Living By the Spirit - Part 2

In part 1 of Living By the Spirit, I discussed the historical why behind the Biblical concept of living by the Spirit. I hope that my amateur explanation of the concept shed some light on what can be a pretty deep topic. Here in this article, I hope to discuss more about who the Spirit is and what this means for Christians living today.

Essential Questions

God knew that life for a believer would be challenging. Now that we have a better foundation of what lead to this Biblical concept of living by the Spirit, many might find themselves filled with more questions than answers. Below are some of the top questions I identified when wanting to know what it means to live by the Spirit.

  • Who is the Spirit and what does the Spirit do?
  • What are some of the benefits of living by the Spirit?
  • What are the consequences of living by our sinful nature vs living by the Spirit?

Who is the Spirit?

Before diving into what the Spirit does, I believe it is helpful to read about who the Spirit is. And who better to tell us about the Spirit than Jesus. To set the scene, just prior to his crucifixion Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is to come. Up to this point, Jesus had spent numerous hours with the disciples guiding them and protecting them. The disciples had witnessed Jesus perform many miraculous signs and wonders. Still, God recognized the challenges ahead for the disciples and for his children in the years following his death. God knew his children would need help to become all who he created them to be. Let us take a look at how Jesus describes the Spirit in John 14:26.

'But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you. '

John 14:26

What Does the Spirit Do?

Through the eyes of Jesus we can see just who the Spirit really is to us. I believe the Amplified translation of John 14:26 paints such a great picture of who the Spirit is and how the Spirit helps us. According to John 14:26 AMP, the Spirit is our "...Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor - Counselor, Strengthener, Standby...". We can also see in Romans 8:26, 27, the Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know what to pray. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. The Spirit testifies We Are God’s Children(Romans 8:16-17). The Holy Spirit brings life(Romans 8:10), peace(Romans 8:6‬) and inner strength(Ephesians‬ ‭3:16-18).

Living By Our Sinful Nature

Given all of this, many will still wonder, does it really matter? Do my thoughts, my motivations, my actions really matter? The short answer is YES. Let us take a minute to explore what the Bible has to say in greater detail. Galatians 5:19-21 makes it abundantly clear the consequences of living according to our sinful nature.

'When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.'

Galatians 5:19-21

(Re)Examine Our Motives

If Galatians 5:19-21 was not enough, Romans 8:6 tells us that allowing our sinful nature to control our minds leads to death. Let me ask you a really tough question, do you really want to please God? What a ridiculous question, right? Well, maybe not as ridiculous as it first sounds. Sometimes we need to ask difficult questions which get straight to the point. We need to take a hard look at our motivations.
If your answer to the question is, "Yes, I want to please God", then Romans 8:7-8 says that a life lead by our sinful nature makes pleasing God impossible. I believe it really comes down to our motivation. Are we following God for our own comfort or because we love him?

Living By the Spirit

Since I took time to show you what the Bible has to say about the results of living according to our sinful nature, I believe it is only right to present the results of living by the Spirit. There is little doubt that living according to the Spirit is going to be challenging. We have spent our entire lives living by our old, sinful nature. If we are going to change our behavior, our motives, our values, and pursue life in God’s Kingdom, we should know the benefits. Let us look at what the Bible has to say about living according to the Spirit.

'But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!'
Galatians 5:22-23

Mind Blowing

I realize that this list looks rather simple, rather boring, and a lot like Sunday school, but the promise here should blow your mind. I understand that this is not promising financial stability, career success, endless vacations in tropical locations. This is not offering an end to suffering here on earth nor is it an end to all of our problems. So why is this so mind blowing?

While this does not promise the worldly things we often dream of, what it offers is far better. Success here on earth, financial freedom, or long, relaxing vacations all get old. For a while they are exciting and new, but eventually the excitement fades. No matter how successful or wealthy we become we will always need what God offers in Galatians 5:22-23. Regardless of what we obtain or what we achieve, we will always long for "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." God promises these things to those who choose to live according to the Spirit.

So, What Hope Do We Have?

I realize that all of this might be a little heavy or hard to process. It might leave you with even more questions. Questions like, "So, what hope do we have in all of this?" If you are anything like me, you often find yourself coming up short. No matter what you do or how hard you try, you always end up short of God's standard for living. I do not have a magical 3 steps towards living according to the Spirit. What I do want to offer you is some encouragement.

No Long Slaves To Our Sinful Nature

First off, let me remind you of the truly empowering truth, we are no longer slaves to our sinful nature. In Romans 8:9, Paul reminds us that since the Holy Spirit now lives in us, we are controlled by the Spirit. This is such good news! Let us take a look at Romans 7:6 and Romans 8:9.

'But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.'

Romans 7:6

'But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) '

Romans 8:9

Newfound Freedom

Since we, "are no longer captive to its power", we are free to live for God. It does not mean we get a free pass on struggling with our sinful nature, but the truth still holds great power. So how are we practically going to break free from our sin-controlled past? First we must embrace this truth with all of our being. If we have been set free, but continue living a life controlled by our sinful nature, then we cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8).

A New Lens - Put On Our New Nature

So, if our first step is whole-heartily embracing our newfound freedom in Christ. Step 1.1 would be to follow Colossians 3:10, which tells us to “put on your new nature.” And while this fancy language is great and all, I personally need the practical, the how-to, and preferably the step-by-step. In Colossians 3:1, I discovered that God calls us to set our sights on the “realities of heaven.” I interpret this setting my sights on the realities of heaven, as changing what I focus on, what I hope for, what guides my actions. Since I died to this life (Colossians 3:1) by accepting Christ, I should no longer live according to earthly realities. I change my definition of success, what I value, and what gives me hope. I take time daily to remember who I am in Christ and whose I am.

Breaking Up With Our Old Nature

So we are actively embracing the truth of our newfound freedom in Christ, we are working daily towards settings our sights on the realities of heaven. We are taking time daily to remind ourselves who we are in Christ and that we belong to God. What is next? What else?

This is Hard...

Humbly, I must level with you on this one. Just as Neil Sedaka says in his song released in 1962 says, "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do." While I am not referring to a romantic breakup here, the same truth still applies. Breaking up is hard. There will always be a battle raging within us between our sinful nature and the Spirit (see Galatians 5:16-17).

Following our sinful nature is easy and requires no thought or intentional effort. For believers, the challenge is in learning to choose to listen to and follow the Spirit versus following our sinful nature. As with most things in life, at first this task will seem insurmountable. As we intentionally seek God, as we surrender our will for his will, humbly choosing the Spirit, it will become less intimidating. Notice I did not say it will be easier. I believe we will become better at it, but I am not sure it will ever be easy.

We have to keep at it. Keep waking up each morning, realizing the challenge ahead of us, be encouraged by God's love for us.

  • Remind Yourself Daily of Your Newfound Freedom, Who You Are, and Whose You Are
  • Refresh Your Mindset Daily By Reading the Bible and Through Prayer
  • Repent and Offer Yourself Grace When You Mess Up

'So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. '

Galatians 5:16-17

References

'Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. '

Colossians 3:10

'For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.'

Philippians 2:13

'But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) '

Romans 8:9

©2021 Craig Booker. All rights reserved.