If the life we are meant to live is in God’s Kingdom, then an essential part of successful Kingdom Life lies in living by the Spirit. You might be thinking, “Living by the what?” If this churchy phrase has you scratching your head wondering just what I am saying, that’s okay. As one begins the journey of following after Jesus, it is inevitable they will encounter phrases which just do not make a lot of sense.
Christians are known for using their own churchy language or Christian-ease. Some of these words and phrases are human creations, while others are directly pulled from the Bible. One of these Bible-based phrases is “Living by the Spirit.” So what is, “Living by the Spirit?” Living by the Spirit means that we choose to respond to the promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit instead of our sinful, human nature.
Before jumping into the practical “how-to” of living by the Spirit, let us take a look at what the Spirit is and why a believer might want to live by the Spirit.
I understand that there will be some of my readers who have a better grasp at these concepts than others. Keep in mind this is NOT an in depth study of these Biblical concepts. My goal here is to provide just enough detail, from a high level, to help the reader understand how this impacts their lives. I encourage everyone reading this to explore more in depth studies to further solidify their understanding.
What is Living By the Spirit?
To understand the Spirit or living by the Spirit, it is helpful to have a little bit of historical context. Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, the people who believed in God, the Jews, lived according to “the law.” The Law, also referred to as “the Law of Moses” or “the Law of God”, was God’s covenant with the Jews. More practically, the law was a set of commandments given to Moses by God to guide and protect the Jews. Quite simply, the law showed the Jews right from wrong and set forth God’s standard for living.
The Law & Sin
The challenge with the law was that the Jews were unable to keep the law. Not only that, but sin used the law to stir up evil desires(Romans 7:5) and bring about spiritual death(Romans 7:7-10). According to the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:13, we learn that the law revealed sin, but “…Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.” It is through Paul’s description of the struggle with sin that helps us understand why Jesus’ life and death is so essential to believers today.
Why Did Jesus Come To Earth?
It is very easy to misunderstand why Jesus came. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection didn’t just do away with the law, it fulfilled the requirements of the law(Matthew 5:17). Not only this, but it introduced salvation through faith in Christ a.k.a. “…the way of faith in Christ…” as mentioned in Galatians 3:23. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection frees us to “live for God” instead of trying tirelessly to meet all of the law’s requirements (Galatians 2:19).
The Holy Spirit
Jesus paved the way for us to be made right with God and enabled us to have a relationship with God(Galatians 2:15-16). Upon acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live in the heart of every believer. Now instead of trying to meet all of the law’s requirements we are free to live for God. By no means am I saying that we ignore the law, but we are no longer slaves to sin which gains its power from the law. We now follow the guidance and promptings of the Holy Spirit which lives within every follower of Jesus.
We now have a better foundation of the historical why behind living by the Spirit, but there’s still more to it than merely understanding where it came from. In part two of this post, I will discuss more about what it means to live by the Spirit and the practicality of this for believers.
‘When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. ‘
‘Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. ‘
‘But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.’
‘And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.’
‘In fact, James, Peter, and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews. ‘
‘“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. ‘
‘Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.’
‘“You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”’