All that we have studied up to this point has been intended to help lay the biblical foundation for your walk in the Spirit. The Bible promises us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. I have found that this little passage in the scripture (from Galatians 5:16) is one of the most important principles you will need in order to overcome the sin in your life. The Bible gives many comparisons to the Christian walk including running the race that is set before us, setting our hearts on a pilgrimage to our heavenly home and fighting the good fight as a soldier of Jesus Christ. All of these are based on one principle, walking in the Spirit. Though we are a soldier, our weapons are not carnal (or of the flesh), but our weapons are of the Spirit. Our pilgrimage is not to a physical earthly place, but a spiritual journey of living according to the scripture in a culture that constantly seeks to turn us away from scripture. We run the race by setting our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith – who is Jesus Christ. Look at Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
All of these terms relating to the Christian walk are word pictures to communicate the same principle – how to walk in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit there must be a spiritual focus. In this passage from Hebrews, we are instructed to keep our eyes on the finisher of our faith (which is Jesus who also is the beginning of our faith). Most try to live the Christian life by focusing in on works, church service and ‘Christian things’, but the ONLY focus of our race is Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that Jesus is the word of God (John 1:1, 1:14). Everything in your life must center around the word of God as you look unto God as the focus of your life.
Temptations are the things that attempt to draw our eyes off our focus on Jesus. Consider this passage from Proverbs 4:19-27
19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble. 20 My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. 23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. 24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.
This passage starts by saying that the wicked do not know what makes the stumble. Those who fall into temptation often struggle to find out why they keep falling. I have been in this state. I once asked myself what makes me fall into temptation over and over again. All I knew is that I suddenly found myself in the midst of a temptation that was overwhelming and did not know how to escape. Today I know what makes me come into temptation – it is taking my eyes off of the finish line. You may struggle with sins that easily entangle you, but you also have been given the power to cast it off if you submit yourself to Christ.
Most people struggle to walk in the Spirit because they look at the things of God as something we do on Sunday, but we do not obey God’s command to build ourselves upon our most holy faith. In the book of Jude, the Bible describes sensual persons that follow the flesh and are marked for judgment. After this, the Bible teaches how that we avoid falling under the same condemnation. Look at Jude 1:20-21
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
We overcome by building ourselves upon our most holy faith. Faith comes from God (See Romans 12:3, Galatians 5:22, 1 Corinthians 12:9). You are not the author of your own faith nor can you increase your own faith. God has already given you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The only thing lacking is your willingness to follow the biblical principles that teach you how to live within God’s perfect will. God has given you the faith to overcome and you must choose to build your life upon your faith in God. Walking in faith is walking in the Spirit for faith is a spiritual gift that God has given to every person. You cannot walk by faith without walking in the Spirit. The focus of your life is the key.
Those who fall into various temptations and are controlled by the flesh do so because they live according to their own desires and human nature. When temptation arises or trouble comes upon us, we look around and say, “Where is God?” Those who walk in the Spirit have placed God always before their eyes and the instruction of God always before their eyes; therefore, they do not have to find God for they are already walking with Him. When you walk in the Spirit with your eyes on the spiritual things and are actively building your life upon faith, temptation has to first draw away your focus and then you have to stop your pursuit of the finish line and turn aside toward temptation. So rather than finding yourself in temptation and not knowing how you got there, you have to make a conscious choice to turn away from God (who is the focus of your life) and toward temptation. No longer will temptation appear to be a surprise attack, but you still must choose to turn away from it.
I realize that I am repeating several things we have previously studied, but it is important to reiterate the important principles that enable us to overcome and walk in the spirit. The secret to being an overcomer is obeying the words of scripture, “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart”. If you do these things, you will keep yourself in the love of God and His perfect will. This is where we find life. You must first apply your heart to hear the word of God and study His word with diligence so that you are seeking the truth of God as if it were silver and gold – for indeed it truly is more valuable than earthly riches. This is how we begin this race toward eternity, but it is equally important to obey Proverbs 4:27, “Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” Temptation attempts to draw your focus away from your goal, but you have the power to refuse to turn. Where your eyes are looking is where you will begin to drift.
