There is an interesting phrase in the Minor Prophets (so named because they are a collection of short prophetic writings, not because they are unimportant) that comes out of the verses below.
15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. 16 “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi 2:15-16 (NKJV)
The context is Malachi rebuking the men of Israel, primarily Jews (from Judah) who had returned to Israel after the Babylonian exile. The people of Judah were complaining that things were not turning out as they anticipated and Malachi was pointing out how they should not expect Yahweh’s blessing when they kept violating His covenant. In this particular section he was rebuking them for divorcing their wives. The phrase I want to hone in on is “Take heed to your spirit” (the interlinear bible renders it as “so you must be careful with your spirit”).
Malachi’s point was that if they were paying attention to and heeding their spirits they would not be doing what they were doing. They would focus on preserving their families because that is His heart. I am sadly aware of how common divorce is in the Christian community and the question I have is, “If He is in us, how can Christ not live with Christ? In Christian divorce either one or both parties must be violating what He is speaking to them. That being said, it is an aside, not the focus of what I want to say.
How do we ‘take heed’ or pay attention to our spirits? I want to answer that question by first looking at examples in the life of Jesus and Paul and based on what Paul wrote in Romans 8, how this should extend to us. This may help us to see some scriptures in a new light. As a foundation I think it is important to be aware that even though Jesus was fully God and fully man, He laid aside His divine abilities (See Phil. 2:5-8) which is why He needed to be anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism. Furthermore Luke tells us He was both filled with the Spirit then subsequently moved in the power of the Holy Spirit. All Jesus did, even though He was God in the flesh, He did as a man empowered by and dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Luke 4:1 (NKJV) 14 Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. Luke 4:14 (NKJV)
We see in Jesus ministry that He was led by the Spirit.
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1 (NKJV)
We see Him under the anointing of the Holy Spirit perceive the thoughts of others, what many would call a ‘word of knowledge” (see 1 Cor. 12:8).
4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? Matthew 9:4 (NKJV)
22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Luke 5:22 (NKJV)
15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. John 6:15 (NKJV) 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? John 6:61 (NKJV)
We see Jesus describe what Nathaniel was doing and then reveal Nathaniel’s heart even though He was just meeting him.
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” John 1:47-48 (NKJV)
Jesus did all of these things by paying attention to His spirit and part of what He told us was to use our spirits to worship Him and His Father.
24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 (NKJV)
Paul described for us some of how experienced taking heed to his spirit. His expression of having no rest meant there was no peace in his spirit about a situation and it led to him taking action.
13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 2:13 (NKJV)
In describing his apostolic ministry Paul spoke of serving not with his intellect but with or by his spirit. Note, I am not ruling out Paul’s use of his intellect, his was a brilliant thinker and writer, I just believe based on the scriptures that he submitted his intellect to his spirit.
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, Romans 1:9 (NKJV)
Paul exhorted us to live by our spirits, that is, to make decisions based on what was in our spirits
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:13-14 (NKJV)
Paul twice described being spiritually present in a situation when he was not physically there. In the Corinthians incident perhaps we could put it off to a figure of speech, not that I think it was, but in what Paul described to the Colossians the context clearly does not allow that because Paul described what he experienced.
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:4 (NKJV) 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. Colossians 2:5 (NKJV)
While not all of these experiences are normative for all believers the basic idea of paying attention to or taking heed to our spirits should be. I have had many experiences of this and know many others who share the same testimony. For us it may be a sense we need to call or email someone. It may be a need to ask a certain question of someone. I have had an experience similar to what Paul described with the Colossians and know of many other similar modern testimonies. Yet my normal experience of paying attention to my spirit happens most often in a ministry context. I help lead a prayer and worship group every week. At the beginning of the group I focus on listening to and looking at people because in doing this I frequently have a sense of who needs prayer and often what for, without them sharing any specifics. I have had the accuracy of these ‘impressions’ confirmed over and over again. They are not things I reason out with my intellect and I fact I consciously try to avoid over thinking things and pay attention to what I experience deep within. I believe all believers can learn to function in this way and when they do it builds up His body. I have also had many experiences like this with people who were not Christians and have had them in both work and social situations.
As I have noted before, the issue is not that the Holy Spirit is not speaking, we are often not listening. If you have never viewed some of the scriptures I referenced in the light in which I presented them then ask Him to show you more. There are a lot of things we can each discover in the scriptures if we look. In fact as we can learn from Proverbs, Yahweh hides things not from us but for us and He delights in our journey of discovery. Why not join Him on this journey and see how lives are changed around you?
2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2 (NKJV)
In my next post I will talk more about how to perceive or experience our spirits.