Spirit Led or Legit Crazy?
My Past Experiences with People Claiming to be "Led By the Spirit"
Claiming to be "led by the Spirit" sounds super cultish to non-Christians. It brings to mind images of people shutting their brains off and doing crazy things like throwing rattle snakes around or yelling at college students that they are all going to hell for being whore-mongers.
As a Christian and life-long church-goer, I have a quite cynical view of people saying they were "led by the Spirit" or "called by God." I generally, judge these people and assume they are just trying to make their decisions sound holy. Honestly, it's a Christian-ese way for leaders to shut down opposition, conversation, and hurt feelings when they make ministry changes. "I know I committed to staying here til I died, but the Spirit is leading me to retire in Florida."
And to be 100% honest and alienate even more of my Christian friends, there is no explanation of being "led by the Spirit" that isn't at least a little crazy!
I mean what you are saying is that you are listening to a voice of some kind, an impression, or feeling and you believe it's God. There are psychotropic meds for this and a legit listing in the DSM! LOL
Thankfully, Jesus provided an example of being led by the Spirit, that is not arrogant, self-harming, uncomfortably weird, or obnoxious. It's still crazy....but in a good way!
The Story Of Jesus Being "Led By the Spirit"
In Luke 3:16, John the B tells the people that Jesus is so much more powerful than him that he isn’t worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals.
In our nice modern culture, it’s hard to comprehend what an extreme statement this was:
Back in the day, people did a whole lot of walking. The roads were all dirt (and it wasn’t all nice garden dirt either!) They weren’t bathing daily with deodorant soap and using pedi-eggs to keep their feet looking nice either. These people had sweaty toe jam on top of toe jam. So, everyone in that culture knew that one of the worst jobs you could have was to be the servant who had to wash people’s feet.
So, in essence, John said, ‘Jesus is so much better than me, I’m not fit to do the lowliest service there is for him’.
It was really a shocking thing to say. Everyone must have been filled with all kinds of anticipation in imagining what Jesus was going to be like.
What was this amazing, powerful man going to do when he appeared?
I’m sure no one imagined that he’d ask John to baptize him. I imagine they were all on the bank of the river just looking on like “Wait. What is happening here?”
I’m sure John must have been thinking, “Hey Jesus, didn’t you hear me? I’m not worthy to untie your sandals. How could I baptize you? This is CRAZY. You don’t need to repent you are perfect!”
But baptism and repentance aren’t just about admitting your wrong: They are even more about humility, trust, dependence, and complete submission to God.
In humility, Jesus, who was the creator of all things, limited his abilities to those of a human, and allowed his crazy, homeless cousin to baptize him.
In response to this unbelievably humble act of submission, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus and a voice from heaven declared that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and God was well pleased with him.
When Church People talk about being "spirit-Led", it seldom even Resembles How Jesus was Led by the Spirit
Jesus is making his first public appearance as the Messiah. The Father has just declared that he's pleased with Jesus and the Holy Spirit is on the scene ready for action. Time for some amazing miracle stuff to turn society on its head and draw all kinds of attention to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is at work and the stage is perfectly set for a mind-blowingly enormous display of God's power...
… annnnd (drum roll…anxious anticipation for big event…)
The Spirit led Jesus away from everyone to be tested in the wilderness.
I've never heard anyone claiming to be "Spirit-led" who shared a story at all like this.
Many Christians claim that they want to be “led by the Spirit”, but we usually ask this when we are trying to make a decision about what job to take, or who to marry, or some other life altering decision.
Think about this for a while:
Jesus, the Son of God, was led by the Spirit into a place of testing and complete dependence on God. He had the ability to create bread but was led to fast for 40 days! He rules over all creation but was led to somehow be tempted by a lust for worldly power. He was with God through all eternity yet was tempted to question him. The Spirit led him to understand human frailty and utter dependence on God.
Applying this to me:
When I truly sit down with my Bible and journal to pray, God really does lead me. He doesn't come down with a booming Mufasa voice and give me commands for the day. Somehow, he shows me truths that need to be applied to my life. He also gives me the power to change those things in my life that need to be changed.
In a society where we never want to hurt anyone's feelings and everyone gets a trophy, it is crazy awesome that God will tell us where we need to repent and change. It's not just about admitting that I'm doing something wrong. It's about replacing that wrong with something great.
For example, I freely admit that I struggle with bitterness. Repenting of bitterness doesn't just mean "Ok. I'm not going to be bitter." It means I'm going to start being positive and seeing the best in people. I am learning to not assume people's motives when they do things that offend me. I'm giving more grace.
And the more I try to copy Jesus' humility by asking God "what do I need to change?", the more he shows me. I know how crazy this sounds to people. But I also know 100% for certain, that I do NOT like change. I prefer being told that I'm perfect and built up for everything I already do. I'm defensive and insecure. Seeing myself clearly and having the power to change is certainly from God.
While most of the examples I've seen of people claiming to be "Spirit led" are by celebrity pastors making audacious claims or lunatics on street corners, I think I will stick with Jesus' example. I like being humbly led into a stronger relationship and dependence on God. I'm OK with slowly and quietly becoming a little bit better as I spend more time with God. I guess that's still crazy, but it's not the "yelling on the street corner" kind of crazy. It's a very good kind of crazy.