Would you please explain what it means to walk in the Spirit & how you can know the difference as to when you are or aren’t walking in the Spirit?
Great question! Many wonder about this. Obviously, when the works of the flesh are “manifest,” we are walking in or indulging the flesh. But beyond flesh-indulgence, there is the subtle danger of flesh-dependence, even though we are trying to do right.
In college, I was struck by Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” I realized this was a great promise but wondered what it meant to walk in the Spirit. What does it mean?
The Bible uses the simple word walk. What is walking? Reiterated steps. So, walking in the Spirit is reiterated steps in the Spirit. But what is that?
Colossians 2:6 explains, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” How did you receive Christ? By faith (John 1:12; 6:47). So how do you walk in Him; how do you walk in the Spirit? The same way you received Christ—by faith. Just as you surrendered to the conviction of the Holy Spirit regarding sin, righteousness and judgment and trusted Christ as your Savior, surrender to the leadership of the Spirit regarding the next step, trusting Him to empower you to walk.
How do you know you’re saved? Once you believe on Jesus, the Bible, the sure Word of God, says you have eternal life (John 3:16; 6:47). So can you be saved and know it? Yes, based on the Word of God. The same is true regarding the Spirit-filled life.
Walking in the Spirit is walking by faith, and such an exercise may be broken into varying steps. Though all express dependence, not all the steps serve the same purpose. When a provision is based on a fact, a reality, what God says is (e.g.: Christ lives in me), then the faith steps equal taking the present provision and acting on it. Describing this, we often say “trust and obey,” better understood as trust to obey. However, when a provision is based on a promise, a potentiality, what God says will be, then generally the faith steps are asking, then taking as God gives, and finally acting. An example is when we find ourselves in need of wisdom (James 1:5).
Regarding the Spirit-filled life, ask or ask and take steps are for inflow. The act step is outflow. If there is outflow without inflow, there is emptiness. Nothing is flowing. This reveals the danger of motions of obedience in our own strength. This is flesh-dependence, and the flesh profits nothing. At best it’s just the form of godliness without the power. Mere imitation. But walking in the Spirit by faith accesses the Spirit Who fills you with the life of Jesus. This is impartation. The Spirit imparts to you the very life of Christ.
If there is inflow with no outflow, there is stagnation. This reveals the danger of claiming to trust without ever tying that trust to the next step, obedience. It amounts to easy-believism in sanctification. But when there is both, inflow and outflow, the Spirit is flowing through you. When you take appropriate steps of faith, you are walking in the Spirit even though you may not feel it. God then imparts grace.
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