"But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." Galatians 5:16
I've mentioned before that I keep a prayer journal. I do so not because I am so "super-spiritual" but because I am so prone in my flesh to not be spiritual at all. One of the prayers I have written down is based on the above scripture, and simply reads, "Father, may I at all times pray in the Spirit, speak in the Spirit, hear in the Spirit, and live in the Spirit." This is the only way we will not live in a manner that consistently sees to it that we carry out the desires of our flesh. Many of those desires will be good ones. The great problem for us lies in the fact that they are not necessarily God's desires. Watchman Nee asked the question, "How much of our work for Him has been based on a clear command from the Lord, and how much simply on the ground that it was a good thing to do?" There were many good things Paul wished to do. The Holy Spirit closed the door on all of them in order that he would go to where the Father wished him to be; in Macedonia and Greece. He saw a "wide open door for effective service." He also saw the "many adversaries" that would be against it.
I think we seem much more comfortable in the Church in the west with the idea of the Holy Spirit being a "silent partner" in all we do. This would be true even in those fellowships that say they are Holy Spirit centered bodies. Indeed, the consistent observation of those brethren from non-western cultures who fellowship with us is how much we are able to get done without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. There are a number of books out right now from prominent church leaders saying that the voice of the Spirit ceased at the end of the first century of the Church. That the Lord has said all He needs to in His Word, and He doesn't need to say anything more. Now scripture is the final authority in all things, especially that which we hear in and from the Spirit, for He will never speak anything contrary to it. This is where spiritual discernment comes in. It's what Paul meant when he told us to "test the spirits" in order to discern what was and was not from the voice and heart of God. I would also add this to those that hold the view that He no longer speaks to us. In those same congregations, the people are regularly asked to "pray about" how much they should give to building programs, mission efforts, and special projects. Somehow the Lord finds His voice when it comes to money. I'm only partly joking with that.
I heard James Robison say recently in the midst of interviewing one of his guests, that he, "heard the Spirit speaking over their conversation." What he meant was that in the midst of their talking, He heard the Lord break in and speak into it all. He said that some might find this "spooky," but that it was his life in Christ reality to hear the Lord in such a way regularly. What struck me was that the Holy Spirit, so integral a part of our three in one God, would be perceived with fear by so many in His Church. So much so that we proceed in our walk, relationships and ministries with far more reliance upon ourselves and our own understanding, than in His leading. We don't recognize His checks or His voice, and so we miss both His open doors, and His closed ones.To our own harm and loss. He remains our "silent partner." We mention Him, but we don't walk in Him. We're not overly anxious for Him to "show up" either, unless it's in ways that allow us to maintain control. We build a lot of things, but they don't last. In the end they're just wood and stubble. We miss that which is His silver and gold. If we doubt that, we can simply look at how many of those things we've built in our own strength have crumbled after the human architect of the building left the scene.
Paul wrote to two totally different fellowships; the Corinthians and the Ephesians. The Corinthians were a flesh centered fellowship, and though He spoke in love and encouragement, his words also carried His rebuke. To the Ephesians he wrote in exhortation of their going on in the life and fullness of the Holy Spirit. Through those letters, he writes to our own fellowships. Which letter is for us? Corinthians or Ephesians? Wood and stubble or silver and gold? Which are we really, and which do we really want to be? Are we living in Corinth or Ephesus?