A man cannot look at swimsuit models and not have his heart drawn away from God. A woman cannot read romance novels and not be drawn away from God. You cannot labor to be rich and not be drawn away from God. You can’t spend hours in front on the TV without being drawn away from your pursuit of God. There are two temptations you will fight with all your life: the lure to commit sin and the lure into apathy. If we allow our lives to become crowded so that the word is choked and we lose our focus on the will of God for our life, we are just as distant from God as if we actively sin. In Revelation 3:16 God states that the lukewarm (or apathetic) Christian is so repulsive that God will vomit them away. In Ezekiel 9 when God began to execute judgment against the sins of Israel, God judged not only those who sinned, but also those who were apathetic to sin. Do not fall into apathy for not caring about the spiritual reason we were made is just as dangerous as actively sinning. Both are rebellion against God.
Let’s look again at the passage from Proverbs 4 we read above. There are twelve principles given to you so that you will not slip:
- Give attention to the word
- Incline our ears to hear
- Do not let them be forgotten
- Keep them actively in your heart
- They give life to those who apply them
- Keep your heart with all diligence
- Put away a deceitful mouth
- Put perverse lips far from you
- Look ahead to your goal
- Ponder your path and be established
- do not turn to the right or left
- Remove your foot from evil
If you actively apply these principles to your daily life, you will begin to understand what it means to walk in the Spirit. Keep in mind the reason why you are applying these to your life. You are not trying to be religious or keep rules to make yourself holy. You are holy because God makes you holy. You are righteous because God makes you righteous in Christ by faith. Doing these things do not merit righteousness, holiness or spiritual perfection. The purpose of the principles of God are so that you have a guide that teaches you how to keep your heart in the love of God. God has already expressed His love for you. When we see the love of God, we either value that love or we care nothing for it. If we care nothing for it, we will let it slip away because our pleasure is in unrighteousness. If we value the love of God, we will apply the spiritual principles of God so that we learn to walk in the Spirit so that we are actively partaking of God’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
These principles we discussed above will not make you a Christian and will not merit salvation. Before you are given these things you must first receive the free gift of salvation that is given to us through Jesus Christ. Those who are in Christ have the Spirit of God and it is now essential that we discipline our lives so that we keep our focus on the things of God for our inheritance has been promised to those who walk by faith in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit means that we are walking in communion and fellowship with God each moment of our lives. Walking in the Spirit is abiding in Christ as we live according to His word.
In our passage from Proverbs we can see that our focus is first brought to the instruction of the word of God. If you do not study to show yourself approved, you cannot be one who rightly divides the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). As you learn the word of truth, you must then be diligent to keep them always before you and in the midst of your heart. A forgetful hearer does not profit from the word. You are then commanded to guard your heart for out of it come the issues of life. You are also warned to put a deceitful and perverted mouth far from you. If you surround yourself with those who are wicked, you will be influenced by them. The Bible also says that the one who walks with wise men will be wise but the companion of fools will be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20). In this life you will be exposed to people who are foolish and wicked, but you do not have to be a companion of them. If you abide in fellowship with those who pursue sin, you cannot live holy. There is a balance to life. We want to reach out to those who are in bondage and call them into fellowship with Christ, but we cannot join their fellowship.
Over the years I have met many who came to Christ out of drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other sinful lifestyles. Those who did not leave their friends behind always fell back into temptation. I have heard people say that they are going to their old friends in order to be an influence on them and soon they were back into the same lifestyle they departed from. We do indeed want to reach out to those who remain in bondage, but we cannot be their companion unless they are willing to change. We cannot hang around with those who live in temptation if we want to remain holy. This is why the Bible warns you to put them far from you.
