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Walk in the Spirit
By David A. DePra
One of the most misunderstood Truths of the Bible is what it means, “to walk in the Spirit.” Of course, that is misunderstood because most of us likewise don’t understand what it means, “to walk according to the flesh.” And yet if you read the NT these Truths are central. Christians are told to, “walk in the Spirit.” So it behooves us to grasp the Truth on these matters.
Right up front, let us explain what it means to walk in the Spirit in a negative way: It means I do NOT walk according to myself. I don't walk according to anything about my natural man. I am not directed by what I feel or think. Rather, and this is the positive explanation: I walk according to the Truth -- for the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth. I walk in the Light. In short, I walk according to Jesus Christ.
Now, to get to the root of this, we have to go back to some basics. For the reason these Truths are not generally understood is because the meaning of Christianity is not understood. What is Christianity? What is a Christian? Answer those questions and you will form a foundation for understanding all else.
Christ In Us
Christianity is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) That means that a Christian is one in whom Christ dwells, or if you prefer, a Christian is one who is IN CHRIST. Same Truth. I Cor. 6:17 describes HOW Christ dwells in us. It says, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Thus, a Christian is one whom the Lord has joined to Himself in Spirit. That is how we are IN Christ; how Christ is IN US.
Now, we can take this a step further. Paul also says, “If any one is IN CHRIST, he is a new creation.” (I Cor. 5:17) So the new creation in Christ Jesus is what is birthed when I am joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him. Of course, our spiritual union with Christ is how we are saved, born from above, and have access to the Father. All of these realities are the result of being made one in spirit with Jesus Christ.
But once we see that Christianity is Christ in us – once we see that we are joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him – we likewise must see that there remains OUTSIDE of that spiritual union with Christ our natural man. Our natural man consists of two dimensions: The natural we can see and the natural we cannot see. The dimension of natural man that we can see is our body. The dimension of natural man that we cannot see is our psychic or soul man. These are NOT joined to the Lord. We are joined to the Lord ONLY in spirit.
This fact – that we are joined to the Lord ONLY in spirit – creates a division or separation in all of those who are in Christ Jesus. That separation is often called, “the separation between soul and spirit.” On the one hand, we have the new creation or new man in Christ that consists of the joining of our human spirit with the Spirit of Christ, but on the other hand we have all that is OUTSIDE of that union, which remains natural and of the flesh. This is our old man.
Now, the purpose of God for this age in His people is that Christ be FORMED in us. This is really the definition of spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is not US, i.e., our natural man growing to be more like Jesus. No. Spiritual growth is my natural man being brought under the Cross so that the Christ who is in me can be made manifest.
So we see that in this age, the separation between soul and spirit -- between our natural man and Christ in us -- will never disappear. Of course, as we grow in Christ, it is the will of God that the natural man come to be governed by Christ – this is part of sanctification. But there will always be that separation in this age. Each believer has within them two natures – one of Christ in the new creation, and the other of the old man in Adam. Only in the next age will this separation be eliminated through the resurrection of the body.
Now, we MUST see this separation if we are to grasp what it means, “to walk in the spirit,” verses, “to walk in the flesh.” We must see that there IS within each believer a spiritual union with Christ. But there also remains the natural man.
You will note that, “Christ in us,” is absolutely equal to the Spirit of God in us – indeed, Jesus Christ dwells in us through His Spirit. Indeed, we might just as easily call a, “walk in the Spirit,” a walk according to CHRIST. For the Spirit of God will always guide us into the Truth of Christ – revealing Christ, not only to us, but also IN us.
Now, lets ask ourselves a question: If each believer is joined to the Lord in spirit, and that union is the new creation, and if each believer likewise continues to carry an old natural man, then according to WHICH NATURE are we to live? Obviously, according to Christ – we are to walk IN Christ, or if you prefer, we are, “to walk in the Spirit.” We are NOT to walk according to our old man in Adam.
