These are notes on the sermon, Follow The Promptings Of The Spirit, preached by Pastor Joseph Prince on Sunday, 6 December 2020, at The Star Performing Arts Centre, Singapore. We hope these sermon notes will be an encouragement to you!
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Today’s message is a continuation of last week’s sermon, What It Means To Fall From Grace.
When we are trying to be justified under the law, Christ becomes of no effect to us (Gal. 5:4). Christ is of effect to us when we are under grace!
How then do we practically live under grace?
We live under grace by walking in the Spirit and following His promptings.
When you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Gal. 5:18). However, that does not mean you become lawless. The Spirit of God will never lead you to break the Ten Commandments. Instead, the Spirit will lead you to live life at an even higher standard than the law. You will have an air of moral excellence—not in a “holier than thou” kind of way, but such that people will look at you and see the brightness of your rising (Isa. 60:3) because of the glory and radiance of God in your life.
As believers, we have Jesus’ glorious light that shines through us (John 17:22). It is not a spiritual light that only the Lord sees, but a physical manifestation in our lives.
Pastor Prince recounts a story of a group of people who encountered some Christian youths whose eyes shone with a glorious light. The light that these young people carried convinced the onlookers that what they had was “real,” and this group of people eventually came to accept Christ. When the glory of the Lord shines through you, that is true holiness.
“For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lᴏʀᴅ shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.”
— Isaiah 60:2 KJV
“gross darkness” — This darkness refers to the conditions the world is suffering from today (e.g. depression, bound by anxieties and panic attacks, being under oppression).
“but the Lᴏʀᴅ shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee” — We need not worry about being covered in “gross darkness” because the Lord promises His glory will rise upon us at this time.
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
— Galatians 5:16–18 NKJV
“Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” — Scripture states clearly that we are to walk in the Spirit first and then we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh—not the other way around. You don’t have to worry about the lust of the flesh because when you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. The more you try not to fulfill the lust of the flesh with your own effort or willpower, the more you come under the law and the more you will fall into sin.
God’s ways are contrary to what is natural. It is natural for us to try to use our effort to overcome sin (to refrain from fulfilling the lust of the flesh). But God’s way for us to overcome sin is to simply focus on walking in the Spirit.
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
— Galatians 5:16 NKJV
“Walk in the Spirit” — The Greek word for “walk” is “peri,” which means “walk around.”
This calls to mind a verse in Psalm 23:
“He restores my soul;
He leads me in paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.”
— Psalm 23:3 NKJV
“He leads me in paths of righteousness” — The Hebrew word for “paths” is the word “maʻgâl.” Any word that has “gâl” in the Hebrew language refers to something that is “circuitous.” The paths of righteousness that the Lord leads us on are circuitous.
This photo above was taken in Israel and it shows circuitous tracks around a mountain. These tracks were not formed by natural phenomenons but were formed over many years by the hoofprints of sheep who were led up the mountain by their shepherds.
When these flocks of sheep go up the mountain, they eat small shrubs of grass and green shoots that appear along the way. When we think of “green pastures” (Ps. 23:2), we often think of whole areas that are verdant, but there are also areas of green pastures on mountain slopes. It is a wise shepherd who will lead his sheep in a circular way up the mountain, grazing along the way, until they reach the top.
This is a picture of the “paths of righteousness” (Ps. 23:3) that the Lord leads us on. Just like sheep, we are led one step at a time up a gentle slope. Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, does not demand us to run straight up the mountain because the incline would be too steep for us.
This calls to mind the message that Pastor Prince preached at the beginning of the year where he shared the theme of 2020 for our church—”This is the year of Time and Space.” In this sermon, Pastor Prince expounded on the winding staircase in the Temple of Solomon. The purpose of a winding staircase is to climb the maximum height, in the smallest possible space, in the shortest amount of time. When you are going up the winding staircase, you can’t see where you are going (what’s around the bend), but you can be sure you are ascending higher one step at a time.
Many times, we want to know the end result. We want to know, “What does the destination look like? What’s in it for me? Will this make me successful, rich, famous?” These are the concerns of the flesh.
