Walk By the Spirit Part 2

November 27, 2017 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: Freedom in Christ - The Book of Galatians

Topic: Holy Spirit Passage: Galatians 5:16–26

Matthew Henry, the great commentator said, “It is a great happiness to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit.”  This is the Christian life!  This text is what the Christian life is all about.  Living “by the Spirit”.  It is not a charismatic/non-charismatic issue.  It is a biblical issue.  Galatians 3:1-3.

What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?  It sounds strange, but this is what the Christian life is - living in the power of another Person. So how do we walk in the life and power of the Holy Spirit.  Here is what Paul does.  He commands us to walk by the Spirit (verses 16 and 25).  These are imperatives.  But then everything in between focuses on the Spirit’s work.  

So I want to answer the question “How do we walk by the Spirit?” in two parts.  First I want to look at what the Spirit does.  What is he doing in the life of a Christian?  What is his agenda?  And second, I want to look at what we do in response to the Spirit’s work.


What is the Holy Spirit’s work?  Two things:

1) The Spirit leads us into conflict with the flesh.  Look at verse 17:

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

First, what is the flesh?  Not our physical bodies.  The flesh is the old self reliant, self-absorbed, unbelieving me.  The “me” that was crucified, but not fully obliterated yet.  How many know, at times we still desire what is not good?  Regarding “the flesh”, there are two deadly errors we ought to avoid like the plague! 1) I can’t expect to have much success in this conflict.  2) I have reached a place, a safe place, a place of such victory, far beyond the conflict that I am now unconcerned about the flesh.  Both of these errors take a truth and run too far with it.  But verse 16 doesn’t say we won’t have desires of the flesh.  It says we won’t gratify them if we walk by the Spirit.   Peter says the same thing in 1 Peter 2:11: “Abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your souls.”

So Paul wants us to know we are in a war and the Spirit is leading us into it.  The word “opposition” in verse 17 signifies these two are hostile adversaries of each other.  The desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit are not on friendly terms.  Therefore, the Holy Spirit leads us into conflict with the desires that are still a part of our old self.  Paul, in Romans 8:13 makes this same connection: “If by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  By the Spirit. But to death. We should treat our old, sinful desires/works with deadly force, not sympathy.

THis is where the Spirit leads.  And we must follow him.  We dare not declare a ceasefire with the flesh or wave the white flag.  Lest we take too lightly the works of the flesh, Paul wants us to see the ugliness of the flesh and the final result of living according to the flesh.  (Read and explain verses 19-21).  To make a practice of living according to the flesh and its desires will ultimately lead to destruction - it is a deadly enemy and should be treated as such.  So the Spirit leads us into conflict with the flesh.

2) The Spirit produces fruit of deep and lasting heart change

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Notice just a few things.  First fruit instead of works.  It is not just that the Spirit inspires us to “do” certain things - like a sudden spurt of energy (red bull and go work out). No, he produces deep inward changes.  Over a long period of time (fruit), deep inward renewal where we are truly from the inside/out changed into the image of Christ.  A life defined by inward virtues, rather than outward works.  God produces what pleases him in our hearts first which then leads to an outward life that pleases him as well.  Love/selfishness. Joy/grumpy. Peace/anxious. Patience/easily-agitated, kindness/rude, gentleness/rough, faithfulness/disloyalty, goodness/cruelty, self-control/rash and unstable.  Spiritual beauty.  The beauty and glory of Christ.  So how do we walk in the Spirit’s strength so the flesh is put to death and beautiful spiritual fruit grows in bunches and bunches?

It is a walk.  Verse 16 says, “Walk by the Spirit…”  It is a walk.  It is a life.  One step after the other.  There are no short cuts.   It is a life.  Walk.  And it is a walk with a Person.  Recognize the Spirit’s presence, relying on him moment by moment, in complete dependence.   Develop a friendship with the Holy Spirit. Recognize his presence - not external to you but indwelling. Any relationship requires attention and recognition of each other’s presence.  Richard Lovelace said,

The typical relationship between believers and the Holy Spirit in today’s church is too often like that between a husband and wife in a bad marriage. They live under the same roof, and the husband makes constant use of the wife’s services, but he fails to communicate with her, recognize her presence, and celebrate their relationship with her.

Yikes!  Let’s treat the Holy Spirit the way Jesus did.  Precious.  Powerful.  Necessary.  Indwelling.  Friend.  Helper.  Comforter.  

Verse 25 helps to shed more light on walking by the Spirit.  The New English Bible (NEB) paraphrases, “If the Spirit is the source of our life, let the Spirit also direct our course.”  The Spirit is the source of life!  Therefore, let him also chart our course!  The way the NIV translates verse 25 captures the metaphor really well, “let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  When Paul says “keep in step”, he is really talking about following orders. The Greek term for “keeping in step” (stoichomen) is a military term.  It means to stay in formation.  First, soldiers would line up in ranks and files.  Then, in order to maintain good military discipline, they would stay in line as they marched.  A good soldier is not concerned about where he is going, but simply “keeping in step” with the commanding officer.  The same is with us.  We don’t have to be worried, “if everything is going to turn out okay if the Spirit leads the way?”  We just need to keep in step with him.  What’s this practically look like?  There are non-negotiables if this relationship would be healthy: listen, speak, obey.

1) Listen to God speak

Primarily through the scriptures, though not exclusively.  Romans 8:5 says, 

Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.   

The scriptures are the mind of the Spirit.

2) Speak back to God - PRAYER

Speaking to God in prayer.  Two prayers the Lord loves to hear and loves to answer: 1) “Oh God, make me more like your Son Jesus.” And 2) “Empower me to obey you”.  Both of these prayers put the Holy Spirit to work because he makes us like Christ and empowers us to live for God.

3) Obey: LOVE

Paul could have simply said, “The fruit of the Spirit is love.”  Here he places love beside other virtues.  But love is clearly supreme.  Love engulfs all the others.  In fact, 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is patient.  Love is kind.”  So I don’t want to diminish all the others, but want to key in on what Paul said just earlier in the chapter, “Love fulfills the entire law.”  This is where the Spirit leads you.  This is the essence of the Spirit-empowered life.  And when you think of our central problem, it makes sense.  We are all born narcissists.  We believe the world revolves around me.  And as we walk by the Spirit, keeping in step with him, listening/believing/obeying his voice, and speaking to him in prayer, little by little he wrenches us free from our self-absorption, turns us outward with a heart of compassion for those around us.

This is how we are to live.  By the Spirit.  And when we live by the Spirit, keeping in step with him, much fruit!  And Paul says, “Against such things [fruit], there is no law.”  The law does not apply to those who bear such fruit. Listen to what Martin Luther said,

The law is not given for the righteous man. A true Christian conducts himself in such a way that he does not need any law to warn or restrain him.  He obeys the Law without compulsion. The law does not concern him. As far as he is concerned there would not have to be any law.

Do you want to flourish and grow?  Do you want to know and enjoy living “by the Spirit”?  He is the source of your life.  So keep in step with him.

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