What it means to walk in the Spirit
Paul writes in Galatians 5:16, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” The flesh is the expression the Bible uses for the dwelling place of everything in a person that opposes God and His will.
Our ego is like a command center, sending out countless signals and actions. The signals and actions from this command center all revolve around taking care of yourself, preserving your ego, getting honor and favor, and exalting yourself at others’ expense. This is the desire of the flesh, which has endless demands and expectations. We can usually control our flesh to a degree – at least when the impulses of flesh do not benefit our ego. For the most part, however, our human nature is subject to the powers of the flesh. Therefore when the negative characteristics we inherited through generations present themselves, we often hear, “We are only human.”
However, Paul wrote that by walking in the Spirit you no longer need to fulfill these lusts. You think and act differently than other people in the various situations of life.
“Walk in the Spirit!”
When you walk, you go forward. You go from point A to point B. To walk in the Spirit you first need to receive the Spirit. The Spirit we are talking about here is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a real force—just as real as when a crane lifts a shipping container from the boat to the pier. If you get this power in your life, a new day begins; it is the start of a new and immensely interesting chapter of your life.
Most people who receive this Spirit would prefer to bask in it and enjoy themselves like a child who just wants to play. But the Holy Spirit is not a plaything. He is a help for people who want results in their Christian walk. The Holy Spirit has every conceivable good quality. He gives us power to bear the greatest burdens and adversity. He is also a guide. He knows the way Jesus opened when He was on earth—the way which leads you away from everything harmful and negative, and toward what blesses and benefits your neighbor, filling you with joy and peace. You become thoroughly happy and those around you notice this.
The Spirit will “bring to remembrance…” and give us power
We all meet adversity. Who has not felt that “what is happening now is tragic and pointless”? You lost your mobile phone or your money, or perhaps a good friend. Maybe someone at work has backbitten you. You applied for a good job, but did not get it. There are many examples. What happens if you walk in the Spirit? Jesus says that the Spirit will bring to remembrance all the things He said to us. (John 14:26) Read for example in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.” Worry is different from planning your day; worry is what oppresses; it steals your energy and joy.
The Spirit also brings to remembrance what Peter wrote, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. When you walk in the Spirit, these words go straight into your heart and mind and become a pillar of strength by which you say “no” to all the other thoughts that arise and want to cause anxiety. The Spirit gives you power for that in the same way as a crane that lifts many tons of goods from a ship to the pier.
A walk of obedience
Walking in the Spirit means being obedient to the Spirit—to the laws and commandments which the Spirit brings to your remembrance when temptations come. Being tempted is not the same as sinning, but in a temptation you come to a point of decision. When someone says something spiteful or rude to you, everyone knows what sorts of temptations arise: to retaliate or get even in one way or another. If you do that you break God’s commandments. That is sinning. But what does the Holy Spirit say? Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. If you walk in this Spirit, you overcome temptation. You resolve the situation in a positive way, which gives you joy instead of releasing a destructive domino effect.
Fruits of the walk
By walking in the Spirit, something incredible happens. What the Bible calls “fruits of the Spirit” begin to grow in your life—peace, joy, love, faithfulness, and goodness, among other things. Galatians 5:22. You who were so restless, anxious, and often unhappy, will get a more healthy outlook on life. You become stable and develop the ability to create peace around you. You become happy, and it becomes a natural part of your life. You are no longer envious of others. Love frees your thoughts from the endless demands of your ego so you instead think about others and what might be good for them. Faithfulness becomes a part of your personality. You become trustworthy in everything you say and do. You become a new person. It is no longer accurate to say, “We are only human.” Something completely new is born into your life so that you think and act differently than before.
This makes you a winner. All these qualities grow by walking in the Spirit, and you move to the sunny side of life.
This is the life that Jesus lived on earth and which you can live as His disciple. Walking in the Spirit takes practice. Occasionally things can get a little off-track, particularly at the start of your Christian walk, but you must not lose courage or think it is useless. The Spirit is also called the “Comforter” in one translation. He comforts us and gives us more boldness and new courage when we need it. The Spirit is with us on our walk and gives us the right nourishment when we need it, when we love the truth.
In 2 Timothy 1:7 it is written, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Walk in this Spirit. Then you will have a fulfilling life. This is not philosophy or theory.
There are many people alive today who have experienced this, and the people around them can confirm that it is true. Just being a so-called believer, and being a member of a church, a religion, or religious group will not solve your problems; but walking in the Spirit solves your inner conflicts as well as conflicts with other people. A better life—a better offer cannot be found.
This post is also available in: Norwegian Bokmål
You might also be interested in our theme page about Overcoming sin.