God’s simple promise to us is this:
“Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”
— Proverbs 3:17 KJV
“all her paths are peace” — When you walk in the wisdom of the Spirit, the Lord will lead you into paths of peace and pleasantness. You will not need to be concerned about the lust of the flesh. As you ascend higher and walk in the paths of righteousness, you will find that you will be kept in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25 NIV).
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you . . . . For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:28–30 KJV
When two animals are yoked (tied/bound together), they have to move in sync in order to move forward. The younger animal has to follow the older and more experienced one because it knows better.
As believers, we are yoked to the Lord.
“My yoke is easy and my burden is light” — To live in sin is hard. The ways of the Lord are easy and light. It’s not a constant struggle to keep up or a burden we have to carry. All we need to do is to follow the Spirit and flow with Him.
Once you are born again, the Holy Spirit—Jesus’ own Spirit—lives in you. He will prompt you on the inside and you will be able to sense it.
You don’t need to go for courses to learn how to hear His voice. You will know it.
Jesus put it this way:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
— John 10:27 NKJV
“My sheep hear My voice” — Simply believe this truth. Every day, wake up and know that when your Shepherd speaks, you will know His voice. Jesus wants you to have this assurance!
Jesus, our Shepherd, leads us in the most gentle and easy ways. Sometimes, His leading goes against the grain of the flesh (it might not make sense to us at first).
Maybe you are struggling with an addiction like smoking. Naturally, you would try to tackle the problem directly and attempt all sorts of methods to stop the urge to smoke. But instead of trusting or depending on your own self-effort, you can pray to the Lord to lead you by the Spirit to break this bondage. The Spirit might prompt you to do certain things that seem unrelated to smoking altogether. For example, He might prompt you to re-prioritize your life. Or He might prompt you to spend more time with your family and play with your children more often. You might not understand it, but just follow His prompting. Later on, you will find that the Lord was actually helping you deal with the root issue (e.g. stress), and the result is that your bad habit falls off.
Your flesh will try to focus your mind on overcoming the problem. But the Lord will lead you in a circuitous way so that when you look back, you will find your enemies there no more (Isa. 41:12)!
The fight is not between the flesh (the inclination to sin) and you (your self-effort). The fight is between the flesh and the Spirit. You win the fight when you simply follow the Spirit.
If you have been trying to fight sin with your own effort, you have been operating under the law. When you’re under the law, all kinds of sinful habits have power over you and you cannot overcome them. Jesus’ finished work has delivered you from the law so that you can be led by the Spirit!
Break every bad habit and addiction as you are led by the Spirit, step by step, along the gentle and circuitous paths of righteousness.
God doesn’t drive His flock; He leads His flock.
VIDEO: Pastor Prince shares a video he took when he and some of the pastors visited Israel, and they went to see how shepherds lead their sheep. In the video, we see one of the pastors trying to push a sheep to make it move forward, but the sheep would not budge. This is because sheep cannot be driven forcefully; they only move forward when their shepherd is in front of them and leading them by example.
Jesus always goes ahead of us, and we as His sheep know His voice (John 10:27).
His leading is apparent in all areas of our lives, tailored to our exact situation and needs.
When Jesus leads us with His voice, we won’t feel driven or pressured to make a decision. If there is a decision you are being pushed to make and the deadline does not give you time to spend with God to seek His mind on it, that should set off alarms.
Nothing from God will demand you to rush for this chance or that opportunity now. When you are considering a stock market investment or discussing a business deal, do it with rest. The Spirit leads you on the inside with rest and peace.
The way to be led by the Lord is to see Him as your Shepherd.
Psalm 23:1 tells us that when the Lord is our Shepherd, we lack nothing. We don’t lack for strength, for health, for provision—even in these difficult times.
The Lord wants to be your Shepherd who feeds you and leads you.
For pastoring: Pastors are also shepherds who should lead and feed the flock, not drive the flock.
For parenting: An important part of leading your children is to avoid setting goals that are so high, your children can’t reach them and they get discouraged. Setting impossible goals for your kids is akin to a shepherd demanding his sheep to run up a mountain directly. The Lord will show you how to lead your children in the way they should go (e.g. how to discover their bents) (Prov. 22:6), how to lead them in a circuitous way so that they go higher and higher to where the Lord wants them to be.
