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