Walking by the Spirit

What does it mean when the Bible tells us to be walking by the Spirit of the Holy God? Is it in fact possible for us to be so walking by the Spirit? Or are these just the empty words of wishful thinkers? This article has the potential to help us answer the following question for ourselves: Are we walking by the Spirit or are we rather walking by the  resources and tendencies of our human nature?

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways (Psalm 128:1, ESV)!

The Holy Spirit lives within every person who believes that Jesus died on the cross for her, and repented of her or his sins. That is, the Holy Spirit lives in all who, relying on Christ, no longer live independently from God. He is present, He is living, He is abiding, within those who know Him and are concerned with doing what pleases God.

Even if we are Christians, it is possible for us to grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30), and to quench Him — (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Yet, we may choose to be walking by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:16). This means living in the fullness of the Holy Spirit of God. Such living is not beyond the reach of any believer. We may choose to walk that way. Indeed, walking by the Spirit requires a  choice on our part.

Through His example, our Lord Jesus-Christ invites us to be waking by the Spirit. His apostles after Him, encourage us to follow this same path of waking by the Spirit. Trying to grasp what it is about, we will consider Biblical passages where the Holy Spirit tells us how our God and Father desires us to be walking, as we live our lives.

To do so, we will consider passages from the Old and the New Testament where God tells us how He wishes for us to be living. It will include observing how a man of God, king Josias, was walking. Pondering on these will prepare us to to move on and consider what is walking by the Spirit. Only then will we delve explicitly into what is walking by the Spirit. But we will begin by focusing on the sort of walking pleases God.

1. Questions from People, Answers from God (Micah 6:6-8).

Let us consider the questions people were asking in Micah’s day. This will allow us take the pulse of how difficult they thought it was to please God. It will help us understand how hard they thought it was of being accepted by God. Why not ask ourselves if some of their questions are also ours? Whatever be the case, let’s compare their questions with what God asks of them and of us.

This we will do as recorded in Micah 6:6-8 (English Standard Version, ESV).

1.1. People’s Questions

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with a thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:6-7, ESV).


1.2. God’s Answer

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8, ESV).

1.3. Are We Asking the Same Questions as They Were?

These people were asking what sacrifices they should bring to God in order to be forgiven from their sins. Would thousands of rams be sufficient? Will we have to present ourselves before God with ten thousands rivers of oil? Must we go as far as offering human sacrifices, as do the nations? Must we go as far as offering our own first born children as expiation sacrifices?

We don’t know what to do, God, for you to forgive the faults we are guilty of! We are clueless as to what we must do in order for you to look upon us with an approving eye. This, in essence, is what many people were telling God and each other in Micah’s day.

1.4. Is not God Answering the Same to Us as to Them?

God did not require any of this from them, and he does not require this sort of things from us either. Rather, what pleases God is quite simple, and easy to understand. Are we guided by what is just? Do we love being merciful? Do we walk in humility before God? These are the things that please God. That’s it! Doing good around us in the daily course of our lives. Not balking in the face of people in need of our compassion.

This means walking without pretense, not as if we were important. Walking humbly has noting to do with going about facing the ground, as if weighted down by our guilt. We walk with our eyes turned upward, toward God, in hope and trust.

2. Manasseh, Amon, Josiah (2 Chronicles 33-35)

Josiah, “[…] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord […], while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father” (2 Chronicles 34:2-3, ESV).

2.1. What happened in Josiah’s day?

This king, Josiah, chose to follow in the footsteps of his ancestor David, rather than in those of his father or grandfather. He wanted his personal history to be modeled by his godly ancestor David. He did not want to follow the path of evil as his grandfather Manasseh or his father Amon had for the most part (2 Chronicles 33).

Josiah lived in social and religious contexts promoted by kings whose lives are summarized as being wrong-doers. These kings were known to do what was evil in the eyes of the Lord.  They even made laws that encouraged people to practice all sorts of evil. Few of them paid any attention to the laws established by God for people to be good one towards another.

This went on generation after generation. That is what the leaders of the people, and the people themselves, had come to consider as normal. Because of this, it was necessary for Josiah to fight against the social and religious practices of his day. Josiah opposed himself against what people considered to be normal. This is never easy!

