Freed to be Free #14
Living by the Spirit
Henry Blackaby, Pastor, Seminarian, Teacher, Author of “Experiencing God” syas that when it comes to the Christian walk, we don’t have an action problem, or even a sin problem, we have a love problem. Because Jesus says,
John 14:15,21 (NIV)
15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.
21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
G.G. Findlay wrote, “love is the Guard of Christian freedom. The Holy Spirit is its guide. The law withheld liberty and yet did not give purity. But the spirit of love and sonship bestows the liberty of the sons of God.”
Being controlled by love casts out evil on one side and stills the hand or tongue that would do harm.
But it doesn’t just necessarily happen.
In sports and other activities there is what is called muscle memory.
When you hit a golf ball there are so many things that must be right at the same time. Knees bent, feet shoulder width apart, maintain flex in the knees, keep the spine angle correct, bend at the waist, lean back like you are about to see. Keep the swing on plane. Keep your left arm straight, your head down, push the club back, turn your shoulders, cock your wrists, pull it down, turn around you left leg as you straighten it up, turn your back to the target then your belly to the target, extend your arm and hands down the target line. Release your hands, finish high, hold your finish, finishing around your left leg.
<Bring someone up to hit a shot>
If you think about all of these things during the swing you are in DEEP TROUBLE
<Hit a shot>
And I know because I frequently get in trouble
Hitting a baseball is similar. Research says that it takes a certain time to see the ball. It takes a certain time to decide if you want to hit the ball. It takes more time to get the signal from brain to arms to hands to hips if you want to hit it. And then the time it takes to actually swing. Add all of that time together and it takes longer to do all of that than the time it takes the ball to leave the pitcher’s hand and cross the plate.
The only way to hit a golf ball well, or a baseball well is for the most of that process to be handled by muscle memory. So no thinking actually takes place. That means you have to train your body and brain to what is necessary without thought getting in the way. See the Ball, Hit the Ball.
Take Dead Aim.
Too much thought gets in the way of success. I think it was Bobby Jones, a great golfer in the ½ half of the 20th century, who said, “if I’m thinking about 3 things I will struggle, if I think about 2 things I might break par, if I think about only one thing, I might win.”
In order to be successful all the tension of thinking has to be released into automatic movement.
And it’s not just about trying real hard.
Bobby Jones also said, “some people think they are concentrating, when they are merely worrying”
Hank Aaron, the great home run hitter said, “it took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits in baseball, I did that in one afternoon on the golf course.”
Well the point of all this is that muscle memory doesn’t just happen. It is learned. It takes putting those muscles in the right position over and over to get the right results without thinking but just doing.
The same is true of our spiritual lives. The law of love is not a natural impulse.
It is Divine Inspiration followed by Human Surrender. I have to have the Spirit in me and I have to surrender to him. I have to be surrendering over and over by choice to get to the place where the surrender comes without thinking.
Love for God must become the driving force for loving others
Love for the Spirit of God will cause obedience and surrender to him
Because after all
Love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God for God is Love (1 John 4:7,8)
So, I say … Live by the Spirit
Don’t you see that Paul has been laying out our options in this book. You can live by the law if you WANT to, but you ultimately can’t fulfill it. You can’t be more righteous so why not live according to Grace and Love and find fulfillment?
We can get caught up in the judgmental nature of legalism, but we won’t get ahead by putting someone down or keeping them under our thumb. But instead love fulfills the law.
Live by the flesh
Live by the Spirit
Live according to the Flesh
Live according to the Spirit
Now, it should be pointed out that “living by the Spirit” doesn’t mean you remove yourself and walk a different track. You don’t go off into a Spiritual bubble or a monastery or something
Living by the Spirit doesn’t mean you necessarily change your address, it means you are still in the same neighborhood, still on the same track called life, but your propulsion, guide, and goal are the Holy Spirit of God. He empowers us and governs us. And following his will is our chief end.
Living by the Spirit is our Enforcer, Enabler, and End
Living by the Spirit is our Governor, Giver, and Goal
So, let’s jump in to our exposition
Living by the Spirit is our Enforcer and Governor so we have
1. Power to Choose to say “No” to the Flesh
The Holy Spirit enables and governs us when we live according to him
We have two natures as followers of Christ.