Pastor Prince also advises parents to put certain rules in place for their children when they are young, especially when it comes to what they are watching on TV or online. Parents should not assume that their children know how to discern what is good or bad, true or false, in the movies they watch. Be mindful about what movies you allow your children to be exposed to and pay attention to their censorship classifications/ratings.
When it came to the children of Israel, the Lord was also mindful about what they watched.
“Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.’”
— Exodus 13:17 NKJV
“God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt”— The reason God led the children of Israel on a “detour” around the land of the Philistines, via the Red Sea, was that He didn’t want them to see war. He knew that the children of Israel were not ready to see war at that time and that allowing them to see it would be detrimental to their progress. In the same way, as parents, we need to be mindful that our young children are not ready to see evil and we need to keep them from it so that they won’t entertain fears that could result in nightmares.
How can we discern what is good for our children? By following the promptings of the Spirit.
The sign that we are born again is that the Spirit bears witness with our spirit to assure us that we are children of God.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you receive the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
— Romans 8:14–16 NKJV
“as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” — The word “sons” here is “hyios” in Greek, which refers to mature full-grown sons. We are no longer infant sons (“nēpios” in Greek) because we are no longer under the law. As sons of God, we can expect to be led, for the Spirit leads us by the Spirit of sonship (in an assuring, familial, familiar way).
“you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear” — This fear is the fear that the children of Israel had in the Old Testament, where they feared coming into God’s presence lest they die as punishment for their sins. Today, as children of God who have received forgiveness of all our sins because of Jesus’ finished work, we no longer have this fear!
Pastor Prince shares a personal experience about a time when someone tried to convince him that he was demon-possessed because he spoke in tongues. However, because of the assurance of the Holy Spirit, he knew that he was saved despite what he had been told.
When it comes to the most important area of our lives (being saved, being children of God), the Holy Spirit confirms it by bearing witness with our spirits. It’s a voiceless, wordless witness. It’s just a knowing on the inside.
In the same way, He also leads us in daily life. We have such a closeness with the Holy Spirit that He can communicate with us without words.
The word “witness” is the Greek word “martureo,” which refers to the action of bearing witness to an action. For the Holy Spirit to be able to “bear witness” regularly in your life, you need to give Him something to bear witness to.
In essence, you need to take the first step before the Holy Spirit can bear witness to that step.
As you take one step at a time, the Holy Spirit will lead you (affirm the step or give you a red flag). He will do this in every area of life (e.g. who to marry, what career you should pursue, what choices to make in the daily grind of life).
There is a journey of growth as a Christian. We grow by following the smallest promptings and inclinations of the Spirit. As you follow His leading more and more, the promptings will grow stronger.
In the same way, the more you follow the flesh, the more the inclination gets stronger and stronger. That’s how addictions happen.
We become more sensitive to the Spirit when we continually feed on God’s Word.
During the lockdowns this year, maybe some of us have neglected God’s Word. But don’t you miss God’s Word—how sweet it is?
When the children of Israel first received manna from heaven, they found it sweet, like wafers made with honey (Exod. 16:31). But then familiarity set in and they longed for the food of Egypt even though it had never satisfied them (Num. 11:5, 8). The sweet manna is a picture of God’s Word, and the children of Israel sadly lost the taste for it.
Let’s not be like them. Let’s not long for natural things, the things of the world that do not satisfy.
When we start feeding on natural things, we start to live life without the touch of the supernatural. But when we relish God’s Word, we experience and operate on a supernatural level in our lives. That’s when all the benefits that Jesus purchased for you at the cross will manifest in your life.
Rest is not inactivity but Spirit-directed activity. You can be busy on the outside and remain at rest on the inside. The Lord will always lead you with His rest and His peace (Heb. 4:11).
Pastor Prince shares about a time when he felt led by the Spirit to talk to the receptionist outside his office when he was passing by. She shared that she was concerned with the ultrasound scan of the baby in her womb which showed 3 cysts in his brain. Pastor Prince went on to pray for her right there, and when she went back to the doctor, she was told that 2 cysts had disappeared, and the third one had shriveled up. Many years on, today, the boy is healthy and strong!
