Before answering the direct question of how to walk in the Spirit, we must understand what it means to walk in the Spirit. I have been asked and I have asked the same, myself, what does it mean to “walk in the Spirit?” Sometimes the answer to our questions are so obvious, we miss them even when they're standing right in front of us. This is the case regarding the answer to what does it mean to “walk in the Spirit.” Paul talks about it both in Galatians and Romans and elsewhere. Yet those two books are likely the most famous for the discussion. The outcome of walking in the Spirit or better known as the fruits of the Spirit, is in Galatians 5. In Romans, the most common passage regarding walking in the Spirit is chapters 8, although I believe Romans 6-8 should be considered rather than 8 alone. Romans 6 sets up the fact we are now free from the power of sin as Christians. Chapter 7 is the battle of the sin within and 8, so many times over looked, is the solution to the battle in Romans 7, the reaffirmation of chapter 6 and the answer to our question: what does it mean to walk in the Spirit?
Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” This is a summary of the chapter put directly at the front of it and reenforced throughout. We are dead to sin. Sin has no power over us as Christians, expect that which we give it by yielding to it. Romans 6:3-11: explains how this is possible. When Christ died on the cross for our sins, the power of our sin nature died also! When Christ was raised from the dead, we too were raised up to live as a new creature with a new Spirit, the Spirit of God, Himself, in us. The Spirit is actually not “new” as we would deem it, Adam had it prior to the fall, yet it is new to us because we were born into the world without God's Spirit in us as a consequence of the fall in the Garden of Eden. God's Gracious Spirit has been restored or reconciled to us and has come once again to live within us now that we are a new creature in Christ. Romans 6:12-14 tells us to now control the sin within. Would God ask of us that which we cannot do? Of course not! Therefore we do have the power in our new state to resist that which we could not as the old self under Adam. Praise God! The question then remains: how do I stop sinning? Romans 6:15 says we are not to abuse our new standing in Christ and we are not to sin merely because the grace and mercy of God will forgive us. Romans 6:16-22 tells us to choose who we will serve: the old sin nature or the new nature of righteousness. We were freed from sin and just as before when we served sin regularly, now we are under grace unto righteousness and we are to serve righteousness, thus becoming holy. The key again is, it is our choice, who we will serve. God does not force us to do what is right, He allows us to return to the bondage of sin or be under bondage to that which is right, righteousness and holy. In verse 17 were are told once again, it is by faith from the heart which makes this possible. Verse 21 and 22 warn us of the fruitlessness of our old sin nature and the eternal fruit of living under and by the new nature, God's Holy Spirit in us. This I believe is a warning reminding us to forsake the old self and follow the new nature God has restored unto us. It is also an encouragement of what the end result shall be! The fruits of holiness and eternal life. Romans 6:23 is the price tag we must pay for salvation: it is a gift of God.
So if we are now free from sin, why then do we sin? Romans 7 is famous for this very question. Many in the faith know of Paul's confession: I do that which I do not want to do and do not do that which I want to do. Sadly, they stop there, close their Bible and say something similar to the excuses I hear often: I'm only human; No one is perfect; Even Paul suffered such and that's just the way it is. The problem is, while Paul did suffer the inner battle over sin, he did not stop writing at chapter 7. The answer is in the next chapter, if only we would continue on.
The original text did not have chapters and verses, these were added to aid us in finding Scripture references, yet the downside of any progress is a loss of some kind. Just as a microwave cooks food faster, the food often has less favor. So it is, if we stop reading at chapter headings, we miss things, sometimes the answers we so desire. When we return for the next reading our mind is no longer fully connected to what we read prior. If we finish our study of the Word at the end of chapter 7, we might be in despair, thinking if Paul couldn't live it, how can we? The solution to overcoming our sin is walking in the Spirit. Paul gives us the details, the how to, in Romans 8.
Often we use Romans 8:1 as reassurance that once we are in Christ we are not under condemnation, I have used this for comfort for both myself and the comforting of others in the past, although I, like others, have overlooked an important phrase in the verse. Roman 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Did you see it? We often quote the first half of the verse and forget the second: “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Wow, that says a lot! We can be held into account if we do not walk after the Spirit! Being in Christ is a gift, living in the Spirit is a responsibility of those that possess the gift. A Sunday school teacher reminded me of this. As in Romans 6 and again here, we are to do the work of our salvation, not to be saved rather because we are saved. James affirms this: faith without works (a changed life) is dead.
So if we are to walk in the Spirit, what is it and how can we do it? As mentioned earlier, sometimes the obvious is starring us in the face. The word walk in Romans 8:1 means: to follow or be occupied with. The Spirit is the third person of the holy trinity. We are to follow after or be occupied with God and in doing so we will not carry out the desires of the flesh! This is to forsake the world's ways to live God's ways; putting off, ending or stopping our sin and turning to do good as God would do if He were standing here with us. Ephesians 4:22-24 “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The passage continues in verses 25-29 sharing a few examples: change lies to truth; be angry, but control it so you do not sin; thieves should work honestly; speak not evil but good, gossip is but one example. We will be the only Christ, the world will see. Who does the world see when they look at you? If it is not Christ (Christlikeness) then we are leaving a false image of the One who redeemed us. Just as an foreign ambassador represents his home country on foreign soil, we too represent God on earth. We are aliens to this world. Our homeland is heaven with God.
Ephesians 4:30 “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” We grieve the Spirit with our lack of faith and our disobedience to Him. Just as a parent child relationship is strained by conflict, so is our relationship to God. He is our Heavenly Father and we are His children. The matter cannot be ignored or it will grow and we will be in disharmony with the Spirit of God within us. We cannot walk by the Spirit, if we are at odds with Him.
