Summary: Paul talks about walking with the Spirit every day in our lives. Sadly, many Christians do not have a close relationship with the Holy Spirit. In this post, we take a closer look at what walking with the Spirit means.
In my last post, I began talking about our spiritual formation by the Holy Spirit as Jesus’s disciples, beginning with Spirit baptism. In this post, I teach on how we can walk with the Spirit.
We enjoy several rings of relationship throughout our lives from the closest of friends and family to the acquaintances and people whose reputation precedes them. We are most familiar with the smallest group of people, but our friends and professional networks are not too far away from them. Lastly, there are people we know things about but don’t know personally.
One theme of Paul’s writing is the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Since Jesus made our spirit alive through the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit became the seal as a deposit of our inheritance in heaven, we seek to develop that relationship with Him every day as Jesus’s disciples.
The Holy Spirit is our closest relationship because He guides us every day to apply the Scriptures to our lives and live for Jesus until He returns. As such, we must learn to listen and obey the Holy Spirit, to walk with Him every day. But what does it mean to walk with the Spirit? And how we do it? Let’s get started.
Opposition between the Spirit and Flesh
We must realize there is competition between the Spirit and our fleshly desires. These desires from before we knew Christ still affect us. We must fight to keep focused on Jesus and listen to the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds us that Jesus died to set us free (Galatians 5:1-2). As we live for Him, our greatest ally is the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, many Christians do not realize the power and intimacy that comes from getting to know the Holy Spirit and relying on Him to guide, teach, and discipline us. It’s a dynamic relationship that helps us to be better disciples of Jesus. Unlike before we met Christ, we can decide whether to follow our old fleshly desires or deny them.
One professor in seminary gave the best analogy. Before we met Jesus, we were chained to our sin and didn’t even realize it was sin. We lived for ourselves and didn’t know better. But when Jesus freed us from sin, we now have the choice. We can fight our sinful desires and we now fight has a free person who can choose to put the chains on.
When we walk by the Spirit, we don’t do what our fleshly desires of the past tempt us to do (Galatians 5:16-18). You cannot do both. Either you’re listening to the Spirit and not doing what you’re all desires tempt you to do, or you are doing what you want to do selfishly without listening to the Holy Spirit. Paul makes it a cut and dried decision on our part.
We might remember what James says about being friends of the world are friends of God (James 4:74:3-6). The same way that our fleshly desires from the past our enemies to us, the world system, and evil things in the world, keep us from having fellowship with God. We cannot choose to do want one day and one another day. We are either all in with the Spirit or on the side of our desires and the world.
Jesus gives us godly desires when we become new creatures in Him acceleration (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). But once again, we must choose to honor these desires over our past desires. It all comes down to what we are willing to fight for, old passions and the world, or the Holy Spirit and Jesus’s plan for our lives in Him. Walking with the Spirit is rejecting worldly passions and the world system.
Fellowship with the Spirit
John describes this relationship that James and Paul talk about as having fellowship, or things in common to share with someone (1 John 1:6-10). We cannot walk in darkness through constant sin and the sinful lifestyle and say that we fellowship with God. His light destroys the darkness of this world.
When we walk with the Spirit and live in Jesus’s light, we don’t always gain fellowship with God, but we gain fellowship with other Christians. Don’t underestimate the power of such fellowship and sharing in common our faith, baptism, Lord, and experiences together (Ephesians 4:4-6). John says while we walk with Jesus, His blood keeps cleansing our sins.
John distinguishes between a lifestyle of sin, where we continually sin, and momentary lapses into sin and temptation. Many people do not understand that when they read the beginning of his first letter.
To have fellowship with the Spirit is to keep on listening to and obeying Him. Even if you have a moment of allowing temptation to overwhelm you and sin, Jesus’s blood cleanses you as you confess and ask for His forgiveness, and then walk with the Spirit again (1 John 1:7-9).
