How to keep in step with the Holy Spirit
As a people living in the age of the Christian church, are we keeping in step with the Holy Spirit? What is His role in our lives?
Some think we are to imitate the life of Christ. But keeping in step in the Christian life is not done through imitation as much as by identification. Jesus lives His resurrected life through us, because we have received Him by faith! How then as believers, can we learn to keep in step with our Saviour? Let’s look at what Paul emphasises in Galatians 5:13-26: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other”.
The Conflict: Two opposing forces
There is a war going on inside us as believers. The Greek word for contrary means to be opposite or to be in continual opposition. The old you and the new you don’t get along at all! The flesh and the Spirit are mortal enemies. War? Yes! Soon after we become Christians and begin to discover the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we make a startling discovery – we have all kinds of opposition. There are a number of enemies that pose a threat to our capacity to walk in the Spirit and live the victorious Christian life we were designed to live. We can’t afford to be ignorant about them…
– The External Enemy: The World (1 John 2:15)
John tells us not to love the world. The Greek word for world can mean several things, including: The earth Acts 17:24: “The God Who produced and formed the world and all things in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade shrines”; The human race John 3:16: “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life”; and The evil world and societal systems opposed to God 1 John 2:15: “Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him”. Living the Christian life involves carefully interacting with the world but not being submerged in it. In other words: Keep your eyes wide open!
– The Infernal Enemy: The Devil
Peter warns believers that Satan prowls around as a lion, seeking to devour someone (Refer to 1 Peter 5:8).Satan should not be feared, but he should not be regarded lightly either. On our own, we are no match for him. Remember that the devil will seek to hinder you in every way possible.
– The Internal Enemy: The Flesh (Galatians 5:16-21)
The human body is not sinful; it’s neutral. If the Holy Spirit controls the body, then we walk in the Spirit; but if the flesh controls the body, we walk in the lusts or desires of the flesh. The flesh stands for that part of man’s nature wherein his natural desires have free rein. Sometimes the Bible refers to this flesh nature as the old man or the old nature. Something wonderful happens when we receive Christ as our Saviour – this happens the moment we receive a new spiritual nature and the capacity to operate from that nature. The Bible refers to this new nature as the new man. Paul explains the contrariness of the two natures in Galatians 5:17: “For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do”.
The Contrast: The secret of staying in step
God wants us to walk in the Spirit according to Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God)”. But when we attempt this, a contrast occurs between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Paul talks about the negative first, listing sensual sins, superstitious sins, and social sins as works of the flesh. He then explains the fruit of the Spirit. The contrast between “works” and “fruit” is important. A machine in a factory works and turns out a product, but it can never manufacture fruit. Fruit must grow out of life, and in the case of the believer it is the life of the Spirit.
The Conquest: Steps to victory
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires. If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.] Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited, competitive and challenging and provoking and irritating to one another, envying and being jealous of one another” (Galatians 5:24-25). Paul brings us to the point of victory here in this matter of walking in the Spirit! Is the victorious Christian life possible? Yes! But there are certain factors we need to take on board. The historical aspect is that we died to sin and are now alive in Christ because of His sacrifice and resurrection. The mental aspect is what must penetrate our minds so that we know we are truly dead to sin according to Romans 6:11: “Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus”. The practical aspect is what should be lived out in our lives – we must walk in the Spirit, meaning we must keep in step with the Spirit. This involves the Word, prayer, worship, praise, service, and fellowship with God’s people.
The secret to avoiding temptation and living a fruitful life in the will of God is simple – keep in step with His Spirit. Count yourself dead to sin and alive in Christ; don’t simply imitate Jesus – die to yourself and allow Him to live through you!