Do we realize what the means? It means that I am not to be governed by ANYTHING that belongs to the natural or earthly– no part of my makeup that belongs to the earthly realm is supposed to govern me. Another way of saying this is that nothing of my natural man is of Christ. The reactions of my natural man – intellectual or emotional – are NOT of the Spirit of God. No. They are coming from that area of my makeup that is OUTSIDE of my union with Christ.
And yet most Christian people do not know the difference between our natural reactions of emotions and intellect and the Spirit of Christ in us. Indeed, many of us think that our emotional reactions ARE the reactions of the Spirit of God in us. We feel, we sense, we react – perhaps fully within our natural man – and we attribute this to Christ. Some of think this is how God, “leads us.”
But if we understand this separation of soul from spirit we will see that that which is born of the flesh IS flesh – if our reactions are of our natural man then they ARE nothing more than earthly. But if something emerges from the spirit of Christ in us, then it is of God.
What is Sanctification?
Most Christian people believe that sanctification is a matter of the believer growing, “to be more like Jesus.” But the bigger problem is that most of us, even if we have never thought it through, or put it down in words, think that this work of sanctification happens upon our earthly nature. Thus, we look for change in that earthly nature. We expect that our temperament, emotions, soul, and intellect ought to be changed to act like a Christian should act.
This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions we could have. First of all, sanctification is NOT a matter of you and I, “looking more like Jesus,” or, “acting like Jesus.” Neither will our earthly nature be changed to where it acts like Christ. Indeed, our earthly nature will never be changed at all – if what we mean by that is that our temperament, emotions, and soul life will be like Jesus. In short, sanctification does NOT take place in the earthly nature.
So what IS sanctification? Actually, the question ought to be, “WHO IS sanctification?” Paul wrote:
That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (I Cor. 1:29-31)
Sanctification is CHRIST – Christ in us. Thus, rather than think of sanctification in terms of God doing something TO US in order to make us to look like Jesus, we need to see that sanctification is the result of Christ IN US – coming to govern us and be manifested through us.
In other words, sanctification is NOT a matter of our earthly nature being transformed by the Holy Spirit to where it looks and acts like Christ. No. Rather, sanctification is a matter of our earthly nature coming under the work of the Cross and put completely aside, so that the Christ who dwells within us can govern and be made manifest.
You will note how Paul goes out of the way in the above passage to state that the GLORY goes completely to the Lord. Of course. This is because our flesh or earthly nature is not changed or glorified in this age. WE do not contribute anything.
There are many professing Christian people today who take a very subtle pride in their own spiritual growth. Many think that their personal growth, or the growth of their group or church is a trophy on their shelf, or an indication of their great faith. They have a focus, of not an obsession, with themselves. But if that is my attitude, then it really indicates that I have NOT grown. True sanctification will absolutely crucify both pride and focus upon SELF and make us fully reliant upon Christ. Indeed, sanctification will set us free from focus upon ourselves altogether – “he that glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
Few of us know anything about this Truth. We continue to think that the issue here is feeling bad about ourselves vs. feeling good about ourselves. No. BOTH are a focus upon ourselves. The idea of a believer taking pride in their personal character development, or being miserable over it, is completely contrary to everything God is doing in Christ – it is the opposite of true sanctification. Sanctification results if freedom from self because it centers us in Jesus Christ as our life.
Paul is very clear about this. Jesus Christ – His life and His Lordship – is our sanctification. Our earthly nature, because of the work of the Cross, will certainly be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ – and it will look like change. But this is not a matter of our earthly nature being changed. It is a matter of Jesus Christ living in and through us – and being made manifest.
Paul also wrote:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us…. .always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (II Cor. 4:7-11)
We need to see the difference here. Many Christian people walk according to the earthly in this matter of sanctification and spiritual growth because we continue to think that it is a matter of God acting upon us to make our earthly nature look like Jesus – and we continually examine our earthly nature to see how we are doing. The result is a focus upon ourselves – either pride or misery. No. The Cross will put our earthly nature aside. God wants to form Christ in us so that He can live through us. He is our sanctification. Of course. Is He not our life?
