Andrew Murray on ‘The Spirit’s guidance as a cause for perplexity’ #2.8
In chapter 19 of The Indwelling Spirit, Andrew Murray considers the question of the Spirit’s leading.
On the surface of it, obtaining guidance from the Holy Spirit is a pleasant prospect to most Christians. But what actually happens is that the direction they believe they’ve received does not always bring comfort and assurance. They now want a sign that the direction is truly from the Spirit.
So instead of the Spirit’s leading being a source of strength, it becomes a cause of perplexity.
What needs to happen?
First, says Murray, we need to be renewed in the spirit of our mind. But before that can happen, we need to deny the will of the flesh and conformity to the world.
Romans 8:13,14 says:
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
Murray interprets these two verses as saying:
As many as allow themselves to be led by the Spirit in putting to death the deeds of the body, these are the sons of God.
He goes on to add that the Spirit is the Spirit of holiness and that it is only in holiness that He will lead us.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.
Only the spiritual mind can discern spiritual things
To be led by the Spirit implies:
- To surrender to His work as He convinces of sin and cleanses soul and body for His temple
- The ruling of the heart and life
- The mind becoming spiritual so that it is capable of spiritual guidance.
Murray now labors the point that the leading of the Spirit does not begin in the region of thought or feeling but deeper down in the hidden life of the spirit of man. It is there that the Holy Spirit takes up residence and breathes, moves and impels. He leads by inspiring us with a disposition out of which right purposes and desires come.
St. Paul therefore prays as follows in Colossians 1:9b:
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.
Murray points out that Paul’s prayer teaches us that it is only to a spiritual understanding that the knowledge of God’s will can be given. And a spiritual understanding only comes with the growth of the spiritual man and a faithfulness to the spiritual life.
For Murray this entails
- The putting away of self
- A patient waiting on God to be led by the Spirit
When my soul has waited in quiet expectancy for God to answer, I must in faith trust that His guidance will not be withheld.
Murray now sounds a warning. He says:
We cannot expect the everyday leading of the Spirit to come in sudden impulses, strong impressions or heavenly voices. . . . The time may come when our thoughts and feelings may become the conscious vehicle of His voice. But this and the growth of our spiritual capacity we must leave to Him.
It is important that we are not led away by the imaginings of our own hearts or the delusions of the flesh. The safeguard, says Murray, is the Word. Nevertheless, the Word alone is only half the truth because it can be interpreted by human reason.
The real answer is:
The Word of God as taught by the Spirit of God.
Murray closes by saying that our assurance . . .
- Is not in the Spirit without the Word.
- Is not in the Word without the Spirit.
- But is in the Word and the Spirit both dwelling richly within us.
The leading of the Spirit is therefore closely linked with sanctification. Murray urges us to commit ourselves to God and to place ourselves entirely at the disposal of the Spirit.
May my spirit ever be quieted in Your holy presence while I wait to let You rule within. As I, through the Spirit, die to the deeds of the body, may I be transformed by the renewing of my mind to know Your good and perfect will. --Andrew Murray