I’m sure you’ve heard sermons, read books, and heard teaching on “walking by the Spirit”. While cognitively I might grasp this, experientially, I seem to forget as I slip back into a performance mode motivated and animated, not by the Spirit of God, but by the sheer grit of my will and determination. That aside (I’ll come back to this later, or, in another post), I think we would all agree living by the Spirit, walking by the Spirit would be our preferred mode as followers of Jesus. Galatians has to be Paul’s most angry letter to the churches. Perhaps bits and pieces of his Corinthian correspondence come close, yet in Galatians Paul is perplexed at the believers there, who somehow felt that, “after beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Gal.3:3). You see, the big problem the Galatians had, and we have, is, after being saved by the Gospel of God’s grace, we somehow feel this same Gospel, which is the power of God for our salvation (Rom.1:16), is somehow not sufficient, not only for our justification, but also for our sanctification. God’s gospel needs the help of the “law”. So, to put it into today’s language, if we just “do more and try harder”, we will somehow prove to God we are serious about our walk with Him. Somehow, He needs our help in order for us to grow. Yes, sanctification (the art of paying attention to and working out our justification) requires our energy and focus. But this energy and focus is Spirit-generated, not flesh-driven by our independent-apart-from-God efforts. Admittedly, this is a most brief descriptor of what motivates and animates our new walk with God. Yet, this walking by the Spirit is that sweet something I long to know more of. This is because, on my own, I cannot generate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal.5:22) I like the way Eugene Peterson, in his Message paraphrase/translation puts these ideas:
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” – (Gal.5:22-25, MSG). In other words, this becomes a way of life. It’s the way we walk. In the weeks to come, I will share more with you, how walking by the Spirit helps us to enjoy the kind of life that only He can generate and motivate to live.