Walk In The Spirit | Live In The World
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other so you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18
Have you ever experienced the tension of living in the world, but not being of it? Surely you don’t want to imitate the world, but you also don’t want to be someone completely removed from it. Maybe it seems better to be at the bar with the lost than locking yourself in a house away from the world. This tension is common, but the Scriptures give us the wisdom to rise above and live in a way that both glorifies God and engages with the culture.
Ezekiel 36 gives a fascinating account of God speaking to His people about their idol worship and how it is unpleasing to Him. He explains that they are profaning His holy name because of their actions, but He doesn’t leave them in the state they are in. Instead, He promises one day where He will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. He further explains it as literally putting His Spirit in them and move them to follow His commands. He says that this act will save them from the uncleanliness sin produces. The beauty of this promise is that not only does God promise to put His Spirit in His people, but He promises this act will flow out of them affecting the world around them. He says towns will be rebuilt, the land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate, the fruit will increase in the trees, and the land will look like the garden of Eden.
So what can we learn?
Well, the act of God giving His Spirit to His people has a profound impact not only on the people but the world around them. Henri Nouwen said it this way, “There is no clearer way to discern the presence of God’s Spirit than to identify the moments of unification, healing, restoration, and reconciliation.” So we know what happens when we receive and walk in the Spirit, but how do we do that? How do we battle the world, the flesh, and the Devil?
I believe there is no better place to look than in the life of Jesus for in His life is the Way. Jesus was fully man and fully God. One doesn’t negate the other. He battled the tension of the human experience while also walking in the Spirit and relying on Him. You see that Jesus endured temptation literally with the Devil in Matthew 4 and you hear it as He prays to the Father before enduring the suffering on the cross. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
Jesus could overcome temptation because of His framework for walking in the Spirit and engaging with the world. You will notice a pattern of retreating and engaging through the gospel stories.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12
”You yourselves know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee with the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him.”Acts 10:37-38
So as followers of Jesus, we would be wise to follow this framework. Oswald Chambers says, “A Christian servant is one who perpetually looks into the face of God and then goes forth to talk to others.” This seems to be the simple method of Jesus. He even prays for His followers that are to come in John 17 and says, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” John 17:14-15
He literally says He doesn’t want us to leave the world, but be protected by the evil one so that we can carry on His commission share about the redemption of the world through Jesus's death and resurrection and to make disciples of all nations. We have a mission to do and we cannot yet leave the sin-inhabited world until God has fully redeemed it in the new creation.
The summary of the life of Christ was yes He did hang around sinners, but when He did, He didn’t look more and more like them. His life compelled sinners to look more and more like Him. Peter explains we have the same call in how we live.
He says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:11-12
So walk in the Spirit as a testimony of our good God and allow the Spirit to lead you in the redemptive work of transforming the world around you.
“Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”