You never know what God is doing for you and through you, but when you simply follow the first step, He will lead you more and more. This does not just happen to pastors. The Spirit leads all children of God with His anointing (1 John 2:27). Every believer has an unction and an anointing on them (1 John 2:20). As you obey that anointing within, you will abide in Him (John 15:4).
When it comes to finding a life partner, ask the Spirit to lead you then take the first step. You can’t just wait for the relationship to drop into your lap. If you don’t take any step, there’s nothing for the Holy Spirit to bear witness to. So get involved in care groups or other means of meeting people that the Spirit will show you, and you will find a godly man or woman.
The Lord cannot move a parked car. Like a GPS, the Holy Spirit only tells you your next step when you move forward. The Holy Spirit is your internal GPS that bears witness by telling you your next step.
The Spirit’s promptings might seem small and sometimes even insignificant, but they will always guide us on the right paths.
We see this happening in the life of the prophet Samuel and the life of Abraham.
How God led Prophet Samuel
God told Samuel:
“. . . I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.”
— 1 Samuel 16:1 KJV
God told Samuel to go to Jesse’s house because there he would find and anoint the next king of Israel. However, the Lord did not reveal which of Jesse’s sons it was until Samuel went to Jesse’s house. In fact, Samuel considered all of Jesse’s sons one by one before landing on David, who was God’s anointed one (1 Sam. 16:6–12). God only revealed this to Samuel when David stood before him after all the other brothers (1 Sam. 16:12).
In your life today, you might not know exactly which job the Lord has ordained for you. You might still have to go for a number of interviews. If the Lord leads you to do it, just take those steps. Even if it’s a small prompting, just obey it.
How God led Abraham
Another instance of God leading His people step by step is found in Genesis when the Lord spoke to Abraham:
“Now the Lord had said to Abram:
‘Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.”
— Genesis 12:1 NKJV
“To a land that I will show you” — At this point, God told Abraham to move out of where he had been living but He did not yet tell him where He was leading him to. As Abraham took one step, God showed him the next step. For Abraham, the next step came in the form of a vision where God showed him the multitude of children he would have in the future who would possess the land of Canaan.
Today, under grace, we have the Holy Spirit abiding in us. The way He leads us step by step is not necessarily through visions (although that can happen), but often through promptings that we can sense on the inside.
Flowing in the gifts of the Spirit
When it comes to flowing in the gifts of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit leads us step by step in this way too. And He leads us with love.
Pastor Prince about a time when he felt led to help an elderly man who looked lost along a highway. He shares how the Spirit led him step by step—first to stop the car, then to talk to the man and offer him a lift. The man was incoherent, but the Lord showed Pastor Prince the next step by giving him a vision of a particular hawker center in Singapore (which turned out to be the place the man had intended to go to receive assistance from one of the stall owners who knew him).
When you follow after love (1 Cor. 14:1), the gifts of the Spirit will manifest. The Lord will impart to you a word of knowledge, but you have to first obey the first step.
When you have not taken the first step (obeyed the first prompting), don’t ask for the last step.
When you obey the first prompting (e.g. use kinder words with your wife), then you’ll see the next step and the next step, and all the good that will come as a result (e.g. not only will your wife respect you, but you’ll be able to respect yourself more).
As you continue each step forward, the Lord will bring you to where you need to be.
When you follow the Spirit, not only will you be led to where you need to go, you will also end up upholding moral excellence in your daily life—yet doing it out of rest (not out of fear of punishment).
Pastor Prince shares a story of how he once accidentally scratched a car when driving out of a carpark. Instead of driving off, he followed the Spirit’s prompting to own up to the mistake because the Holy Spirit reminded him that even if he needed to pay for the damage, the Lord would provide for him. Pastor Prince ended up paying for the scratch, and as he did, he felt princely and heavenly because his conscience was clear and he knew he had acted like a son of God.
Pastor Prince shares another story of a time when he was at a bookshop, and he accidentally folded and damaged a book page while he was browsing. The Spirit prompted him to buy the book (even though he wasn’t intending to) since he had damaged it. Today, he still has that book in his bookshelf and it reminds him of the time that he did not compromise his integrity.
