The night before Jesus went to the cross, He explained to His disciples what the purpose of the soon coming Holy Spirit would be in their lives. Notably, He told them the following:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13–15)
The pathway of God is what I am here calling our optimum life in or through Jesus Christ. This name fits well, because the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives unfolds an ongoing journey we are to proceed upon in Christ. The notion of “in” or “through” Christ is important to recognize. We are not called to live a “good” Christian life. We are called to have Jesus live His good life through us as we walk His path. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth because His purpose is to reveal to the church His resurrected life so that we may live through Him—“the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The truth is the pathway of God in Christ. This is why Jesus said the Spirit of truth would not talk about himself. He is hear to relay to us what Jesus is saying, as the Lord himself said, “He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
There are three important aspects to what Jesus said here about how the Spirit of truth would reveal the pathway of God. These are guidance, foreknowledge, and glorifying Jesus Christ. Let us look at each in turn.
Jesus said the Spirit of truth would guide us into all truth. This guidance is not a one-time occurrence. There are some Christians who do not have a regular communication with the Lord that speak of this one unique instance of God calling them to do something. I doubt it.
A good guide is going to be there guiding at every irregular turn, every obstacle, and every hazard. The Spirit of truth steers us along the pathway of God and away from all deception (or falsehood, the opposite of truth). This deceptive contrast alone points to the necessity of frequent guidance. It does not take long until the voice of the guide becomes easily recognized. Eventually, after a few, painful (somewhat necessary) missteps, one learns to never move without it.
Jesus made it clear that the Spirit’s primary method of guidance is going to be speaking to each of us directly. New believers aside, there is a crowd of Christians that act as if we somehow have to figure out the pathway of God. Knowing the written Word of God is not enough. We must know the living God whose Spirit dwells within. Not only is the view of this crowd blatantly contrary to what Jesus said, but it is ridiculous. Jesus wants us to fulfill the will of God and fulfilling requires specific guidance for each of our unique situations. The worst part about this foolish perception is that it distorts the loving character of God and hides the awesome reality of His desire for a personal relationship with each and every one of us. What kind of father does not speak to his children? What kind of father does not tell them what they need to do to be out of harms way (that is to say, in the perfect will of God)? The Devil speaks to his children. Why? Because he is serious about them carrying out his will. How much more intense is Jesus? He went to the cross to destroy the barrier to this communication. Just because there are a bunch of spiritual fruitloops who talk about hearing from God all the time, but in reality do not, does not invalidate the real thing. The reason the voice of God is farfetched to this unbelieving crowd is because they are not on the pathway of God. If you are on the pathway of God you cannot but hear the voice of the One who created it.
The guidance of the Holy Spirit is not just for the next immediate event or turn. A good guide is not only going to be providing instruction for the present course, but also mentally preparing those he is guiding for things to come. Serving the Lord Jesus often leads to great difficulties, which our loving Father will prepare us for.
Paul’s experience recorded in the book of Acts provides a good example of the Holy Spirit guiding with foreknowledge. While he was meeting with the elders from the church at Ephesus at Miletus, he declared:
“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.” (Acts 20:22–23)
When Paul said, “the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city,” he was referring to the fact that fellow believers continued to prophesy that “imprisonment and afflictions” awaited him. The same happened at his next stop in Tyre, concerning which we are told:
And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:4)
Finally, we are told the following concerning Paul’s next stay at Caesarea:
While we were staying for many days [in Caesarea], a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ (Acts 21:10–11)
These verses demonstrate that the Holy Spirit does not just give us the foreknowledge of our path in Christ. He also empowers other disciples with the gifts of the Spirit to make aspects of it known to us, or more commonly, to confirm to us what we already know or suspect. This series of verses about Paul is probably the best biblical example that we have which shows how the Spirit consistently gives us the foreknowledge of things to come.
What I have learned in my fifteen years of walking with, and not against, the Spirit of God within me is that He constantly shines light on my entire pathway in Christ and the important aspects of it. Some guidance is for tomorrow or next week, but most of the time the guidance is for months, years, or even decades out. Here is where one has to be careful and patient, yet here is where our relationship with God blossoms.
An example of consistent foreknowledge from my own life is my three children. Before we had any children, the Spirit of God told me I was going to have a son. He also showed me what he would look like as a little boy. God also does not reveal everything in chronological order. I thought our first child was going to be him, but it was our daughter. (Oops!) She was born with a diaphragmatic hernia and would have died without surgery a few days later (or a miracle). She was rushed to the Hershey Children’s Hospital soon after birth. My wife and I went home that night for her to continue resting and to pack for an extended stay at the Ronald McDonald house next to the hospital a few hours away. I was praying for my baby girl that night and God showed me her at about her present age of five. Problem solved. I can still picture her in what I saw as vivid as her standing next to me in the flesh today. I then rightly predicted our third child would be a boy because the Spirit showed me our entire family when all three children were grown and there were two boys.
I highly recommend keeping a journal because many things take years and decades to transpire. I now have over ten years of entries in my own. The fascinating thing is the combined entries provider greater insight into the comprehensive, longer term pathway. It is common for me to go back and read some directive the Lord gave me years ago and see it playing out in my life now with me subsequently having a more comprehensive understanding of it.
There is a false understanding that the will of God is hard to discern or understand. Again, only if you are not on the pathway of God. I have often found that the solution to a question or present issue I am facing comes in a whisper from the Spirit or a simple picture He shows me. The foreknowledge of things to come is here to empower us and embolden our faith. I have seen things in my future that seem surreal. Yet I will one day live them in the power of God.
Glorifying Jesus Christ
The pathway of God always leads to the glorification of Jesus Christ, as the Lord said concerning the Spirit of truth, “He will glorify me.” The guidance and the foreknowledge blaze the path that will glorify the Lord at certain points and in its totality. The guidance, the foreknowledge, and the glorification of Christ are inseparable. You cannot just have one aspect. You must have all three. If you have one, you have all three. The glory of the Lord is not only the pinnacle of the pathway of God, but the key to entering it. Your life must be laid down or you will never enter it. This is why so many Christians are not on the pathway of God. They have not laid down their life. They still make the important decisions and the result is a faithless life. It shows.
The Holy Spirit was sent to glorify and reveal the Lord Jesus in His people, the church. If you have laid down your own will and are anchored in a desire to have Him glorified, then you will find that the guidance and the foreknowledge fall into place. The Bible teaches about God and His past, present, and future program with man, but its pages do not include your unique plan. The Spirit is ready to reveal it to you if your heart is positioned to surrender to God and love Him above all else. Jesus did not reveal what the Spirit of truth would do to the crowds. He only shared this insight with His disciples who had long since given up their own lives to follow Him. Today, a man just does not pick up a Bible, read John 16, and start hearing God’s voice. He must first be converted by faith and His life must then be surrendered.
I cannot stress enough how simple the pathway of God is. The intensity of the onramp is where the difficulty lies. Just ignore the world’s “Yield” sign and leave it all behind. The life that you will find is completely different from the one you left. The Spirit of God showers your new life with guidance and the foreknowledge of things to come. He simply has to. You cannot live in Christ your way. He must reveal it.