We must understand what it means to be "led by the Spirit." God's Spirit doesn't drive, drag or push us around; it leads us. It will not prevent us from sinning, nor will it force us to do what is right. It leads us, but we must be willing to follow.
How does God's Spirit lead us? Let's consider a few ways.
The Holy Spirit keeps us in contact with God's mind
God's Spirit works with our mind. The apostle John describes it this way: "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit [which] He has given us" (1 John 3:24). Through God's Spirit, which He gives us, we can be influenced by Him for the good and obey God's commandments. This is in stark contrast to the world around us and our own nature, which influence us toward evil.
God's Spirit also helps us come to a deeper comprehension of His truth. When Jesus promised the apostles He would send the Spirit to them, He said it would "guide [them] into all truth" (John 16:13).
God's Spirit inspires a deeper understanding of His Word, purpose and will
As we read earlier, 1 Corinthians 2:9-11 tells us: "But as it is written, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.' But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except [by] the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except [by] the Spirit of God."
Without God's Spirit a person cannot understand God's divinely expressed Word and will, "for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The Spirit of God convicts our conscience and helps us see sin as it really is
In speaking of the Holy Spirit, which would be given to His followers after His death and resurrection, Jesus said it would "convict the world of sin" (John 16:8). God's Spirit within us, working with our conscience, helps us to recognize and avoid sin. The guilt we feel is real when prompted by recognition of sins.
The Holy Spirit produces godly fruit in us
Just as an apple tree produces apples, God's Spirit produces a particular type of fruit in the life of a Christian. Paul lists the fruit that should be evident in those who are led by God's Spirit as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).
Each aspect of this fruit is worthy of a detailed study in itself, coupled with a self-analysis to see to what extent these traits are evident in our lives. (You can download our article reprint series on "The Fruit of the Spirit," which explores each of these in detail.)
The apostle Peter sums up the process of growing to spiritual maturity: "[God's] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:3-11, NIV).
The Spirit of God also comforts, encourages and otherwise helps us
Jesus Christ promised to send His followers the Holy Spirit as a "Helper" (John 14:16) or "Comforter" (King James Version). True comfort and reassurance come from God's Spirit dwelling in us. We need not be unduly worried about what may happen to us. God's Spirit gives us the assurance that whatever happens will work out for the good "to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
This assurance provides an outlook on life that is rare in our world. Yes, a Christian can get discouraged, but it is through the Holy Spirit that we can begin to look at life differently. As noted earlier, peace is another fruit of God's Spirit in the life of a Christian.
We see the wonderful truth of how and why God works in our lives to transform us—enabling us to obey Him and grow in His way while in this physical life. His Holy Spirit works in us that we may experience an awe-inspiring transformation in the future at Christ's return.