Living By the Spirit
It’s absolute necessityGod 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 love.
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 JesusDuring 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.
Practical steps for enabling the Spirit to do his work in youThe source of your moral righteous strength in your life is the power of the Spirit in your “inner being” (Ephesians 3:16). It is this power that enables you to “be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19 & 20) so that you can overcome the temptations of Satan and the seductive appeals of your fleshly self. In order to engage this power you should take these steps:
- seek to live every moment of every day immersed in the presence of God with the desires and emotions of your heart focused on him and his glory
- meditate daily in prayer upon selected passages of God’s word for his personal messages of love and guidance for you
- “walk in a humble expression of service that is worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1).
- obey God’s personal commands to you and “put off your old self…to be renewed in the spirit” of your mind and “put on the new self” (4:22-24) in which you can set your mind “on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5) that are real personal experiences to which the Spirit has guided you in your daily personal choices that are “true”, “honorable”, “just”, “pure”, “lovely”, and “commendable” (Philippians 4:8).
- “give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:27) and “make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
- “walk in love” as “children of light” and “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:2, 7, 11).
- “be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:18 & 20).
- “take up the whole armor of God…to stand firm”, “take up the shield of faith”, and “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13, 16, & 17) when you are under attack, and then to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
- and pray “at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18).
Concluding summaryIn order to live by the Spirit in Jesus you must seek to live every moment of every day immersed in the presence of God with the desires and emotions of your heart focused on God and your mind set in prayer “on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5 as cited above). Paul makes the necessity of 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) No one can consistently do each of these spiritual disciplines to be a perfectly “righteous” servant of God, but the apostle John indicates that “God is light,” and “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:5 and 9)
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.
This fruit of the Spirit is received by acts of trusting choices that the person makes in his or her new heart and renewed mind in the moment by moment experiences of living each day. Faith is not so much an act of mental belief in a set of spiritual doctrines in a person’s mind as it is a spiritual exercise of a person’s passions and emotions in his or her new heart (see statement on “What is Christian Faith? (Revised again)” at http://www.christianityetc.org/faith.php). These experiences have to be initially generated by God’s Spirit who is working in the person’s new heart, which he or she has received from being born again by the Spirit, as they are triggered by his or her passions and emotions. Then they are implemented by the person’s thoughts “on the things of the Spirit” according to Paul’s instructions in Romans 8:5-6 and which he cites in Philippians 4:7-8 as those “things” that are “true”, “honorable”, “just”, “pure”, “lovely”, and “commendable”. It is a person’s thoughts with their emotional tags that actually trigger his or her choices of behavior that produce his or her daily experiences that are moment by moment labelled with evaluating emotional tags. For a complete explanation of this process see “How to feel good through meditation” at http://www.christianityetc.org/meditation.php.
In this statement I have 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 glorify God in his or her life and 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”. If you have any questions about this statement, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV Study Bible English Standard Version. (ESV®), copyright © 2008 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.