King Josiah had to fight current trends, if his people were to learn walking in ways that pleased God. He rose against the accepted ways of thinking concerning what was considered right or wrong. Josiah fought practices that seemed obviously right and necessary to a majority of people. He himself wanted to walk with God, and he did. But being king, he also wanted to lead his people toward walking in the ways of God.

Why not listen to this story as found in 2 Chronicles 33-35 and 2 Kings 21-22? Let yourselves be touched by Josiah’s history, starting with the reign of his grandfather, Manasseh, and of his father, Amon.

2.2. What is happening in our day?

Why would the story of kings Manasseh, Amon and Josiah be important to us today? If we are seeking God and if we desire walking with Him, we cannot go about as ignoring our context. We cannot do as if everything around us was as normal as everyone seems to think it is. We cannot or should not pretend that every religious and cultural practice deemed normal should be considered normal. The story of Josiah invites us to question our own acceptance of every practice as being equally good.

It is imperative that we consult the Lord, His prophets, and His apostles, through their writings in the Holy Bible, Word of God for people of all times, and for us now. These are the foundations of everything that wants to call itself Christian. Why should we leave to others the task of finding and telling us what the ways of God are. Of course we can be helped by people more advanced then ourselves about the ways of God. But this does not dispense us from consulting God and His word on our own.

What we need to inquire about is not limited to learning what God wants of us. We must also seek to be doing what we learn that pleases Him. This will mean renouncing certain things that the Scripture warns us against, because it displeases God.

3. Walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5, Romans 8, Philippians 4)

Walking by the Spirit, what does it mean, and how can it be achieved? This is taught in the apostle Paul’s letters to the Galatians, to the Romans, and to the Philippians. As we listen to these three books of the (audio) Bible, why not ask God Himself to teach us?  Let us ask Him what it means to be walking by the Spirit, and how we can learn it. The point here is asking God to help us in the process of understanding and applying what we learn. Lord, teach us what is walking in the Spirit. Father, guide us so that we ourselves are walking in the Spirit! Instruct us Lord, in some specific areas of our lives, where we could begin, or return, or improve, our walking by the Spirit.

Listening to these Bible books or chapters being discussed here (Gal 5, Rm 8, Ph 4), while praying God, would be an excellent preparation to reading the rest of this article.

3.1. Paul to the Galatians

I will focus on a few relatively short biblical passages from the apostle Paul. Why not begin with Galatians 5:25 (ESV):

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Now, let us observe how the same passage is rendered in the more interpretative New Living Translation (Gal. 5:25, NLT):

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Or, yet, the Good News Translation (Gal. 5:25, GNT):

The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives.

Living by the Spirit (ESV), following the Spirit’s leading (NLT), allowing the Spirit to control our life (GNT) are three  formulation of the same idea: walking in the Spirit. What happens when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us? When we let Him control our lives? What is the observable result in the life of a person who keeps in step with the Spirit?

We can then experiment from within a certain set of attitudes. These attitudes become outwardly observable by others and by us. Such attitudes and behaviors correspond to what the apostle Paul called the fruit of the Spirit. These are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”  (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV).

If, on the other hand, we are not led by the Spirit of God, what we will be experimenting within and observing without will be of a radically different nature. Our attitudes and behaviors will then be along the following lines: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21, ESV).

3.2. Paul to the Romans

Romans chapters 5 to 8 deal very specifically with what we are concerned about with right now. Let us consider Romains chapter 8 verses 5 and 6, in the English Standard Version:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Our own inward thought world lies behind any attitudes or behaviors that might indicate whether we are led by the Spirit or impulsed by our unaided human nature. The way we think and the contents of our thoughts are determinant factors in the attitudes of our hearts and the behaviors we adopt. Even if it cannot be observed from the outside, our thought world is to be considered as one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, or of its counterpart, the works of our human nature. Our thought world is part and parcel of our walking by the Spirit or of our walking as per our human nature, unaided by the Spirit.

Paul to the Philippians

In our deepest times of needs, let us not hesitate even one half of a second to ask God’s help in fighting against the thoughts that bombard our minds and that don’t please Him. These thoughts might be indicators of what are the central preoccupations of our hearts.

We can and should transform these into immediate prayers to God. Whenever anything comes to our mind that does not come from God or that dishonor Him, our best course of action is to turn to God without delay so that He assists us in that very moment. Right there and then, let us ask God to help us with whatever aspect of our life being exposed.

