Walking In The Spirit

by Eric S. Love
podcast available


Walking In The Spirit

Galatians chapter five begins by reminding us that since “in this freedom Christ has made us free” we should “stand fast” and not “submit” ourselves again to a “yoke of slavery.” It goes on (in verse 13) to say we have to be careful not to let our freedom become an “incentive to our flesh” or an “excuse” for selfishness - which sums up the “flesh” pretty nicely, actually. The opposite of this, as described in this verse, is when we, “through love... serve one another.”

So we see a picture of our freedom in Christ, how complete it is... and also how easily it becomes for us to submit again to some form of slavery - even allowing our “freedom” to become an excuse or incentive to lose our spirit mindset (and thus live selfish lives).

In verse 16, we are given a pretty straight forward prescription for avoiding this kind of “flesh” ridden selfishness.

Galatians 5:16 Amplified: “But I say walk and live [habitually] in the Holy Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).”

When we hear this verse, I think we immediately imagine these sordid “lusts” of the flesh that are so obviously crude and offensive to the Spirit. But there are a great many offenses to the Spirit that do not, necessarily, offend us. And more often, I think it is these things that distracts us from the Spirit.

Think about that: how do we “walk in the Spirit?”

Or how do we “pray without ceasing?” (Ephesians 6:18)

Or how do we learn to live lives as “living sacrifices,” which is our “reasonable act of worship?” (Romans 12:1)

Don’t these sound a little too high strung? A little north of realistic? Is it actually possible to continually walk in the Spirit, praying without ceasing while living our lives in a perpetual state of worship?

Yes it is possible.

But it isn’t when we actually breath little prayers all the time. Or when we focus on worship and make typing a report or picking out orange juice an act of worship, necessarily. It is a life-style and an attitude and it can become as natural a part of who we are as our handwriting or our preference for music or our disposition toward the weather.

God Is With Us

We know that God is with us. God promised never to leave us or forsake us. Jesus is Emanuel, “God with us.” And we have the Holy Spirit inside us. Still, we often have this mentality that we have to conjure up God’s presence. We ask Him to come inhabit our praise. Really, all we are doing is engaging our own personal awareness of His reality. He’s always there.

At first glance, it may seem that this is just a matter of semantics. But think of it this way: if you call up your best friend on the phone and ask them to please come over cause you need them - but they are actually sitting right in front of you and have been the whole time, you just couldn’t see them - is calling them up to ask them to come over going to help you see them? No. If anything, it is going to make it even harder to see them because it further solidifies your perception that they are not there.

That’s why we have to learn to stop asking God to come and start engaging our own awareness of His perpetual presence in our lives.

The Tyranny Of The Moment

Most of us move through life one moment at a time, making decisions as they present themselves and then follow them through to their ultimate conclusion. In this sense we basically live lives that are “reactive:” we simply react to the moment we are in.

If the moment is good, this can be a beautiful way to live. However, if the moment is particularly tense, stressful or challenging, it may demand of us a difficult decision that we may not be appropriately prepared to make because we didn’t see it coming.

The trick is to live in the moment from a “proactive” stance rather than a “reactive” stance. Rather than taking life moment by moment with no thought on anything farther away than THE MOMENT - or, just as often, being so preoccupied by what’s COMING LATER that we overlook the NOW - we learn to live in the now with our eyes and hearts open, consciously practicing an awareness of who we are and what NOW we are in.

To be clear: we often get distracted because...
we are so preoccupied with the “stuff” that fills our lives day by day that we start with the biggest issues and try and work our way down... The problem is, every issue becomes a big one if it isn’t dealt with. We start getting backed up; we fall behind. We are carried away by the “tyranny of the moment” we are in and lose focus.
we are so preoccupied with what’s coming that we can’t see where we are right NOW. Our focus on what’s happening next or what we want to happen or what might happen creates a whirlwind vortex that pulls out out of the moment we are in and into a place where we have no control over what’s coming OR over what is actually here, now. This, too, gets us bowled over by the “tyranny of the moment.”

Either way, we are essentially tied up in distractions that, once they have been “unleashed,” are very difficult to stop.

This is why learning to live in a perpetual state of awareness in the spirit is so vital.

Who’s In Charge?

Understand, I am not saying that we should not be committed to the our NOW. I think it is essential that we learn to be in the moment we are in. We cannot be so obsessed with what’s coming or so defeated or distracted by what’s in the past that we lose our connection with the here and now. When we do that, we will never be able to move effectively into the future or be able to be healed from or deal with what’s in the past.

To actually BE in “this moment” may be one of the most essential elements to walking in the Spirit. We cannot “walk” in tomorrow anymore than we can “walk” in yesterday. All we have is this moment. However, when we live in the “tyranny of the moment” we aren’t actually BEING in the moment at all; we are being dominated by it.

It becomes a question of who or what is in charge. You have nothing but opportunity right now. This moment is brimming with it. We must choose to be in control of this moment by being fully aware of this moment.

Think of it like this: if we walk through life absent-mindedly until we are forced to make a decision, we run the risk of making a poor one. But if we make our way daily, moment by moment, through life practicing a spirit awareness - that is, walking in the Spirit - then  we will always be making decisions (because every moment is brimming with opportunities). When that’s the case, we get good at it so when the moment demands a decision, we have the skill to handle it without being thrown off our guard.