A. We have Two Natures at War
1. Before you came to Christ, and if you have yet to give yourself to him, you had/have only ONE Nature, a Sinful nature. You did what your nature dictated.
But when we receive Christ and are crucified with him spiritually, and born again you have a new nature. We become participants in the divine nature according to 2 Peter 1:3.
2. But part of the struggle of this fallen world is that we still have the old nature within.
Paul describes this struggle
Romans 7:22-23 (NIV)
22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
Waging war against my mind, making me a prisoner again … I don’t have to be there, but when I surrender to it, I’m back in that cell, though it’s unlocked
Peter understood the struggle
1 Peter 2:11-12 (NIV)
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
“Live such good lives” obviously it is easier said than done, but it IS Possible
Paul spoke of it in Romans 6:12 “Do not LET sin REIGN in your mortal body …”
Live by the Spirit is what he is saying
Live according to, enabled by, propelled by the Spirit
3. Those two natures are at work and they are diametrically opposed to one another.
4. The one you feed will be the strongest and win the Battle
Remember Isaac and Ishmael ultimately couldn’t live together. And so the flesh and the spirit can’t take up the same space.
Take note that when Paul says, “the flesh” he means our sinful desires not our physical body. Our body is neutral in the fight, created in the image of God, it is what we DO with it in our sinful nature that makes it contrary to the Spirit.
5. You have to feed what you want to live and thrive
6. The spirit and the flesh have different HUNGERS and this full their appetites with different things. As I studied this week, one writer compared our flesh and the spirit to the Raven and the Dove from Noah’s ark that he sent out to see if it was time to leave the ark. He released the Raven first, but the raven didn’t do him any good, it just went out and didn’t come back, it moved back and forth taking care of itself till the earth was dry. The Dove kept coming back to Noah until the earth was dry. What was the difference? The Raven is a carrion eater. It eats dead flesh. It could feed on the carnage left over from God’s judgment of sin on the earth. But the dove is a clean bird. So the dove kept coming back to Noah until there was pure food to feed on, fresh dry ground to land on.
7. Our flesh will feed on ANYTHING, our Spirit is directed by God’s Spirit and wants to feed on righteousness and holiness.
Living by the Spirit … means feeding it, starving the flesh, and gives us Power to Chose to say “no” to the Flesh
The more we say “no” to the flesh and “yes” to God, the more natural it becomes.
The more we focus on “one thing”, that is our love for God, the easier the battle becomes and the more natural the surrender to the Spirit and turning from the flesh.
2 Pe 2:19 says “a man is slave to whatever has mastered him”
B. Getting Victory
How do we get VICTORY?
Romans 7:24 Paul says “what a wretched man am I! Who will rescue me from this Body of Death?”
Remember that this term “body of death” was a form of punishment where a dead body of literally affixed to the condemned one until it consumed them
Paul said “who is going to deliver me from this judgment, struggling with my old dead man”
Rom 7:25 answers “thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord”
The old hymn “Oh Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever”
James 4:7 says “submit yourself, therefore, to God, resist the devil and he will flee”
See the path to Victorious Living in the Spirit
1. “Submit” – hypotasso /hoop-ot-as-so/ to arrange under, obey; submit to control – we first have to be willing to reorder our lives, our will, our activities, our priorities. Then obey whether we desire it or not, obey. Feelings follow actions; releasing ourselves to the control of God’s Spirit in our lives.
“Spiritual muscle memory” is built as we do the things by choice that we want to come naturally. We arrange, obey, submit control
2. “Resist the devil” – anthistemi /anth-is-tay-mee/ to set one’s self against
- When we submit to God we are choosing sides we are choosing the Spirit over the flesh. We are NOT standing in the middle of the battlefield wondering which side will win. We are Taking our Stand with God and he becomes our Champion
Then we have the Power to say “no” which comes as verse 18 says when we are “led by the spirit”
3. Led – ago /ag-o/ to lead, take with one, lead by taking hold of, and this way to bring to the point of destination
SOMETHING will lead us and there is ALWAYS a destination. The dstinitation of the flesh is destruction But the Destination of the Spirit is LIFE.
