I missed out on writing a post for yesterday’s study – it was just a crazy busy day at work. By the time I got to actually do the lesson, it was almost bed time, and if I were to type up a post afterwards, it would have been more typos than anything. Fortunate for me, though, is the fact that today’s lesson ties in perfectly with yesterday’s lesson, so I am able to write about both lessons in one post. Forgive the length – this is really two posts in one. :)
These two lessons from The Power of the Gospel are titled Walking in the Spirit and The Momentum of the Spirit. In case you’re new around here, let me explain the overall purpose of the course and where these lessons fit in.
This course is over the Gospel, but not just the simple message that Christ died, was buried, and rose again. Although this message is the foundation for the Gospel, this course goes into what this means for our lives, both before we come to Christ, and afterwards. Often times, we are only taught a part of the Gospel, usually the part that says that, because Jesus died for our sins, we are forgiven and have the hope of eternal life. But the Gospel message also says that Christ died as us, meaning that our old selves were crucified on the cross, and sin no longer has power over our lives. The lesson put it 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 also seen how, in the second quarter of the Gospel, God dealt ruthlessly with your old self – the factory that kept producing those sins in your life.”**
These two quarters of the Gospel are the parts that deals with the Old Me, and they were dealt with by Christ’s crucifixion. The rest of the Gospel deals with the New Me, the new creation I am in Christ Jesus. The third quarter of the Gospel, which is what is described in the two lessons we will look at today, is the part that “describes how God has designed for you to live the Christian life.”** The Bible calls this new way of living walking in the Spirit.
What is Walking in the Spirit?
The first lesson (yesterday’s) explains what is meant by the phrase walking in the Spirit. Basically, there are two ways we can live after we have accepted Christ – by walking in the Flesh, or by walking in the Spirit. The first way, walking in the Flesh, means living your life for yourself. Everything revolves around Self, and your focus is always your Self. A person walking in the flesh always tends to gravitate toward one of two lifestyles: self-gratification or self-effort. In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists the “acts of the flesh”:
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…
These are the acts that someone focused on self-gratification would engage in. Interestingly, when Paul wrote about these things, he was writing to a church – a body of believers. So the people he was warning about this kind of living were supposedly believers. We often call these kinds of people “Carnal Christians,” because they profess Christ but live for their own pleasures. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the Bible leaves any wiggle room here – these people are not true believers. Paul even says so in the next verse: “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:22). This is scary for me, because I believe I have fit in to this category most of my (supposedly) Christian life.
Another way that people walk in the Flesh is through self-effort. This is what Paul was addressing in Romans 7 when he said “we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (v. 6, emphasis added). Living by the way of the written code is trying to please God by means of good works. I find it interesting that someone trying to please God on his own efforts is roped in with someone who commits acts of the flesh mentioned above – both are seen as wicked! But how could someone who wants to please God be as wicked as someone who only wants to please himself? The truth is that someone trying to gain righteousness through self-effort isn’t really trying to please God – God has said how to please Him – through faith! (see Hebrews 11:6) Faith focuses on God and His wisdom and His strength. But self-effort focuses on my strength and my wisdom. Walking in the Flesh is all about doing what I want or doing it my way. It says that I am the god of my own life. The only alternative (and the correct way to live as a believer) is to walk in the Spirit.
“Walking in the Spirit means allowing God’s Spirit to tell you how to think and how to act.”** Romans 8:9 says “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.” Notice that walking in the Spirit is all about focus – focusing on God, His wisdom, His strength. It is living by faith in Him. It is evidenced by producing good fruit. Jesus said “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:5). Remaining in Jesus is all about focusing on Him and pursuing Him. It’s about making Him the center of your life, and the fruit you bear are “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23).
How Do We Walk in the Spirit?
The only way to walk in the Spirit is to have had a revelation of the finished work of the Cross, to respond through repentance, and to then begin living in the reality of your walk in the Spirit. These can be summared with the following Scriptures:
- Revelation – “…our old self was crucified with him…The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:6, 10-11) We must understand that we have died to sin, and our new life is in God.
- Repentance – “…put off your old self…be made new in the attitude of your minds; and…put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22-24) This is a conscious decision to stop walking in the flesh (described above) – not to kill off the flesh (God already did that, and that would be self-effort), but to just put it off. And on top of this, we must put on the new – a conscious decision to be who God has made us to be in Christ.
- Reality – “…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death…those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires…the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace…” (Romans 8:2, 5-6). The lesson summed up this point by saying “Today I will access the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to God.” **
Walking in the Spirit is a daily operation – it starts over every morning, it carries on throughout the day, and it comes to a climax at the end of the day. The Christian life is a daily walk – we must pray daily, read God’s Word daily, forgive daily, take up our Cross daily. These things were things I always knew I needed to do, and I continually tried. I would read the Bible, or take up some kind of study. I would keep a prayer journal and try to pray regularly. But the truth is, I was only doing these things out of self-effort. I was trying to be the person I thought I was supposed to be before God. And at the same time, I would continually live by walking in the flesh. There was a huge disparity between what I wanted to do and what I was actually doing. Interestingly, I have learned through these lessons that what I should be doing is walking is in the Spirit on a daily basis. Sure, this means doing the same things I was trying to do before – Bible study, prayer, etc. – but all of a sudden the effort it took to do them was gone. I now wanted to do these things!
I know this post is getting long, so I’ll finish up by listing the things that we should engage in daily as we walk in the Spirit:
- Start in prayer – our day should begin with a prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer expressing your desire to walk with Him that day
- Worship – activities that move our focus to Him, and place Him on a pedestal in our life
- Bible study – God’s Word is His way of talking to us – the best way to hear from Him is to read His word. This is as much a devotional meditation as it is a study of Scripture.
- Continue in prayer – pray for God’s grace, power, and wisdom for yourself. Join God in prayer to see His will and purpose performed in your life and others
- End in prayer – Deal with issues from the day (sin, etc.) before the day ends. Let your prayer be an “amen” to your whole day of prayer.
I think it’s obvious that the thing that stands out the most here is prayer. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it is impossible to be close to God without a rich prayer life.
I think it’s interesting that Paul says in Galatians 5:16: ” walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” By walking in the Spirit, it actually helps us resist temptation to sin! And on top of this, the lesson points out that if we continue in this habit of walking in the Spirit on a daily basis, it becomes habit (as anything you do on a regular basis does), and this habit creates momentum that helps us live by walking in the Spirit on a daily basis. It might seem hard at first (you may miss a day here and there), but as you keep going, that momentum builds up, and you soon are at the point to where you can’t make it through the day without doing the things that signify your walking in the Spirit.
**Taken from Lessons 13 & 14: Walking in the Spirit and The Momentum of the Spirit; from The Power of the Gospel, OBC