Living by the Spirit, Part 1
June 25, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
“Walk by the Spirit.”
So commands Paul in Galatians 5:16. Are you consciously seeking to obey this command? What does it look like for you to “walk by the Spirit”? Do you believe obedience to this command is the gateway to holy and fruitful living for God?
In the context of Galatians 5, Paul explains how this command is the gateway to fruitfulness and faithfulness. He says that the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit “are opposed to each other” (v. 17). He calls this opposition a war being waged “in my members” (Rom. 7:23). In this metaphor, the flesh and the Spirit are two generals warring against each other to gain influence over our thoughts, affections, and actions. The fruit and outcomes of each general’s influence are plainly described (Gal. 5:19-23; Rom. 8:5-10).
Here’s the problem, though. We often operate like there is a third general, one more neutral, influencing and directing our thoughts, affections, and actions. This general can direct either towards evil or good, depending on any number of circumstances. This third general is our will. We’re in charge. We make choices. The flesh? The Spirit? Advisors at best. They give input and recommendations, but we are able to take it or leave. We can even choose good on our own.
That’s how we often live life. We don’t “walk by the Spirit” as if our holiness, goodness, resistance to temptation absolutely depends on it. He’s there to help and advise when we need him, but, for the most part, “we’re good.”
Paul never speaks about our will as a “third general” or the only commanding general. We only walk (follow) according to the flesh or according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4). Our will is merely a lieutenant, following the orders of the commanding officer. When we place our faith in Christ, the flesh is replaced by the Spirit. This is Paul’s point in Romans 8:9, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
The flesh, however, lingers around the command center, stripped of its formal position and power, but not of its influence. The rightful general (the Spirit) and the ousted general (the flesh) are in opposition to each other. And our will (or heart, as other biblical passages use) is the lieutenant looking for direction. This conflict has life and death implications (see Rom. 8:13). It is the difference between loving your neighbor or harboring malice and hate, faithfulness or impurity, kindness or strife. No one can achieve or perform holiness pleasing to God without following the Spirit’s direction.
Obedience to the command “walk by the Spirit” is not optional in order to achieve some sort of super-star, extra-level Christianity. Obedience to the command is essential to live as a Christian, to be a Christian.
We’ll return to this next week and consider what it actually looks like to “walk by the Spirit.”