Two Ways the Holy Spirit Speaks to Us

Exploring how the Holy Spirit speaks to us in different ways. by Lori Hatcher

Have you ever heard God speak?

If you’re a Christian, you have the ability to hear God speak every day, because the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, lives inside you. Ephesians 1:13-14 describes this.

“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal,the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession…”

Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV

The Holy Spirit speaks to us in different ways, but here I’d like to focus on two, found in John 16:8.

“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness . . .”

John 16:8 NIV

Conviction of Sin

First, he convicts us of sin. This is how he calls us to himself for salvation and how he enables us to live a godly life after salvation. To be saved, we must become aware of our sinfulness and our need for a savior.

Oswald Chambers described it this way:

“Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man. It is the threshold of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict of sin, and when the Holy Spirit rouses the conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not his relationship with men that bothers him, but his relationship with God.”

To be a child of God, we must realize the depth of our sinfulness and how our sin separates us from God. Once we understand this, we can confess (agree with God about our sin), repent (desire to change), and accept God’s offer of forgiveness and cleansing through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf.

Romans 10:9 puts it this way:

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:9 NIV

Once we are saved, the Holy Spirit’s job changes. Now, he convicts us of sins that hinder our relationship with God and others. The Holy Spirit is not our conscience, although sometimes he uses our conscience. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, he applies the truth of God’s Word to our present situation or behavior. If our thoughts or actions don’t agree with Scripture, he alerts us. We feel a check in our spirit, or a sense that what we’re doing isn’t right. It’s a warning designed to steer us away from dangerous or ungodly thoughts or actions.

Conviction of Righteousness

The second way the Holy Spirit speaks to us is to convict us of righteousness. Unlike the first example where he points out harmful behaviors, when he convicts us of righteousness, he nudges us toward good and helpful behavior, behavior that is part of his will for us.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us of our purpose.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Sometimes the Holy Spirit will bring someone to mind. Perhaps we need to pray for them or reconnect. Other times the Holy Spirit will plant a thought in our mind. 

  • Send Jackie a card. She’s been discouraged since her sister died.
  • Sarah just had a baby. I bet she could use a meal and an offer to babysit.

How Do We Know It’s the Holy Spirit?

Sometimes we wonder if what we’re sensing is really from the Holy Spirit. The most dependable litmus test is to compare what we think we hear to Scripture. The Holy Spirit will never tell us to do anything that contradicts the principles in God’s Word.

When we sense the Holy Spirit instructing us, it’s important to obey. James 4:17 warns us.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

James 4:17 NIV

A favorite Bible teacher of mine often said, “To delay is to disobey.”

The more we grow in Christ, the better we’ll become at discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit. A sure sign God is speaking to us is that the words we’re “hearing” in our hearts come directly from the Bible. This is why it’s so important to learn and memorize Scripture—so the Holy Spirit has a wealth of material to draw from.

I’m often humbled and comforted that the God of the universe has not only invited me to have a relationship with him but desires to talk with me every day. Many times, that conversation begins with a whisper from the Holy Spirit in my heart. I love Jesus’ promise in John 16:13.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” 

John 16:13 NIV

The Holy Spirit’s job is to convict us of sin so we can become more like Jesus. He also convicts us of righteousness so we can be his hands and feet in the world today. What a comfort. What a privilege.

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