How to Walk in the Spirit-Introduction

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law… Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires… If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-19, 24-25).

The Inward struggle

When you were born again you came to the realization that the Lord Jesus Christ came into your life through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and that you had been spiritually regenerated to worship God in Spirit and in truth and in that you rejoiced. Furthermore, you realised that you had been forgiven and cleansed from past and present sin, accepted by God in the beloved Jesus and set free from condemnation. You realised you no longer stood condemned in God’s Court of Law. Inside you were praising and thanking God out of your regenerated spirit. However, very soon after this spiritual experience you became aware of a dark and sinister and hidden desire that started to cause a conflict between those desires to please God and those desires to give into those dark inclinations and sinister desires. The first thing we need to do as we seek to walk in the Spirit is to recognize what is happening down on the inside of us as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Where ‘the rubber hits the road!’

It is one thing to be born again at a moment in time by the Spirit and something further to walk in the Spirit every day, to walk under His control. This is where ‘the rubber hits the road’ spiritually speaking for every true child of God. You know you have been born again and you know the Holy Spirit lives in you and you know you are to walk in the Spirit but the question for you is how do you walk in the Spirit?  How will you have victory over those dark and sinister desires that war against the spiritual interests of your soul and seek to control your body? How do you overcome a besetting sin of the fallen nature called ‘the flesh’?

1. We need to recognize that we have two natures within us that are at war with each other and striving for mastery of our soul.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law… Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires… If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-19, 24-25).

C.H. Spurgeon said that being in conflict with the old fallen nature was like being chained to a corpse. Now a corpse smells and is very unpleasant unless you are as dead as the corpse is. However, with your new life in Christ Jesus you breathe the clean and fresh air of the life of the Spirit while at the same time being aware of that stinking spiritual corpse to which you are bound in this life. How then can any believer walk in the Spirit?

2. We need to understand clearly the difference between Law of Lift vs the law of Gravity

The Apostle Paul wrote; “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

We can understand this spiritual conflict when we consider the law of lift that goes against the law of gravity. I want you to imagine there are two balloons. One is filled with oxygen and the other filled with helium.

The Balloon filled with Oxygen

The balloon filled with oxygen is like a believer who is trying to overcome the desires of the flesh by their own will power and effort or religious abstinence and self-effort. These ‘works’ may enable them to have a partial and intermittent victory of sorts over sin and temptation but never be able to overcome a besetting sin which all of us have to avoid as believers as every believer has a specific area of weakness and vulnerability to temptation and sin. For some it may be lust, or for someone else a bad temper, or a critical tongue, or a habit of some kind. The oxygen in the balloon will allow it to defy the law of gravity up to a certain height but because the law of gravity is stronger than the oxygen the balloon will soon fall to the ground because the law of gravity is stronger than the law of lift. So it is with a believer who is struggling with the desires of the fallen sinful nature and especially where a besetting sin is concerned. What they need is something that will make the law of lift stronger than the law of gravity.

The Balloon filled with Helium

The believer who has learnt to walk in the Spirit is like the balloon that is filled with helium. Even though that believer feels the downward pull of the desires of the sinful nature, also called ‘the old man,’ he or she can rise above that downward pull because the Holy Spirit is able to lift him or her up and above that downward pull which is the law of sin and death. The law of the Spirit of Life that is in Christ Jesus (the spiritual law of lift) is stronger than the downward pull of the law of sin and death (The spiritual law of gravity). If you have been born again and have the Holy Spirit in you then you have the all the power you will ever need at your disposal to live a life that can overcome the world, the flesh and the devil and be pleasing to the Lord Jesus who has saved you. How then can you as a believer overcome the schemes and temptations of the devil and those sinful passions which are in conflict with the Spirit’s desires? This brings us to the third point…

3. We need to recognize the reality that we still have the old nature to contend with every day.

The Apostle Paul himself understood this when he wrote; “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (Romans 7:18-19).

When Paul wrote to the Galatian believers he said; “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Now many believers have read this statement by Paul and assumed that overcoming the flesh and even a besetting sin is impossible this side of heaven even though the will to do this is present. Now in the Greek text we read the phrase; “that you may not do the things that you please” it implies something that is very difficult to overcome but not impossible to overcome. This is one of the purposes we have the Holy Spirit in us as believers is to enable us to overcome the desires of the old sinful nature also called ‘the old man.’ If we stay in Romans chapter seven without reading into chapter eight we would assume that overcoming the sinful desires and downward pull of the old nature is impossible.

