“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in [be guided by] the Spirit.”
– Galatians 5:25
There is so much said in such a short verse of Scripture. “If we live in the Spirit” is a hypothetical statement used by Paul to encourage believers who have received Jesus to walk in accordance to His Spirit. It is an intended redundant statement since as believers we have been raised to new life by the Spirit of God, even as our Lord was raised and emerged from the tomb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Its intended purpose is for all believers to respond, “Yes, let us walk in the Spirit!”, yet there are many who feel an absence of the experience to this new life in the Spirit. For many the conviction that comes from forces greater than ourselves seems missing.
Shouldn’t the experience of the Spirit of God joining with ours be something notable? Shouldn’t it go beyond the feeling that maybe we’re only just stirring ourselves up because we want so much to believe? The early church of Acts seems filled with examples of those who experienced something unique that stirred them to a greater participation and faith in Christ.
yet there are many who feel an absence of the experience to this new life in the Spirit
Our answer is, Yes, it is something notable and it does stir us up to greater faith! But our observation is that Acts also contains examples of those who did not seem to experience anything new, but instead continued on as they were before. Simon the sorcerer is recorded as believing, then he offered money to get the gift of laying on hands so others can receive the Spirit. Peter quickly rebuked him for turning the gift of God into merchandise. Ananias and Sapphira sold their possessions along with many others but kept back part of the proceeds for themselves. That greed led to lying about it which then led to their falling dead when faced with what they had done.
Those two examples were of believers who apparently received Christ, but continued to walk in their worldly ways and thinking in accordance to their worldly reasoning. Did they receive the Spirit when they believed? Yes, because the promise of God’s Spirit is for all who call on the name of Jesus – however – as notable and stirring as that impartation is, for many there are things still more notable and stirring to them than that Gift from God.
“For we also received the good news, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, since they did not share the faith of those who comprehended it.”
– Hebrews 4:2
Our faith is a reasoned choice and often tied into our worldly ways of reasoning. We rely on our experiences to determine what methods and outcomes we can expect in any given situation. To give you some examples to consider, who among us would have thought to look in a fish’s mouth for the temple tax? Or who would have reasoned that to feed a multitude with very little food we just simply multiply that food? Or to get to the other side of a stormy lake with no boat, who of us would have considered walking across it? Our worldly ways of logic would never have considered those options.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:16
When the Spirit of God raises us to new life what happens is our spirit is blended with His – and we become one Spirit. The unity is so close and complete that one could not tell where he or she ends and God begins. Before we were raised to new life, the spirit that was in us as normal human beings is what stirred us to our actions and responses. It was the motivator and content used by our reasoning. Now we are one with God’s Spirit and the motivator and content has changed dramatically – but the reasoning still tends to remain the same. So we have the mind of Christ to think His thoughts – and our minds to think ours. And more often than not we rule out the promptings of Christ’s thoughts because they don’t seem logical to our minds.
We rely on our experiences to determine what methods and outcomes we can expect in any given situation
Being raised to new life in the Spirit means we have to die first. We need to die so we can no longer hold to the values and passions of our worldly experiences. When anyone dies all their attachments, affections, passions, guilt, ambitions, and possessions no longer have influence on them or attachment to them. When we die in Christ it is the same. All that we have held as important in our lives gives way to the importance we now place on our new life in Jesus.
But didn’t Jesus die in our place on the cross? Yes, but not so we would not have to die, but so that we could choose to die – with Him. And dying with Him means being raised to eternal life with Him also. We do not – and cannot – bypass the cross. Our act of faith in baptism or public confession is our declaration that we follow Jesus to the cross and die with Him.
“For surely you know that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life.”
– Romans 6:3-4
[NOTE: There are many differing approaches to baptism from sprinkling to full water immersion to a no water public confession. The position we hold on this is that the method is not a point of debate. Our Father regards the hearts and when we come to Jesus and His cross in our response to declare and share in His death, whether sprinkled or immersed or neither, or in a church or a river or a bathtub, our answer is accepted before our Father. And we emerge in newness of life – a new creation!]
We do not – and cannot – bypass the cross.
Whatever the method of your baptism or public confession we encourage you to settle that in the truth that you have died with Christ and are accepted by the Father. The life you now live is in union with the risen Christ! And now “If we live in the Spirit” is answered. We do indeed live by the Spirit, as does everyone who turns to Jesus Christ.
So, are we then guided by the Spirit?
“Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.”
– Matthew 10:37-39
The phrase “not fit to be my disciples” means unable to be students, or unable to be taught and guided. Those who are still governed by their worldly reasoning cannot be guided by the Spirit of God. Consider receiving advice from someone you hardly know, and from someone you respect highly – who would you listen to? The one you respect highly, of course. And if the Spirit is guiding you, and your own reasoning is guiding you, if you have any attachments or affections that exceed your love for Christ then you will not listen to God’s Spirit … you would be unable to be taught or guided by Him.
Those who are still governed by their worldly reasoning cannot be guided by the Spirit of God.
“Jesus tells us not to seek after the things of this world, but the rent is due and He doesn’t seem to be taking care of it! And we need groceries, too!! I’ll need to get more hours at work, then, or a second job!!!“ Sound familiar? That’s our worldly reasoning looking into our wallet for God’s answers and provision. “Trust my Father” is Christ’s reasoning. Our reasoning has us anxiously borrowing, seeking, asking, focusing on our need and our reasoned solution. Christ’s reasoning has us convinced God has our need in mind and our solution at hand so we can move forward in the day without distraction, focused on what He wishes to accomplish through us by the guidance of His Spirit.
“I really should be calling for additional work because we need the money! … But I really feel like I should call old Mrs. Smith to see how she’s doing. Yet she’ll keep me on the phone for hours!!“ You have your worldly reasoning that has your best interests at heart, and you have the mind of Christ that says trust God and do good because your needs are met and the best interests of others is what’s at heart.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
– Romans 12:2
Practice trusting God at every opportunity. Start developing new experiences that will form the new basis of your reasoning. Settle it in the truth that God is a good Father who is deeply interested in you and your needs, and is willing and capable to meet and exceed those needs so that you are free to respond to His thoughts and guidance.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
– Psalm 34:8
Experience the Father and your new life in Him by trusting Him. You will never be disappointed! Filter every thought and reasoning through trust in Him and let it become your practiced response, and you will find yourself walking in and guided by the Spirit. And encourage others because you’re not the only one learning this 🙂
* A closing thought: It’s not all about you. If it were all about you then you’d be in Heaven now. No, you’re still here in this life because it’s about others. Trust Him and find yourself extremely useful to His purposes for those others.