And, do not doubt for an instant that it is in our best interest for us to follow the guidance provided by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, ch. 4 v. 8 (ESV):

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

This article deals with nothing but one of many aspects of what it is to be walking by the Spirit: obeying God, doing what pleases Him, doing what He asks of us, loving Him, praying Him, according to what the prophets and apostles told us in the Bible.

Indeed, there are many other attitudes and behaviors that are just as much a part of walking by the Spirit as those we focused on so far. Loving the Word of God is one. Praying the Lord is another. Trusting the Fatherly love God has towards us is yet another. Walking by the Spirit also includes our ability to understand in practical terms that this same love from the heavenly Father is extended to every person we happen to be interacting with, or with whom we are in in any type of relationship. And there are many more aspects of what it means and what is entailed by walking in the Spirit that are not covered here.

Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below, letting us know your own experience with coping with doubt in such a ways as to nurture your faith.

You may communicate with me through the indications under Questions or Comments.

Daniel Garneau,
B Th, B Com, MA,
Published: March 2, 2018;
Edited: March 3, 2018.

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This article stems from my taking part in the Cleansing Stream Seminar under the pastoral leadership team of l’Église Vie Abondante, from January to March 2018. More specifically, it is my personal response to Biblical passages God impressed upon my heart while pondering upon the theme of the second lesson of the seminar, Walking in the Spirit.

Do We Have a Leader’s Heart?

This article attempts to extract from the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians what were some of the key attitudes of the apostle towards leadership in his life and ministry. Please note that the concept of leadership as we understand it in this article applies to every person, since all of us have roles of leadership in certain spheres of our lives. The reflection aims at sensitizing everyone of us to develop a leader’s heart inspired by Paul.

The Lord takes pleasure in those who hope in his steadfast love (Psalm 147:11)

Do we ask God to help us having a leader’s heart, as the one Paul showed to have? We criticize spiritual leaders around us; sometimes rightly so, sometimes not. Jesus warned  that there would be those teaching what people wanted to hear, instead of God’s truth. Prophets before Him and apostles after Him have also been warning us against this. Their words have been recorded and preserved to this day, for us to read, in the Bible.

We must imperatively remember that if there are false prophets, there are also true ones. If there are those teaching without sincerity, there are those who teach with sincerity. If there are those leading their hearers into a path of death through lies and seductions, there are also those who lead towards life telling the truth on behalf of God. If there are, even amongst Christians, those whose opposition to Christ is made in the name of Christ, there are also those who teach the very message of Christ, in truth and with His approval.

Before meditating upon the leader’s heart as demonstrated concerning Paul in Scriptures, let us ask a few questions about where we ourselves stand with this respect. What sort of inner attitudes do we carry toward people under our leadership? Do we pray for them? What sorts of things do we do in that which pertain to our responsibilities toward them? Do we place the interest of others ahead of our own? Are our relationships characterized by truth, sincerity and faithfulness toward what God requires from us?

Paul Manifested the Outward Signs of Having a Leader’s Heart

As we are about to delve into 2 Corinthians seeking to observe the outward manifestation of a leader’s heart. I invite you to listen for yourselves. This you may do, for example, using the English Standard Version Dramatized available from Bible.Is.

Having read this letter a few times in various translations, I was touched, first of all, by the sincerity of the apostle. Next to that, what stood up for me was Paul’s trust in God. He had learned to rely upon God’s strength, instead of his own strength. Also, i was happily struck by the fact that he spoke frankly and truthfully.

Yet another important characteristic of Paul’s leadership is that he counted it as more important to achieve well his task of ambassador for Christ, even at the cost of not  defending his personal reputation, whenever necessary.  This included the audacity of saying to others what they did not like to hear if that’s what they needed to grow in faith.

Paul also demonstrated a remarkable zeal to communicate the message of God to those persons whom God wanted it to be told on His behalf. On the other hand, I was intrigued and edified to observe Paul’s sensitivity in setting aside a door that had been opened by the Lord to proclaim the Gospel because he worried about Titus (2 Cor. 2:12-13).

Moreover, Paul recognized that his ability to live as God wanted Him to came from God not from his own efforts or as a result of the zeal which he is ceaselessly giving proof of.  Paul rested upon ways of doing that were conform to the will of God and faith in Him, instead of trusting in ways of doing that came from the world. As he was facing oppositions or obstacles to Christ’s message he stayed steadfast in his ways (2 Cor 5).

