Everywhere you turn, people are looking for the magic bullet, that thing that makes life not only worth living but living well. People have different goals they want to get out of life. But almost everyone is only thinking of this life.
Some don’t even believe there is a life to come after this. But if there is, and Christians believe there is, this life becomes a practice field, a training camp, for the life that truly matters. The Holy Spirit has a lot to say about the way we live now.
But is it a stilted, stagnant existence full of rules and commandments? The Bible tells us that life in the Spirit is powerful and vibrant, unparalleled by any other life we can seek. Many people talk about living the American dream. By this, most people mean they want to be rich so they can do “what they want.” But what does that mean?
A life in the Spirit is clearly identified throughout Scripture. God has goals for our life, and they are not always rosy, but they assure we arrive at a destination in heaven with him forever. Rather than give us everything we want like spoiled children, God gives us everything we need to make us great in his kingdom. But it all happens when we listen to and obey the Holy Spirit.
Split in the Road
It’s amazing to me that as clear as the Bible is about God’s expectations for his children, we still want to do our thing. Of course, that’s what we did before we met Jesus. And yet, many want to continue doing our own thing, or what we think pleases God.
But it doesn’t work that way. Just because we have been saved from our old life to live a new life for Christ doesn’t mean we don’t have access to that old life and its desires. Christianity is the daily choice to choose to live God’s way instead of our own.
We are still capable of selfishness, greed, jealousy, arrogance, and a host of other character traits we had before he set us free. We can climb back in the cage of slavery to sin.
The Spirit gives us the power to resist sin, but we don’t always listen to him. So every day before us is the choice between two paths. The first is to revert to our former way of life, to spit in Christ’s face, and to live with a shortsighted focus on today.
The other is to jump into the life of the Spirit and live with eternity in mind. This means we don’t always get what we want right away. It means delayed gratification, living for our destiny and inheritance instead of squandering it away like Esau.
Paul talks about acts of the sinful nature even Christians can commit. He names 15 of them in Galatians 5:19-21. But this isn’t a complete list, in case we thought only these put us in danger of losing out on our inheritance.
Immediately following them, Paul outlines the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). So we have two paths before us, gratifying the old life and its desires, or embracing the life of the Spirit.
And just because we know Jesus doesn’t mean we don’t revert to our old selves. This is what the Holy Spirit is working on in us. He is making us more citizens of heaven than citizens of Earth, part of God’s kingdom, the kingdom of light, instead of the kingdom of darkness. He sees in us greater things God planted there then the things we started with.
What we will find is that the old life has nothing for us anymore. After seeing Jesus in his glory, the choice becomes easier and easier. He has made us new creatures and we are becoming those new creatures through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Unchanging Path
Are there other lessons to this unparalleled life in the Spirit? We turn again to Paul’s wise counsel from earlier in Galatians. The Galatians thought from other teaching that they needed more than just Jesus to be saved and live a Spirit-filled life.
They turned to trying to follow the law of Moses to make their walk with God complete. But that’s not what God wanted for them. He didn’t want them to go back to the old covenant when he spent so much in the blood of Christ to introduce the new covenant.
So in Galatians 3, Paul addresses this issue. Says we don’t need Jesus and something else. Jesus is more than enough. He wants to know from the Galatians why they think they can rely on their own works as they grow in Christ.
After all, we teach so often that works don’t save us and we seem to get that pretty well. Then when it comes to growing in godliness we begin to revert to our own thoughts and feelings about what God expects. We think we can do it by our willpower alone.
Paul points out that just as we needed the Spirit for the moment of our salvation, we also need the Spirit every moment of every day to live out a God-pleasing life (Galatians 3.3). We don’t become better Christians by figuring it out on our own after we are saved.
