Life truly begins as we die to ourselves and trust in Christ.
Once we receive Jesus into our lives, His Spirit joins with our human spirit, and we become born again as new creations in Christ. Our sinful life is exchanged with the righteous life of Christ. Our lives take on new meaning and true purpose, but this does not mean we are always living according to this newness of life. This is why Paul says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25, NKJV).
The Apostle Paul understood that we still have a natural selfish bent in life that gives us the potential to act according to our fallen nature, which can affect both our personal walk with God and the kind of fellowship we will have with other believers. Our family upbringing, fallen nature and personal choices have predisposed us to act and react in certain ways based on our previous conditioning. Sometimes, we try to excuse our behavior and bad habits by telling others, “This is just who I am.” Our insecurities and personal hang-ups still need to pass through the cross, so that we don’t let our past identity affect our new identity in Christ.
Of all the battles being fought in our world, the believer’s battle between the flesh and the Spirit is the most critical. Our personal holiness and influence on others depend on our victory in this area. Therefore, we must learn to appropriate Christ’s finished work on the cross and learn to walk in the newness of the Spirit.
Paul the Apostle said,
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16-18, NKJV).
To be led by or to walk in the Spirit means to be governed and guided by His Spirit. This has to do with right belief more than right behavior. It is having a Gospel-centered way of thinking where we rely on God more than trying harder.
In our daily practice, it means choosing God’s will over our own will, so that we “do not do the things that [we] wish.” Only then can we overcome evil with good and be “the salt and light” we are called to be.
The Gospel takes us directly to the cross where both sin and the sinner were judged, forgiven and graciously exchanged for an entirely different way of life based on what Christ has done and continues to do through us!
Here are three essential ways to explain and maintain our daily walk in the Spirit:
1. Acknowledge God’s Presence in your life and your absolute need for His grace.
This begins by thanking God for His abiding presence and realizing that we always need God. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (emphasis mine)
Since we all gravitate toward the appetites and confidence of our flesh, whether rebellious or religious in nature, our natural inclination can still be to solve our own problems and fulfill our own desires. But victory comes as we look to Christ for our sufficiency and satisfaction. David wrote in his famous shepherd’s psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). It is only as we are communing with God and aware of His presence that we will no longer need to rely on ourselves or look elsewhere for fulfillment.
The Apostle Paul makes a very important distinction in Galatians 5:19-21 when he calls our former sinful practices “the works of the flesh,” emphasizing what we naturally do apart from God, but when speaking of the life of the Spirit, he changes his verbiage and uses the term "the fruit of the Spirit." Notice that it is no longer our works but His work in us that makes all the difference for us to become more like Christ. We are called to work out what God has already worked within, even as Paul reminds us, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13, NKJV).
Paul further explains that the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE – expressed in joy, peace, longsuffering, etc. Thus, walking in the Spirit will result in abiding in Christ’s love. This is possible only as we are rooted and connected to the life of Christ – since there can be no real FRUIT without the right ROOT.
2. Believe in God’s Promises and look past your own perspective.
Regardless of what we are going through, we must know what God reveals to us in His living Word. The Word of God declares who we are, how we are to live, and what we shall become.
With Christ living in us, we can heed God’s wisdom in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Although it is natural for us to lean on our own understanding in order to explain a situation or solve a problem, we are called to trust in God by learning and leaning on what He says to us. He will direct our paths as we acknowledge Him in all of our ways.
We must remember that there are no ties when it comes to the flesh battling against the Spirit. We are either under the influence of the Spirit or being governed by the flesh. Jesus said, “the spirit gives life and the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). We are either carnally minded which leads to death or spiritually minded which leads to “life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
Thus, God’s promises are the right starting point for every situation we find ourselves in. His promise should be the premise of every process. Rather than always needing an explanation for our present circumstances, we should learn to live with an expectation of God’s promised conclusions.
Therefore, it is wise for us to learn and memorize the promises revealed in God’s treasure chest of Scripture and to unlearn what it means to be wise in our own opinions (Romans 12:16).
3. Rely on God’s Power and His sufficiency for our lives.
Even with a right spiritual mindset, we must not try to do the right thing in our own strength. Since we live in a fallen world that is constantly working against us and wearing us down, we must come to Him to find His rest for our souls. In order to walk in the Spirit, we must STOP TRYING and START DYING to be regularly RELYING on God!
We must believe that Christ has already given us the means and the motive to do all that He asks of us. With His every command comes the necessary grace to fulfill what He asks of us. It is His strength and power that matters. We are no longer living our own life but His. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Our victory lies in believing the Gospel and living in the present reality of who Christ is in us!
Paul puts it this way to Timothy, “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). This means that we are to be strong in the strength that we do not have. Walking in the Spirit requires us to turn to God in the Spirit, surrender our will to His, and receive by faith what He alone is able to provide.
The human spirit fails unless the Holy Spirit fills!