Walking in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-18

I want to give some practical advise to walking in the Spirit. Let me make it simple: It’s really simple. Got it?

After about 10 years in the Lord, I’ve heard a lot of messages about walking with God, about walking with the Spirit, and I’ve read a lot of books, articles, and blogs. This is pretty well what I do. When I was first saved, I went to church daily. 7 days out of the week I was spending all of my free time either at church, in a Bible study, or on the streets evangelizing. I have about 500 sermons on my computer that I’m still working through. That number was upward to about 10,000. I say all this to say that I know this is a question that people are asking about, and I know that a lot of times the answers are clouded in uncertainty (to say the least).

So, first things first, let us reason naturally. When you’re born, you can’t walk immediately. Most of you muscles are unfit for being used in maturity. You drink milk, you flail about without hand-eye coordination, and even your vocal/speaking mechanisms are unable to communicate as adults. After a couple years, the child has probably gotten to a place where he/she can say some words, can walk (somewhat), is eating food instead of milk, etc. It takes time for the body to grow and mature. The same is true spiritually.

When you’re first born into the Lord, you probably don’t know a whole lot of what you’re doing, or how to do much. There is nothing wrong with that, because you can’t expect an infant to be potty trained or reason with the philosophers of our day. There has to be maturing that takes place. Whether you’re years or months (or decades) in the faith, don’t feel like because you haven’t seen the fruit you were hoping for that you’re somehow doing it wrong. It takes time, it takes devotion, and it takes dedication.

Now that that is out of the way, what exactly do we even mean when we say “walk in the Spirit”? I’m afraid that it has almost been supercharged into this unattainable super-human, super-spiritual thing. Just as walking is such a natural ability of the creature (what animal do you know that isn’t naturally able to figure out the walking thing?), so too is walking in the Spirit. It’s simply what you do when you’re in the faith. So, lets go ahead and look at a few Scriptures (you’ll notice that all of these pertain directly to our passage):

Rom 6:12-14, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (see Gal 5:16 and 18)

Rom 8:1-4, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Rom 8:12-14, “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

I know all of these verses are in Romans. You’ll notice if you go through a concordance (or search Bible Gateway with the phrase “walk in the spirit”) that in almost every case (if not every case), it is immediately in regard to not walking in the flesh, not falling to temptation, beholding the Day of the Lord and our redemption that comes with it, and therefore living in purity before God here and now.

So, what is walking in the Spirit? If our theology tells us that to walk according to the Spirit is to somehow be led out of our homes, across the country or across the world, to preaching to people that need Jesus, or to knowing with intuition that someone needs help that we can offer, then we have missed the mark. Prophecy, healing, miracles, and missionary work is not the definition of walking according to the Spirit. It isn’t about hearing some Divine emanation and then doing what this voice from heaven speaks. It is not about knowing the will of God for your life and then pursuing it.

Walking in the Spirit is really simple. In fact, if you’re truly in Christ, it is the most basic thing that you can do. What it comes down to is this: What does God approve of? If you open the Bible and simply begin to read it, what conclusions will you come to about what God approves of and expects His people to act like? Let me give a few thoughts off the top of my head:

  1. Compassion on the oppressed
    Compassion is about justice. God hears the cry of the oppressed, whether the poor, the widows, the fatherless, or the sojourner. If you’re in Christ, and you truly have the Spirit of God within you, then you cannot ignore this cry. Something in you drives you to noticing when there is injustice and oppression of the lowly. You can’t ignore it, because it is fundamentally something that God gets super pissed about. I told my wife the other day, “I’ve figured it out… I’m an Amos.” The reason that I continue to harp and gripe about the injustice I see Christendom doing, and the theories that promote selfishness, is because I’m an Amos. I might not have the glorious visions and prophecies of Isaiah or Zechariah, but when you read Amos you can’t ignore the compassion and love that he radiates for His people and for the poor.
  2. Faithfulness
    This word is something that has been lost to us. Faithfulness doesn’t mean that we’re sinless, nor that we somehow spend all and are expended upon the Lord’s behalf, but that we’re simply faithful. We devote ourselves to the Lord, and if He directs our path in another direction, then we go. If He doesn’t move us, then we’re content to stay and live a simple life. We’re faithful with what He has given us, and we’re faithful to not complain and covet what others have. When we have need, we pray, and when we don’t have need, we have gratitude.
  3. Acknowledgement of God
    How sad is it that one of the biggest things that God desires is to simply be acknowledged? Even within Deuteronomy, one of the statements that rings out is to not forget God when you get blessed… To acknowledge Him is to recognize on a deeper level that it is by God that you live, and move, and have your being. Don’t think that simply saying, “Oh, but God provides” is enough. That statement shouldn’t be a quick cliche to spout out, but the very reality that you live from.
  4. Simplicity
    There is never anything, anywhere, in the Bible that is complex. You might have deep thoughts, amazing wisdom, and incredible insight, but you don’t have anything complex. Things like “Bible codes”, hoops to jump through, demands that you need to know multiple languages to understand the Bible, etc are all lies. God is simple, and He expects that we live simply. In Exodus, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little did not go hungry. You live within your means. Proverbs speaks against debt profusely. In all things, live simply. Know that the Bible is simple, and even Leviticus can be easily understood when you’ve read it a couple times to become familiar with it, and that we’re asked to live within our means, not desiring bigger, better, faster, more. That kind of thinking (bigger, better, faster, deeper, more) comes from demons, and not God.
  5. Mercy
    Once again, this seems super simple, right? God has granted you mercy, so go and do likewise to/for others. There isn’t a “unless” or “except for” in that command of Jesus. You weren’t deserving of mercy, and neither are they.

To learn to live in this manner (and this is just a quick off-the-top-of-my-head outline) is to walk in the Spirit. Learning of God’s character and the things He approves of is to learn to walk according to the Spirit. Therefore, “spirit-led worship” and “spirit-led sermons” and other stuff is nonsense. To be “Spirit led” is to learn from the Spirit the very wisdom and lifestyle of heaven, and to then live from that reality in all things that you do. This is why “walking in the Spirit” is the opposite of “walking in the flesh”.

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