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.

A Heavy Heart

Generally in Western culture when we refer to someone having a ‘heavy heart’ we are speaking of someone dealing with grief or deep sadness. The Lord has a different perspective.

2  Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts. Proverbs 21:2 (NKJV)

When He speaks of weighing the heart the Lord is examining our motivations. From His perspective a heavy heart is one that carries His presence.

In the New Testament Paul said his afflictions were working in his life the eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Paul was a Hebrew and a former Pharisee. His comment on the ‘weight of glory’ is a reference to the Hebrew word kabod, which literally means ‘heavy’ but is used it in a figurative sense to mean glory, honour or splendour. The reason Paul spoke of the weight is twofold, one is that the primary meaning of kabod is heavy or weighty. The other is that we can see the tangible result of the weight of His presence in the lives of believers.  

The context for Paul talking about the weight of glory is our transformation into the image of Jesus.

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

As Christians we carry His presence. When we respond correctly to whatever is happening in our lives the ‘weight of glory,’ His presence, increases in us. I am sure all or most of us have met someone in whom we see Jesus. Those are people that from His perspective have a ‘heavy heart.’ They get that way by how they respond to circumstances. When Paul talked about beholding Jesus I believe He referred to sitting with and before Him, fixing the gaze of our heart upon Him. I also believe, based on what he wrote in chapter four of his afflictions and what they were working in him, that another aspect of beholding Jesus and being changed is seeing Him in whatever we are going through and looking for His presence there.

So what is the Lord looking for when He weighs our hearts? He is looking for Jesus. Are we also looking for Jesus in our circumstances no matter what they are and thus carrying and releasing Jesus splendour, glory and character wherever we go?

Joined to the Head Part 3

In my first few years of walking with Jesus I read a lot of A. W. Tozer, a prophetic voice to a generation and a friend of Jesus. In an article where he talked about drawing nearer to the Father in intimacy he said one consequence is, “Others may, you cannot.” The idea being that the closer we draw to the Father the more the ways of the world fall away and our path becomes narrower.

He has built into our relationship with Him a structure that carries weight in the spirit realm. The closer we come the less we care about other things.

In the New Testament the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle points to the throne of grace in the New Testament and the main theme of the book of Hebrews is explaining Jesus role as priest of the heavenly tabernacle compared to the earthly one of the old covenant. The invitation of our new High Priest is to come boldly.  

16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

We are called to come boldly because we come in Jesus righteousness, not our own. At the same time while the writer of Hebrews again talks about our freedom to boldly enter in because of Jesus sacrifice (Heb. 10:19-22), he also warns us of the danger of presumption (Heb. 10:26-27) and says further.

31  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31 (NKJV)  

In the encouragement to enter in, something we can do at any time, there is an encouragement to be more sensitive to His presence in the call to serve Him (Heb. 12:28-29).

One way we serve, as we are joined to the head, is pursuing a growing and deepening sensitivity to His presence. This is something we can regularly pray for and pursue. For example, a fruit of pursuing this sensitivity it that while writing this there was a sense of a call to simply sit with Him and experience His presence so I stopped writing and did that. No flashing lights, no great emotional experience, just a deep awareness of His refreshing presence.  

This past Sunday at church there was a sense in the spirit of a prophetic mantle hovering over the congregation. I came into agreement with His purpose and prayed for it to be released. Perhaps others did as well. At the end of the service the pastor had an altar call for people to lay things down that were getting in the way in their relationship with Jesus. An unusual event there and it did not happen in the second service. This is shared simply to illustrate what can happen when we recognize we are joined to the head and seek to walk in that reality.

A key to this is pursuing His face and asking Him to deepen our sensitivity to His presence and calling and believing that He will. This is how He has structured our relationship with Him. He has much to share but wants us to value and pursue it. Let us come boldly with a sensitive heart!

Jason Upton captures something of this call in the first 3-4 minutes in this clip.

Walk in the Spirit

Scripture encourages us in many ways. One encouragement Paul provides is as follows.

16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)

In our Christian walk the Holy Spirit is our leader. His job is to lead, ours is to follow. At times we will be on a well-established trail with clearly marked directions. At other times the trail will be faint or very difficult to follow. As a general principle we need to always be paying attention to His leading to walk with Him. We need to hear when He tells us to pause, to turn, to press on, to stop and rest.

His leading will not always make logical sense. Years ago a fellow shared a story of how the Holy Spirit trained him to listen. He said he was directed to drive around town and given a sense of when to turn and where. This may seem like it was a pointless exercise but he said he learned to be attentive to the Holy Spirit leading him. The benefit came when one day he was driving and had a sudden sense to stop as he came to a green light. He hit the brakes and someone came tearing through the red light and would have broadsided him had he not stopped.

I’m not suggesting this is the way He will train all of us. Just as good coaches develop individualized plans based on the developmental needs of their players, so He knows what we need to learn and seeks to draw us into His specific training program for our lives. I know in my walk it is more about my thought life and speech. At times I have a sense, ‘say this’ or ‘don’t say that.’ I find when I listen I experience His peace resting in and on me.

While peace is one indicator if we want a broader look at how well we are doing He has provided us with a diagnostic tool in Gal. 5:19-23. Here Paul shows the fruit of walking after the flesh in contrast to walking after the Spirit. While we may be in and out of either way of walking at times, the more we submit to His leading the deeper the habit of waling with Him becomes established in our lives and the more of His fruit we manifest.

Recently I was walking with a younger man on an established trail and I was breaking off some overhanging branches that were in the way. I explained why and he joined me. Whenever I hike, even if I don’t think I will ever be on the trail again, I habitually clear branches and remove small rocks and sticks. I believe it is a basic function of leadership to improve the path for others. In a similar manner the Holy Spirit is always leading us in ways to better clear and establish the path of our lives. He wants us to work with Him to remove branches that will entangle us or rocks and sticks that may trip us up. So, let’s focus on staying in step with Him.