Living By the Spirit
God is first; God comes before everything else that is! Everything that is, the entire cosmos and all of its material elements and living creatures, were brought into existence by God through the voice of his Spirit (Genesis 1:1-2, 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and 26). So everything that is exists within God and its source is his Spirit. The essence of everything is spiritual, not physical.
And when God “saw everything that he had made”, he recognized that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Everything was working as God had designed it to work. All the non-human creatures were alive and reproducing as God had intended them to do, and the provisions for their needs as well as those for God’s human creatures were all in place. Everything had a spiritual order to it that was in accord with God’s “good” will and design.
And when God made “man” (Genesis 1:26), that is “male and female” (1:27) he gave them “dominion” (1:26) over its creatures and provisions (See Genesis 1:26, 28-30). In the midst of all of God’s created “good” spiritual order and provisions, God gave “the man” one commandment: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:17). In order to live in a harmonious relationship with God in his creation, these human beings would have to trust God through his Spirit to always provide them with “the knowledge of good and evil” rather than depending upon the wisdom of their own spirits to provide them with this basic spiritual blessing. And the penalty for disobeying this commandment was very severe; “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (2:17). This means that the only way to live in this world in a peaceful and comfortable relationship with God, is to trust him by faith through his Spirit to provide you with all that is “good” for your daily needs and to protect you from all that is “evil”! Human history through all of the eras of time has demonstrated within faithful individuals and generations the blessings of human beings who are living in accord with the goodness of God’s Spirit and the deadly sufferings of those who are attempting to live in rebellious refusal to trust his Spirit.
It is to be done in Jesus
During the brief time between Jesus’ last supper with his disciples and his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus shared some very important words of instruction with them (See John 14:1:1-16:33). He told them “‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’“ (John 14:6). And he indicated that although he was going to be leaving them that God, “the Father” would give them “another Helper” “the Spirit of truth” who would be with them “forever” and who would “be in” them (14:16-17). And Jesus described his new relationship with his disciples and all who would seek to follow him as that of a “vine” and a “branch” (15:1-2). And he instructed them to “Abide in me, and I in you”, because “the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (15:4). And he clarified the point of his instruction with these words: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (15:5). And he gave them and others who would also become his disciples this great promise: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (15:7-8). It is clear from these words of instruction from Jesus to his disciples that they could continue to “Abide in” his “love” (15:9) if they would keep his “commandments” (15:10). In his very personal prayer to the “Father” (John 17:1-26), Jesus prayed for these disciples and all who would join them in personal living relationships with Jesus and God the Father “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (17:21). This indwelling intimate personal union between Jesus and his disciples and God, the Father, through the Spirit was and is absolutely essential to the transforming and glory of the work that God was and is doing to redeem his corrupted creation back to himself.
Its details are very specific and practical
In order to live by the Spirit in Jesus you must set your mind “on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Paul makes this very clear in a subsequent statement when he explains: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:6-7). And he further clarifies this basic principle for living by the Spirit in this statement: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9). And we can be assured of this because, as Paul indicates: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:16-17). And Paul even indicates that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).
And the blessings of living by the Spirit in Jesus are also very specific and practical. Paul indicates that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22). And they each are eternally good.
In this brief statement I have just sought to make it clear that the Christian life can only be lived in cooperative surrender to the indwelling Spirit of Jesus in the daily effort of the individual who is seeking to follow and to serve Jesus in this world. The process is not theological and theoretical. It is very intimately personal and practical, and it is very basic to one’s daily life.
For additional help with this subject check out my longer statement on “The Spirit”.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV Study Bible English Standard Version. (ESV®), copyright © 2008 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.