The best thing we can do to continue walking with the Spirit is to recognize temptation and flee from it (1 Corinthians 10:31) and stay with the godly desires Jesus placed in each of us. Even if we fail in a moment, Jesus is with us and protects us from getting hard hearts toward Him. Do not undervalue the Fellowship of the Spirit as you walk with Him.
Led by the Spirit
Paul says when we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law (Galatians 5:18). We are not subject to the law of this world when we don’t violate it. When we are following the Holy Spirit, we are subject to a greater law, God’s law. But this was fulfilled in Jesus, so there’s nothing we have to do other than obey the Holy Spirit.
To be led by the Spirit is to obey every command He gives us. His commands are sometimes the same for every Christian, but also tailored to our personal story, temptations, and “weak spots.” You have temptations I don’t. I have temptations you would think I’m not issues. The Holy Spirit teaches us what He expects of us personally.
For example, the Holy Spirit agrees with me that as a leader of the Church, I stay away from alcohol. It is not that alcohol is sin, or to drink it is sin for everyone. I have felt personally for me to be a good leader with wisdom and to not have clouded judgment that it is one thing I should abstain from completely. Every Christian I have met respects my position as a church leader.
But if you are not a church leader, maybe even if you are, you must decide on alcohol and the many temptations and desires we find in the world today. Paul talks about how to conduct ourselves with weaker brothers in Christ (Romans 15:1-7). We must all have godly wisdom in Christian maturity when it comes to temptation and the world. The only one who can tell us what God expects of us is the Spirit.
We cannot accept rules other people make for us when we have these unique challenges in our lives. Do not live under any law except the law the Holy Spirit gives you.
Works of the Flesh and the Spirit
Paul gives fifteen works of the flesh that war against the Spirit and what He wants to accomplish in your holiness (Galatians 5:19). After these fifteen, he gives a general category of “things like these.” These fleshly works listed are not the only ones that these things and things like them keep you from inheritance of God’s kingdom.
These are works people do out of selfishness or desire to please themselves rather than others. They abuse others, don’t take into account the peace and wellness of others, and ignore God’s image and others as they take advantage of them. I think Paul hits the mark for at least one thing each of us struggles with in our own lives.
Even if you don’t do these things, just thinking about them or imagining yourself doing them is enough. That is more than one to keep the Holy Spirit from ministering to you and making you more like Jesus. But we cannot stop doing these things of our own willpower. We need the Holy Spirit’s power to live like Jesus and put off these sinful works.
Counter to the works of the flesh is the Fruit at the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Fruit of the Spirit is not nine separate fruits but rather nine attributes or characteristics of one fruit. Fruit in the Bible either refers to character or works. In this case, it is the character of the Spirit He is cultivating in us, which will produce godly actions and behavior.
I have talked about the Fruit of the Spirit in other posts. Here is a list of several of them.
- Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit Part 1
- Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit Part 2
- Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit Part 3
- Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit Part 4
Crucify the Flesh
Several places in Scripture tell us to kill the flesh, or crucify it. When we are water baptized, one beautiful image is that of dying to ourselves as we go under the water and rising up under the power of Christ. This is one image of crucifying the flesh. Paul elsewhere in Galatians says that we each must you ourselves as having been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20).
We do not live for our desires, but only that Christ may be seen through our lives. As Paul says in Romans 6, we are slaves of righteousness instead of slaves to sin. We live by the grace of Jesus, and we should never abuse that grace. We gladly and wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to Christ and to His Kingdom.
Jesus teaches us to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). We surrender to Jesus every day. Every morning when you wake, give yourself and your life, all that you have and art, over to Jesus again. The more we surrender to Jesus and submit to God (James 4:7), the more effectively will be as His disciple in this world.
Do you need to crucified the flesh, rely on the Holy Spirit to help you be more like Christ, and represent Jesus better in this world? The Bible commands you to do it, that you must follow through in obedience to the Holy Spirit.
Now that we have talked about how to walk with the Spirit, we next turn our attention to how to operate in the gifts of the Spirit.