An excerpt from Why Grace Changes Everything
Walking in the Spirit is an amazingly practical proposition. It doesn’t mean that we float through life with a halo over our head and an angelic smile on our face. We can be spiritually minded and still relate to people about earthly things. Some believers react so strongly against the pervasive worldliness of our culture that they lose the ability to communicate with their friends, relatives, and neighbors. Walking in the Spirit doesn’t take us out of reality; it allows us to function in reality with optimum effectiveness.
Somebody once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” How true that is in the spiritual realm! While walking in the Spirit is an incredibly practical proposition, we must bear in mind that it’s not the place we begin. Relationship always precedes behavior.
A great example of this principle is found in the book of Ephesians. The first three chapters all deal with relationship. Only then does the fourth chapter begin, “Therefore…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” The relationship comes first because it provides the foundation for everything that follows.
If we try to walk without first establishing the proper relationship, we won’t make it. Walking requires that we first acquire balance. This is true even in the physical realm. Before children take their first steps, they must learn how to keep their balance while sitting. Next they master the art of standing. Then they learn to wobble a little. And only after that do they develop the ability to walk.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us that by understanding what it means to be seated with Christ we will begin to experience the power of God, which in turn will allow us to walk in a manner pleasing to Him. There is a definite progression here. First we must have a balanced relationship with God; then we can learn to walk.
At one time all of us lived after our flesh, obeying the desires of our flesh and our minds, and were alienated from God. But then God’s grace transformed our lives and we began to enjoy delightful fellowship with the Lord. We continue to enjoy that deep fellowship as we allow God’s Spirit to exercise control over our lives.
Walking Our Talk
There are many who claim to have a relationship with God, who throw around all the right Christian buzzwords and catchphrases, but who simply aren’t walking with God in any practical way. It is crucial that we learn to “walk our talk.” Our lives must be consistent with the calling, the blessings, and the profession we make concerning our new relationship with God.
The question is: how do we manage this? How do we avoid being carried away by the allure of the world? Paul had an answer in Galatians:5:16: “This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (emphasis added).
The Greek word translated “walk” in this passage is a term used to describe the dominant characteristic of a person’s life. If someone were to have a reputation as a real miser he would be known as a person who “walked” in greed. If a person characteristically was concerned and helpful, he would be known as someone who “walked” in kindness.
To walk in the Spirit means that we allow the Holy Spirit to exercise control over our lives. Every day we are presented with the option of living after the Spirit or after our own fleshly desires. Our mind is the battleground where we will decide which will have dominion.
It is helpful to remember that God has designed the human mind to work much as a computer does. A computer can only produce that which has been programmed into it. In like manner, our minds are being programmed daily. If our input comes from the flesh, our lives will be characterized by the flesh. If we begin to program our minds with the things of the Spirit, our lives will begin to reflect the priorities of the Spirit.
How easy it is to fall into the trap of making a bold profession to please the flesh! Certainly the power that our fallen nature can hold over us is one of the biggest problems we face in life. How can we be free from the seemingly unconquerable bondage to the flesh?
The simple yet profound answer is this: Don’t fight the flesh; strengthen the Spirit! Don’t fight against the darkness; turn on the light.
To do this we must first recognize that we have both a spiritual and a fleshly side to our nature. If we are to walk in the Spirit, we must feed the spiritual man. We all know what it means to feed the physical side of our nature. If I miss feeding my body, it is not subtle about reminding me of its needs…. We exercise and take vitamins so that we might grow strong physically. Becoming strong in spirit requires a similar regimen. We must regularly consume the bread of life, the Word of God.
Taking in the Word
How ironic it is that our consumption of the Word is often the last thing we get around to. “Of course, I need to spend time in God’s Word,” we say, “but I just don’t seem to have time right now.” In essence, we are fasting in the Spirit. Our spiritual side often gets fed irregularly, spasmodically, and in an unbalanced way. We neglect regular, systematic study of the Word for a “let’s flip open the Bible and see what catches our eye” approach. Often we have no consistent practice of Bible study or personal growth…. As a result, the spiritual man becomes weak and the flesh begins to dominate.
If I want my spiritual man to be strong, it only stands to reason that I must sow to my spirit. I can’t be sowing to the flesh and hope that I’m somehow going to produce a spiritual crop. In order to walk in the Spirit, I must begin to feed the spirit. That means I must make it a point to get more and more into the Word of God….
It is important to see God’s Word as the essential that it is. Jesus claimed that His words were spirit and life, so a regular, systematic time in God’s Word is essential if we are to walk in the Spirit.
Communing with God
A high priority on prayer is another essential for experiencing the joys of walking in the Spirit. As we thrill to the excitement of communing with God, we find ourselves being strengthened in spirit. We become more and more conscious of the presence of God in all that we do and in every circumstance we encounter.
Being aware of God’s presence opens our understanding to a more full and developed worldview. I am convinced that one of our greatest needs is to become more and more aware of God’s presence at all times….
Our lives can be remarkably transformed when we come to realize that God is with us continually. Losing sight of that fact can open the door to spiritual disaster. The farther God is removed from our consciousness, the more we are strongly drawn to the things that feed and please our fallen nature. When we stumble and fall, we may point to many external factors to explain our behavior, but the root of our problem is a failure to keep God’s presence in mind. The instruction to walk in the Spirit simply means that we are to deliberately make God our constant traveling companion as we move through the day.
When we walk in the Spirit, living in constant awareness of the presence of God, we no longer need others to nag and preach at us about living up to Christian standards. Our lives will be revolutionized as we keep the nearness and love of God in the front of our minds.