Life in the Spirit’s power

However in chapter eight Paul goes on to write that it is more than possible to overcome the flesh through walking in the Spirit and that we have an obligation before the LORD to do so. Paul writes; “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:12-14). The unsaved do not have this conflict but a saved man or woman will be conscious of it. This struggle in itself is a sign that you are alive in the Spirit. The unsaved have no choice as they will sin anyway because the old nature controls them and they do not have within them the new nature of the Spirit of Jesus. The life that overcomes sin is only possible through the new spiritual rebirth from above which the Lord Jesus gives through the Holy Spirit. In the work of the new birth the surrender of the will is also needed. While the emotions and the intellect are involved in the new birth it cannot occur until the will is laid down.

4. We need to make sure our will is fully surrendered to God.

The Lord Jesus came to do the will of His Father as He clearly said; “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38) Even though He asked the Father to take away the cup of the cross to come, in loving submission to His heavenly Father He said; “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will, but Yours’s be done.” (Luke 22:42)  The surrender of the will is the secret to spiritual power in the believer’s life. It is not just the surrender of the emotions or the intellect to spiritual truth, they are involved but without the surrender of the will there will be no real and genuine spiritual power from on high.

We just need to say No!

The Bible says; “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. It instructs us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we await the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:11-13)

This principle is true in the work of the new birth but is equally true in the work of the mighty Baptism or infilling with the Holy Spirit. The new birth enlists us into the army of the LORD and the baptism with the Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual weapons we need to fight the battle against the world, the flesh and the devil. Our attitude should be the same as our Lord Jesus who submitted His will to the will of the Father as the apostle John writes; “as He is, so also are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17) Sometimes our will wants to resist the will of God and at such times we should pray; “Father if you are willing take this cup from me never the less not My will but Yours be done.”  Walking in the Spirit does not mean everything will be ‘hunky dory’ as such and there will be times when we just have to say “No” to those persistent desires from the flesh that go contrary to the desires of the Spirit. God’s grace is always available to us to empower us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we await the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” The Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ should always be a factor when we are contemplating yielding to temptation.

Being regularly led by the Spirit

In the time of Moses after the children of Israel had left Egypt and were sojourning through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land they were guided by a pillar of cloud by day and by a pillar of fire at night. When the Pillar moved they moved but when it did not move they also did not move. On the Day of Pentecost the cloud descended upon the 120 gathered in the upper room and tongues of fire were thoroughly distributed on all of them gathered there. The Shekinah glory that led Israel as a nation in the Old Testament would now lead the Church not only corporately but also individuals as well. As the apostle Paul wrote; “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 all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13-14)

With nothing held back

In the Old Testament when the whole of the sacrifice was laid on the altar with nothing held back the fire from God would fall and consume the sacrifice. In the New Testament the altar is the heart and when the will is surrendered the purifying and empowering might of the Holy Spirit falls on that alter of the heart fully surrendered to God. If the will is not laid down, even though the emotions and the intellect are laid down, the fire from heaven will not fall!  When the will is laid down the rest of faith is possible, a rest that the Lord Jesus wants every child of God to experience. This rest of faith is to be a continuous resting in the promises of God with the will in submission to those promises. This is the only way we can be empowered to walk in the Spirit and in doing so not fulfil the desires of that old man that at times can severely afflict us.

Peace (Shalom) even in turmoil

If our will is laid down the mind and the emotions will eventually fall into line with our will. We can be emotionally and mentally fragile but if the will is laid down then we will know the peace of God even in the time of turmoil and conflict. Shalom implies this. You can be in a crisis in your life and still know the peace of God even though your mind and emotions are being hammered. God’s peace comes up out of the inner spirit of a believer because God resides there in the person of the Holy Spirit. God’s supernatural peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22)  It is a peace that the world cannot give but only the Lord Jesus can give. As He said to His anxious disciples; “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) He said this in the context of the Holy Spirit who would be poured out upon them after He had risen and ascended back to the Father. (Luke 24:49) (Acts 1:8) (Acts 2:4) So then unless the will is laid down there will be no spiritual power from on high.

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