Instead, the Holy Spirit walks with us at every step. He is the one who knows where to go. He is the Guide who keeps us out of the weeds. Jesus sent him to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
So we must not turn to our own ideas and our own ways. Those ways only lead back the way we came. They only take us farther away from God instead of closer. If we could do it on our own, why would Jesus send the Holy Spirit?
Life in the Spirit means we are constantly relying on him to guide us into godliness. We seek his power to walk this path. We can’t do it on our own. Life in the Spirit is growing ever closer to the Spirit in intimacy, learning the mind of the Spirit, and practicing everything he teaches us.
We started this path together with the Spirit, and we must continue with him. He knows the way and has taken countless saints on that path. We have a greater destination and inheritance than we ever have in the old life. Let us walk the path of the life in the Spirit.
Testifying to Life
Life in the Spirit also means we realize his power in our lives and his witness about us. We are not alone on this journey. The enemy can still attack us. Satan, the Father of Lies and the Accuser of the Brethren, seeks to destroy our relationship with Jesus (John 10:10).
Instead of listing to him, or our negative inner voice, we must listen to Jesus’ voice (John 10). He is the Good Shepherd who leads us into green pastures. And his Spirit leads us into the joy of the Lord.
The moment the world, the devil, or any other influence speaks these thoughts into our minds, we must remember the Holy Spirit is the one who testifies the truth about us (John 14:17; 16:13).
Paul tells us that the Spirit testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16). He tells us the truth about ourselves. We must put our trust in him and lean on the Spirit’s witness about us. He is making us new in Christ day by day.
In one of my favorite movies, Luther (2003), Martin Luther prays against the devil. He can’t see the God of grace because he’s worried about the God of law. His father in the faith tells him that there’s no sense in rehashing all of the battles with the devil, “Besides, after so many years, he knows all the weak spots,” he tells Luther.
In the same way that the devil has been an ancient foe of God and the saints, the Spirit knows the battlefield well. He has seen every weak spot, every unmanned station, of our lives. And he knows the strategies that bring victory. Besides, Jesus already won. And every time we obey the Spirit, we experience that same victory.
When we obey the Holy Spirit, we experience his power in our lives, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). Why would anyone turn their back on that kind of power? Of course, we don’t use it for ourselves. We see the Spirit use it in us.
When we came to know Christ, we were sealed by him with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). This seal is not like a Tupperware lid. Official letters in the ancient world carried a wax seal, that had the Kings image on it. It showed his authority in whatever the letter said.
This is the meaning Paul gives in the Ephesians. We have the seal of the Holy Spirit, the authority and power of God. A life in the Spirit is about an ever-growing awareness of the power he has placed in our hands. Not a power to wield for ourselves, but a power to wield for God’s kingdom.
Our life in the Spirit produces intimacy and peace with God. We experience it in our times of prayer, communion with God. As we pray, Paul teaches that the Spirit intercedes for us with groans too deep for words (Romans 8:26). It’s in these times that we cry out, “Abba Father,” akin to calling the Lord of the Universe our Daddy (Romans 8:15).
As God’s children, we are gaining the ability to realize all he has placed in us. We are more than capable through the Holy Spirit to reach the high goal of holiness Jesus has given to us. But we cannot do it on our own. We must follow the Spirit’s lead.
I’ve characterized the life of the Spirit. Living the Spirit-filled life fills us with God’s grace, truth, power, and humility. We realize the greatness of the Spirit who dwells in us. More and more we see all of the benefits to knowing God.
We enter into a relationship with Jesus because we love him. And his Spirit guides us deeper and deeper into this wonderful relationship. There are benefits to following Jesus, but the greatest benefit is being with him for eternity.
This life we live in the Spirit is a life of fellowship with God. Just reading about some of the Old Testament saints and the New Testament describes the possibilities of obedience to the Holy Spirit. Even though we didn’t join ourselves to Christ for the benefits, he takes care of us.
Leave a comment and tell me some of the joys you have experienced as you walk this path with the Spirit. It’s a life worth living with goals that are out of this world.