I suspect that many Christians would be hard put to come up with an answer to the same question. Let me assure you, there is an answer and it is found within every born-again Christian. It isn't a question, however, of what, but Who; and that Who is the Holy Spirit, given to each Christian at the moment of his or her salvation. (Ephesians 1:14 says that the "Holy Spirit...is the earnest (i.e., the guarantee or down payment) of our inheritance..."
In the gospel of John, Jesus described the Holy Spirit as our Counselor or Helper, and said that, "When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth..." (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and seeks to guide him as he lives his life.
It is important to note that most of His guidance comes through the written Word of God, the Bible. The Spirit is, after all, the Author of the Bible and He has already given us the instruction we need to be successful in our Christian walk ("God has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue [i.e., Jesus]" - 2 Peter 1:3), and the Holy Spirit's leading will never contradict the written Word.
l had two parents come to see me years ago, concerned about their daughter. She wanted to marry a young man. Unfortunately, he was not a Christian. I agreed to meet with their daughter. She described her young man in glowing terms. She said she knew her parents were concerned because he wasn't a Christian, but she assured me that she would lead him to the Lord after they were married. She told me very confidently that she was "certain" that marrying him was God's will. I asked her how she knew that, and she said she just knew it, that the Holy Spirit had made it very clear to her. I asked her what she would think if I were to tell her I was absolutely certain the Holy Spirit was not leading her to marry an unbeliever. When she asked how I could know that when she was sure that He was leading her, I read the following passage to her:
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with
unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what agreement has Christ
with Belial (i.e., Satan)? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the
temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of God...Therefore come out from among them and
be separate, says the Lord" - 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.
I pointed out that it was the Holy Spirit who had led Paul as he wrote those words. Then I asked her if the Holy Spirit would lead Paul to record one thing then lead her to do something that was in direct contradiction with it. The answer, of course, is that He would never do such a thing. The written Word is Truth, with a capital 'T', and Truth is constant and unchanging. As God reminds us in Malachi 3:6: "I am the Lord; I do not change."
That is our first lesson in learning to live life under the direction of the Holy Spirit: He always leads us first through the Bible. Of course, if we're going to follow His leading through the Bible, we're obviously going to have to have a good working knowledge of the Word. Reading and studying God's Word is a necessary part of the life of any successful Christian. How can I possibly do what I don't know? Remember what we saw from John 16: it is the Spirit who guides us into an understanding of God's Word.
I can tell you from personal experience that this is where we're most likely to fall into trouble. God's Word directs us one way, but we want to go another. Of course, when we are set on doing what we want to do (just like the young lady I mentioned earlier), we try to justify our actions. And let's not pull our punches: when we are trying to justify doing something that is a clear violation of God's Word, then we are justifying rebellion (or at least we're trying to). Consider what the prophet Samuel said to King Saul when the king tried to excuse his disobedience:
"Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of
witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" - 1 Samuel 15:22-23.
If we are to follow the Spirit's leading, we're frequently going to find ourselves struggling to obey. That is the infirmity, the weakness, of the flesh. We have to make a firm commitment that we are going to obey, regardless of what we ourselves want to do.
More next time.