Life In The Spirit
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
As sons and daughters of the Most High God we are told we must live our lives in the Spirit and not in the flesh, for as Paul says in Romans 8:8 “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Some in addressing this charge have taught that one must strive and struggle many hours in prayer and much fasting in order to achieve the bliss of walking in the Spirit. Others have focused on the believer’s empowered will to resist fleshy desires through white knuckles and clenched teeth. Indeed most, if not all, sermons I have heard regarding the life of the Spirit have centered on the Christian and his struggle to enter into the Spirit. Yet Scripture paints a far different picture of this new life in the Spirit.
Romans 8 is the first place where we see the life in the flesh and the life in the Spirit held up in contrast to one another, and we find here the apostle Paul declaring the life in the Spirit not so much as a struggle, but in actuality the natural posture of the believer, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” As stated above, this is the first mention of the contrasting lifestyles of those in the Spirit and those in the flesh, and thus gives us important information regarding the Spirit’s intention and meaning for including this theme.
We see clearly the only prerequisite for one to be “in the Spirit” is the presence of the indwelling Spirit and not hours of fasting, prayer, bible study, worship, or other religious works. Rather the presence of the Holy Spirit automatically shifts the believer from a natural posture of being carnal and fleshy to being “in the Spirit.” Thus by nature the believer is in the Spirit and therefore to move into the flesh is not only contrary to the natural position of the Christian, but also more of a labor or a work.
The flesh, for a Christian, does not bear fruit, but rather is seen as a work (Gal 5:19-21), whereas the natural posture of the Christian, being that of “the Spirit,” produces fruit (Gal 5:22-23). The works of the flesh are a laborious effort put forth by man to meet his own needs and satisfy his own desires by his own means. It is self-effort or self-help so to speak. These works and efforts, as innocent as they may appear, and even in some instances as religious as they may seem, will eventually produce sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, dissention, rivalry, and other things like this (Gal 5:19-21). Now note that these are works: Meaning they don’t instantly produce such things, but the final product will reflect something given in this list.
It may begin by trying to live holy for God, and after long hours of prayer, fasting, and bible meditation the weary soul begins to feel critical of others not as “devoted” as he. In his pride he begins to become both frustrated and vocal toward other brothers who fail to live the “holy life” as he sees it. We see here strife, anger, and pride manifesting after one begins to take matters into their own hands. These efforts were religious, but they were done in the flesh, by this poor soul's own efforts he sought to be made holy and right before God forgetting it is by the cross alone that sanctification, and righteousness are eternally secured for the believer.
Anything we attempt to do in our own strength and by our own means to get our needs met and our desires satisfied is called the works of the flesh. The works of the flesh take effort, energy, and are an active work. Yet the way Christ has in mind for us to get our needs met is one of rest, peace, and joy (Mat 11:28-30; Jn 15:11)! It is the life in the Spirit! Praise God!
The life of the Spirit is not a “work” it is the natural posture of the believer! It is rest! We are told the Spirit does not have “works” but rather “fruits.” Fruits are produced effortlessly by the vine through the branches, and not by the effort of the branches, but rather by the nature of the plant as a whole. Thus you child of God, as a whole, united with Christ through the indwelling Spirit, by nature are in the Spirit and therefore produce the fruits therein! Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control are the natural and fragrant fruits present within the spirit of the believer manifesting naturally through the child of God (Gal 5:22-23)!
The fact that we are by nature in the Spirit implies that it takes effort to step into the flesh: We must be active in the pursuit of meeting our own needs. Therefore it is foolish and contrary to the believer to attempt to grow in love, joy, peace, or any other fruit naturally produced by his union with Christ in God. To do so would be to attempt to produce by effort what is natural, and thus we would step into the flesh in order to attempt to produce something in the Spirit. The effort would prove ludicrous and barren. The works of the flesh are essentially self-righteousness and thus despicable in the eyes of God, because self-righteousness seeks to bypass His grace and make its own way.
So how do we walk in the Spirit?
By choosing to rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ and cease from our labors and efforts! Jesus said in John 15:4, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Abide in the Greek simply means to remain. When we attempt to do things by our own strength and effort we step out of Christ and into the flesh, thus instead of fruit we produce all sorts of uncleanliness. My friend choose rather to repose in Christ and depend on the vine to produce the fruit through you! Rest means you stop trying, you stop working, and you stop doing! Rest means you move out of striving and trying and into trust which manifests as rest. After all, the Christian life is one that depends on the finished work of Christ; therefore if it is finished what else is there for you to do but sit back and enjoy the inheritance given you by the grace of God?
Child of God I have good news for you! “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit!” You no longer have to try to be what you already are in Christ! You now have permission to rest in Jesus and allow His life to manifest naturally and effortlessly in and through you!