Governed by the Earthly
All of these truths having to do with the earthly nature vs. the spirit of God in us are necessary to see if we are to walk in the Spirit. Otherwise we will likely walk according to the flesh – even if it is religious flesh – and think we are walking in the Spirit.
To walk according to the flesh, or earthly nature, is to walk according to ME – MYSELF: How I feel, how I think, and what I sense. It is to use my emotions, temperament, intellect, and soul man as the guide. Can we possibly realize that right now million of professing Christian people – sincere, nice people – are walking in exactly that way, according to religious flesh – all the while thinking that it is the spirit of God leading them?
There are Christian people who are living in a world that consists of their religious imagination, their emotions, and their soul power. They are completely governed by their earthly nature – not in a sinful or ugly fashion – but in a highly religious and seemingly spiritual fashion. But it is not spiritual. It is soulish.
“I really feel as if the Holy Spirit is leading me…..” Or, “I feel very strongly in my spirit….” Or, “I can feel the anointing….” Where in the NT do we find such things? No where actually. Most of this is NOT the spirit of God. It is the soul of people.
I have even heard people claim that God would never allow them to be deceived in this way, “because God is faithful.” Well, it is exactly because God is faithful that He has already warned us of these things in the Bible – warnings that have been generally ignored. Furthermore, God is faithful to where He is continually seeking to set us free from these delusions of the earthly. He has promised to guide us into all Truth.
What is the solution here? To figure out a, “how to,” that will enable us to know what is of God and what is of us? No. How about a guru? Do we need to find a spiritual guru to tell us everything to do as a Christian? No. Maybe we ought to study more? Study is fine. But that alone cannot do this work.
The problem here is a blindness to Christ. Thus, we will revert to the natural and earthly and easily accept a Christianity – a walk – on the basis of the natural and earthly. And we will not realize what is happening to us. Thus, the solution is that we must allow God to crucify the earthly and to reveal Christ in us – form Christ in us. Any other supposed solution is going to be a waste of time. If you and I want to walk in the Spirit we must come into an inward knowledge of the One with whom we are joined in Spirit.
Governed by Christ
We have to LEARN CHRIST. We must have Christ FORMED in us. We must come into an inward revelation of Him. Only if we know Christ in that way will we know what is OF HIM and what is NOT of Him. Only if we know Him will we be able to discern the difference between soul and spirit in ourselves.
But learning Christ is not a matter of theology. It is a matter of experiencing the Truth. Read the teachings of the apostle Paul. How much does he really talk about having Bible studies and memorizing doctrine – as the key to life in Christ? He does mention it occasionally. But is that placed front and center? No. The forming of Christ within, and the growing to know Him – an experiencing of Christ – THAT is Paul’s passion. He said, “I travail until Christ be formed in you.” (Gal. 4:19)
Without an inward realization of Jesus Christ we are going to be left with our earthly nature. Thus, we will operate as believers from out of that earthly nature and will mistake it for the Spirit of God.
Our earthly nature is tied to this earthly realm. It is natural that this earthly environment in which all of us live is going to play upon, affect, and seek to govern the earthly nature that remains a part of our make-up. We are going to react emotionally and intellectually. Our soul or psychic makeup is going to be affected by the earthly realm. The life of Christ in us never NEGATES this or makes it go away. Rather, the life of Christ in us – despite our earthly nature – takes precedent and comes to govern us. But unless that is happening – unless Christ is being formed in us – we will continue to be governed by this earthly realm and our earthly nature.
As I noted earlier, millions of Christian people are absolutely walking according to their earthly nature. Many think it is the Holy Spirit. Many mistake their earthly nature as the source of life and Truth. No. We MUST see that our emotional, psychic, or intellectual reactions are NEVER the source of Truth. They are NEVER indicators of God’s will or of the Truth in Jesus Christ. No. In fact, our earthly nature can be the biggest liar with which we must contend.
