Walking by the Spirit

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25

It really is a no-brainer.

Given a choice between living two kinds of life, who in their right mind would choose the one defined by ‘sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these’ (5:19-21), when offered a life filled with ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (5:22-23).

And yet for the Galatians (and for ourselves?) even if the decision was a no-brainer, in their practice it was a non-reality! They simply were not living the life that was defined and characterized by the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’  That is why the Apostle Paul begins this section of his epistle with the exhortation for them to ‘walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh’ (5:16).

So why is that so? Why is the life we long to live seem so beyond our grasp? Why is the life we long to leave behind seem so ever present?

Those are huge questions. Let me answer them by summarizing the teaching of Dallas Willard (and using his ‘kingdom’ language for Paul’s ‘spirit-language’).

The key to ‘Living-in-the-Kingdom’ (living the life of the Spirit; the life characterized by the ‘fruit of the Spirit’) lies in deepening our ‘Kingdom-Identity’ (who we are) and in developing our ‘Kingdom-awareness’ (where we are, and what resources are available to us).

Kingdom-Identity: Paul describes this reality when he says ‘those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires’ (5:24). This picks up his personal statement from an earlier chapter – ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (2:20).  This is what Paul means when he says we ‘live by the Spirit’.  We who have responded to the gospel with faith and been baptized – sacramentally united with Christ- have become one ‘in-whom- Christ-himself-dwells’. THAT is who we are! THAT reality is what truly defines us!

Kingdom-Awareness: As those who are now united to the King, we find ourselves ‘living within his Kingdom’ (his glorious, powerful, and eternal realm) enlivened and empowered and directed by his own limitless, powerful, and glorious Spirit.

As we deepen our grasp on our ‘Kingdom-Identity’ – that we truly are among ‘those-in-whom-Christ-dwells’- and learn how to tap into and develop our ‘Kingdom-Awareness’, we will find ourselves slowly but surely living more fully the ‘Kingdom-life’.

Do we know ‘who we are’? Do we know ‘where we are’? Do we understand that the King has given us everything we need to ‘live in his Kingdom’?

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.