seeing with a new set of eyes and ears.
Let’s look at John 16:7-14:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;11concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Having examined these two passages, it becomes increasingly obvious that there really has been a transfer of identities. Jesus took our old unrighteous, self-consumed identity and traded it for His holy and unblemished one. Sorry, I can’t help myself. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.b The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconcilingcthe world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
It’s quite important through our study of scripture that we realize there’s a new “YOU” on the scene. One who has been empowered by the Spirit of God to make great decisions. Decisions that will not only impact your life but also the lives of others.
Bring Your Life Under The Leadership Of The Holy Spirit
So having examined just a few of the scriptures concerning our new life of the spirit, it becomes vital to attempt to bring all of our personal values, responsibilities and ambitions under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
- Bring your marriage under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
- Bring your parenting wisdom and correction under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
- Bring your work ethic under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
- Bring your diet, exercise and overall health strategy under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
- Bring your thought life and goal setting under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
These are just a small set of possible things for you to start with. As you identify areas of your life that are not only important to you but also difficult to accomplish, begin to ask the Holy Spirit directly as though He was standing right in front of you–Besides, He actually IS standing right in front, behind and next to you. The fruit that comes from this will usually produce at least 2 lucid results:
- – We will begin to love God with every bit of our person (our thoughts, emotions, & actions). We’ll think about how He or His kingdom will be affected by our involvement.
- – We will increasingly care for and love deeply the very people we come into contact with including our friends, family, coworkers and complete strangers.
So try this simple step. Simply ask, “Holy Spirit, how can I accomplish this (possibly overwhelming) task today?”
Wait for a few seconds. Wait for several minutes. Don’t do it when you’re in a hurry. Avoid doing it when you have a list of tasks to get done. Do it when you have some time to really wait for an answer. The more you do it, the faster you begin to receive an answer. The difficult part is waiting for our flesh to jump to the rescue. Our soul (which many people consider to be our mind, will & emotions) tends to volunteer an answer to most of our problems.
However, this goes back to our original problem of doing things by ourself, usually in our own strength. Again, it’s not wrong. It’s just that we don’t always get it right and the process would go so much better if we allowed the Holy Spirit to be involved with our decisions rather than going solo all the time.
Allow me to wrap up with a humorous story about waiting for the Holy Spirit. I was once leading an exercise where people were practicing how to pray for others in small groups of 5 or less. However, the instructions were for one person to sit in a chair while the other 2-4 people stood around them while waiting for the Spirit’s inspiration to help them pray for that individual.
Now if you’ve ever prayed for people, you know that after repeated attempts it gets easier and easier to pray with your own mental ideas of what a person needs (or should need, according to us). One older friend in my group (I was about 35 then and he was in his upper 40’s) kept feeling awkward after about 10 seconds of silence and just blurted out his prayer. After the 3rd time, I got a little perturbed and “nudged” him–ok, maybe i punched his arm–to keep silent a little longer. I was shooting for 20-60 seconds of tempered silence and had even told my group it was ok to wait as long as needed in order to allow Holy Spirit to give us guidance in prayer.
It was pretty awesome because some of the younger guys were praying things that seemed foreign to them yet they felt urged to pray. The person being prayed for felt like we were unveiling secrets that only he should have known but since the Lord knows our hearts better than we do, it was no surprise that we were able to pray a more “accurate”, personally-directed kind of prayer that truly touched the person receiving prayer. This is available to ALL believers! If you have never experienced it, simply ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and requests and…wait a little bit for the answer. 🙂
So give this a try if you’re new to this aspect of engaging your spiritual life. As always, feel free to contact me directly with any questions or comments.