Proverbs again reiterates the importance of letting your eyes look ahead and do not turn to the right or left. This is the same message from Hebrews 12:1-2, put aside the weights that easily ensnare us and look ahead to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Finally, we are told to remove our foot from evil. If you find yourself in temptation, you must immediately remove yourself from that temptation. I believe that failing to do this is the most common mistake people make when fighting to overcome temptation. This is also why we must walk in the Spirit before we can overcome temptation. When people see something that tempts them, they often ponder it or allow themselves to give into curiosity with the false assumption that they will withdraw themselves before actually committing the sinful act. The root of the problem is that in their heart they still desire to sin and their mind begins to contemplate the temptation as it presents itself. If you are walking in the Spirit and your focus is on the things of God, your desires will begin to change as you see the value of your fellowship with God. When you value your life in the Spirit more than the appeal of sin, you will willingly turn your eyes away from temptation.
Walking in the Spirit also means that our life’s focus is on the spiritual things revealed in scripture and as we constantly affirm the word in our lives and see God speak to us through the word, it becomes increasingly more valuable. We can still be drawn away if we explore temptation, but when we no longer value temptation, we will be less likely to explore it. The Bible tells us not to pass by the road of sin, do not look down it but turn away and pass on. Christians fall because they begin to feel like they deserve a reward of sin or that they are invincible to temptation and throw caution to the wind. In order to walk in the Spirit, you must make the word the focus and love of your life.
Also consider this passage we looked at earlier in Proverbs 22:
3 A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished.
This is a simple passage but rich with meaning. This is important enough to reiterate in Proverbs 27:12. This is important in our pursuit of godliness in the Spirit. You must look ahead and recognize evil before it becomes temptation. Those who are wise hearted will look ahead and see that evil is coming and will remove themselves from that path. Those who are foolish and simple minded will continue on and suffer the consequences of sin. Let’s put this in real world terms. If you know a television show is going to present an ungodly message or sensual images, if you are wise you will avoid it. The same holds true for any temptation. If you struggle with alcohol, you are wise to recognize what may lead to temptation and turn away from going places or being around people who will influence you to drink.
Every person has temptations that draw them away from God and every person should wisely avoid the situations that will cause temptation or turn away immediately if they find themselves near temptation. The average person will find themselves near temptation and will ‘look to see’ if it is really a temptation. Wisdom calls for us to deny our curiosity and assume that it is temptation and avoid it like the plague – and indeed it is a plague. Don’t even look. As you deny your flesh’s desire to be gratified, you will also break its grip to drive your life.
Walking in the Spirit is not a mystical experience or secret knowledge, but rather is the lifestyle of obedience through. You do not walk in the Spirit by becoming more religious, but by submitting yourself to God. Walking with God and walking in the Spirit go hand-in-hand. The Bible warns us not to quench the Spirit. The Spirit is quenched by sin and disobedience to God. The opposite is true for walking in the Spirit. You walk in the Spirit by obeying the precepts of God by faith. You cannot walk in the Spirit without faith and obedience – or should I say obedience through faith. Obedience without faith is worthless. Many people follow rules and regulations without ever experiencing the deeper things of God. Faith cannot exist without obedience for the Bible teaches that “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Both must be active in our lives. By faith we obey God. As you obey God, you align yourself with the will of God and God reveals the Holy Spirit through us. Rather than trying to find the Spirit through any mystical practices, the Spirit shapes us into the image of Christ as He is revealed in us.
Faith and obedience by knowledge is what is necessary to walk in the Spirit. If walking in the Spirit was a difficult endeavor or required a great ‘enlightenment’, the Bible would not keep reiterating to the common believer the necessity of walking in the Spirit. We have turned it into a mystical process and made it complicated, but in reality it is quite simple to understand but difficult to put into practice. The only difficulty is overcoming our human nature. I also stated that knowledge is essential; this is knowledge of the word of God. If you do not know the principles of God as revealed in scripture, you cannot submit to them and cannot walk in obedience.
