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What Does it Mean to Be Led by the Spirit?

In order to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you, you have to follow His guidance. In addition to yielding to His conviction, you can also become aware of the Holy Spirit’s leading through reading the Bible.

What Does it Mean to Be Led by the Spirit?

In Galatians 5:16-18, the Apostle Paul tells us, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

When a person refers to being “led by the Spirit,” often it is hard for us to understand what that means. In this article, we are going to uncover what it means to be led by the Spirit.

Being Led by the Spirit

From the time a person places faith in Christ, they are given the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit permanently indwells believers, and He will never leave us. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Helper” (John 14:26, ESV).

He is referred to as “the Helper” because He helps us in our struggles. When we don’t know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit intercedes with moans and groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26).

There are times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed with sorrow, pain, and grief. In these times, we may not know how to process our feelings — much less express them in words to our Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit can intervene on our behalf and communicate our feelings to the Father.

In addition to intervening on our behalf and guiding us, the Holy Spirit can also lead us if we allow Him. The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity, which means He is God. Many people do not know that the Holy Spirit is God, but He is God.

He is even often overlooked and downplayed among Christian circles who know He is God. The Holy Spirit deserves the proper recognition and worship because He is God, and He is completely worthy of our praise.

Being led by the Spirit is a popular topic among Christians, yet not many people are aware of what this means. When Paul is telling us to be “led” by the Spirit, he is referring to the fact that we should be open and receptive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

The Holy Spirit wants us to do the right things and to avoid sin. He can convict our hearts and minds when we commit a sin. Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we can repent and turn back to God.

If a person consistently refuses to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they can become cold and callous to the Spirit’s guidance. When a person consistently refuses the Spirit’s guidance, they will not be able to be led by the Spirit.

Instead, they will be led by the sinful flesh. As believers, we need to follow after God and obey the Holy Spirit’s convictions and guidance. When we listen to the Spirit’s convictions and guidance, we can truly be led by the Spirit.

Being willing and open to the Holy Spirit's guidance is the only true way of how a person can be led by the Spirit.

The Sinful Flesh

Due to our fallen nature, we all have sinful flesh (Romans 3:23). This means we are all born into sin and we all freely sin. The sinful nature stays with us until we die. Many Christians believe a person’s sinful flesh is destroyed once they place faith in Christ; however, this is not true.

When a person places faith in Christ, they are forgiven of their sins, yet their sin nature is not completely eradicated. Our sinful nature will not be eradicated until we are with Christ in heaven. 

Since we will continue to struggle with our sinful flesh throughout our earthly lives, we are constantly being tempted by our sinful nature. Our sinful flesh wants us to follow it rather than to follow the Holy Spirit.

When we choose to follow the Holy Spirit, then we are not walking in accordance with the flesh (Galatians 5:16-18). Our sinful flesh and the Holy Spirit are both constantly in conflict inside of us.

This can be troubling for us because oftentimes the easiest thing to do is to follow our sinful flesh rather than the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Obeying the Holy Spirit and following Him is always the right thing to do.

Allowing yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit will help you grow in your relationship in Christ as well as it will help you grow in your Christian maturity. If we choose to follow the sinful flesh, we will hurt God, others, and ourselves.

Following the lead of the Holy Spirit can be hard, but it is completely worth it. It is important to note that if we are not being led by the Holy Spirit, then we are being led by our own sinful nature.

As Christians, we have to take the active decision to choose to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit rather than our sinful flesh.

Following the Holy Spirit’s Guidance

In order to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you, you have to follow His guidance. In addition to yielding to His conviction, you can also become aware of the Holy Spirit’s leading through reading the Bible.

There is much information about the Holy Spirit in the Bible and the more we learn about Him, the better we will be at discerning His leading and guidance. A few aspects of the Holy Spirit’s leading are the fruits of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” These fruits of the Spirit are what God wants to cultivate in our lives.

When we are being led by the Spirit, we will produce these fruits in our lives, including love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The opposite of the fruits of the Spirit are the deeds of the flesh as Paul tells us, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21).

We can distinguish who is leading our life based on our actions, thought patterns, and behaviors. If we are cultivating and producing the fruits of the Spirit in our life, then we are truly being led by the Holy Spirit and we are walking in accordance with His will.

On the other hand, if we see the deeds of the sinful flesh being cultivated and produced in our lives, then we are following the lead of our sinful flesh and are walking in accordance with our sin nature.

What Does This Mean?

If you find today that you are being led by your sinful flesh rather than the Holy Spirit, you can change direction today. Ask God to help you be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s convictions and ask Him to help you cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in your life.

The Lord answers every prayer in accordance with His will and these types of prayers are in accordance with His will. After praying, you can start reading the Bible intentionally and searching out the verses/passages/chapters of the Bible to obtain the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

The Bible is the only way God speaks to us in the modern-day. He does not speak to us from thunderclouds nor through prophets.

Rather, He has completely revealed Himself in His Word and we can yield to the Holy Spirit’s guidance by reading, reflecting, and applying the Bible in our lives.

Being led by the Spirit means to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance as revealed to us in the Bible. Throughout our lives, we will constantly be challenged to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit or the leading of our sinful nature.

The challenge will be hard, but with the help of God, we can follow the Holy Spirit’s lead throughout our lives and bring glory to the Creator of our hearts.

For further reading: 

What Is the Role of the Holy Spirit?

How to Live a Spirit-Filled Life

What Does it Mean to be Filled with the Spirit?

How Can I Recognize the Guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/jankovoy


Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.