If you go to church or hang around Christian people, you will often hear that we are supposed to walk by the Spirit. However, if I asked you to give me a 2-3 sentence description of what it means to walk by the Spirit do you think you'd be able to describe it for me?
Many of us falsely assume that walking by the Spirit means working with the Spirit. We assume that we are supposed to work with the Spirit and fix our various problems with sin. Therefore, we end up defining walking by the Spirit as working on our sin.
In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul tells us to, "walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." Working on our sin is not necessarily what Paul is urging us to do here. To work on our sin is negative in its emphasis, but Paul is speaking of something more positive. He is giving us something to do instead of something not to do.
Trying our best not to do certain things rarely leads us to succeed in actually doing the things we want to do. Trying not to swing at the slider is not going to help you hit the fastball. You will find yourself so concerned about the slider that you’ll miss on your opportunity to hit the fastball. All good hitters know that the best way to not swing at the slider is to commit yourself to hitting the fastball.
Simply trying our best not to do certain sinful acts will rarely lead us into doing the things we want to be doing. Simply trying to be a good Christian who tries to avoid the works of the flesh will not necessarily help you bear the fruit of the Spirit. You will find yourself so concerned about falling into sin that you’ll miss on your opportunities to work out your faith in love. That is why Paul tells us that the best way to not gratify the desires of the flesh is to walk by the Spirit.
Walking by the Spirit is committing ourselves to Christ and the way He calls us to live and then trusting Him to take care of the rest.
Paul reminds us that we are those who “belong to Christ” and have already “crucified the flesh” with its passions and desires. We belong to Christ. Our acceptance and access to God does not rest in our own character and what we are able to do but rather in Christ and what He’s already done for us. Therefore, we have the freedom to acknowledge and admit that we still struggle with sin. We are free to confess the internal conflict of our sinful nature versus the Spirit. And admitting that we have a problem is the pivotal first step in overcoming that problem.
Walking in honesty about our sin and in dependency on our Savior are the first steps to walking by the Spirit.
We “have crucified the flesh”. Our regeneration as a new man through faith in Christ led to the decisive death to the man we used to be. As Christians, we are not to just hope the works of the flesh will go away and bother us no more. We are to put them to death. We are to decisively turn our backs on who we used to be, and we are to decisively turn toward who we now are in Christ. Although we will still find ourselves tempted by the desires of the flesh, as those who now belong to Christ and bow to Him as our Lord, our sinful nature is no longer the reigning power in our life.
Therefore, we are to “walk in step with the Spirit." We are to follow the way of life that Christ has called us to and the life that the Spirit now leads. Simply trying to be a good Christian or trying not to sin anymore will not work. We must not simply focus on what we need to stop doing, but more importantly we need to focus on the things we ought to start doing.
Rather than working on our sin in fear, we must be working out our faith in love.
We are to walk by the Spirit. We must walk. To walk is a positive step of action. To walk is progressive. So many of us approach the Christian life as if it is a life of not doing things when in fact true Christianity is a much more adventurous life of productivity and action.
This week let's make sure that we are walking by the Spirit and working out our faith in love. Let's focus on doing good things just as much or more so than we focus on not doing bad things. May we commit ourselves to Christ and the way He calls us to live and then trust the power of His Spirit within us to take care of the rest.