Where do YOU want to Go?
We are Led by
4. the Spirit – pneuma /pnyoo-mah/ - movement of air, gentle blast of wind; breath of the nostrils
When we are led by the Wind of God, we will be carried where God desires
When we are filled with the Breath of God, we will have HIS life and we will
5. Live or Walk by the Spirit
Peripateho – to walk, to make one’s way, progress, to regulate one’s life
Paul says the byproduct of the flesh is OBVIOUS, you don’t have to wonder what it is.
But if we are led by the Spirit, we will WALK, Live, take the path of the Spirit and be governed by the Life of God IN us
Like a Boat turning with the wind, lifting the sail, allowing the sail to Fill with the Wind and moving empowered and led by the Spirit
When we are led by the Spirit, love for God overrules love for our old nature and actions
Psalm 40:8 (NIV)
8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
6. And verse 21 says that when we live in the habit of these things of the flesh, we will not “inherit the Kingdom of God” … the Literal translation of that phrase is we will not “inherit the reign of God”
“Inherit” means – to receive a lot – and
“Reign/Kingdom” means – royal power, kingship, dominion, rule
Folks, when we feed the flesh we forfeit the REIGN of God in our lives
7. But Power/Reign comes v24 in dying to the flesh being crucified, reckoning ourselves dead to the flesh and alive to Christ (rom 6:11)
There IS power to say “no” to the flesh and it comes when we say “yes” to God and submit to the God nature within us
Then we resist the devil, taking your stand with God and he flees
Not because WE are scary but because Greater is He that is IN me than he that is in the World.
<”The Bear” Movie – Cub standing against the Mountain Lion>
When we are led by the Spirit we Live by the Spirit and we correct the sinful nature with the Power to say “no”
But also then Living in the Spirit we are
2. Pleased to Produce the Fruit of the Spirit in our Lives
The Spirit is not only and Enforcer and Governor but also and Enabler and Giver
When we could neverd do on our own
What we could never achieve through the law, is natural by product of the life released to the Spirit of God
A. The Fruit of the Spirit
Fruit – karpos - the fruit of trees, vines, fields, loins i.e. the offspring of the Spirit in our Lives
We know that sin gives birth to destruction – notice that the list of the flesh doesn’t call them FRUIT but “acts” or “works” because production of the acts of the Flesh is destruction/death
But of the Spirit there is FRUIT that is life
1. What do we know about Fruit is the Natural Byproduct – every fruit bearing plant is expected to produce fruit. It is in its nature. And it will produce what is in it’s nature to produce. Apple trees produce apples, grapevines produce grapes
2. Fruit Need Maturity – a brand new tree doesn’t produce fruit, it must be encouraged to grow. It must grow up to produce fruit
3. Fruit Needs Nurture – a tree that is not nurtured, cared for, will not produce fruit. If the tree is not fed, watered, weeded, it will not produce fruit
4. Fruit is singular of Kind – a tree doesn’t produce multiple kinds of fruit. It produces singular fruit. These verses are often misread by some Christians. They look at this list <love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control> … those are not FRUITS of the spirit. As if we could say, “yes I have love, joy, and peace … those are my fruits, but I don’t have patience, kindness, goodness, those aren’t MY fruits.” – NO, this passage says this list is in total singularly the FRUIT of the Spirit. One plant produces ONE kind of fruit. So the Fruit of the Spirit, with this list, might be better seen as a bunch of grapes.
5. If Love is evident, but not gentleness, if joy, but not kindness, and so on, then part of the bunch has been hindered from growth … the fruit is anemic or stunted, shriveled.
6. But when we live led by the Spirit, when we arrange or order our lives, submit to the Spirit, grow up matured in him, we are nurtured by him, and his nature in us does the natural thing, it produces the FRUIT of the Spirit
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control
B. Live by the Spirit
1. I can’t do it, but Christ IN me is the Hope of Glory. Christ IN me has the natural production of fruit in my life.
Verse 25 says we are to live by the Spirit.
But when we act according to the Flesh we have a byproduct like a machine produces a car on the assembly line.
But you can’t produce or act to create Fruit.
