Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God.”
What comes to mind when someone says they are Spirit-led? Your answer will likely depend on your experience and what you’ve been taught. For some, it will conjure up images of some highly emotional experience. Others might imagine a quiet prayer warrior or someone with a servant’s heart. If it’s true that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” then it should be an important question for all of us to consider.
Scripture teaches that every true believer has the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:9), but it is possible to walk after the flesh instead of walking after the Spirit (Gal. 5). So, how can we know if we are being led by the Spirit?
Here are seven pieces of evidence of someone who is led by the Spirit:1
There is a Change in One’s Outlook
A believer has been born-again, which is a fundamental change of disposition and outlook. Walking in the flesh will mask this change, but walking in the Spirit will highlight it and make it more evident. There will be more of a desire for spiritual things such as loving fellow believers, growing in the knowledge of the word, serving the church, etc. Someone not walking in the Spirit (or devoid of the Spirit) finds such things boring or worthless. Thus they are not interested. As we walk in the Spirit, we become more aware that this life is a temporary pilgrimage and our true citizenship is in heaven.
Do you see yourself becoming more detached from this world?
A Desire to Live for God’s Glory
The ultimate purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus came to glorify the Father (John 17), and we are told to glorify him by our good works (Matt. 5:16) when we eat and drink (1 Cor. 10:31), and in everything we do (Col. 3:17). God will not share his glory with another (Isaiah 42:8); thus the more we are led by the Spirit, the more we’ll be led to fulfill our ultimate purpose.
Do you see a greater desire to glorify God?
A Desire for Greater Knowledge of God
The Spirit always points to Christ, so the more we are being led by the Spirit, the more we’ll desire to know more of Christ. There will be a greater hunger for studying Scripture since it testifies about Christ (John 5:39-40). Too often, the language of being “led by the Spirit” is used as an excuse to ignore theology or study of the Word; anything too “heady” is assumed to oppose spirituality. Yet, in reality, the Spirit works through the Word; the Word was written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and as we walk in the Spirit we’ll develop a greater hunger for the Word. A desire to read books about theology and Christian living that help us understand the Bible will likely increase. We’ll also be struck more often with an urgent longing to pray to our Lord. Certainly, all of us fall short in engaging these disciplines like we should, but there should be an increasing desire to do them.
Do you see an increased hunger to know Christ more through Scripture and prayer?
A Concern for Lack of Love for God
The last point is convicting for all of us, but for those led by the Spirit, there will be a concern for our lack of love for Christ. The self-righteous person believes they love Christ like they should, a Spirit-led person realizes that we never could, yet there is a longing to increase in our love for him.
Do you plead with God to give you a deeper love for him?
An Increasing Awareness of Sin
The more one is led by the Spirit, the more there will be an awareness of sin. This awareness will lead to mourning, confession, and repentance, thus drawing us closer to the Lord. The closer you get to the light, the more visible your imperfections become, so if we are drawing closer to the Lord, then we’ll see more of our sin. A person who continues to see themselves as “good enough” is in danger.
Are you more aware of your sinfulness than you were a year ago?
A Different Reaction to Sin and a Sensitivity to Temptation
As the Spirit works in us, there will be more of a hunger and thirsting for righteousness. “The man who is being led steadily onwards by the Spirit has positive desires and yearnings and breathings after holiness and righteousness.”
One who is led by the Spirit understands there is no need to pretend their sin doesn’t exist (1 John 1:8-10). When we understand the depravity of our heart and the beauty of the Gospel, there is no need to masquerade. Our righteousness is from Christ and not ourselves, which frees us to be confessional, honest, and repentant about our sin instead of hiding it. It also drives us to flee temptation as we become more sensitive to the danger of sin.
Are you growing in your hatred of your own sin (not just someone else’s) and taking proper steps to avoid it?
The Fruit of the Spirit
Finally, one who is led by the Spirit is a manifesting of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5). These characteristics are brought about by the Spirit and are contrary to the natural man.
Are you prideful, hateful, quick-tempered, harsh, or lacking in self-control? Do you see the Spirit bringing about change where you are weak?
By God’s grace, may we strive to be Spirit-led believers who display God’s goodness and exalt his name in our lives!
- This is a non-exhaustive list. These seven headings and quotes come from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s commentary on Romans 8:5-17 ↩︎