We have been talking about the Holy Spirit. We talked about the communion of the Holy Spirit & how that means to partner with Him. We talked about grieving the Holy Spirit, rebelling against Him, Quenching Him. We mentioned resisting Him, Lying to Him & insulting Him. Quite a list. Today I want to talk about walking by the Spirit.
Let us review some basic premises which form the foundation of our thinking. Man is a tripart being. He lives in a body. He has a soul ~ his thinking & emotions~ & he has a spirit. When we speak of our bodies being a temple this tripart thinking holds. Our flesh is the outer court, Our soul the inner court & our spirit the Holy of Holies when the Spirit of God resides. Our actions are always controlled by one or other of these 3 things.
Galatians 5:19/21 says When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
When we are told to crucify our flesh part of what it means is to exert control over our basic impulses, our fleshly impulses. We are not always going to succeed. If we are tired or sick or hurt we are more likely to operate in our flesh but thank God! He has assured us of his love & forgiveness if we humble ourselves & confess our sins.
Then we are told to renew our minds because Satan is the accuser of the brethren & he does everything he can to magnify the negative & minimise the positive both in ourselves & in others. And he always defaults to the flesh!
What is left is the Spirit. Now if we are born again believers we have been enpowered by God to hear His Spirit & be controlled by His impulses.
Again Galatians is very clear. I love Galatians. It was written to a primarily Celtic people living in what we now call Turkey & they had some major issues. They were putting themselves back under the Law of Moses. They were listening to a different gospel & being influenced by it. And they were using the grace of God as licence to live in the flesh.
Paul addresses each of these issues at some length. The end result is a thesis on how we can walk by the Spirit.
Now I like to be as practical as possible because I believe the will of God can be known & once it is known it is to be obeyed. So I am going to give you some practical scriptures to help us align ourselves with God’s spirit because you cannot walk by the Spirit if you have no idea of who He is & what He wants.
Philipians 4:8/9 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me--everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
One: be careful of what you put into your mind Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Luke 6:45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
Two: Seek ye first the Kingdom of Righteousness…
There are a lot of places this particular injunction can take you but the primary one is, I believe, to draw near to God. There is a promise attached to the command. When we draw near to God, God honours that. The more we distance ourselves from God the harder it is to hear His still small voice, the more the voices of this world will crowd out the sound of His voice. We may still do all the right things but without the unction of the Holy Spirit we fall into legalism, works thinking & our spirit grows dry & hard.
Three : learn how to listen in prayer. If you want to know how crucial this is just read through the book of Acts! I am not minimising other types of prayer but if we constantly do all the talking how on earth is God meant to speak to us? He’s not rude but we certainly can be. When you read through Acts you see the Spirit warning, leading, guiding, hindering, preventing, prophesying….
Four: know your weaknesses because that is where satan will mass his strongest attacks. This is where you must shore up your faith by abiding in the word, knowing what scripture has to say about this point, by donning our full armour & knowing who we are in Christ & what our authority is so we can defeat all the wiles of the enemy.
The last point I will make is to avoid strife. The Holy Spirit will not abide where there is strife & contention. Now there will certainly be times of disagreement amongst believers. That is inevitable. We are not always going to see eye to eye on doctrine. We are not always going to agree but where it is not a salvation issue, where it is not fundamental to our faith, where it is not going to lead people astray we can accommodate those who might be weaker in the faith. We see this in Acts 16 when Paul arranges for Timothy to be circumcised even though elsewhere he preaches most vehemently against the necessity of circumcision. On this occasion he understands that as a Jew [with a Greek father] Timothy will have a better standing in the Jewish community if he is circumcised & so he defers to the Jewish believers.
Now I want to stay in Acts 15 & 16. Acts refers to the Acts of the Holy Spirit. It is here we see how the first believers walked in the Spirit & there are lessons we can learn from their experiences.
Paul & Barnabas have been travelling together, preaching the gospel message together, establishing churches, exhorting, encouraging, teaching from Jerusalem & throughout Asia Minor.
In their company, sharing in the work, is a young man, John Mark. We are not given any details but we know John Mark deserted Paul & Barnabas in Pamphylia. Eventually Paul suggests they revisit the places where they had previously preached to see how the new believers were doing. Can you imagine being one of those first believers, struggling without our bible to live & walk out this new faith, then to suddenly hear Paul was on his way?! All the doubts & fears, all the myriad questions that need answering ~ Oh! How thrilling. How they must have looked forward to & anticipated his infrequent visits!
But note, there is a fly in the ointment. Barnabas wants to take John Mark along. Paul does not. They disagreed so sharply over the matter they separated & Paul travelled with Silas. They went in separate directions but their rift did 2 things.
Firstly the Lord used it to ensure twice the area was covered that could have been covered if Paul & Barnabas had stayed together.
However it is very clear Paul had a heart to go into Asia ~ not the continent Asia, but the Roman Province of which Greece was a part & where 7 churches would eventually be established, including the church at Ephesus.
However, despite being called of God the Spirit actively prevented Paul from travelling into Asia. Twice! They were travelling in Galatia because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from going into Asia. Then they travelled northward toward the Black Sea & the province of Bithynia & got a No. Why? I suggest it is because the strife between Paul & Barnabas had caused Paul to reform his ministry team. It was no longer a well established team that had travelled together & understood how each other worked & knew how to work together in the Spirit but a completely new team. Silas is a new missionary, then Timothy, young & completely green, joined them! Asia at that time, was completely spiritually dark. No place for inexperienced missionaries!
Instead the Spirit sent them further north into Macedonia. Paul received his instructions in a vision. So often we read of the Spirit working in the plural ie it seemed good to the Spirit & to us ~ there is agreement. Not here. The other 2 are following Paul’s lead. I am not saying this is a bad thing. I am merely pointing out the immaturity of the team.
Paul saw a man beckoning him into Macedonia to help. Don’t forget the man! I point this out because it needed 10 men to form a Jewish synagogue & Paul invariably went to the Jews first & then to the gentiles. There were so few men in Philippi there was no synagogue & the believers met beside the river. They were all women!
At this point Paul might have been tempted to think he had heard wrong & that he wasn’t meant to be in Philippi. Instead he ministers to the women gathered beside the river for prayer. One of them was Lydia & it is Lydia who offers hospitality & becomes a staunch pillar of the Philippian church.
Don’t forget the man.
Paul does what he always does. He goes about preaching the gospel. And he attracts the attention of the demons. See they know all about Jesus. They know more about Jesus than some of His followers do. This one resided in a fortune teller & her owners were making a lot of money out of her. She began making a nuisance of herself following Paul & Silas about declaring: These men are servants of the most High God & they have come to tell you how to be saved.
Don’t forget the man.
Eventually Paul grew exasperated & commanded the demon in her to leave. Her owners were furious & had Paul & Silas thrown into prison. Have you remembered the man?
He was the jailer & he & his entire household were brought to saving faith.
See, walking by the Spirit depends on our co~operation but even if we get a bit off track the Lord is more than capable of redeeming the moment because it is His work. Note Paul & Silas were careful not to allow doubt into their minds. They understood the power of Prayer & Praise, that the walk included suffering for His Name’s Sake. They kept their eyes on the kingdom. They did not focus on the weakness of their flesh ~ no easy thing I would imagine after being beaten with rods. They focused on their main mission ~ spreading the Kingdom. They focused on love & the Spirit of God was able to work through them.
Galatians 6:7`107Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.