Attributes of the Spirit-filled Life: Walking by the Spirit
The term walkl is one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite euphuisms to describe how the Christian should live. It’s a word that literally means to tread with the feet and refers to one’s conduct or behavior. We could properly translate the word as a habitual way of life. In the ancient world of the 1st century there was a popular expression used by the philosophers of the day: “If a Greek wanted to know what you thought, they simply asked you. If a Jew wanted to know what you thought, they followed you around for a week.” The implication? What we really believe is usually expressed by how we really live. The walk of a believer implies that the Christian will give attention to his or her spiritual walk. What we believe ought to affect the integrity of our character and the pattern of our behavior. Ephesians 4:17 "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,"/ KJV
- At a Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting I attended some years ago, I heard a fascinating testimony from one of our foreign missionaries. Her field of service was in India. Her assignment was teaching English to Hindu women by using the Bible. One evening, halfway through a lesson, one of the women got up and walked out. A short time later, she returned and listened even more intently to the missionary. At the close of the hour the missionary inquired, "Why did you leave the meeting? Were you not feeling well?" "O no, I felt fine," the Hindu lady replied. "I was so impressed with what you had to say about Christ that I went out to ask your driver whether you really lived the way you talked. When he said you did, I hurried back so I wouldn't miss out on anything."
Among other things, walking implies progress—going from where one is to where he ought to be. As a believer submits to the Spirit’s control, he moves forward in his spiritual life. Step by step the Spirit moves him from where he is toward where God wants him to be.
The Christian is to walk differently because, in Christ, we area different person. The old way of life must be put off just as we would remove soiled cloths in order to put on clean. Why? So the lost will see our exemplary way of life and so that we will not grieve the Holy Spirit. In the days of the early church believers were often slandered by their pagan neighbors. They were called atheists because they served no visible gods. They were called unpatriotic because they did not burn incense before the image of the emperor. They were called immoral because, of necessity, they met in secret where it was reputed that they held ‘love feasts.’ The best way to defeat this slander was for Christians to conduct themselves not only virtuously instead of wickedly, but also wisely instead of foolishly. After ten weeks of looking at the ten virtues of the Spirit-filled life, my question to you this evening is simple: Are you walking well – does your walk match your talk?" I think the world really is more interested in our walk than in our talk. The early 20th century poet, Edgar Guest, once said: "I’d rather see a sermon, than hear one, any day!"
Tonight, I’d like to bring sermon series to a close, by keying in on Galatians 5:16 – "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16, NKJV). What does it mean for the believer to walk in the Spirit, and how do we go about doing that?
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS TRANSFORMING US BY CONFORMING US
- 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, . . ." KJV
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." KJV
- the primary work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to conform us into the image of the very Son of God
- the Spirit of God—through His sanctifying work in our lives—creates in us the moral perfections and the excellencies of Christ’s character
- ILLUS. Louis Cassels, long-time religious editor for Untied Press International, wrote: “Immediately upon our conversion, we set out on the path of Christian pilgrimage. We will spend a lifetime walking it. There are no rest stops, no plateaus at which we can flop down and say that we've gone far enough. At the beginning, God accepts us in all of our sinfulness and selfishness. But this does not mean that he is content to have us remain in that state. We are all, in the New Testament's terrifying phrase, "called to be saints." Our Father knows our weaknesses even better than we do, and he does not expect us to become saints overnight. But he does demand that we keep moving in that direction, or as the good old Methodist phrase puts it, that we continue "groaning toward perfection. At each step of the journey, the question that really matters is not whether we are a little farther along than some of our friends and neighbors, but how far we have progressed since yesterday.”
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." NASB95
- "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." (1 John 5:3, NASB95)
- God uses virtually every event and circumstance we encounter, and every person with whom we come in contact to mold us and shape us into the image of His Son
- we cooperate with the Spirit’s transformation of our character in three ways
A. WALKING BY THE SPIRIT MEANS ALLOWING THE SPIRIT TO AFFECT OUR AFFECTIONS
- affections is a word we don’t use too much any more
- in our culture we use the word feelings or emotions
- but affections, I think is the better choice
- affections refers to one’s disposition or inclination to respond in a predetermined manner
- feelings on the other hand are merely physiological responses to external events
- the Spirit wants to impose spiritual affections over our human feelings
- the Fruit of the Spirit incline us to act in response to our new nature
- human feelings encourage us to act according to our old nature
- ILLUS. In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells a story that illustrates what I’m trying to teach. She writes: “It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there—the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing ...” He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. "How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein," he said. "To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!" His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
we walk in the Spirit when we allow the Spirit to affect our affections
B. WALKING BY THE SPIRIT MEANS ALLOWING THE SPIRIT TO ILLUMINATE OUR INTELLECT
- "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:1-2, NASB95)
- like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, we need to have our minds opened to the Scriptures
- ILLUS. William Law, an early 18th-century English author, wrote: “Without the present illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God must remain a dead letter to every man, no matter how intelligent or well-educated he may be ... It is just as essential for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of Scripture to the reader today as it was necessary for him to inspire the writers in their day.”
- 19th-century evangelist D.L. Moody said it like this: “The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a sun-dial by moonlight.”
God uses His Word to conform our lives to His image, but it’s the Spirit who reveals truth to us, and then enables us to bring our behavior in line with the written word we walk in the Spirit when we allow the Spirit to illuminate our intellect
C. WALKING BY THE SPIRIT MEANS ALLOWING THE SPIRIT TO CONFORM OUR CONSCIENCE
- is the Spirit in control of your choosing?
- when you feel convicted by the Spirit to do something, do you do it?
- ILLUS. Peter Lord, Pastor of FBC, Titusville, Fl., says, “If we will give more expression to our impressions, we will become more impressionable.”
this is—in my humble opinion—the most difficult area of the Christian life to bring under control—our will
- Paul speaks of this when he refers to the spiritual tug-of-war that goes on in the believer’s life—including his!
- "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." (Romans 7:18-19, NASB95)
our will is our holy ‘want to’
- it constrains us to bring our behavior in line with the Word’s teachings, and the Spirit’s prompting
- “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15–17, NIV84)
II. THE WORLD IS TEMPTING US BY CORRUPTING US
- “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:17, NIV84)
- although the Christian life is warfare, it is warfare in which victory is always possible
- every believer has the indwelling power of God’s own Spirit to do battle with his own weak and sinful flesh, in order that he may not do the things that please his flesh
- “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2, NIV84)
- “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:12–14, NIV84)
Transformation for the child of God does not come by working hard to eliminate sinful habits, but rather by allowing the Holy Spirit to take full possession of our life, and that’s what it means to walk in the Spirit.
Let me close with the last statement of a Christian martyr. It was written by a young African pastor in 1980, and found among his papers after he was martyred. He was forced by Rwandan rebels to either renounce Christ or face death. He refused to renounce Christ, and he was killed on the spot.
“I'm part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped off the line, the decision has been made. I'm a disciple of Him. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed. My present makes sense and my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed vision, mundane talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, ploddings or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, live by prayer and labor by power. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, and my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, turned back, lured away, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, let up until I have stared up, sorted up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go til He comes, give til I drop, preach til all know and work til He will have no problem recognizing me. My banner will be clear.”