Emotions and the other dimensions of our earthly nature are NEVER sources of Truth – they are reacting dimensions of our makeup. In other words, Truth comes through the life of Christ, who is in us. This IMPACTS our earthly nature to be sure, and we will react. We react emotionally, based on what we believe or how we interpret. But note: The reaction itself is not the source or indicator of Truth. The source of Truth is Jesus Christ. Thus, we must learn to put aside, discount, dismiss, and ignore our emotional reactions in favor of our true knowledge of God through the Christ who dwells in us.
Natural man has NO point of access to God. None. "The natural man receive not the things of the Spirit of God. They are folly to him." (I Cor. 2:14) But note: Even if we are born from above in Christ, and thus, alive spiritually with Him, our natural man still doesn't have access to God. Never. We are one with God only by being joined to the Lord in Spirit. We have to get this settled or we are going to be deceived.
Where does this leave us? At God's mercy. At the mercy of His love and grace. If there is nothing we can do to find or perceive God, then it is up to God to initiate. Only then can we respond. But make no question, we are able to respond by either embracing the Truth or by rejecting it. Any other thought is error.
We must be born from above to even have a capacity to see Jesus Christ. And then we must grow to where we are GOVERNED by Christ through the Spirit of God. "Those who are GOVERNED by the Spirit of God are the sons of God." (Rom. 8:14) Read that chapter. You will see that the word GOVERNED is the correct word -- in context and in NT Greek. The Christian life is more than, "leadings." It means to be governed by the Spirit of God in Christ. That is an inward, spiritual reality -- the outcome of Christ being formed in us.
Here we also see why God has given us the written Word. It is a written standard for Truth that is OUTSIDE of us. God will never do anything that is not in complete harmony with His written Word. The Bible is the written Truth and Jesus is the Living Truth. But how many realize that there is only ONE TRUTH? Thus, the written Truth and Living Truth will always agree. What God is doing and revealing in Christ will always agree with what He has written.
Walk in the Spirit
To walk in the Spirit is not primarily a matter of getting, “leadings,” or of walking in signs and wonders. It is not a matter of being weird. Neither is it a matter of trying to make my flesh behave. Rather, walking in the Spirit is a matter of walking FROM OUT OF Jesus Christ. We abide in Him by faith. We live from out of Him for all things. We walk in the Truth. Is not the Spirit of God the Spirit of Truth? And to walk in the Spirit means to be under the work of the Spirit, which is to reveal Christ to us, in us, and through us. If this is not my walk in the Spirit, then I had better stop and listen. It is what God is doing.
It is the goal of Satan to get even Christian people deceived to the point where their Christianity is not lived from out of Christ, but rather, from out of their earthly nature. Satan does not necessarily want Christians to live in sin – although I’m sure he would be happy if they did. But rather, Satan wants Christian people walking according to religious flesh – deceived into a life based on themselves, their interests, their feelings, their earthly nature. And how does Satan usually accomplish this purpose? Simply by blinding people to Christ – to blinding us to the reality of Jesus Christ in us. If Satan can do that then Christ won’t be our sanctification or our life at all. The earthly will be. And as I noted, we won’t even realize what is happening to us.
Jesus said, “Whoever would lose his life for My sake will find Me as his life.” That is the gist of Matthew 16:24. Do we realize that in large part that Jesus was talking about relinquishing the earthly nature – the old life in Adam? We have to put that on the altar and ask God to do whatever it takes to bring us into the fullness of Jesus Christ. What it will take is exactly what Jesus said it will take – we must pick up our Cross daily. The result? We will LOSE that earthly nature – we will lose it in the sense that we will no longer possess it or try to make it our life. It will no longer govern us. And then the Christ who lives in us will be made manifest – we will come to know and realize Him. Then a walk in the spirit will be possible.
A walk in the Spirit is a walk from out of Jesus Christ. He IS our life. This is the core, not only of a walk in the Spirit, but it is the core of Christianity, and the new birth.
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