In fact, Paul knows that he is fighting against modes of reasoning that rise in opposition to the knowledge of Christ and of God. His talking aims at destructing such obstacles. But he does so with the strength and methods provided by God, praying to Him, trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of his hearers. Trusting the Giver of Life to lead people to the peace that comes with abiding in Christ as a result of new birth. Trusting the Light of the world to shine in the heart of those immersed in darkness.

What more? Many a time within 2 Corinthians and in his other letters as well, Paul demonstrates his profound love and sincere interest towards the persons that God placed under his leadership so that they would come to know Christ and then grow in Him.

The Leader’s Heart that Paul’s Example Invites us to Grow

What effect can Paul’s example have on us living in the 21st Century?  All of us have functions of leaders in some circumstances and within some circles. How does Paul’s example contribute to inspire or to encourage us with regard to our own leadership? Are there not some specific areas about which the Spirit of God is inviting us to trust Him? Growing in our faith and trust in Him through tough times with regard to leadership? Trusting God for growth in our willingness and determination to obey Him as we lead? Do we need growth in our love and sensitivity toward those — loved by God — and with whom our common Father entrusted us with a leadership fucntion and relationship.

May be the area we need to grow the most as leaders is learning to accept and receive the love God has toward ourselves! May be do we need to grow in the love we have toward God, our Father, toward Christ, His Son, our Savior, toward the Spirit, who lives in us, through faith in Christ, who lives in us as a gift from our Father and from His Son. This Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, who gives us eternal life and, here and now, peace of heart.

If y0u have not yet done so, please do listen to this epistle while reading it, for example, in the English Standard Version Dramatized available through Bible.Is. And please let us know what leadership attitudes you observed in Paul’s life and ministry that you could ask the Lord to help you develop with regard to the people God put in your life.

The article Do We Have a Leader’s Heart? may be consulted in its original language of publication, Spanish, under the title ¿Tenemos un corazón de líder?

You may communicate with me through the indications under Questions or Comments.

Author: Daniel Garneau, B Th, B Com, MA;
Published in Spanish: February 19, 2018;
Translated to English: March 6;
Edited: March 8 and March 27, 2018.

 

Reading the Bible Seems Heavy to you?

You are amongst those who find little or no motivation for reading your Bible? You are under the impression that the pages of the Bible talk to you no more? It is as if the words were going in front of your eyes without leaving any imprint into your heart or mind? Reading the Bible seems heavy to you? Why not ask God to speak to you as you read? Perhaps you could start-off by asking God to guide you into His Word? You might want to pray so that God will help you see the basic root of your lack of motivation. You could be well advised to ask him to instruct you in how to go about reading in new ways. For example, perhaps you could become more intentional in asking God to reveal Himself to you as you read, to provide you with insights that you need for going about your life now.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Ps 139.23-24)

From a practical perspective, there would be several routes that you could take, one of them – not for everyone: only for those trying to learn a foreign language – would include being brave and reading the Bible in a language you are currently trying to learn. There are good starting points do do this in the French and Spanish versions of this blog’s article titled, Listening to the Bible, Why not?  If French happens to be a language you are attempting to learn, be brave and read – Lire la Bible ne vous dit plus rien? -, the original French language version of this article. See if you can at least partly understand portions of the Bible verses that are quoted there, and look them up in your own Bible. Perhaps you will be able to understand more of them than you suspect.

The basic argument in the original French version of the present article is that the Bible is a very personal book from God to any human being who wishes to commune with Him. Along those line, you might want to read Scripture Engagement and visit the resources that article is pointing providing various means of personally interacting with the Bible. Or you might wish to browse through the Psalms and some of my own interacting with them – in Spanish this time – in an article titled, Venir a la Biblia para encontrar a Dios.

None of the above seems to really fit your own situation or the type of person you are? Why not think about something that you feel would work better for you, and then share it with the rest of us, in the comment box at the bottom of this article. Or perhaps you have found ways to get your motivation back after a while. Please share it with us below.

You wish to get involved and discuss about life-related subject matters, feel free to join our trilingual Community of dialog about the Christian Faith (French, English, Spanish). You are welcomed to share with us some aspect of your hard-gained life experience.

Daniel Garneau
June 20, 2018