Creation Responds To God’s Presence

Let’s take a little side road now...

Think about the crucifixion. What happened at the moment Jesus died?

Luke 23:44: “It was now about the sixth hour (midday), and darkness enveloped the whole land and earth until the ninth hour (about three o’clock).”
Matthew 27:51: “and at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split.”

The whole earth turned dark and shook so hard rocks were split and the curtain in the Holy of Holies was ripped apart.

What happened at Jesus birth? A star appeared so bright in the sky that eastern astrologers travelled to Jerusalem asking for the King who had been born.

The point? Creation always responds to the presence of God. (Think of the fig tree that Jesus cursed. Or the water that held Him up instead of letting Him sink. Or the water that turned into wine. Or the countless human bodies who were healed or raised from death. Or the angry seas that became still.)

Or these:
“The heavens declare the glory of God...” (Psalm 19:1)
“Sing oh heavens  for the Lord has done it...” (Isaiah 44:23)
“Oh earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord...” (Jeremiah 22:29)
“The land mourns...” (Isaiah 33:9)
Or the time Balaam’s donkey spoke. Or the time the red sea opened up for Israel. Or the time the earth opened up and swallowed those who rebelled against God in the wilderness. Or the flood. Or the most obvious: the creation of creation, when God spoke and it responded by springing into being.

The point is, creation always responds to the presence of God. The Bible is filled with stories and references of creation responding to God - often in ways that are physically not possible. I simply pulled these off the top of my head. An in depth study of just how quickly creation responds to God’s presence would be astounding.

I am not talking magic voodoo or something hooey. But I am realistically asking the question, an important question I think, “what significance does creation’s response to the presence of God have when I consider that every part of me is a part of creation?”

Think it over... I realize that we have the capacity (really, the obligation) to CHOOSE God. We have free-will. Still, we are part of God’s creation and God’s creation always responds to His presence. That’s why there are times when your physical body “feels” God.

Hearing in the Spirit is an act of training our natural minds to listen in the Spirit. Discernment is us trusting in the natural some message being sent to us in the Spirit. The prophetic is not bypassing our natural bodies but using our natural bodies to interpret spiritual messages. Dreams and visions use our minds and even our eyes.

So what happens when we live in such an awareness of the Spirit that we are continually acknowledging God’s nearness to us and allowing our parts to respond to His presence?

In 1 Corinthians 11:29, Paul describes how people carelessly participated in Communion - treating it with disrespect - and the result was that many were sick and many even fell into the sleep of death, like in the Old Testament when a priest would enter into the Holy of Holies unworthy and would drop dead. What’s the connection? Communion is about us communing with the Father, and the covenant relationship we have with Him. Being careless with His presence is dangerous.

So think about what being wide-awake about His presence will do. The very next chapter in 1 Corinthians lists all kinds of spiritual gifts. The fact is that if treating God’s presence with open disrespect can lead to actual sickness and death, then walking in a fluid awareness of His presence will lead to an abundance of life.

A Community Of Those Aware

As we walk in an awareness of God’s presence, we allow our minds, bodies and emotions to respond to Him. Our minds are clearer. Our bodies are healthier with more energy. Our emotions belong to us and not us to them. These are the immediate effects, but there are others more reaching.

Think of everyone who is in your NOW right now. Imagine you, as creation, responding to the Presence of God and allowing His presence to reach out to you to touch all those around you. Think about the people you come in contact with everyday: co-workers, customers, students, people driving near you on the highway. Now imagine if you lived in a constant state of awareness of God’s presence and allowed the whole of yourself to exude His presence out so that it touches them (the way Paul’s shadow - or aura - healed those sick guys or the way they would send out anointed cloths for healing). Do they come to Jesus? Maybe not, but they have an encounter with the presence of God just the same.

And do you think anyone has ever just happened upon “the moment of salvation?” No. They have been nudged there by the Spirit for maybe years before hand. Could it be that sometimes the most profound encounters with God’s spirit that someone has are those that they aren’t even aware of and so therefore can’t intentionally resist with their minds?

Now, let me ask the question again: who is in your NOW right now? Not just the people around you in the room you are in. That’s not it, is it? I can tell you that right now, in my NOW, are lots of people who I carry around all the time in my heart. Jonathan. Daniel. Dan. Mike. Ely. Boys who I have mentored and invested my life in. Matt and Nathaniel. Boys I am currently mentoring and investing my life in. My closest friends, who are with me everywhere I go. The youth, and not just the two I have this year but the seven others I had until the end of last year - or those who I had years ago who still take up residence in my heart. Those that are called to my mind all the time when I talk to Jesus.

All of them are in my now right now. And if I walk in a spirit awareness and allow all of me to respond to God’s presence in my life, then it extends to everyone in my NOW, whether they are with me geographically or not. And if we are all walking in that kind of spirit awareness, then we are all connected in our response to God’s presence. Our thoughts becomes ceaseless prayers and our lives are living sacrifices of worship.

Eric Love, 4/5/2010