In Step With the Spirit
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15, NIV)
Can I get an amen from my people?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought this verse when reflecting on my behavior.
I hate to sin, and yet I find myself doing it-often knowingly doing it. I know what I am supposed to do in the situation, and yet I choose to do the complete opposite.
“Don’t say it, Alanna.” Cue verbal vomit.
“Don’t send that text.” Delivered.
I could go on.
I don’t want to do these things. I want my life to be fruitful, I do! I want the fruit of the Spirit to grow out in everything I say, do, and think. I know you do too (or else you wouldn't be reading this).
The only way we can do this is by being connected to the Spirit since the fruit is of Him. After listing the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, Paul continues in verse 25, If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25 ESV).
The Message version makes it even more clear: Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.
Don’t you love that? Walking in the Spirit is working out the implications of the life in the Spirit in every detail of our lives.
One way we can unlock the implications of life in the Spirit is by surveying the context of this verse.
Galatians 5 unpacks how spiritual freedom becomes a life of freedom.
Jesus set us free so that we would be free- to actually live a free life-which means He always interacts with us by calling us to freedom in every moment and in every way (Galatians 5:1,15).
In this passage specifically, Paul is helping the Galatians to understand that in Christ, we are free from the law.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Galatians 5:18).
Oh how many years did I try to live out my faith by looking to a law that constantly loomed above me, hovering over me like an unattainable holiness!
While the law was able to keep me from sinning on occasion (the Big No-No sins at least), it was powerless to free me from sin. And Jesus has revealed that He longs to take us a step further than “not sinning.” He desires that we bear fruit. The law can’t produce the fruit of the Spirit.
So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4).
We’ve got to die to the law in order to bear fruit for God.
Paul is clear in his writings that there is nothing wrong with the law. The law served the purpose of making us aware of our sin and thus our need for Jesus (Romans 7:7).
Even though I know this, I sometimes find myself like the Galatians, believing by faith and then trying to work out my faith by following the law.
When we try to work out our faith by merely avoiding things we “shouldn’t do,” nothing transformative happens in our hearts.
If we follow the Bible as a list of rules, we become so focused on our behavior that we end up completely disregarding our being.
Jesus is not about modifying our behavior; He’s about transforming our being.
If we make our spiritual focus following the law, we are attempting to find our identity through obedience. “If I follow God’s rules, He will find pleasure in who I am,” we reason.
But in Christ, the Spirit inverts that way of thinking. In Christ, understanding our identity frees us to walk in obedience.
Here’s how this worked itself out practically in my thoughts.
When I live as though I'm under the law, my thinking goes like this: “Don’t do this, Alanna, because the Bible says not to. Don’t do something God tells you not to do.”
While the Word is clear that we shouldn’t do certain things, the Holy Spirit goes far beyond the action itself. He goes to the deep place of identity.
The Spirit doesn’t hover over us like the law and say, “Don’t do.” The Spirit leads us with whispers of “You are.”
He looks us right in the eye and says we are children of God. He’s constantly crying out, “Abba, Father.” By crying out Father, He confirms that I am a daughter, and this helps me to understand how my next step can reflect my identity.
Jesus set us free so that the Spirit could speak us free as we walk out our daily lives.
When we consider a situation, we must ask, “What need am I trying to meet for myself with this action?”
Am I looking for acceptance? Worth? Purpose?
If these base desires are not nourished by the Word, we give sin access to our actions in our attempt to fulfill our deepest needs.
If we don’t pause to see that our needs in this moment have already been met, our actions will always reflect the sinful nature that is desperately trying to fulfill them.
But if we pause to listen for the Spirit, we will learn how to walk in who we are-who we have been made to be as a new creation in Christ.
Instead of constantly seeking validation from others, we hear the Spirit whisper, “You are completely loved and accepted; you do not need to defend yourself or please everyone around you all the time.” This frees us to use our words wisely, cease striving, and love others instead of being consumed with needing their love to be shown toward us.
Instead of retaliating toward a person who has wronged us, we hear, “You are completely forgiven. God holds nothing against you; He canceled your sin.” This frees us to forgive, with neither bitterness nor anger attached, because Jesus has already paid the price tag for the wrong they have done.
Instead of envying others who have what we want or get to do what we want to do, we breathe in the words, “You are unique and have a specific purpose for your life.” We are free from jealousy and competition when we understand that nothing could keep us from the works God has prepared for us to walk in.
As we seek to be fruitful in every detail of our lives, let’s choose to pause and ask the Lord, “What am I free from in this situation? What truth have you spoken about my identity that I can live out in this moment?”
It is the truth that will set us free.
This week, as we seek to workout the implication of the Spirit's life in us, let's let Him lead us with whispers of who we are in Christ.
Father, help us to die to the law by believing we are all that You say we are. Thank you that we don’t have to earn our identity because You have marked us as Yours with the Holy Spirit. Help me to listen for the leading of the Spirit, that I might be made fully alive, and keep in step with the Spirit in all of my ways.