Walking in the Spirit/spirit Part 4

In concluding this series, I have some final thoughts on the importance of paying attention to and engaging our spirits. This relates to character, the growing of spiritual fruit. If we have been a Christian for any length of time, we likely know some version of these two verses.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

A key aspect is the connection between our spirit and His Spirit. While these fruits appear to be the character of Jesus on display, which I think they are, we need to look at how do they grow in us. Paul says we are to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25) and to be led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18). In practice there isn’t anything mysterious here. We display love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control through submitting our will to His and following His leading.

This is a two part process. Our submission requires the engagement of our spirit, paying attention to the inner promptings He gives. When we want to respond with anger or impatience and choose not to because of His leading we are submitting to Him. When we then take the next step and respond in patience and gentleness, we are following His leading and manifesting the fruit of submission to Jesus in us. In essence hearing and bearing are connected. As we hear and respond to His voice and presence inside of us, we produce the fruit of His presence. Jesus described this same process elsewhere.

4  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. John 15:4 (NKJV)

A story that illustrates well this abiding and bearing fruit is something that happened in the life of the great Corrie Ten Boom. Her father and sister died in Nazi concentration camps. After the war she wrote, travelled and spoke, sharing the love of Jesus. People would often come up at the end of events to speak with her. One time a man walking toward her had been one of the guards where she and her sister were imprisoned and where her sister Betsie died. She shared how difficult it was to first not respond in bitterness, to choose in the moment to forgive and then reach out offering her hand in friendship and forgiveness.

Most of us are unlikely to need to forgive something this horrendous. However, we are all called to submit to His inner voice and conviction and demonstrate the fruit of Jesus character in our interactions with others. In short, we are to walk in the Spirit/spirit.

Walking in the Spirit/spirit Part 3

A brief breakdown of spirit, soul and body is helpful as we continue our study. Our body is obvious as we see, touch and interact with it. I understand our soul as our mind, will and emotions. We think, reflect, exercise choice and feel emotions. Our spirit has three functions as well – conscience, communion and intuition. My point is not to create fine distinctions as much as to identify processes. At the end of the day the Lord designed us to function as an integrated whole. With our spirit we encounter Him, we feel joy at His presence and open our lips and raise our hands in worship. A wholistic response to encountering His presence.

In looking at our spirit we grow fruit in it (Galatians 5:22-23), we commune with Jesus with it (Romans 8:14-16) and our conscience and discernment develops as our spirit is nourished by a daily diet of His word (1 Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:13-14). Thus, if we are walking in the Spirit, we will experience the growth and maturing of the fruit of Jesus character in our lives, a deeper sense of His presence leading and guiding us and a clearer sense of the decisions He would have us make.

In my own life I remember a few years into my walk with Him I was going to do something, the what is not important and frankly I don’t remember exactly what it was I had planned. However, I had been feeding my spirit on His word. In the course of making a decision I very clearly heard inside of my spirit the following verse.

This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. Galatians 5:8 (NKJV)

I didn’t do whatever it was I was going to do. This demonstrated to me the very obvious fruit of being in His word. I wasn’t sitting reading scripture when this happened, I was walking around somewhere but He used my time in His word to guide my decision making.

At other times I have had the sense to do or not do something but not from a scripture verse. It is more of an internal sense or leading. It may be an inner prompting to call someone or to pray for someone. Many of us have probably had the experience of thinking about someone and they call us or vice versa, we call them and they say, “I was just thinking about you.” He is very practical in how He leads us and as we pay attention to these inner promptings our relationship with Him deepens.

I have had dramatic examples of His leading over my 35 years of walking with Him. Yet most of the time it has been the simple promptings, a scripture or person coming to mind. I am committed to being in His word and find that out of that I grow in my knowing of His presence and purpose. I have things I am still seeking direction on, some that I have been holding before Him for many years. In cases like this I seek to trust that His direction will be revealed in His timing. It doesn’t mean I never question of wonder; it means that when I pause and reflect, I come to a place of rest in His faithfulness.

So, let us pay attention to His leading and promptings, let us nourish our spirits on His word and let us desire what Paul gave expression to, our whole being given over to His purpose.

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV)

Walking in the Spirit/spirit Part 2

In looking at how we practically use our spirit to the engage with the Holy Spirit there is a key verse in the Old Testament and a key passage in the New Testament.

27   The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord,

Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

The Lord engages with and uses our spirit. I think it is key to note that while those who walked with the Lord in the Old Testament were not born again as in the New Testament, they still had a functioning spirit, just one that did not possess Jesus nature and character. Hence the statement in Proverbs that the Lord uses our spirit to engage with us. We see this clearly in the examples already provided regarding Isaiah and Mary (Is. 26:9, Lk. 1:46-47). Now Paul further explicates this process for believers.

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,

Nor have entered into the heart of man

The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:9–12 (NKJV)

Paul has two primary points in the broader passage. In the verses above he highlights that we know spiritual things by our spirit interacting with the Holy Spirit. Previously in 1 Corinthians 2 his point was that spiritual realities are not understood through natural wisdom (vs 1, 6) but through the wisdom of God (vs. 7).

So, given what the scriptures teach let us consider how this works in practice. I believe and experience that my mind and spirit both need to be involved. I generally get a sense of something deep inside. I experience something as Proverbs 20:27 says, in the ‘inner depths’ of my heart. A reference note in my bible says the Hebrew literally says, ‘rooms of the belly.’ That is in fact where I have a sense of Him speaking or drawing me to something. It may be a sense to do something, call someone or look up a verse or passage of scripture. I then need to engage my mind and exercise discernment regarding what I am sensing. I may also need to seek wisdom from others. The main point here is that the process is very practical. Spiritual things are not meant to be mysterious or esoteric, they are meant to aid us in our day to walk with Him from a surrendered and humble heart.

Walking in the Spirit/spirit Part 1

I remember as a fairly young believer wanting to do some writing on Walking in the Spirit. I quickly realized two things. One, I didn’t really have much to offer as I would be speaking from theory rather than experience. Two, even though I did not articulate it this way at the time, I realized that it was a twofold process involving engagement with the Holy Spirit and the engagement of our spirit. Over the years I think I have learned a few things and will share them here.

The New Testament presents us as spirit, soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23, Heb. 4:12). The idea of man as a duality comes from Greek philosophy, primarily Plato. A study of church history establishes that, which is not my focus at this point. I want to focus on what we see in scripture regarding our spirit as Christians. First, we have a comment made by James referring to all people in all times and places.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26 (NKJV)

This may seem like a passing comment but Jesus reinforced it.

63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63 (NKJV)

We then have Paul describing what happened at our conversion as us becoming a new creation.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Our spirit is reborn at conversion and we receive Jesus nature in our spirit.

22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 1 Peter 1:22–23 (NKJV)

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5 (NKJV)

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9 (NKJV)

The scriptures place significance on what took place at conversion. We don’t receive a spirit, because as James noted, we already had one and we can see in scripture the importance of our spirit. In scripture we see this even in people who were not born again but were committed to the Lord, Isaiah and Mary being great examples.

9 With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; For when Your judgments are in the earth, The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:9 (NKJV)

46 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46–47 (NKJV)

Isaiah and Mary both differentiated experiencing something in their spirit and soul. Isiah desired the Lord so sought Him with his spirit. Mary experienced something in her spirit and expressed it with her soul.  

In future posts I will deal further with how we practically walk in the Spirit engaging our spirit.