Monday, May 21, 2007

“Walk by the Spirit”, Part 3

Please, pardon me for taking over a week to finally get around to the last installment in this series. If you’re just now getting in on this, you can read the previous installments here: Part 1, Part 2.

By this point, we have seen that to walk by the Spirit is to live a life of active trust in God, the Holy Spirit. We “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). But, how can we know we are walking by the Spirit? Will there be any verifiable evidence?

Two things come to mind. First of all, if we are walking by the Spirit, living “[habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]” (Galatians 5:16 Amplified), then it follows that our lives will manifest the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23):

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

A life that is “responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit” will manifest the Spirit’s fruit. The Christian life is not merely a matter of just “taking it by faith”, with no corresponding evidence to validate the reality of our profession. I’ve been thinking a lot about that, lately. It’s so easy for many professed Christians to glibly confess, “I know God!” “Jesus is Lord!” “I’m a Christian!” But, upon closer inspection (and, sometimes, you don’t even have to look that closely), one finds there is absolutely no evidence to validate their profession, no separation from the world…at all…in anything! I’m reminded of what Grandma used to say: “Talk is cheap!” It doesn’t cost anything to run your mouth. The Christian life, however, is a changed life, requiring a disciplined walk. Where the Spirit is truly at work, it will be evidenced in a life that manifests His character. In other words, the Spirit will make His presence known. Jesus said (John 3:8, emphasis mine), “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound…”, that is, the Spirit produces His effects—evidences of His presence and activity in the human soul. If we are walking by the Spirit, there will be proof: the “fruit of the Spirit”.

Secondly, if we are walking by the Spirit, our lives will conform to the Bible—the Scriptures—the very word of God which the Spirit inspired. Jesus said (John 14:15), “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Obedience is an evidence of genuine faith in Christ and characterizes one who is “in step” with the Spirit of God. A question we need to ask ourselves is: How is my obedience?

So, in answer to the question of how we may know we are walking by the Spirit: We may know we are walking by the Spirit by whether or not our life conforms to God’s word, and whether or not the fruit of the Spirit is the habitual outflow of our personality.

How do we get to the place where we are walking by the Spirit, “responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit”? Based on the texts we have been looking at, I would suggest a two-pronged strategy.

The first prong in our strategy is Scripture. If we want to walk by the Spirit, we need to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures. Our lives will not be in line with the Bible if we don’t know what the Bible says. We can’t keep Christ’s commandments if we don’t know what those commandments are. If we want to learn to walk by the Spirit, we must immerse ourselves—our souls and minds—in the word of God. We need to learn what God has already said. Biblical illiteracy is rampant in the professing church. Is it any wonder that our Christianity is at such a low level? The word of God is essential.

The second prong in our strategy is prayer. If we want to learn to walk by the Spirit, we must pray to that end. Pray that our minds would be sensitive to and responsive to the Spirit’s influence. Pray that we would be submissive to the Spirit’s control. Pray for the Spirit’s guidance and direction. Pray that God would make those things we learn in the Scriptures, concerning walking by the Spirit, a reality in our lives. In a way, we’re talking about praying for the Holy Spirit, for in prayer, we acknowledge our dependence upon God and our need of the Holy Spirit. Consider the words of Jesus (Luke 11:9-13):

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

I think all true believers in Christ want their lives to be Christ-honoring, free from the bondage of sinful habits and fruitful in the work of the Lord. The word of God points the way (Galatians 5:16): “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Let’s immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, so that we may know God’s word, and seek God’s face through prayer, that this precious truth from God’s word might be a living reality in all our lives.

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