From one master to anotherUnfortunately, many if not most will not point their needle towards Christ. Instead, they will mistake freedom from false traditions and the commandments of men with freedom from God's commandments. They mistake reckless abandon for freedom in Christ. In reality, their newfound freedom from any law will keep them from Christ at least as well as the commandments of men did.
This is nothing new. For at least a few thousand years, those brought out of false tradition were tempted with adopting the bondage of a new false tradition. Paul taught:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)
Peter had to remind his converts that freedom in Christ should not be used as an excuse to sin:
As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.(1 Peter 2:16)
To be clear, these folks do not see themselves as doing anything wrong. In many cases, they claim that the Holy Ghost is directing them. The reality is that their idea of revelation still fits the pattern taught them by the institution: if it feels good, it must be from God. In the institution, this paradigm makes mind control simple, as any idea that leads one out of the church causes tremendous cognitive dissonance and mental anguish, and therefore must not be "the spirit". In their newfound freedom, they substitute the desires of the flesh for institutional control. While the message remains "if it feels good, it is from God," the objective switches from controlling institutional dissent to controlling the individual by driving them toward behavior that distracts them from spiritual progress at best, and at worst causes them unnecessary and unfruitful pain and suffering.
Understanding the SpiritThe Spirit does not operate through the flesh. The flesh will lead you away from God. Paul taught:
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:16-17)
So how can you determine if you are being led by the Spirit or some other source?
But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:17)Of course, this is tricky in its ambiguity--if you believe something is good when it is not, it won't help you much. A better test is the serve God clause. Is your behavior serving God? If not, it is not good. [Note: as with almost everything, it is possible to be too conservative or too progressive with our understanding of what it means to serve God. I suggest the book "Holiness to the Lord: How to Live the Law of Consecration, which you can download for free on the right sidebar of the non-mobile version of this page.]
Key WordsAnother clue is to compare our behavior to the descriptions found in scripture. Which characteristics best describe your behavior?
Quickness to observe
Honesty (particularly self-honesty)
Some Associated Scriptures:
34 ¶And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5)
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. (Romans 13)
15 And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus. (Mormon 1:15)
38 Gird up your loins and be watchful and be sober, looking forth for the coming of the Son of Man, for he cometh in an hour you think not. (D&C 61:38)
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1 Peter 5:8)
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6)
Select DefinitionsEven with all this, it is easy to misunderstand or misapply these terms. It pays to study them out and find out what they really mean and see which ones apply to you.
Surfeiting. To surfeit is to overdo something to the point that it causes physical harm. For example, eating so much that you feel you are going to vomit. If your life is filled with discretionary activities to the point where you aren't getting ample physical rest, that would also be surfeiting.
Lust. This is almost always understood to have a sexual connotation. Sexuality is just one form of lusting. It more broadly refers to the desire to fulfill any carnal appetite. In other words, to lust is to be directed by the desires of the body rather than the spirit. For example, people who allow their emotions to dictate their behavior are lustful.
Revelling. To revel is "to feast with loose and clamorous merriment; to carouse."
Soberness. The term sober is rarely used in a scriptural context to mean the lack of alcoholic influence. Rather, it means serious, solemn, regular, calm, dispassionately rational, not wild. Why is this a godly characteristic? How is this characteristic useful to draw closer to Christ?
Quickness to observe. Are we slow to heed God's word? Are we slow to notice what he tries to teach us through direct revelation or the precept/example of others? Or do we immediately put into practice godly behavior that we find missing in ourselves?
Temperance. Are we moderate in all things? Do we bridle our passions? Do we restrain ourselves in indulgences, whether they be of food, alcohol, joy, mirth, sex, etc.?
Faith. Do we trust God? Do we limit what we will hear from him? Do we have a list of things we won't believe even if he revealed them to us? Do we fear what he might tell us?
Honesty. Are we honest with God and with ourselves? Do we pray for and obtain discernment to detect what motivates us? Do we justify unrighteous behavior by untruthfully claiming righteous reasoning for it? Are we pretending we are something we are not?