Fruit comes from Life
2. God’s Spirit IN us produces fruit, Life
So James 4:8 says Draw near to God, Wash your hands, Purify your hearts …
That is to produce life, fruit, we have to come to God and surrender to God.
3. One other thing about this FRUIT
The word “karpos” also means “praises offered to God as a thank offering”
Have you ever felt inadequate in your praise to God? Well release yourself to the fruit producing work of the Holy Spirit
Let him nurture and mature you so that your life produces the fullness of the Fruit and the Holy Spirit will offer up “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” as a Thank Offering, a Sacrifice of Grateful praise to God the Father.
4. Won’t you allow yourself to be an instrument of praise? When I play the piano, the piano is an inanimate object through which praise is offered. And when I release myself to the Spirit, he produces the fruit of the Spirit through me praising God with me as his instrument
Play me Spirit
Offer up Praise through Me
Play Spirit Play
When we live by the Spirit
We have the Power to say “no” to the Flesh
We produce the Fruit of the Spirit
And that isn’t a one time thing but a continual thing as we are
3. Progressing in Humility
A. Plato’s Virtues
1. Interestingly, Plato had a list of virtues the he lauded. There were 4 of them.
That sounds well and good, but there is something glaring in that list
That is, what is missing and what is exalted
What is missing? Humility and Love
What is exalted? SELF
2. As for Living by the Spirit, James 4:10 says “Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up”
3. In Plato’s list
If I seek wisdom for wisdom’s sake, it is to exalt ME
If I seek courage for courage sake, it is for ME
If I self control is my end, it is to show how GOOD I am at controlling myself
If I seek “righteousness” along it is self-righteousness, it is about me and it is useless for me
That is NOT living by the Spirit
4. Living by the Spirit is having the Spirit as my END and the Spirit as my Goal
God’s will and glory should be my chief goal
Humbling myself that God may be exalted
Becoming less that he might be greater
5. When I am the focus, or I am exalted, look what happens in verse 26
Conceit, provoking, envy.
When every person wants their own exaltation nothing good can come because all will be disappointed
a. “Conceit” – the word literally means – glorying without reason, eager for empty glory – Even if we boast in something that WE did in our strength, the glory is empty because it is a temporal glory
b. “provoking” – means – to challenge as to a duel or for control
c. “envy” – means envy J
What’s the end achieved? Nothing
The focus in every case? ME
The goal achieved is temporary and empty
So Paul says, if we are led by the Spirit
If Love for God drives us … then Humility keeps us
B. In step with the Spirit
1. live – zao /dzah-o/ live, breath, be among the living, enjoy real life
by the spirit
2. walk – stoicheo /stoy-kheh-o/ to proceed in a row as the march of a soldier
with the Spirit
Living by the Spirit means that we realize that real life, the very air we breath comes when we fall in line with the Spirit, we move left, right, left, with him
We step with HIS drum beat
Oh haven’t we spent too much time marching to our OWN drumbeat or someone else’s? spent enough time in the past doing what the pagan’s do
Are you pleased with the goal or the end of the drumbeat you have followed?
Do you like what you have gotten or what you will ultimately receive?
Fall in line with the Spirit
In line with the Spirit, Breathing with the Spirit, Marching with the Spirit
Coming in step with the Spirit comes back to the idea of nurture
Nurture is necessary for the fruit to grow
Weeds have to be pulled like conceit, fighting, and envy
Then being in step with the Spirit puts us in the perfect environment for the fruit to grow
C. How do we stay in step?
1. Keep our eyes on Him – Praise and Worship – Ps 96:9 – Worship the Lord in the splendor of his Holiness; Tremble before him
2. Listening to him and Calling out to him – with Prayer and Fellowship – Psalm 84:2 my soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the Living God
3. Knowing Him – through his Word – Psalm 119:130 the unfolding of your Words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple
4. Join with the marching Army of God – Fellowship with other believers – Joel 2:11 The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command …
Living by the Spirit doesn’t just happen
It takes a Choice
It takes Surrender
It takes Practice
It takes Commitment
It boils down to LOVE and when we produce the fruit of the Spirit, it will feed a world starving for real life
So then, let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
Take Dead aim
Live by the Spirit