Led By The Spirit by Jim Elliff is a short, but well-argued, satisfying and scriptural examination of how a believer can know and understand the will of God. It is also practical, having been based on the author’s own experience in being what he refers to as an illuminist – a person who, when confronted by difficult decisions in life, seeks guidance from God by getting a series of impressions which he believes come as God directly impacts the spirit. This belief is taught by most evangelical leaders today, though perhaps the most notable of these is Richard Blackaby in his book Experiencing God. While Elliff does not rule out such forms of communication altogether, he does teach that there is no reason to believe that such means of communication are normative for Christians today. These types of communication are inherently subjective, meaning that there can always be an element of doubt in the recipients mind about whether he really heard God’s voice or merely his own mind. A quote from George Whitefield is helpful to understand this: “God may use the sincere individual who gets his guidance the illuminist’s way. He may bless him. He may honour his faith more than his method. I am quite sure that God always condescends to our imperfections. And if there is immaturity, we must realize that God will often use in our zealous immaturity what he disallows in our maturity…The Great Awakening preacher, George Whitefield (1714-1770), who had such tendencies in his earlier days, later commented, “I am a man of like passions with others, and consequently may have sometimes mistaken nature for grace, imagination for revelation.” He put away his illuministic patterns as he grew in Christ. Yet, it is important to note that he was used in those earlier days just as dramatically as in later life.” (page 35)
The author concludes that we are to submit any impressions we may have to Scripture which is the only infallible guide we have been given by God. Scripture contains all we need to make decisions in life and to know what God’s will is for us. The most important concept in the book “sanctified reasoning” which is where we, as increasingly sanctified followers of Christ, make decisions based on the Word of God. The Holy Spirit who indwells us and is continually renewing our will, helps us make decisions that honor and glorify God. Rather than trust in impressions and voices, we are to trust the Spirit’s work in the mind and will.
The book is only 46 pages long and is written at a level that even young people and new believers will be comfortable with. I highly recommend it. In the same vein I also recommend Decisions, Decisions by Dave Swavely and Guidance And The Voice of God by Jensen and Payne.