Stage 5 – Walking In The Spirit
Once we have begun worshipping in the Spirit our inner man, the New Creation is strengthened mightily and the fruit of the Spirit begin to ripen so it is time to get moving for God! In this chapter we will discuss how to walk in the Spirit.
Romans 8:4 ..in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans tells us that there are two ways of “walking” – in the flesh, or in the Spirit; and that if we walk in the Spirit we fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law. In other words, we get absolutely everything (in the spiritual life) right! We do not just get half of God’s Law correct, we fulfill all of it! The secret to having a spiritual life that works properly, is this mysterious “walking in the Spirit” which fortunately for us is explained in detail in Galatians chapter 5.
Galatians 5:16-26 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek, and here “walk” is the Greek word “peripateo” which means to walk about, to have a certain lifestyle and philosophical viewpoint. It was commonly used to refer to travelling philosophers.
So walking in the Spirit is having a lifestyle and a philosophy that is consistent with the Holy Spirit. If you are in the Spirit, then your lifestyle will be distinctly different from those who live according to the flesh. If you are following Christ, then your personal life philosophy will be distinctly different from those who are following after this world. Walking in the Spirit is the conscious deliberate choice of righteous and spiritual living and thinking every single day.
Galatians 5:16 is the statement that if we walk by the Spirit we will not gratify the lusts of the flesh. The Greek is very strong; it actually says “you will in no way be able to gratify”. It is like saying “if you are in forward gear you will be totally unable to drive in reverse”. Because walking in the Spirit is going forward spiritually, and gratifying the flesh is going backward spiritually, and you cannot do both at the same time.
The next verse (Galatians 5:17) tells us that the flesh and the Spirit are total opposites and are in a long drawn-out conflict for control of the believers’ mind and the believers’ behavior. The flesh and the Spirit have opposing desires and directly opposite lifestyles. If you want to live by the flesh, the Spirit will jump in and stop you doing that. The Holy Spirit does not want you to live out of a “do whatever you want” anarchistic lifestyle.
In verse 18, we see the puzzling statement that if we are led by the Spirit we are not under the Law. The Christian is a person who follows the Spirit and not just the legalistic letter. We are like Jesus, and we are not like the Pharisees. We are people who live in love, not people who nit-pick our neighbor. You will learn a LOT more about that in the next chapter.
Galatians 5:19-21 describe the works of the flesh. They are terrible, violent and abusive. If we are walking in the Spirit, there is no way we will do such awful things. Paul gives numerous “sin lists” in his epistles because the Gentiles had lived such lawless lives prior to conversion that some of the newer Christians had little or no sense of Christian ethics. So, in order to help these new Christians Paul gives a list of things that are definitely NOT spiritual at all: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
This includes sins of the heart such as jealousy and envy; sins of the flesh such as immorality, impurity, and sensuality; sins of the spirit such as idolatry and sorcery; sins against others such as enmity, strife, rivalries, dissensions and divisions; and sins against moral order such as drunkenness and orgies. Just in case Paul has missed your favorite work of the flesh he finishes off with the phrase “and things like these”.
Nearly all of the sins of the flesh are self-centered and self-gratifying and flow from an “its-all-about-me” mindset. The fleshly person wants immediate gratification and could not care less about who they hurt along the way!
LOVE & PEACE
On the other hand, the Spirit-filled person produces positive things. He or she produces the varied fruit of the Spirit: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ by making us like Him. The varied fruit of the Spirit are simply Christ in us, and are Christ living His life out through us. When we are filled with the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit we are moving toward our spiritual destiny; which is being like Jesus.
As we walk in the Spirit, we adopt a lifestyle and a personal philosophy that produces the fruit of the Spirit and which reduces the work of the flesh! This leads straight to the next verse in Galatians chapter 5: 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
When we walk in the Spirit we always end up carrying our cross. Carrying our cross means that we crucify our selfish, fleshly evil desires and we focus on carrying out the will of God instead.
Jesus tells His disciples what it means to take up one’s Cross:
Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
Taking up the Cross means following Jesus Christ despite the fleshly temptation to grasp for the “whole world”. Taking up the Cross preserves our soul and means we will be rewarded on the Day of Judgment. Those who settle for the worldly things instead end up losing their soul.
When we walk in the Spirit, we deny ourselves, the lusts of the flesh, and the temptations of this world, and follow Christ obediently by the power of the Holy Spirit! Someone doing that simply cannot fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
In the next chapter of Galatians Paul reinforces this message when he writes:
Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
When we walk in the Spirit we boast only in the cross. When we walk in the Spirit we are crucified to the world. When we turn our back on the world and walk in the Spirit, we are headed in the right direction. We have engaged forward gear in the spiritual life!
In Galatians 5:25,26 Paul tells us how to keep in step with the Spirit:
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Our egos can destroy our walk with God. We can be walking in the Spirit and going forward when all of a sudden we get out of rhythm and out of line. Our ego gets hooked and we become conceited, provoking one another and envying one another. Church rivalry, church politics, theological disputes, complaining about leadership, pushing to be “up front”; these things get us out of step spiritually. They break up the rhythms of grace.
“Keeping in step” is a military phrase. It is used for those famous Marine drill teams who march and do drills in perfect harmony, following the exact detailed instructions of the Drill Sergeant. Should a member of the Drill Team decide to march to their own beat, or to disobey the Sergeant, then everything would quickly break down into disorder.
Imagine the Holy Spirit as your Drill Sergeant, the One who keeps the Church in perfect order. When we stay in step with the Spirit, everything works fine. However, if we engage in rivalry, envy, boasting and conceit then everything falls into disarray.
So then, how do we walk in the Spirit? By choosing to do so over and over again. As soon as you sense that you are “in the flesh:” repent. Say sorry to God, and get back on track. Ask to be filled with the Spirit, and move on with your Christian life. Stop driving in reverse. Change gears, and move forward spiritually!
We walk in the Spirit by making a serious daily decision to obey the commandments of Jesus Christ, in love, and in the power of the Holy Ghost. We sternly commit ourselves to renouncing the flesh. We are crucified to the world.
We also put away strife and ego and arguing and complaining and all forms of immorality including pornography. We pick up our Cross and follow Jesus, but not in our own strength, but in the strength of Christ who dwells in us.
As we walk in the Spirit, we produce the fruit of the Spirit. Our character and our mindset change and day by day they are renewed. The fruit of the Spirit become permanent attributes of our character, and we become mature Christians.
- What does Galatians 5:16 mean for the Christian’s spiritual life?
- How can we avoid doing the works of the flesh?
- How is taking up our Cross part of walking in the Spirit?
- What does it mean to keep in step with the Spirit?