To follow Him is to do the initials on those bracelets that was so common some time back: WWJD or “what would Jesus do.” The choice is ours to make, we are now free for the power of sin we were born with in the first Adam having believed on the second Adam: Jesus Christ: Romans 5. Other verses such as Galatians 5:25 “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” The word walk means: to conform to. Sound familiar? Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Walking in the Spirit is walking with God and conforming our lives to His. It's both easy, as Christ said, “my burden is light”, and hard, “the world will hate you for I am in you and they hated me.” It is as Paul said, training, thus it is not a one time action. We must daily, moment by moment, yield our choices to God: WWJD? Then we must take whatever is thrown our way, both the bad and the good and love them that throw it. This is where our faith is put to the test. We may be right, yet suffer for it. If we desire to have the gifts of the Spirit (God) in our life, Galatians 5:22, we must do the will of God at each moment we are given.
I will confess, I have failed much, yet I will not accept the excuses, I'm only human or I'll never be perfect until I get to heaven, will you? The excuses are many, yet they are vain! We have a double standard. In the world we live, we do not often accept excuses, at least not for all. A child may fool us once or twice, then we know they are merely trying to escape their responsibilities. A student or worker who continuously has an excuse is not taken seriously by either the teacher or employer. Yet we think some how, God or our follow siblings of the faith will? Sadly, our brothers and sisters in Christ often do because they to are full of similar excuses and we comfort each other in our sorrow and struggles to remain faithful to God, but God is our Father and as such, He will only tolerant our excuses for a season; then He will act! He is merely being a good parent and doing what needs to be done, yet as His child, it feels unbearable! Our parents have done the same and current parents repeat the process for their children.
To walk with God is our greatest pleasure and our greatest treasure. The peace of God fills us as we do this and even when we loose the things of this world and are striped bare, we are at peace with God and ourselves. This is the peace Christ spoke of; it passes all human understanding. It is God with us and in us!
There is a danger, a deep deception of Satan, that we must face as we desire to walk by the Spirit. This deception is common. I too have fallen pry to it most all of my Christian life. It is the “how to” of walking by the Spirit. The key, as mentioned earlier, is our choice or our will and determination to walk by the Spirit, which is a vital step in walking by the Spirit; yet it is only good, if you know how to use it.
The most common deception we fall under is the understanding of which path to follow: one path is to not to walk after the flesh, thus we will walk in the Spirit. This is to say that walking in the Spirit is a benefit or reward for not walking in the flesh. This is the path many, including myself, have followed and it leads to failure. This is Satan's great deception. If he can fool us into thinking we must change our lives to be free to walk in the Spirit, we are guilty of self work. We are focused on ourself. It is I who overcame! This person will grow, not in grace, but in pride! Look at all that I have “fixed” in my life! This is the deception of the Garden all over. If we can live in our own strength, do we need God?
On the other hand, Galatians 5:16-18 “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” This passage is like a short summary of Romans 6-8 in reverse.
Note the first part of the passage. It is like Romans 8: by walking in the Spirit we do not walk in the flesh! When we focus on God and do the will of God, we do not fulfill the lust of the flesh! I can look back on my life and see this so clear! There were times I did both, I tried to fix myself and failed. Then there were times I focused on doing the will of God and overcame! It is an attitude, a mindset. The more we soak ourselves in the Word of God, the more we automatically think as God would think. We are training ourselves to do the will of God without the effort of “fixing” ourself! As humans, we respond to situations as we have been trained. The world trains us in the world's ways continuously. We must make effort to know and learn the ways of God. Then we will respond accordingly!
The mid portion of the passage is similar to chapter 7 of Romans, the battle of what we should do verses what we do. We are untrained. We focus on ourself and we believe Satan's lie: walking by the Spirit is a outcome of denying self by not yielding to the flesh and it's desires that rage within. Yet, as we renew our mind after the thoughts and ways of God, we automatically overcome. This is not to say, we are not tempted! Let me be clear, I am not saying such. Rather I am merely stating the fact, if we are consumed with God's thoughts, there is less distraction. Plus, the closer we are to God, the more offensive the things of the flesh become! It is then easier to overcome because we are repulsed by the flesh more then incited. The reverse is true too. The more we encourage and entertain the things of the flesh, the easier we yield to them and the more objectionable we are to the things of God.
Growing up my mother had given much of her time to studying the Word of God and avoiding many distractions of the world. She stopped watching TV and listening to worldly music and soaked herself in the Word of God and rich thought provoking music that centered her thinking on the things of God. Then when my brother returned home and stayed with us for a season, she watched TV to spend time with him. She was repulsed by the godlessness of the programs, the promotion of evil and the lack of morality. She had no problem in stating such and we had no problem mocking her for what seemed to be over exaggeration. We, who had been conditioned by the shows we watched, did not see what the fuss was about. Our senses were deemed to the blatant disregard to God and God's ways. We saw only “entertainment.” Years later, after I had avoided TV for some time, I once again started to watch it; I saw what she was talking about! I was amazed at how I did not see it before!
The last section of the Galatians passage above is like Roman 6, we are free! Where once we were under the law and the bandage of it, we are now free in Christ. We are restored to the Pre Fall state; we now have a choice to honor God or dishonor Him. The question now becomes, what will we do? Will you spend countless hours, days, weeks and your life trying to fix yourself so you can walk in the Spirit? Or will you use the time God has graciously given and soak yourself in His presence by learning who He is and following His example in Christ, that we may overcome the flesh by and because we are waling in the Spirit of the living God who indwells within us since the time of our salvation.
Is change what you seek? Do you seek to walk in the Spirit? Then fill your hours, days, weeks and life with the Word of God, Christ, who is both our Savior and our Lord! Enjoy Him. Do not do things out of duty, rather out of love. It is our heart God