I recently posted a response on a friend's blog. It was in a discussion related to how Christian's discern the will of God. It was so long I figured I should put it here too, since I so rarely post lately. I'd be interested to read your thoughts on the subject.
"So, how are we to discern between our own hearts and the Holy Spirit?"
Well, I think that we distinguish by the word. My heart will say all kinds of things in a given year, that I could easily attribute to God. But if I am in the word regularly, and letting my mind be shaped by God's word I will either have those inclinations of the heart confirmed or exposed as wrong. The Holy Spirit uses the word and applies it to specific areas of my life as I meditate on it. As a Christian my heart will have sinful inclinations, but it should also have an overarching desire to do God's will as revealed in the Bible. So in many cases my heart and the Holy Spirit's guidance through the word will line up well I think.
"Should a Christian never attribute to God extra-biblical wisdom for a decision?"
It depends. If by extra-biblical wisdom you mean Biblically formed wisdom, then I think maybe. The kind of wisdom that come from Biblical principles but then is applied to a situation the Bible doesn't speak directly to. For instance, if a man decides to marry a woman. If he has searched the Scripture to see God's instruction on the kind of person to marry, what a family is about, and how to pursue a bride... well then when he gets married I think it is fine for him to give credit to God's direction in finding his wife. But what usually happens is a guy likes a girl, prays "really hard," gets a mystical sense that this is God's will and then starts saying he knows it is God's will for him to marry the girl. The problem is that he hasn't consulted God's word. Plus, we don't KNOW that it is God's will until he actually marries the girl. James 4:13-16, "Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." God actually forbids presumption of His specific will, which is what so many people do.
One last thing on this, and then I'll stop for now. I do believe that God does guide us through a strong conviction, stemming from His word at times. Kind of like when a person is "called" to missions. There are specific calls to GO to all nations in the Bible. God may impress those deeply on a person's heart as she walks with God. God does lead that way I believe. But still, in those cases I wouldn't say much more than, "I think that God is leading me in this direction." or "I believe God has given me a passion to do this." We know it is inside of His will for us as Christians becuase it is commanded in the Word - but we do not know we will actually fulfill those desires because we are not God and don't control the future.