Following the Lord and living life in step with the Spirit is so wonderful. Our holiness is not just outward to please people. The holiness we want is for and from the Lord, such that even when no one is looking, we make morally excellent choices.
When we follow His leading, we will also find ourselves being at peace and at rest.
When you walk in the Spirit, the Lord will lead you into victory everywhere you go (Isa. 48:17). As seen in the Bible, people who walked with the Lord always experienced good success.
Caleb, who at the age of 85 had faith to take down giants in the promised land, was able to conquer them because he “wholly followed” the Lord (Josh. 14:8, 11) and possessed a different spirit (Num. 14:24).
Today, how do we follow the Lord? How do we walk with Him?
Let’s look at Abraham’s life: God told Abraham to walk before Him, being aware of His presence and His love (Gen. 17:1). That is how we are to walk with the Lord.
When Enoch walked with God, he never saw death. Because Enoch’s testimony was that “he pleased God,” he was raptured (Heb. 11:5–6). This was also the case for Elijah. We, too, will be raptured one day without seeing death when Jesus comes back for us.
One of the biggest hindrances that people have about following the Spirit is their guilty conscience.
God wants us to know that because of Jesus’ finished work, our conscience can be clean.
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.”
— Hebrews 10:1–2 KJV
“once purged” — The word “once” here is the Greek word “hapax,” which means “once and for all.”
“no more conscience of sins” — While we cannot be perfect in our behavior, we can be perfect in our conscience because Jesus took all the guilt and shame of all our sins at the cross. Jesus’ finished work stands “for all time” (Heb. 10:14).
Previously, under the law, God remembered sins all the way to the third and fourth generation. But under grace, God no longer remembers our sins (Heb. 10:16–18). We have been fully forgiven!
The primary thing the Holy Spirit convicts us of is our position in Christ—that we are children of God, we are righteous, and God does not remember our sins anymore. This the basis of the new covenant.
The new covenant of grace works like this:
“ For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more . . . I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people . . . for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”
— Hebrews 8:9–12 KJV
“I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” — The reason we will know God’s laws and we will know Him personally is that He shall be our God. When God says, “I will be to them a God,” He means He will show up in a supernatural way in your life—whether it’s in the area of protection, healing, provision, or family blessings.
“for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” — Whoever you may be, you will have an inside knowledge of who the Lord is.
At the cross, God remembered all your sins in Jesus’ body at the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). Because God doesn’t remember your sins, He doesn’t deal with you based on your sin but based on His Son. As Jesus is worthy of all His blessings, you too get what Jesus deserves. Beloved, because of Jesus’ shed blood, there is forgiveness of sins for all time.
If we feel like we cannot be led by the Spirit because of some sin in our lives, then the hindrance is only wrong believing on our part.
Pastor Prince closes the service by reminding us that walking in the Spirit is not hard, nor is it for the select few. It is for ALL believers and for ALL areas of life. You can walk in the Spirit in the area of parenting, marriage, business, life, and employment. The Spirit will teach you to profit and lead you by the way you should go. The paths you will be led on are paths of peace and pleasure.
Pastor Prince prays for people with these conditions:
Pastor Prince encourages those whom he prayed over to go back to their doctors to verify their healings. Only stop taking your medicine when your healing has been confirmed by medical reports. Then please write in to share your testimony!
“This coming week, the Lord bless you and your families, and the Lord preserve, protect you and your loved ones from the COVID-19 virus, from every disease, evil, harm, danger, and from all the power of the evil one. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be favorable to you. His light—the light of His glory shines on you in the midst of darkness throughout this week, the light will be seen by others and you’ll see the glory of God upon your life. The Lord lift up His countenance on you and your families and grant to you and yours His wonderful shalom peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
We hope these sermon notes blessed you! If they did, we encourage you to get the sermon and allow the Lord to speak to you personally as you watch or listen to it.
© Copyright JosephPrince.com 2020
These sermon notes were taken by volunteers during the service. They are not a verbatim representation of the sermon.
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