I used to ask myself a simple question whenever I was worried that I was going to be mastered by some particular sinful act. I would ask myself “What’s my motivation?” I would try to remind myself that, if my motivation was coming from a sinful desire, then the thing was I about to do was going to be sinful. That little act has helped me a lot, but to be honest with you, it hasn’t always stopped me from doing things I knew I shouldn’t. Sometimes I would ask myself this, and I would give myself the answer “because I want to…” And that’s pretty hard to argue with, especially when you’re arguing with yourself.
Today in my study of the Power of the Gospel, from the OBC, I studied what Walking in the Spirit was all about. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I am reading through this course on the Gospel, and that up to now I have studied a lot about the first half of the Gospel – the part that deals with my sin and ridding me of the person I was that kept me sinning continuously. My study summarized the first half of the Gospel this way:
We have seen how, in the first quarter of the Gospel, God dealt once for all with your sins – the individual acts of sin that separated you from God. And we have seen how, in the second quarter of the Gospel, God dealt ruthlessly with your old self – the factory that kept producing those sin in your life.
Now I am on to studying the third quarter of the Gospel – living the life God designed for me to live as a Christian.
Even after we have had the first half (or at least the first quarter) of the Gospel revealed to us, and even after we have accepted it by faith and have received our eternal salvation, there still lies ahead the rest of our lives on earth in which we must live. We can live this life in one of two ways – walking in the flesh, or walking in the Spirit. Walking in the flesh is described in Romans 5:8:
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires
Walking in the flesh means that you live your life for yourself. You seek self-gratification and/or you seek to make it on self-effort. It’s all about you. Paul listed the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Notice anything that these behaviors have in common? They are all self-pleasing, self-glorifying, or self-centered. Sex is not immoral, but when it begins to master your life, it quickly becomes so. Witchcraft may not seem like an issue we see much now days, but how many times have you seen people say that they have some supernatural power that makes them special? It’s all about them – their power and their glory. All of these acts are focused on the self, and they come about by doing nothing more than walking in the flesh. Living for self-gratification or by self-effort.
After Paul lists the acts of the flesh, he then lists the Fruit of the Spirit. These are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
My study pointed out that this verse doesn’t say that these are “the fruits of those who walk in the Spirit.” It says they are the” fruit of the Spirit.” In other words, these aren’t our fruit, they are the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives. My study put it this way:
Each of the nine fruit of the Spirit listed [in Galatians 5:22-23] are aspects of God’s own nature and character. They are nine characteristics of the likeness of Christ, to which we are being conformed.
So what is the main difference between a person walking in the flesh and a person walking in the Spirit. It’s all in the person’s focus. Going back to Romans 8:5, Paul writes:
For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit. (Amplified Bible, emphasis added)
A person, even a Christian, who still has his mind set on self-gratification, is walking in the flesh. He pursues those things, and that is his main focus. Maybe not all the time, but at least some times. The person who has set his mind on pleasing God and seeking Him – he is walking in the Spirit. This is what the normal Christian life is supposed to be about. The way this is done is through faith – just as Hebrews 11:6 says “…without faith it is impossible to please God…”, my study said:
Faith is the key ingredient to a God-pleasing life. This is because, by its very nature, faith involves a change of focus from yourself to God. Instead of relying on your own wisdom or strength, faith means you begin relying on God’s wisdom and strength. And this is the way of life you have been called to live in!
So today I start asking myself a new question – not “what’s my motivation”, but instead, I’ll ask “Where is my focus?” If my focus is on myself, I know I’m doing something wrong. Otherwise, I’ll know that I am Walking in the Spirit, as I very well should be.
*Online Bible College – Power of the Gospel course, Lesson es201-13: Walking in the Spirit