Spiritual discipline is the preparation of our hearts to seek God. Disciplines are not works, but the preparation for works. A student does not reap immediate benefits for studying to learn. Instead, they learn so that they are prepared with the education needed for a career that will be rewarding. An athlete prepares for an event by discipline and preparation. The discipline is not the reward; the ability to compete and the success of their efforts is their reward. The Bible compares our Christian walk to a marathon race. Consider this passage from 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Notice the statement, “Everyone who competes…is temperate in all things”. This is discipline. Temperance is discipline based on self-control. If you wish to run and obtain an imperishable crown (or the rewards God has promised), you must prepare with self-control and run according to the rules (or the commands found in the word of God).
There is nothing unusual about drifting away from our spiritual focus, but when we recognize the shift is occurring, we take action to bring our focus back to the things of God. Since we live in a world where temptations and godless distractions are continuously drawing our heart away from the Spirit, spiritual discipline must be a daily part of the Christian life. If it is not, you will find yourself wondering why you keep getting so distant from God.
If you feed the flesh, it will quickly grow and seek to rule over your life. Each sin revives the beast of the flesh. The flesh cannot be nurtured, it must be starved and brought under subjection. Look at 1 Corinthians 9:
27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
For those who struggle with sinful habits such as sexual sins or pornography, you must realize that these tendencies will always be present in the flesh. You can bring them under subjection and make them dormant in your flesh, but you can never give them another opportunity without dangerous consequences. It is like having a beast trapped. If you release the trap, the beast retakes its place of dominance and will seek to bring you under subjection. Sometimes we approach sin as though we can control it and think that one time of giving in won’t hurt anything. This is false. Once that temptation that has once ruled your life is set free, it can quickly regain a stronghold and take over your life again. I have seen alcoholics who had victory return to its control because they thought it would be OK to take just one drink. The same is true for all sins and habits. Don’t give an inch or even consider looking upon anything you recognize as a temptation. Apply the principle of Job. To avoid lust, he stated, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look upon a woman”. Apply this same principle to all temptation and you will do well.
Let me conclude this study by reiterating what I said at the beginning. There is not a teacher, preacher, or any spiritual leader that can teach you how to walk in the Spirit. As I worked through this study I realized how inadequate words are to describe the spiritual principles I have learned and even the truth that I have experienced in my own life and understand in my heart seems to fall short in these words. I realize that the same overlaying principles hold true in each person’s life – if you seek God with all your heart through prayer and the word and live by faith, God will open your eyes to see. While the principles taught here only scratch the surface of what is to be learned, it is enough for anyone to walk in the Spirit if they apply their heart to seek God and walk in obedience by faith.
One final thought that I believe we must always bear in mind is that seeking must be a consistent lifestyle. King David was a man after God’s heart and he lived life victorious because he lived by the testimony “I have set the LORD always before me”. Proverbs tells us to lay hold of instruction and do not let go and to keep it continuously before you. You seek until you find and then you must set your heart to seek all the days of your life. The foreshadowing of this principle was the manna God gave His people in the desert. They were not allowed to collect more than one day of manna because it would not carry over until the next day. We too have been promised that God will give us the hidden manna if we overcome. Jesus Christ is the manna (or bread from heaven) and He is the Word of God. He has promised that we would have the power of God and what we asked in His will if we abide in Him and His words abide in us. To abide is to be in continuous fellowship. If you allow yourself to cease from seeking the things of God, you will drift away. You MUST seek Him daily and never cease.
Pray continuously that God would give you a heart to seek Him. Pray continuously that God will reveal Himself to you through the word. Pray continuously that God would give you the faith, knowledge, and understanding of His word and ways. Continue in the spirit of these two passages:
Psalm 27: 8 When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
Psalm 105: 4 Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore!
If you obey these principles, you will overcome and God will reveal Himself to you in ways that you never thought possible. Spiritual giants are not giants at all. They are men and women who walk in faith so that God is revealed through them. The same power is available to all and no one will be denied a deep understanding of the word if they seek. Seek His face for evermore!